Thursday, September 11, 2008
7 years later: We will not forget 9/11
The September 11 attacks (often referred to as 9/11) were a series of coordinated suicide attacks by al-Qaeda upon the United States on September 11, 2001. On that morning, terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda hijacked four commercial passenger jet airliners.The hijackers intentionally crashed two of the airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing everyone on board and many others working in the building, causing both buildings to collapse within two hours, destroying at least two nearby buildings and damaging others. The hijackers crashed a third airliner into the Pentagon. The fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville in rural Somerset County, Pennsylvania, after passengers and members of the flight crew on the fourth aircraft attempted to retake control of their plane, which was heading for Washington, D.C. There are no known survivors from any of the flights.
Excluding the 19 hijackers, 2,974 people died in the attacks. Another 24 are missing and presumed dead. The overwhelming majority of casualties were civilians, including nationals of over 90 different countries. In addition, the death of at least one person from lung disease was ruled by a medical examiner to be a result of exposure to dust from the World Trade Center's collapse, as rescue and recovery workers were exposed to airborne contaminants following the buildings' collapse.
The United States responded to the attacks by declaring a War on Terrorism, launching an invasion of Afghanistan to depose the Taliban, who had harbored al-Qaeda terrorists, and enacting the USA PATRIOT Act. Many other nations also strengthened their anti-terrorism legislation and expanded law enforcement powers. Stock exchanges closed for almost a week, and posted enormous losses upon reopening, especially in the airline and insurance industries. The economy of Lower Manhattan ground to a halt, as billions of dollars in office space was damaged or destroyed.
The damage to the Pentagon was cleared and repaired within a year, and a small memorial was built on the site. Rebuilding the World Trade Center site has proven more difficult, with controversy over possible designs as well as the pace of construction. Construction delays, revised cost estimates, security concerns, and public criticism have all lead to significant changes and delays to the final plans in rebuilding the complex.
Early in the morning on September 11, 2001, nineteen hijackers took control of four commercial airliners en route to San Francisco and Los Angeles from Boston, Newark, and Washington (Washington Dulles International Airport). The hijackers flew two of the airliners, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center. Another group of hijackers flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon. A fourth flight, United Airlines Flight 93, whose ultimate target was either the U.S. Capitol building or the White House, crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
During the hijacking of the airplanes, the hijackers used box cutters to kill passengers and crew members, but some passengers were able to make phone calls using the cabin airphone service and mobile phones.They reported that several hijackers were aboard each plane. The hijackers had reportedly taken control of the aircraft by using knives and box-cutter knives to kill flight attendants and at least one pilot or passenger, including the captain of Flight 11, John Ogonowski.The 9/11 Commission established that two of the hijackers had recently purchased Leatherman multi-function hand tools.Some form of noxious chemical spray, such as tear gas or pepper spray, was reported to have been used on American 11 and United 175 to keep passengers out of the first-class cabin.A flight attendant on Flight 11, a passenger on Flight 175, and passengers on Flight 93 mentioned that the hijackers had bombs, but one of the passengers also mentioned he thought the bombs were fake. No traces of explosives were found at the crash sites. The 9/11 Commission Report believed the bombs were probably fake.
On United Airlines Flight 93, black box recordings revealed that crew and passengers attempted to seize control of the plane from the hijackers after learning through phone calls that similarly hijacked planes had been crashed into buildings that morning.According to the transcript of Flight 93's recorder, one of the hijackers gave the order to roll the plane once it became evident that they would lose control of the plane to the passengers.Soon afterward, the aircraft crashed into a field near Shanksville in Stonycreek Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania, at 10:03:11 a.m. local time (14:03:11 UTC). Al-Qaeda leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed mentioned in a 2002 interview with Yosri Fouda, an al Jazeera journalist, that Flight 93's target was the United States Capitol, which was given the code name "the Faculty of Law".
Three buildings in the World Trade Center Complex collapsed due to structural failure on the day of the attack.The south tower (2 WTC) fell at approximately 9:59 a.m., after burning for 56 minutes in a fire caused by the impact of United Airlines Flight 175.The north tower (1 WTC) collapsed at 10:28 a.m., after burning for approximately 102 minutes. When the north tower collapsed, debris heavily damaged the nearby 7 World Trade Center (7 WTC) building. Its structural integrity was further compromised by fires, and the building collapsed later in the day at 5:20 p.m.
The attacks created widespread confusion among news organizations and air traffic controllers across the United States. All international civilian air traffic was banned from landing on US soil for three days.Aircraft already in flight were either turned back or redirected to airports in Canada or Mexico. News sources aired unconfirmed and often contradictory reports throughout the day. One of the most prevalent of these reported that a car bomb had been detonated at the U.S. State Department's headquarters in Washington, D.C. Soon after reporting for the first time on the Pentagon crash, CNN and other media also briefly reported that a fire had broken out on the Washington Mall.Another report went out on the AP wire, claiming that a Delta Air Lines airliner—Flight 1989—had been hijacked. This report, too, turned out to be in error; the plane was briefly thought to represent a hijack risk, but it responded to controllers and landed safely in Cleveland, Ohio.
There were 2,974 fatalities, excluding the 19 hijackers: 246 on the four planes (from which there were no survivors), 2,603 in New York City in the towers and on the ground, and 125 at the Pentagon.An additional 24 people remain listed as missing.All of the fatalities in the attacks were civilians except for 55 military personnel killed at the Pentagon. More than 90 countries lost citizens in the attacks on the World Trade Center.
NIST estimated that approximately 17,400 civilians were in the World Trade Center complex at the time of the attacks, while turnstile counts from the Port Authority suggest that 14,154 people were typically in the Twin Towers by 8:45 a.m. The vast majority of people below the impact zone safely evacuated the buildings, along with 18 individuals who were in the impact zone in the south tower. 1,366 people died who were at or above the floors of impact in the North Tower. According to the Commission Report, hundreds were killed instantly by the impact, while the rest were trapped and died after the tower collapsed. As many as 600 people were killed instantly or were trapped at or above the floors of impact in the South Tower.
At least 200 people jumped to their deaths from the burning towers (as depicted in the photograph "The Falling Man"), landing on the streets and rooftops of adjacent buildings hundreds of feet below.Some of the occupants of each tower above its point of impact made their way upward toward the roof in hope of helicopter rescue, but the roof access doors were locked. No plan existed for helicopter rescues, and on September 11, the thick smoke and intense heat would have prevented helicopters from conducting rescues.
A total of 411 emergency workers who responded to the scene died as they attempted to implement rescue and fire suppression efforts. The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) lost 341 firefighters and 2 FDNY paramedics. The New York City Police Department lost 23 officers.The Port Authority Police Department lost 37 officers.Private EMS units lost 8 additional EMTs and paramedics.
Cantor Fitzgerald L.P., an investment bank on the 101st–105th floors of One World Trade Center, lost 658 employees, considerably more than any other employer. Marsh Inc., located immediately below Cantor Fitzgerald on floors 93–101 (the location of Flight 11's impact), lost 295 employees, and 175 employees of Aon Corporation were killed. After New York, New Jersey was the hardest hit state, with the city of Hoboken sustaining the most fatalities.
Weeks after the attack, the estimated death toll was over 6,000.The city was only able to identify remains for approximately 1,600 of the victims at the World Trade Center. The medical examiner's office also collected "about 10,000 unidentified bone and tissue fragments that cannot be matched to the list of the dead." Bone fragments were still being found in 2006 as workers were preparing to demolish the damaged Deutsche Bank Building.
The Pentagon damaged by fire and partially collapsed.In addition to the 110-floor Twin Towers of the World Trade Center itself, numerous other buildings at the World Trade Center site were destroyed or badly damaged, including 7 World Trade Center, 6 World Trade Center, 5 World Trade Center, 4 World Trade Center, the Marriott World Trade Center, and the World Financial Center complex and St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church.The Deutsche Bank Building across Liberty Street from the World Trade Center complex was later condemned due to the uninhabitable, toxic conditions inside the office tower, and is undergoing deconstruction.The Borough of Manhattan Community College's Fiterman Hall at 30 West Broadway was also condemned due to extensive damage in the attacks, and is slated for deconstruction.Other neighboring buildings including 90 West Street and the Verizon Building suffered major damage, but have since been restored.World Financial Center buildings, One Liberty Plaza, the Millenium Hilton, and 90 Church Street had moderate damage. Communications equipment atop the North Tower, including broadcast radio, television and two-way radio antenna towers were also destroyed, but media stations were quickly able to reroute signals and resume broadcasts.In Arlington County, a portion of the Pentagon was severely damaged by fire and one section of the building collapsed.
Rescue and recovery
An injured victim of the Pentagon attack is evacuatedMain article: Rescue and recovery effort after the September 11, 2001 attacks
The Fire Department of New York City (FDNY) quickly deployed 200 units (half of the department) to the site, whose efforts were supplemented by numerous off-duty firefighters and EMTs.The New York Police Department (NYPD) sent Emergency Service Units (ESU) and other police personnel.During the emergency response, FDNY commanders, the NYPD, and the Port Authority police had limited ability to share information and coordinate their efforts. The NYPD, FDNY, and Port Authority police did redundant searches for civilians, rather than coordinate efforts among the agencies. As conditions deteriorated, the NYPD received information from its helicopters, and were able to pass along evacuation orders that allowed most of its officers to safely evacuate before the buildings collapsed. However, radio communications between the NYPD and FDNY were incompatible and the information did not get to FDNY commanders. After the first tower collapsed, FDNY commanders experienced difficulties communicating evacuation orders to firefighters inside the towers due to malfunctioning radio repeater systems in the World Trade Center. 9-1-1 dispatchers also received information from callers that was not passed along. Within hours of the attack, a massive search and rescue operation was launched. Rescue and recovery efforts took months to complete.
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