From top to bottom: the World Trade Center burning; a section of The Pentagon collapses; Flight 175 crashes into 2 WTC; a fireman requests help at Ground Zero; an engine from Flight 93 is recovered; Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon.
|Location||New York City; Arlington County, Virginia; and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.|
|Date||Tuesday, September 11, 2001 |
8:46 a.m. (2001-09-11T08:46) – 10:28 a.m. (2001-09-11T10:29) (UTC-04:00)
|Attack type||Aircraft hijacking, mass murder, suicide attack, terrorism|
|Death(s)||2,977 (+ 19 hijackers)|
|Injured||More than 6,000|
|Victim||18,000 victims of toxic dust-related illnesses|
|Perpetrator(s)||Al-Qaeda led by Osama bin Laden |
(see also Responsibility and Hijackers)
The September 11 attacks (also referred to as September 11, September 11th or 9/11) were a series of four coordinated suicide attacks upon the United States in New York City and Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001. On that Tuesday morning, 19 terrorists from the Islamist militant group al-Qaeda hijacked four passenger jets. The hijackers intentionally crashed two planes, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City; both towers collapsed within two hours. Hijackers crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. The fourth jet, United Airlines Flight 93, crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers attempted to take control before it could reach the hijacker's intended target in Washington, D.C. Nearly 3,000 died in the attacks.
Suspicion quickly fell on al-Qaeda, and in 2004, the group's leader Osama bin Laden, who had initially denied involvement, claimed responsibility for the attacks. Al-Qaeda and bin Laden cited U.S. support of Israel, the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, and sanctions against Iraq as motives for the attacks. The United States responded to the attacks by launching the War on Terror, invading Afghanistan to depose the Taliban, who had harbored al-Qaeda members. Many countries strengthened their anti-terrorism legislation and expanded law enforcement powers. In May 2011, after years at large, bin Laden was found and killed.The destruction caused serious damage to the economy of Lower Manhattan. Cleanup of the World Trade Center site was completed in May 2002. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is scheduled to open on September 11, 2011. Adjacent to the memorial the 1,776 feet (541 m) One World Trade Center is estimated for completion by 2013. The Pentagon was repaired within a year, and the Pentagon Memorial opened, adjacent to the building, in 2008. Ground was broken for the Flight 93 National Memorial in November 2009, and the memorial was formally dedicated on September 10, 2011.
Early on the morning of September 11, 2001, 19 hijackers took control of four commercial airliners en route to San Francisco and Los Angeles after takeoff from Boston, Newark, and Washington, D.C. Planes with long flights were intentionally selected for hijacking because they would be heavily fueled. At 8:46 a.m., five hijackers crashed American Airlines Flight 11 into the World Trade Center's North Tower (1 WTC) and at 9:03 a.m. another five hijackers crashed United Airlines Flight 175 into the South Tower (2 WTC).
Five hijackers flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. A fourth flight, United Airlines Flight 93, under the control of four hijackers, eventually crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m. after the passengers fought the hijackers. Flight 93's ultimate target is believed to have been either the Capitol or the White House. Flight 93's cockpit voice recorder revealed crew and passengers attempted to seize control of the plane from the hijackers after learning through phone calls that similarly hijacked planes had been crashed into buildings that morning. Once it became evident to the hijackers that the passengers might regain control of the plane, one hijacker ordered another to roll the plane and intentionally crash it. Soon afterward, Flight 93 crashed into a field near Shanksville.
Some passengers were able to make phone calls using the cabin airphone service and mobile phones and provided details that there were several hijackers aboard each plane; that mace, tear gas, or pepper spray was used and that some people aboard had been stabbed. Reports indicated hijackers stabbed and killed pilots, flight attendants, and one or more passengers. In their final report, the 9/11 Commission found the hijackers had recently purchased multi-function hand tools and assorted knives and blades. A flight attendant on Flight 11, a passenger on Flight 175, and passengers on Flight 93 said the hijackers had bombs, but one of the passengers also said he thought the bombs were fake. The FBI found no traces of explosives at the crash sites, and the 9/11 Commission concluded the bombs were probably fake.
Once it became known that Flight 11 had been hijacked, two F-15s were scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts and were airborne by 8:53 a.m. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) had 9 minutes notice that Flight 11 had been hijacked. Because of poor communication with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), they had no notice about any of the other flights before they crashed. After both of the Twin Towers had been hit, more fighters were scrambled from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia at 9:30 a.m. At 10:20 a.m. orders were issued to shoot down any commercial aircraft that could be positively identified as being hijacked. These instructions were not relayed in time for the fighters to take action. Some fighters took to the air without live ammunition, knowing that to prevent the hijackers from striking their intended targets the pilots might have to intercept and crash their fighters into the hijacked planes, possibly ejecting at the last moment. In a 2005 interview with the fighter pilots who responded from Otis Air National Guard Base, one pilot observed, "Nobody would be calling us heroes if we shot down four airliners on September 11."
Three buildings in the World Trade Center Complex collapsed due to structural failure. The South Tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m. after burning for 56 minutes in a fire caused by the impact of United Airlines Flight 175. The North Tower collapsed at 10:28 a.m. after burning for 102 minutes. When the North Tower collapsed, debris fell on the nearby 7 World Trade Center building (7 WTC) damaging it and starting fires. These fires burned for hours, compromising the building's structural integrity, and 7 WTC collapsed at 5:21 p.m.
All aircraft within the continental U.S. were grounded, and aircraft already in flight were told to land immediately. All international civilian aircraft were either turned back or redirected to airports in Canada or Mexico, and all international flights were banned from landing on U.S. soil for three days. The attacks created widespread confusion among news organizations and air traffic controllers. Among the unconfirmed and often contradictory news reports aired throughout the day, one of the most prevalent said a car bomb had been detonated at the U.S. State Department's headquarters in Washington, D.C. Another jet—Flight 1989—was suspected of having been hijacked, but this too turned out to be false after it responded to controllers and landed safely in Cleveland, Ohio.
In a September 2002 interview, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who are believed to have organized the attacks, said Flight 93's intended target was the United States Capitol, not the White House. During the planning stage of the attacks, Mohamed Atta, the hijacker and pilot of Flight 11, thought the White House might be too tough a target and sought an assessment from Hani Hanjour, who would later hijack and pilot Flight 77. Mohammed also said al-Qaeda initially planned to target nuclear installations rather than the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but decided against it, fearing things could "get out of control". Final decisions on targeting, according to Mohammed, were left in the hands of the pilots.
|Deaths (excluding hijackers)|
|New York City||World Trade Center||2,606|
There were a total of 2,996 deaths, including the 19 hijackers and 2,977 victims. The victims included 246 on the four planes (from which there were no survivors), 2,606 in New York City in the towers and on the ground, and 125 at the Pentagon. All the deaths in the attacks were civilians, except for 55 military personnel killed at the Pentagon.
Over 90% of the workers and visitors who died in the towers had been at or above the points of impact. In the North Tower 1,355 people at or above the point of impact were trapped and died of smoke inhalation, fell or jumped from the tower to escape the smoke and flames, or were killed in the building's eventual collapse. A further 107 people below the point of impact did not survive. In the South Tower, one stairwell remained intact allowing 18 people to escape from above the point of impact. 630 people died in the South Tower which was fewer than half of the number killed in the North Tower. Casualties in the South Tower were significantly reduced by the decision of some occupants to start evacuating when the North Tower was struck.
At least 200 people fell or jumped to their deaths from the burning towers (as depicted in the photograph The Falling Man), landing on the streets and rooftops of adjacent buildings hundreds of feet below. Some occupants of each tower above the point of impact made their way upward toward the roof in hope of helicopter rescue, but the roof access doors were locked. No plan existed for helicopter rescues, and the thick smoke and intense heat would have prevented helicopters from approaching.
A total of 411 emergency workers who responded to the scene died as they tried to rescue people and fight fires. The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) lost 341 firefighters and 2 paramedics. The New York City Police Department (NYPD) lost 23 officers. The Port Authority Police Department lost 37 officers. Eight emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics from private emergency medical services units were killed.
Cantor Fitzgerald L.P., an investment bank on the 101st–105th floors of the North Tower, lost 658 employees, considerably more than any other employer. Marsh Inc., located immediately below Cantor Fitzgerald on floors 93–100, lost 358 employees, and 175 employees of Aon Corporation were also killed. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) estimated that about 17,400 civilians were in the World Trade Center complex at the time of the attacks though turnstile counts from the Port Authority suggest 14,154 people were typically in the Twin Towers by 8:45 a.m. The vast majority of people below the impact zone safely evacuated the buildings.
After New York, New Jersey lost the most state citizens, with the city of Hoboken sustaining the most deaths. More than 70 countries lost citizens in the attacks on the World Trade Center. Two people were later added to the official death toll after dying from health conditions linked to exposure to dust from the collapse of the World Trade Center.
Weeks after the attack, the death toll was estimated to be over 6,000, more than twice the number of deaths eventually confirmed. The city was only able to identify remains for about 1,600 of the World Trade Center victims. The medical examiner's office collected "about 10,000 unidentified bone and tissue fragments that cannot be matched to the list of the dead". Bone fragments were still being found in 2006 by workers who were preparing to demolish the damaged Deutsche Bank Building. In 2010, a team of anthropologists and archaeologists searched for human remains and personal items at the Fresh Kills Landfill, where seventy-two more human remains were recovered, bringing the total found to 1,845. DNA profiling continues in an attempt to identify additional victims. As of August 2011, 1,631 victims have been identified, while 1,122 (41%) of the victims remained unidentified. The remains are being held in storage in Memorial Park, outside the New York City Medical Examiner’s facilities. It is expected that the remains will be moved in 2013 to a repository behind a wall at the 9/11 museum. A medical examiner, who will have a workspace at the site, will continue to try to identify remains, in the hope improved technology will allow them to identify other victims.
Along with the 110-floor Twin Towers, numerous other buildings at the World Trade Center site were destroyed or badly damaged, including WTC buildings 3 through 7 and St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. The North Tower, South Tower, the Marriott Hotel (3 WTC) and 7 WTC were completely destroyed. The U.S. Customs House (6 World Trade Center), 4 World Trade Center, 5 World Trade Center, and both pedestrian bridges connecting buildings were severely damaged. The Deutsche Bank Building on 130 Liberty Street was partially damaged and demolished later. The two buildings of the World Financial Center also suffered damage.
The Deutsche Bank Building across Liberty Street from the World Trade Center complex was later condemned as uninhabitable because of toxic conditions inside the office tower, and was deconstructed. The Borough of Manhattan Community College's Fiterman Hall at 30 West Broadway was condemned due to extensive damage in the attacks, and is being rebuilt. Other neighboring buildings including 90 West Street and the Verizon Building suffered major damage but have been restored. World Financial Center buildings, One Liberty Plaza, the Millenium Hilton, and 90 Church Street had moderate damage and have since been restored. Communications equipment on top of the North Tower was also destroyed, but media stations were quickly able to reroute signals and resume broadcasts.
The Pentagon, in Arlington County, Virginia, was severely damaged by the impact of American Airlines Flight 77 and ensuing fires, causing one section of the building to collapse. As it approached the Pentagon, the airplane's wings knocked over light poles and its right engine smashed into a power generator before crashing into the western side of the Pentagon, killing all 53 passengers, 5 hijackers, and 6 crew. The plane hit the Pentagon at the first-floor level and the front part of the fuselage disintegrated on impact while the mid and tail sections kept moving for another fraction of a second. Debris from the tail section penetrated furthest into the building, breaking through 310 feet (94 m) of the three outermost rings.
Rescue and recovery
The New York City Fire Department quickly deployed 200 units (half of the department) to the site. Their efforts were supplemented by numerous off-duty firefighters and emergency medical technicians. The New York City Police Department sent Emergency Service Units and other police personnel, and deployed its aviation unit. Once on the scene, the FDNY, NYPD, and Port Authority police did not coordinate efforts and ended up performing redundant searches for civilians. As conditions deteriorated, the NYPD aviation unit relayed information to police commanders, who issued orders for its personnel to evacuate the towers; most NYPD officers were able to safely evacuate before the buildings collapsed. With separate command posts set up and incompatible radio communications between the agencies, warnings were not passed along to FDNY commanders.After the first tower collapsed, FDNY commanders issued evacuation warnings; however, due to technical difficulties with malfunctioning radio repeater systems, many firefighters never heard the evacuation orders. 9-1-1 dispatchers also received information from callers that was not passed along to commanders on the scene. Within hours of the attack, a substantial search and rescue operation was launched. After months of around-the-clock operations the World Trade Center site was cleared by the end of May 2002.