On that Tuesday morning at 8:46 a.m., the first plane, American Airlines Flight 11, crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower, and at 9:03 a.m., the second plane, United Airlines Flight 175, crashed into the South Tower. The third plane, American Airlines Flight 77, flew into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m.
A fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93, under the control of hijackers, crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m. after the passengers fought the hijackers. Flight 93's target is believed to have been either the Capitol or the White House.
The World Trade Center’s South Tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m. after burning for 56 minutes from a fire caused by the impact of the second plane. The North Tower collapsed at 10:28 a.m. after burning for 102 minutes. When the North Tower collapsed, debris fell on the nearby 7 World Trade Center building, damaging it and starting fires. These fires burned for hours, compromising the building's structural integrity, and causing it to collapse at 5:21 p.m.
The attacks resulted in the death of 2,996 people, including the 19 hijackers and 2,977 victims. The victims included 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. Nearly all of the victims were civilians; 55 military personnel were among those killed at the Pentagon.
1,762 New York residents were killed, the most of any state. After New York, the state of New Jersey lost 674 residents.
A total of 414 emergency workers died as they tried to rescue people and fight fires. The New York City Fire Department lost 343 firefighters, a chaplain and 2 paramedics. The New York City Police Department lost 23 officers. The Port Authority Police Department lost 37 officers.
In the North Tower, 1,402 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 collapse. All three staircases in the tower were blocked when the first plane hit, making it impossible for anyone above the impact zone to escape. Another 107 people below impact did not survive.
Cantor Fitzgerald L.P., an investment bank on the 101st–105th floors of the North Tower, lost 658 employees, considerably more than any other employer. Marsh Inc., located immediately below Cantor Fitzgerald on floors 93–100, lost 355 employees, and 175 employees of Aon Corporation were also killed.
In the South Tower, one stairwell was left intact after the second plane hit, allowing 14 people located on the floors of impact and four more from the floors above to escape. 911 operators who received calls from individuals inside the tower were not well informed of the situation as it rapidly unfolded and as a result, told callers not to descend the tower on their own. 614 people died in that tower, fewer than half 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.
More than 90% of the workers and visitors who died in the towers had been at or above the points of impact. The vast majority of people below the impact zone safely evacuated the buildings.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology estimated that about 17,400 civilians were in the World Trade Center complex at the time of the attacks though turnstile counts from the Port Authority suggest 14,154 people were typically in the Twin Towers by 8:45 a.m.
At least 200 people fell or jumped to their deaths from the burning towers landing on the streets and rooftops of adjacent buildings hundreds of feet below, one landed on a firefighter killing him.
Some occupants of each tower above impact made their way 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.
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 through 7 and St. Nicolas Greek Orthodox Church. The North Tower, South Tower, the Marriott Hotel and 7 WTC were completely destroyed. The U.S. Customs House, 4 and 5 WTC, and both pedestrian bridges connecting buildings were severely damaged. The two buildings of the World Financial Center also suffered damage.
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. The Borough of Manhattan Community College’s Fiterman Hall on West Broadway was condemned due to extensive damage in the attacks, and was rebuilt. Other neighboring buildings including 90 West Street and the Verizon Building suffered major damage and was restored. World Financial Center buildings, One Liberty Plaza, the Millenium Hilton, and 90 Church Street had moderate damage and was restored.
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."
The Pentagon was severely damaged by the impact of the third plane and ensuing fires, causing one section of the building to collapse. As the plane approached the Pentagon, it's wings knocked over light poles and its right engine smashed into a power generator before crashing into the western side of the building, killing all 53 passengers, 5 hijackers, and 6 crew. The damaged section of the Pentagon was rebuilt and occupied within a year of the attacks.
The temporary World Trade Center PATH station opened in late 2003 and construction of the new 7 World Trade Center was completed in 2006. Work on rebuilding 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 agreed on financing. One World Trade Center is currently under construction at the site and at 1,776 feet upon completion in 2013, will become the tallest building in North America.
On the World Trade Center site, three more office towers are expected to be built one block east of where the original towers stood. Construction has begun on all three of these towers; they are expected to be completed after One World Trade Center.
In the days immediately following the attacks, many memorials and vigils were held around the world. In addition, people posted photographs of the dead and missing all around Ground Zero.
One of the first memorials was the Tribute in Light, an installation of 88 searchlights at the footprints of the World Trade Center towers.
On September 11, 2011, the long-awaited memorial to the victims was dedicated and, on September 12th, it was opened to the public, officially unveiling the two nearly one-acre-sized footprints set one story deep into the plaza in the exact places where both of the Twin Towers once stood. Four waterfalls spring from each of the two footprints' four sides, creating a serene and reflective sound that counterbalance the noise and bustle of the city around them. Each waterfall is framed with bronze plates with the names of the victims from each tower, organized by category: first responder, worker, and so on.
The museum was scheduled to open to the public today, accessible through a large pavilion of glass and steel with a glass atrium featuring two of original steel tridents from the World Trade Center towers at street level. Mayor Bloomberg announced this morning that construction would continue and is likely to open late 2013 or early 2014.
The Pentagon Memorial was completed and opened to the public on the seventh anniversary of the attacks in 2008. It consists of a landscaped park with 184 benches facing the Pentagon. When the Pentagon was repaired in 2001–2002, a private chapel and indoor memorial were included, located at the spot where Flight 77 crashed.
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. A temporary memorial is located 500 yards from the crash site.
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. It was installed outside the firehouse on August 25, 2008. Many other permanent memorials are elsewhere. Scholarships and charities have been established by the victims' families, and by many other organizations and private figures.
This year, as in other years, a memorial will be held in New York City. The observance will be broken by six moments of silence, marking the moments in which each World Trade Center tower was hit and fell, and the times of the attacks on the Pentagon and on United Airlines Flight 93.
Until now, Rudy Giuliani and George Pataki, the mayor of New York City and Governor of New York at the time of the attacks, have always been called upon to speak at the ceremony, along with Bloomberg and the current Governors of New York and New Jersey. President Barack Obama read a psalm at last year's 10th anniversary ceremony, and other past speakers have included then President George W. Bush, several U.S. Senators and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Bloomberg has said he wants this year’s observance to keep the site out of the political process, while Cuomo's office has said the museum shouldn't be politicized, and a Christie spokesman has said no one wants to politicize the site.
So today, on this day that we Americans will never forget, take moment to remember the fallen and to give thanks to those who are still fighting for our freedom.