The September Attacks
On September 11, 2001, the United States endured the worst terrorist attack in American history. This series of four organized suicide attacks were carried out by nineteen members of the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda. Before this devastating event, America was dominating with the economic, technological, and military advancements that they had been making, unlike many surrounding nations.
Despite America’s stability and success at the time, the country remained vulnerable to strikes by hate groups and raging anti-Americans. No matter how large their military budget was or what advancements they were making, America would’ve never been able to prepare themselves for the attack they would undergo on that quaint Tuesday morning.
The morning of September 11, 2001 was just like any other day across the country. At 7:59 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 departed from Boston’s Logan International Airport to go to Los Angeles, California. At 8:14 a.m., another plane, United Airlines Flight 175, takes off for the same route. In the midst of this, two more planes depart from other airports with destinations including Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. After only five minutes in the air, flight attendants aboard Flight 11 became aware of the 5 hijackers on the plane and alerted ground personnel of the use of mace, bomb threats, and several stabbings on the plane. The names of the men who took control over this plane were Mohamed Atta, Abdulaziz al-Omari, Wail al-Shehri, Waleed a-Shehri, and Satam al-Suqami. Crew members, along with the innocent passengers, began to panic and had no idea what was about to happen on what should’ve been a routine flight. After flight attendant Madeline Sweeney made the last known communication from the plane, hijacker Mohammed Atta makes his first two attempts to control the plane at 8:24 a.m. and begins the worst terrorist attack the United States will ever endure.
In New York, this Tuesday was seemingly normal, the skies were clear, citizens were going to work, kids were being dropped off at daycare, and the morning was anything but out of the ordinary until tragedy struck. At 8:46 a.m., Flight 11 was flying extremely low and crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center loaded with 92 people and 20,000 gallons of jet fuel. The plane, a Boeing 767, was traveling at nearly 496 mph near the 80th floor of the 110 story skyscraper and instantly killed hundreds of people and trapped many more on surrounding floors. The people in the streets were shocked, they had no idea what they had just seen and instantly went in panic. Many people who were in the building that didn’t get killed at the initial impact were stuck in the building and trying to escape but had no way out. Those able to escape began evacuating the tower and fled into the streets in an attempt to reach safety. Shortly after, the scene was broadcasted live on many television networks to update the nation on what was thought to be a freak accident. This, however, was not a just a mishap, but it was the first of four different crashes that would occur over the next several hours.
18 minutes later after the initial hit, United Airlines Flight 175 struck the south tower of the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m. This plane was another Boeing 767, carrying 65 people and the 5 al-Qaeda terrorists Marwan al-Shehhi, Fayez Banihammad, Mohand al-Shehri, Hamza al-Ghamdi, and Ahmed al-Ghamdi. Flight 175 had only been traveling for thirty minutes before the hijackers took over the cockpit and changed the route of the plane. Due to the numerous amount of newscasters on the scene, the crash into the south tower was caught on camera and televised live on global news. The collision led to a massive explosion in the building, which led to the building’s collapse less than an hour after the hit. These skyscrapers were built to withstand nearly anything including large winds and fires but were not able to survive the thousands of gallons of burning jet fuel. Debris from the crash fell onto surrounding buildings, in the streets, and floated throughout the air. At 10:30 a.m. a little after the south tower collapsed, the north tower came crashing down with it and killed 1,400 people. A small amount of only six people were able to survive the collapse of the towers and nearly 10,000 were left severely injured. The World Trade Center was not the only building that was destroyed as a result of this, several buildings surrounding the towers were severely damaged as well. Hundreds of search and rescuers assessed the scene and risked their lives by exposing themselves to harmful particles in the air as well as falling debris in efforts to save citizens from the buildings. Unfortunately, not many made it out alive and the lucky ones who survived suffered from extreme injuries.
As if the chaos in New York wasn’t enough, a third plane was added into the equation. American Airlines Flight 77 departed from Washington Dulles International Airport at 8:20 a.m. with 6 crew members, 53 passengers, and 5 hijackers. 35 minutes into the flight, hijackers forced everyone on board including pilots and crew members to the back of the plane. At 9:45 a.m., the plane was flown into the west side of the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia which led to the collapse of a section of the U.S. military headquarters. Every person on board of Flight 77 along with 125 people were killed in the Pentagon, many being military personnel. The impact of the plane also caused a huge fire that took firefighters several days to extinguish. After news of the Pentagon crash, the Capitol building, as well as the White House, were evacuated to take safety precautions.
The fourth and final plane that was hijacked in this American hate crime was United Airlines Flight 93. This plane, that was intended to take a routine flight from the Newark International Airport in New Jersey to California’s San Francisco International Airport, contained 33 passengers, 4 hijackers, and 7 crew members. When the hijackers initially tried to overtake the cockpit 46 minutes after takeoff, the pilot and first officer deactivated autopilot in order to make taking control of the plane more of a difficulty to the hijackers. The intended destination of Flight 93 has not been determined but theories are the Capitol Building in Washington D.C., the White House, or one of the many nuclear power plants on the east coast. When passengers and flight attendants heard news by phone of the attacks that had been made earlier in the day on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, they made an attempt to regain control of the plane. The people aboard knew that there was no possible way for the aircraft to return safely to an airport so their mission was to crash the plane into a place where no one but the members of Flight 93 was injured. Passengers and flight attendants were making phone calls to their family telling them what was going on and saying their last goodbyes to their loved ones. As a group effort, passengers fought against the four hijackers and eventually gained control over the plane, crashing it at about 500 miles per hour in a field about 20 minutes flying distance away near Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:10 a.m. Despite the tragedy and loss of 40 innocent people, without their bravery and heroism Flight 93 could have taken the lives of hundreds or even thousands of more people.
The events that occurred on 9/11 had nearly immediate effects on people all across the country. Rescue workers from all over the nation such as policemen, firefighters, and missionaries stopped everything they were doing and traveled to New York City to help with damage control from the fallen twin towers. Their goal was to find as many survivors as possible as well as reconnect them with their loved ones. Americans across the country were doing anything they could in order to help ease the pain and sorrow they were feeling from this tragic event. In total, nearly 3,000 people died as a result of the September 11 attacks including women, men, and children. Memorials and vigils were held all over the world to honor those who lost their lives and photographs of people were posted near the remains of the World Trade Center for friends and family to try and identify those who were either killed or still missing. Not only were there memorials for victims of the World Trade Center attack but also memorials for the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia and one for Flight 93 in Shanksville. The Pentagon Memorial consisted of a park with 184 benches facing towards the Pentagon as well as a memorial inside the building where Flight 77 crashed into. The memorial in place for Flight 93 is what is known as a Wall of Names that is placed on a hill. Although there are many remembrances and memorial sights all over the country, these are the most well known.
The nineteen terrorists who participated in the suicide attack were from Saudi Arabia along with other Arab nations. The attack was carried by terrorist organization al-Qaeda who were led by Saudi Arabian Osama bin Laden. Supposedly, the motive for this attack rooted from America’s support of Israel and their ongoing military presence in the Middle East. Some of the terrorists prepared for this attack by taking flying lessons while some just participated to help harm the crew members of each flight to gain control of each plane. Each of the planes was strategically picked to ensure all of them had an abundant amount of jet fuel to worsen each crash tremendously.
President George W. Bush was in office at the time of this American tragedy. When he first heard news about what was going on it as 9:05 a.m. and he was in Sarasota, Florida giving a reading lesson to second-grade students from Emma Booker Elementary School. Occupants of the White House were told to go to the underground bunkers of the White House to be safe just in case they were to go under attack. Shortly after the crash into the Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol building and White House are evacuated. After a long day of President Bush moving around the country to keep him concealed and away from any possible threats, he returns to the White House at 7 p.m. and delivers a televised address at 9 p.m. In this address, he states, Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but cannot dent the steel of American resolve. In efforts to lessen the risks of future acts of terrorism, the National Security Agency was given more powers in order to more effectively protect the U.S. On December 13, 2001 the U.S. government released a tape where Osama bin Laden takes full responsibility for the attacks that occurred on 9/11. America’s quest to extinguish Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organization began less than a month after the attack and lasted nearly 10 years until they finally found him and killed him on May 2, 2011.
September 11, 2001 is a day that America will never forget. To this day, 9/11 is still the biggest hate crime ever conducted against the U.S. Not only did thousands of innocent civilians pass away in the result of this attack but also many policemen, firefighters, and rescue workers lost their lives to save others. As the country mourned the loss of the victims, their patriotism flourished and unity was brought across the nation.
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