9/11: A Timeline of The September Attacks | History Hit

9/11: A Timeline of The September Attacks

Lucy Davidson

13 Sep 2021
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Plumes of smoke billow from the World Trade Center towers in Lower Manhattan, New York City, after a Boeing 767 hits each tower during the September 11 attacks.

As the worst terror attack in US history, images and events from September 11 2001 are seared into cultural consciousness. 93% of Americans aged 30 and older remember exactly where they were on September 11 2001, when 2,977 people lost their lives as a result of a terrorist attack by militant Islamic terror group, Al-Qaeda. Shockwaves of fear, anger, and sadness reverberated around the world, and the attack quickly became one of the most defining events of the century thus far.

Here’s a timeline of events as they unfolded on the day.

The hijackers

The hijackers have been split into four teams which correspond to the four aircraft that they will board. Each team has a trained pilot-hijacker who will commandeer each flight, plus three or four ‘muscle hijackers’ who are trained to subdue the pilots, passengers, and crew. Each team is also assigned to crash into a different target.

5:45am

The first group of hijackers – Mohammad Atta, Wail al-Shehri, Satam al-Sugami, Abdulaziz al-Omari, and Walled al-Shehri – successfully pass through security. Mohammad Atta is the ringleader of the whole operation. It is believed that they carry knives and boxcutters onto the plane with them. They board a flight to Boston, which connects them to American Airlines Flight 11.

7:59am

American Airlines Flight 11 takes off from Boston. Hijackers on board are Mohammad Atta, Wail al-Shehri, Satam al-Sugami, Abdulaziz al-Omari, and Waleed al-Shehri. It has 92 people on board (excluding the hijackers) and is headed for Los Angeles.

8:14am

United Airlines Flight 175 takes off from Boston. Hijackers on board are Marwan al-Shehhi, Fayez Banihammad, Mohand al-Shehri, Hamza al-Ghamdi, and Ahmed al-Ghamdi. It has 65 people on board and is also headed for Los Angeles.

8:19am

Flight 11 crew alert ground personnel that the plane has been hijacked. Daniel Lewin, a passenger on the plane, is the first casualty of the whole attack as he is stabbed, probably trying to stop the hijackers. The FBI are alerted.

8:20am

American Airlines Flight 77 takes off from Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C. Hijackers on board are Hani Hanjour, Khalid al-Mihdhar, Majed Moqed, Nawaf al-Hazmi, and Salem al-Hazmi. It has 64 people aboard.

8:24am

Attempting to communicate with passengers, a hijacker from Flight 11 contacts air traffic control, which alerts them to the attacks.

8:37am

Air traffic control in Boston alert the Military. Jets in Massachusetts are mobilised to follow Flight 11.

8:42am

United Airlines Flight 93 takes off at Newark. It was meant to have departed at 8am, at around the same time as the other flights. Hijackers on board are Ziad Jarrah, Ahmed al-Haznawi, Ahmed al-Nami, and Saeed al-Ghamdi. It has 44 people aboard.

8:46am

Mohammed Atta and the other hijackers aboard Flight 11 crash the plane into floors 93-99 of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, killing everyone on board and hundreds inside the building. Until 9/11, security had only considered that an attacker might use a plane as a bargaining chip in order to get money or redirect it to another route. The use of a plane as a suicide mission weapon in itself was almost entirely unforeseen.

8:47am

Within seconds, police forces are dispatched to the World Trade Center, and the North Tower begins evacuation.

8:50am

President George W. Bush that a plane has hit the World Trade Center as he arrives for a visit at an elementary school in Florida. His advisors assume that it is a tragic accident, and likely a small propeller plane that has hit the building. In a now-famous moment, President Bush is informed by White House Chief of Staff that ‘A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack.’

8:55am

The South Tower is declared secure.

8:59am

Port Authority police order the evacuation of both towers. This order is widened to the entire World Trade Center a minute later. At this time, around 10,000 to 14,000 people are already in the process of evacuating.

9:00am

A flight attendant aboard Flight 175 alerts air traffic control that a their plane is being hijacked. It is also worth noting that at this time, cockpits contained little to no protection from cockpit takeovers. Since 9/11, these have been made more secure.

9:03am

The northeast face of Two World Trade Center (south tower) after being struck by plane in the south face.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Robert on Flikr

Flight 175 crashes into floors 77 to 85 of the South Tower, killing everyone on board and hundreds in the building.

9:05am

Flight 77 passenger Barbara Olson calls her husband, Solicitor General Theodore Olson, who alerts officials that the plane is being hijacked.

9:05am

George Bush receives the news that the World Trade Centre in New York has been attacked.

Image Credit: Paul J Richards/AFP/Getty Images

At the same time, President Bush is informed the World Trade Center has been hit by a second plane. Twenty-five minutes later, he tells the American people in a broadcast that ‘terrorism against our nation will not stand.’

9:08am

The Federal Aviation Administration bans all flights going to New York City or flying in its airspace.

9:21am

The Port Authority closes all bridges and tunnels in and around New York.

9:24am

A few passengers and crew aboard Flight 77 are able to alert their families on the ground that a hijacking is taking place. The authorities are then alerted.

9:31am

From Florida, President Bush addresses the nation, stating that there has been an ‘apparent terrorist attack on our country.’

9:37am

Flight 77 crashes into the west section of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. The crash and fire kills 59 people onboard the plane and 125 military and civilian personnel the building.

9:42am

For the first time in its history, the Federal Aviation Administration grounds all flights. This is monumental: over the next two and a half hours, around 3,300 commercial flights and 1,200 private planes are guided to land at airports in both Canada and the United States.

9:45am

Rumours around attacks on other notable sites escalate. The White House and U.S. Capitol are evacuated, along with other high-profile buildings, landmarks, and public spaces.

9:59am

After burning for 56 minutes, the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapses in 10 seconds. This kills more than 800 people in and around the building.

10:07am

Aboard the hijacked Flight 93, passengers have been able to contact friends and family, who inform them of the attacks in New York and Washington. They try to retake the plane. In response, the hijackers deliberately crash the plane into a field in Pennsylvania, which kills all 40 passengers and crew on board.

10:28am

The World Trade Center’s North Tower collapses, 102 minutes after being hit by Flight 11. This kills more than 1,600 people in and around the building.

11:02am

A New York City fireman calls for 10 more rescue workers to make their way into the rubble of the World Trade Center.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / U.S. Navy Photo by Journalist 1st Class Preston Keres

New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani orders the evacuation of Lower Manhattan. This affects more than 1 million residents, workers, and tourists. Throughout the afternoon, efforts are made to search for survivors at the World Trade Center site.

12:30pm

A group of 14 survivors emerge from a North Tower stairwell.

1:00pm

From Louisiana, President Bush announces that United States military forces are on high alert around the world.

2:51pm

The United States Navy dispatches missile destroyers to New York and Washington, D.C.

5:20pm

The Seven World Trade Center collapses after burning for hours. There were no casualties, but the impact of the 47-storey building mean that rescue workers had to flee for their lives. It is the last of the Twin Towers to fall.

6:58pm

President Bush returns to the White House, having stopped at military bases in Louisiana and Nebraska.

8:30pm

Bush addresses the nation, calling the acts ‘evil, despicable acts of terror’. He declares that America and its allies would ‘stand together to win the war against terrorism.’

10:30pm

Rescuers locate two Port Authority Police Department officers in the rubble of the World Trade Center. They are injured but alive.

For the majority of us, our experience of 9/11 was transmitted through a TV screen, radio, newspaper or even history book. But Joe Dittmar’s experience of these terror attacks was personal. On the morning of the 11 September 2001, he was in a meeting on the 105th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Joe shares his story of surviving 9/11 in this moving episode. Joe’s WTC Survivor/ Always Remember Initiative if found here http://www.wtceskp.com/
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Lucy Davidson

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