September 11: Attack on America
At around 8:45 a.m. on a clear Tuesday morning, an American Airlines Boeing 767 loaded with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York. The impact left a gaping and burning hole near the 80th floor of the 110-story skyscraper, instantly killing hundreds and trapping hundreds more on the upper floors. As the evacuation of the tower and its twin began, TV cameras broadcast live footage of what initially appeared to be a freak accident. Then, 18 minutes after the first plane hit, a second Boeing 767 – United Airlines Flight 175 – appeared out of the sky, sharply turned towards the World Trade Center, and plunged into the south tower towards the 60th floor. . The collision caused a massive explosion that spread burning debris over the surrounding buildings and the streets below. America was under attack.
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The attackers were Islamic terrorists from Saudi Arabia and several other Arab countries. They would have been funded by the al-Qaeda terrorist organization of Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden, they would have acted in retaliation for American support for Israel, its involvement in the Persian Gulf War and its continued military presence in the Middle East. Some of the terrorists had lived in the United States for over a year and had taken flight lessons at American commercial flight schools. Others had slipped into the United States in the months leading up to 9/11 and acted as the “muscle” of the operation. The 19 terrorists easily smuggled box cutters and knives through the security of three East Coast airports and boarded four flights to California, chosen because the planes were loaded with fuel for the long transcontinental travel. Shortly after takeoff, terrorists requisitioned all four planes and took control, turning ordinary commuter jets into guided missiles.
As millions of people watched in horror as events unfolded in New York City, American Airlines Flight 77 flew over downtown Washington, DC and crashed into the west side of the Pentagon military headquarters at 9 a.m. 45. The jet fuel of the Boeing 757 caused a devastating blaze which led to the structural collapse of part of the giant concrete building. A total of 125 servicemen and civilians were killed in the Pentagon along with all 64 people aboard the airliner.
Less than 15 minutes after terrorists struck the US military’s nerve center, the horror in New York City took a catastrophic turn for the worse when the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed in a huge cloud of dust and smoke. The skyscraper’s structural steel, built to withstand winds of over 200 mph and a large conventional fire, could not withstand the enormous heat generated by the combustion of jet fuel. At 10:30 am, the other Trade Center tower collapsed. Nearly 3,000 people have died in and around the World Trade Center, including 343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 New York City police officers and 37 Harbor Authority police officers who were struggling to complete an evacuation of buildings and save office workers. trapped on the upper floors. Only six people in the World Trade Center towers when they collapsed survived. Nearly 10,000 other people have been treated for injuries, many of them serious.
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Meanwhile, a fourth plane to California – United Flight 93 – was hijacked about 40 minutes after leaving Newark International Airport in New Jersey. As the plane’s take-off was delayed, passengers on board were informed of events in New York and Washington via cellphones and Airfone calls on the ground. Knowing that the plane was not returning to an airport as the hijackers claimed, a group of passengers and flight attendants planned an insurgency. One of the passengers, Thomas Burnett, Jr., told his wife over the phone, “I know we’re all going to die. There are three of us doing something. Love you honey. “Another passenger – Todd Beamer – was heard saying,” Are you ready guys? Let’s ride “on an open line. Sandy Bradshaw, a flight attendant, called him and her husband. explained that she had slipped into a kitchen and was filling pitchers with boiling water. Her last words were, “Everyone is running first class. I have to go. Goodbye.”
The passengers fought the four hijackers and are believed to have attacked the cockpit with a fire extinguisher. The plane then turned and shot toward the ground at more than 500 miles per hour, crashing into a rural field in western Pennsylvania at 10:10 a.m. All 45 people on board were killed. Its target is not known, but theories include the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the presidential retreat from Camp David in Maryland, or one of the many nuclear power plants along the east coast.
At 7 p.m. President George W. Bush, who had spent the day commuting across the country for security reasons, returned to the White House. At 9 p.m., he delivered a televised address from the Oval Office, saying, “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our tallest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundations of America. These acts shatter the steel, but they cannot erode the steel of American determination. Referring to the possible US military response, he said: “We will not make any distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.”
Operation Enduring Freedom, the US-led international effort to overthrow the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and destroy the terrorist network of Osama bin Laden based there, began on October 7, 2001. Bin Laden was killed during a raid on his compound in Pakistan by US forces on May 2, 2011.
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