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September 11 attacks

Attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001

Top 10 September 11 attacks related articles

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September 11 attacks
Part of terrorism in the United States

Location
DateSeptember 11, 2001; 19 years ago (2001-09-11)
8:46 – 10:28 a.m. (EDT)
Target
Attack type
Deaths2,996 
(2,977 victims + 19 Al-Qaeda terrorists)
Injured25,000[1]
Perpetrators
No. of participants
19

The September 11 attacks, often referred to as 9/11,[a] were a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Wahhabi[3] terrorist group Al-Qaeda[4][5][6] against the United States on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The attacks resulted in 2,977 fatalities, over 25,000 injuries, and substantial long-term health consequences, in addition to at least $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage.[7][8] It is the deadliest terrorist attack in human history and the single deadliest incident for firefighters and law enforcement officers in the history of the United States, with 343 and 72 killed, respectively.[9]

Four passenger airliners which had departed from airports in the northeastern United States bound for California were hijacked by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists. Two of the planes, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, crashed into the North and South towers, respectively, of the World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan. Within an hour and 42 minutes, both 110-story towers collapsed. Debris and the resulting fires caused a partial or complete collapse of all other buildings in the World Trade Center complex, including the 47-story 7 World Trade Center tower, as well as significant damage to ten other large surrounding structures. A third plane, American Airlines Flight 77, was crashed into the Pentagon (the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense) in Arlington County, Virginia, which led to a partial collapse of the building's west side. The fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93, was initially flown toward Washington, D.C., but crashed into a field in Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania, after passengers thwarted the hijackers.

Suspicion quickly fell onto al-Qaeda. The United States responded by launching the War on Terror and invading Afghanistan to depose the Taliban, which had not complied with U.S. demands to expel al-Qaeda from Afghanistan and extradite their leader Osama bin Laden. Many countries strengthened their anti-terrorism legislation and expanded the powers of law enforcement and intelligence agencies to prevent terrorist attacks. Although bin Laden initially denied any involvement, in 2004 he claimed responsibility for the attacks.[2] 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. After evading capture for almost a decade, bin Laden was located in Pakistan in 2011 and killed during a U.S. military raid.

The destruction of the World Trade Center and nearby infrastructure seriously harmed the economy of New York City and had a significant effect on global markets. The U.S. and Canadian civilian airspaces were closed until September 13, while Wall Street was closed until September 17. Many closings, evacuations, and cancellations followed, out of respect or fear of further attacks. Cleanup of the World Trade Center site was completed in May 2002, and the Pentagon was repaired within a year. The construction of One World Trade Center began in November 2006, and the building opened in November 2014.[10][11] Numerous memorials have been constructed, including the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City, the Pentagon Memorial in Arlington County, Virginia, and the Flight 93 National Memorial at the Pennsylvania crash site.

September 11 attacks Intro articles: 39

Background

Al-Qaeda

The origins of al-Qaeda can be traced to 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden travelled to Afghanistan and helped to organize Arab mujahideen to resist the Soviets.[12] Under the guidance of Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden became more radical.[13] In 1996, bin Laden issued his first fatwā, calling for American soldiers to leave Saudi Arabia.[14]

In a second fatwā in 1998, bin Laden outlined his objections to American foreign policy with respect to Israel, as well as the continued presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War.[15] Bin Laden used Islamic texts to exhort Muslims to attack Americans until the stated grievances were reversed. Muslim legal scholars "have throughout Islamic history unanimously agreed that the jihad is an individual duty if the enemy destroys the Muslim countries", according to bin Laden.[15]

Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden at about 40 years of age in 1997

Bin Laden orchestrated the attacks and initially denied involvement but later recanted his false statements.[2][16][17] Al Jazeera broadcast a statement by bin Laden on September 16, 2001, stating, "I stress that I have not carried out this act, which appears to have been carried out by individuals with their own motivation."[18] In November 2001, U.S. forces recovered a videotape from a destroyed house in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. In the video, bin Laden is seen talking to Khaled al-Harbi and admits foreknowledge of the attacks.[19] On December 27, 2001, a second bin Laden video was released. In the video, he said:

It has become clear that the West in general and America in particular have an unspeakable hatred for Islam. ... It is the hatred of crusaders. Terrorism against America deserves to be praised because it was a response to injustice, aimed at forcing America to stop its support for Israel, which kills our people. ... We say that the end of the United States is imminent, whether Bin Laden or his followers are alive or dead, for the awakening of the Muslim umma (nation) has occurred

but he stopped short of admitting responsibility for the attacks.[20]

Shortly before the U.S. presidential election in 2004, bin Laden used a taped statement to publicly acknowledge al-Qaeda's involvement in the attacks on the United States. He admitted his direct link to the attacks and said they were carried out because:

we are free ... and want to regain freedom for our nation. As you undermine our security, we undermine yours.[21]

Bin Laden said he had personally directed his followers to attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.[22][23] Another video obtained by Al Jazeera in September 2006 shows bin Laden with Ramzi bin al-Shibh, as well as two hijackers, Hamza al-Ghamdi and Wail al-Shehri, as they make preparations for the attacks.[24] The U.S. never formally indicted bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks, but he was on the FBI's Most Wanted List for the bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya.[25][26] After a 10-year manhunt, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that bin Laden was killed by American special forces in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 1, 2011.[27]

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed after his capture in 2003

Journalist Yosri Fouda of the Arabic television channel Al Jazeera reported that in April 2002, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed admitted his involvement in the attacks, along with Ramzi bin al-Shibh.[28][29][30] The 2004 9/11 Commission Report determined that the animosity towards the United States felt by Mohammed, the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks, stemmed from his "violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel".[31] Mohammed was also an adviser and financier of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the uncle of Ramzi Yousef, the lead bomber in that attack.[32][33]

Mohammed was arrested on March 1, 2003, in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, by Pakistani security officials working with the CIA. He was then held at multiple CIA secret prisons and Guantanamo Bay where he was interrogated and tortured with methods including waterboarding.[34][35] During U.S. hearings at Guantanamo Bay in March 2007, Mohammed again confessed his responsibility for the attacks, stating he "was responsible for the 9/11 operation from A to Z" and that his statement was not made under duress.[30][36]

A letter presented by the lawyers of Khaled Sheikh Mohammed in the U.S. District Court, Manhattan on July 26, 2019 indicated that he was interested in testifying about Saudi Arabia’s role in the 9/11 attacks and helping the victims and families of the victims of 9/11 in exchange for the United States not seeking the death penalty against him. James Kreindler, one of the lawyers for the victims, raised question over the usefulness of Mohammed.[1]

Other al-Qaeda members

In "Substitution for Testimony of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed" from the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, five people are identified as having been completely aware of the operation's details. They are bin Laden, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Abu Turab al-Urduni, and Mohammed Atef.[37] To date, only peripheral figures have been tried or convicted for the attacks.

On September 26, 2005, the Spanish high court sentenced Abu Dahdah to 27 years in prison for conspiracy on the 9/11 attacks and being a member of the terrorist organization al-Qaeda. At the same time, another 17 al-Qaeda members were sentenced to penalties of between six and eleven years.[38] On February 16, 2006, the Spanish Supreme Court reduced the Abu Dahdah penalty to 12 years because it considered that his participation in the conspiracy was not proven.[39]

Also in 2006, Moussaoui—who some originally suspected might have been the assigned 20th hijacker—was convicted for the lesser role of conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism and air piracy. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole in the United States.[40][41] Mounir el-Motassadeq, an associate of the Hamburg-based hijackers, served 15 years in Germany for his role in helping the hijackers prepare for the attacks. He was released in October 2018, and deported to Morocco.[42]

The Hamburg cell in Germany included radical Islamists who eventually came to be key operatives in the 9/11 attacks.[43] Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, Ziad Jarrah, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and Said Bahaji were all members of al-Qaeda's Hamburg cell.[44]

Motives

Osama bin Laden's declaration of a holy war against the United States, and a 1998 fatwā signed by bin Laden and others, calling for the killing of Americans,[15] are seen by investigators as evidence of his motivation.[45] In bin Laden's November 2002 "Letter to America", he explicitly stated that al-Qaeda's motives for their attacks include:

After the attacks, bin Laden and al-Zawahiri released additional videotapes and audio recordings, some of which repeated those reasons for the attacks. Two particularly important publications were bin Laden's 2002 "Letter to America",[49] and a 2004 videotape by bin Laden.[50]

Bin Laden interpreted Muhammad as having banned the "permanent presence of infidels in Arabia".[51] In 1996, bin Laden issued a fatwā calling for American troops to leave Saudi Arabia. In 1998, al-Qaeda wrote, "for over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples."[52]

In a December 1999 interview, bin Laden said he felt that Americans were "too near to Mecca", and considered this a provocation to the entire Muslim world.[53] One analysis of suicide terrorism suggested that without U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, al-Qaeda likely would not have been able to get people to commit to suicide missions.[54]

In the 1998 fatwā, al-Qaeda identified the Iraq sanctions as a reason to kill Americans, condemning the "protracted blockade"[52] among other actions that constitute a declaration of war against "Allah, his messenger, and Muslims."[52] The fatwā declared that "the ruling to kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military—is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy mosque of Mecca from their grip, and in order for their [the Americans'] armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim."[15][55]

In 2004, Bin Laden claimed that the idea of destroying the towers had first occurred to him in 1982, when he witnessed Israel's bombardment of high-rise apartment buildings during the 1982 Lebanon War.[56][57] Some analysts, including Mearsheimer and Walt, also claimed that U.S. support of Israel was one motive for the attacks.[47][53] In 2004 and 2010, bin Laden again connected the September 11 attacks with U.S. support of Israel, although most of the letter expressed bin Laden's disdain for President Bush and bin Laden's hope to "destroy and bankrupt" the U.S.[58][59]

Other motives have been suggested in addition to those stated by bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Some authors suggested the "humiliation" that resulted from the Islamic world falling behind the Western world—this discrepancy was rendered especially visible by the globalization trend[60][61] and a desire to provoke the U.S. into a broader war against the Islamic world in the hope of motivating more allies to support al-Qaeda. Similarly, others have argued that 9/11 was a strategic move with the objective of provoking America into a war that would incite a pan-Islamic revolution.[62][63]

Planning

Map showing the attacks on the World Trade Center (The planes are not drawn to scale.)

The attacks were conceived by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who first presented it to Osama bin Laden in 1996.[64] At that time, bin Laden and al-Qaeda were in a period of transition, having just relocated back to Afghanistan from Sudan.[65] The 1998 African Embassy bombings and bin Laden's February 1998 fatwā marked a turning point of al-Qaeda's terrorist operation,[66] as bin Laden became intent on attacking the United States.

In late 1998 or early 1999, bin Laden gave approval for Mohammed to go forward with organizing the plot.[67] Mohammed, bin Laden, and bin Laden's deputy Mohammed Atef held a series of meetings in early 1999.[68] Atef provided operational support, including target selections and helping arrange travel for the hijackers.[65] Bin Laden overruled Mohammed, rejecting potential targets such as the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles for lack of time.[69][70]

Diagram showing the attacks on the World Trade Center

Bin Laden provided leadership and financial support, and was involved in selecting participants.[71] He initially selected Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, both experienced jihadists who had fought in Bosnia. Hazmi and Mihdhar arrived in the United States in mid-January 2000. In early 2000, Hazmi and Mihdhar took flying lessons in San Diego, California, but both spoke little English, performed poorly in flying lessons, and eventually served as secondary—or "muscle"—hijackers.[72][73]

In late 1999, a group of men from Hamburg, Germany arrived in Afghanistan; the group included Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, Ziad Jarrah, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh.[74] Bin Laden selected these men because they were educated, could speak English, and had experience living in the West.[75] New recruits were routinely screened for special skills and al-Qaeda leaders consequently discovered that Hani Hanjour already had a commercial pilot's license.[76] Mohammed later said that he helped the hijackers blend in by teaching them how to order food in restaurants and dress in Western clothing.[77]

Hanjour arrived in San Diego on December 8, 2000, joining Hazmi.[78]:6–7 They soon left for Arizona, where Hanjour took refresher training.[78]:7 Marwan al-Shehhi arrived at the end of May 2000, while Atta arrived on June 3, 2000, and Jarrah arrived on June 27, 2000.[78]:6 Bin al-Shibh applied several times for a visa to the United States, but as a Yemeni, he was rejected out of concerns he would overstay his visa.[78]:4, 14 Bin al-Shibh stayed in Hamburg, providing coordination between Atta and Mohammed.[78]:16 The three Hamburg cell members all took pilot training in South Florida at Huffman Aviation.[78]:6

In spring of 2001, the secondary hijackers began arriving in the United States.[79] In July 2001, Atta met with bin al-Shibh in Spain, where they coordinated details of the plot, including final target selection. Bin al-Shibh also passed along bin Laden's wish for the attacks to be carried out as soon as possible.[80] Some of the hijackers received passports from corrupt Saudi officials who were family members, or used fraudulent passports to gain entry.[81]

There is some idea that 9/11 was selected by the hijackers as the date of the attack because of its resemblance to 9-1-1, the phone number to report emergencies in the U.S. However, Lawrence Wright wrote that the hijackers chose it because September 11, 1683 is when the King of Poland began the battle that turned back the Muslim armies from the Ottoman Empire that were attempting to capture Vienna. For Osama bin Laden, this was a date when the West gained some dominance over Islam, and by attacking on this date, he hoped to make a step in Islam "winning" the war for worldwide power and influence.[82]

Prior intelligence

In late 1999, al-Qaeda associate Walid bin Attash ("Khallad") contacted Mihdhar, telling him to meet him in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Hazmi and Abu Bara al Yemeni would also be in attendance. The NSA intercepted a telephone call mentioning the meeting, Mihdhar, and the name "Nawaf" (Hazmi). While the agency feared "Something nefarious might be afoot", it took no further action. The CIA had already been alerted by Saudi intelligence about the status of Mihdhar and Hazmi as al-Qaeda members, and a CIA team broke into Mihdhar's Dubai hotel room and discovered that Mihdhar had a U.S. visa. While Alec Station alerted intelligence agencies worldwide about this fact, it did not share this information with the FBI. The Malaysian Special Branch observed the January 5, 2000 meeting of the two al-Qaeda members, and informed the CIA that Mihdhar, Hazmi, and Khallad were flying to Bangkok, but the CIA never notified other agencies of this, nor did it ask the State Department to put Mihdhar on its watchlist. An FBI liaison to Alec Station asked permission to inform the FBI of the meeting but was told: "This is not a matter for the FBI."[83]

By late June, senior counter-terrorism official Richard Clarke and CIA director George Tenet were "convinced that a major series of attacks was about to come", although the CIA believed the attacks would likely occur in Saudi Arabia or Israel.[84] In early July, Clarke put domestic agencies on "full alert", telling them, "Something really spectacular is going to happen here. soon." He asked the FBI and the State Department to alert the embassies and police departments, and the Defense Department to go to "Threat Condition Delta".[85][86] Clarke would later write: "Somewhere in CIA there was information that two known al Qaeda terrorists had come into the United States. Somewhere in FBI there was information that strange things had been going on at flight schools in the United States. . . . They had specific information about individual terrorists from which one could have deduced what was about to happen. None of that information got to me or the White House."[87]

On July 13, Tom Wilshire, a CIA agent assigned to the FBI's international terrorism division, emailed his superiors at the CIA's Counterterrorism Center (CTC) requesting permission to inform the FBI that Hazmi was in the country and that Mihdhar had a U.S. visa. The CIA never responded.[88]

The same day in July, Margarette Gillespie, an FBI analyst working in the CTC, was told to review material about the Malaysia meeting. She was not told of the participants' presence in the U.S. The CIA gave Gillespie surveillance photos of Mihdhar and Hazmi from the meeting to show to FBI counterterrorism, but did not tell her their significance. The Intelink database informed her not to share intelligence material on the meeting to criminal investigators. When shown the photos, the FBI were refused more details on their significance, and they were not given Mihdhar's date of birth nor passport number.[89] In late August 2001, Gillespie told the INS, the State Department, the Customs Service, and the FBI to put Hazmi and Mihdhar on their watchlists, but the FBI was prohibited from using criminal agents in the search for the duo, which hindered their efforts.[90]

Also in July, a Phoenix-based FBI agent sent a message to FBI headquarters, Alec Station, and to FBI agents in New York alerting them to "the possibility of a coordinated effort by Osama bin Laden to send students to the United States to attend civil aviation universities and colleges". The agent, Kenneth Williams, suggested the need to interview all flight school managers and identify all Arab students seeking flight training.[91] In July, Jordan alerted the U.S. that al-Qaeda was planning an attack on the U.S.; "months later", Jordan notified the U.S. that the attack's codename was "The Big Wedding" and that it involved airplanes.[92]

On August 6, 2001, the CIA's Presidential Daily Brief ("PDB"), designated "For the President Only", was entitled "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in U.S." The memo noted that FBI information "indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks".[93]

In mid-August, one Minnesota flight school alerted the FBI about Zacarias Moussaoui, who had asked "suspicious questions". The FBI found that Moussaoui was a radical who had traveled to Pakistan, and the INS arrested him for overstaying his French visa. Their request to search his laptop was denied by FBI headquarters due to the lack of probable cause.[94]

The failures in intelligence-sharing were attributed to 1995 Justice Department policies limiting intelligence sharing, combined with CIA and NSA reluctance to reveal "sensitive sources and methods" such as tapped phones.[95] Testifying before the 9/11 Commission in April 2004, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft recalled that the "single greatest structural cause for the September 11th problem was the wall that segregated or separated criminal investigators and intelligence agents".[96] Clarke also wrote: "There were failures in the organizations failures to get information to the right place at the right time."[97]

September 11 attacks Background articles: 100

Attacks

Flight paths of the four planes used on September 11

Early on the morning of September 11, 2001, 19 hijackers took control of four commercial airliners (two Boeing 757s and two Boeing 767s) en route to California (three headed to LAX in Los Angeles and one to SFO in San Francisco) after takeoffs from Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts; Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey; and Washington Dulles International Airport in Loudoun and Fairfax counties in Virginia.[98] Large planes with long flights were selected for hijacking because they would be full of fuel.[99]

The four flights were:

  • American Airlines Flight 11: a Boeing 767 aircraft, departed Logan Airport at 7:59 a.m. en route to Los Angeles with a crew of 11 and 76 passengers, not including five hijackers. The hijackers flew the plane into the northern facade of the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City at 8:46 a.m.
  • United Airlines Flight 175: a Boeing 767 aircraft, departed Logan Airport at 8:14 a.m. en route to Los Angeles with a crew of nine and 51 passengers, not including five hijackers. The hijackers flew the plane into the southern facade of the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City at 9:03 a.m.
  • American Airlines Flight 77: a Boeing 757 aircraft, departed Washington Dulles International Airport at 8:20 a.m. en route to Los Angeles with a crew of six and 53 passengers, not including five hijackers. The hijackers flew the plane into the western facade of the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia, at 9:37 a.m.
  • United Airlines Flight 93: a Boeing 757 aircraft, departed Newark International Airport at 8:42 a.m. en route to San Francisco, with a crew of seven and 33 passengers, not including four hijackers. As passengers attempted to subdue the hijackers, the aircraft crashed into a field in Stonycreek Township near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at 10:03 a.m.

Media coverage was extensive during the attacks and aftermath, beginning moments after the first crash into the World Trade Center.[100]

There were 0 Survivors (Including the Hijackers) from the following 4 Flights
Aircraft Number of Occupants Time Location Casualties
Operator Flight Number Aircraft Type Crew Passengers# Hijackers Time of Departure Time of Crash Departed From En Route To Crash Site Ground fatalities Total fatalities
American Airlines 11 Boeing 767-223ER 11 76 5 7:59 8:46 Logan International Airport Los Angeles International Airport North Tower of the World Trade Center 1600* 1692^
United Airlines 175 Boeing 767-222 9 51 5 8:14 9:03 Logan International Airport Los Angeles International Airport South Tower of the World Trade Center 900* 965^
American Airlines 77 Boeing 757-223 6 53 5 8:20 9:37 Washington Dulles International Airport Los Angeles International Airport West wall of Pentagon 125* 64**
United Airlines 93 Boeing 757-223 7 33 4 8:42 10:03 Newark Int'l Airport San Francisco Int'l Airport Field in Stonycreek Township near Shanksville 0 44**
Total number of Occupants$ 33 213 19 Total number of Casualties$ 2669 2765

*Including emergency workers **Including hijackers ^Unconfirmed #Does not include Hijackers $Approximated

The four crashes

Collapse of the towers as seen from across the Hudson River in New Jersey

At 8:46 a.m., five hijackers crashed American Airlines Flight 11 into the northern facade of the World Trade Center's North Tower (1 WTC). At 9:03 a.m., another five hijackers crashed United Airlines Flight 175 into the southern facade of the South Tower (2 WTC).[101][102] Five hijackers flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m.[103] A fourth flight, United Airlines Flight 93, crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, southeast of Pittsburgh, at 10:03 a.m. after the passengers fought the four hijackers. Flight 93's target is believed to have been either the Capitol or the White House.[99] Flight 93's cockpit voice recorder revealed crew and passengers tried to seize control of the plane from the hijackers after learning through phone calls that Flights 11, 77, and 175 had been crashed into buildings that morning.[104] Once it became evident that the passengers might gain control, the hijackers rolled the plane and intentionally crashed it.[105][106]

The north face of Two World Trade Center (south tower) immediately after being struck by United Airlines Flight 175

Some passengers and crew members who called from the aircraft using the cabin air phone service and mobile phones provided details: several hijackers were aboard each plane; they used mace, tear gas, or pepper spray to overcome attendants; and some people aboard had been stabbed.[107] Reports indicated hijackers stabbed and killed pilots, flight attendants, and one or more passengers.[98][108] According to the 9/11 Commission's final report, the hijackers had recently purchased multi-function hand tools and assorted Leatherman-type utility knives with locking blades, which were not forbidden to passengers at the time, but were not found among the possessions left behind by the hijackers.[109][110] 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 said he thought the bombs were fake. The FBI found no traces of explosives at the crash sites, and the 9/11 Commission concluded that the bombs were probably fake.[98]

Three buildings in the World Trade Center collapsed due to fire-induced structural failure.[111] 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 and the explosion of its fuel.[111] The North Tower collapsed at 10:28 a.m. after burning for 102 minutes.[111] 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.[112][113] The west side of the Pentagon sustained significant damage.

This browser does not support the video element.

Security camera footage of American Airlines Flight 77 hitting the Pentagon.[114] The plane hits the Pentagon approximately 86 seconds after the start of this recording.

At 9:42 a.m., the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded all civilian aircraft within the continental U.S., and civilian aircraft already in flight were told to land immediately.[115] All international civilian aircraft were either turned back or redirected to airports in Canada or Mexico, and were banned from landing on United States territory for three days.[116] 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.[117] Another jet—Delta Air Lines Flight 1989—was suspected of having been hijacked, but the aircraft responded to controllers and landed safely in Cleveland, Ohio.[118]

In an April 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.[119] 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 hijacked and piloted Flight 77).[120] Mohammed 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".[121] Final decisions on targets, according to Mohammed, were left in the hands of the pilots.[120] If any pilot could not reach his intended target, he was to crash the plane.[99]

Casualties

The remains of 6, 7, and 1 WTC on September 17, 2001
A surviving portion of the wall from the Twin Towers

The attacks caused the deaths of 2,996 people (including all 19 hijackers) and injured more than 6,000 others.[122] The death toll included 265 on the four planes (from which there were no survivors), 2,606 in the World Trade Center and in the surrounding area, and 125 at the Pentagon.[123][124] Most of those who perished were civilians, with the exception of 343 firefighters, 72 law enforcement officers, 55 military personnel, and the 19 terrorists who died in the attacks.[125][126] After New York, New Jersey lost the most state citizens, with the city of Hoboken having the most New Jersey citizens who died in the attacks.[127] More than 90 countries lost citizens in the September 11 attacks;[128] for example, the 67 Britons who died were more than in any other terrorist attack anywhere as of October 2002.[129] The attacks killed about 500 more people than the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and are the deadliest terrorist attacks in world history.[8]

In Arlington County, Virginia, 125 Pentagon workers lost their lives when Flight 77 crashed into the western side of the building. Of these, 70 were civilians and 55 were military personnel, many of whom worked for the United States Army or the United States Navy. The Army lost 47 civilian employees, six civilian contractors, and 22 soldiers, while the Navy lost six civilian employees, three civilian contractors, and 33 sailors. Seven Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) civilian employees were also among the dead in the attack, as well as an Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) contractor.[130][131][132] Lieutenant General Timothy Maude, an Army Deputy Chief of Staff, was the highest-ranking military official killed at the Pentagon.[133]

The Statue of Liberty with the towers burning in the background

In New York City, more than 90% of the workers and visitors who died in the towers had been at or above the points of impact.[134] 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. The destruction of all three staircases in the tower when Flight 11 hit made it impossible for anyone above the impact zone to escape. 107 people below the point of impact died as well.[134]

In the South Tower, one stairwell, Stairwell A, was left intact after Flight 175 hit, allowing 14 people located on the floors of impact (including one man who saw the plane coming at him) and four more from the floors above to escape. New York City 9-1-1 operators who received calls from people inside the tower were not well informed of the situation as it rapidly unfolded and as a result, told callers not to descend the tower on their own.[135] In total 630 people died in that tower, fewer than half the number killed in the North Tower.[134] Casualties in the South Tower were significantly reduced because some occupants decided to start evacuating as soon as the North Tower was struck.[136] The failure to evacuate the South Tower fully after the first jet crash into the North Tower was described by USA Today as "one of the day's great tragedies".[137]

An Urban Search and Rescue Task Force German shepherd dog works to uncover victims at the site of the World Trade Center after the attacks.

At least 200 people fell or jumped to their deaths from the burning towers (as exemplified in the photograph The Falling Man), landing on the streets and rooftops of adjacent buildings hundreds of feet below.[138] Some occupants of each tower above the point of impact made their way toward the roof in the hope of helicopter rescue, but the roof access doors were locked.[139] No plan existed for helicopter rescues, and the combination of roof equipment, thick smoke, and intense heat prevented helicopters from approaching.[140] A total of 411 emergency workers died as they tried to rescue people and fight fires. The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) lost 343 firefighters, including a chaplain and two paramedics.[141] The New York City Police Department (NYPD) lost 23 officers.[142] The Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) lost 37 officers.[143] Eight emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics from private emergency medical services units were killed.[144]

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.[145] Marsh Inc., located immediately below Cantor Fitzgerald on floors 93–100, lost 358 employees,[146][147] and 175 employees of Aon Corporation were also killed.[148] 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. Turnstile counts from the Port Authority suggest 14,154 people were typically in the Twin Towers by 8:45 a.m.[149][150] Most people below the impact zone safely evacuated the buildings.[151]

Deaths (victims + hijackers)
New York City World Trade Center 2,606[123][152]
American 11 87 + 5[153]
United 175 60 + 5[154]
Arlington Pentagon 125[155]
American 77 59 + 5[156]
Near Shanksville United 93 40 + 4[157]
Total 2,977 + 19

Weeks after the attack, the death toll was estimated to be over 6,000, more than twice the number of deaths eventually confirmed.[158] 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".[159] 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 72 more human remains were recovered, bringing the total found to 1,845. DNA profiling continues in an attempt to identify additional victims.[160][161][162] The remains are being held in storage in Memorial Park, outside the New York City Medical Examiner's facilities. It was expected that the remains would be moved in 2013 to a repository behind a wall at the 9/11 museum. In July 2011, a team of scientists at the Office of Chief Medical Examiner was still trying to identify remains, in the hope that improved technology will allow them to identify other victims.[162] On August 7, 2017, the 1,641st victim was identified as a result of newly available DNA technology,[163] and a 1,642nd on July 26, 2018.[164] A further 1,111 victims are yet to be identified.[164]

Damage

World Trade Center site (Ground Zero) with an overlay showing the original building locations
The Pentagon was damaged by fire and partly collapsed.
The aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks, as seen from space by the Landsat 7 satellite[165]

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.[166] The North Tower, South Tower, the Marriott Hotel (3 WTC), and 7 WTC were 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 (still popularly referred to as the Bankers Trust Building) on 130 Liberty Street was partially damaged and demolished some years later, starting in 2007.[167][168] The two buildings of the World Financial Center also suffered damage.[167] The last fires at the World Trade Center site were extinguished on December 20, exactly 100 days after the attacks.[169]

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.[170][171] The Borough of Manhattan Community College's Fiterman Hall at 30 West Broadway was condemned due to extensive damage in the attacks, and was reopened in 2012.[172] Other neighboring buildings (including 90 West Street and the Verizon Building) suffered major damage but have been restored.[173] World Financial Center buildings, One Liberty Plaza, the Millenium Hilton, and 90 Church Street had moderate damage and have since been restored.[174] Communications equipment on top of the North Tower was also destroyed, with only WCBS-TV maintaining a backup transmitter on the Empire State Building, but media stations were quickly able to reroute the signals and resume their broadcasts.[166][175]

The PATH train system's World Trade Center station was located under the complex. As a result, the entire station was demolished completely when the towers collapsed, and the tunnels leading to Exchange Place station in Jersey City, New Jersey were flooded with water.[176] The station was rebuilt as the $4 billion World Trade Center Transportation Hub, which reopened in March 2015.[177][178] The Cortlandt Street station on the New York City Subway's IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line was also in close proximity to the World Trade Center complex, and the entire station, along with the surrounding track, was reduced to rubble.[179] The latter station was rebuilt and reopened to the public on September 8, 2018.[180]

The Pentagon was severely damaged by the impact of American Airlines Flight 77 and ensuing fires, causing one section of the building to collapse.[181] As the airplane approached the Pentagon, its wings knocked down light poles and its right engine hit a power generator before crashing into the western side of the building.[182][183] The plane hit the Pentagon at the first-floor level. The front part of the fuselage disintegrated on impact, while the mid and tail sections kept moving for another fraction of a second.[184] Debris from the tail section penetrated furthest into the building, breaking through 310 feet (94 m) of the three outermost of the building's five rings.[184][185]

Rescue efforts

EMS workers rescue and evacuate an injured victim of the Pentagon attack.

The New York City Fire Department deployed 200 units (half of the department) to the World Trade Center. Their efforts were supplemented by numerous off-duty firefighters and emergency medical technicians.[186][187][188] 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, the NYPD, and the PAPD did not coordinate efforts and performed redundant searches for civilians.[186][189] 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.[189][190] 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. 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.[187] 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.[191]

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