September 11 attacks
A montage of eight images depicting, from top to bottom, the World Trade Center towers burning, the collapsed section of the pentagon, the impact explosion in the south tower, a rescue worker standing in front of rubble of the collapsed towers, an excavator unearthing a smashed jet engine, three frames of video depicting airplane impacting the Pentagon.
From top to bottom: the World Trade Center burning; the Pentagon collapses; Flight 175 crashes into 2 WTC; a fireman requests help at Ground Zero; an engine from Flight 93 is recovered; Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon.
Date Tuesday, September 11, 2001
Location New York City; Arlington County, Virginia; and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Type Aircraft hijacking, mass murder, suicide attack, terrorism
Deaths Approximately 3,000 (including 19 hijackers)
Non-fatal injuries More than 6,000

The September 11 attacks (often referred to as September 11, September 11th or 9/11,[nb 1] in combination with the attacks' side effects on that day) were a series of four coordinated suicide attacks by al-Qaeda upon the United States on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. On that morning, 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial passenger jet airliners.[1][2] 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 thousands of those working in the buildings. Both towers collapsed within two hours, destroying nearby buildings and damaging others. A third airliner was crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. Hijackers had redirected the fourth plane toward Washington, D.C., targeting either the Capitol Building or the White House, but crashed it in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers attempted to retake control of the airliner. There were no survivors from any of the flights.

Nearly 3,000 victims and the 19 hijackers died in the attacks.[3] Among the 2,753 victims who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center were 343 firefighters and 60 police officers from New York City and the Port Authority, and 8 private emergency medical technicians and paramedics.[4] Another 184 people were killed in the attack on the Pentagon.[5] The overwhelming majority of casualties were civilians, including nationals of over 70 countries.[6]

Suspicion quickly fell on al-Qaeda. Its leader Osama bin Laden initially denied involvement, but in 2004 he finally claimed responsibility for the attacks.[7] Al-Qaeda and bin Laden cited U.S. support of Israel, the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, and sanctions against Iraq as motives for the attacks. The United States responded to the attacks by launching the War on Terror, invading Afghanistan to depose the Taliban, who had harbored al-Qaeda members. It was not until May 2011 that bin Laden was found and killed. Many other countries also strengthened their anti-terrorism legislation and expanded law enforcement powers. Some American stock exchanges stayed closed for the rest of the week following the attack and posted enormous losses on reopening, especially in the airline and insurance industries. The destruction of billions of dollars' worth of office space caused serious damage to the economy of Lower Manhattan.[8]

The damage to the Pentagon was cleared and repaired within a year, and the Pentagon Memorial was built adjacent to the building. The rebuilding of the World Trade Center site began in 2002 and remains ongoing. Ground was broken for the Flight 93 National Memorial on November 8, 2009,[9] and the memorial is to be formally dedicated on September 10, 2011.[10]


flame erupts from south tower seen from some distance away

United Airlines Flight 175 crashes into the south tower.

Security camera footage of Flight 77 hitting the Pentagon.[11] The plane hits the Pentagon at approximately 86 seconds after the beginning of this recording.

Early on the morning of September 11, 2001, 19 hijackers took control of four commercial airliners en route to San Francisco and Los Angeles from Boston, Newark, and Washington, D.C.[12] Planes with long flights were intentionally selected for hijacking because they would be heavily fueled.[13] At 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center's North Tower. United Airlines Flight 175 hit the South Tower at 9:03 a.m.[14][15]

Another group of hijackers flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m.[16] A fourth flight, United Airlines Flight 93, crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m. local time after the passengers on board engaged in a fight with the hijackers. Its ultimate target is believed to have been either the Capitol or the White House.[13]

Flight 93's cockpit voice recorder revealed 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.[17] Once it became evident the hijackers would lose control of the plane to the passengers, one hijacker ordered another to roll the plane.[18] Soon afterward, Flight 93 crashed into a field near Shanksville.

Some passengers were able to make phone calls using the cabin airphone service and mobile phones,[19][20][21] and provide details: the presence of several hijackers aboard each plane; that mace, tear gas, or pepper spray was used; that some people aboard had been stabbed.[22][23][24][25] Reports indicated hijackers stabbed and killed pilots, flight attendants, and one or more passengers.[26][27] The 9/11 Commission found the hijackers had recently purchased multi-function hand tools[28] and assorted knives and blades.[29] A flight attendant on Flight 11, a passenger on Flight 175, and passengers on Flight 93 said the hijackers had bombs, but one of the passengers also said he thought the bombs were fake. The FBI found no traces of explosives at the crash sites, and the 9/11 Commission concluded the bombs were probably fake.[26]

Three buildings in the World Trade Center Complex collapsed due to structural failure.[30] The south tower (2 WTC) fell at 9:59 a.m. after burning for 56 minutes in a fire caused by the impact of United Airlines Flight 175.[30] The north tower (1 WTC) collapsed at 10:28 a.m. after burning for 102 minutes.[30] When the north tower collapsed, debris fell on the nearby 7 World Trade Center building (7 WTC) damaging it and starting fires. These fires burned for hours and compromised the building's structural integrity. 7 WTC collapsed at 5:21 p.m.[31][32]

All aircraft within the continental U.S. were grounded, and aircraft already in flight were told to land immediately. All international civilian aircraft were either turned back or redirected to airports in Canada or Mexico, and all international flights were banned from landing on U.S. soil for three days.[33] The attacks created widespread confusion among news organizations and air traffic controllers. Among the unconfirmed and often contradictory news reports aired throughout the day, one of the most prevalent said a car bomb had been detonated at the U.S. State Department's headquarters in Washington, D.C.[34] Another jet—Flight 1989—was suspected of having been hijacked, but this too turned out to be false after it responded to controllers and landed safely in Cleveland, Ohio.[35]

In a September 2002 interview, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who are believed to have organized the attacks, said the fourth hijacked plane was heading for the United States Capitol,[36] not for the White House. Atta thought the White House might be too tough a target and sought an assessment from fellow pilot Hani Hanjour.[37] They also said al-Qaeda initially planned to target nuclear installations rather than the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but decided against it, fearing it could "get out of control".[38] Final decisions on targeting, according to Mohammed, were left in the hands of the pilots.[37]


Deaths (excluding hijackers)
New York City World Trade Center 2,606[39][40]
American 11 87[41]
United 175 60[42]
Arlington Pentagon 125[43]
American 77 59[44]
Shanksville United 93 40[45]
Total 2,977

There were a total of 2,996 deaths, including the 19 hijackers and 2,977 victims.[46] The victims were distributed as follows: 246 on the four planes (from which there were no survivors), 2,606 in New York City in the towers and on the ground, and 125 at the Pentagon.[39][47] All the deaths in the attacks were civilians except for 55 military personnel killed at the Pentagon.[48]

Over 90% of the workers and visitors who died in the towers had been at or above the points of impact.[49] In the North Tower 1,355 people at or above the point of impact were trapped and died of smoke inhalation, fell or jumped from the tower to escape the smoke and flames, or were killed in the building's eventual collapse.[49] A further 107 people below the point of impact did not survive.[49] In the South Tower, one stairwell remained intact allowing 18 people to escape from above the point of impact.[50] 630 people died in the South Tower,[49] fewer than half of the number killed in the North Tower. Casualties in the South Tower were significantly reduced by the decision of some occupants to start evacuating when the North Tower was struck.[50]

A total of 411 emergency workers who responded to the scene died as they tried to rescue people and fight fires. The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) lost 341 firefighters and 2 paramedics.[51] The New York City Police Department lost 23 officers.[52] The Port Authority Police Department lost 37 officers.[53] Eight emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics from private emergency medical services units were killed.[54][55]

At least 200 people fell or 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.[56] Some occupants of each tower above the 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 the thick smoke and intense heat would have prevented helicopters from approaching.[57]

Aerial view looking north toward collapsed WTC7 and part of WTC1 and WTC2 nearby

The remains of 6 World Trade Center, 7 World Trade Center, and 1 World Trade Center, days after the attacks

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.[58] Marsh Inc., located immediately below Cantor Fitzgerald on floors 93–100, lost 355 employees, and 175 employees of Aon Corporation were killed.[59] NIST estimated that about 17,400 civilians were in the World Trade Center complex at the time of the attacks, while turnstile counts from the Port Authority suggest 14,154 people were typically in the Twin Towers by 8:45 a.m.[60][61] The vast majority of people below the impact zone safely evacuated the buildings, along with 18 people who were in the impact zone in the south tower and a number above the impact zone who used the one intact stairwell in the south tower.[62]

After New York, New Jersey was the hardest-hit state, with the city of Hoboken sustaining the most deaths.[63] More than 70 countries lost citizens in the attacks on the World Trade Center.[6] Two people were later added to the official death toll after dying from health conditions linked to exposure to dust from the collapse of the World Trade Center.[64][65]

Weeks after the attack, the death toll was estimated to be over 6,000,[66] more than twice the number of deaths confirmed later. The city was only able to identify remains for about 1,600 of the World Trade Center victims. The medical examiner's office collected "about 10,000 unidentified bone and tissue fragments that cannot be matched to the list of the dead".[67] Bone fragments were still being found in 2006 as workers were preparing to demolish the damaged Deutsche Bank Building. In 2010, a team of anthropologists and archaeologists searched for human remains and personal items at the Fresh Kills Landfill, where seventy-two more human remains were recovered, bringing the total found to 1,845. DNA profiling continues in an attempt to identify additional victims.[68] As of May 2011, 1,630 victims have been identified, while 1,123 (41%) of the victims remained unidentified.[69] The remains are being held in storage in Memorial Park, outside the New York City Medical Examiner’s facilities. It is expected that the remains will be moved in 2013 to a repository behind a wall at the 9/11 museum. A medical examiner, who will have a workspace at the site, will continue to try to identify remains, in the hope improved technology will allow them to identify other victims.[69]


Looking down on ground zero area toward the east with smoke rising from the collapsed buildings

Aerial view from the west of Ground Zero on Sept. 17 2001

Along with the 110-floor Twin Towers, numerous other buildings at the World Trade Center site were destroyed or badly damaged, including WTC buildings 3 though 7 and St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church.[70] The North Tower (1 WTC), South Tower (2 WTC), the Marriott Hotel (3 WTC) and 7 WTC were completely destroyed. The U.S. Customs House (6 World Trade Center), 4 World Trade Center, 5 World Trade Center, and both pedestrian bridges were severely damaged. The Deutsche Bank building on 130 Liberty Street was partially damaged and demolished later.[8][71] The two buildings of the World Financial Center also suffered damage.[8]

The Deutsche Bank Building across Liberty Street from the World Trade Center complex was later condemned as uninhabitable because of toxic conditions inside the office tower, and was deconstructed.[72][73] The Borough of Manhattan Community College's Fiterman Hall at 30 West Broadway was condemned due to extensive damage in the attacks, and is being rebuilt.[74]

Other neighboring buildings including 90 West Street and the Verizon Building suffered major damage but have been restored.[75] World Financial Center buildings, One Liberty Plaza, the Millenium Hilton, and 90 Church Street had moderate damage[76] and have since been restored. Communications equipment on top of the North Tower was also destroyed, but media stations were quickly able to reroute signals and resume broadcasts.[70][77]

Aerial view showing damaged, burned, and collapsed portion of the Pentagon with firefighting and rescue equipment nearby

The Pentagon damaged by fire and partly collapsed

The Pentagon, in Arlington County, Virginia, was severely damaged by the impact of American Airlines Flight 77 and ensuing fires, causing one section of the building to collapse.[78] As it approached the Pentagon, the airplane's wings knocked over light poles and its right engine smashed into a power generator,[79] before crashing into the western side of the Pentagon, killing all 53 passengers, 5 hijackers, and 6 crew.[80] The plane hit the Pentagon at the first-floor level.[81] The front part of the fuselage disintegrated on impact. The mid and tail sections kept moving for another fraction of a second. Debris from the tail section penetrated furthest into the building, breaking through 310 feet (94 m) of the three outermost rings.[81][82]

Rescue and recovery[]

An injured victim is being loaded into a paramedic van with the burning Pentagon in the background

An injured victim of the Pentagon attack is evacuated

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.[83][84][85] The New York Police Department (NYPD) sent Emergency Service Units and other police personnel, along with deploying its aviation unit.[86] Once on the scene, the FDNY, NYPD, and Port Authority police did not coordinate efforts,[83] and ended up performing redundant searches for civilians.[87]

As conditions deteriorated, the NYPD aviation unit relayed information to police commanders, who issued orders for its personnel to evacuate the towers; most NYPD officers were able to safely evacuate before the buildings collapsed.[86][87] With separate command posts set up and incompatible radio communications between the agencies, warnings were not passed along to FDNY commanders.

After the first tower collapsed, FDNY commanders issued evacuation warnings; however, due to technical difficulties with malfunctioning radio repeater systems, many firefighters never heard the evacuation orders. 9-1-1 dispatchers also received information from callers that was not passed along to commanders on the scene.[84] Within hours of the attack, a substantial search and rescue operation was launched. After months of around-the-clock operations the World Trade Center site was cleared by the end of May 2002.[88]

Attackers and their background[]


The origins of al-Qaeda can be traced to 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Soon after, Osama bin Laden traveled to Afghanistan and helped organize Arab mujahideen to resist the Soviets.[89] Under the guidance of Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden became more radical.[90] In 1996 bin Laden issued his first fatwā, calling for American soldiers to leave Saudi Arabia.[91]

In a second fatwā in 1998, bin Laden outlined his objections to American foreign policy with respect to Israel, as well as the continued presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War.[92] Bin Laden used Islamic texts to exhort Muslims to violent action against American military and citizenry until the stated grievances are reversed, noting "ulema have throughout Islamic history unanimously agreed that the jihad is an individual duty if the enemy destroys the Muslim countries."[92]

Osama bin Laden[]

Bin Laden, who orchestrated the attacks,[93] initially denied but later admitted involvement.[7][94] Al Jazeera broadcast a statement by bin Laden on September 16, 2001, stating "I stress that I have not carried out this act, which appears to have been carried out by individuals with their own motivation."[95] In November 2001, U.S. forces recovered a videotape from a destroyed house in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in which bin Laden is seen talking to Khaled al-Harbi and admits foreknowledge of the attacks.[96] On December 27, 2001, a second bin Laden video was released. In the video, he states, "Terrorism against America deserves to be praised because it was a response to injustice, aimed at forcing America to stop its support for Israel, which kills our people", but he stopped short of admitting responsibility for the attacks.[97]

Shortly before the U.S. presidential election in 2004, in a taped statement, bin Laden publicly acknowledged al-Qaeda's involvement in the attacks on the U.S. and admitted his direct link to the attacks. He said that the attacks were carried out because "we are free... and want to regain freedom for our nation. As you undermine our security we undermine yours."[98] Bin Laden said he had personally directed his followers to attack the World Trade Center.[94][99] Another video obtained by Al Jazeera in September 2006 shows bin Laden with Ramzi bin al-Shibh, as well as two hijackers, Hamza al-Ghamdi and Wail al-Shehri, as they make preparations for the attacks.[100]

The U.S. never formally indicted bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks,[101] and on May 1, 2011, he was killed by American forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan.[102][103]

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed[]

An unkempt and disoriented man in a white t-shirt sitting on the floor with his hands tied

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed after his capture in Pakistan

The journalist Yosri Fouda of the Arabic television channel Al Jazeera reported that in April 2002, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed admitted his involvement, along with Ramzi bin al-Shibh.[104][105][106] The 9/11 Commission Report determined that the animosity towards the United States felt by Mohammed, the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks, stemmed from his "violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel".[107]

Mohammed was also an adviser and financier of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and is the uncle of Ramzi Yousef, the lead bomber in that attack.[108][109]

Mohammed was arrested on March 1, 2003 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan by Pakistani security officials working with the CIA, and is currently being held at Guantanamo Bay.[110] During U.S. hearings in March 2007 Mohammed again confessed his responsibility for the attacks, saying "I was responsible for the 9/11 operation, from A to Z."[106][111] Mohammed confessed after waterboarding.[112]


Osama bin Laden's declaration of a holy war against the United States, and a fatwā signed by bin Laden and others calling for the killing of American civilians in 1998, are seen by investigators as evidence of his motivation to commit such acts.[113]

In various pronouncements before and after the attacks,[114][115] al Qaeda explicitly cited three motives: the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia,[115][116][117] U.S. support of Israel,[118] and sanctions against Iraq.[119] After the attacks, bin Laden and al-Zawahiri released additional video tapes and audio tapes, some of which repeated those reasons for the attacks. Two particularly important publications were bin Laden's 2002 "Letter to America",[120] and a 2004 video tape by bin Laden.

Bin Laden interpreted the Prophet Muhammad as banning the "permanent presence of infidels in Arabia".[121] In 1996, bin Laden issued a fatwā calling for American troops to get out of Saudi Arabia. In 1998, Al-Qaeda wrote "for over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples."[122] In a December 1999 interview bin Laden said he felt that Americans were "too near to Mecca" and considered this a provocation to the entire Muslim world.[123]

In his November 2002 "Letter to America", bin Laden cited the United States' support of Israel as a motivation: "The creation and continuation of Israel is one of the greatest crimes, and you are the leaders of its criminals. And of course there is no need to explain and prove the degree of American support for Israel. The creation of Israel is a crime which must be erased. Each and every person whose hands have become polluted in the contribution towards this crime must pay its price, and pay for it heavily."[124] In 2004 and 2010, bin Laden again connected the September 11 attacks with U.S. support of Israel.[125][126][127] Bin Laden claimed in 2004 that the idea of destroying the towers had first occurred to him in 1982, when he witnessed Israel's bombardment of high-rise apartment buildings during the invasion of Lebanon.[128][129] Several analysts, including Mearsheimer and Walt, also say one motivation for the attacks was U.S. support of Israel.[123][130]

In the 1998 fatwā, al-Qaeda identified the Iraq sanctions as a reason to kill Americans, condemning the "protracted blockade"[122] among other actions constituting a declaration of war against "Allah, his messenger, and Muslims."[122] The fatwā declared it the individual duty of every able Muslim to kill Americans, both civilian and military.

In addition to those cited by bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, analysts have suggested other motives, including humiliation resulting from the Islamic world falling behind the Western world – this discrepancy made especially visible by recent globalisation,[131][132] and a desire to provoke the U.S. into a broader war against the Islamic world, in the hope of motivating more allies to support al-Qaeda.[133]

Planning of the attacks[]

ground zero and surrounding area as seen from directly above depicting where the two planes impacted the towers

Map showing the attacks on the World Trade Center (the planes are not drawn to scale)

The idea for the attacks came from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who first presented it to Osama bin Laden in 1996.[134] At that point, bin Laden and al-Qaeda were in a period of transition, having just relocated back to Afghanistan from Sudan.[135] The 1998 African Embassy bombings and bin Laden's 1998 fatwā marked a turning point, with bin Laden intent on attacking the United States.[135] In December 1998, the Director of Central Intelligence Counterterrorist Center reported to President Bill Clinton that al-Qaeda was preparing for attacks in the USA, including the training of personnel to hijack aircraft.[136]

In late 1998 or early 1999, bin Laden gave approval for Mohammed to go forward with organizing the plot. A series of meetings occurred in early 1999, involving Mohammed, bin Laden, and his deputy Mohammed Atef.[135] Atef provided operational support for the plot, including target selections and helping arrange travel for the hijackers.[135] Bin Laden overruled Mohammed, rejecting some potential targets such as the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles[137] because "there was not enough time to prepare for such an operation".[138]

Bin Laden provided leadership for the plot, along with financial support, and was involved in selecting participants for the plot.[139] Bin Laden initially selected Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, both experienced jihadists who fought in Bosnia. Hazmi and Mihdhar arrived in the United States in mid-January 2000. In spring 2000, Hazmi and Mihdhar took flying lessons in San Diego, California, but both spoke little English, did not do well with flying lessons, and eventually served as secondary – or "muscle" – hijackers.[140][141]

In late 1999, a group of men from Hamburg, Germany arrived in Afghanistan, including Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, Ziad Jarrah, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh.[142] Bin Laden selected these men, as they were educated, could speak English, and had experience living in the west.[143] New recruits were routinely screened for special skills, which allowed al-Qaeda leaders to also identify Hani Hanjour, who already had a commercial pilot's license.[144]

Hanjour arrived in San Diego on December 8, 2000, joining Hazmi.[145] They soon left for Arizona, where Hanjour took refresher training. Marwan al-Shehhi arrived at the end of May 2000, while Atta arrived on June 3, 2000, and Jarrah arrived on June 27, 2000. Bin al-Shibh applied several times for a visa to the United States, but as a Yemeni, he was rejected out of concerns he would overstay his visa and remain as an illegal immigrant. Bin al-Shibh stayed in Hamburg, providing coordination between Atta and Mohammed. The three Hamburg cell members all took pilot training in south Florida.

In spring 2001, the secondary hijackers began arriving in the United States.[146] In July 2001, Atta met with bin al-Shibh in Spain, where they coordinated details of the plot, including final target selection. Bin al-Shibh also passed along bin Laden's wish for the attacks to be carried out as soon as possible.[147]

Other al-Qaeda members[]

In "Substitution for Testimony of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed" from the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, five people are identified as having been completely aware of the operation's details. They are bin Laden, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh,Abu Turab al-Urduni and Mohammed Atef.[148] To date, only peripheral figures have been tried or convicted for the attacks.

On September 26, 2005, the Spanish high court directed by judge Baltasar Garzón sentenced Abu Dahdah to 27 years of imprisonment for conspiracy on the 9/11 attacks and being a member of the terrorist organization al-Qaeda. At the same time, another 17 al-Qaeda members were sentenced to penalties of between six and eleven years.[149][150] On February 16, 2006, the Spanish Supreme Court reduced the Abu Dahdah penalty to 12 years because it considered that his participation in the conspiracy was not proven.[151]

Also in 2006, Moussaoui, who some originally suspected might have been the assigned 20th hijacker, was convicted for the lesser role of conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism and air piracy. He is serving a life sentence without parole.[152][153] Mounir el-Motassadeq, an associate of the Hamburg-based hijackers, is serving a fifteen-year term for his role in helping the hijackers prepare for the attacks.[154]


Immediate response[]

President Bush sits at a table talking on a phone surrounded by advisors

U.S. President George W. Bush is briefed on the World Trade Center attack

The 9/11 attacks had immediate and overwhelming effects upon the American people.[155] Police and rescue workers from around the country took leaves of absence, traveling to New York City to help recover bodies from the twisted remnants of the Twin Towers.[156] Blood donations across the U.S. surged in the weeks after 9/11.[157][158]

Over 3000 children lost a parent.[159] Children's reactions to these actual losses and also to feared losses of life, and the protective environment in the aftermath of the attacks are well documented, as are effects on surviving caregivers.[160][161][162]

For the first time in history SCATANA was invoked, establishing an ATC Zero condition, closing all airspace and immediately grounding all non-emergency civilian aircraft in the United States, Canada, and several other countries,[163] and so stranding tens of thousands of passengers across the world.[164] The Federal Aviation Administration closed American airspace to all international flights, causing about five hundred flights to be turned back or redirected to other countries. Canada received 226 of the diverted flights and launched Operation Yellow Ribbon to deal with the large numbers of grounded planes and stranded passengers.[165]

Military operations following the attacks[]

A line of soldiers carrying equipment on their backs walking toward a transport helicopter in desert terrain

U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan

At 2:40 p.m. in the afternoon of September 11, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was issuing rapid orders to his aides to look for evidence of Iraqi involvement, according to notes taken by senior policy official Stephen Cambone. "Best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H." – meaning Saddam Hussein – "at same time. Not only UBL" (Osama bin Laden), Cambone's notes quoted Rumsfeld as saying. "Need to move swiftly – Near term target needs – go massive – sweep it all up. Things related and not."[166][167]

The NATO council declared the attacks on the United States were an attack on all NATO nations and, as such, satisfied Article 5 of the NATO charter. This marked the first invocation of Article 5, which had been written during the Cold War with an attack by the Soviet Union in mind.[168] Australian Prime Minister John Howard invoked Article IV of the ANZUS treaty. The Bush administration announced a War on Terror, with the stated goals of bringing bin Laden and al-Qaeda to justice and preventing the emergence of other terrorist networks. These goals would be accomplished by means including economic and military sanctions against states perceived as harboring terrorists, and increasing global surveillance and intelligence sharing.

On October 7, 2001, the War in Afghanistan began when U.S and British forces initiated aerial bombing campaigns in Afghanistan targeting Taliban and Al-Qaeda camps, then later invaded Afghanistan with ground troops of the Special Forces. The overthrow of the Taliban rule of Afghanistan by a U.S.-led coalition was the second-biggest operation of the U.S. Global War on Terrorism outside of the United States, and the largest directly connected to terrorism. The Philippines and Indonesia, among other nations with their own internal conflicts with Islamic terrorism, also increased their military readiness.[169][170]

Domestic response[]

President Bush delivering a speech in front of the American flag

President Bush addresses a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001

Following the attacks, President Bush's approval rating soared to 90%.[171] On September 20, 2001, the U.S. president spoke before the nation and a joint session of the United States Congress, regarding the events of that day, the intervening nine days of rescue and recovery efforts, and his intent in response to those events. In addition, the highly visible role played by New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani won him high praise nationally and in New York.[172]

Many relief funds were immediately set up to assist victims of the attacks, with the task of providing financial assistance to the survivors of the attacks and to the families of victims, such as the Coalition of 9/11 Families. By the deadline for victim's compensation, September 11, 2003, 2,833 applications had been received from the families of those who were killed.[173]

Contingency plans for the continuity of government and the evacuation of leaders were also implemented almost immediately after the attacks.[164] Congress, however, was not told that the United States was under a continuity of government status until February 2002.[174]

The United States enacted the Homeland Security Act of 2002, creating the Department of Homeland Security, representing the largest restructuring of the U.S. government in contemporary history. Congress also passed the USA PATRIOT Act, stating that it would help detect and prosecute terrorism and other crimes.[175]

Civil liberties groups have criticized the PATRIOT Act, saying that it allows law enforcement to invade the privacy of citizens and eliminates judicial oversight of law-enforcement and domestic intelligence gathering.[176][177][178] The Bush Administration also invoked 9/11 as the reason to initiate a secret National Security Agency operation, "to eavesdrop on telephone and e-mail communications between the United States and people overseas without a warrant".[179]

Hate crimes[]

Numerous incidents of harassment and hate crimes against Muslims and southeast Asians were reported in the days following the 9/11 attacks.[180] Sikhs were also targeted because Sikh males usually wear turbans, which are stereotypically associated with Muslims. There were reports of verbal abuse, attacks on mosques and other religious buildings (including the firebombing of a Hindu temple), and assaults on people, including one murder: Balbir Singh Sodhi was fatally shot on September 15, 2001 in Mesa, Arizona. He, like others, was a Sikh who was mistaken for a Muslim.[180]

According to a study by Ball State University, people perceived to be Middle Eastern were as likely to be victims of hate crimes as followers of Islam during this time. The study also found a similar increase in hate crimes against people who may have been perceived as Muslims, Arabs and others thought to be of Middle Eastern origin.[181] A report by the South Asian American advocacy group South Asian Americans Leading Together documented media coverage of 645 bias incidents against Americans of South Asian or Middle Eastern descent between September 11 and September 17, including vandalism, arson, assault, shootings, harassment, and threats in numerous places.[182][183]

Muslim American reaction[]

Muslim organizations in the United States were swift to condemn the attacks and called "upon Muslim Americans to come forward with their skills and resources to help alleviate the sufferings of the affected people and their families".[184] These organizations included the Islamic Society of North America, American Muslim Alliance, American Muslim Council, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Islamic Circle of North America, and the Shari'a Scholars Association of North America. Along with monetary donations, many Islamic organizations launched blood drives and provided medical assistance, food, and shelter for victims.[185][186][187]

International response[]

As in the United States, the aftermath of the attacks saw tensions increase in other countries between Muslims and non-Muslims.[188]

The attacks were denounced by mass media and governments worldwide. Across the globe, nations offered pro-American support and solidarity.[189] Leaders in most Middle Eastern countries, and Afghanistan, condemned the attacks. Iraq was a notable exception, with an immediate official statement that "the American cowboys are reaping the fruit of their crimes against humanity".[190] While the government of Saudi Arabia officially condemned the attacks, privately many Saudis favored bin Laden's cause.[191][192]

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1368 condemned the attacks, and expressed readiness to take all necessary steps to respond and to combat all forms of terrorism in accordance with their Charter.[12] Numerous countries introduced anti-terrorism legislation and froze bank accounts they suspected of al-Qaeda ties.[193][194] Law enforcement and intelligence agencies in a number of countries arrested a number of alleged terrorists.[195][196]

Tens of thousands of people attempted to flee Afghanistan following the attacks, fearing a response by the United States. Pakistan, already home to many refugees from previous conflicts, closed its border with Afghanistan on September 17. Approximately one month after the attacks, the United States led a broad coalition of international forces to remove the Taliban regime for harboring al-Qaeda.[197] Pakistani authorities reluctantly[198] aligned themselves with the United States against the Taliban. Pakistan provided the United States a number of military bases for its attack, and arrested over 600 suspected al-Qaeda members, whom it handed over to the United States.[199]

The United States set up the detention center at Guantánamo Bay to hold inmates they defined as "illegal enemy combatants". The legitimacy of these detentions has been questioned.[200][201][202]

In a speech at Bar-Ilan University, Benyamin Netanyahu said: "We are benefiting from one thing, and that is the attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon, and the American struggle in Iraq," and that the attacks "swung American public opinion in our favor."[203][204]

Long-term effects[]

Economic aftermath[]

The attacks had a significant economic impact on United States and world markets.[205] The stock exchanges did not open on September 11 and remained closed until September 17. Reopening, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) fell 684 points, or 7.1%, to 8921, a record-setting one-day point decline.[206]

By the end of the week, the DJIA had fallen 1,369.7 points (14.3%), its then-largest one-week point drop in history, though surpassed during the global financial crisis of 2008–2009.[207] U.S. stocks lost $1.4 trillion in value for the week,[207] equivalent to $1.84 trillion in present day terms.[208]

In New York City, about 430,000 job-months and $2.8 billion in wages were lost in the three months after the attacks. The economic effects were mainly on the economy's export sectors.[209] The city's GDP was estimated to have declined by $27.3 billion for the last three months of 2001 and all of 2002. The U.S. government provided $11.2 billion in immediate assistance to the Government of New York City in September 2001, and $10.5 billion in early 2002 for economic development and infrastructure needs.[210]

Also hurt were small businesses in Lower Manhattan near the World Trade Center, 18,000 of which were destroyed or displaced. Assistance was provided by Small Business Administration loans, federal government Community Development Block Grants, and Economic Injury Disaster Loans.[210] Some 31,900,000 square feet (2,960,000 m2) of Lower Manhattan office space was damaged or destroyed.[211]

Many wondered whether these jobs would return, and the damaged tax base recover.[212] Studies of the economic effects of 9/11 show the Manhattan office real-estate market and office employment were less affected than first feared, because of the financial services industry's need for face-to-face interaction.[213][214]

North American air space was closed for several days after the attacks and air travel decreased upon its reopening, leading to a nearly 20% cutback in air travel capacity, and exacerbating financial problems in the struggling U.S. airline industry.[215]

Health effects[]

The very small silhouette of a firefighter with smoke in foreground and part of a collapsed building behind him

A solitary firefighter stands amid the rubble and smoke in New York City

The thousands of tons of toxic debris resulting from the collapse of the Twin Towers contained more than 2,500 contaminants, including known carcinogens.[216][217] This has led to debilitating illnesses among rescue and recovery workers, said to be linked to exposure.[218][219] The Bush administration ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue reassuring statements regarding air quality in the aftermath of the attacks, citing national security; however, the EPA did not determine that air quality had returned to pre-Sept. 11 levels until June 2002.[220]

Health effects have also extended to residents, students, and office workers of Lower Manhattan and nearby Chinatown.[221] Several deaths have been linked to the toxic dust, and the victims' names will be included in the World Trade Center memorial.[222] There is also scientific speculation that exposure to various toxic products in the air may have negative effects on fetal development. A notable children's environmental health center is currently analyzing the children whose mothers were pregnant during the WTC collapse, and were living or working nearby.[223] A study of rescue workers released in April 2010 found that all those studied had impaired lung functions, and that 30–40% were reporting little or no improvement in persistent symptoms that started within the first year of the attack.[224]

Legal disputes over the costs of illnesses related to the attacks are still in the court system. On October 17, 2006, a federal judge rejected New York City's refusal to pay for health costs for rescue workers, allowing for the possibility of numerous suits against the city.[225] Government officials have been faulted for urging the public to return to lower Manhattan in the weeks shortly after the attacks. Christine Todd Whitman, administrator of the EPA in the aftermath of the attacks, was heavily criticized by a U.S. District Judge for incorrectly saying that the area was environmentally safe.[226] Mayor Giuliani was criticized for urging financial industry personnel to return quickly to the greater Wall Street area.[227]

Some Americans, alarmed at the prospect of flying, instead traveled by car. This resulted in an estimated 1,595 "excess" highway deaths in the ensuing year.[228]

Government policies toward terrorism[]

As a result of the attacks, many governments across the world have passed legislation to combat terrorism.[229][230] In Germany, where several of the 9/11 terrorists had resided and taken advantage of that country's liberal asylum policies, two major anti-terrorism packages where enacted. The first removed legal loopholes that permitted terrorists to live and raise money in Germany. The second addressed the effectiveness and communication of intelligence and law enforcement. Canada passed the Canadian Anti-Terrorism Act, that nation's first anti-terrorism law.[231] Great Britain passed the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 and the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005.[232] New Zealand enacted the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.[230]

In the United States, the Department of Homeland Security was created to coordinate domestic anti-terrorism efforts. The USA Patriot Act gave the federal government greater powers, including the authority to detain foreign terror suspects for a week without charge, to monitor telephone communications, e-mail, and Internet use by terror suspects, and to prosecute suspected terrorists without time restrictions. Critics contend the Act violates people's civil rights. The Federal Aviation Administration ordered that airplane cockpits be reinforced to prevent terrorists gaining control of planes, and assigned sky marshals to flights. Further, the Aviation and Transportation Security Act made the federal government, rather than airports, responsible for airport security. The law created a federal security force to inspect passengers and luggage, causing long delays and concern over passenger privacy.[233]


FBI investigation[]

A head shot of an Egyptian man in his thirties looking expressionless toward the camera

Mohamed Atta, an Egyptian national, was the ringleader of the 19 September 11, hijackers

Immediately after the attacks, the Federal Bureau of Investigation started PENTTBOM, the largest criminal inquiry in the history of the United States. At its height, more than half of the FBI's agents worked on the investigation and followed a half-million leads.[234] The FBI concluded that there was "clear and irrefutable" evidence linking al-Qaeda and bin Laden to the attacks.[235] The FBI was able to quickly identify the hijackers, including leader Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz al-Omari, when luggage was discovered at Boston's Logan Airport. Due to a mix-up, the luggage failed to make it aboard American Airlines Flight 11 as planned. The luggage contained the hijackers' names, assignments and al-Qaeda connections. "It had all these Arab-language papers that amounted to the Rosetta stone of the investigation" according to an FBI agent.[236]

Within hours of the attacks, the FBI released the names and in many cases the personal details of the suspected pilots and hijackers.[237][238] By midday, the National Security Agency had intercepted communications pointing to Osama bin Laden, as had German intelligence agencies.[239][240]

On September 27, 2001, the FBI released photos of the 19 hijackers, along with information about possible nationalities and aliases.[241] Fifteen of the men were from Saudi Arabia, two from the United Arab Emirates, one from Egypt (Atta), and one from Lebanon.[242]

9/11 Commission[]

The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission), chaired by former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean,[243] was formed in late 2002 to prepare a thorough account of the circumstances surrounding the attacks, including preparedness for, and the immediate response to, the attacks. On July 22, 2004, the 9/11 Commission issued the 9/11 Commission Report.

Collapse of the World Trade Center[]

Seen from ground level, a heavily damaged and partially collapsed seven story building is surrounded by debris

6 WTC: one of the partially collapsed World Trade Center buildings

A federal technical building and fire safety investigation of the collapses of the Twin Towers and 7 WTC has been conducted by the United States Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The goals of this investigation were to determine why the buildings collapsed, the extent of injuries and fatalities, and the procedures involved in designing and managing the World Trade Center.[244] The investigation into the collapse of 1 WTC and 2 WTC was concluded in October 2005, and the investigation into the collapse of 7 WTC concluded in August 2008.[245][246]

The NIST concluded that the fireproofing on the Twin Towers' steel infrastructures was blown off by the initial impact of the planes and that, had this not occurred, the towers would likely have remained standing.[247] A study published by researchers of Purdue University confirmed that, if the thermal insulation on the core columns were scoured off and column temperatures were elevated to approximately 700 °C (1,292 °F), the fire would have been sufficient to initiate collapse.[248][249]

W. Gene Corley, the director of the original investigation, commented that, "the towers really did amazingly well. The terrorist aircraft didn’t bring the buildings down; it was the fire which followed. It was proven that you could take out two thirds of the columns in a tower and the building would still stand."[250] The fires weakened the trusses supporting the floors, making the floors sag. The sagging floors pulled on the exterior steel columns to the point where exterior columns bowed inward. With the damage to the core columns, the buckling exterior columns could no longer support the buildings, causing them to collapse. In addition, the report asserts that the towers' stairwells were not adequately reinforced to provide emergency escape for people above the impact zones.[251] NIST concluded that uncontrolled fires in 7 WTC caused floor beams and girders to heat and subsequently "caused a critical support column to fail, initiating a fire-induced progressive collapse that brought the building down".[246]

Internal review of the CIA[]

Image of a typewritten document with a few entries blacked out with a marker

Excerpts from the CIA President's Daily Brief, dated August 6, 2001, that mentions uncorroborated reporting from a foreign intelligence service suggesting that Bin Laden may want to hijack an airplane to secure the release of Islamic extremist prisoners.

The Inspector General of the CIA conducted an internal review of the CIA's pre-9/11 performance and was harshly critical of senior CIA officials for not doing everything possible to confront terrorism. He criticized their failure to stop two of the 9/11 hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, as they entered the United States and their failure to share information on the two men with the FBI.[252]

In May 2007, senators from both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party drafted legislation that would openly present an internal CIA investigative report. One of the backers, Senator Ron Wyden stated "The American people have a right to know what the Central Intelligence Agency was doing in those critical months before 9/11." The report investigates the responsibilities of individual CIA personnel before and after the 9/11 attacks. The report was completed in 2005, but its details have never been released to the public.[253]


On the day of the attacks, New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani proclaimed, "We will rebuild. We're going to come out of this stronger than before, politically stronger, economically stronger. The skyline will be made whole again."[254] The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, tasked with coordinating rebuilding efforts at the World Trade Center site, was criticized for doing little with the enormous funding directed to the rebuilding efforts.[255][256]

Aside from construction of 7 World Trade Center, adjacent to the main site and completed in 2006, and the PATH station, which opened in late 2003, work on rebuilding on the main World Trade Center site was delayed until late 2006 when leaseholder Larry Silverstein and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey came to an agreement on the financing of the new buildings.[257] The 1 World Trade Center is currently under construction at the site and at 1,776 ft (541 m) upon completion in 2011, will become one of the tallest buildings in North America, behind only the CN Tower in Toronto.[258][259]

Three more towers were expected to be built between 2007 and 2012 on the site, and will be located one block east of where the original towers stood. After the late-2000s recession, the site's owners said that construction of new towers could be delayed until 2036.[260] The damaged section of the Pentagon was rebuilt and occupied within a year of the attacks.[261]


In the days immediately following the attacks, many memorials and vigils were held around the world.[262][263][264] In addition, people posted photographs of the dead and missing all around Ground Zero. A witness described being unable to "get away from faces of innocent victims who were killed. Their pictures are everywhere, on phone booths, street lights, walls of subway stations. Everything reminded me of a huge funeral, people quiet and sad, but also very nice. Before, New York gave me a cold feeling; now people were reaching out to help each other.”[265]

Looking across the Hudson river at night toward the lower Manhattan skyline, two motionless shafts of light point straight up into the sky from ground zero

The Tribute in Light viewed from Jersey City on the anniversary of the attacks in 2004

One of the first memorials was the Tribute in Light, an installation of 88 searchlights at the footprints of the World Trade Center towers which projected two vertical columns of light into the sky.[266] In New York, the World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition was held to design an appropriate memorial on the site.[267] The winning design, Reflecting Absence, was selected in August 2006, and consists of a pair of reflecting pools in the footprints of the towers, surrounded by a list of the victims' names in an underground memorial space.[268] Plans for a museum on the site have been put on hold, following the abandonment of the International Freedom Center in reaction to complaints from the families of many victims.[269]

The Pentagon Memorial was completed and opened to the public on the seventh anniversary of the attacks in 2008.[270][271] It consists of a landscaped park with 184 benches facing the Pentagon.[272] When the Pentagon was repaired in 2001–2002, a private chapel and indoor memorial were included, located at the spot where Flight 77 crashed into the building.[273]

In Shanksville, a permanent Flight 93 National Memorial is planned to include a sculpted grove of trees forming a circle around the crash site, bisected by the plane's path, while wind chimes will bear the names of the victims.[274] A temporary memorial is located 500 yards (457 m) from the crash site.[275] New York City firefighters donated a cross made of steel from the World Trade Center and mounted on top of a platform shaped like the Pentagon.[276] It was installed outside the firehouse on August 25, 2008.[277]

Many other permanent memorials are being constructed elsewhere, and scholarships and charities have been established by the victims' families, along with many other organizations and private figures.[278]

On every anniversary, in New York City, the names of the victims who died at that location are read out against a background of somber music. The President of the United States also attends a memorial service at the Pentagon.[279] Smaller services are held in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, which are usually attended by the President's spouse.

Final resting place for WTC victims[]

Following the attacks, the Fresh Kills Landfill was temporarily reopened to receive and process much of the debris from the destruction of the World Trade Center. The debris contained the remains of many of the victims; much of it in the form of dust and small fragments. In August 2005, 17 plaintiffs, claiming to have support from 1,000 other relatives, filed a case in court to have the City of New York move nearly one million tons of material to another location where it would be sifted and placed in a cemetery. The lawyer for the plaintiffs stated "It comes down to this: Are we prepared to leave hundreds of body parts and human remains on top of a garbage dump?" A lawyer representing the city argued "You have to be able to particularize and say it's your body part. All that's left here is a bunch of undifferentiated dust."[280][281]

On October 4, 2010, the United States Supreme Court rejected an appeal by some families of 9/11 victims to require a more thorough examination of material from the WTC site to check for human remains before disposal. They claimed that some of the material (223,000 tons out of approximately 1.65 million) had either not been screened or not screened adequately, and that a landfill was not a proper resting place for material that may still contain remains of victims. City officials said that they spent 10 months carefully examining the material for human remains before sending it to the landfill. Lower federal courts had already rejected the lawsuit by the families against the City of New York.[282]

See also[]

  • Families of September 11
  • Legal issues related to the September 11 attacks
  • Collapse of the World Trade Center
  • List of non-state terrorist incidents, 2001
  • Survivor registry
  • United 93 (film)


  1. ^ 9/11 is pronounced "nine eleven". The slash is not part of the pronunciation.


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  126. ^ Bin Laden's taped broadcast from January 2010, where he said "Our attacks against you [the United States] will continue as long as U.S. support for Israel continues.... The message sent to you with the attempt by the hero Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is a confirmation of our previous message conveyed by the heroes of Sept. 11". (Quoted from "Bin Laden: Attacks on U.S. to go on as long as it supports Israel", in, online here)
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    • Hoping that U.S. retaliation would unite the faithful against the West, bin Laden sought to spark revolutions in Arab nations and elsewhere. Doran argues the Osama bin Laden videos were attempting to provoke a visceral reaction in the Middle East and ensure that Muslim citizens would react as violently as possible to an increase in U.S. involvement in their region. Doran, Michael Scott (2005). Understanding the War on Terror. New York: Norton. pp. 72–75. ISBN 978-0-87609-347-4. 
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