The Pets of 9/11

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 impacted every facet of life imaginable. From people on the planes and those in the buildings that were hit to the rescue workers and all the friends and family members that were ultimately and irreversibly affected. Not to mention the nation as a whole.

As did most Americans, I sat glued to my television most of that first day and more than usual in the days that followed. I was rooting with everyone else that anyone trapped in the rubble at Ground Zero would be found alive, and of course there was a special place in my heart for the four-legged heroes, the search and rescue dogs.

I remember seeing a fair amount of coverage on the challenges facing those dogs, from needing special booties to help protect their feet to the mental stress they were dealing with. But one story that stuck with me that I never saw very much follow up on was the pets that belonged to the victims of that day.

Since it stayed with me and I had never seen any follow up, I decided to do some research and see if I could answer my question once and for all. Turns out if I would have looked a little harder beforehand, I would have found my answer sooner.

Christie Keith wrote an article on Pet Hobbyist less than a month after the attacks addressing this exact issue. All pets who belonged to people affected that day ended up being a-okay. There was one fatality, though. A cat, but it had pre-existing health problems.

Other than that, all animals left behind in the buildings that had to be evacuated near Ground Zero were eventually rescued. Animals that had been traveling on the many grounded planes (something I hadn’t even thought of before reading her article) were fine and their needs had been accommodated. And any pet belonging to someone who died had been rescued too.

What shocked me was that some people took offense to the fact that people were worried about pets at all. They felt in light of such a tragedy this was disrespectful to the people who had died and who were in need of rescue and/or medical attention.

Those people clearly do not have pets themselves. A bond with an animal can be just as strong, if not stronger, than with another human. It becomes second nature to worry about their safety, welfare, and well being too.

To demonstrate, let me revisit a story that did get much media play six years ago. The story of the handicapped man on the 71st floor of one of the Trade Center buildings. After the plane hit, he released his guide dog so it could save its own life. He gave up on himself, but did the only thing he could think of to save the dog.

What did the dog do?

Exactly what anyone who loves another would do: he didn’t abandon him. He stayed by his side and guided him down all those flights of stairs to safety.

Seems us humans aren’t the only ones concerned about making sure loved one’s are taken care of in times of crisis.

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