The September 11 attacks (often referred to as September 11th or 9/11) were a series of coordinated suicide attacks by al-Qaeda upon the United States on September 11, 2001. On that morning, 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial passenger jet airliners. 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 many others working in the buildings. Both buildings collapsed within two hours, destroying nearby buildings and damaging others. The hijackers crashed a third airliner into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. The fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville in rural Pennsylvania, after some of its passengers and flight crew attempted to retake control of the plane, which the hijackers had redirected toward Washington, D.C. There were no survivors from any of the flights.
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 that 14,154 people were typically in the Twin Towers by 8:45 a.m. 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 evidently used the one intact stairwell in the south tower. At least 1,366 people died who were at or above the floors of impact in the North Tower and at least 618 in the South Tower, where evacuation had begun before the second impact. Thus over 90% of the workers and visitors who died in the Towers had been at or above impact.
Along with the 110-floor Twin Towers of the World Trade Center itself, numerous other buildings at the World Trade Center site were destroyed or badly damaged, including 7 World Trade Center, 6 World Trade Center, 5 World Trade Center, 4 World Trade Center, the Marriott World Trade Center (3 WTC), and the World Financial Center complex and St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church.
Rescue and recovery
Attackers and their motivation
Within hours of the attacks, the FBI was able to determine the names and in many cases the personal details of the suspected pilots and hijackers. Mohamed Atta's luggage, which did not make the connection from his Portland flight onto Flight 11, contained papers that revealed the identity of all 19 hijackers (all men), and other important clues about their plans, motives, and backgrounds. On the day of the attacks, the National Security Agency intercepted communications that pointed to Osama bin Laden, as did German intelligence agencies.
The origins of al-Qaeda can be traced back to 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Soon after the invasion, Osama bin Laden traveled to Afghanistan where he helped organize Arab mujahideen and established the Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK) organization to resist the Soviets. During the war with the Soviet Union, Bin Laden and his fighters received American and Saudi funding. In 1989, as the Soviets withdrew, MAK was transformed into a "rapid reaction force" in jihad against governments across the Muslim world. Under the guidance of Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden became more radical. In 1996, bin Laden issued his first fatwā, which called for American soldiers to leave Saudi Arabia.
Planning of the attacks
The idea for the September 11 plot came from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who first presented the idea to Osama bin Laden in 1996. At that point, Bin Laden and al-Qaeda were in a period of transition, having just relocated back to Afghanistan from Sudan. The 1998 African Embassy bombings and Bin Laden's 1998 fatwā marked a turning point, with bin Laden intent on attacking the United States.
Bin Laden provided leadership for the plot, along with financial support, and was involved in selecting participants for the plot. 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, after traveling to Malaysia to attend the Kuala Lumpur al-Qaeda Summit. 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 "muscle" hijackers.
Hanjour arrived in San Diego on December 8, 2000, joining Hazmi. 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. Binalshibh 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. Binalshibh remained in Hamburg, providing coordination between Atta and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The three Hamburg cell members all took pilot training in south Florida.
Osama bin Laden
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.
In November 2001, U.S. forces recovered a videotape from a destroyed house in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in which Osama bin Laden is talking to Khaled al-Harbi. In the tape, bin Laden admits foreknowledge of the attacks. The tape was broadcast on various news networks from December 13, 2001. His distorted appearance on the tape has been attributed to tape transfer artifact.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
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 Osama bin Laden, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh, Abu Turab al-Urduni and Mohammed Atef. To date, only peripheral figures have been tried or convicted for the attacks. Bin Laden has not yet been formally indicted for the attacks.
Military operations following the attacks
The second-biggest operation of the U.S. Global War on Terrorism outside of the United States, and the largest directly connected to terrorism, was the overthrow of the Taliban rule of Afghanistan by a U.S.-led coalition. The United States was not the only nation to increase its military readiness, with other notable examples being the Philippines and Indonesia, countries that have their own internal conflicts with Islamic terrorism.
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.
Numerous incidents of harassment and hate crimes were reported against Middle Easterners and other "Middle Eastern-looking" people in the days following the 9/11 attacks. 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. He, like others, was a Sikh who was mistaken for a Muslim.
Muslim American reaction
Top Muslim organizations in the United States were swift to condemn the attacks on 9/11 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". Top organizations include: 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 massive monetary donations, many Islamic organizations launched blood drives and provided medical assistance, food, and shelter for victims.
As in the United States, the aftermath of the attacks saw racial tensions increase in other countries between Muslims and non Muslims. The most notable example occurred in the United Kingdom, where on September 21, teenager Ross Parker was murdered by a gang of Muslims in a racist attack.
Proponents of 9/11 conspiracy theories have suggested that individuals inside the United States possessed detailed information about the attacks and deliberately chose not to prevent them, or that individuals outside of al-Qaeda planned, carried out, or assisted in the attacks. Some conspiracy theorists claim the World Trade Center did not collapse because of the crashing planes but was demolished with explosives.
US foreign policy and relations shifts
As a result of the 9/11 attack, US foreign policy shifted abruptly and dramatically. As noted above, the attacks resulted directly in the declaration of the US War in Afghanistan beginning in 2001, even though the Taliban offered to put bin Laden on trial in a third country.
Economist and Crisis Consultant Randall Bell was retained by the city and state of New York to compute the economic damages to The World Trade Center site. He writes in his book, Strategy 360, "The World Trade Center damages, estimated by the New York City Mayor's Office, were staggering: Clean up and stabilization of the WTC site - $9.0 billion; Repairing and replacing damaged infrastructure - $9.0 billion; Rebuilding the World Trade Center as smaller buildings - $6.7 billion; Repairing and restoring other damaged buildings - $5.3 billion; Lost rent of the destroyed buildings - $1.75 billion."
Immediately after the attacks, the Federal Bureau of Investigation started PENTTBOM, the largest criminal inquiry in the history of the United States. The FBI told the U.S. Senate that there is "clear and irrefutable" evidence linking Al Qaida and Bin Laden to the attacks.
Collapse of the World Trade Center
Internal review of the CIA
On the sites of the destroyed buildings, one, 7 World Trade Center, has a new office tower which was completed in 2006. 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.
If American society at large payed their tributes by erecting memorials that showed their sympathy with the victims, the community of creative artists showed differing sensibilities. Although in recent decades art has been politicized, with sociopolitical problems inspiring much artistic activity, the art community was distinctly chary in responding to the September 11 terrorist attacks. According to Commentary, only one significant monumental artistic response to 9/11 was made: Eric Fischl's bronze sculpture Tumbling Woman, which was installed in Rockefeller Center one year later. The figure, however, was stripped of any sense of poignancy or dignity, "showing her landing ridiculously on her head, with all the bathos of an unsightly spill in the tub." The statue gave offense, and it was removed promptly. Most other art that followed 9/11 "suffered from the same moral incoherence". Commentary identifies the reigning political bias among artists as the explanation. It suspects that the lack of noteworthy attempts to humanize the victims may be due to "fear that it might dehumanize their killers".
Final resting place for WTC victims
Following the attacks, the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island 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 December 2009, 17 plaintiffs, claiming to have support from 1,000 other relatives, continued to pursue their case in court to have the City of New York move nearly one million tons of material from the Fresh Kills landfill to another location where it would be sifted and placed in a cemetery. Norman Siegel, 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?" James E. Tyrrell, 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." The lawsuit was filed in August 2005, and is ongoing.