9/11: A Historical Retrospective
Throughout the history of the United States, we’ve had a few tragic attacks that rocked the country’s very foundations. First, we had the tragedy of Pearl Harbor but more recently – 16 years ago to be exact – there were the 9/11 attacks.
As harrowing as it was, we need to remember what happened: both to honor those we lost and to remember our history. Here, we will take a look at exactly what happened that fateful morning.
American Airlines Flight 11 takes off, en route to take 92 people from Boston to Los Angeles.
Just 15 minutes later, the second plane – United Airlines Flight 175 – takes off with 65 passengers. It was set to take the same route as Flight 11; Boston to Los Angeles.
Just 20 minutes after their takeoff, passengers alert ground personnel that their flight has been hijacked. It is at this point that American Airlines calls the FBI.
Only a minute later, a third plane – American Airlines Flight 77 – takes to the skies from Dulles International Airport (Washington D.C.) with 64 passengers headed to Los Angeles.
Two accidental transmissions are made by hijacker Mohammed Atta from Flight 11 to ground control. It is believed that rather than make these transmissions, he was attempting to communicate with those in the plane’s cabin.
As it happens, everything was tensely quiet for the next 16 minutes. At 8:40, though, the silence was broken by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) alerting the North American Aerospace Defense Sector (NEADS) about the reports coming from Flight 11.
Finally, the United Airlines Flight 93 takes off. It was supposed to leave at 8 am, like the other flights, but was delayed. This flight is leaving the Newark International Airport and making its way to San Francisco with 44 people aboard.
Hijackers aboard Flight 11 crash the first plane, hitting the 93rd through 99th floors of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. This killed everyone aboard and started the death toll of hundreds in the tower.
It took seconds for New York police and fire departments to respond. They respond to the emergency at the World Trade Center directly while the Port Authority Police Department handle evacuation efforts in the North Tower.
Andrew Card, the White House Chief of Staff, notifies President George W. Bush of the situation. At the time, the president is out of office, visiting an elementary school in Sarasota, Florida.
At this point, Port Authority orders the South Tower to evacuate as well through the public address system. It is estimated that between 10,000 and 14,000 people have evacuated at this point.
Unfortunately, evacuation efforts in the South Tower were called a little too late and Flight 175 crashes into the South Tower, taking out floors 75 through 85 and killing hundreds inside. Those passengers on the plane didn’t survive the impact.
All flights in New York are canceled by the FAA. No flights are to take off or enter the city’s airspace.
Attempting to further quarantine the growing situation, Port Authority closes all bridges and tunnels leading into the city.
Passengers aboard Flight 77 get the chance to alert family members of the hijacking of their flight. In turn, the FAA notifies NEADS of the risk of another hijacked plane.
President Bush speaks from Florida on the ongoing crisis. It is in this speech that the words “terrorist attack” are used by officials for the first time.
Flight 77 crashes into the western facade of the Pentagon, located in Washington D.C., bringing the attacks outside of New York. 59 passengers and 125 military personnel and civilians inside the Pentagon die due to the attack.
The FAA, for the first time in history, grounds, and redirects all flights that are meant to go over or into the continental United States. Most of these are redirected to Canada or the non-continental United States.
Almost all high profile landmarks, White House, and U.S. Capitol Buildings are evacuated in wake of rumors and fears of further attacks.
After the attack earlier, the South Tower finally collapses, creating further damage and destruction in the chaos.
Flight 93 is now known to be hijacked thanks to the passengers aboard the flight. These valiant passengers try to take the flight back but the hijackers respond by crashing the plane into a Pennsylvania field. This saves the United States from another attack at the cost of these brave passengers’ and crews’ lives.
After 102 long minutes of struggle, the North Tower collapses from the blow of the plane.
Current Mayor Rudolph Giuliani evacuates Lower Manhattan, south of Canal Street. This evacuation includes over a million residents.
It is announced that President Bush has put the United States military on high alert. This word comes from an Air Force Base in Louisiana.
At nearly 3 that afternoon, the U.S. Navy dispatches missile destroyers. These protective weapons are directed to Washington D.C. and New York.
The Seven World Trade Center has been evacuated and burning for hours. Now, it collapses under the stress.
President Bush is finally able to return to the White House.
The president addresses the world with a speech we all now easily recognize. That these were attacks were “despicable acts of terror”. In addition, he notes that America would join with its allies and “win the war against terrorism.”
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