The World Trade Center on fire
|Sep 11, 2001 attacks |
| Timeline |
|Background history |
|September 11, 2001 |
|Rest of September |
| Victims |
|Missing Persons |
|Foreign casualties |
|Rescue workers |
| Effects |
|U.S. government response |
|World political effects |
|World economic effects |
|Airport security |
|Closings and cancellations |
|Movies and TV shows |
| Response |
|Rescue and recovery effort |
|Financial assistance |
|Memorials and services |
| Perpetrators |
| Miscellaneous |
|Slogans and terms |
|Misinformation and rumors |
| Inquiries |
|U.S. Congress Inquiry |
|9/11 Commission |
The September 11, 2001 attacks were a series of coordinated terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001. Nineteen members of al-Qaida, a militant Islamist group, hijacked four commercial aircraft. They crashed one into each tower of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, New York City, causing them to collapse, and a third into the U.S. Department of Defense headquarters, the Pentagon, in Arlington County, Virginia, just outside the capital, Washington, D.C. The fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after passengers fought back against the hijackers.
The attacks were the most lethal attack ever by a foreign force on the U.S., and the first upon the mainland since the War of 1812. The death toll of nearly 3,000 exceeded the toll of approximately 2,400 dead after the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
The attacks involved the hijacking of four commercial airliners. With nearly 24,000 U.S. gallons (91,000 litres) of jet fuel aboard, the aircraft were turned into flying incendiary bombs. American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the north side of the north tower of the World Trade Center (WTC) at 8:46:40 AM local time (12:46:40 UTC). At 9:03:11 AM local time (13:03:11 UTC), United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the south tower. American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37:46 AM local time (13:37:46 UTC). The fourth hijacked plane, United Airlines Flight 93, was crashed in a field near Shanksville and Stonycreek Township in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, at 10:03:11 AM local time (14:03:11 UTC) as the hijackers fought off a passenger revolt. No one in the hijacked aircraft survived.
A sequential look at flight 175 crashing into the World Trade Center
The casualties were in the thousands: 265 on the planes; 2,595, including 343 firefighters, in the WTC; and 125 at the Pentagon. At least 2,985 people were killed in total. In addition to the 110-floor Twin Towers of the WTC itself, five other buildings at the WTC site and four subway stations were destroyed or badly damaged. In total, on Manhattan Island, 25 buildings were damaged. Communications infrastructure such as broadcast radio, television and two way radio antenna towers were damaged beyond repair and lost on 9/11. In Arlington, a portion of the Pentagon was severely damaged by fire and one section of the building collapsed.
Some passengers and crew members were able to make phone calls from the doomed flights (see Communication during the September 11, 2001 attacks). They reported that multiple hijackers were aboard each plane. A total of 19 were later identified, four on United 93 and five each on the other three flights. The hijackers reportedly took control of the aircraft by using knives to kill flight attendants and at least one pilot or passenger. On American 77, one of the passengers reported that the hijackers used Leatherman utility knives.  (http://www.cnn.com/2004/US/01/27/911.commis.knife) Some form of noxious chemical spray, such as tear gas or pepper spray, was reported to have been used on American 11 and United 175 to keep passengers out of the first-class cabin. Bomb threats were made on three of the aircraft, but not on American 77.
Number of casualties
|World Trade Center ||Towers ||2,595 |
|Flight 11 ||92 |
|Flight 175 ||65 |
|Pentagon ||Building ||125 |
|Flight 77 ||64 |
|Shanksville ||Flight 93 ||45 |
|Total ||2,986 |
The fourth aircraft
It has been speculated that the hijackers of the fourth hijacked aircraft, United Airlines Flight 93, intended to crash into the U.S. Capitol, the White House in Washington, DC, or Camp David. Black box recordings revealed that passengers attempted to seize control of the plane from the hijackers, and that, when rocking the plane failed to subdue the passengers, the hijackers crashed the aircraft in a field near Shanksville and Stonycreek Township in Pennsylvania at 10:03:11 A.M. local time (14:03:11 UTC). Captured al-Qaida General Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has said that Flight 93 was definitely targeting the Capitol.
Main article: Significance of '9/11'
The attacks are often referred to simply as September 11, 9/11, or 9-11. The latter two are from the U.S. style for writing short dates, and are pronounced "nine-eleven". The day was a Tuesday, and U.S. domestic airliners carry fewer passengers in the middle of the week, thus making a plane easier to hijack.
Main article: Responsibility for the September 11, 2001 attacks
The first public response from Osama bin Laden was read on September 16, 2001. He stated, "I stress that I have not carried out this act, which appears to have been carried out by individuals with their own motivation," which was broadcast by Qatar's Al-Jazeera satellite channel. This statement received very little coverage internationally, and no media coverage in the United States.
Osama bin Laden allegedly took responsibility for the attacks on October 29, 2004, he stated, "We decided to destroy towers in America ... God knows that it had not occurred to our mind to attack the towers, but after our patience ran out and we saw the injustice and inflexibility of the American-Israeli alliance toward our people in Palestine and Lebanon, this came to my mind." No proof has ever been provided by the United States Government that bin Laden was behind the attacks.
The militant Islamic al-Qaida group had praised the attacks, and the group's leaders had previously hinted at their involvement in the incidents. Indeed, shortly after the attacks, the United States government declared al-Qaida and bin Laden the prime suspects. The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, known as the 9-11 Commission, released its report on July 22, 2004, concluding that the attacks were conceived and implemented by al-Qaida operatives. The commission reported that, while contacts with Iraq under the presidency of Saddam Hussein had been made, it found no "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and al-Qaida regarding the September 11 attacks.  (http://www.9-11commission.gov/) The Commission also stated that the origin of the funds used to execute the attacks remained unknown, however it appears from further study that elements of both the Pakistani and the Saudi Arabian governments were involved. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Responsibility_for_the_September_11%2C_2001_attacks)
Military and security measures
Lower Manhattan as seen from New Jersey
, shortly after the attacks
The attacks defined the first term of President George W. Bush and led to what he has called the War on Terror, or war against terrorism. The accuracy of describing it as a "war" and the political motivations and consequences are the topic of strenuous debate. The U.S. government increased military operations, economic measures and political pressure on groups it accused of being terrorists, as well as on governments and countries accused of sheltering them. October 2001 saw the first military action initiated by the U.S. under this policy, when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in a failed attempt to capture Osama bin Laden. Prior to the invasion, the Taliban had refused to hand over bin Laden without being shown evidence of his connection to the attacks.
The September 11 attacks also precipitated a focus on domestic security issues and the creation of a new cabinet-level federal agency, the Department of Homeland Security. The USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 was passed soon after the attacks, giving law enforcement agencies sweeping search and surveillance powers over U.S citizens. This led to the creation in 2002 of the Information Awareness Office (IAO), led by John Poindexter, who was convicted of multiple felony counts in 1990 in connection with the Iran-Contra affair, but was later exonerated. The IAO has initiated a program called Total Information Awareness, amended in May 2003 to Terrorist Information Awareness (TIA), with the aim of developing technology that would enable it to collect and process massive amounts of information about every individual in the United States, and trace patterns of behavior that could help predict terrorist activities. The information the IAO would gather includes Internet activity, credit card purchase histories, airline ticket purchases, car rentals, medical records, educational transcripts, driver's licenses, utility bills, tax returns, and other available data. Critics of the IAO believe it goes too far in the sacrifice of civil liberties and privacy, putting in place an Orwellian infrastructure prone to abuse.
In the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the United States and other countries around the world were placed on a high state of alert against potential follow-up attacks. Civilian air travel across the U.S. and Canada was — for the first time ever — almost completely suspended for three days, with numerous locations and events affected by closures, postponements, cancellations, and evacuations. Other countries imposed similar security restrictions. In the United Kingdom, for instance, civilian aircraft were forbidden to fly over London for several days after the attacks.
CNN broadcast of 9/11 destruction
The attacks had major world-wide political effects. Many other countries introduced tough anti-terrorism legislation and took action to cut off terrorist finances, including the freezing of bank accounts suspected of being used to fund terrorism. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies stepped up cooperation to arrest terrorist suspects and break up suspected terrorist cells around the world. This process was highly controversial, as restrictions on government authority were lifted and certain civil rights protections were rescinded. The controversy was highlighted in September 2004 when Yusuf Islam, a leading British Muslim noted for his peaceful charitable work and previously known as the singer Cat Stevens, was barred from entering the U.S. and was subsequently returned to the UK after his flight was briefly diverted to Canada. Yusef Islam's expulsion led to a complaint from British foreign secretary, Jack Straw to the U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who ordered a review of restrictions placed on people entering the United States.
The attack prompted numerous memorials and services all over the world. In Berlin, 200,000 Germans marched to show their solidarity with America. The French newspaper Le Monde, typically critical of the United States government, ran a front-page headline reading "Nous sommes tous Américains", or "We are all Americans". In London, the U.S. national anthem was played at the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. (To mark the Queen's Golden Jubilee, New York City lit the Empire State Building in purple and gold, to say "thank you" for this action.) In the immediate aftermath, support for the United States' right to defend itself was expressed across the world, and by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1368  (http://www.state.gov/p/io/rls/othr/2001/4899.htm).
Reaction to the attacks in the Muslim world was mixed. The great majority of Muslim political and religious leaders condemned the attacks — virtually the only significant exception was Saddam Hussein, then president of Iraq. Shortly after the attack, there were reports of popular celebrations in some countries by people opposed to U.S. policies in the Middle East. Several images of these celebrations were broadcast or published, but some are believed to have been staged.
The initial overwhelming support for the U.S. has dropped significantly since 2002 because of its "War on Terror". Support fell even more after the subsequent invasion of Iraq, due in large part to the failure of US intelligence to adequately provide information about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, which was the keystone for the United State's invasion of Iraq.
Reaction amongst the United States population
The Honolulu Advertiser
was mindful of the attack on Honolulu on December 7
in its extra edition headline.
: A New York City firefighter looks up at what remains of the South Tower.
The attacks also had immediate and overwhelming effects upon the United States population. Gratitude toward uniformed public-safety workers, and especially toward firefighters, was widely expressed in light of both the drama of the risks taken on the scene and the high death toll among the workers. The number of casualties among the emergency service personnel was unprecedented. The highly visible role played by Rudolph Giuliani, the Mayor of New York City, won him high praise nationally. He was named Person of the Year by Time magazine for 2001, and at times had a higher profile in the U.S. than President George W. Bush.
The attacks had significant economic repercussions for the United States and world markets. The New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and NASDAQ did not open on September 11 and remained closed until September 17. New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”) facilities and remote data processing sites were not damaged by the attack, but member firms, customers and markets were unable to communicate due to major damage to the telephone exchange facility near the World Trade Center. When the stock markets reopened on September 17, 2001, after the longest closure since the Great Depression in 1933, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (“DJIA”) stock market index fell 684 points, or 7.1%, to 8920, its biggest-ever one-day point decline. By the end of the week, the DJIA had fallen 1369.7 points (14.3%), its largest one-week point drop in history. U.S. stocks lost $1.2 trillion in value for the week.
The attacks led to decreased travel, and as of 2005, the U.S. airline industry has not fully recovered.
Insurance claims and claims against the airlines
The attack on the World Trade Center led to huge insurance claims, with many insurance companies throughout the world having to disclose the impact of the attack in their financial statements. In April 2004, a U.S. District Court jury rejected claims by World Trade Center leaseholder, Larry Silverstein, that two planes hitting the Twin Towers should, within the terms of his insurance policies, be considered two separate incidents, which would have entitled him to $7 billion in insurance reimbursements. The insurers, Swiss Reinsurance Co. and others, initially argued successfully that the attacks in New York were one incident and that Silverstein was only entitled to $3.5 billion. In December 2004, a federal jury decided that the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center was, for insurance purposes, two occurrences, which means that Silverstein stands to collect up to $4.6 billion.  (http://dir.salon.com/tech/feature/2000/09/01/rich_stevens/index.html)
In 2003, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein agreed to hear a consolidated master case against three airlines, ICTS International NV and Pinkerton's airport security firms, the World Trade Center owners, and Boeing Co., the aircraft manufacturer. The case was brought by people injured in the attacks, representatives of those who died, and entities that suffered property damage. In September 2004, just before the three-year statute of limitations expired, the insurers for the World Trade Center filed suit against American Airlines, United Airlines, and Pinkerton's airport security firm, alleging their negligence allowed the planes to be hijacked. Because the Air Transportation Act, which was passed after September 11, limits the liability of airlines, plane manufacturers, and airports to the amount of their insurance coverage, this case will likely be combined with the consolidated master case filed in 2003.
Rescue and recovery
Rescue and recovery efforts took months to complete. It took weeks simply to put out the fires burning in the rubble of the WTC, and the clean-up was not completed until May 2002. Many relief funds were immediately set up to assist victims of the attacks. The task of providing financial assistance to the survivors and the families of victims is still ongoing.
A small number of survivors and surprisingly few intact victims' remains were found in the rubble of the WTC. The forces unleashed by the towers' disintegration were so great that many of those trapped in the buildings were pulverized in the collapse. Some victims had to be identified by a few scraps of flesh or individual teeth. Most bodies were never found, presumably because the heat of the fires incinerated them. On January 18, 2002, the last hospitalized survivor of the World Trade Center attack was released from the hospital.
Fires burned amidst the rubble of the World Trade Center for weeks after the attack.
Over 1.5 million tons of debris produced by the collapse of the WTC posed unique problems for the cleanup effort. A fully occupied skyscraper had never collapsed before, and the environmental and health consequences of such an event were unknown. About 100 tons of asbestos used in the construction of the WTC had not yet been fully removed  (http://asbnyc.cjb.net/). The attacks released dense clouds of dust containing pulverized cement, glass fibers, asbestos, and other airborne contaminants.
By 2004, nearly half of more than 1,000 screened rescue-and-recovery workers and volunteers reported new and persistent respiratory problems, and more than half reported persistent psychological symptoms.  (http://www.cdc.gov/od/oc/media/pressrel/r040909.htm) Because of the long latency period between exposure and development of asbestos-related diseases, exposed Manhattan residents, especially rescue-and-recovery workers, may suffer future adverse health effects.
Six months after the attack, the 1.5 million tons of debris had been removed from the WTC site, and work continued below ground level, despite concerns that the slurry wall encompassing the site foundation — known as the Bathtub — might collapse. Ceremonies marking the completion of debris removal took place at the end of May 2002.
Effects on children
The attacks were disturbing to children, particularly as the images were repeatedly replayed on television. Many schools closed early, especially those with children whose parents worked in Washington, D.C. and NYC. Other schools did not immediately tell students about the attacks. The following day, the first lady, Laura Bush, herself a former school librarian, commented that it was not good for children to be exposed to replays of the attacks, and advised parents to turn off their televisions. She composed open letters to children, which were distributed by state education officials. A "Dear Students" letter went to middle and high school students  (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/letter1.html), while elementary school students received one saying, "Dear Children."  (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/letter2.html)
Collapse of the World Trade Center
Main article: Collapse of the World Trade Center
There has been much speculation as to why the Twin Towers of the WTC collapsed, and the reason for the collapse is under active debate by structural engineers, architects and the relevant U.S. government agencies. Certainly the force of the jetliner impacts was unprecedented outside the battlefield, as was the intense heat of the resulting fires that were fed by 24,000 U.S. gallons (91m3) of jet fuel. But the WTC design, with its non-traditional, lightweight, largely hollow configuration may have been, in some ways, more prone to penetration, fire damage, and structural failure than an older construction.
7 World Trade Center collapsed in the late afternoon of September 11. It was hit by falling debris of the Twin Towers; for details on its collapse see: Destruction of 7 World Trade Center.
A federal technical building and fire safety investigation of the collapses of the Twin Towers and 7 WTC is being conducted by the United States Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The goals of this investigation -- scheduled for completion in the spring of 2005 -- are to investigate the building construction, the materials used, and the technical conditions that contributed to the outcome of the WTC disaster. The investigation [ (http://wtc.nist.gov)] will serve as the basis for:
- improvements in the way buildings are designed, constructed, maintained, and used;
- improved tools and guidance for industry and safety officials;
- revisions to building and fire codes, standards, and practices; and
- improved public safety.
Speculation and conspiracy theories
Main article: 9/11 conspiracy theories
Buildings surrounding the World Trade Center were heavily damaged by the debris and massive force of the falling twin towers.
Since the attacks, there has been much speculation concerning their planning, especially whether more attacks were planned.
Twenty-seven members of al-Qaida attempted to enter the United States to take part in the September 11 attacks. In the end, only nineteen participated. Other would-be hijackers are often referred to as the 20th hijackers.
Ramzi Binalshibh meant to take part in the attacks, but he was repeatedly denied a visa for entry into the U.S. Mohamed al-Kahtani, a Saudi Arabian citizen, may also have been planning to join the hijackers but U.S. Immigration authorities at Orlando International Airport refused his entry into the U.S. in August 2001. He was later captured in Afghanistan and imprisoned at the U.S. military prison known as Camp X-ray at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Zacarias Moussaoui was reportedly considered as a replacement for Ziad Jarrah, who at one point threatened to withdraw from the scheme because of tensions amongst the plotters. Plans to include Moussaoui were never completed because the al-Qaida hierarchy had doubts about his reliability. Ultimately, Moussaoui did not play a role in the hijacking.
Other al-Qaida members who may have attempted, but were unable, to take part in the attacks include Saeed al-Ghamdi (not to be confused with the successful hijacker of the same name), Mushabib al-Hamlan, Zakariyah Essabar, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Tawfiq bin Attash. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the attack's mastermind, wanted to remove at least one member — Khalid al-Mihdhar — from the operation, but he was overruled by Osama bin Laden.