It has already been 20 years since one of the most significant events of the 21st century took place: the attacks of September 11. In a matter of hours, the coordinated attacks carried out by Al Qaeda on American soil killed 2,977 people.
19 terrorists hijacked four airliners: two crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon and the last in a wooded area thanks to passenger resistance. As America collects its thoughts this Saturday, we take a look back at these events, which are as dramatic as they are extraordinary.
7h59. American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767, departs Boston for Los Angeles. On board, 76 passengers, 11 crew members and five hijackers.
8h15. United Airlines Flight 175, also a Boeing 767 from Boston to Los Angeles, takes off with 65 people on board, including five pirates.
8h19. American Airlines Flight 11 crew members alert that the plane is being hijacked. One of the hijackers stabbed a passenger, ABC7 recalls, probably because he tried to oppose the terrorist.
8h20. Flight 77, a Boeing 757, takes off from Dulles near Washington for San Francisco, with 64 people on board, including five pirates.
8h42. United Airlines Flight 93 departs from Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco. On board, 33 passengers, seven crew members and four terrorists.
8h46. Flight 11 hits the north tower of the World Trade Center. It opens a gigantic breach in the upper floors, which ignite.
8:50 am. US President George W. Bush has been warned. The accident hypothesis is the first considered.
9h03. United Airlines Flight 175 in turn crashes against the upper floors of the South Tower.
9h05. While in Florida, President George W. Bush begins reading a story to elementary school children. “A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack, ”his chief of staff whispered in his ear.
At the same time, a passenger of flight 77 alerts her husband of the hijacking of the plane in which she is. He warns the federal authorities.
9h25. The civil aviation authorities, the FAA, announce the closure of American airspace and ban any take-off.
“Apparent terrorist attack”
9h30. George W. Bush announces to schoolchildren that he is returning to Washington because of an “apparent terrorist attack”.
9h36. The Secret Service evacuates Vice President Dick Cheney to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center under the White House.
9h37. American Airlines Flight 77, departing from Dulles Airport near Washington for San Francisco, crashes into the west facade of the Pentagon. The impact killed all passengers and 125 people on the ground.
9h42. The Federal Aviation Administration (the national air traffic control agency) orders all airplanes in flight to land as soon as possible.
9h45. The White House and the Capitol are evacuated.
9h59. After burning for nearly an hour, the South Tower collapsed within seconds in a deluge of fire, steel and dust. The violence is such that no trace of DNA has ever been found for hundreds of victims.
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10h03. Flight 93 from Newark, New Jersey, crashes in Shanksville, a wooded area in western Pennsylvania. Some passengers, informed by cell phone of what was happening in New York, resisted the terrorists.
10h15. Part of the Pentagon collapses.
Bush promises to hunt down those responsible
10h28. The north tower collapsed, 102 minutes after being hit by the plane. The southern tip of Manhattan is covered in a cloud of ash and debris.
11h02. New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani orders the evacuation of southern Manhattan.
13h04. George W. Bush, who was evacuated from Barksdale air base (Louisiana), places the armed forces on “maximum alert” and promises to “track down and punish the cowards responsible” for the attacks. The president will then be transferred to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska (center) before returning to the White House in the evening.
13h27. Washington Mayor Anthony Williams declares a state of emergency in the federal capital.
17h20. After having burned for seven hours, building 7 of the World Trade Center collapsed in turn, without causing any victims.
20h30. George W. Bush addresses the Americans, denounces “deliberate terrorist acts”. He promises to track down those responsible and warns that Washington will make “no distinction” between terrorists and those who harbor them. Days of research followed, in an attempt to find survivors or the remains of the victims. 40% of the missing still could not be identified.