September 11 attacks…
|September 11 attacks|
Twin towers of the World Trade Center burning.
|Location||New York City; Arlington County, Virginia; and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.|
|Date||Tuesday, September 11, 2001
8:46 am (2001-09-11T08:46) – 10:28 am (2001-09-11T10:29) (UTC-4)
|Attack type||Aircraft hijacking, Mass murder, Suicide attack|
|Death(s)||2,976 victims and 19 hijackers|
The September 11 attacks (often referred to as September 11th or 9/11) were a series of coordinated suicide attacks by al-Qaeda upon the United States on September 11, 2001. On that morning, 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial passenger jet airliners. The hijackers intentionally crashed two of the airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing everyone on board and many others working in the buildings. Both buildings collapsed within two hours, destroying nearby buildings and damaging others. The hijackers crashed a third airliner into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. The fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville in rural Pennsylvania, after some of its passengers and flight crew attempted to retake control of the plane, which the hijackers had redirected toward Washington, D.C. There were no survivors from any of the flights.
2,976 victims and the 19 hijackers died as a result of the attacks. The overwhelming majority of casualties were civilians, including nationals of over 90 countries. In addition, the death of at least one person from lung disease was ruled by a medical examiner to be a result of exposure to dust from the World Trade Center’s collapse.
The United States responded to the attacks by launching a War on Terrorism, invading Afghanistan to depose the Taliban, who had harbored al-Qaeda terrorists, and enacting the USA PATRIOT Act. Many other countries also strengthened their anti-terrorism legislation and expanded law enforcement powers. Some American stock exchanges stayed closed for the rest of the week following the attack, and posted enormous losses upon reopening, especially in the airline and insurance industries. The destruction of billions of dollars worth of office space caused serious damage to the economy of Lower Manhattan.
The damage to the Pentagon was cleared and repaired within a year, and the Pentagon Memorial was built on the site. The rebuilding process has started on the World Trade Center site. In 2006 a new office tower was completed on the site of 7 World Trade Center. 1 World Trade Center is currently under construction at the site and, at 1,776 ft (541 m) upon completion in 2013, it will become one of the tallest buildings in North America. Three more towers were originally expected to be built between 2007 and 2012 on the site. Ground was broken for the Flight 93 National Memorial on November 8, 2009, and the first phase of construction is expected to be ready for the 10th anniversary of the attacks on September 11, 2011.
Early on the morning on September 11, 2001, nineteen hijackers took control of four commercial airliners en route to San Francisco and Los Angeles from Boston, Newark, and Washington, D.C. (Washington Dulles International Airport). At 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 was crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower, followed by United Airlines Flight 175 which hit the South Tower at 9:03 a.m. Another group of hijackers flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. A fourth flight, United Airlines Flight 93 crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m, after the passengers on board engaged in a fight with the hijackers. Its ultimate target was thought to be either the United States Capitol or White House.
During the hijacking of the airplanes, the hijackers used weapons to stab and/or kill aircraft pilots, flight attendants and passengers. Reports from phone callers from the planes indicated that knives were used by the hijackers to stab attendants and in at least one case, a passenger, during two of the hijackings. Some passengers were able to make phone calls using the cabin airphone service and mobile phones, and provide details, including that several hijackers were aboard each plane, that mace or other form of noxious chemical spray, such as tear gas or pepper spray was used, and that some people aboard had been stabbed.
The 9/11 Commission established that two of the hijackers had recently purchased Leatherman multi-function hand tools. A flight attendant on Flight 11, a passenger on Flight 175, and passengers on Flight 93 mentioned that the hijackers had bombs, but one of the passengers also mentioned he thought the bombs were fake. No traces of explosives were found at the crash sites, and the 9/11 Commission believed the bombs were probably fake.
On United Airlines Flight 93, black box recordings revealed that 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. According to the transcript of Flight 93’s recorder, one of the hijackers gave the order to roll the plane once it became evident that they would lose control of the plane to the passengers. Soon afterward, the aircraft crashed into a field near Shanksville in Stonycreek Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania, at 10:03:11 a.m. local time (14:03:11 UTC). Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, organiser of the attacks, mentioned in a 2002 interview with Yosri Fouda, an al Jazeera journalist, that Flight 93’s target was the United States Capitol, which was given the code name „the Faculty of Law”.
Three buildings in the World Trade Center Complex collapsed due to structural failure on the day of the attack. The south tower (2 WTC) fell at approximately 9:59 a.m., after burning for 56 minutes in a fire caused by the impact of United Airlines Flight 175. The north tower (1 WTC) collapsed at 10:28 a.m., after burning for approximately 102 minutes. When the north tower collapsed, debris heavily damaged the nearby 7 World Trade Center (7 WTC) building. Its structural integrity was further compromised by fires, and the building collapsed later in the day at 5:21 p.m.
The attacks created widespread confusion among news organizations and air traffic controllers across the United States. All international civilian air traffic was banned from landing on US soil for three days. Aircraft already in flight were either turned back or redirected to airports in Canada or Mexico. News sources aired unconfirmed and often contradictory reports throughout the day. One of the most prevalent of these reported that a car bomb had been detonated at the U.S. State Department’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Soon after reporting for the first time on the Pentagon crash, CNN and other media also briefly reported that a fire had broken out on the Washington Mall.Another report went out on the AP wire, claiming that a Delta Air Lines airliner—Flight 1989—had been hijacked. This report, too, turned out to be in error; the plane was briefly thought to represent a hijack risk, but it responded to controllers and landed safely in Cleveland, Ohio.
|Deaths (excluding hijackers)|
|New York City||World Trade Center||2,605
There were a total of 2,995 deaths, including the 19 hijackers and 2,976 victims. The victims were distributed as follows: 246 on the four planes (from which there were no survivors), 2,605 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.
More than 90 countries lost citizens in the attacks on the World Trade Center. In 2007, the New York City medical examiner’s office added Felicia Dunn-Jones to the official death toll from the September 11 attacks. Dunn-Jones died five months after 9/11 from a lung condition which was linked to exposure to dust during the collapse of the World Trade Center. Leon Heyward, who died of lymphoma in 2008, was added to the official death toll in 2009.
NIST estimated that about 17,400 civilians were in the World Trade Center complex at the time of the attacks, while turnstile counts from the Port Authority suggest that 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, along with 18 people who were in the impact zone in the south tower and a number above the impact zone who evidently used the one intact stairwell in the south tower. At least 1,366 people died who were at or above the floors of impact in the North Tower and at least 618 in the South Tower, where evacuation had begun before the second impact. Thus over 90% of the workers and visitors who died in the Towers had been at or above impact.
According to the Commission Report, hundreds were killed instantly by the impact, while the rest were trapped and died after tower collapse. At least 200 people 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 of the occupants of each tower above its 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 on September 11, the thick smoke and intense heat would have prevented helicopters from conducting rescues.
A total of 411 emergency workers who responded to the scene died as they attempted to rescue people and fight fires. The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) lost 341 firefighters and 2 FDNY paramedics. The New York City Police Department lost 23 officers. The Port Authority Police Department lost 37 officers, and 8 additional EMTs and paramedics from private EMS units were killed.
Cantor Fitzgerald L.P., an investment bank on the 101st–105th floors of One World Trade Center, lost 658 employees, considerably more than any other employer. Marsh Inc., located immediately below Cantor Fitzgerald on floors 93–101 (the location of Flight 11’s impact), lost 355 employees, and 175 employees of Aon Corporation were killed. After New York, New Jersey was the hardest hit state, with the city of Hoboken sustaining the most deaths.
Weeks after the attack, the estimated death toll was over 6,000. The city was only able to identify remains for about 1,600 of the victims at the World Trade Center. The medical examiner’s office also 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 as workers were preparing to demolish the damaged Deutsche Bank Building.
Along with the 110-floor Twin Towers of the World Trade Center itself, numerous other buildings at the World Trade Center site were destroyed or badly damaged, including 7 World Trade Center, 6 World Trade Center, 5 World Trade Center, 4 World Trade Center, the Marriott World Trade Center (3 WTC), and the World Financial Center complex and St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church.
The Deutsche Bank Building across Liberty Street from the World Trade Center complex was later condemned due to the uninhabitable, toxic conditions inside the office tower, and is undergoing deconstruction. The Borough of Manhattan Community College’s Fiterman Hall at 30 West Broadway was also condemned due to extensive damage in the attacks, and is slated for deconstruction.
Other neighboring buildings including 90 West Street and the Verizon Building suffered major damage, but have since been restored. World Financial Center buildings, One Liberty Plaza, the Millenium Hilton, and 90 Church Street had moderate damage. They have since been restored. Communications equipment on top of the North Tower, including broadcast radio, television and two-way radio antenna towers, was also destroyed, but media stations were quickly able to reroute signals and resume broadcasts. In Arlington County, a portion of the Pentagon was severely damaged by fire and one section of the building collapsed.
Rescue and recovery…
The Fire Department of New York City (FDNY) quickly deployed 200 units (half of the department) to the site, whose efforts were supplemented by numerous off-duty firefighters and EMTs. The New York Police Department (NYPD) sent Emergency Service Units (ESU) and other police personnel, along with deploying 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 did issue 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.
Attackers and their motivation…
Within hours of the attacks, the FBI was able to determine the names and in many cases the personal details of the suspected pilots and hijackers. Mohamed Atta’s luggage, which did not make the connection from his Portland flight onto Flight 11, contained papers that revealed the identity of all 19 hijackers (all men), and other important clues about their plans, motives, and backgrounds. On the day of the attacks, the National Security Agency intercepted communications that pointed to Osama bin Laden, as did German intelligence agencies.
On September 27, 2001, the FBI released photos of the 19 hijackers, along with information about the possible nationalities and aliases of many. Fifteen of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, two from the United Arab Emirates, one from Egypt, and one from Lebanon. Mohamed Atta was the ringleader of the 19 hijackers. According to Jerrold Post, a professor of psychology at George Washington University and former CIA officer, the hijackers were well-educated, mature adults, whose belief systems were fully formed.
The FBI investigation into the attacks, code named operation PENTTBOM, was the largest and most complex investigation in the history of the FBI, involving over 7,000 special agents. The United States government determined that al-Qaeda, headed by Osama bin Laden, bore responsibility for the attacks, with the FBI stating „evidence linking al-Qaeda and bin Laden to the attacks of September 11 is clear and irrefutable”. The Government of the United Kingdom reached the same conclusion regarding al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden’s culpability for the 11 September attacks.
Author Laurie Mylroie writing in the conservative political magazine The American Spectator in 2006 argues that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his family are the primary architects of 9/11 and similar attacks, and that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s association with Osama bin Laden is secondary and that al-Qaeda’s claim of responsibility for the attack is after the fact and opportunistic. In an opposing point of view, former CIA officer Robert Baer, writing in Time magazine in 2007, asserts that George W. Bush Administration’s publicizing of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s claims of responsibility for 9/11 and numerous other acts was a mendacious attempt to claim that all of the significant actors in 9/11 had been caught.
The origins of al-Qaeda can be traced back to 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Soon after the invasion, Osama bin Laden traveled to Afghanistan where he helped organize Arab mujahideen and established the Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK) organization to resist the Soviets. During the war with the Soviet Union, Bin Laden and his fighters received American and Saudi funding. In 1989, as the Soviets withdrew, MAK was transformed into a „rapid reaction force” in jihad against governments across the Muslim world. Under the guidance of Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden became more radical. In 1996, bin Laden issued his first fatwā, which called for American soldiers to leave Saudi Arabia.
In a second fatwā issued in 1998, bin Laden outlined his objections to American foreign policy towards Israel, as well as the continued presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War. Bin Laden used Islamic texts to exhort violent action against American military and citizenry until the stated grievances are reversed, noting „ulema have throughout Islamic history unanimously agreed that the jihad is an individual duty if the enemy destroys the Muslim countries.”
Planning of the attacks…
The idea for the September 11 plot came from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who first presented the idea to Osama bin Laden in 1996. At that point, Bin Laden and al-Qaeda were in a period of transition, having just relocated back to Afghanistan from Sudan. The 1998 African Embassy bombings and Bin Laden’s 1998 fatwā marked a turning point, with bin Laden 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. A series of meetings occurred in spring of 1999, involving Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Osama bin Laden, and his deputy Mohammed Atef. Mohammed provided operational support for the plot, including target selections and helping arrange travel for the hijackers. Bin Laden overruled Mohammed, rejecting some potential targets such as the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles because „there was not enough time to prepare for such an operation”.
Bin Laden provided leadership for the plot, along with financial support, and was involved in selecting participants for the plot. Bin Laden initially selected Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, both experienced jihadists who fought in Bosnia. Hazmi and Mihdhar arrived in the United States in mid-January 2000, after traveling to Malaysia to attend the Kuala Lumpur al-Qaeda Summit. In spring 2000, Hazmi and Mihdhar took flying lessons in San Diego, California, but both spoke little English, did not do well with flying lessons, and eventually served as „muscle” hijackers.
In late 1999, a group of men from Hamburg, Germany arrived in Afghanistan, including Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, Ziad Jarrah, and Ramzi Binalshibh. Bin Laden selected these men for the plot, as they were educated, could speak English, and had experience living in the west. New recruits were routinely screened for special skills, which allowed Al Qaeda leaders to also identify Hani Hanjour, who already had a commercial pilot’s license, for the plot.
Hanjour arrived in San Diego on December 8, 2000, joining Hazmi. They soon left for Arizona, where Hanjour took refresher training. Marwan al-Shehhi arrived at the end of May 2000, while Atta arrived on June 3, 2000, and Jarrah arrived on June 27, 2000. Binalshibh 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 and remain as an illegal immigrant. Binalshibh remained in Hamburg, providing coordination between Atta and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The three Hamburg cell members all took pilot training in south Florida.
In spring 2001, the muscle hijackers began arriving in the United States. In July 2001, Atta met with Binalshibh in Spain, where they coordinated details of the plot, including final target selection. Binalshibh also passed along Bin Laden’s wish for the attacks to be carried out as soon as possible.