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September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack/Timeline September 11

September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack Timeline: September 11

Overview -- Background history -- September 11 -- Rest of September -- October -- Aftermath

All times in New York Time (EDT[?]). This is four hours before GMT.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Ironically, this was the United Nations International Day of Peace (http://www.peaceday.org/unpcday.htm)

8:46:26 AM (reports vary, some as late as 8:50 AM): American Airlines flight 11 (a fully fueled Boeing 767) crashes with a speed of roughly 490 miles per hour into the north side of the north tower of the World Trade Center, between floors 94 and 98. Due to the building's structural type, pioneered in the late 1960s to maximize rentable floorspace and featuring lightweight tubular design with no masonry elements in the facade, the jetliner literally enters the tower, mostly intact. It plows to the building core, severing all three gypsum-encased stairwells, dragging combustibles with it. The combustibles as well as the remnants of the aircraft are ignited by the burning fuel. Since the building lacks a traditional full cage frame and depends almost entirely on the strength of a narrow structural core running up the center, the fire at the center of the impact zone is in a position to compromise the integrity of all internal columns. People below the severed stairwells in the north tower start to evacuate. Officials in the south tower tell people shortly afterwards by megaphone and office announcements that they are safe and can return to their offices. Some don't hear it; others ignore it and evacuate anyway; others congregate in common areas like the 78th floor sky lobby to discuss their options.

9:02:54 AM: United Airlines flight 175 (another fully fueled Boeing 767) crashes with a speed of about 590 miles per hour into the south side of the south tower, banked between floors 78 and 84. Parts of the plane leave the building at its east and north sides, falling to the ground six blocks away. A passenger on the plane, Peter Hanson, had called his father earlier from the plane reporting that hijackers were stabbing flight attendants in order to force the crew to open the cockpit doors. A number of huge explosions are reported. Some observers, like Bryant Gumbel[?] of CBS, cling to the idea this is some kind of double accident. Others, like WNYW[?]'s Jim Ryan and NBC's Matt Lauer[?], immediately describe it as a terrorist attack.

8:46 AM to 10:29 AM: At least twenty people, primarily in the north tower, trapped by fire and smoke in the upper floors, jump to their deaths. There is some evidence that large central portions of the floor near the impact zone in the north tower collapsed soon after the plane hit, perhaps convincing some people that total collapse was imminent. One person at street level, firefighter Daniel Thomas Suhr, is hit by a jumper and dies. No form of airborne evacuation is attempted as smoke is too dense for a successful landing on the roof of either tower, and New York City lacks helicopters specialized for horizontal rescue.

9:24 AM: President George W. Bush is interrupted with the news of the second crash as he participates in a class with Florida schoolchildren. He waits out the lesson, then rushes into another classroom commandeered by the Secret Service. Within minutes he makes a short statement, calling the developments 'a national tragedy', and is hurried aboard Air Force One.

9:37 AM: American Airlines flight 77 (Boeing 757) crashes into the western side of The Pentagon and starts a violent fire. The section of the Pentagon hit consists mainly of newly renovated, unoccupied offices. Barbara K. Olson had called her husband, Solicitor General Theodore Olson at the Justice Department twice from the plane to tell him about the hijacking and to report that the passengers and pilots were held in the back of the plane.

9:40 AM (some accounts say 9:50 AM): United States airspace is cleared. No civilian aircraft are allowed to lift off. All air traffic headed for the U.S. is redirected to Canada. Later, the FAA announces that civilian flights are suspended until at least noon, September 12. The groundings last until September 14, and there are exemptions for Saudi families who fear retribution if they stay in the United States. Military and medical flights continue. This is the fourth time all commercial flights in the U.S. have been stopped, and the first time a suspension was unplanned. All previous suspensions were military-related (Sky Shield I-III), from 1960 to 1962. Many reporters in the press (including the New York Times) mistakenly print that this is the first time flights have been suspended.

9:45 AM: The White House and the Capitol are closed.

9:50 AM (approximately): the Associated Press reports that American Airlines Flight 11 was apparently hijacked after departure from Boston's Logan Airport[?]. Within an hour this is confirmed for both Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175.

9:57 AM: President Bush is moved from Florida.

9:59:04 AM: The south tower of the World Trade Center collapses. A vast TV and radio audience reacts primarily with horrified astonishment. It is later widely reported that the collapse was not directly caused by the jetliner's impact but that the intense sustained heat of the fuel fire was mostly or wholly responsible for loss of structural integrity. Later, a growing number of structural engineers assert that the fire alone would not have caused the collapse. Both towers made use of external load-bearing mini columns and on one face of each building approximately forty of these were severed by the jetliners. Had they been intact to efficiently distribute the increasing gravity load as the bunched core columns and joist trusses weakened in the fires, the towers might have stood far longer or perhaps indefinitely. Concrete in the towers' facades might have prevented most of the debris and fuel from reaching the building core. Investigations that may radically change skyscraper design (or result in a radical retreat to full cage construction with high concrete-to-steel ratios as in pre-1960s skyscrapers) are ongoing.

10:03 AM: United Airlines flight 93 (Boeing 757) crashes southeast of Pittsburgh in Somerset county, Pennsylvania. Some accounts say that the time was 10:06 or 10:10 AM. The first reports from the police indicate that no one on board survived. Later reports indicate that passengers speaking on cell phones had learnt about the World Trade Center and Pentagon crashes and at least three were planning on resisting the hijackers. It is likely that the resistance led to the plane crashing before it reached its intended target.

There have been reports of an eyewitness seeing a white plane resembling a fighter jet circling the site minutes after the crash. These reports have limited credibility, although fighter jets had been scrambled to defend the Washington D.C. region ealier. These stayed within Washington.

10:10 AM: part of the Pentagon collapses.

10:13 AM: Thousands are involved in an evacuation of the United Nations complex in New York.

10:15 AM (approximately): the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine is reported to take responsibility for the crashes, but this is denied by a senior officer of the group soon after.

10:28:31 AM: the north tower of the World Trade Center collapses from the top down, as if being peeled apart. Probably due to the destruction of the gypsum-encased stairwells on the impact floors (most skyscraper stairwells are encased in reinforced concrete), no one above the impact zone in the north tower survives. The fact that the north tower stood much longer than the south one is later attributed to three facts: the region of impact was higher (which meant the gravity load on the most damaged area was lighter), the speed of the airplane was lower, and the affected floors had had their fire proofing partially upgraded. It is also likely that the hottest part of the fire in the south tower was closer to the building core, which in tubular construction, unlike full cage construction, constitutes the jugular of the structure. The Marriott Hotel, located at the base of the two towers, is also destroyed.

10:35 AM (approximately): police are reportedly alerted about a bomb in a car outside the State Department in Washington, D.C.. Later reports claim that nothing happened at the State Department.

10:39 AM: another hijacked jumbo jet is claimed to be headed for Washington, D.C. F-15s are scrambled and patrol the airspace above Washington, D.C. while other fighter jets sweep the airspace above New York City. They have orders, first issued by Vice President Cheney and later confirmed by President Bush, to shoot down any potentially dangerous planes that do not comply with orders given to them via radio.

10:45 AM: CNN reports that a mass evacuation of Washington D.C. and New York has been started. The UN headquarters are already empty. A few minutes later, New York's mayor orders an evacuation of lower Manhattan.

10:50 AM: five stories of The Pentagon collapse due to the fire.

10:53 AM: New York's primary elections are canceled.

11:15 AM (approximately): reports that the F-15s over Washington had shot something down. There was no later confirmation of these reports.

11:16 AM: American Airlines confirms the loss of its two airplanes.

11:17 AM: United Airlines confirms the loss of Flight 93 and states that it is "deeply concerned" about Flight 175.

11:53 AM: United Airlines confirms the loss of its two airplanes.

11:55 AM: the border between the U.S. and Mexico is on highest alert, but has not been closed.

12:00 PM (approximately): President Bush arrives at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. He was on a trip in Sarasota[?] Florida to speak about education, but is supposedly now returning to the Capital. He makes a brief and informal initial statement to the effect that terrorism on U.S. soil will not be tolerated, stating that "freedom itself has been attacked and freedom will be protected."

12:02 PM: The Taliban government of Afghanistan denounces the attacks.

12:04 PM: Los Angeles International Airport, the intended destination of Flight 11 , Flight 77 and Flight 175 is shut down.

12:15 PM: San Francisco International Airport, the intended destination of United Airlines flight 93, is shut down.

1:00 PM (approximately): At The Pentagon, fire crews are still fighting fires. The early response to the attack had been coordinated from the National Military Command Center, but that had to be evacuated when it began to fill with smoke.

1:04 PM: President Bush puts the U.S. military on high alert worldwide. He speaks from Barksdale Air Force Base and leaves for SAC bunker in Nebraska. Later in the day several commentators and journalists, most notably ABC's Peter Jennings[?], express frustration with Bush's seemingly random wandering. After the arrival in Nebraska Jennings asks the ABC correspondent on the scene exactly where the President is. She answers, "Peter, the President has gone down the rabbit hole".

1:27 PM: Mayor Anthony A. Williams of Washington, D.C., declares a state of emergency; the D.C. National Guard arrives on site.

2:30 PM: Senator John McCain characterizes attack as an "act of war."

2:49 PM: At a press conference New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is asked to estimate the number of casualties at the World Trade Center. He replies, "More than any of us can bear."

4:00 PM: National news outlets report that high officials in the federal intelligence community are stating that Osama Bin Laden is suspect number one.

4:25 PM: The New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, and the American Stock Exchange report that they will remain closed Wednesday September 12.

5:20 PM: Salomon Brothers 7, commonly referred to as "7 World Trade Center", a 47 story building which had sustained what was originally thought to be light damage in the fall of the twin towers and was earlier reported on fire, collapses. Structural engineers are puzzled and investigation continues. The building was not designed by the same team responsible for the Twin Towers. The building contained New York's special emergency center, which may well have been intended for such a disaster as September 11.

6:00 PM: Explosions and tracer fire are reported in Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan by CNN and the BBC. The Northern Alliance, involved in a civil war with the Taliban government, is later reported to have attacked Kabul's airport with helicopter gunships.

6:00 PM: Iraq announces the attacks are the fruit of "U.S. crimes against humanity" in an official announcement on state television.

6:54 PM: President Bush finally arrives at the White House. Executive authority through much of the day had rested with Vice President Cheney.

7:00 PM: frantic efforts to locate survivors in the rubble that had been the Twin Towers continue. Fleets of ambulances have been lined up to transport the injured to nearby hospitals. They stand empty. 'Ground Zero' is the exclusive domain of the FDNY[?] and NYPD, despite volunteer steel and construction workers who stand ready to move large quantities of debris quickly. Relatives and friends displaying enlarged photographs of the missing printed on home computer printers are flooding downtown. The New York Armory at Lexington Avenue and 26th Street and Union Square Park at 14th Street become centers of vigil.

7:30 PM: U.S. Government denies any responsibility for reported explosions in Kabul.

8:30 PM: President Bush addresses nation from the White House. Among his phrases: "Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve." For a full transcript , see this White House webpage (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010911-16).

9:00 PM: Bush meets with his full National Security Council, followed roughly half an hour later by a meeting with a smaller group of key advisers. Bush and his advisors have evidence that Osama bin Laden is behind the attacks. CIA Director Tenet says that al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan are essentially one and the same. Bush says, "Tell the Taliban we're finished with them." Washington Post, 1/27/02 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A42754-2002Jan26)

11:00 PM: There are reports of survivors buried in the rubble in New York making cell phone calls. These rumors were later proved to be wrong.

11:30 PM: Before going to sleep, Bush writes in his diary. "The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today. ... We think it's Osama bin Laden." Washington Post, 1/27/02 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A42754-2002Jan26)

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