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2001: September 11 Attacks -- Guide to September 11 Terrorism in America


World Trade Center 9/11

World Trade Center 9/11

Jim Watson, USN / DoD

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The September 11 attacks refer to four corresponding attacks on different sites in the United States. Nineteen attackers associated with Al Qaeda hijacked four commercial flights. They intentionally crashed two of the planes into each of the two towers of the World Trade Center; a third was crashed into the Pentagon, which houses the U.S. Department of Defense. The fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania following a struggle between some crew members and passengers, and the attackers. The attacks killed all of the four flights' passengers, close to three thousand others and all of the hijackers.

Tactic / Type:

Hijacking, Suicide Terrorism

Learn more about hijacking, suicide terrorism


The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, New York City; the Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia; Shanksville, Pennsylvania


September 11, 2001

The Story:

The events of September 11 began when 19 hijackers boarded four different commercial planes leaving different airports. Two flights, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 left from Boston; United Airlines Flight 93 left from Newark and American Airlines Flight 77 left from Washington.

At 8:45 in the morning, the Flight 11 was crashed into the World Trade Center's north Tower. Fifteen minutes later, Flight 175 hit the south tower. CNN broke the story several minutes later, and other major networks followed suit.

Mystery and controversy surround the question of when President Bush first learned of the attacks. Many believe that he must have learned of them shortly after the news broke. However, he made his first statement at 9:15 from Sarasota, Florida, where he was visiting an elementary school.

At 9:15, President Bush, who was visiting a classroom in Florida, made a public statement about the attacks. The narrative about how and when the president learned of the attacks, and why he chose to speak when he did (as opposed to sooner) remains controversial.

At 9:37, Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, leaving no survivors. At 10:03 United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania, following efforts by passengers and the crew to retake control of the plane following its hijacking. There were no survivors of the crash.

By mid-morning, several other processes had been set in motion. All plane traffic in the United States was halted the president had authorized the military to shoot down aircraft if necessary. The national media reported events as they unfolded, sometimes with significant errors.

By mid afternoon, news surfaced that the intelligence community suspects Osama bin Laden’s hand in the attacks. The U.S. military is put on high alert worldwide and, for most intents, business as usual has nearly shut down in much of the United States.

At 8:30 in the evening , President Bush addressed the nation, saying of September 11 that, “This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day. Yet, we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.”

The day’s events were the precipitating factor in the Bush administration’s decision to wage a ‘war on terrorism’ for the foreseeable future.

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