Today marks the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks – a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda against the United States on the morning of Tuesday 11th September 2001.
That day, 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group hijacked four aeroplanes and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States – the twin towers the World Trade Centre in New York City and the Pentagon outside Washington D.C. Another aeroplane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.
Attack on the Twin Towers
At 8.45am Eastern Daylight Time, an American Airlines Boeing 767 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Centre. The impact killed hundreds of people and trapped hundreds more. As the evacuation got underway, television cameras broadcasted live images of what initially appeared to be a freak accident. However, 18 minutes after the first plane hit, a second Boeing 767 – United Airlines Flight 175 – crashed into the south tower which eventually collapsed in a massive cloud of dust and smoke. At 10.30 am the north building of the twin towers collapsed.
At 9.45 am, American Airlines Flight 77 circled over downtown Washington D.C., before crashing into the west side of the Pentagon (the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defence). All 64 people aboard the airliner were killed, along with 125 military personnel and civilians in the Pentagon.
California-bound plane United Flight 93 was hijacked about 40 minutes after leaving Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. The passengers fought the four hijackers and are suspected to have attacked the cockpit with a fire extinguisher. The plane then flipped over and sped toward the ground, crashing into a field in western Pennsylvania at 10.10am. All 44 people aboard were killed.
The attackers were Islamic terrorists from Saudi Arabia and several other Arab nations, reportedly financed by the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation of Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden.
At 7.00 pm, US President George W. Bush who was in Florida at the time of the attacks returned to the White House. At 9.00 pm, he delivered a televised address from the Oval Office. ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ began on the 7th October 2001. Osama bin Laden was tracked down and killed by U.S. forces at a hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan on the 2nd May 2011.
Almost 3,000 people were killed during the attacks, including the 19 terrorist hijackers aboard the four aeroplanes. More people died of 9/11-related cancer and respiratory diseases in the months and years following the attacks.
Memorials and re-building
Clean-up of the World Trade Centre site was completed in May 2002, and the Pentagon was repaired within a year. In 2006, construction of One World Trade Centre began at the World Trade Centre site. The building was officially opened on the 3rd November 2014. A number of memorials have also been built.
New DNA tools to identify victims
The remains of around 1,000 victims remain unidentified. In September 2018, scientists in the office of New York City’s chief medical examiner said on that new DNA analysis techniques are helping identify more victims of the attacks on the World Trade Centre.