On the morning of September 11, 2001, four airliners were hijacked by members of al-Qaeda who aimed to carry out suicide attacks against important targets in the United States. Of the four planes, one struck the Pentagon, one crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, and the two remaining planes were flown into the Twin Towers in New York City. Claiming almost three thousand lives, this event gave birth to a war and brought about everyday sociological changes for Americans. If you need help with writing or editing, consider working with a writer from Ultius. We have many advanced writer selection options to connect you with the expert you need.
Targeting the World Trade Center
The World Trade Center was a commercial complex in Manhattan spanning over sixteen acres and containing a large plaza, seven buildings, and an underground shopping mall connecting them. The plaza’s centerpiece was the Twin Towers. The towers each had one hundred and ten stories and, together, were the workplace of approximately thirty five thousand people and over four hundred companies (FAQ about 9/11). The daytime population, location, and sheer size of the towers (each weighed more than 250,000 tons (FAQ about 9/11)) made it an obvious choice for a terrorist attack. In addition, the towers were considered to embody Americans’ influence and power (The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks). In fact, in 1993, there was an attack in which explosives were detonated in a car parked beneath the World Trade Center, killing six people and injuring thousands.
The group targeting the World Trade Center (both in 1993 and in 2001) was al-Qaeda, an Islam extremist terrorist system started by Osama bin Laden. With franchise operations in at least sixteen other countries (McCormick), al-Qaeda seeks to overthrow Middle-Eastern governments or other places with strong Muslim representation that do not force religiously-sanctioned social and political order. The attacks on American soil were made in an attempt to reduce support in the United States for the ‘offending’ governments, which al-Qaeda saw as a huge obstacle in building a global order under Islam (FAQ about 9/11). In addition, they were angry over the American support of Israel, as well as their part in the Persian Gulf War and their strong military presence in Middle Eastern countries (9/11 Attacks).
What happened on 9/11
On September 11, 2001, four planes were headed for California when they were hijacked by members of al-Qaeda aboard the plane. Chosen because they would be adequately fueled for their journey, nineteen terrorists smuggled knives and box-cutters onto the planes and took over control shortly after departure (9/11 Attacks). The first was an American Airlines Boeing 767 leaving from Boston. The plane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center at 8:45 in the morning, leaving a smoking, fiery hole between the ninety third and ninety ninth floors (Schmemann). The impact killed hundreds of people and trapped hundred more in the floors above. People trapped by the damage and flames leaped off the side of the building to their deaths, desperate to escape (Weinberg). Evacuation began immediately, but eighteen minutes later, another Boeing 747, this one an United Airlines flight, sliced through the south tower between the seventy seventh and eighty fifth floors (9/11 Attacks). This crash caused a huge explosion, fueled by the planes’ full gasoline tanks. Both buildings collapsed and severely damaged five other buildings in the World Trade Center complex. The pile of ruins stretched seventeen stories high, a monument to the desolation caused by the attacks (FAQ about 9/11).
9/11 – Timeline of eventsSource: HIST
A timeline of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Both towers completely collapsed within roughly eight hours of the first plane crash. America watched in horror.
|Time of event||Event description|
|8:46 AM||North Tower hit with American Airlines Flight 11 by Mohammed Atta and other hijackers.|
|9:03 AM||Hijackers crash United Airlines Flight 175 into floors 75-85 of the South Tower.|
|9:37 AM||Western facade of the Pentagon hit with American Airlines Flight 77.|
|9:59 AM||The South Tower collapses.|
|10:07 AM||United Airlines Flight 93 deliberately crashed into Somerset County, PA by hijackers.|
|10:28 AM||North Tower collapses 102 minutes after being struck by Flight 11.|
|5:20 PM||World Trade Center collapses after burning for hours.|
The two other planes involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks had slightly different routes. The first, an American Airlines Boeing 757 left the airport in Washington D.C., headed for Los Angeles. Once hijacked, the attackers steered the plane towards the Pentagon where they slammed into the west side of the building, workplace to twenty four thousand people (Schmemann). After learning about the other attacks, passengers on the fourth plane, United Airlines Boeing 757, Flight 93, decided to take matter into their own hands. Fighting back, the passengers were able to steer the plane from its original target, Washington D.C., and crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, killing everyone aboard (September 11th Fast Facts).
Additional Reading: Explore the possible link between terrorists’ motivations and free media.
All in all, almost three thousand people were killed from a total of ninety three nations. Over twenty seven hundred people were killed in the Twin Towers attack, one hundred eighty four were killed during the attack on the Pentagon, and forty people were killed on Flight 93 (FAQ about 9/11). In addition to the civilians and hijackers, three hundred and forty three firefighters and paramedics were killed, along with twenty three police officers and thirty seven Port Authority police officers. Only six people who were in the World Trade Center towers at the time of the collapse survived and almost ten thousand others were treated for injuries (9/11 Attacks). The death toll was beyond catastrophic and devastating to a nation.
On September 12, 2001, the United Nations held an emergency meeting, in which they condemned the terrorist act, stating that “a terrorist attack on one country was an attack on all humanity” (The U.S. and Int’l Response to 9/11). For the first time in the history of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO decided to invoke Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which states that an armed attack against one or more NATO countries is an attack against all NATO countries (The U.S. and Int’l Response to 9/11). The United States invoked their right of self-defense during wartime, meaning that a nation that has been threatened or attacked has the right to defend itself. The country was officially at war.
In America, Congress was busy. In October 2001, United States Congress passed the USA Patriot Act, giving law enforcement officials the right to searching property without warrants, detain and deport, monitor financial transactions, and eavesdrop on phone conversations (Rowen). This was met with mixed reviews, as many feared that the law would lead to overzealous infringement on civil liberties. Under the Patriot Act, approximately twelve hundred people were detained for a month without access to their attorneys (Rowen).
October 7, 2001 marked the start of an American-led international effort to overthrow the Taliban’s hold in Afghanistan in order to destroy bin Laden’s terrorist base there. Before the operation was two months old, the United States had ousted the Taliban from power. However, the war carried on and American troops fought to defeat a Taliban insurgency campaign over Pakistan (9/11 Attacks). It was later revealed in 2005 that in 2002, President George W. Bush authorized the National Security Agency in secret to wiretap domestic emails and phone calls without warrants (Rowen). The negative sentiment towards the Middle-East still exists, even years after this essay purchased online was published.
The United States also enacted the Department of Homeland Security Act of 2002, an act that created the position of Secretary of Homeland Security and established the Department of Homeland Security, a cabinet-level agency. The purpose of this department was to ensure the national security of the country, in addition to providing information about terrorist threats and suggested security measures for the public, the government, and hubs like airports (Rowen). Accomplishments of the Department of Homeland Security include training law enforcement to analyze threats and react accordingly, the launching of the ‘If You See Something Say Something’ campaign that encourages civilians to report suspicious behavior and activity, more in-depth screening of international passengers entering or leaving the United States, and the improvement of the country’s cyber infrastructure (Rowen). Some believe that the implementation of these laws encouraged the breaching of the basic rights and liberties of citizens and non-citizens alike. (Read more about civil liberties and the right to privacy.)
Life after 9/11
The War on Terror
There have been a number of effects on the everyday lives of Americans made by the 9/11 attacks on the United States. First of all, United States troops invaded Afghanistan less than a month after the World Trade Center attacks to release al-Qaeda’s grip on the Middle East. In 2003, the United States troops invaded Iraq, which was not directly related to the attacks but was an important weapon in the War on Terror (Green). In December 2011, troops were pulled from Iraq and the United States left them in a state of volatile democracy.
In 2014, President Obama aimed for our presence in Afghanistan to cease to be considered a combat mission, but rather a support mission. The Afghanistan war has been the longest war in United States history (Green). Between the years of 2001 and 2011, nearly two million United States troops were deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, with six thousand troops having been killed and approximately forty four thousand wounded. More than 18% of returned servicemen suffer from depression or post-traumatic stress disorder and 20% suffer from traumatic brain injuries (Green).
Immigration and deportation
Another effect made by the 9/11 World Trade Center attack has been the United States’ stance on immigration and deportation. The creation of the Department of Homeland Security meant the merging of twenty two other government agencies, including the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the U.S. Customs Service. The department has streamlined deportation for criminals and law-breakers, leading to the number of deportations from the United States doubling (Green). Between the years of 2009 and 2010, deportation rates reached almost four hundred thousand people annually, with only half being convicted of a criminal offense and the majority of those being low-level offences.With the implantation of the Secure Communities program, the law, established in 2008, allows local law enforcement to check on the immigration status of any person booked in a jail, despite whether or not they are convicted of the crime they are accused of. This law has led to the deportation of people who were simply stopped for something as minor as not using a turn signal while driving (Green).
Finally, another drastic change brought on by the terrorist attacks on America is the change in procedure at national airports. The Transportation Security Administration was created after the attacks to use new and more effective security practices at every commercial airport in the country. Before, passengers could arrive thirty minutes before their flight and not worry about making it to their gate in time. Now, fliers should be prepared to spend hours in line as each person, bag, and item of clothing is scanned, screened, and scrutinized. (Learn more about the effects of 9/11 on airport security.) The TSA also uses a watch list of individuals who they believe may pose a threat to safety and security (Green). No one is safe from suspicion and must pass rigorous security checks to get clearance to fly.
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The 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center left both Americans and international citizens alike shattered and fearful. Other countries felt that the attack on the United States had been an attack on freedom everywhere. On September 12, 2001, the headline of a French newspaper read, “Today, we are all Americans” (Reactions to 9/11). The Queen of England herself sang the American national anthem for the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, Rio de Janeiro hung billboards of the city’s Christ the Redeemer statue embracing the New York skyline, and billions was donated all around the world by means of money and goods to relief and rescue organizations. The rest of the world embraced America as we embarked on the greatest changes in our country’s recent history. The effects of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks still remain today, even with the resurrection of the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero, opened exactly ten years after the fateful morning. Though the terrorist attack on American soil shook the country to its core, and despite the fact that we remain entangled with the Middle East to this day, the United States of American has proven that liberty and freedom will continue to persevere, even in the most unlikely circumstances.
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