When people who were in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001 recall the day, they often remember it as a beautiful morning with bright, blue cloudless skies.
No one imagined how that fall day would end, as commercial airliners would drop from those clear skies and fly straight into two of New York City’s iconic skyscrapers filled with workers.
Just over an hour and a half later, nearly 3,000 people had lost their lives in four attacks that terrorists initiated using planes hijacked from three different airports.
Attacked that day by 19 hijackers were major buildings in New York City and Washington, the twin towers of the World Trade Center complex in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington.
The fourth attack played out in the skies over Pennsylvania as a plane believed to possibly be heading back to Washington for a strike on the Capitol or the White House crashed into the ground as passengers mounted an attack on the terrorists who had taken over the plane.
Millions watched on television that day when at 9:59 a.m. ET, the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed 56 minutes after United Flight 175 flew into the building. The collapse lasted 10 seconds. More than 800 workers and first responders inside the building and some outside of it were killed in the collapse.
At 10:28 a.m., the north tower collapsed. It had been hit first at 8:46 a.m. ET by American Airlines Flight 11. More than 1,600 people were killed when the building fell.
The Pentagon had been attacked by American Airlines Flight 77 just minutes before the south tower went down, and United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, five minutes after the south tower fell.
With the benefit of 19 years, we know a lot about what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, but here are some things you may not know about the attacks:
- In 102 minutes, 2,977 people were killed in attacks in New York City, Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
- Of that number, 343 were New York City firefighters, 23 were New York City police officers and 37 were officers at the New York Port Authority.
- The age of the victims ranged from 2 years to 85 years old.
- Eighty percent of the victims were men.
- President George W. Bush was not in Washington when the attacks occurred. He was in Sarasota, Florida, reading to schoolchildren when Andrew Card, his chief of staff, told him that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers. Minutes later, he whispered to Bush: “A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack.”
- Bush was taken on a circuitous route back to Washington, where at 9 p.m. ET he delivered a message to the country saying, “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”
- Roselle, a guide dog, led her blind owner, Michael Hingson, down 78 floors of the north tower, saving them both. Roselle was under Hingson’s desk when the tower was hit. Hingson credited the dog for getting him out and away from the building only minutes before it collapsed.
- The passengers and crew of Flight 93, along with the plane’s hijackers, were killed when the aircraft flipped over and nose-dived into the field outside of Shanksville. It was estimated that the plane was flying at 500 mph when it hit the ground.
- It is believed that the passengers on Flight 93 engaged in a final act of democracy before the plane crashed, holding a vote to decide if they would rush the cockpit and fight with the hijackers to gain control of the plane. An open phone line on the plane heard the last words of Todd Beamer as he rallied the other passengers on the plane to start the attack by saying, “Let’s roll.”
- Prior to the attack, five of the 9/11 hijackers stayed in a motel just outside the gates of the National Security Agency.
- On March 30, 2002, six and a half months after the attack, a firefighter working at Ground Zero found a bible with a piece of metal fused to it. The bible was open to a verse in the Gospel of Matthew that reads, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
- In the hours after the attacks, people claimed they saw the face of Satan in a smoke formation coming from one of the towers as it burned.
- Eighteen people survived the collapse of the buildings. They were in the underground plaza of the World Trade Center. The towers fell on top of them.
- Three days after the attack, Bush visited ground zero, and standing on a wrecked fire truck, used a bullhorn to speak to those working at the site. What he said became one of the most memorable quotes of his presidency. Watch it below.
- When the buildings fell, they created 1.8 million tons of debris. It took 3.1 million hours of labor to remove it.
- Soon after the buildings fell, the U.S. launched a worldwide search for the man who masterminded the attack, Osama bin Laden. He eluded those tracking him until May 2, 2011, when he was killed by U.S. Army Special Forces at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
- It took 99 days to completely extinguish the fires from the collapse of the towers.
- 144 wedding rings were found in the debris at ground zero.
- More than $100 million of art was lost in the collapse of the twin towers.
- The National Reconnaissance Office had planned a training exercise for 9 a.m. ET on Sept. 11. The agency was going to practice what they would do if an aircraft were to crash into a building in Washington.
- It took five years to build the twin towers. It took 102 minutes from the first impact on the north tower for them both to fall.
- It was decided not to leave the site empty after the attacks and the cleanup. On Nov. 3, 2014, 1 World Trade Center, a 1,776-foot skyscraper, opened. Sitting next to the skyscraper is the National Sept. 11 memorial and Museum. Pools that are part of the memorial site feature the largest human-made waterfalls in North America.
- Also at the site is the “Survivor Tree.” The tree, a Callery pear tree, was at the site of the attacks on Sept. 11. It was damaged but was removed, nursed back to health and replanted at the memorial site.
- As a result of the attacks, The Homeland Security Act of 2002 was passed. The legislation created the Department of Homeland Security.
- For the first time, all commercial planes entering U.S. airspace were turned away within an hour after the attacks. Every commercial and private flight in the air over the United States was grounded by then, as well.
- The continuity of government procedures, the protocol for protecting those in the highest level of government during a national emergency, was enacted for the first time in U.S. history.