What Happened on September 11, 2001?
September 11, 2001 will forever be a day of tragedy and horror in the hearts of many. For Americans it was a day of terror sponsored by religious fanatics who sought to destroy their way of life and the freedom of the West. For the first time in history, terrorists hijacked several airliners for the purpose of a coordinated attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and supposedly the White House.1
Although authorities had known of a potential threat, there were no signs that could have indicated the scale of the attack brought on by the terrorists. Hundreds perished immediately following the crash of the airliners and thousands lost their lives trapped inside the Towers when it burned and thousands died when the World Trade Center collapsed. People who went inside to the towers to help the victims evacuate also perished; Firefighters, police officers, emergency workers, etc…
The Collapse of World Trade Center
4 This video was taken by a family who witnessed the collapse of the World Trade Center. Emotions ran high as the individuals recording the video gazed upon the people on the ground running for their lives as the towers collapsed, a shockwave of smoke and dust covered entire sections of the city.
American Airline Flight 11
Immediately after the takeoff of American Airline Flight 11, the five hijackers stabbed two flight attendants with knives and took control of the cockpit.5 The passengers were herded to the back of the plane but flight attendant, Amy Sweeney was able to call the control office in Boston at 8:44 A.M., two minutes before the plane crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.6
“Something is wrong. We are in a rapid descent. We are all over the place. We are flying very, very low. We are flying way too low. Oh my God we are way too low!”7
Suspects of Flight 11
(Satam al Suqami, Waleed al Shehri, Wail al Shehri, Abdulaziz al Omari, Mohammed Atta)8
Mohamed Atta, the hijacker who received pilot training, flew the Boeing 767 into
the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 A.M. The plane crashed between floor 93 and 99, it stilled carried 37,854 liters of fuel, causing major fire fireballs engulfing the elevator shafts all the way down to floor 22.9
The Flight Path of American Airline 11
United Airline Flight 175
The hijackers claimed that they had a bomb on board the plane, the pilots were stabbed to death with box cutter knives. United Airline Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center at 9:03 A.M.11
Many passengers were able to call loved one as well as contact authorities on the ground, to describe what was happening onboard the airplane. The following is a conversation recorded between Peter Hanson and his father.13
Peter Hanson – First call to his father
“I think they’ve taken over the cockpit. An attendant has been stabbed – and someone else up front may have been killed. The plane is making strange moves.”14
Peter Hanson – Second call to his father
“Its getting very bad on the plane. Passengers are throwing up and getting sick. The plane is making jerky movements. I think we are going down. I think they intend to go to Chicago or someplace and fly into a building. Don’t worry , Dad. If it happens, it’ll be very fast. My God. My God!”15
American Ailine Flight 77
American Airline Flight 77 was a Boeng 757, the hijackers took over the plane and flew it into the Pentagon at 9:37 A.M. AA Flight 77 was seen by several people on the ground near the Pentagon, it was flying far too low and way too fast. People stuck in the traffic jam on Columbia Pike saw the plane fly overhead, many ran in panic as the plane knocked down the streetlights.18
(Majed Moqed, Khalid al Mihdhar, Nawaf al Hazmi, Salem al Hazmi, Hani Hanjour)19
Recording of Flight 77
Pilot was heard yelling by ATC
“Hey, get out of here – get out of here!”20
The aircraft changed course and headed towards Washington, D.C. It was suspected that their intended target was the White House, instead it hijacker crashed it into the Pentagon.
All 64 passengers and crew member were killed, including 125 workers inside
the Pentagon. There would have been more casualties, however at the time
Pentagon was undergoing renovation which left the wing relatively empty.23
United Airline Flight 93 was the only plane where the hijackers were unsuccessful in carrying out their terrorist plot. After takeoff at 8:42 A.M. the air traffic controllers received an emergency call from the pilot before the hijackers were able to take over the cockpit.24
(Saeed al Ghamdi, Ahmed al Haznawi, Ahmed al Nami, Ziad Jarrah)25
Todd Beamer described to an operator;
“We’re going down, we’re turning round. Oh, I don’t know. Jesus, please help us.”26
The people on board the plane knew through communication with people on the ground
that the hijackers had attacked the World Trace Center by crashing the plane into the Towers. They agreed to stop the terrorists, at 9:57 A.M. Todd Beamer and several others onboard tried to overpower the hijackers.27 Ziad Jarrah, knowing that he may lose control of the plane, chose to crash it into an empty field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at 10:03 A.M. while shouting:
“Allah Ackbar! Allah Ackbar!”28
President Bush’s Public Address to the American People30
President Bush outlines what had happened on September 11, 2001 and tells the public that they will fight against terrorism in the world together with their allies.
The Day After, September 12, 2001
The day after the attack in Manhattan, all traffic was closed below 14th Street as major parts of the city was organizing towards relief and clean up. Red Cross shelters were set up at different points of the city to offer assistance to those who suffered injuries from the Tower’s collapse.31 Many people had to evacuate the surround area of the World Trade Center, leaving their homes and finding shelter amongst friends and even strangers for days…
The events on September 11, 2001, was an awakening to the vulnerability of American security despite being one of the most powerful nation in the world. With but a handful
of fanatical men, the terrorists, struck fear into the hearts of the American people. In a single day, the terrorist were able to kill more than 3,000 people using airliners as missiles, crashing them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.33
1) Langley, Andrew. September 11 :Attack on America. Minneapolis, Minn.: Compass Point Books, 2006.
3) Brian Cordyack, “Anatomy of an Attack.” The Washington Post. 13, Sept. 2001, 12 Dec. 2010 <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/graphics/attack/wtc_4.html>.
4) NetworkLive, “September 11 2001 Video.” YouTube. 29 Dec. 2006, 12 Dec. 2010 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNNTcHq5Tzk>.
5) Langley, 11.
8) Ibid, 20.
9) Ibid, 13.
10 Ibid, 19.
11 Ibid, 14.
12) Ibid, 20.
13) Ibid, 14.
16) Ibid, 19.
17) “9/11 at the Pentagon and Flight 93 and Related Media.” History.Com. 2010, 10 Nov 2010 <http://www.history.com/photos/9-11-pentagon/photo16#9-11-pentagon>.
18) Langley, 17.
19) Ibid, 20.
20) Ibid, 18.
21) Ibid, 19.
22) Brenna Maloney, “Pentagon Attack.” The Washington Post. 11 Sept. 2001, 12 Dec. 2010 <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/graphics/attack/pentagon_3.html>.
23) Langley, 18.
25) Ibid, 20.
26) Ibid, 18.
27) Ibid, 19.
28) Ibid, 21.
29) Ibid, 19.
30) DontDeleteMyVideos, “CNN – Ex-President George W. Bush’s Post 9/11 Speech.” YouTube. 15 Oct. 2006, 27 Nov. 2010 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMiqEUBux3o>.
31) Laris Karklis, “Manhattan the Day After.” The Washington Post. 12 Sept. 2001, 15 Nov 2010 <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/graphics/attack/wtc_1.html>.
33) Langley, 22.