The September 11, 2001 attacks, often referred to as 9/11, were a series of coordinated suicide terrorist attacks upon the United States, predominantly targeting civilians, carried out on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.
That morning, 19 men affiliated with al-Qaeda hijacked four commercial passenger jet airliners. Each team of hijackers included a trained pilot. Two planes, United Airlines Flight 175 and American Airlines Flight 11, crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City, one plane into each tower. Both towers collapsed within two hours.
The pilot of the third team crashed a plane into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia.
Passengers and members of the flight crew on the fourth aircraft attempted to retake control of their plane from the hijackers; that plane crashed into a field near the town of Shanksville in rural Somerset County, Pennsylvania.
Excluding the 19 hijackers, a confirmed 2,973 people died and another 24 remain listed as missing as a result of these attacks.
The following is a timeline surrounding the events of that fateful day:
6:02: Mohammed Atta flies Colgan Air (Portland International Jetport, Portland, Maine to Logan International Airport, Boston, Massachusetts), along with Abdulaziz al-Omari. It is reported that Atta broke into a fight in the parking lot of Portland International Jetport.
Mohammed Atta al-Sayed was named by the FBI as the suicide pilot of American Airlines Flight 11, the initial plane to crash into the World Trade Center during the September 11, 2001 attacks.
6:45: Atta calls another hijacker to confirm the attacks are on while sitting on Logan International Airport.
7:59: American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767, takes off from Logan International Airport bound for Los Angeles, California. It is late.
8:13: The last radio communication is made from Flight 11. A recording of what is believed to be Atta's voice says, "Nobody move. Everything will be OK. If you try to make any moves, you'll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet". The flight path begins to stray away from the scheduled one and moves southwards. It is also reported that Flight 11's transponder signal is turned off at this time, but it was later found that this did not happen until 8:21.
8:14: United Airlines Flight 175, another fully-fueled Boeing 767, carrying 56 passengers and nine crew members, departs from Boston Logan airport, also bound for Los Angeles.
8:19: Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11 alerts American Airlines of a hijacking in progress.
8:20: The FAA's Boston Center flight controllers decide that Flight 11 has probably been hijacked. American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757 with 58 passengers and six crew, departs from Washington Dulles International Airport in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, Virginia, for Los Angeles.
8:21: Flight 11's transponder signal is turned off but the plane remains on radar screens. (Prior to the 9/11 Commission's report, news organizations reported this time as 8:13 or immediately thereafter.)
8:25: Boston Center flight controllers alert other flight control centers regarding Flight 11; however, NORAD is not yet alerted.
8:37: Flight 175 confirms sighting of hijacked Flight 11 to flight controllers, 10 miles (16 km) to its south.
8:37:52: Boston Center control notifies NEADS (Northeast American Defense Sector), the northeast sector of NORAD, of the hijacking of Flight 11. The controller requests military help to intercept the aircraft.
8:42: United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757, takes off with 37
passengers and seven crew members from Newark International Airport, bound for San Francisco International Airport, following a 40-minute delay due to congested runways. Its flight path initially takes it close to the World Trade Center before moving away westwards.
8:42: The FAA's New York Center requests information about Flight 11 over the radio. Flight 175 responds: "Ah, we heard a suspicious transmission on our departure out of Boston, ah, with someone, ah, it sounded like someone keyed the mikes and said ah everyone stay in your seats." New York Center acknowledges and says it will pass the information on. Shortly after Flight 175 is hijacked and also begins to move southwards.
8:46: Two F-15 fighter jets are scrambled from Otis Air Force Base in Massachusetts, intended to intercept flight 11. Because Flight 11's transponder is off, United States Air Force pilots do not know which direction to travel to meet the plane. NEADS spends the next several minutes watching their radar screens in anticipation of Flight 11 returning a radar contact.
8:46:40: Flight 11 crashes at roughly 490 mph (790 km/h or 425 knots) into the north side of the north tower of the World Trade Center, between floors 94 and 98. (Many early accounts gave times between 8:45 and 8:50). The aircraft enters the tower mostly intact. It plows to the building core, severing all three gypsum-encased stairwells, dragging combustibles with it. A massive shock wave travels down to the ground and up again. The combustibles and the remnants of the aircraft are ignited by the burning fuel. Since the building lacks a
traditional full cage frame and depends almost entirely on the strength of a narrow structural core running up the center, the fire at the center of the impact zone is in a position to compromise the integrity of all internal columns. Two home video cameras are known to have recorded the impact. People below the severed stairwells in the north tower start to evacuate; no-one above the impact zone is able to do so.
8:46 to 10:29: At least 100 people (some accounts say as many as 250), primarily in the north tower, trapped by fire and smoke in the upper floors, jump to their deaths. There is some evidence that large central portions of the floor near the impact zone in the north tower collapsed soon after the plane hit, perhaps convincing some people that total collapse was imminent. One person at street level, firefighter Daniel Thomas Suhr, is hit by a jumper and dies. No form of airborne evacuation is attempted as smoke is too dense for a successful landing on the roof of either tower.
8:49:34: The first news and radio organizations report an explosion or incident at the World Trade Center. CNN breaks into a commercial at 8:49. CNN headlines first read 'World Trade Center disaster.' Carol Lin, who was the first anchor to break the news of the attacks, said: "Yeah. This just in. You're looking at obviously a very disturbing live shot there. That is the World Trade Center, and we have unconfirmed reports this morning that a plane has crashed
into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. CNN Center right now is just beginning to work on this story, obviously calling our sources and trying to figure out exactly what happened, but clearly something relatively devastating happening this morning there on the south end of the island of Manhattan. That is once again, a picture of one of the towers of the World Trade Center." Later, Sean Murtagh, CNN vice-president of finance, in an on-air phone call, said from his office in the CNN New York bureau that a large passenger commercial jet hit the World Trade Center. Murtagh was the first network employee on the air. The first email bulletins of breaking news from CNN and MSNBC report "fire at tower of World Trade Center". Both CNN and MSNBC's websites receive such heavy
traffic, that many servers collapse. BBC News' website is active and shows a picture of the North Tower on fire. Minutes later, email news bulletins revise the reports of fire to a plane crash.
8:50: NEADS is notified that a plane has struck the World Trade Center as they continue to locate the flight on radar.
8:53: The F-15s at Otis Air Force Base are airborne. Still lacking an intercept vector to Flight 11 (and not aware that it has already been crashed), they are sent to military controlled airspace off Long Island and ordered to remain in a holding pattern until between 9:09 and 9:13.
8:55 (approx.): Announcements are made by officials in the
still-undamaged south tower of the World Trade Center that the building is 'secure', and that people may return to their offices, over the building-wide PA system. Some do not hear it; others ignore it and evacuate anyway; others congregate in common areas like the 78th floor sky lobby.
9:03:13: Flight 175 crashes at about 590 mph (950 km/h) into the south side of the south tower, banked between floors 78 and 84. By this time, several media organizations are covering the first plane crash; millions see the impact live. Parts of the plane leave the building at its east and north sides, falling to the ground six blocks away. A massive evacuation begins in the south tower below its impact zone. One of the stairwells in the south tower remains unblocked above the impact, but filled with smoke. This led many people to mistakenly go upwards towards the roof for a rooftop rescue that never came. CNN's headline now reads 'Second plane crashes into World Trade Center'.
9:03: President George W. Bush enters a classroom of Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, as part of a scheduled visit to promote education and the Bush administration education policies. Bush is aware that an aircraft has struck one of the World Trade Center towers. He and the staff with him assume that it is a small general aviation aircraft and elect to continue his schedule.
9:03: FAA's New York Center notifies NORAD (NEADS) of the hijacking of Flight 175.
9:04 (approximately): The FAA's Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center stops all departures from airports in its jurisdiction (New England and eastern New York State).
9:06: The FAA bans takeoffs of all flights bound to or through the airspace of New York Center from airports in that Center and the three adjacent Centers - Boston, Cleveland, and Washington. This is referred to as a First Tier ground stop and covers the Northeast from North Carolina north and as far west as eastern Michigan.
9:06: After brief introductions to the Booker elementary students, President Bush is about to begin reading with the students when Chief of Staff Andrew Card interrupts to whisper to the president, "A second plane hit the other tower, and America's under attack." The president stated later that he decided to continue the lesson rather than alarm the students.
9:08: The FAA bans all takeoffs nationwide for flights going to or through New York Center airspace. ABC reports later that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that runs the New York-area airports, asked the FAA for permission to close down the New York Center airspace.
9:13: The F-15 fighters from Otis Air Force base leave military airspace near Long Island, bound for Manhattan.
9:16: President Bush leaves the classroom he has been in since 9:03, and is whisked to another, commandeered by the secret service. It contains a telephone, television showing the news coverage, and several senior staff members. Bush accumulates information and prepares brief remarks.
9:20: CNN's headline makes reference to foul play for the first time: 'AP: FBI investigating report of plane hijacking'.
9:22: CNN headline: 'AP: Plane was hijacked before crashed'.
9:24: The FAA notifies NORAD's Northeast Air Defense Sector about the suspected hijacking of Flight 77. The FAA and NORAD establish an open line to discuss Flight 77, and shortly thereafter Flight 93.
9:25: The Otis-based F-15s establish an air patrol over Manhattan.
9:26: The FAA bans takeoffs of all civilian aircraft regardless of destination - a national groundstop (the first such grounding in American history). All military bases in the United States are ordered to increase its threat conditions to Delta status.
9:28: Hijackers storm the cockpit on Flight 93 and take over the flight. The entry of the hijackers is overheard by flight controllers at Cleveland.
9:29: President Bush makes his first public statements about the attacks, in front of an audience of about 200 teachers and students at the elementary school. He states that he will be going back to Washington, that "we've had a national tragedy", and leads a moment of silence. After the speech, he is bound for Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport and Air Force One.
9:35: Flight 93 reverses direction and starts flying eastwards.
9:37:46: Flight 77 crashes into the western side of the Pentagon and starts a violent fire. The section of the Pentagon hit consists mainly of newly renovated, unoccupied offices. All 64 persons on board are killed, as are 125 Pentagon personnel.
Fire at the Pentagon.
9:39: CNN posts 'Report of fire at Pentagon', its first reference to the incident at the Pentagon.
9:45: United States airspace is shut down. No civilian aircraft are allowed to take off, and all aircraft in flight are ordered to land at the nearest airport as soon as practical. All international flights headed for the U.S. are redirected to Canada. Transport Canada, the Canadian transportation agency, follows the American lead and closes down their airspace. The FAA announces that civilian flights are suspended until at least noon September 12, while Transport Canada gives similar orders, but until further notice, to take in diverted U.S.-bound international flights, launching the agency's "Operation Yellow Ribbon." The groundings last until September 14. Military and medical flights continue. This is the fourth time all commercial flights in the U.S. have been stopped, and the first time a suspension was unplanned. All previous suspensions were military-related (Sky Shield I-III), from 1960 to 1962. Many newspapers (including The New York Times) mistakenly print that this is the first time flights have been suspended. This was also the first time commercial flights in Canada have been stopped.
9:45: The White House and the Capitol are evacuated and closed.
9:50 (approximately): The Associated Press reports that Flight 11 was apparently hijacked after departure from Boston's Logan Airport. Within an hour this is confirmed for both Flight 11 and Flight 175.
9:57: President Bush leaves Sarasota, Florida, on Air Force One. The plane reaches cruising altitude and circles for approximately 40 minutes while the destination of the plane is discussed.
9:59:04: The south tower of the World Trade Center collapses, 55 minutes, and 51 seconds after the impact of Flight 175. Its destruction is viewed and heard by a vast television and radio audience. As the roar of the collapse goes silent, tremendous gray-white clouds of pulverized concrete and gypsum rush through the streets. Most observers think a new explosion or impact has produced
smoke and debris that now obscures the south tower. When the wind finally clears the immediate space, it is plain to see that there is no tower.
10:03: United Airlines Flight 93 is crashed by its hijackers southeast of Pittsburgh in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. The exact time is subject to some dispute — a report on seismographic data readings by Won-Young Kim and Gerald R. Baum puts the time of impact at 10:06:05.
Aerial photo taken April 27, 2004 of the area of the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA.
The 9/11 Commission argued "the seismic data on which [Kim and Baum based their] estimate are far too weak in signal-to-noise ratio and far too speculative in terms of signal source to be used as a means of contradicting the impact time [of 10:03]established by the very accurate combination of FDR, CVR, ATC, radar, and impact site data sets."Black box recordings, radar analysis, satellite data and at least one telephone call indicate 10:03:11. Later reports indicate that passengers had learned about the World Trade Center and Pentagon crashes on cell phones and at least three were planning on resisting the hijackers; the resistance was confirmed by Flight 93's cockpit voice recording, on which the hijackers are heard making their decision to down the plane before the passengers succeed in breaching the cockpit door. The 9/11 Commission believed that Flight 93's target was either the United States Capitol building or the White House in Washington, D.C. Reports stated an eyewitness saw a white plane resembling a fighter jet circling the site minutes after the crash. These reports have limited credibility, although fighter jets had been scrambled to defend the Washington D.C. region earlier. These jets stayed within the immediate D.C. area.
10:10: Part of the Pentagon collapses.
10:13: Thousands are involved in an evacuation of the United Nations complex in New York.
10:15 (approximately): The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine is reported to take responsibility for the crashes, but this is denied by a senior officer of the group soon after.
10:28:31: The north tower of the World Trade Center collapses from the top down, as if being peeled apart. Probably due to the destruction of the gypsum-encased stairwells on the impact floors (most skyscraper stairwells are encased in reinforced concrete), no one above the impact zone in the north tower survives. The Marriott Hotel, located at the base of the two towers, is also destroyed. The second collapse is also viewed live on television and heard on radio. The north tower collapses 1 hour 41 minutes 51 seconds after the impact of Flight 11.
10:35 (approximately): Police are reportedly alerted about a bomb in a car outside the State Department in Washington, D.C.. Later reports claim that nothing happened at the State Department.
10:35: Air Force One, carrying the president, turns for Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, Louisiana.
10:39: Another hijacked jumbo jet is claimed to be headed for Washington, D.C. F-15s are scrambled and patrol the airspace above Washington, D.C. while other fighter jets sweep the airspace above New York City. They have orders, first issued by Vice President Cheney and later confirmed by President Bush, to shoot down any potentially dangerous planes that do not comply with orders given
to them via radio.
10:45: CNN reports that a mass evacuation of Washington D.C. and New York has been started. A few minutes later, New York mayor Rudy Giuliani orders an evacuation of lower Manhattan.
10:50: Five stories of part of the Pentagon collapse due to the fire.
10:53: New York's primary elections are canceled.
11:00: Transport Canada halts all aircraft departures until further notice, except for police, military, and humanitarian flights, as part of Operation Yellow Ribbon. The operation was well underway as international flights headed for the U.S. had already started to land at Canadian airports, beginning at CFB Goose Bay. Fourteen other airports follow, including Halifax, Lester B. Pearson in Toronto, Montréal-Dorval, and Vancouver.
11:15 (approximately): Reports that the F-15s over Washington had shot something down. There was no confirmation of these reports.
11:16: American Airlines confirms the loss of its two aircraft.
11:26: United Airlines confirms the loss of Flight 93 and states that it is "deeply concerned" about Flight 175.
11:53: United Airlines confirms the loss of its two aircraft.
11:55: The border between the U.S. and Mexico is on highest alert, but is not closed.
12:00 (approximately): President Bush arrives at Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, Louisiana. Many assume he will be on his way back to Washington, D.C. after this layover. Bush makes a brief and informal initial statement to the effect that terrorism on U.S. soil will not be tolerated, said that "freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward and freedom will be defended". He also said that the "United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts".
12:02: The Taliban government of Afghanistan denounces the attacks.
12:04: LAX, the intended destination of Flights 11, 77 and 175, is shut down.
12:15: San Francisco International Airport, the intended destination of Flight 93, is shut down.
12:15 (approximately): The airspace over the 48 contiguous United States is clear of all commercial and private flights.
1:00 (approximately): At the Pentagon, fire crews are still fighting fires. The early response to the attack had been coordinated from the National Military Command Center, but that had to be evacuated when it began to fill with smoke.
1:04: President Bush puts the U.S. military on high alert worldwide (known as Threat Condition Delta). He speaks from Barksdale Air Force Base and leaves for Strategic Air Command bunker in Nebraska. Later in the day several commentators and journalists, most notably ABC's Peter Jennings, express frustration with Bush's seemingly random movements. After the arrival in Nebraska, Jennings asks the ABC correspondent on the scene exactly where the President is. She answers, "Peter, the President has gone down the rabbit hole".
1:27: Mayor Anthony A. Williams of Washington, D.C., declares a state of emergency; the D.C. National Guard arrives on site.
2:30: Senator John McCain characterizes attack as an "act of war".
2:49: At a press conference New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is asked to estimate the number of casualties at the World Trade Center. He replies, "More than any of us can bear".
4:00: National news outlets report that high officials in the federal intelligence community are stating that Osama bin Laden is suspect number one.
Osama bin Laden (left) is reported later in the day, to be the main suspect in the attacks.
4:25: The New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, and the American Stock Exchange report that they will remain closed Wednesday September 12.
5:20: 7 World Trade Center, a 47-story building that had sustained what was originally thought to be light damage in the fall of the twin towers and was earlier reported on fire, collapses. The building contained New York's emergency operations center, operated by the NYC Office of Emergency Management, originally intended to respond to disasters such as the September 11 terrorist attacks.
6:00: Explosions and tracer fire are reported in Kabul, Afghanistan, by CNN and the BBC. The Northern Alliance, involved in a civil war with the Taliban government, is later reported to have attacked Kabul's airport with helicopter gun-ships.
6:00: Iraq announces the attacks are the fruit of "U.S. crimes against humanity" in an official announcement on state television.
6:00: The last of the aircraft headed for the U.S. to land at a Canadian airport lands at Vancouver International, since it was over the Pacific.
6:54: President Bush arrives at the White House. Executive authority through much of the day rested with Vice President Cheney.
7:00: Efforts to locate survivors in the rubble that had been the twin towers continue. Fleets of ambulances are lined up to transport the injured to nearby hospitals, but stand empty. 'Ground Zero' is the exclusive domain of New York City's Fire Department and Police Department, despite volunteer steel and construction workers who stand ready to move large quantities of debris quickly. Relatives and friends of victims or likely victims, many displaying enlarged
photographs of the missing printed on home computer printers, have appeared around New York. The New York Armory at Lexington Avenue and 26th Street and Union Square Park at 14th Street become centers of vigil.
7:30: U.S. Government denies any responsibility for the reported explosions in Kabul.
8:30: President Bush addresses the nation from the White House. Among his phrases: "Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts," ; "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,"; and "The search is underway for those who are behind these evil acts...we will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them".
President Bush addresses rescue workers at Ground Zero in New York, September 14, 2001: "I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon."
As Bush speaks, members of Congress told CNN that during private briefings with senior administration officials, they were told that the administration had enough evidence that it was "confident" that the attacks were the work of Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network.
9:00: President Bush meets his full National Security Council, followed roughly half an hour later by a meeting with a smaller group of key advisers. Bush and his advisers have evidence that Osama bin Laden is behind the attacks. CIA Director Tenet says that al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan are essentially one and the same. Bush says, "Tell the Taliban we're finished with them".
10:00: There are reports, later proved wrong, of survivors buried in rubble in New York making cell phone calls.