Planning for the September 11 attacks began years before 2001. Since the beginning of the 1990s, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a Pakistani extremist terrorist member of the organization al-Qaeda who is now known as the “principal” architect of the attacks, started to devise a plan to attack several locations and assassinate Pope John Paul II using 11 airliners in flight from Asia to the United States. The plan was known as ‘the Bojinka plot,’ and it was tested by Ramzi Yousef, his co-conspirator responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Yousef planted a bomb aboard Philippine Airlines Flight 434 on December 11, 1994, but failed, only killing one passenger.
Mohammed then presented a modified plan to Osama bin Laden, leader of al-Qaeda in 1996, in Afghanistan. The terrorist envisioned hijacking 10 airplanes with several targets. Bin Laden rejected it as being too elaborate. However, the plan was redesigned and they both started to plan an attack on American soil in late 1998 or early 1999. Mohammed helped to arrange travel for the hijackers, who were willing to die during the attack. The hijackers arrived in the U.S. at different dates during early 2000 and in March they began inquiring several flight training academies about flight training. By the end of the year and in early 2001 they left the programs and had already selected their targets.
American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767 aircraft, took off from Boston’s Logan Airport at 7:59 a.m., bound for Los Angeles, carrying 11 crew members and 76 passengers, excluding five hijackers. At 8:46 a.m., the hijackers directed the plane into the northern face of the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
United Airlines Flight 175, also a Boeing 767 aircraft, also departed Logan Airport at 8:14 a.m., heading to Los Angeles with a crew of nine and 51 passengers, not counting five hijackers. At 9:03 a.m., these hijackers steered the aircraft into the southern side of the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757 aircraft, left Washington Dulles International Airport at 8:20 a.m., bound for Los Angeles, carrying six crew members and 53 passengers, excluding five hijackers. At 9:37 a.m., these hijackers guided the plane into the western section of the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia.
United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757 aircraft, took off from Newark International Airport at 8:42 a.m., en route to San Francisco, with a crew of seven and 33 passengers, not including four hijackers. Passengers onboard bravely attempted to overpower the hijackers, leading to the aircraft crashing into a field in Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania, near Shanksville, at 10:03 a.m.
6:31: President Bush goes for a jog around the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key, Florida after he and his staff spent the night.
7:59 a.m.: American Airlines Flight 11 departs with five hijackers on board.
8:00: President Bush has his daily intelligence briefing. He is informed about the Palestinian uprising in Israel and other related issues. There is no mention of Osama bin Laden or al-Qaeda.
8:14: United Airlines Flight 175 departs with five hijackers.
8:14: Flight 11 is hijacked while the plane flies over central Massachusetts. Hijackers turn the plane northwest then south heading to New York.
8:20: American Airlines Flight 77 departs with five hijackers on board.
8:42: United Airlines Flight 93 departs with four hijackers on board.
8:42 - 8:46: Flight 175 is hijacked above northwest New Jersey. Hijackers turn the plane northeast.
8:46:40: Flight 11 crashes into the north face of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, between floors 93 and 99. No passengers survive the crash and an unknown number of people inside the building are also instantly killed.
8:50 - 8:54: Flight 77 is hijacked above southern Ohio. Hijackers turn the airplane towards the southeast. Hijacker-pilot Hani Hanjour turns off the transponder.
8:55: President Bush arrives at Emma E. Brooker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, as part of a scheduled visit promoting education. Chief of Staff Andrew Card informs him that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center. The President then speaks to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, who is at the White House.
9:03: President Bush enters a classroom during his visit, deciding to continue his schedule despite receiving news of the attack.
9:03:02: Flight 175 crashes into the south face of the South Tower of the World Trade Center, between floors 77 and 85. No passengers or crew survive the crash and an unknown number of people inside the building are also instantly killed.
9:05: President Bush is about to begin reading The Pet Goat with elementary students when Chief of Staff Andrew Card interrupts whispers to the president: “A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack”. The president decides to continue the reading.
9:14: President Bush enters an adjacent classroom commandeered by the U.S. Secret Service. The president speaks to Vice President Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, New York Governor George Pataki, and FBI Director Robert Mueller. He prepares brief remarks.
9:28: Flight 93 is hijacked above northern Ohio. Hijackers turn the plane towards southeast.
9:29: President Bush makes his first statements about the attacks at Emma E. Brooker Elementary School stating that he will be going back to Washington. “Two airplanes… have crashed… into the World Trade Center… in an apparent terrorist attack on our country”.
9:37:46: Flight 77 crashes into the western side of The Pentagon. All passengers and crew are killed, including 125 people on the ground.
9:45: The Federal Aviation Administration shuts down United States airspace.
9:57: Aboard Flight 93 Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Todd Burnett, Jeremy Glick and other passengers begin a revolt and move against the hijackers trying to take back control of the plane.
9:57: President Bush leaves Sarasota, Florida. The plane reaches cruising altitude and circles for approximately 40 minutes while the President staff discusses the destination.
9:58:59: The South Tower of the World Trade center collapses, 56 minutes after the impact. The Tower collapsed faster than the North Tower due to the impact speed of the crash.
10:03:11: Flight 93 is crashed by its hijackers southeast of Pittsburgh in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. The 9/11 Commission believes that the flight’s target was either the United States Capitol building or the White House in Washington, D.C. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was called “the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks”, claims that the target was the U.S. Capitol.
10:20: President Bush tells Vice President Cheney that he has authorized a shootdown of aircraft if necessary.
10:28:25: The North Tower of the World Trade Center collapses, 1 hour and 42 minutes after impact.
10:50:19: Five stories of the west side of The Pentagon crashed at 1st-3rd floor level collapse due to the fire started by the crash.
13:04: President Bush puts the U.S. Military on high alert worldwide. He tapes a statement, saying that “freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward and freedom will be defended.”
14:50: Air Force One lands at Offutt Air Force Base, Bellevue, Nebraska. President Bush convene a National Security Council teleconference from the U.S. STRATCOM bunker.
16:36: President Bush departs Offutt Air Force Base.
17:20:33: The 7 World Trade Center building collapses after damage caused from debris and fires inside the building.
18:54: President Bush arrives at the White House.
20:30. The President addresses the country stating: “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.”
21:00: The President meets his National Security Council and receives evidence that Osama bin Laden is responsible for the attacks. Bush says, “Tell the Taliban we’re finish with them.”
23:30: President Bush writes in his journal before sleeping: “The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today...We think it’s Osama bin Laden.”
Estimates indicate that between 6,000 to 25,000 people were injured in the attacks, resulting in 2,996 deaths, including the 19 al-Qaeda terrorists who carried out the attacks.
On September 20, the President announced that the U.S. was at war, starting the “war on terror”. On October 7 the U.S. started their attacks on Afghanistan.
The 9/11 attacks led to significant long-term consequences, including the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security and the initiation of military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Iraq war had long-lasting consequences for worldwide geopolitics and American military operations overseas during the rest of the XXI century.
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