(All times listed are EST.)
New York, New York — Today marks the 16th anniversary of one of the most deadly and shocking terrorist attacks to ever happen on U.S. soil. The attacks of September 11th claimed the lives of over 3,000 Americans in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. and plunged out our nation into the Global War on Terror (GWOT).
Below is a chronological timeline of that fateful day:
5:45 a.m. – Hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdul Aziz al-Omari pass through security at Portland International Jetport in Maine at 5:45 a.m. – Atta and al-Omari board a commuter flight to Boston Logan International Airport, where they connect to American Airlines Flight 11. Three other hijackers will join Atta and al-Omari aboard Flight 11.
Less than two hours later, the five terrorists who will hijack American Airlines Flight 77 are videotaped as they pass through Washington Dulles International Airport’s west checkpoint. Three of the hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi, Khalid al-Mihdhar, and Majed Moqed set off metal detectors, but no weapons are found. They proceed to the gate. The hijackers are carrying concealed knives on their persons or in their carry-on luggage.
6:00 a.m. – New York City Polling Stations Open. September 11, 2001, is a primary election day in New York City. Primary elections are being held for mayor, public advocate, comptroller, and other city offices.
7:59 a.m. – American Airlines Flight 11 takes off from Boston. 11 crew members, 76 passengers, and five hijackers are on board. The aircraft is filled with 76,400 pounds of fuel for its transcontinental run to Los Angeles.
8:15 a.m. – United Airlines Flight 175 takes off from Boston for Los Angeles. Nine crew members, 51 passengers, and five hijackers are on board. The flight is loaded with 76,000 pounds of fuel.
8:19 a.m. – Flight attendant Betty Ann Ong alerts American Airlines ground personnel to a hijacking underway on Flight 11, reporting that the cockpit is unreachable. Using an inflight phone, Ong transmits detailed information about the hijacking on the call, which lasts about 25 minutes.
Shortly before Ong’s call, a hijacker, likely Satam al-Suqami, had stabbed the passenger seated directly in front of him in first class. Hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdul Aziz al-Omari are seated in close proximity as well. The passenger, identified as Daniel M. Lewin by the flight crew, had served four years in the Israeli army. The Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States speculates he may have tried to stop the hijackers. Lewin was likely the first person killed in the 9/11 attacks.
At 8:21 a.m.- two minutes into Ong’s call, the hijackers turn off the plane’s transponder—a device that allows air traffic control to identify and monitor an airplane’s flight path. Meanwhile, American Airlines authorities relay details from Ong to their operations center in Texas. Five minutes later, Ong provides the hijackers’ seat numbers to American Airlines.
8:20 a.m. – American Airlines Flight 77, en route to Los Angeles, takes off from Washington Dulles International Airport. Six crew members, 53 passengers, and five hijackers are on board. The flight is loaded with 49,900 pounds of fuel.
8:24 a.m. – Attempting to communicate with passengers and crew inside Flight 11’s cabin, hijacker Mohamed Atta presses the wrong button, broadcasting instead to air traffic control and unwittingly alerting controllers to the attacks. Minutes later, Atta again makes an unintended transmission to ground control.
At least one of Atta’s transmissions is picked up by the pilot of Flight 175, Victor J. Saracini, who will inform the Federal Aviation Administration of what he has heard minutes before his own plane is hijacked.
8:30 a.m. – Morning activities have commenced at the World Trade Center, a commercial building complex in lower Manhattan owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, an interstate agency. In addition to the signature Twin Towers (1 and 2 World Trade Center), the complex included a hotel (3 World Trade Center), four office buildings (4, 5, 6, and 7 World Trade Center), a shopping mall, restaurants, a public plaza, and a major transportation hub.
8:30 a.m. – roughly 80 people have gathered to attend the Risk Waters Group financial technology conference on the 106th floor of the North Tower. 72 restaurant staff have arrived in advance of the morning’s breakfast service and conference preparation.
Other special events at the World Trade Center planned for September 11 include the annual National Association for Business Economics (NABE) conference, already underway in the Marriott hotel, an evening dance performance on the World Trade Center’s outdoor plaza, and a Peace Corps information session scheduled for 6:00 p.m. in 6 World Trade Center.
8:37 a.m. – After hearing hijacker Mohamed Atta’s transmissions, Boston air traffic control center alerts the U.S. Air Force’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), headquarters in Rome, New York. In response, NEADS mobilizes Air National Guard jets at Otis Air Force Base in Falmouth, Massachusetts, to identify and follow hijacked Flight 11.
8:42 a.m. – Scheduled to leave Newark International Airport within minutes of the other hijacked flights, United Airlines Flight 93 takes off after a delay due to routine traffic. Seven crew members, 33 passengers, and four hijackers are on board the San Francisco–bound flight, which is filled with 48,700 pounds of fuel.
8:46 a.m. – Five hijackers crash American Airlines Flight 11 into floors 93 through 99 of 1 World Trade Center (North Tower). The 76 passengers and 11 crew members on board and hundreds inside the building are killed instantly. The crash severs all three emergency stairwells and traps hundreds of people above the 91st floor.
New York City emergency dispatchers send police, paramedics, and firefighters to the North Tower.
Immediately after witnessing the crash from 14 blocks north of the World Trade Center, Battalion Chief Joseph Pfeifer directs New York City Fire Department (FDNY) dispatch to issue a second alarm. En route to the scene, he signals a third alarm, which calls for 23 engine and ladder companies, 12 chiefs, and 10 specialized units to respond to a plane crash at “Box 8087,” the FDNY’s shorthand reference for the World Trade Center. Vehicle drivers are instructed to park adjacent to the North Tower.
The Port Authority Police Department (PAPD), responsible for the safety and security of the World Trade Center in addition to regional bridges, tunnels, airports, and the Port of New York and New Jersey, mobilizes in response to the attack. Additional PAPD units from other posts dispatch to the World Trade Center to aid in evacuation and rescue.
8:50 a.m. – While visiting an elementary school in Sarasota Florida, U.S. President George W. Bush is informed that a small plane has hit the North Tower. Bush and his advisors assume that the crash is a tragic accident.
8:55 a.m. – South Tower Declared Secure;
“Your attention, please, ladies and gentlemen. Building Two is secure. There is no need to evacuate Building Two. If you are in the midst of evacuation, you may use the reentry doors and the elevators to return to your office. Repeat, Building Two is secure.”
—Announcement made by a Port Authority fire safety employee, via the South Tower’s public address system, at approximately 8:55 a.m.
8:59 a.m. – Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) Sergeant Al DeVona issues orders to commence the evacuation of both towers. One minute later, PAPD Captain Anthony Whitaker expands the order to include all civilians in the World Trade Center complex.
9:00 a.m. – Earlier, at 8:52 a.m., a flight attendant, likely Robert John Fangman, had reached a United Airlines operator in San Francisco, California, and reported a hijacking underway. By 9:00 a.m., passengers Garnet Ace Bailey, Peter Burton Hanson, and Brian David Sweeney have called family members.
9:03 a.m. – Five hijackers crash United Airlines Flight 175 into floors 77 through 85 of 2 World Trade Center (South Tower), killing the 51 passengers and nine crew members onboard the aircraft and an unknown number of people inside the building. The impact renders two of the three emergency stairwells impassable and severs a majority of the elevator cables in this area, trapping many above the impact zone and inside elevator cars.
Shortly after hijacked Flight 175 strikes the South Tower, some workers in the building jump or fall to their deaths, a phenomenon already witnessed after the attack on the North Tower. Estimates of the number of people who die as a result of falling from the Twin Towers range from 50 to more than 200.
In addition to requesting the shutdown of airspace over New York City, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) calls for a second Level 4 mobilization, bringing its total deployment to nearly 2,000 officers.
The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) issues a fifth alarm for the South Tower, deploying several hundred additional firefighters to the disaster. Additional companies and off-duty personnel from across the metropolitan area travel to the scene.
9:05 a.m. – While visiting an elementary school in Sarasota, Florida, U.S. President George W. Bush learns from the White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card that a second plane has crashed into the World Trade Center.
At the same time, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani rushes to the New York Police Department (NYPD) command post near the World Trade Center.
9:12 a.m. – Flight attendant Renee A. May calls her mother, Nancy May, and tells her that hijackers have seized control of the plane, forcing passengers and crew members to the rear. When they are disconnected, Nancy May calls American Airlines.
Minutes later Flight 77 passenger Barbara K. Olson calls her husband, U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson, who is at his desk in the Department of Justice. She tells him that hijackers have taken over the flight using knives and box cutters. Theodore Olson alerts other federal officials.
9:36 a.m. – U.S. Secret Service agents evacuate Vice President Dick Cheney to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center beneath the White House.
9:37 a.m. – Five hijackers crash American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon. The 53 passengers and six crew members aboard perish. The crash and ensuing fire kill 125 military and civilian personnel on the ground.
9:42 a.m. – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) orders all civilian planes in U.S. airspace to and land and prohibits departures.
9:58 a.m. – Thirty-seven telephone calls are known to have been made from hijacked Flight 93, most placed from the rear of the plane. One of the last calls is made by passenger Edward P. Felt, who uses his cell phone to dial 9-1-1 after closing himself in a restroom to avoid detection. By 9:58 a.m., Flight 93 is flying so low that he succeeds in reaching an emergency operator in nearby Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.
9:59 a.m. – After burning for 56 minutes, the South Tower collapses in 10 seconds. More than 800 civilians and first responders inside the building and in the surrounding area are killed as a result of the attack on the South Tower.
10:03 a.m. – Four hijackers crash Flight 93 in a field near the town of Shanksville in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, after passengers and crew storm the cockpit. The 33 passengers and seven crew members on board perish. The crash site is approximately 20 minutes’ flying time from Washington, D.C.
10:15 a.m. – A damaged section of the Pentagon’s west-facing outer ring collapses around this time.
10:28 a.m. – The North Tower collapses after burning for 102 minutes. More than 1,600 people are killed as a result of the attack on the North Tower.
11:02 a.m. – Near the World Trade Center when the South Tower collapses, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and senior members of his administration find temporary shelter inside an office building close by. As the dust begins to settle, they walk north, intent on establishing a new base of operations for city government. Reporters catch up with the mayor, who urges the public at 11:02 a.m. to evacuate lower Manhattan. He will continue to address the public in briefings at temporary headquarters at the New York City Police Academy throughout the day.
“I would like to take this opportunity to tell everyone to remain calm and, to the extent that they can, evacuate lower Manhattan.”
—New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani
12:16 a.m. – The last flight still in the air above the continental United States lands. In two and a half hours, U.S. airspace has been cleared of an estimated 4,500 commercial and general aviation planes.
Plane passengers become stranded as flights are canceled. Others attempting to travel nationally by train, bus, or rental car find most options canceled or sold out within hours of the attacks.
Air Force One, carrying U.S. President George W. Bush and members of his staff, travels throughout the day in search of secure locations, landing at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana around 11:45 a.m. and later landing at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska at 2:50 p.m. President Bush will return to the Washington, D.C., area that evening, landing at Andrews Air Force Base and taking a helicopter to the White House.
Source: 911 Memorial.org
Featured image courtesy of: Wikimedia Commons