On September 11, 2001, 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al Qaeda hijacked four airplanes and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States. Two of the planes were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a third plane hit the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C., and the fourth plane crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Almost 3,000 people were killed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which triggered major U.S. initiatives to combat terrorism and defined the presidency of George W. Bush.
WATCH: 102 Minutes That Changed America on HISTORY Vault
World Trade Center
On September 11, 2001, at 8:45 a.m. on a clear Tuesday morning, an American Airlines Boeing 767 loaded with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
The impact left a gaping, burning hole near the 80th floor of the 110-story skyscraper, instantly killing hundreds of people and trapping hundreds more in higher floors.
As the evacuation of the tower and its twin got underway, television cameras broadcasted live images of what initially appeared to be a freak accident. Then, 18 minutes after the first plane hit, a second Boeing 767—United Airlines Flight 175—appeared out of the sky, turned sharply toward the World Trade Center and sliced into the south tower near the 60th floor.
The collision caused a massive explosion that showered burning debris over surrounding buildings and onto the streets below. It immediately became clear that America was under attack.
READ MORE: How 9/11 Became the Deadliest Day in History for U.S. Firefighters
Osama bin Laden
The hijackers were Islamic terrorists from Saudi Arabia and several other Arab nations. Reportedly financed by the al Qaeda terrorist organization of Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden, they were allegedly acting in retaliation for America’s support of Israel, its involvement in the Persian Gulf War and its continued military presence in the Middle East.
Some of the terrorists had lived in the United States for more than a year and had taken flying lessons at American commercial flight schools. Others had slipped into the country in the months before September 11 and acted as the “muscle” in the operation.
The 19 terrorists easily smuggled box-cutters and knives through security at three East Coast airports and boarded four early-morning flights bound for California, chosen because the planes were loaded with fuel for the long transcontinental journey. Soon after takeoff, the terrorists commandeered the four planes and took the controls, transforming ordinary passenger jets into guided missiles.
LISTEN NOW: Blindspot: The Road to 9/11 Podcast
As millions watched the events unfolding in New York, American Airlines Flight 77 circled over downtown Washington, D.C., before crashing into the west side of the Pentagon military headquarters at 9:45 a.m.
Jet fuel from the Boeing 757 caused a devastating inferno that led to the structural collapse of a portion of the giant concrete building, which is the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense.
All told, 125 military personnel and civilians were killed in the Pentagon, along with all 64 people aboard the airliner.
READ MORE: How the Pentagon's Design Saved Lives on September 11
Twin Towers Collapse
Less than 15 minutes after the terrorists struck the nerve center of the U.S. military, the horror in New York took a catastrophic turn when the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed in a massive cloud of dust and smoke.
The structural steel of the skyscraper, built to withstand winds in excess of 200 miles per hour and a large conventional fire, could not withstand the tremendous heat generated by the burning jet fuel.
At 10:30 a.m., the north building of the twin towers collapsed. Only six people in the World Trade Center towers at the time of their collapse survived. Almost 10,000 others were treated for injuries, many severe.
SEE MORE: 9/11 Photos
Meanwhile, a fourth California-bound plane—United Flight 93—was hijacked about 40 minutes after leaving Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. Because the plane had been delayed in taking off, passengers on board learned of events in New York and Washington via cell phone and Airfone calls to the ground.
Knowing that the aircraft was not returning to an airport as the hijackers claimed, a group of passengers and flight attendants planned an insurrection.
One of the passengers, Thomas Burnett, Jr., told his wife over the phone that “I know we’re all going to die. There’s three of us who are going to do something about it. I love you, honey.” Another passenger—Todd Beamer—was heard saying “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll” over an open line.
Sandy Bradshaw, a flight attendant, called her husband and explained that she had slipped into a galley and was filling pitchers with boiling water. Her last words to him were “Everyone’s running to first class. I’ve got to go. Bye.”
The passengers fought the four hijackers and are suspected to have attacked the cockpit with a fire extinguisher. The plane then flipped over and sped toward the ground at upwards of 500 miles per hour, crashing in a rural field near Shanksville in western Pennsylvania at 10:10 a.m.
All 44 people aboard were killed. Its intended target is not known, but theories include the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland or one of several nuclear power plants along the eastern seaboard.
READ MORE: On 9/11, Heather Penney Tried to Bring Down Flight 93 in a Kamikaze Mission
How Many People Died in 9/11 Attacks?
A total of 2,996 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks, including the 19 terrorist hijackers aboard the four airplanes. Citizens of 78 countries died in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.
At the World Trade Center, 2,763 died after the two planes slammed into the twin towers. That figure includes 343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 New York City police officers and 37 Port Authority police officers who were struggling to complete an evacuation of the buildings and save the office workers trapped on higher floors.
At the Pentagon, 189 people were killed, including 64 on American Airlines Flight 77, the airliner that struck the building. On Flight 93, 44 people died when the plane crash-landed in Pennsylvania.
America Responds to the Attacks
At 7 p.m., President George W. Bush, who was in Florida at the time of the attacks and had spent the day being shuttled around the country because of security concerns, returned to the White House.
At 9 p.m., he delivered a televised address from the Oval Office, declaring, “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”
In a reference to the eventual U.S. military response he declared, “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.”
Operation Enduring Freedom, the American-led international effort to oust the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and destroy Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network based there, began on October 7. Within two months, U.S. forces had effectively removed the Taliban from operational power, but the war continued, as U.S. and coalition forces attempted to defeat a Taliban insurgency campaign based in neighboring Pakistan.
Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the September 11th attacks, remained at large until May 2, 2011, when he was finally tracked down and killed by U.S. forces at a hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan. In June 2011, then-President Barack Obama announced the beginning of large-scale troop withdrawals from Afghanistan.
Department of Homeland Security Is Created
In the wake of security fears raised by 9/11 and the mailing of letters containing anthrax that killed two and infected 17, The Homeland Security Act of 2002 created the Department of Homeland Security. It was signed into law by President George W. Bush on November 25, 2002. Today, the Department of Homeland Security is a cabinet responsible for preventing terror attacks, border security, immigrations and customs and disaster relief and prevention.
The act was followed two days later by the formation of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The bipartisan “9/11 Commission,” as it came to be known, was charged with investigating the events that lead up to September 11th. The 9/11 Commission Report was released on July 22, 2004. It named Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind behind 9/11, “the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks.”
Mohammed led propaganda operations for al Qaeda from 1999-2001. He was captured on March 1, 2003 by the Central Intelligence Agency and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and interrogated before being imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay detention camp with four other accused terrorists charged with 9/11-related war crimes. The use of torture, including waterboarding, during Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s interrogation has received international attention. In August 2019, a U.S. military court judge in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba set a trial date for Mohammed and the other four men charged with plotting the 9/11 terrorist attacks, to begin in 2021.
Economic Impact of 9/11
The 9/11 attacks had an immediate negative effect on the U.S. economy. Many Wall Street institutions, including the New York Stock Exchange, were evacuated during the attacks. On the first day of trading after the attacks, the market fell 7.1 percent, or 684 points. New York City’s economy alone lost 143,000 jobs a month and $2.8 billion wages in the first three months. The heaviest losses were in finance and air transportation, which accounted for 60 percent of lost jobs. The estimated cost of the World Trade Center damage is $60 billion. The cost to clean the debris at Ground Zero was $750 million.
READ MORE: 5 Ways 9/11 Changed America
Victim Compensation Fund
Thousands of first responders and people working and living in lower Manhattan near Ground Zero were exposed to toxic fumes and particles emanating from the towers as they burned and fell. By 2018, 10,000 people were diagnosed with 9/11-related cancer.
From 2001 to 2004, over $7 billion dollars in compensation was given to families of the 9/11 victims and the 2,680 people injured in the attacks. Funding was renewed on January 2, 2011, when President Barack Obama signed The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act into law. Named for James Zadroga, a New York City Police officer who died of respiratory disease he contracted after rescuing people from the rubble at Ground Zero, the law continued health monitoring and compensation for 9/11 first responders and survivors.
In 2015, funding for the treatment of 9/11-related illness was renewed for five more years at a total of $7.4 billion. The Victim Compensation Fund was set to stop accepting claims in December 2020.
On July 29, 2019, President Trump signed a law authorizing support for the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund through 2092. Previously, administrators had cut benefits by up to 70 percent as the $7.4 billion fund depleted. Vocal lobbyists for the fund included Jon Stewart, 9/11 first responder John Feal and retired New York Police Department detective and 9/11 responder Luis Alvarez, who died of cancer 18 days after testifying before Congress.
9/11 Anniversary and Memorial
On December 18, 2001, Congress approved naming September 11 “Patriot Day” to commemorate the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. In 2009, Congress named September 11 a National Day of Service and Remembrance.
The first memorials to September 11 came in the immediate wake of the attacks, with candlelight vigils and flower tributes at U.S. embassies around the world. In Great Britain, Queen Elizabeth sang the American national anthem during the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Rio de Janeiro put up billboards showing the city’s Christ the Redeemer statue embracing the New York City skyline.
For the first anniversary of the attacks in New York City in 2002, two bright columns of light were shot up into the sky from where the Twin Towers once stood. The “Tribute in Light” then became an annual installation run by the Municipal Art Society of New York. On clear nights, the beams are visible from over 60 miles away.
A World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition was held to select an appropriate permanent memorial to the victims of 9/11. The winning design by Michael Arad, “Reflecting Absence,” now sits outside the museum in an eight-acre park. It consists of two reflecting pools with waterfalls rushing down where the Twin Towers once rose into the sky.
The names of all 2,983 victims are engraved on the 152 bronze panels surrounding the pools, arranged by where individuals were on the day of the attacks, so coworkers and people on the same flight are memorialized together. The site was opened to the public on September 11, 2011, to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum followed, opening on the original World Trade Center site in May 2014. The Freedom Tower, also on the original World Trade Center site, opened in November 2014.
9/11 Lost and Found: The Items Left Behind
"Study Confirms 9/11 Impact on New York City Economy." The New York Times
"September 11: nearly 10,000 people affected by 'cesspool of cancer.'" The Guardian.
"Congress passes 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund extension championed by Jon Stewart." CNN.com
The Encyclopedia of 9/11. New York Magazine.
FAQ About 9/11. 9/11 Memorial.
September 11th Terror Attacks Fast Facts. CNN.
9/11 Death Statistics. StatisticBrain.com.
September 11 Attacks: "102 Minutes That Changed Lives"
9/11 Attack Anniversary Image: Remembering the victims of September 11 terror attacks
9/11 terror attacks: The terror attack in 2001 on one of the then iconic sites in New York, the World Trade Centre, shook the United States and had a huge impact globally. 9/11 terror attacks, also called the September 11 attacks, were a series of four coordinated suicide attacks by the terrorist group al-Qaeda. "Nineteen years ago, under clear blue skies, 102 minutes changed our lives forever. On Fri., Sept. 11, we lead the nation and the world in observing the 19th anniversary of the 2001 attacks and ask you to join us in commemorating," 9/11 Memorial & Museum posted on Twitter.
Nineteen years ago, under clear blue skies, 102 minutes changed our lives forever. On Fri., Sept. 11, we lead the nation and the world in observing the 19th anniversary of the 2001 attacks and ask you to join us in commemorating. https://t.co/skecFxXgmC#Honor911pic.twitter.com/edJBxwUamQ— 9/11 Memorial & Museum (@Sept11Memorial) September 9, 2020
9/11 attacks were one of the worst in history, which killed 3,000 Americans and others from different countries. Over 6,000 people were injured. The 9/11 attacks changed the global approach and strategy towards tackling terrorism and its perpetrators.
The #FBI investigation of the 9/11 attacks—codenamed “PENTTBOM”—was our largest investigation ever. At the peak of the case, more than half of our agents were working to identify the hijackers and their sponsors and prevent future attacks. https://t.co/WBllQUaLjYpic.twitter.com/WUwUOGvMJD— FBI (@FBI) September 9, 2020
9/11 Attacks: 10 Facts
- Nineteen al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four US passenger planes between 8 and 9 am
- Two of the planes crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center complex in Manhattan
- The third plane crashed into the Pentagon, the building that houses the headquarters of the US Department of Defense, in Virginia
- The fourth plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after passengers tried to fight back
- Within two hours, the two 110-storey towers at the World Trade Centre collapsed. The debris of the Twin Towers led to the collapse of other buildings in the complex
- The clean-up of the World Trade Center site was completed in May 2002 and the Pentagon building was repaired within a year
- The investigation into the 9/11 attacks - code-named "PENTTBOM" - was the FBI's largest investigation ever
- More than half of the agents in FBI worked to identify the attackers and their supporters
- It included over half-a-million investigative leads, including several hundred thousand tips from the public
- The crash sites were also the largest crime scenes in FBI history
Several memorials have been built to remember the victims of September 11 attacks. These include the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City, the Flight 93 National Memorial in a field in Stonycreek Township in Pennsylvania and the Pentagon Memorial in Arlington County in Virginia.
The 9/11 Attacks
On September 11, 2001, a group of al-Qaeda terrorists carried out multiple attacks by crashing planes into the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and the Twin Towers in New York City. These attacks killed 2,997 people including 2,753 people alone in New York. The events and attacks that took place during the day shook Americans to the core and wreaked catastrophic damage in the beloved New York City.
The Twin towers in Lower Manhattan prior to the 9/11 attacks
On the morning of September 11, nineteen terrorists hijacked four commercial California-bound airplanes from Boston Logan International Airport, Newark International Airport, and Washington Dulles International Airport. Starting as early as 5:45AM, hijackers were spotted by security cameras heading to their respective airports where they would pull off the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil to date. American Airlines Flight 11 takes off from Boston Logan International Airport at 7:59AM with eleven crew members, five hijackers and seventy-six passengers. United Airlines flight 175 takes off at 8:15AM from Boston Logan International Airport with nine crew members, five hijackers and fifty-one passengers. American Airlines Flight 77 takes off from Washington Dulles International Airport at 8:20AM with six crew members, five hijackers and fifty-three passengers. Finally, United Airlines Flight 93 takes off late from Newark International Airport at 8:42AM with seven crew members, four hijackers and thirty-three passengers. All of these planes were carrying a lot of fuel because they were scheduled to be traveling across the country to different cities in California which is what made them ideal to the terrorists. The more fuel, the more destruction these planes could cause.
Twenty minutes into Flight 11’s journey, flight attendant Betty Ann Ong transmits a detailed call to the ground informing them that a hijack is underway saying “the cockpit’s not answering. Somebody’s stabbed in business class. And I think there’s mace-that we can’t breathe. I don’t know. I think we’re getting hijacked.” The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) alerts the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) about the hijacking and they instruct two fighter jets to find the plane and tail it but they are too late. Before the fighter jets even take off, at 8:46AM, Flight 11 crashes into floors 93 through 99 of the North Tower.
Robert Leder worked as an executive at SMW Trading Company on the 85 th floor of the North Tower, and he witnessed the plane crashing into the building. He recalls: “I was looking outside the window, facing the Empire State Building, when I saw the plane coming into the building. There was such a dramatic change of atmospheric pressure from the plane hitting. The building swayed from the impact, and it nearly knocked me off of my chair. Our ceiling imploded. Some of our walls began to implode. I saw people coming past the window. I don’t think these were people who jumped. I think people must have [been] sucked out of the windows because of the pressure.” Leder is able to make it out alive but he describes a hectic, firsthand scene inside the heart of the North Tower’s devastation.
Another eyewitness account comes from Martin Glynn, who describes what it was like watching the events unfold in the North Tower from the South Tower. Glynn entered the South Tower moments before the North Tower was hit and by the time he reached the 78 th floor he was able to see the damage. Glynn says. “I looked up and saw the flames shooting out of the top floors. I looked down and saw three distinct large pools of blood. I reckon the largest was thirty yards across. The bodies were mixed in with the wreckage and I could make out several legs sticking out of the debris. I looked back up just to see a man in a white shirt jumping from a top floor. I saw his face clearly. My eyes followed him down till the ground came into focus, then I looked away.” Many people trapped on floors were seen jumping out of the windows instead of burning to death in the intense fires. The fall from the towers was said to be ten seconds and they were pretty much obliterated at impact because they traveled at very high speeds towards the ground. There is an estimate that over 200 people jumped or fell to their death in the North and South Towers.
As the North Tower burns up and first responders rush to the scene, the hijacking of United Airlines Flight 175 is underway and at 9:03AM the aircraft crashes into floors 77 through 85 of the South Tower. In response to the two towers being struck, the FAA orders a ban of all air traffic going to or around New York City.
11 September 2001 – A fireball erupts as the south tower of the World Trade Center is hit PHOTO CREDIT: DAN DOANE JR. / SIPA PRESS
While all first responder effort and media attention is focused on New York City, American Airlines Flight 77 is hijacked and heading for the Pentagon in Washington. At 9:37AM the plane barrels into the pentagon and everyone on board is killed plus 125 people on the ground. Following the attack on the Pentagon, the FAA, for the first time in history, grounds all flights in the United States. Within three hours, all commercial flights and private planes around the country are forced to land immediately at the closest airports. There is also an evacuation of many high-profile buildings and public spaces in preparation for more possible attacks.
During this time United Airlines Flight 93 is hijacked and twenty minutes out of Washington. The passengers have all gotten wind of the events and know that their plane is most likely heading for a building. In a group effort, they storm the cockpit and force the terrorists to crash the plane into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. All of the people on board perish but the passenger’s heroism is recognized, as they prevented another devastating attack.
Although the South Tower was hit second, it is the first tower to collapse. At 9:59AM the South Tower collapses. Over 800 people in the building and the surrounding area are killed from the South Tower attacks. Almost thirty minutes later, at 10:28AM, the North Tower meets its demise and collapses to the ground. Over 1,600 lives are lost in the collapse and attack in the North Tower. The collapse of both towers creates an enormous dust cloud that ravages through the streets of New York City leaving dismay and a heavy coat of dust in the surrounding area.
11 September 2001 – The North Tower Collapsing
PHOTO CREDIT: Robert Miller / Sipa Press
The 9/11 terrorist attacks obviously shocked the world, but the collapse of the towers was the most dramatic and unexpected events of the days. These massive towers were built to withstand fires and explosions but yet they still collapsed fairly quickly. Engineers have examined the collapse and the buildings and say, “nearly every large building has a redundant design that allows for loss of one primary structural member, such as a column. However, when multiple members fail, the shifting loads eventually overstress the adjacent members and the collapse occurs like a row of dominoes falling down.” After further investigation it was found that the massive and extremely intense fire from the jet fuel weakened the steel and the overall structural integrity of the buildings causing them to collapse in a short amount of time.
The events of 9/11 were unimaginable and devastating to not just New York City but to America as a whole. At 8:30PM on September 11 th the President addressed a rattled and devastated nation. President Bush started his address by saying, “today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts.” President Bush attempted to reassure everyone that terrorists could shake buildings and dent steel but they could never break the foundations and resolve of Americans. He praised American’s for coming together and uniting when it mattered most, and reassured everyone that they were already searching for the people behind these heinous and deadly attacks.
When the smoke cleared, and the only thing left was rubble and the remains of the innocent, American’s found hope in a time of devastation. American’s united in this time of need and leaned on each other to get through these horrible and tragic events. New York may have been the city under attack, but all Americans felt personally attacked that day. New York was in mourning and so was the rest of the country. In the days and months following the attacks, 36,000 units of blood from around the country were donated to the New York Blood Center, celebrities put on benefit concerts in memory of the victims, and the Red Cross received $3 million in donations in just two days. Americans gathered in public locations such as, Chicago’s Daley Plaza, Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach, and New York City’s Union Square Park, to mourn and pay tribute to the victims. Although Americans all felt differently about how to respond to this tragedy, they took comfort in knowing that they were all united together.
Throughout New York City’s history, it was always seen as a significant powerhouse of the United States. The Twin towers alone represented New York’s financial and world dominance. When 9/11 occurred and these monumental buildings came crashing down, New York found itself vulnerable and distraught. Regardless of this, New Yorkers and Americans never faltered and they persevered together. In this time of desperation, everyone was truly a New Yorker.
Today, two reflection pools are located where the twin towers once stood. A museum is located below ground zero where there are many artifacts from that dreaded day. The events of September 11, 2001 have left a huge footprint in New York and the country will never forget the tragic events that took place that day.
A section of the 9/11 Memorial lists those who lost their lives in the September 11th attacks. PHOTO CREDIT: (U.S. Spc. Jeremy Bennett/Released)
 “September 11 Attack Timeline” 911memorial.org, accessed October 1, 2017. http://timeline.911memorial.org/#Timeline/2
 Betty Ann Ong, phone call to American Airlines ground personnel, September 11, 2001.
 History.com staff, “9/11 Timeline” history.com, accessed October 1, 2017. http://www.history.com/topics/9-11-timeline.
 “September 11 Attack Timeline.”
 “Oral Testimony from Survivors of the World Trade Center Attack,” in The 9/11 Encyclopedia 2011, ed. Stephen E. Atkins (ABC-CLIO).
 Tom Leonard, “’It looked like they were blinded by smoke… they just walked to the edge and fell out.’ Victims who plummeted from Twin Towers” dailymail.co.uk, last modified September 11, 2011. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2035806/9-11-victims-fell-Twin-Towers-appeared-blinded-smoke.html
 “September 11 Attack Timeline.”
 “September 11 Attack Timeline.”
 “September 11 Attack Timeline.”
 Thomas W. Eagar and Christopher Musso, “Why Did the World Trade Center Collapse? Science, Engineering, and Speculation” tms.org, accessed November 10, 2017. http://www.tms.org/pubs/journals/JOM/0112/Eagar/Eagar-0112.html#authors
 “STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH IN HIS ADDRESS TO THE NATION” accessed October 01, 2017. https://www.911memorial.org/911-primary-sources.
 History.com staff, “Reaction to 9/11” history.com, accessed November 22, 2017. http://www.history.com/topics/reaction-to-9-11
Eagar, Thomas W. & Musso, Christopher. “Why Did the World Trade Center Collapse? Science, Engineering, and Speculation” Accessed November 10, 2017. http://www.tms.org/pubs/journals/JOM/0112/Eagar/Eagar-0112.html
“Flight attendant Betty Ann Ong contacts American Airlines ground personnel from Flight 11” National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Accessed November 10, 2017. http://911memorialtimeline.blob.core.windows.net/timeline-script/819_Ong.html
History.com Staff. “9/11 Timeline” accessed November 10, 2017. http://www.history.com/topics/9-11-timeline
History.com Staff. “Reaction to 9/11” accessed November 22, 2017. http://www.history.com/topics/reaction-to-9-11
Leonard, Tom. “‘It looked like they were blinded by smoke… they just walked to the edge and fell out.’ Victims who plummeted from Twin Towers” accessed November 10, 2017. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2035806/9-11-victims-fell-Twin-Towers-appeared-blinded-smoke.html
“Oral Testimony from Survivors of the World Trade Center Attack.” In The 9/11 Encyclopedia, edited by Stephen E. Atkins. 2nd ed. ABC-CLIO, 2011.
This is a selective guide to the official government documents related to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York, NY, on September 11, 2001. There is also a more general research guide on terrorism available, titled Terrorism: Information Resources.
You may also want to consult Understanding 9/11: a Television News Archive from the Internet Archive or The September 11 Digital Archive, two collaborative efforts by libraries and archival institutions, which have compiled hundreds of images, collections, and web sites which reported on the September 11 attacks. Both archives can be searched in a number of useful ways. The Library of Congress has aggressively acquired a vast range of materials related to the attacks on September 11 in its collection, Witness and Response. The New York Times has published an extensive series, Portraits of Grief, which presents short biographical profiles of many of the victims of the September 11 attacks.
Finally, there is an extensive two-volume bibliography, Annotated Bibliography of Government Documents Related to the Threat of Terrorism & the Attacks of September 11, 2001, compiled by Kevin D. Motes, Oklahoma Department of Libraries. It is much broader in scope than this guide, and includes much general background information.
Note: This guide is not being updated. Most of the documents listed were issued 2001-2006, although there are a few titles which were published more recently.
Resources marked with this symbol are restricted to Columbia affiliates.
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the U.S.
- Our Mission and Our Moment: Speeches Since the Attacks of September 11.
Washington, D.C. : The White House, 2001.
PREX 1.2:M 69 - Offsite
- Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
- , May 13, 2002 , May 6, 2003 , October 15, 2009
- Final Technical Report of the Public Health Investigation
to Assess Potential Exposures to Airborne and Settled Surface Dust
in Residential Areas of Lower Manhattan, Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, September 2002
, MMWR: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol. 52, no. 7, February 21, 2003 , MMWR: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol. 53, no. 35, September 10, 2004 , MMWR: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol. 53, no. 35, September 10, 2004 , MMWR: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol. 53, no. 35, September 10, 2004 , MMWR Surveillance Summaries, vol. 55, no. SS-2, April 7, 2006
- Health Effects from the Collapse of the World Trade Center, National Library of Medicine
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI): -- current list
- Volume 1
- Volume 2
September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001: Interim Final Rule, Federal Register, Vol. 66, No. 246, December 21, 2001, pp. 49077-49083
Analysis Under 5 U.S.C. § 801(a)(1)(B)(i)-(iv) of a Major Rule Issued by the Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General Entitled "September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001" (RIN: 1105-AA79), GAO, January 4, 2002
- Review of Studies of the Economic Impact of the September 11, 2001, Terrorists Attacks on the World Trade Center
A review by the General Accounting Office of ten key reports, most prepared by agencies of New York City or New York State, May 2002.
A review by the General Accounting Office of estimates prepared by the New York City Office of Management & Budget and the New York State Division of Budget, July 26, 2002 , September 24, 2003 , September 8, 2004 , March 4, 2005
- United States. Congress. House. Committee on Science.
The Investigation of the World Trade Center Collapse : Findings, Recommendations, and Next Steps : Hearing Before the Committee on Science, House of Representatives, One Hundred Seventh Congress, Second Session, May 1, 2002.
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Y 4.SCI 2:107-61 - Offsite , U.S. Senate, Select Committee on Intelligence, September 20, 2002
- United States. Congress. Senate. Select Committee on Intelligence.
Joint Inquiry Into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001.
Washington, D.C. : U.S. G.P.O., 2003
Y 1.1/5:107-351 - U.S. Government Documents
HV 6432 .U62 2002 - Lehman
- Passed in House on voice vote, October 5, 2001.
- Received in the Senate read twice and placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders, October 9, 2001.
- Resolving differences / Conference -- Senate actions: Senate appointed conferee(s) Reed and Warner from the Committee on Armed Services, November 8, 2001.
- On Tuesday morning of September 11, 2001, at 8:45 AM, the United States suffered a terrorist attack when an American Airlines Boeing 767 filled with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center (also known as WTC) in New York City.
These terrorist attacks became known as 9/11, which is how the American date of September 11 is written.
- The events of September 11th are a very sensitive subject, but very important in American history and never to be forgotten.
Four commercial jets were hijacked. American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into Tower One (the north tower) of the World Trade Center at 8:50 AM.
United Airlines Flight 175 then crashed into Tower Two at 9:04 AM.
American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, and United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
It is believed that the fourth jet was supposed to target the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Instead, the plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania as passengers on the flight fought against the hijackers to regain control of the plane.
Tower Two of the World Trade Center collapsed at about 10:00 AM. At 10:30 AM, Tower One also collapsed.
The attacks resulted in the deaths of 2,977 people.
The victims included 246 passengers and crew on the four planes, 2,606 in New York City, both in the towers and on the ground, and 125 individuals at the Pentagon. Men, women and children from more than 90 countries died in these attacks.
The 19 terrorist hijackers also died in the attacks. The hijackers were Islamic terrorists from Saudi Arabia and several other Arab nations who were reportedly backed financially by Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network.
In 2004, Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attacks. Al-Qaeda and bin Laden cited U.S. support of Israel, the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, and sanctions against Iraq as reasons for the attacks.
- Cleanup of the World Trade Center site was completed in May 2002. The Pentagon was repaired within a year.
- Many memorials were constructed to remember 9/11. These include the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York, the Pentagon Memorial, and the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania.
- Next to the National Memorial, the 1,776 feet One World Trade Center was completed in 2013.
- Osama bin Laden was found in 2011, nearly ten years after the 9/11 attacks. In May 2011, after years at large, Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by Navy Seals from the United States.
- Of the nearly 3 000 people killed, 343 were New York City firefighters and paramedics. 23 New York City police officers also died along with 37 Port Authority officers who struggled to complete a building evacuation to rescue office workers in the higher floors.
- Only six people who were in the World Trade Center towers when they collapsed survived. Close to 10,000 other people were also treated for injuries, many of them severe.
- Operation Enduring Freedom was launched by incumbent President George W. Bush less than a month after the attacks. This was an international effort led by America to remove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan and destroy the al-Qaeda network that was based there. It formed part of War in Afghanistan and the larger Global War on Terror.
- Within two months of Operation Enduring Freedom, the Taliban had been removed from operational power. Although the U.S. forces had effectively removed the Taliban, the war continued as coalition forces dealt with a Taliban insurgency campaign based out
- Around $110 million of art was lost after the 9/11 attacks. Some of the artwork destroyed included works by Picasso and Hockney.
The morning after, the New York Times was first to print the ‘9/11’ name the attacks became known as. The headline they printed was: “America’s Emergency Line: 9/11”.
- There were many fires ignited by 9/11. In fact, there were so many that it took New York City firefighters 100 days to put them all out.
The cost to clean up the 1.8 million tons of debris after 9/11 was around $750 million.
- The site of the World Trade Center became known as “Ground Zero”. Originally, this was used to refer to the site where the atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima in 1945.
- September 11 is now remembered as Patriot Day in the United States. This is a national day of mourning to remember the victims of the terrorist attacks.
- Patriot Day Facts
- Mapping 9/11 Attacks
- War on Terror
- People & Places
- Behind al-Qaeda
- World’s Skyscrapers
- 9/11 Statistics
- U.S. Landmarks
- Patriotism in Letters
- Ground Zero
- 9/11 Heroes
- Remembering 9/11
- A Poem for 9/11
- Light a Candle
- Patriot Day
- Towering Facts
- Remember the Words
- A Moment’s Silence
- Conduct an Interview
- The New York Times
The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9-11 Commission), an independent, bipartisan commission created by congressional legislation and the signature of President George W. Bush in late 2002, is chartered to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks. The Commission is also mandated to provide recommendations designed to guard against future attacks.
- , July 22, 2004
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The full texts of President Bush's remarks, executive orders, proclamations, addresses, and other statements are available on the George W. Bush White House archive site. They can also be found in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents. Some of the more important items (in chronological order) are:
- , September 14, 2001
- , Vol. 66, No. 181, September 18, 2001, p. 48199
- , Vol. 66, No. 181, September 18, 2001, pp. 48201-48202 , January 17, 2002
- , Vol. 66, No. 186, September 25, 2001, pp. 49077-49083.
U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (courtesy of the Federation of American Scientists)
See the Senate Banking Committee's hearing on S. 1371, the "National Money Laundering Strategy for 2001," below.
- , which essentially reverses the memo, October 10, 2001.
- , Vol. 66, No. 196, October 10, 2001, pp. 51812-51817 (courtesy of the Federation of American Scientists)
- , Vol. 66, No. 202, October 18, 2001, pp. 53061-53071
- , Vol. 66, No. 221, November 15, 2001, pp. 57355-57356
- , Vol. 66, No. 222, November 16, 2001, pp. 57831-57836 , U.S. Senate, Committee on the Judiciary, Hearing, November 28, 2001
- , Vol. 66, No. 224, November 20, 2001, pp. 58341-58343
- , Vol. 66, No. 241, December 14, 2001, pp. 64907-31119
- , Vol. 67, No. 55, March 21, 2002, pp. 13241-13242
- , Vol. 67, No. 170, September 3, 2002, p. 56215
- , November 25, 2002
There is also a compilation of President Bush's speeches relating to the World Trade Center Attack:
Executive Branch Agencies
Other executive branch departments and agencies also have responsibilities in this area:
Outlines the Bush administration initiatives in several areas: diplomatic, Federal recovery, financial, homeland security, humanitarian, investigative, and military.
Note: This link leads to an archive of the site as of September 13, 2002, from the Internet Archive. After this date, the site broadened its focus to national security in general.
- , October 2002 , March 2005
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PREX 3.2: IR1 - Offsite , August 21, 2007
Briefings and reports on the effort to understand what led to the structural failure and subsequent progressive collapse of the World Trade Center buildings
These are the final reports on the Investigation into the collapses of the World Trade Center Towers (WTC 1 and WTC 2) and into the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7 (WTC 7), conducted under the National Construction Safety team Act. These reports summarize the reconstruction of the events on September 11, 2001 and how NIST and its contractors and collaborators developed this information. The reports conclude recommendations for action in the areas of increased structural integrity, enhanced fire endurance of structures, new methods for fire resistant design of structures, enhanced active fire protection, improved building evacuation, improved emergency response, improved procedures and practices, and education and training. Extensive details are found in the 44 supporting reports, which provide technical details of all aspects of the investigation.
AA735 N4 ZW89357 - Avery (NIST NCSTAR 1)
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CD-ROM AA735 N4 ZW89356 - Avery (2 CD-ROMs with all reports)
Includes transcripts of briefings and interviews with DoD personnel. , September 30, 2001
The review was revised to reflect the terrorist attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon. , December 13, 2001
- , MMWR: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol. 51, no. 1, January 11, 2002 , Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, February 2002 , Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, April 2002 , Environmental Health Perspectives Volume 110, Number 5, May 2002 , MMWR: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol. 51, no. 21, May 31, 2002 , MMWR: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol. 51, no. 35, September 6, 2002 , MMWR: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol. 51, no. 35, September 6, 2002 , MMWR: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol. 51, Special Issue, September 11, 2002
Excerpts released by the Justice Department, December 6, 2001 , November 27, 2001 , Federal Register, Volume 66, No. 211, October 31, 2001, pp. 55062-55066.
New policy announced to monitor attorney-client communications for suspected terrorists, October 30, 2001. , May 20, 2002 , June 2003 , December 2003 , January 2004 , November 2005
The report was heavily redacted and declassified on June 9, 2005. , released publicly June 2006
A more complete version. , May 2008 , October 2009 (Revised)
- , Occupational Safety & Health Administration
Includes monitoring and sampling results, a final report on the WTC Dust Cleaning Program, and a photo archive. , Bureau of Labor Statistics, Monthly Labor Review, June 2004, Vol. 127, No. 6. , Bureau of Labor Statistics, Monthly Labor Review, October 2006, Vol. 129, No. 10.
- , U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 01-0405, November 2001 , November 27, 2001 , Open-File Report 2005–1031 , Open-File Report 2005–1165
- , September 27, 2001 , FAAviation News, Volume 41, Number 6, September/October 2002
- , Goddard Space Flight Center, September 5, 2002
- , September 23 - October 15, 2001. , September 28, 2001 , October 1, 2001 , February 12, 2007
- , January 24, 2002 , March 12, 2002 [budget proposals for homeland security] , July 16, 2002
PR 43.14:H 75 - Offsite , October 2007
HV 6432.4 .N38 2007 - Offsite
- , Office of the Inspector General, December 23, 2005
A series of interviews with Coast Guardsmen undertaken by PAC Peter Capelotti (Ph.D.), USCGR, among others, as part of the Historian's Office's attempt to document the Coast Guard's response to the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.
A series of reports and news releases from the Commission.
- , August 29, 2002
- , CRS Report for Congress, updated October 5, 2004 , CRS Report for Congress, updated December 10, 2004 , CRS Report for Congress, updated September 18, 2001 , CRS Report for Congress, updated January 16, 2003 , CRS Issue Brief for Congress, updated February 1, 2005
A 19 page analysis of intelligence issues in light of the September 11 attacks, provided by the Federation of American Scientists. , CRS Report for Congress, updated June 14, 2002 , CRS Issue Brief for Congress, updated October 18, 2002 , CRS Issue Brief for Congress, September 13, 2001
- , October 31, 2003
Legislation Passed Into Law
Print versions of the following Public Laws can be found in the United States Statutes at Large, located in the Law Library.
, September 18, 2001
House Resolution 2888, September 14, 2001
2001 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Recovery from and Response to Terrorist Attacks on the United States.
Note: This is the bill which makes $40 billion available to the Executive Office of the President for expenses, including for the costs of: (1) providing Federal, State, and local preparedness for mitigating and responding to the attacks (2) providing support to counter, investigate, or prosecute domestic or international terrorism (3) providing increased transportation security (4) repairing damaged public facilities and transportation systems and (5) supporting national security.
Details on release of these funds: , Office of Management and Budget, October 17, 2001
- , from the Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, January 4, 2006.
- , November 30, 2001.
- , November 20, 2001. , a Congressional Research Service report, April 15, 2002 , the same CRS report, without legal citations and footnotes
human rights, Vol. 29, no. 1, Winter 2002, American Bar Association
This special issue focuses on the legal issues of the Patriot Act.
- , September 26, 2001.
- , House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, September 26, 2001 , December 17, 2001.
- , House Committee on Appropriations, November 19, 2001 , Senate Committee on Appropriations, December 5, 2001
- , House Conference Report (H. Rept. 107-593), July 29, 2002 , Office of Management and Budget, May 21, 2002
The following links are for major legislation introduced in Congress during the 107th Congress, 2001-2002.
They are in order by House Bill Number, then Senate Bill Number.
The 11 Most Compelling 9/11 Conspiracy Theories
UPDATED: 6:50 a.m. EDT, Sept. 11, 2020 —
O n the 19th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks, conspiracy theories about that fateful date in American history have more than persisted — they’ve thrived.
Not surprisingly, Donald Trump, before he was president, also got in on the act, claiming that “thousands and thousands of people [in New Jersey] were cheering as that building was coming down.”
That dubious assertion has been shut down with tangible proof, but the following conspiracy theories about what really happened on September 11 are still apparently up for debate. Read on to see.
Editor’s note: This story first ran in September 2011.
M any 9/11 conspiracy theories surfaced shortly after the September 11th attacks — some bringing compelling arguments, and some not holding up at all. Theorists believe that the World Trade Center buildings were demolished by bombs, phone calls from the planes were made up, or that former President George W. Bush secretly profited from the attacks.
Here, we compiled a list of the 11 most compelling 9/11 conspiracy theories that exist.
For more NewsOne conspiracy theories, click here.
1. Insider Traders Knew About Attacks Before They Happened
Right before the September 11th attacks, some fishy business happened within the stock market and insurance firms. An “extraordinary” amount of put options were placed on United Airlines and American Airlines stocks, the same airlines that were hijacked during the attacks. Many speculate that traders were tipped off about the attacks and profited from the tragedy. The Securities and Exchange Commission launched an insider trading investigation in which Osama bin Laden was a suspect, after receiving information from at least one Wall Street firm.
2. Air Defense Was Told To ‘Stand Down’
In the event that an airplane is hijacked, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is prepared to send out fighter jets, which can debilitate or shoot down the aircraft. On 9/11/01, NORAD generals said they learned of the hijackings in time to scramble fighter jets. Some skeptics believe NORAD commanded defense systems to “stand down,” because of their lack of presence during the attacks.
3. Planes Didn’t Make Twin Towers Collapse, Bombs Did
The World Trade Center collapse appeared similar to a controlled demolition. Many speculate that the towers were in fact blown down with explosives placed in selected locations. Some witnesses recounted hearing explosions inside the building as they attempted to escape. Many architects and scientists even maintain that a plane’s fuel cannot produce enough heat to melt the steel frames of the two buildings that collapsed.
4. The Pentagon Attack Scientifically Doesn’t Hold Up
The Pentagon crash may be the most puzzling event of the day. Theorists maintain that the impact holes in the Pentagon were much smaller than a commercial American Airlines plane. They also question why the plane was not shot down prior to impact, as well as why the plane impacted a section of the Pentagon that was vacant due to renovations.
5. Flight 93 Was Completely Staged
The fourth hijacked plane, Flight 93, crashed in Shanksville, Penn. It is believed that the passengers fought back and crashed the plane into a field. Skeptics believe that Flight 93 landed safely, while a substitute plane was shot out of the sky. Other theorists believe that the passengers were murdered, or relocated and will never be found.
6. Hijackers Are Alive. How Did Their Passports Survive Explosion?
After the September 11th attacks, the “Loose Change” documentary stated that all of the hijackers were actually alive in other countries – rather presumptuous since it is possible for two different people to have identical names. But they did raise a good point how did the passports of the terrorists survive the explosion? In the aftermath of the attacks, passports and identification were found as evidence. Many skeptics question how identification made out of paper survived the same explosion that destroyed buildings.
7. Cell Phone Calls Made From Plane Were Faked
In-flight calls were made from cell phones in both hijacked airplanes. Scientists and skeptics maintain that cell phones could not receive reception from the altitude at which planes typically fly. Others questioned a phone call from a son to his mother, in which he referred to himself by his own first and last name.
8. Jewish People Knew Attack Was Going To Happen, Took Off Work On September 11th
Theorists noticed that 4,000 Jewish employees took off from work on September 11, 2001. Some of the first people to record the attacks on camera were also Jewish. Many became suspicious and put the religious group on the radar as suspects in the wake of the attack.
9. Black Boxes Found By Search Crew Kept Secret
During the weeks following the attack, the planes’ black boxes were one of the most important items under investigation. They were the only evidence into what happened inside the cockpits of the plane. Three of four black boxes were found and only one was in good enough condition to hear. The tape was not initially released, but was shared with families of the victims in 2002. Skeptics believe the tapes were not disclosed in order to support a secret scheme.
10. The Bin Laden Tapes Are Fake
Initially, Osama bin Laden denied any involvement with the attacks. Soon afterward, numerous tapes came out claiming he changed his mind and took full responsibility. Many skeptics believe that Bin Laden was targeted because of his stake in the stock market, as well as because of former President George W. Bush’s personal business ventures in the Middle East.
11. Aluminum Planes Can’t Penetrate Steel Structure Of World Trade Center
Commercial airplanes’ frames are constructed with a very light aluminum material in order to make it easier to fly. Theorists maintain there is no possible way an airplane can do as much damage to the Twin Towers as it did. They believe that missiles or explosives were used to ensure the buildings collapsed.
Fourteen years after the attack, we may never know the entire story – but we will always remember the people we lost on that tragic day.
5 Other Surprise Attacks That Changed History
But the shocking assaults in 2001 on the World Trade towers, the Pentagon and the planned hit on the Capitol were not the first surprise attacks that changed the way humans do business.
Through the centuries, there have been unexpected strikes on civilian targets that occurred during wars — declared or not — and peacetime attacks that came completely out of the blue. The Sept. 11 attacks fall into the latter category.
Sudden assailments have toppled societies and shaken civilizations. The element of surprise can be a very potent change agent. And, perhaps, the most powerful weapon of all.
One of the earliest accounts of an epic surprise attack comes from Greek mythology: the Trojan Horse. The episode, explains George Dameron, a history professor at Saint Michael's College in Colchester, Vt., is associated with the 10-year war between Greeks and Trojans.
In one version of the tale, the Greeks finagle a way to get a large wooden horse inside the City of Troy. Inside the horse, Greek warriors hide. They emerge and, in a surprise attack, defeat the Trojans.
"The story may be based on an actual war," Dameron explains, "but the account of the war was certainly embellished over the centuries" between the event — fought during the 12th or 13th century B.C., the ancients believed — and its recounting in The Odyssey, written by Homer circa the 8th century B.C.
Virgil's first century poem, The Aeneid, tells the story of the Trojan Horse from the point of view of the Trojans, Dameron says, "and not only is it one of the most beautiful poems ever, but it is one of the most moving accounts of the wanton destruction of an entire city from the point of view of the victims. No one today can read the story of Troy's destruction by the 'treacherous' Greeks without being moved."
Virgil's description of Troy's destruction, Dameron says, provides the back story for events that ultimately led to the founding of Rome.
And the mythic success of the Trojan Horse victory set a high bar for surprise — and world-changing — attacks that followed through the eons.
We asked Dameron and a handful of other historians from around the country to help us examine other clandestine attacks throughout history. Here are five:
1) The Sack of Rome by the Visigoths, A.D. 410. Aided by rebellious slaves, Alaric I and the Visigoths rushed through a city gate unexpectedly. The three-day siege was the first time in centuries that Rome had been sacked and invaded, says Dameron, "and it was a massive political and psychological blow." Non-Christian Romans blamed the sacking on the abandonment of the traditional Roman gods.
The ultimate surprise there, adds Johns Hopkins University military historian Mary Habeck, "was that Rome fell, not that the city was attacked."
2) The Battle of Trenton, 1776. On Christmas night, Gen. George Washington crossed the ice-chilled Delaware River to lead some 2,400 Continental Army troops on an unexpected raid against German Hessian mercenaries garrisoned at Trenton, N.J. The Patriot forces caught the British-sponsored enemy completely off guard, says Brad King, executive director of Battleship Cove naval ship museum in Fall River, Mass. "The lasting effect was that the success raised rebel morale and proved that the most professional army in the West could be beaten."
3) The Battle of France, 1940. Speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations in 2007, Ernest R. May, a professor of history at Harvard University and author of Strange Victory: Hitler's Conquest of France, said that the Germans' "successful surprise attack" on France altered the way the world regarded France and the way that France regarded itself.
Before the Nazi campaign, May said, "almost everyone said that France had the strongest army in the world." But after Germany's victory, he continued, "almost everyone thought this had been an illusion. The French military was accused of a Maginot Line mentality, defeatism, cowardice. The Germans were taken to have been overwhelmingly superior militarily and to have had will to win which the French lacked. These became, and to some extent remain, articles of faith in France."
In drawing parallels between the Germans' victory and Sept. 11, May argued that in fact the French were stronger than the Germans, and the Germans' victory was a product of "guile and luck." The Sept. 11 plot, he added, "is another, and much more extreme, example of an attack by a weaker party."
The plan for the Sept. 11 attack was, like the German plan, "based on knowledge obtained from open sources, not on secret intelligence," May said. And "the analysis underlying the plan rested largely on suppositions about the enemy's standard operating procedures."
4) The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 1941. The morning assault by the Imperial Japanese Army on the U.S naval base in Hawaii changed the shape of the already-raging World War II "by bringing America in with its freshness and manufacturing capacity," says Brad King of the Battleship Cove museum.
The attack also refocused American foreign policy in profound and everlasting ways. Speaking on National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day in 2008, then-President George W. Bush said, "On Dec. 7, 1941, the enemy nearly destroyed our Pacific fleet, and the United States was forced into a long and terrible war. A generation of Americans stepped forward to fight for our country. Their message to America's enemies was clear: If you attack this country and harm our people, there is no corner of the Earth remote enough to protect you from the reach of our nation's armed forces."
5) The Six Day War, 1967. On the morning of June 5, Israeli planes surprise-attacked the at-rest Egyptian air force, destroying hundreds of planes. Similar strikes hobbled Jordan and Syria. On the ground, Israeli troops marched into the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip. They routed Palestinians from the West Bank of the Jordan River, seized the Golan Heights in Syria and continued on to the Suez Canal. The rapid chain of events altered the landscape and the future of the Middle East — and, arguably, foreign policy in state departments around the world.
The Art Of War
Compiling such a list can be a complex undertaking. "Issues of scale, era and location complicate the question, as do the criteria for a 'sneak attack' — which is often viewed as a preemptive strike by those who launch it," observes military historian John W. Hall at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. "Rarely are such affairs complete and total surprises. In hindsight, it often emerges that the indicators for an attack were present but overlooked, or not placed in the proper context."
Hall suggests that Germany's unexpected — and unsuccessful — surprise invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 be included on the list. "It is quite conceivable," Hall says, "that Hitler could have consolidated his territorial gains to that date had he not committed this most egregious of strategic blunders."
And noticeably absent from the roster are any Asian events.
There is a reason for that, explains historian David A. Graff, an associate professor at the Institute of Military History and 20th Century Studies at Kansas State University. "Tricks, traps, ambushes and other efforts resulting in the surprise of one party by another have been commonplace in Chinese warfare from as far back as we have records," Graff says. "The centrality of deceit in warfare was enunciated by Sun Tzu in the middle of the first millennium B.C. Deceit aimed at achieving surprise became so ubiquitous that it was almost like background noise, without the power to shock."
What gives events like Sept. 11 and Pearl Harbor their iconic power in our culture, Graff says, "is the ability of the victims to be shocked, and to perceive the attack as 'dastardly.' The Chinese have generally been more inclined to fault the victim for letting down his guard."
The Chinese language, Graff adds, "has no equivalent to our saying, 'Fool me once, shame on you fool me twice shame on me.' But if it did, it would be something like 'Fool me once, shame on me.' "
The Enduring Political Impact Of 9/11 For Those Who Were Closest
President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush arrive at the National September 11 Memorial in New York.
In the days just after the Sept. 11 attacks, I called an uncle in Wyoming to check in and let him know how I was doing. At the time, I was living in a part of Brooklyn quite close to the World Trade Center site. But he made it clear that I wasn&rsquot the only one on that phone call who was shaken. &ldquoYou know, we really felt those attacks out here, too,&rdquo I remember him saying.
I hadn&rsquot yet gone to graduate school in political science at the time, but the bulk of political scientists wouldn&rsquot have been surprised by my uncle&rsquos level of concern. A long, distinguished body of research in political science suggests individuals&rsquo responses to major events &mdash their engagement as well as their attitudes &mdash tend to depend more on factors like their political partisanship than on where they happen to live or their personal experiences.
But that conventional wisdom is what makes recent research on the political impacts of Sept. 11 a striking and noteworthy departure. This new research shows that with an event as powerful, evocative and tragic as Sept. 11, personal connections and even proximity to the tragedy can have a durable political effect on individuals&rsquo political attitudes and activities. In the case of 9/11, people became more active in politics, more supportive of anti-terror spending and more likely to register to vote as Republicans.
Consider the recent study on 9/11&rsquos political impact by political scientist Eitan Hersh, published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In it, Hersh used the New York state voter file to identify 1,729 9/11 victims from the state, and then traced how their families&rsquo political activities changed as compared to a control group chosen to be highly similar in the pre-9/11 period.
Before the attacks, the victims&rsquo families differed little from the control group identified by Hersh&rsquos algorithms. But in the aftermath, members of the victims&rsquo families were more likely to turn out to vote in general elections than similar New Yorkers, an effect that grew as large as 4 percentage points and which only dissipated in 2012. That might not seem like much, but it rivals the effect of get-out-the-vote efforts like door-to-door canvassing. The victims&rsquo families were also more likely to make donations to federal candidates, another difference that was visible for years following the attacks.
Hersh finds that losing someone in the 9/11 attacks wasn&rsquot just mobilizing, it also shifted party loyalties. Family members of those who were killed were approximately 5 percentage points less likely to still be registered Democrats in 2013 when compared to a similar control group that didn&rsquot lose family members that day. There were concomitant upticks in registration as Independents or Republicans. Whether that is because the victims&rsquo family members became more hawkish on foreign policy, because they were impressed by the performance of GOP officials in the wake of the attack, or for other reasons isn&rsquot known.
In his research, Hersh compares victims&rsquo family members to New Yorkers who are similar in terms of their pre-attack politics, their demographics, and the communities where they lived. So even his control group was drawn from people like me, people who were living in the New York area at the time &mdash people who might remember the fighter planes patrolling the city&rsquos skies, or the convoys of emergency vehicles on area roads. Did simply living near the attacks also shape people&rsquos politics?
To get at that question, I used a panel survey conducted by the National Election Study (NES) between 2000 and 2004. 1 I measured how far each respondent lived from the attack sites. (Keep in mind that the sites were in New York City and Arlington, Virginia, so the people living nearest to them were not especially likely to be conservative.) I then estimated models controlling for various individual-level factors 2 to see whether Americans&rsquo proximity to the 9/11 sites predicted their support for anti-terror spending in 2004, more than three years after the attacks.
In the figure below, I estimated whether people living within each distance from a Sept. 11 attack site were more supportive of anti-terror spending.
For example, starting from the left, we see that the 3 percent of NES respondents who lived within 19 miles of a 9/11 attack site were on average -0.11 less supportive of anti-terrorism spending than those who lived farther away. 3 However, the sample is sufficiently small that the confidence intervals span from -0.48 to 0.26, as illustrated by the left-most vertical line. In other words, there&rsquos not much to say either way.
Still, as we get to respondents who live a little farther from the attacks, we also get a larger sample size &mdash and a more precise estimate. Respondents living within 52 miles of either 9/11 site are 0.27 higher on the anti-terrorism spending scale than those who lived farther away, with a 95 percent confidence interval from 0.04 to 0.51. Significant results persist for thresholds between 52 miles and 146 miles. At its maximum size, the effect of living within 70 miles of a 9/11 site is 0.28, a sizable change in attitude. And I&rsquove confirmed that no such pattern exists in spending preferences pre-9/11, making it more likely that this relationship was indeed a product of 9/11 and its aftermath.
People who live in the areas near New York City and Arlington aren&rsquot known for their conservatism. But in 2004, they were notably more supportive of anti-terror spending.
One rule of thumb, well grounded in political science, is that individuals&rsquo self-interest and personal experiences are not closely connected to their attitudes. But the Sept. 11 attacks 13 years ago are an important exception: Their political impact was pronounced and long-lasting on some of the people closest to the tragedy.
6. There's been an increase in deportations.
After 9/11, the Bush Administration arguably ramped up deportation efforts and increased immigration restrictions in response to the attacks. According to ABC News, deportations have doubled in the last decade — and criminal deportations have increased at an even higher rate.
From 2001 to 2012, there was roughly a 400% increase in criminal deportations, reports ABC News. It's important to note that while most of the people deported were charged with a crime, they were not necessarily convicted of one.
9 British Nationals Represented The Second Biggest Loss Of Life
Second to the countless American civilians who lost their lives that day, people of British nationality were the next biggest group to have been killed in the 9/11 terror attacks. A total of 2,605 U.S. citizens were killed as a result of the terrorist attacks and next up on the list of fatalities from other countries were the UK with 67 reported deaths. Although al-Qaeda’s main target was the United States, foreign nationals from a total of 61 countries were victims of the attack (372 foreign fatalities overall).
Not only was 9/11 the worst terror attack on American soil, it was and remains the worst terror incident for UK nationals as more British citizens lost their lives on September 11th than in any other single act of terror—including as the Lockerbie Bombing in 1988 (43 deaths) or the 7/7 bombings in London (52 deaths). 16 years on, the impact of 9/11 is still felt strongly in the UK.
Key Facts & Information
The 9/11 Attacks
A Day to Remember
Patriot Day Worksheets
This is a comprehensive bundle which includes everything you need to know about Patriot Day across 36 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Patriot Day worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Patriot Day. On September 11, 2001 (9/11), 19 suicide bombers linked with the Islamic extremist group Al-Qaeda hijacked four airliners and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States. Two planes were flown into the World Trade Center towers in New York City. A third plane hit the Pentagon just outside of Washington, D.C., and the fourth plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.
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