Historical Anniversaries

Trevor Newby

Throughout history, we have been witnesses to some of the biggest events and disasters that have shaken countries to its core or sent millions into mourning. It’s these events that we learn to remember and to never forget. As we enter 2021, we remember historic anniversaries of some of the biggest disasters ever and the most historical events that changed the modern-day landscape forever. Highlighted here are 3 key events in world and American history that have altered the landscape of our very existence

9/11

This year marks the 20-year anniversary of the worst attack on American soil since the Pearl Harbor bombing that threw us into World War 2. It was an average day on September 11, 2001. The weather was fine as thousands crowded Times Square in New York City on their way to their jobs and professions.  The world was way different before these events. Homeland Security didn’t exist, airports weren’t maximum security mazes you had to go through to board a plane, rules were very relaxed until it took a turn for the worst. That morning, four planes bound from California took off from airports around the New York and New Jersey area. While in the air, suicide attackers associated with the Muslim terrorist group AL-Quada under the rule of Osama Bin Ladan, used box cutter knifes to kill the pilots and hijack each plane. The planes made a sharp turn for New York with their eyes set on the target, the twin towers of the World Trade Center. At 8:45 a.m. eastern time, American Airlines Flight 11 loaded with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel crashed into the north-twin tower, leaving thousands of people trapped inside. 17 minutes later, American Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the south tower, leaving even more people trapped inside. Americans were in shock as the country was under attack, and in the span of a short period of time, thousands of first responders arrived at the World Trade Center. But the attack wasn’t done. At 9:37 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, America’s defense headquarters. Three of the four planes crashed into their targets, with one plane still in the air, American Airlines Flight 93. After 56 minutes of burning, the north tower collapsed, killing over 800 people and first responders trapped inside the building. Shortly after, the south tower collapsed. Millions watched as 2,606 people and first responders lost their lives as the towers fell, spanning America into a chaotic 24 hours. Finally, at 10.03 a.m., the final plane came down. The passengers on Flight 93, hearing what happened in New York, stormed the cockpit, killing the terrorists and bringing the plane down. It never reached its destination; instead, it was brought down in an open-wooded field in Pennsylvania far away from civilization. It’s not confirmed where it was going, but many people believe it was intended for the us U.S. Capitol. A total of 2,977 people lost their lives in the attack and since then, a fountain was built at ground zero as a memorial for all of the victims of 9/11. We remember the safety measures implemented after the attack and the lives lost 20 years later.

Chernobyl

The worst nuclear disaster ever recorded in world history occurred at one of the biggest nuclear power plants in a country controlled by the then-Soviet Union 35 years ago. The Chernobyl power plant was a nuclear power plant in a thriving town of Pripyat, Ukraine, which was ruled by the Soviet-Union during the Cold War era. The town housed the thousands of power plant workers and their families, which allowed the city to grow. On April 26, 1986, the morning was a typical morning at Chernobyl and the community of Pripyat as most of the town went on with their lives. During the morning hours, the workers at Chernobyl conducted a power outage safety test on nuclear reactor number 4 as they shut down the safety systems for the test. During the test, something went terribly wrong, as the test exposed several major flaws in the design of the reactor, causing a power spike which resulted in a series of explosions which tore through the reactor, exposing thousands of tons of radioactive material into the atmosphere. The next day, on April 27, 1986, the military conducted a mass evacuation as 50,000 people fled for their lives with whatever they could carry with them. The citizens were told they would be back in three days to collect the rest of their belongings.  Radiation continued to spew from the fire that was still burning from the explosion that forced military and government officials to shut the city down for good. The fire burned for ten days before being contained. The death toll is unknown and continues to grow; right now, it sits in between 4,000 to 27,000 people. 35 years later, the city of Pripyat sits abandoned as the nuclear fire continues to burn and release radiation into the atmosphere. The accident was ranked a level 7 core meltdown which is the highest on the scale, making only one of two nuclear incidents to make it that high, alongside the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings to end World War 2. The disaster showed the flaws Soviet power plants had and what can happen when one fails. We develop new technology and designs to power plants 35 years later with the memory and lessons of the Chernobyl disaster.

Space Shuttle Challenger

The U.S. is known for its space program, as it has seen incredible events such as the moon landing in 1969, the rover landing on Mars and the creation of the space shuttle, a reusable rocket that can be used over and over, saving time and money. However, astronauts risk their lives to explore space knowing what can happen during the launch and what can end up failing. 35 years ago, America was witness to one major tragedy and loss in not only the program but in NASA and the world. In January of 1986, NASA prepared for the launch of the space shuttle Challenger as millions prepared to watch not only the launch, but history as Texas teacher Christa McAuliffe was set to become the first civilian to go to space along with six other crew members, five astronauts and one payload specialist. On January 26, 1986, a bitter cold day in Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 11:38 a.m. eastern time, the space shuttle Challenger with its 7-astronaut crew aboard, lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center as it prepared to launch the second tracking and data relay satellite into space. The launch went off as every other launch had prior to this one–normal with nothing out of the ordinary–until 73 seconds after takeoff, millions around the country watched the challenger explode in mid-flight. What could have gone wrong to cause the explosion? The investigation into the accident found that the O-Rings which sealed the rocket boosters on the shuttle became brittle in the frigid temperatures, which caused them to fail, causing a fire to break out in the shuttle which, ultimately led to the shuttle breaking apart and exploding. There were no survivors in the accident, and it was only one of three fatal accidents in the U.S. space program, alongside the Apollo 1 explosion in 1967 when it exploded on the launch pad killing its crew of three, and the space shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003, as the shuttle broke apart re-entering earth’s atmosphere, killing its crew of seven. In the wake of the accident, a memorial was created at the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. NASA would launch a return to flight mission two years after Challenger and would make several more flights before shutting the program down in 2011. We continue to remember what happened on that January day in 1986 and all of the safety measures implemented since. The space shuttle Challenger and crew will never be forgotten for their courage, bravery, and sacrifice. They will always be remembered as heroes.

These events led to the world being altered forever as safety precautions were created, flaws were studied, and the accidents were learned about.  We continue to learn what went wrong and how to prevent it. These events are truly ones we will always remember and never forget.