Everyone who is old enough to remember the attacks against America on September 11, 2001 can tell you exactly where they were when they happened. Thousands of lives were lost that day and thousands more were permanently altered.
The courage shown by first responders on that day will probably never be fully realized. The police officers, firefighters, EMTs, doctors, and civilians who ran towards the carnage can never be thanked enough. Each and every one of them deserves the title of "hero." It is not possible to credit each and every hero of September 11 in a format like ours, but we are grateful to be able to share five of the stories of those who, in one of this country's darkest hours, served as beacons of light, courage, and sacrifice in the service of humanity.
1. Officer Moira Smith, NYPD
NYPD Officer Moira Smith was the first officer to report the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 when she saw the first plane strike the first tower of the World Trade Center. Smith, a 13-year veteran, ran into the towers and began assisting in the evacuation. Her coolness under pressure was remembered by a survivor, Martin Glynn:
"The mass of people exiting the building felt the calm assurance that they were being directed by someone in authority who was in control of the situation. Her actions even seemed ordinary, even commonplace. She insulated the evacuees from the awareness of the dangerous situation they were in, with the result that everything preceded smoothly."
Officer Smith is credited with saving hundreds of lives that day, giving her own in the process. She was the only female NYPD officer to die on 9/11.
She was survived by her 2-year-old daughter and her husband.
2. Welles Crowther.
Welles Crowther was an investment banker working for Sandler O'Neill & Partners on the 104th floor of 2 World Trade Center (the south tower).
When UA Flight 175 struck the south tower, Crowther remained calm. Just minutes after the plane hit, Crowther called his mother to let her know he was okay. He then began assisting others in evacuating, at one point carrying a woman down down 17 flights of stairs, only to return to the 78th floor to continue helping others.
Crowther had made it out of the building and was running back into it with a "Jaws of Life" tool when the tower collapsed.
He was 24 years old.
3. Mark Bingham.
31-year-old Mark Bingham was the CEO of The Bingham Group, a San Francisco-based PR Firm. On September 11, 2001, Bingham was seated in first class on United Flight 93 en route from Newark to San Francisco when hijackers rushed the cockpit in an effort to crash the plane into the Capitol building in Washington D.C.
Bingham, a 6'5" rugby player who had once disarmed a man who attempted to rob him at gunpoint, is thought to be one of the group of passengers who successfully thwarted the terrorist plot.
Senator John McCain delivered his eulogy, saying:
"It is now believed that the terrorists on Flight 93 intended to crash the airplane into the United States Capitol where I work, the great house of democracy where I was that day. It is very possible that I would have been in the building, with a great many other people, when that fateful, terrible moment occurred, and a beautiful symbol of our freedom was destroyed along with hundreds if not thousands of lives. I may very well owe my life to Mark and the others who summoned the enormous courage and love necessary to deny those depraved, hateful men their terrible triumph. Such a debt you incur for life."
Bingham, who was openly gay, was honored in a documentary about his life entitled "The Rugby Player."
4. Ronald Paul Bucca, FDNY.
Ronald Paul Bucca was a Fire Marshal with 23 years on the job with FDNY. An Army Special Forces reservist, Bucca was known as "The Flying Fireman" after a spectacular fall from a tenement fire escape. Bucca, a marathon runner, died responding to the 78th floor of the south tower moments before it collapsed.
He was the only FDNY Fire Marshal to be killed on 9/11.
5. Rick Rescorla.
62-year-old Rick Rescorla was a veteran of both the British and American army, working in corporate security for Morgan Stanley/Dean Witter on the 44th floor of the south tower. When the tower was struck, Witter ignored intercom instructions for workers to remain at their desks and immediately began assisting people in leaving the building. As he directed people out, he boosted spirits by singing songs of his native Cornwall, England.
He called his wife, Susan, who had been watching the attacks on TV. The New Yorker recounts some of his last words to her: "Stop crying," he said. "I have to get these people out safely. If something should happen to me, I want you to know I've never been happier. You made my life."
Rescorla then contacted a friend, Dan Hill, and asked him to call his wife to calm her down. He is credited with saving most of the lives of Morgan Stanley's workers that day.
His remains were never found.