9/11: A timeline of America’s deadliest terror attack
A trove of aerial photographs of the collapsing World Trade Center was widely released this week, offering a rare and chilling view from the heavens of the burning twin towers and the apocalyptic shroud of smoke and dust that settled over the city.
Friday, Sept. 11, 2020, will mark 19 years since the terror attacks on the U.S. that killed almost 3,000 Americans in New York, Washington, D.C., and outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Here is a timeline of the events on Sept. 11, 2001:
5:45 a.m. — Hijackers pass through security screening in Portland, Maine. A total of 19 terrorists will hijack four California-bound commercial airplanes shortly after their departures from airports in Boston; Newark, New Jersey; and Washington. Mohamed Atta and Abdul Aziz al-Omari pass through security at Portland International Jetport. They will 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.
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7:59 a.m. — Flight 11 takes off with 11 crew members, 76 passengers, five hijackers and 76,400 pounds of fuel for its transcontinental run to Los Angeles.
8:15 a.m. — 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 11 attendant Betty Ann Ong alerts American Airlines ground personnel to a hijacking underway, reporting the cockpit is unreachable. Using an inflight phone, Ong transmits detailed information about the hijacking on the call, which lasts about 25 minutes. Before Ong’s call, a hijacker, likely Satam al-Suqami, had stabbed the passenger seated directly in front of him in first class. Atta and al-Omari are seated nearby. The passenger, Daniel M. Lewin, 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.
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8:20 a.m. — Flight 77 takes off from Washington Dulles International Airport en route to Los Angeles with six crew members, 53 passengers and five hijackers on board. The flight is loaded with 49,900 pounds of fuel.
8:21 a.m. — Flight 11 hijackers turn off the plane’s transponder. American Airlines relays details from Ong to its Texas operations center.
8:24 a.m. — Inside Flight 11′s cabin, 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.
8:26 a.m. — Ong provides the hijackers’ seat numbers to American Airlines.
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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.
8:32 a.m. — Flight 11 attendant Madeline Amy Sweeney reports the hijacking to a friend on the ground, a manager at Boston Logan International Airport. During the next 12 minutes, Sweeney provides key information about the hijacking, including a description of the perpetrators.
8:37 a.m. — Boston Air Traffic Control alerts U.S. military.
8:42 a.m. — Flight 93 takes off from Newark International Airport en route to San Francisco with seven crew members, 33 passengers, four hijackers and 48,700 pounds of fuel.
8:46 a.m. — Five hijackers crash Flight 11 into floors 93 through 99 of 1 World Trade Center, the 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 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.
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.
The new York City police department has released aerial photographs its officers took on the attack on the World Trade center on September 11 2001. (AP/Feb. 10)
8:50 a.m. — While visiting a Sarasota, Florida, elementary school, President George W. Bush is alerted of a plane crash into the World Trade Center.
8:52 a.m. — Flight 175 attendant, likely Robert John Fangman, reaches a United Airlines operator in San Francisco and reports a hijacking.
8:55 a.m. — A Port Authority employee announces over the South Tower public address system that the tower is secure, and "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.”
8:59 a.m. — An evacuation is ordered of the World Trade Center.
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 most 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.
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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. 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. — President Bush is informed of the second plane crash by chief of staff Andrew Card. New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani arrives at the NYPD command post near the World Trade Center.
9:30 a.m. — Bush makes a statement, calling the attacks “a national tragedy ... Terrorism against our nation will not stand.”
9:35 a.m. — Bush and his staff depart the elementary school to Sarasota Bradenton International Airport to board Air Force One, without a clear destination in mind.
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, killing 53 passengers and six crew members. The crash and the resulting fire will kill 125 more military and civilian personnel.
The 3-foot-by-5-foot flag took a symbolic and curious journey from a yacht moored in lower Manhattan to the smoking wreckage of the World Trade Center, then to a firehouse about 2,400 miles away in Everett, Washington.
9:42 a.m. — The FAA grounds all flights.
9:45 a.m. — Evacuations begin at the White House and on Capitol Hill.
9:58 a.m. — Thirty-seven telephone calls are known to have been made from 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 cellphone to dial 911 after closing himself in a restroom to avoid detection. By 9:58 a.m., Flight 93 is flying so low he succeeds in reaching an emergency operator in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.
9:59 a.m. — After burning for 56 minutes, the World Trade Center’s South Tower collapses. More than 800 civilians and fire and rescue personnel are killed.
10:03 a.m. — Four hijackers crash Flight 93 in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after passengers and crew storm the cockpit. The 33 passengers and seven crew members on board perish. The crash site is about 20 minutes’ flying time from Washington.
10:28 a.m. — After burning for 102 minutes, the World Trade Center’s North Tower collapses. More than 1,600 people are killed.
11:02 a.m. — Mayor Giuliani orders the evacuation of Lower Manhattan. 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.
Nirvana Edwards left New York City for Atlanta shortly after 9/11, because she no longer felt safe in the city grew up in. (Video by Ryon Horne/Mark Davis/AJC, Music by Matthew Head)
11:45 a.m. — Air Force One lands at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.
12:30 p.m. — Fourteen survivors are located in the ruins of North Tower’s stairwell B.
2:16 p.m. — U.S. airspace is closed. More than 4,000 commercial and general aviation planes have landed, leaving thousands of passengers stranded.
2:50 p.m. — Air Force One lands at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. President Bush will later return to Washington that evening, landing at Andrews Air Force Base and taking a helicopter to the White House.
3 p.m. — FDNY rescues a survivor at the World Trade Center site.
5:20 p.m. — 7 World Trade Center collapses.
8:30 p.m. — President Bush addresses the nation from the White House.
10:30 p.m. — Rescue workers locate trapped PAPD Officer William Jimeno and PAPD Sgt. John McLoughlin, injured but alive in the debris of the World Trade Center. Workers will extricate the 18th survivor, Genelle Guzman, on the afternoon of Sept. 12. She will be the last person rescued.