The attacks were the first highly lethal attack by a foreign force on the U.S. mainland since 1814. With a death toll of nearly 3,000, the attacks exceeded the toll of approximately 2,400 dead following the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in the territory of Hawaii, which provoked U.S. entrance into World War II in 1941. Whereas Pearl Harbor was a military base attacked by military forces of a sovereign state, on this occasion the primary targets were civilians and conventional military forces were not used. (Although the Pentagon, a military target, was attacked, the terrorists used a hijacked civilian airliner to do so.)
The attacks involved the hijacking of four commercial airliners. With nearly 24,000 US gallons (about 91 cubic metres) of jet fuel aboard, the aircraft were turned into flying bombs. Two aircraft were flown into the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and a third into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. The final aircraft crashed into a Pennsylvania field. It has been speculated, although never proven, that the hijackers of this aircraft intended to crash it into the United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C, and that passengers onboard the plane prevented the hijackers from doing so before it reached its target. In addition to the loss of nearly 3,000 lives, a number of important buildings were destroyed or severely damaged. The most notable buildings were the twin towers of the World Trade Center (WTC), although five other buildings and four subway stations under the WTC were wholly or partly destroyed.
Also on Manhattan Island, 23 additional nearby buildings were damaged. Some debate continues over the reasons the buildings collapsed, particularly WTC 7, which was not hit by the planes. In Arlington, a portion of the Pentagon was severely damaged by fire and one section of the building collapsed.
There were no survivors from any of the hijacked aircraft.
Casualties were in the thousands: 265 on the planes; at least 2,602 people, including 343 firefighters, at the World Trade Center; and 125 at the Pentagon. This adds up to a total of at least 2,992 people dead. At least another 3,000 people filed claims for compensation because of injuries and trauma caused in the attacks.
Some passengers and crew were able to make phone calls from the doomed flights. They reported that there was more than one hijacker on each plane (a total of 19 were later identified) and that they took control of the planes using box-cutter knives. Additionally, some form of noxious chemical spray, such as tear gas or pepper spray, were reported to have been used on at least one flight. There were also reports from at least two of the flights that hijackers claimed to be carrying bombs.
The digits of "9/11" (the American shorthand for the date) corresponded to those of the U.S.-wide phone number for emergency services, 911 (usually pronounced "nine-one-one" and sometimes spelled 9-1-1). There was some initial speculation that this correspondence was intentional, to communicate something along the lines "Starting now, life in America is about emergencies rather than ease". It was also suggested, but apparently never confirmed, that the number may have had some religious significance to the hijackers. Most Americans seemed to quickly accept press commentators' opinion that mere coincidence would be more in keeping with Islamist radicals' practice. The coincidence in any case has emotional resonance, and may contribute as much as slips of the tongue to Americans sometimes saying "nine-one-one" when they mean "9/11". Subconscious awareness of it may also contribute to the enhanced identification with public-safety personnel.
Others speculated that the date of 9/11 was chosen because on that date many New York fire and rescue vehicles were out of the state for training purposes. It was also the day of the New York City mayoral primary, which was postponed to a later date after the attacks.
In the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the United States and other countries around the world were placed on a high state of alert against potential follow-up attacks. Civilian air travel across the United States was - for the first time ever - suspended totally for several days, with numerous locations and events affected by closures, postponements, cancellations, and evacuations.
Other countries imposed similar security restrictions: in the United Kingdom, for instance, civilian aircraft were forbidden to fly over London for several days after the attacks.
The attacks also had a major political effect on the United States and worldwide. Many countries introduced tough anti-terrorism legislation - in the US, the USA PATRIOT Act - and took action to cut off terrorist finances (including the freezing of bank accounts suspected of being used to fund terrorism). Law enforcement and intelligence agencies stepped up cooperation to arrest terrorist suspects and break up terrorist cells around the world. This was a highly controversial process, as many critics regarded governments as having gone too far in restricting civil rights. The imprisonment of suspected terrorists at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, caused particular concern.
The reaction to the attacks in the Muslim world was mixed. While the great majority of Muslim political and religious leaders condemned the attacks - virtually the only significant stand-out was Saddam Hussein, the then president of Iraq. The US media reported popular celebrations in some communities hostile to US policies in the Middle East. Scores of Muslims were also killed in the attacks, an action strictly forbidden by the Qur'an, which prohibits Muslims from killing Muslims.
As well as the invasion of Afghanistan, claims of a strong link between bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, and the argument that the attack demonstrated the need to preemptively strike at forces hostile to US and western interests, were used by the US Administration as justification for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and although prior to the 9/11 attacks it was conventional wisdom that such links existed, the issue was hotly questioned afterwards. The official panel investigating the attacks reported that, while contacts were made, it had found no "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and al Qaeda.
Rescue and recovery efforts took months to complete. It took weeks simply to quench the fires burning in the rubble of the World Trade Center and the clean-up was not completed until May. Many relief funds were immediately set up to assist victims (personally and financially) of the attacks. The task of providing assistance to the survivors and the families of victims is still ongoing.
Very few survivors, and a surprisingly small number of bodies, were found in the rubble of the WTC. The forces unleashed by the towers' disintegration were so great that many of those trapped in the buildings were simply shredded in the collapse. Some victims had to be identified by as little as a few scraps of flesh or individual teeth. Most bodies were never found at all, presumably because the heat of the fires had completely incinerated them.
On January 18, 2002, the last hospitalized survivor of the World Trade Center attack was released from hospital.
Over 1.5 million tons of debris was produced by the collapse of the WTC, which posed unique problems for the cleanup effort: there had never previously been an instance of a fully occupied skyscraper collapsing in a city center and the environmental and health consequences of such an event were wholly unknown. About 100 tons of asbestos were used in the construction of the WTC and had not yet been fully removed . The attacks released dense clouds of dust into the air of Manhattan, and samples of the residue have shown small percentages of asbestos. As the incubation period for asbestos-related diseases is up to 30 years after inhalation, some citizens living in affected areas may suffer long term effects.
Six months after the attack, the 1.5 million tons of debris had been removed from the WTC site and work continued below ground level, despite concerns that the slurry wall encompassing the site foundation (known as the Bathtub) might collapse. Ceremonies marking the end of the debris removal took place at the end of May2002.
The extremely rapid collapse of the World Trade Center surprised many people, not least the emergency personnel caught in the buildings. The reason lay in the way that the WTC had been designed, held together by vertical steel columns, bound to each other using ordinary steel trusses. The strength of the steel drops markedly with prolonged exposure to fire, and it becomes more elastic the higher the temperature. In both cases this eventually weakened the structure to the point of collapse. However, the two towers collapsed in markedly different ways, indicating that there were in fact two modes of failure. See main article for details.
Larry Silvertstein, who held a seven-week-old lease on One and Two World Trade Center, claimed in a documentary that aired on PBS, that he, jointly with the New York Fire Department, made the decision to deliberately demolish Seven World Trade Center, also known as the Solomon Building, which he also owned, and which was then the headquarters of the crisis and disaster command center for the mayor of New York City. FEMA's report on the demolition contradicts this public admission by Silverstein.
Additional information about the planning and execution of the attacks by Al-Qaida came to light following the capture of two of its members - Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh - in separate raids in 2003 and 2002, and an exclusive interview with al Jazeera journalist Yosro Fauda in September 2002.
Amongst the things that were said to be revealed in these interogations was that Khalid Mohammed was the instigator and prime organizer of the attacks. The first hijack plan that Mohammed presented to the leadership of Al-Qaida called for several airplanes on both east and west coastss to be hijacked and driven into targets. Mohammed's plan came from an earlier foiled terrorist plot called Operation Bojinka, which called for multiple airliners to be hijacked.
Osama bin Laden was aware of these plans, and used his authority to gradually scale them down to an operation with four planes.
According to the captured al-Qaida members, six of the hijackers played active parts in the planning, including the four who became the pilots. The other two were Khalid al-Mihdhar and Source | Copyright