As a person who has been completely consumed by the events of 9/11 for nearly 10 years now, it has never been far from my mind that the acts of terrorism executed on that day could very well have been right here in Chicago. Each time I drive into the city on a clear day I marvel at the beauty of our skyline. I also try to picture what it would look like if the Willis Tower (Sears Tower to me) or The Hancock Building were suddenly no longer there.
There has been some confirmation over the years that Chicago was indeed a target. So what if on that sunny day in 2001 a commercial jet had flown into one of our skyscrapers? According to what statistics I can find, 32,000 people currently work in the Willis Tower. Roughly 50,000 worked in the Twin Towers.
It's impossible to determine if Chicago would have had the manpower to respond in the same manner as in New York. Not to minimize the efficacy of our police and fire forces, but the sheer difference in numbers could have been a detriment. There are (estimates according to the internet) 13,500 sworn police officers in Chicago and 4,300 firefighters. There are 38,000 police officers in New York and 11,600 firefighters. Their power of first responders was nearly triple what ours is.
400 firefighters, police officers, paramedics and Port Authority officers died on 9/11. How many of our own would we have lost? How many people could or would have died had the building/buildings been hit? Would they have collapsed? Are we prepared for this? Is it possible that it could still happen?
As much as 9/11 is always on the minds of New Yorkers, it should be on our minds as well. I have never taken for granted how lucky we were as a city to have been spared the grief and anguish that was brought upon New York and Washington DC. Just now as I write this, the news is reporting that there is a new terror threat for the 9/11 anniversary on Sunday. A "credible, specific threat".
Unfortunately, I believe our days of living carefree and without worry are gone. Not to spend our lives dwelling on the fear of a recurrence, but to have an awareness that it could happen again.
My father has lectured on the Holocaust for many years. A main theme in those lectures is to teach future generations to never forget. This is so it should and will not happen again. So this needs to be the way of the future for all of us to think, act and feel. The memory of what happened on 9/11 needs to be kept alive always. It is sad that we have to live this way but when you think about it this isn't anything new. Pearl Harbor was 70 years ago.
So, next time you are looking at our amazing skyline, remember how the people of New York had to adjust to the sudden disappearance of the twin towers. We could have had to do the same. And we could have had to mourn the loss of loved ones just as they have had to do (I'm sure there are people here that had relatives that died that day). The face and feeling of our city could change forever. Let us pray we never see that day.
And God bless the victims and their families from that awful day. May it never happen again.
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