Tuesday marks the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that left 2,997 people dead and more than 6,000 injured. EBONY.com looks back on the atrocities and how the hijacked planes shifted the combat of terrorism in the United States.
In the early morning of Sept. 11, 2001, 19 militants associated with al-Qaeda, a Sunni Islamist multinational organization, hijacked four California-bound airplanes from three East Coast airports and smuggled knives and box cutters through security. The planes were commandeered and used as guided missiles. Osama bin Laden, who is believed to have been behind the 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, masterminded the attacks.
The planes were used in suicide attacks at four targeted locations across the United States. At 8:45 a.m., an American Airlines Boeing 767 flew into the 80th floor of the 110-story North Tower of New York City’s World Trade Center. The first plane collision was thought to be a freak accident until, according to History.com, United Airlines Flight 175 hit the South Tower 18 minutes later. President George W. Bush was visiting a second-grade class at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, at the time.
By 9:31 a.m., President Bush addressed the nation from the auditorium of the school. “I have spoken to the vice president, to the governor of New York, to the director of the FBI, and have ordered that the full resources of the federal government go to help the victims and their families, and to conduct a full-scale investigation to hunt down and to find those folks who committed this act,” he said. “Terrorism against our nation will not stand.”
According to a timeline on Huffington Post, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center collapsed at 9:59 a.m. and 10:28 a.m., respectively. A cloud of debris poured down on the nearby buildings and people below. Emergency personnel rushed to rescue whom they could from the rubble of what became “the largest concentrated emergency-service response in American history.”
FDNY units made up a majority of the first responders. The 9/11 attack claimed the lives of 343 firefighters and paramedics, 37 Port Authority officers and 23 NYPD officers, reports New York Magazine.
While this was taking place in New York, the third plane, American Airlines Flight 77, crashed into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, in Washington, D.C., at 9:45 a.m. The 64 people aboard the plane and 125 military personnel and civilians were killed after a massive fire led to the collapse of the west portion of the building.
The last hijacked plane, United Flight 93, crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after passengers tried to reclaim it from the terrorists. It is believed to have been headed toward the U.S. Capitol.
At 11:05 a.m., New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani ordered Lower Manhattan to be evacuated. Six hours later, 7 World Trade Center, a seven-story building next to the towers, collapsed from ancillary damage.
The 9/11 attacks drastically altered America’s foreign and domestic policies. As the country became more patriotic, Muslims and other Middle Eastern and Indian people assumed to be Islamic faced bigoted conditions. Security measures across the country tightened up, especially at airports.
President Bush declared a global “war on terrorism,” which included attempts to block the financing of terrorism and new security legislation. The United States entered the war in Afghanistan in 2001, which is still ongoing, targeting al-Qaeda training camps and the Taliban government. The Iraq War began in 2003 to combat weapons of mass destruction and lasted until 2011. Congress also passed the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Require to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, known as the USA PATRIOT Act, in Oct. 2001. The Department of Homeland Security was created to prevent and respond to domestic terrorism.
A $25 million bounty was placed on bin Laden’s head. The 9/11 attacks mastermind evaded capture until U.S. intelligence located him in Pakistan. On May 2, 2011, President Barack Obama ordered a team of six Navy SEALs to enter the compound where the al-Qaeda leader was shot and killed.
In November 2014, One World Trade Center opened, filling the empty lot and Manhattan skyline left by the destruction of the Twin Towers. It sits adjacent to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.
In the 17 years following 9/11, jihadists attacks on domestic soil have been few and far between. Two of the most recent examples are the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013 and the mass shooting and attempted bombing at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, two years later. Mass shootings, however, have been on the rise. The 2016 massing shoot at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, which left 50 dead, is currently the deadliest terror attack by a Muslim in the U.S. since the September 11 attacks.
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Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.