September 11, 2001 attacks

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National Park Service 9-11 Statue of Liberty and WTC fire.jpg

The Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001 were the deadliest to ever occur on US soil and had far reaching effects on both foreign and domestic policy. The coordinated attacks by al Qaeda affiliated Islamic extremists saw three transcontinental airliners strike the World Trade Center towers (buildings 1 and 2) in New York City, NY and the Pentagon outside of Washington, D.C. within one hour of each other. The attacks succeeded in destroying both World Trade Center towers as well as a third building in the complex and significantly damaged the Pentagon (though the Pentagon was still able to function). A fourth airliner crashed in a field in Shanksville, PA, failing to reach its objective.

The events of the day are often referred to simply as "September 11th" or "9/11."

Timeline of events

  • 7:45 AM - American Airlines Flight 11 departs from Boston with a destination of Los Angeles
  • 7:58 AM - United Airlines Flight 175 departs from Boston with a destination of Los Angeles
  • 8:10 AM - American Airlines Flight 77 departs from Dulles International Airport with a destination of Los Angeles
  • 8:42 AM - United Airlines Flight 93 departs from Newark with a destination of San Francisco
  • 8:45 AM - American Airlines Flight 11 strikes the World Trade Center North Tower
  • 9:03 AM - United Airlines Flight 175 strikes the World Trade Center South Tower
  • 9:43 AM - American Airlines Flight 77 strikes the Pentagon
  • 10:05 AM - The World Trade Center South Tower collapses
  • 10:10 AM - An external portion of the Pentagon collapses
  • 10:10 AM - United Airlines Flight 93 crashes in Shanksville, PA
  • 10:28 AM - The World Trade Center North Tower collapses
  • 4:10 PM - World Trade Center Building 7 is reported to be on fire
  • 5:20 PM - World Trade Center Building 7 collapses


File:393px-WTC-remnant highres.jpg
Remains of the South Tower, September 13, 2001.

The total loss of life is constantly being reevaluated to account for wrongly reported missing persons and, in some cases, occurrences of fraud. Estimates of more than 6,000 deaths were announced following the attacks. The current estimate is 2996 fatalities as a direct result of the attacks. About 500 foreign nationals from over 90 countries are believed to have died in the attack.[1]

As a matter of course, the deaths of the 19 hijackers are not included in these casualty totals.

On the Planes

American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767, suffered 92 casualties (11 crew, 81 passengers). American Airlines 77, a Boeing 757, suffered 64 casualties (six crew, 58 passengers). United Airlines Flight 175, a Boeing 767, suffered 65 casualties (nine crew, 56 passengers). United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757 suffered 45 casualties (seven crew, 38 passengers).

On the Ground

The Department of Defense reported the deaths of 125 people at The Pentagon. The aftermath of the World Trade Center towers collapsing created a good deal of confusion and has been the main source of discrepancies in casualty estimates. As of October 29, 2003, New York City reported 2605 deaths in the attacks, not counting the passengers and crew of the planes. [2]

Economic Impact

The material costs of the attacks are well in excess of one hundred billion US dollars. Factoring in Stock Market losses, loss of revenue in New York City, loss of jobs, impact on air travel, and heightened security, some estimate the cost approaches two trillion dollars.[3]

Some estimates of the cost of executing the plan place it in the $400,000-$500,000 range, making it an extremely "profitable" operation for al-Qaeda. [4]

Consequences of the Attacks on US Policy

Domestic Policy

The attacks were a direct or indirect cause of massive changes in United States domestic policy. Most notably, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 "established a Department of Homeland Security, as an executive department of the United States" [5], a cabinet level position. One of the tools implemented by the Department is the Homeland Security Advisory System, a color coded advisory system meant to "establish a comprehensive and effective means to disseminate information regarding the risk of terrorist acts to Federal, State, and local authorities and to the American people." [6]

Another notable consequence of the attacks was the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism). The act was written to expand the authority of law enforcement and the justice system in the pursuit of terrorism suspects.[7]

Foreign Policy

The perpetrators of the attacks were soon identified as members of the al Qaeda terrorist organization headed by Osama bin Laden. In response, the United States declared a War on Terror, which comprises United States military action in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as a significant increase in intelligence gathering and a new outlook on foreign relations.

Conspiracy Theories

Many conspiracy theories have sprouted up from the events of September 11, 2001, including the "Loose Change" movies seen on YouTube. While compelling, these movies have been comprehensively disproven by independent experts [8]. Prominent endorsers of such theories include talk show host Rosie O'Donnell and actor Charlie Sheen.


Additional Information


  1. "New York Reduces 9/11 Death Toll by 40" at, Phil Hirschkorn, 10/29/03
  2. "New York Reduces 9/11 Death Toll by 40" at, Phil Hirschkorn, 10/29/03
  3. The Cost of September 11 Institute for the Analysis of Global Security
  4. The 9/11 Commission Report
  5. H.R. 5005 The Homeland Security Act
  6. DHS Laws and Regulations Department of Homeland Security
  7. The USA PATRIOT Act Library of Congress
  8. "Debunking The 9/11 Myths" Popular Mechanics, Mar. 2005 Cover Story