A group of terrorists attacked the US on 9/11/2001 (Credit: 123greetings.com/ CC-BY-SA-2.0)

September 11, 2023, marks the 22nd anniversary of the boldest and deadliest terrorist attacks on American soil. The unprovoked act of violence was planned and executed by members of the Islamic extremist organization al-Qaeda. The tragedy killed 2,977 innocent people and altered life as we knew it forever.

What happened on September 11, 2001?

On September 11, 2001, nineteen terrorists split into four groups, each with a trained pilot, and took control of four commercial flights. They included United Flight 93 from New Jersey, American Flight 77 from Washington, DC, and United Flight 175, as well as American Flight 11 from Boston. The airplanes were headed cross-country to Los Angeles or San Francisco. This ensured they had enough fuel to cause the maximum amount of damage.

The impact of the air attacks took down the WTC towers and surrounding buildings (Credit: Fred the Oyster/ Public Domain/ Wikimedia Commons)

Passengers aboard the airplanes knew they had been hijacked shortly after takeoff. But people on the ground did not realize anything was amiss until 8:46 a.m. (EST). That is when American Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center (WTC), creating a gaping hole from the 93rd to 99th floor.

Experts initially thought the crash was due to pilot error or airplane malfunction. However, that changed when United Flight 175 hit WTC's South Tower at 9:03 a.m. (EST). About half an hour later, at 9:37 a.m. (EST), American Flight 77 hit the Pentagon in Virginia. Soon after, United Flight 93 crash-landed in an empty field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. By then, it was evident that the US had suffered a series of well-planned terrorist attacks.

After the attacks

The intense fires, sparked by the well-fueled airplanes, weakened the steel support trusses that connected the WTC Twin Towers' 110 floors to the building's exterior. This, together with the aircraft's initial impact hole, caused both towers to crumble into giant heaps of cement and steel in less than two hours.

The World Trade Center's Twin Towers collapsed shortly after the airplanes struck (Credit: Michael Foran/ CC-BY-2.0/ Commons.wikimedia.org)

The quick action of the New York firefighters, paramedics, and police officers helped save 18,000 lives. However, many of the brave first responders did not make it out alive. The fires also led to the collapse of the nearby 7 World Trade Center. Fortunately, everyone inside the building had been safely evacuated by then.

The Pentagon building survived the crash, but the aircraft's initial impact killed 184 people. The death toll would have been even higher if the brave passengers and crew aboard United Flight 93 — destined for the US Capitol building in Washington, DC — had not forced the aircraft to crash in Pennsylvania.

What has happened since?

"Ground Zero," as it is now called, boasts four new towers. The flagship is the gleaming One World Trade Center, or "Freedom Tower." The structure's 1,776-foot (541-meter) height is a reference to the year the US gained independence. It is the tallest building in New York City and the Americas.

The names of all the 9/11 victims are carved on the sides of the two pools (Credit: Public Domain.net)

Next to the Freedom Tower is an elegant memorial with two reflecting pools. The names of all the 9/11 victims are etched into their bronze-paneled edges. The National September 11 Museum and Memorial, built alongside, houses several artifacts from the tragic day.

The Pentagon has built 184 stainless steel benches to honor the 125 government employees and 59 crew members and passengers of American Flight 77 who died that day. The Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset County commemorates the courageous actions of the airplane's 40 passengers and crew.

Global War on Terrorism

The September 11 attacks also led to the "Global War on Terrorism." The 20-year war in Afghanistan, which ended on August 31, 2021, was the longest in American history. It claimed the lives of over 7,000 US troops and cost US taxpayers billions of dollars.

The 9/11 attacks led to the longest war in US history (Credit: Public Domain/ Wikipedia)

September 11, 2001, was one of the darkest days in US history and will never be forgotten. However, it united Americans and made them more determined to live without fear. This September 11 — or Patriot Day — take a few minutes to honor the thousands of innocent lives lost during that difficult time.


Resources: History.com, Wikipedia.org,, www.aljazeera.com