On the sixteenth anniversary of the devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks, NASA shared photos taken by the lone American aboard the International Space Station on that fateful day in 2001.
Astronaut Frank Culbertson remembers September 11, 2001. As the singular American citizen staffing the ISS on the day of the attack, he was in a uniquely isolated position as his country reeled from the impact of those doomed planes — and their dark ramifications. In the video, originally posted on YouTube in 2013, Culbertson says:
I didn’t know exactly what was happening, but I knew it was really bad, because there was a big cloud of debris covering Manhattan. That’s when it really became painful, because it was like seeing a wound in the side of… of your country. Of your family, your friends.
“The world changed today,” Culbertson said in an open letter he wrote on 9/11. “What I say or do is very minor compared to the significance of what happened to our country today when it was attacked.” Culbertson later said that “the dichotomy of being on a spacecraft dedicated to improving life on the earth and watching life being destroyed by such willful, terrible acts is jolting to the psyche, no matter who you are.”
— NASA (@NASA) September 11, 2017
The photos depict a sad sight indeed; New York City from far above the clouds, bleeding smoke from a deep wound struck to its very heart. Still, Culbertson’s message is one of hope and determination:
I think it’s important for people to continue to learn the lessons from this, and make sure that we are, in fact, making ourselves a better country as a result of it. Not regressing, or turning inward, or changing ourselves into a society that we won’t be proud to pass onto our grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
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