Submitted by Chloe Youngberg
On September 11, 2001, 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaida hijacked four airplanes and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States. Two of the planes were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a third plane hit the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C., and the fourth plane crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Almost 3,000 people were killed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which triggered major U.S. initiatives to combat terrorism and defined the presidency of George W. Bush.
Fast forward 8 years (September 2009), my brother Philip Youngberg (entering his senior year) at Coronado High School, wanted the school and the Coronado community to honor the upcoming 8th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. He came to my mom (Christina Youngberg) with the idea of having a single miniature American flag represent each victim that died on that day (2,977 souls). Also attached to the American flag we would have a tag and/or label with the victim’s name, age and what flight they were on. My mother wrote each name by hand, while I read each individual name aloud.
It was a truly surreal experience for me (reading each person’s name and age and calculating how old they would be now) but my family and I were very honored to make this American Flag memorial a reality. Philip and I were in the NJROTC Islander Company, our SNSI (Senior Naval Science Instructor) Ret. Capt. Lee Pontes (a Coronado native and teacher/ staff member) was able to recruit us extra hands to carry out the daunting task. On September 11, 2009, the American Flag memorial was received well by the Coronado High School and Coronado Community. To our surprise, it made the front page of the San Diego Union Tribune, and ten years later the NJROTC program is still undertaking this project.
“We are formed by the post-9/11 world; some more than others. Those who have served in government or in military service bore the price from the actions we took since 9/11. Since that time, we were involved in two bloody wars and to this day have troops in those places. There were consequences, both good and bad that stemmed from 9/11 but no one can say that this nation hasn’t been phased over these past 18 years.
“As in most tragic events in history, they show the worst and the best in people. On that Tuesday morning, we saw knocking on our doorstep evil that baffled the imagination in not only its actions but the radicalism in its purpose. To kill for the sake of salvation and to create an Islamic utopia on Earth at whatever cost. Yet, Americans saw a tremendous outpouring of good come from their brethren. Old Glory flew in front of every house and business, blood banks were full, first responders from every corner of the nation arrived on Ground Zero to assist in rescue efforts and vigils held in every town in America. It was a good time to be an American.
“Remembering helps us to stay sharp, especially for our national defense apparatus, 9/11 was a catastrophic intelligence failure. The “stove-pipe” features of our government agencies prevented information from being shared and the lack of a major existential threat we had during the Cold War made us fall asleep. As a new generation is coming up, they don’t share those experiences from those warriors who had to perform the task of damage control. Hopefully, they won’t have to experience such a catastrophe again.”
So, on this 18th anniversary, please join me (the Youngberg Family) in remembering the heroes, the fallen, and the families of September 11, 2001. The tragic events of 9/11 brought out the best in our country through a spontaneous outpouring of courage, compassion, generosity, resolve and unity. We should mourn the loss of those lives lost, but we should also celebrate the lives they once lived, filled with unending love and support from their families and friends.