Remembering 9/11 Twenty Years Later
***Content warning: this blog contains information about acts of terrorism and may not be suitable for all audiences.***
September 11, 2001 is a day that will not, and should not, ever be forgotten. The National September 11 Memorial and Museum best summarizes what happened on that fateful day:
“On September 11, 2001, nineteen terrorists associated with al-Qaeda, an Islamist extremist group, hijacked four Californiabound commercial airplanes. In a coordinated attack that turned the planes into weapons, the terrorists intentionally flew two of the planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, a global business complex in New York City. They also flew a third plane into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, in Arlington, Virginia. Passengers and crew members on the fourth plane launched a counterattack, forcing the hijacker pilot—who was flying the airplane toward Washington, D.C.—to crash the plane into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, near the town of Shanksville. The 9/11 attacks killed 2,977 people. This was the single largest loss of life resulting from a foreign attack on American soil. The attacks caused the deaths of 441 first responders, the greatest loss of emergency responders on a single day in American history. The events of September 11, 2001 irrevocably changed the lives of victims’ families and friends, survivors, first responders, rescue and recovery workers, volunteers, and millions of Americans and people around the world. Twenty years later, the ongoing consequences of the attacks continue to affect policy debates, civic discourse, and countless individual lives.” (National September 11 Memorial and Museum, 2021).
It has been 20 years since the day that changed everything. It is said that those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. So for Patriot Day 2021, please take a moment to reflect and commemorate the 3,000 American people who perished.
Walk through the timeline below and remember (or learn) how 9/11 unfolded.
April 4, 1973.
After seven years of construction, the World Trade Center (WTC) opens with a dedication ceremony. The WTC is a 16-acre complex of seven buildings, with the centerpiece being the Twin Towers. At 110-stories, they are the tallest buildings in the world at the time. The North Tower is 1,368 feet tall and the South Tower is 1,362 feet tall.
February 26, 1993.
Terrorists park a bomb-laden van in the garage beneath the North Tower. The subsequent explosion fails to bring down the tower(s), but creates a crater 150 feet wide and several stories deep. The explosion kills six people and injures 1,000 others.
September 11, 2001.
5:45 am. Nineteen al-Qaeda terrorists begin passing through airport security in Newark, Washington, D.C., and Boston airports. They will all eventually board four commercial airliners, each bound for California.
7:59 am. American Airlines Flight 11 takes off from Boston with 76 passengers and 11 crew members (and five hijackers).
8:13 am. American 11 stops responding to Air Traffic Control. Flight attendants will soon contact American Airlines and provide details about a hijacking.
8:15 am. United Airlines Flight 175 takes off from Boston with 51 passengers and nine crew members (and five hijackers).
8:20 am. American Airlines Flight 77 takes off from Washington with 53 passengers and six crew members (and five hijackers).
8:24 am. Hijacker of American 11 inadvertently broadcasts his infamous threat “We have some planes. Just stay quiet, and you’ll be okay,” to Air Traffic Control which alerts controllers to the attack.
8:42 am. United Airlines Flight 93 takes off from Newark with 33 passengers and seven crew members (and four hijackers).
8:46 am. American 11 crashes into the North Tower, between floors 93 and 99. The crash severs all three emergency stairwells and traps hundreds of people above the 91st floor. Everyone on American 11 and hundreds inside the building are killed instantly.
8:47 am. United 175 deviates from course and is unresponsive to Air Traffic Control.
8:50 am. President George W. Bush is informed that a “small plane” has hit the North Tower. Most assume it is a tragic accident.
8:51 am. American 77 stops responding to Air Traffic Control.
8:52 am. Passengers from United 175 place phone calls, alerting operators and family members that a hijack is underway.
8:59 am. Both towers are ordered to evacuate.
9:03 am. United 175 crashes into the South Tower, between floors 77 and 85. Two of the three emergency stairwells are severed, trapping people above the impact zone and inside elevators. Everyone on United 175 and an unknown number of people inside the building are killed instantly. People (estimated between 50 to 200) will begin jumping or falling from the upper floors of the building.
9:05 am. President George W. Bush is alerted that a second plane has crashed into the WTC. It is now clear to all that this is an intentional and coordinated attack.
9:12 am. Passengers of American 77 place phone calls, alerting family that a hijack is underway.
9:24 am. Air Traffic Control broadcasts warning about cockpit intrusions to all flights, including United 93.
9:27 am. United 93 stops responding to Air Traffic Control.
9:28 am. United 93 is hijacked. The hijack is broadcast live to Air Traffic Control: a man shouting “Mayday! Mayday! Get out of here! Get out of here!”
9:30 am. At least 12 passengers made phone calls from United 93. Family and friends alert the passengers to the attacks on the WTC (and soon, the Pentagon).
9:31 am. Hijacker of United 93 inadvertently broadcasts his infamous threat “We have a bomb on board,” to Air Traffic Control.
9:37 am. American 77 crashes into the Pentagon. Everyone on American 77 is killed instantly; the crash and ensuing fire kills 125 military and civilian personnel.
9:42 am. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) orders all civilian planes over U.S. airspace to land. It will be 12:16pm when the last flight (of approximately 4,500) touches down.
9:57 am. Passengers and crew of United 93 launch an assault on the hijackers in order to take back control of the plane. The assault lasts six minutes.
9:59 am. After burning for 56 minutes, the South Tower collapses. It takes 10 seconds, sending clouds of smoke and debris rolling through the streets. More than 800 civilians and first responders inside the building are killed.
10:03 am. Realizing they were about to be overtaken, the hijackers deliberately crash United 93 in a field near Shanksville, PA.
10:15 am. The damaged section of the Pentagon’s (outer) E Ring collapses.
10:28 am. After burning for 102 minutes, the North Tower collapses. More than 1,600 civilians and first responders are killed.
11:02 am. Evacuation of lower Manhattan is ordered.
5:20 pm. After burning for four hours, 7 WTC also collapses. The 47-story building had been evacuated, and there are no casualties.
Within hours of the attacks. Rescue and recovery efforts commence at the site of the towers, now known as “Ground Zero.” Only 18 people were found alive at the site. The recovery period will last for nine months.
May 2, 2011.
A team of U.S. Navy SEALs descend upon a compound in Pakistan where it is believed Osama Bin Laden, the leader and founder of al-Qaeda, was hiding. Bin Laden is killed.
November 3, 2014.
One World Trade Center opens. The skyscraper is “1776” feet tall, and is adjacent to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. Twin one-acre reflecting pools occupy the footprints of the Twin Towers.
For more information and additional resources on 9/11
The 9-11 Commission (officially known as The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States)
Catalog search for “September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001.”