The World Trade Center Attack: A Chronicle of the Events of 11 September, 2001 Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

The World Trade Center Attack: A Chronicle of the Events of 11 September, 2001

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On 11 September, 2001, the USA was witness to the largest attack on American soil since the raid by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor in 1941. It received condemnation around the world, as the 110-storey twin towers of the World Trade Center (WTC), in Lower Manhattan, New York, disappeared from the Manhattan skyline.

This entry serves to chronicle the events of that day. (Times are given as New York time.)

08:30 - 08:45

Air Traffic Control at Boston suspect that something is amiss when American Airlines Flights 11 and 175, both bound for Los Angeles, deviate from their course and head towards New York. Staff try to contact the pilots, who confirm that both planes are being hijacked. The FBI is informed.


Staff in the World Trade Center complex, and in the immediate area, are just arriving for work. American Airlines Flight 11, on a steep descent, crashes into the north tower of the WTC, at the level of the 90th floor. Both the plane and the north face of the tower explode. Minutes before the impact, passengers on the plane phone their relatives and inform them that hijackers armed with knives and a box-cutter have taken control of the plane.

News networks are quick to respond, as are the emergency services. Staff who were in the World Trade Center are told to evacuate the north tower. Live footage is beamed to the world.


While news crews are filming the burning north tower, a second plane, United Airlines Flight 175, approaches from the south, and crashes into the south tower at the level of the 65th floor. Like the first, it explodes in a ball of flame. Both towers are now burning. There are people trapped on the floors above the sites of impact, waving curtains to indicate to the rescue personnel that they are still alive.


The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) shuts down all New York airports.


New York Port Authority closes all bridges and tunnels out of Manhattan.


President Bush, on a visit to a primary school in Florida, is informed by his Secretary of State of the first incident. At the time, it was not known that it was a terrorist attack. As the visit continues, while the President is reading a story to a group of schoolchildren, he is told of the second incident. His expression changes.

A press conference is quickly convened. The President announces that the country has suffered a terrorist attack.


Evacuation of the Pentagon and the Senate begins.


For the first time in US history, the FAA orders all flight operations at US airports to be halted.


American Airlines Flight 77, departing from Washington's Dulles Airport for Los Angeles, crashes into the Pentagon, causing part of its outer wall to collapse. Staff continue to be evacuated.


The White House is evacuated.


President Bush leaves Florida for the Nebraska army base, where in a time of war, the President would take command.

Meanwhile in New York, people still trapped in the World Trade Center are now jumping from the building.


The south tower, its supporting columns melted by the heat of the blast, collapses like a house of cards. Emergency teams working at its base are now trapped under the debris.


Snipers from the Secret Service are deployed around Lafayette Park, opposite the White House.


Part of the Pentagon collapses. At the same time, United Airlines Flight 93 crashes south-east of Pittsburgh in Somerset County.


The United Nations building is evacuated.


In Washington, the State and Justice departments are evacuated, along with the World Bank.


The FAA orders that all transatlantic flights to the US are diverted to Canada.


The remaining (north) tower of the WTC collapses in a cloud of smoke. In a scene not too dissimilar to that of Independence Day1, panicked news crews, staff of the WTC complex and bystanders run for their lives - some down the subway, others into buildings. The whole area is shrouded in dust.

In Times Square, midtown Manhattan, onlookers watch the big screen showing live footage of the collapse of the fourth-largest building in the world.


The rest of the federal buildings in Washington are evacuated.


US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, cuts short his visit to Latin America to return back to the US.


New York primary elections are postponed. A plea for more blood donations is made.


Israel evacuates all diplomatic missions.


New York Mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, orders that the south side of Lower Manhattan is closed.


American Airlines confirms the loss of two aircraft. American Flight 11, a Boeing 767 flying from Boston to Los Angeles, had 81 passengers and 11 crew aboard.

Flight 77, a Boeing 757 en route from Washington's Dulles Airport to Los Angeles, had 58 passengers and six crew members aboard.


United Airlines confirms that United Flight 93, en route from Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco, has crashed in Pennsylvania, southeast of Pittsburgh. The airline also says that it is 'deeply concerned' about United Flight 175.


It is confirmed that United Airlines Flight 175, from Boston to Los Angeles, has crashed with 56 passengers and nine crew members aboard. Emergency personnel at the scene say there are no survivors.


Los Angeles Airport is evacuated.


San Francisco Airport is evacuated and shut down. Land borders with Canada and Mexico are on the highest state of alert.


President Bush announces, 'Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.'


A state of emergency is declared in Washington city.


The Pentagon announces that aircraft carriers and other warships will be sent to protect the west and east coasts of the US.


The FAA announces that there will be no commercial air traffic leaving or arriving in the US until the following Wednesday.


Mayor Giuliani says that subway and bus services are restored in New York City. When asked about the possible death toll, he says, 'I don't think we want to speculate about that, more than any of us can bear.'


Giuliani now announces the number of critically injured in New York City is up to 200, with 2,100 total injuries reported.


California Governor, Gray Davis dispatches search and rescue teams to New York City.


The 47-storey, 7 World Trade Center (Soloman Brothers building) is on fire. The area looks as if it has been decimated by a large earthquake.


Wall Street, the Nasdaq, and the American Stock Exchange announce that they will remain closed until Wednesday. This is probably the most important economic move, as the US economy is volatile at this time, and there is no indication of the effect that the attack will have on the fragile world economy.


7 World Trade Center collapses. It is feared that other buildings may collapse as they burn into the late afternoon.


Mayor Giuliani urges all New Yorkers to stay at home until Wednesday. Within the rubble, survivors use their mobile phones to indicate that they are still alive.


US Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, holds a news conference in the Pentagon, noting that the building is operational, saying that 'It will be in business tomorrow.'


President Bush arrives back at the White House aboard Marine One and is scheduled to address the nation at 20:30.


The Marriot Hotel in the vicinity of the WTC is reported to be on the verge of collapse.


The New York Police Department says that at least 78 officers are missing. The city also says that as many as half of the first 400 firefighters on the scene were killed, most of them at the base of the south tower when it collapsed.


President Bush addresses the nation, with the following words:

Good evening.

Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts.

The victims were in airplanes or in their offices: secretaries, businessmen and women, military and federal workers. Moms and dads, friends and neighbours.

Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror.

The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge structures collapsing, have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness and a quiet, unyielding anger.

These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong. A great people has been moved to defend a great nation.

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.

America was targeted for attack because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no-one will keep that light from shining.

Today, our nation saw evil - the very worst of human nature - and we responded with the best of America, with the daring of our rescue workers, with the caring for strangers and neighbours who came to give blood, and help in any way they could.

Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government's emergency response plans. Our military is powerful, and it's prepared. Our emergency teams are working in New York City and Washington, DC, to help with local rescue efforts.

Our first priority is to get help to those who have been injured and to take every precaution to protect our citizens at home and around the world from further attacks.

The functions of our government continue without interruption. Federal agencies in Washington which had to be evacuated today are re-opening for essential personnel tonight and will be open for business tomorrow.

Our financial institutions remain strong, and the American economy will be open for business as well.

The search is underway for those who are behind these evil acts. I've directed the full resources for our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbour them.

I appreciate so very much the members of Congress who have joined me in strongly condemning these attacks. And on behalf of the American people, I thank the many world leaders who have called to offer their condolences and assistance.

America and our friends and allies join with all those who want peace and security in the world, and we stand together to win the war against terrorism.

Tonight I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of safety and security has been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a power greater than any of us spoken through the ages in Psalm 23: 'Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.'

This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time.

None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.

Thank you. Good night and God bless America.

The rescue effort continues well into the night, and the next day. The Manhattan skyline is changed forever.

1A sci-fi disaster movie where aliens cause the destruction of several major US landmarks.

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