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9/11 short essay

Two Decades Later, the Enduring Legacy of 9/11

Americans watched in horror as the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, left nearly 3,000 people dead in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Nearly 20 years later, they watched in sorrow as the nation’s military mission in Afghanistan – which began less than a month after 9/11 – came to a bloody and chaotic conclusion.

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Chart shows 9/11 a powerful memory for Americans – but only for adults old enough to remember

The enduring power of the Sept. 11 attacks is clear: An overwhelming share of Americans who are old enough to recall the day remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news. Yet an ever-growing number of Americans have no personal memory of that day, either because they were too young or not yet born.

A review of U.S. public opinion in the two decades since 9/11 reveals how a badly shaken nation came together, briefly, in a spirit of sadness and patriotism; how the public initially rallied behind the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, though support waned over time; and how Americans viewed the threat of terrorism at home and the steps the government took to combat it.

As the country comes to grips with the tumultuous exit of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan, the departure has raised long-term questions about U.S. foreign policy and America’s place in the world. Yet the public’s initial judgments on that mission are clear: A majority endorses the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, even as it criticizes the Biden administration’s handling of the situation. And after a war that cost thousands of lives – including more than 2,000 American service members – and trillions of dollars in military spending, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that 69% of U.S. adults say the United States has mostly failed to achieve its goals in Afghanistan.

This examination of how the United States changed in the two decades following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is based on an analysis of past public opinion survey data from Pew Research Center, news reports and other sources.

Current data is from a Pew Research Center survey of 10,348 U.S. adults conducted Aug. 23-29, 2021. Most of the interviewing was conducted before the Aug. 26 suicide bombing at Kabul airport, and all of it was conducted before the completion of the evacuation. Everyone who took part is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the  ATP’s methodology .

Here are the questions used  for the report, along with responses, and  its methodology .

A devastating emotional toll, a lasting historical legacy

Shock, sadness, fear, anger: The 9/11 attacks inflicted a devastating emotional toll on Americans. But as horrible as the events of that day were, a 63% majority of Americans said they couldn’t stop watching news coverage of the attacks.

Chart shows days after 9/11, nearly all Americans said they felt sad; most felt depressed

Our first survey following the attacks went into the field just days after 9/11, from Sept. 13-17, 2001. A sizable majority of adults (71%) said they felt depressed, nearly half (49%) had difficulty concentrating and a third said they had trouble sleeping.

It was an era in which television was still the public’s dominant news source – 90% said they got most of their news about the attacks from television, compared with just 5% who got news online – and the televised images of death and destruction had a powerful impact. Around nine-in-ten Americans (92%) agreed with the statement, “I feel sad when watching TV coverage of the terrorist attacks.” A sizable majority (77%) also found it frightening to watch – but most did so anyway.

Americans were enraged by the attacks, too. Three weeks after 9/11 , even as the psychological stress began to ease somewhat, 87% said they felt angry about the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Fear was widespread, not just in the days immediately after the attacks, but throughout the fall of 2001. Most Americans said they were very (28%) or somewhat (45%) worried about another attack . When asked a year later to describe how their lives changed in a major way, about half of adults said they felt more afraid, more careful, more distrustful or more vulnerable as a result of the attacks.

9/11 short essay

Even after the immediate shock of 9/11 had subsided, concerns over terrorism remained at higher levels in major cities – especially New York and Washington – than in small towns and rural areas. The personal impact of the attacks also was felt more keenly in the cities directly targeted: Nearly a year after 9/11, about six-in-ten adults in the New York (61%) and Washington (63%) areas said the attacks had changed their lives at least a little, compared with 49% nationwide. This sentiment was shared by residents of other large cities. A quarter of people who lived in large cities nationwide said their lives had changed in a major way – twice the rate found in small towns and rural areas.

The impacts of the Sept. 11 attacks were deeply felt and slow to dissipate. By the following August, half of U.S. adults said the country “had changed in a major way” – a number that actually increased , to 61%, 10 years after the event .

A year after the attacks, in an open-ended question, most Americans – 80% – cited 9/11 as the most important event that had occurred in the country during the previous year. Strikingly, a larger share also volunteered it as the most important thing that happened to them personally in the prior year (38%) than mentioned other typical life events, such as births or deaths. Again, the personal impact was much greater in New York and Washington, where 51% and 44%, respectively, pointed to the attacks as the most significant personal event over the prior year.

Chart shows in 2016 – 15 years after 9/11 – the attacks continued to be seen as one of the public’s top historical events

Just as memories of 9/11 are firmly embedded in the minds of most Americans old enough to recall the attacks, their historical importance far surpasses other events in people’s lifetimes. In a survey conducted by Pew Research Center in association with A+E Networks’ HISTORY in 2016 – 15 years after 9/11 – 76% of adults named the Sept. 11 attacks as one of the 10 historical events of their lifetime that had the greatest impact on the country. The election of Barack Obama as the first Black president was a distant second, at 40%.

The importance of 9/11 transcended age, gender, geographic and even political differences. The 2016 study noted that while partisans agreed on little else that election cycle, more than seven-in-ten Republicans and Democrats named the attacks as one of their top 10 historic events.

9/11 short essay

9/11 transformed U.S. public opinion, but many of its impacts were short-lived

It is difficult to think of an event that so profoundly transformed U.S. public opinion across so many dimensions as the 9/11 attacks. While Americans had a shared sense of anguish after Sept. 11, the months that followed also were marked by rare spirit of public unity.

Chart shows trust in government spiked following Sept. 11 terror attack

Patriotic sentiment surged in the aftermath of 9/11. After the U.S. and its allies launched airstrikes against Taliban and al-Qaida forces in early October 2001, 79% of adults said they had displayed an American flag. A year later, a 62% majority said they had often felt patriotic as a result of the 9/11 attacks.

Moreover, the public largely set aside political differences and rallied in support of the nation’s major institutions, as well as its political leadership. In October 2001, 60% of adults expressed trust in the federal government – a level not reached in the previous three decades, nor approached in the two decades since then.

George W. Bush, who had become president nine months earlier after a fiercely contested election, saw his job approval rise 35 percentage points in the space of three weeks. In late September 2001, 86% of adults – including nearly all Republicans (96%) and a sizable majority of Democrats (78%) – approved of the way Bush was handling his job as president.

Americans also turned to religion and faith in large numbers. In the days and weeks after 9/11, most Americans said they were praying more often. In November 2001, 78% said religion’s influence in American life was increasing, more than double the share who said that eight months earlier and – like public trust in the federal government – the highest level in four decades .

Public esteem rose even for some institutions that usually are not that popular with Americans. For example, in November 2001, news organizations received record-high ratings for professionalism. Around seven-in-ten adults (69%) said they “stand up for America,” while 60% said they protected democracy.

Yet in many ways, the “9/11 effect” on public opinion was short-lived. Public trust in government, as well as confidence in other institutions, declined throughout the 2000s. By 2005, following another major national tragedy – the government’s mishandling of the relief effort for victims of Hurricane Katrina – just 31% said they trusted the federal government, half the share who said so in the months after 9/11. Trust has remained relatively low for the past two decades: In April of this year, only 24% said they trusted the government just about always or most of the time.

Bush’s approval ratings, meanwhile, never again reached the lofty heights they did shortly after 9/11. By the end of his presidency, in December 2008, just 24% approved of his job performance.

9/11 short essay

U.S. military response: Afghanistan and Iraq

With the U.S. now formally out of Afghanistan – and with the Taliban firmly in control of the country – most Americans (69%) say the U.S. failed in achieving its goals in Afghanistan.

Chart shows broad initial support for U.S. military action against 9/11 terrorists, even if it entailed thousands of U.S. casualties

But 20 years ago, in the days and weeks following 9/11, Americans overwhelmingly supported military action against those responsible for the attacks. In mid-September 2001, 77% favored U.S. military action, including the deployment of ground forces, “to retaliate against whoever is responsible for the terrorist attacks, even if that means U.S. armed forces might suffer thousands of casualties.”

Many Americans were impatient for the Bush administration to give the go-ahead for military action. In a late September 2001 survey, nearly half the public (49%) said their larger concern was that the Bush administration would not strike quickly enough against the terrorists; just 34% said they worried the administration would move too quickly.

Even in the early stages of the U.S. military response, few adults expected a military operation to produce quick results: 69% said it would take months or years to dismantle terrorist networks, including 38% who said it would take years and 31% who said it would take several months. Just 18% said it would take days or weeks.

The public’s support for military intervention was evident in other ways as well. Throughout the fall of 2001, more Americans said the best way to prevent future terrorism was to take military action abroad rather than build up defenses at home. In early October 2001, 45% prioritized military action to destroy terrorist networks around the world, while 36% said the priority should be to build terrorism defenses at home.

9/11 short essay

Initially, the public was confident that the U.S. military effort to destroy terrorist networks would succeed. A sizable majority (76%) was confident in the success of this mission, with 39% saying they were very confident.

Support for the war in Afghanistan continued at a high level for several years to come. In a survey conducted in early 2002, a few months after the start of the war, 83% of Americans said they approved of the U.S.-led military campaign against the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan. In 2006, several years after the United States began combat operations in Afghanistan, 69% of adults said the U.S. made the right decision in using military force in Afghanistan. Only two-in-ten said it was the wrong decision.

Chart shows public support for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan increased after Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011

But as the conflict dragged on, first through Bush’s presidency and then through Obama’s administration, support wavered and a growing share of Americans favored the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. In June 2009, during Obama’s first year in office, 38% of Americans said U.S. troops should be removed from Afghanistan as soon as possible. The share favoring a speedy troop withdrawal increased over the next few years. A turning point came in May 2011, when U.S. Navy SEALs launched a risky operation against Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan and killed the al-Qaida leader.

The public reacted to bin Laden’s death with more of a sense of relief than jubilation . A month later, for the first time , a majority of Americans (56%) said that U.S. forces should be brought home as soon as possible, while 39% favored U.S. forces in the country until the situation had stabilized.

Over the next decade, U.S. forces in Afghanistan were gradually drawn down, in fits and starts, over the administrations of three presidents – Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Meanwhile, public support for the decision to use force in Afghanistan, which had been widespread at the start of the conflict, declined . Today, after the tumultuous exit of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, a slim majority of adults (54%) say the decision to withdraw troops from the country was the right decision; 42% say it was the wrong decision. 

There was a similar trajectory in public attitudes toward a much more expansive conflict that was part of what Bush termed the “war on terror”: the U.S. war in Iraq. Throughout the contentious, yearlong debate before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Americans widely supported the use of military force to end Saddam Hussein’s rule in Iraq.

Importantly, most Americans thought – erroneously, as it turned out – there was a direct connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks. In October 2002, 66% said that Saddam helped the terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

In April 2003, during the first month of the Iraq War, 71% said the U.S. made the right decision to go to war in Iraq. On the 15th anniversary of the war in 2018, just 43% said it was the right decision. As with the case with U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, more Americans said that the U.S. had failed (53%) than succeeded (39%) in achieving its goals in Iraq.

9/11 short essay

The ‘new normal’: The threat of terrorism after 9/11

There have been no terrorist attacks on the scale of 9/11 in two decades, but from the public’s perspective, the threat has never fully gone away. Defending the country from future terrorist attacks has been at or near the top of Pew Research Center’s annual survey on policy priorities since 2002.

Chart shows terrorism has consistently ranked high on Americans’ list of policy priorities

In January 2002, just months after the 2001 attacks, 83% of Americans said “defending the country from future terrorist attacks” was a top priority for the president and Congress, the highest for any issue. Since then, sizable majorities have continued to cite that as a top policy priority.

Majorities of both Republicans and Democrats have consistently ranked terrorism as a top priority over the past two decades, with some exceptions. Republicans and Republican-leaning independents have remained more likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners to say defending the country from future attacks should be a top priority. In recent years, the partisan gap has grown larger as Democrats began to rank the issue lower relative to other domestic concerns. The public’s concerns about another attack also remained fairly steady in the years after 9/11, through near-misses and the federal government’s numerous “Orange Alerts” – the second-most serious threat level on its color-coded terrorism warning system.

A 2010 analysis of the public’s terrorism concerns found that the share of Americans who said they were very concerned about another attack had ranged from about 15% to roughly 25% since 2002. The only time when concerns were elevated was in February 2003, shortly before the start of the U.S. war in Iraq.

In recent years, the share of Americans who point to terrorism as a major national problem has declined sharply as issues such as the economy, the COVID-19 pandemic and racism have emerged as more pressing problems in the public’s eyes.

Chart shows in recent years, terrorism declined as a ‘very big’ national problem

In 2016, about half of the public (53%) said terrorism was a very big national problem in the country. This declined to about four-in-ten from 2017 to 2019. Last year, only a quarter of Americans said that terrorism was a very big problem.

This year, prior to the U.S. withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan and the subsequent Taliban takeover of the country, a somewhat larger share of adults said domestic terrorism was a very big national problem (35%) than said the same about international terrorism . But much larger shares cited concerns such as the affordability of health care (56%) and the federal budget deficit (49%) as major problems than said that about either domestic or international terrorism.

Still, recent events in Afghanistan raise the possibility that opinion could be changing, at least in the short term. In a late August survey, 89% of Americans said the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was a threat to the security of the U.S., including 46% who said it was a major threat.

9/11 short essay

Addressing the threat of terrorism at home and abroad

Just as Americans largely endorsed the use of U.S. military force as a response to the 9/11 attacks, they were initially open to a variety of other far-reaching measures to combat terrorism at home and abroad. In the days following the attack, for example, majorities favored a requirement that all citizens carry national ID cards, allowing the CIA to contract with criminals in pursuing suspected terrorists and permitting the CIA to conduct assassinations overseas when pursuing suspected terrorists.

Chart shows following 9/11, more Americans saw the necessity to sacrifice civil liberties in order to curb terrorism

However, most people drew the line against allowing the government to monitor their own emails and phone calls (77% opposed this). And while 29% supported the establishment of internment camps for legal immigrants from unfriendly countries during times of tension or crisis – along the lines of those in which thousands of Japanese American citizens were confined during World War II – 57% opposed such a measure.

It was clear that from the public’s perspective, the balance between protecting civil liberties and protecting the country from terrorism had shifted. In September 2001 and January 2002, 55% majorities said that, in order to curb terrorism in the U.S., it was necessary for the average citizen to give up some civil liberties. In 1997, just 29% said this would be necessary while 62% said it would not.

For most of the next two decades, more Americans said their bigger concern was that the government had not gone far enough in protecting the country from terrorism than said it went too far in restricting civil liberties.

The public also did not rule out the use of torture to extract information from terrorist suspects. In a 2015 survey of 40 nations, the U.S. was one of only 12 where a majority of the public said the use of torture against terrorists could be justified to gain information about a possible attack.

9/11 short essay

Views of Muslims, Islam grew more partisan in years after 9/11

Concerned about a possible backlash against Muslims in the U.S. in the days after 9/11, then-President George W. Bush gave a speech to the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C., in which he declared: “Islam is peace.” For a brief period, a large segment of Americans agreed. In November 2001, 59% of U.S. adults had a favorable view of Muslim Americans, up from 45% in March 2001, with comparable majorities of Democrats and Republicans expressing a favorable opinion.

Chart shows Republicans increasingly say Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence

This spirit of unity and comity was not to last. In a September 2001 survey, 28% of adults said they had grown more suspicious of people of Middle Eastern descent; that grew to 36% less than a year later.

Republicans, in particular, increasingly came to associate Muslims and Islam with violence. In 2002, just a quarter of Americans – including 32% of Republicans and 23% of Democrats – said Islam was more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its believers. About twice as many (51%) said it was not.

But within the next few years, most Republicans and GOP leaners said Islam was more likely than other religions to encourage violence. Today, 72% of Republicans express this view, according to an August 2021 survey.

Democrats consistently have been far less likely than Republicans to associate Islam with violence. In the Center’s latest survey, 32% of Democrats say this. Still, Democrats are somewhat more likely to say this today than they have been in recent years: In 2019, 28% of Democrats said Islam was more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its believers than other religions.

The partisan gap in views of Muslims and Islam in the U.S. is evident in other meaningful ways. For example, a 2017 survey found that half of U.S. adults said that “Islam is not part of mainstream American society” – a view held by nearly seven-in-ten Republicans (68%) but only 37% of Democrats. In a separate survey conducted in 2017, 56% of Republicans said there was a great deal or fair amount of extremism among U.S. Muslims, with fewer than half as many Democrats (22%) saying the same.

The rise of anti-Muslim sentiment in the aftermath of 9/11 has had a profound effect on the growing number of Muslims living in the United States. Surveys of U.S. Muslims from 2007-2017 found increasing shares saying they have personally experienced discrimination and received public expression of support.

9/11 short essay

It has now been two decades since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and the crash of Flight 93 – where only the courage of passengers and crew possibly prevented an even deadlier terror attack.

For most who are old enough to remember, it is a day that is impossible to forget. In many ways, 9/11 reshaped how Americans think of war and peace, their own personal safety and their fellow citizens. And today, the violence and chaos in a country half a world away brings with it the opening of an uncertain new chapter in the post-9/11 era.

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About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts .

9/11 short essay

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Students Reflect on 9/11 in Essay Contest

 A yellow sunflower sits beside a name at the 9/11 Memorial.

First responders and supporters from the city of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. have once again sponsored an essay contest in which local students can reflect on their understanding of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

The second annual September 11th remembrance essay contest, which is open to Palm Beach Gardens residents and the dependents of city employees, requests that students in grades nine to 12 "reflect on how the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 affected our nation and the future of the world."

Building on their successful 2015 contest , the contest is being sponsored by the Palm Beach Gardens Police Foundation, Fire Chief’s Association of Palm Beach County and Palm Beach Gardens Fire-Rescue, according to the Palm Beach Post .

Essay submissions should be between 500 to 700 words and applications are due Aug. 15, 2016. Three winners will be chosen. 

By 9/11 Memorial Staff

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The lens: capturing life and events at the 9/11 memorial and museum.

Hearts have been drawn in condensation that formed on names at the 9/11 Memorial.

The Lens: Capturing Life and Events at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum is a photography series devoted to documenting moments big and small that unfold at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

9/11 Museum Honors Legacy of New York Yankees

A rain-check Yankees ticket from September 10, 2001, is displayed. The ticket notes that the game will take place on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 at 7:05 p.m.

With the Bronx Bombers opening their season yesterday at Yankee Stadium, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum honors the connection between the Yankees and legacy of Sept. 11.


9/11 Short Paragraph

9/11 informational essay.

September 11, 2001 was not just any ordinary day for the citizens of the United States and the city of New York, but a devastating attack that has put us all in shock and fear. As all of you know, the Tuesday that this country was ambushed and attacked destructively by terrorists, was one of the saddest days America has ever seen. Not only did it affect the people that were in the World Trade Center Towers and the loved ones who unfortunately passed away, but it affected our country as a whole. Scared, devastated, astonished, and surprised are just a few words that begin to describe September 11th. As separate states and people, I can confidently say that America has never been closer together as one than on that

Informative Speech On 9 / 11

It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history. The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory -- hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction.

America Is A Great Nation

On September 11th, 2001, a horrific act of terror struck our nation to the core. Fear, devastating and humbling, lodged into our blessed lives. Over 2,800 American civilians were murdered in cold blood when two planes were hijacked and flown directly into the twin towers (Anderson 3). This atrocious event caused the entire country to mourn for its loss, and as American citizens, it is impossible to ignore the destruction of such an event.

Cause And Effect Essay On 9 / 11

The horrific events that took place on September 11th caused thousands of casualties. As a result of the terrorist attacks that took place, nearly three thousand people died and over six thousand people were injured in the attack. A total of nineteen terrorists took thousands of lives away from families across the nation. Over four hundred firefighters and officers in New York City lost their life that day trying to get as many people whom they didn't even know to safety. September 11th will forever be remembered as the day where everyone in the nation united as

How 9/11 Has The World Changed

9/11 is the date our world changed. The date that will be remembered forever by our nation. On this gruesome day, four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic, terrorist group al-Qaeda took place. The United States was targeted and terrorized. On September 11th 2001, two American airline flights numbered 11, and 175, crashed into the twin towers. It was thought to be a freak accident before the second plane hit. But once it did, it was certain this was planned. Sheer terror swept over the nation as we realized we were under attack. No one knew the extensivity of the situation either. For all we knew, a series of bombs could be descending from above. Hearts immediately went out to those whose loved ones were working in the twin towers that morning.

Cause And Effect Of 9 / 11 Essay

On the morning of September 11, 2001, an Islamic terrorist group known as al-Qaeda carried out a series of four attacks on the United States. The most well-known attack is when two commercial airline planes crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City. Many innocent lives were lost and families were torn apart. While many Americans were determined to show their resilience towards the attacks, this is a day many Americans will never forget. Although the attacks happened sixteen years ago, Americans are still dealing with the impacts these attacks have had on life in America. The 9/11 attacks have had several long-lasting effects on everyday life in America, some of which include an increase in airport security, a change in national security, and an increase the fear of terrorism.

The Deadly Attack On American Soil

September 11, 2001 (herein referred to as 9/11) was a day in American history, which will be remembered as the most horrific attack on American soil. This attack, carried out by nineteen Islamic extremists, was associated with al-Qaeda, and involved the hijacking of four airplanes. Two of those airplanes were hijacked and flown directly into the World Trade Center in New York City, New York. The third plane’s target was the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and the fourth plane was brought down in Pennsylvania where it is believed the passengers aboard fought the hijackers. This horrific day in history cost over 3,000 people their lives, and was labeled the worst attack on American soil since the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II.

U.s History : The Worst Terror Attack On Us Soil Took Place

On September 11th, 2001, the worst terror attack on US soil took place. 19 people associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda took 4 airplanes and carried out suicide to kill people in the United States. Two of the planes hit the World Trade Center, another plan hit the pentagon just outside Washington, D.C, and the fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. These attacks caused massive destruction, forcing the U.S to combat terrorism and “defining the presidency of George W. Bush” (History). 9/11 is one of the most tragic events in the history of America, minute by minute people feared and this fear brought the country together in a way that it never did

9/11 Research Paper

September 11, 2001 is one of the most infamous dates in American history. On this day, 19 radicalized Islamic militants hijacked four United States-based airplanes. Two of the planes were flown into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Thousands of first responders, occupants of the Towers and bystanders were killed or injured. The third plane flew into the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and 125 people were killed. The passengers on the fourth plane revolted and forced the hijackers to crash into a field in Stony Creek, Pennsylvania. A total of 3,000 people were killed and over 6,000 were injured that day (“9/11 Attacks” 1). After the most detrimental terrorist attack in the history of the United States, action needed to

September 11th, 2001 is a day that left deep scars on Americans and America’s history. Extremists from a terrorist group, called al-Qaeda, whose main goal is to make countries that are predominantly Islamic get rid of all non-Islamic influences, hijacked four commercial airplanes, full of innocent passengers, and then smashed one into each of the Twin Towers or the World Trade Center in New York. Shortly after, there was another attack on the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Back in New york, both of the twin towers collapsed. The fourth hijacked airplane did not do much damage. It landed on an open field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. All together 2,996 innocent individuals died. An emotional impact was left because many people lost their family

September 11th Marks Of The United States

Most people from one time to another have had a memorable event within their lifetime. One memorable event that spread across the United States and affected many people is what is known as 9/11. This event affected many innocent lives, those that survived as well as those that did not. September 11th marks in history as a horrifying even that now affects people’s societal, political, and personal decisions. It is marked down as a day no U.S. citizen would forget.

Informative Essay On 9/11 Conspiracy

September 11th, 2001 was a very traumatic time for the United States. On that day planes were hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center and caused the Twin Towers to collapse (“11 Facts”). Along with the Twin Towers collapsing, the Pentagon building in Washington, DC was hit with a plane and another plane crashed down near Shanksville, Pennsylvania (“11 Facts”). On United Flight 93, the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, passengers became aware of the hijacking and tried to fight the hijackers to regain control of the plane (“11 Facts”). So many people were killed and within all those people, several of them were either police officers or fire fighters (“11

The Aftermath Of 9 / 11 : The Attacks Of September 11

As blood trickled down the flight attendant’s neck, the screams of passengers echoed while hoping and praying that it was not their time to perish. A dark-skinned man headed towards the front of the plane, claiming the pilot as his next victim. As this occurred within the four other planes, hostages aboard knew they were living the last few moments of their life. Each tear and scream would ultimately be their last-their last breath taken as the plane crashed into a building of peace, dying with the thought of “I should have said goodbye,” as their lives were taken away in seconds by strangers. Thousands of innocent lives were lost, as well as the hearts of millions of others worldwide who felt the repercussion and heartbreak of these terrorist attacks. The Tuesday morning of September 11, 2001, swept worldwide panic and sorrow, naming itself the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil to date. Nineteen terrorists, four planes, and millions of hearts broken later, the world was now split into the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of 9/11, impacting our environment tremendously both physically and psychologically.

9/11 Narrative Essay

September 11, 2001 is the day four planes were hijacked and three crashed into important buildings, while the last crashed into a field. And today all the grief, devastation, great sacrifice, and total annihilation will be remembered throughout time as 9/11. To tell you everything would take forever, so instead I will tell you how my mother saw it. It was on a day we all know as 9/11, there was a house on Quimby Way in Sacramento, California. And in this house, my mother was going throughout her day as usual, which most likely involved laundry, dishes, and watching two children by the name of Alanna and Christopher, when she saw the news. “Is this really happening? This can’t be true! Was it an accident? Oh my god, both towers! What would ever make someone do that? This is terrible, why is it even happening in the first place? Why? Why?

Informative Essay On 9 / 11

On September 11, 2001, the nation suffered a traumatic event in which impacted the world’s perspective on terrorism and violence that will last for generations to come. In the early hours of a calm Tuesday morning business was flowing as usual. The World Trade Center symbolized power and wealth of America, leading it to be the most prominent target to hit in order to cause deadly destruction. An eyewitness of the event, Ed Hashey described the first explosion that took place. He states, “Before you knew it, it was 8:40 a.m. and I was at the World Trade Center station at Cortland Street. I got off the train, walked up to the street exit, and right as I saw daylight, I heard a huge explosion and then many pieces of metal debris, some the size of car hoods, were falling all around me and a very large crowd of people” (Source 9). No one at the time understood what was happening, the nation was in a state of shock. This passenger airplane turned out to be American Airlines, Flight 11 which came out of Boston, Massachusetts from Logan International Airport (Source 1). The original route was heading to upstate New York when suddenly it was hijacked by terrorists which then controlled the plane to come down towards the city, specifically Manhattan in an aim to hit the World Trade Center. Everyone believed that it was a true accident and a tragedy, but to Ed Hashey he stated, “At that point the police ordered a mass evacuation, and I remember thinking this was a terrorist act. It was just too coincidental to be anything else” (Source 9). The worse was only yet to come.

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9/11 short essay

Essays on 9/11

The effects of 9/11 attack on america, a tragedy for all americans: the 9/11 terrorist attack, how 9/11 changed people’s lives in the usa, history of terrorist attack in united states, the impact of the 9/11 tragedy on the marketplace in the reluctant fundamentalist, insight on the twin towers attack, president george w. bush's speech after the 9/11 attacks: a critique, the reasons why it is important to address the 9/11 in literature, conspiracy theory: no truth about 9/11, 9/11 attacks: facts, background and impact, the events that led to the 9/11 crisis in the united states, different reactions on the 9/11 tragedy in america, the 9/11 terrorist attacks: the dark day in us history, analysis of the 9/11 attacs in terms of aristotelian courage, 9/11: discussion about freedom in the united states, analysis of 9/11 incident as a conspiracy theory, an analysis of the united states foreign policy in the post 9/11 period, a research of 9/11 conspiracy theory, the growth of islamophobia after 9/11 in the united states of america, terrorism on american soil, 11 of september 2001: analysis of the tragedy and its conspiracies, the patriot act should be abolished, depiction of 9/11 in extremely loud and incredibly close movie, the history and background of 9/11 memorial, ian mcewan’s saturday: criticism of the post-9/11 society, cia's torture of detainees after twin towers' tragedy, 9/11: a day never forgotten, parallels between pearl harbor and 9/11 attack, america’s darkest days: pearl harbor and 9/11, feeling stressed about your essay.

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September 11, 2001

New York City, New York, U.S.

9/11 attacks were a series of airline hijackings and suicide attacks committed in 2001 by 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda against targets in the United States, the deadliest terrorist attacks on American soil in U.S. history. The hijackers successfully crashed the first two planes into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, and the third plane into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. The fourth plane was intended to hit a federal government building in Washington, D.C., but instead crashed down in a field outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania following a passenger revolt that foiled the attack.

The attacks resulted in 2,977 fatalities, over 25,000 injuries, and substantial long-term health consequences.

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9/11 short essay

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Seven Reflections Worth Reading About 9/11

Tomorrow is the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Not surprisingly, the last several weeks have seen the publication of a torrent of articles assessing the meaning and lessons of 9/11. It’s a topic that has been debated for twenty years and will continue to be debated for decades to come. The lessons that get drawn will inevitably change over time, just as we see 9/11 differently today than we did a decade ago. We inevitably see the past through the lens of the present.

With so much being written in so short a period of time, we can’t say that we have read everything that has been written, or claim to be able to say which essays will have the greatest or most lasting influence. What we offer below are simply seven articles that tackle critical questions and might give you reason to pause and think. You won’t see any articles written by our CFR colleagues. That’s because our rule for these posts is to avoid home-cooking. We no doubt have missed some terrific writing that would have made generating a list of seven articles even harder. To everyone who feels overlooked, we apologize.

Bryan Bender and Daniel Lippman , " They Created Our Post-9/11 World: Here’s What They Think They Got Wrong ,”  Politico Magazine . Did I get it right? It’s a question we can all usefully ask of ourselves, even if we may not like the answer. Bender and Lippman interviewed a range of former senior Bush administration officials, U.S. senators, ambassadors, generals, and admirals about the decisions they made or helped shape in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Many of them look back with regret at what they see as U.S. “overreach” but hold out hope that the country can right itself. “Nations are like people,” retired Admiral James Stavridis notes, “They get some things right, they get some things wrong. The measure of any nation is whether it learns both from the mistakes and the successes.”

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Garrett Graff ,   " After 9/11, the U.S. Got Almost Everything Wrong ,"  The Atlantic . By one important measure the U.S. war on terrorism succeeded: neither al-Qaeda nor any other foreign terrorist organization has successfully launched an attack remotely approaching what happened on 9/11. Beyond that, Osama bin Laden and many of his close advisers have been captured or killed.   Garrett Graff argues that despite these successes, the U.S. response to 9/11 did more harm than good. “By almost any other measure, the War on Terror has weakened the nation,” he writes, “leaving Americans more afraid, less free, more morally compromised, and more alone in the world."

Hannah Hartig and Carroll Doherty , “ Two Decades Later, the Enduring Legacy of 9/11 ,” Pew Research Center. What do Americans think about 9/11 twenty years on? Hartig and Doherty sort through data the Pew Research Center has compiled on public attitudes toward the deadliest day in U.S. history. They conclude that surveys show “how a badly shaken nation came together, briefly, in a spirit of sadness and patriotism; how the public initially rallied behind the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, though support waned over time; and how Americans viewed the threat of terrorism at home and the steps the government took to combat it.”

Nelly Lahoud , “ Bin Laden’s Catastrophic Success ,”  Foreign Affairs . Did bin Laden succeed? Nelly Lahoud thinks not. While the 9/11 attacks inflicted a grievous wound on the United States, they did not produce the outcome he sought. Bin Laden thought the attacks would compel a fearful United States to withdraw its military forces from Muslim-majority countries, leaving al-Qaeda free to recreate an exclusive community of Muslims. What he got instead was a United States that stood up rather than backed down in response to his plot, intervening even more deeply in the Middle East. “Bin Laden did change the world,” she concludes, “just not in the ways that he wanted.”

Carlos Lozada , “ 9/11 Was a Test. The Books of the Last Two Decades Show How America Failed. ”  Washington Post . If you read our post on  Seven More Books to Read About 9/11 , you know that a vast literature now exists on 9/11, examining that day and its consequences from an array of angles. Carlos Lozada, the  Washington Post ’s terrific book critic, decided to read more than his fair share of them. The effort convinced him that “Bin Laden did not win the war of ideas. But neither did we. To an unnerving degree, the United States moved toward the enemy’s fantasies of what it might become—a nation divided in its sense of itself, exposed in its moral and political compromises, conflicted over wars it did not want but would not end….. al-Qaeda could not dim the promise of America. Only we could do that to ourselves.”  

George Packer , “ 9/11 Was a Warning of What Was to Come ,”  The Atlantic.  It may be difficult from the vantage point of 2021 to remember what the world looked like in early September 2001. The United States had won the Cold War. It was the world’s dominant power by far, perhaps the most powerful ever known. The laws of history had seemingly been suspended. The future promised continued success, wealth, and safety for decades to come. Looking back at those heady times, Packer concludes that 9/11 pricked the illusion that somehow Americans stood outside of time. “September 11 wasn’t a sui generis event coming out of a clear blue sky,” he writes. “It was the first warning that the 21st century would not bring boundless peace and prosperity.”

Stephen M. Walt . “ How 9/11 Will Be Remembered a Century Later ,”  Foreign Policy.  We noted above that our collective lessons of 9/11 are likely to change over time as the progress of events gives us new vantage points from which to see the past. Harvard Kennedy School of Government Professor Stephen Walt wondered what people might make of 9/11 on its centennial. He sees three possible scenarios: people might see it as a turning point, an isolated tragedy, or as irrelevant. Which of those scenarios carries the day, he writes, is not pre-ordained but rather depends on “what the United States and others do from this day forward.”

On Monday we will share additional resources on 9/11 that friends and readers politely (for the most part) noted that we missed.

Here are the other entries in this series:

Seven Documentaries Worth Watching About 9/11

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9/11 short essay

Personal Narrative Essay: How 9/11 Changed The World

George w bush 9/11 metaphors.

One moment it was a normal day and the next moment will forever be ingrained within the minds of an entire nation. The first plane hit at 8:46 a.m. and the second at 9:03 a.m., leaving 2,819 people dead. September 11, 2001 will always be remembered as a day of great destruction, a day of great loss. September 11, 2001 was the day two planes flew into the World Trade Center, forever changing the way of life for all of America. After this horrible act of terrorism the president of the United States gave a speech addressing the nation. This speech, George W. Bush’s 9/11 Address to the Nation, was remarkable for its use of metaphors, anaphoras, and allusions.

The Crucible And 9/11 Essay

The 9/11 tragedy was a moment where people had their guard up at all times. This was a time where life had strike to reality of time warfare with every person and country. Couldn’t trust no one that came to the U.S. America is the land of the free and the home of the brave, were brave because the generations before us had to face what had happened and to what is going to happen. This had left the buildings torn instantly killing hundreds of many people, getting them stuck in the higher floors. This attack was the worst in America ever since the Pearl Harbor

Persuasive Essay On 9/11

The terrorist attacks on 9/11 have caused many debates over the years since they occurred back in 2001. Two American planes were hijacked and ran into the twin tower buildings, another was hijacked and headed for the pentagon, but thankfully never made it. Thousands of Americans lost their lives on the days of the attacks and to this day the sorrow hangs with us. Security was a huge debate of the time because America is supposed to be the safest nation there is, so how did this happen? America had lots of changes to make the attacks on September 11, 2001. Little did we know that this would affect the nation for years to come.

What If 9/11 Never Happened Essay

The September 11 attacks also known as 9/11 was a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the terrorist group al-Qaeda on the United States on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The attacks killed 2,996 people and injured over 6,000 others.

Essay On How 9/11 Changed America

9/11 has changed America. Within less than a month the us enters the Afghanistan war. Afghanistan is the longest running war in us history. Two years later we entered Iraq. Many soldiers that were deployed over seas returned home with disabilities, or didn 't return home at all.

What Were The Negative Effects Of 9/11

On September 11, 2010, three jets were hijacked and destroyed twin towers in New York City and hitting the Pentagon. This terrorist attack killed over a thousand of people and plotting a huge spot in history. It affected people who lost loved ones in the tragedy. It also made people feel people feel unsafe to go airplanes and to travel anywhere. As a result to 9/11 the government response was to fight back, because of their response it was criticized. The government wanted to invade Iraq, but invading them wasn 't going to take back the damage they 've done to America.

Rhetorical Devices In George W. Bush's 9/11 Speech

Do you remember the day that changed America forever? Two hijacked planes crashed into the side of the Twin Towers in New York City killing thousands. Another plane went into the pentagon and the last was stopped before it got to its destination. In the afternoon of September 11, 2001 George W. Bush delivered a speech that gave relief to the American people after the massacre. This was a disturbing moment in our history that shook the very foundation of America. This is the first terrorist attack that we have experienced in the 21st century. President Bush spoke out to the American people to empower and soothe them in a vulnerable time. President Bush reassures citizens and the victim’s families that America and its people are not only strong but are safe and will rise up again. Bush effectively executes his 9/11 speech and uses rhetorical devices to catch the citizens attention, calm the America people and unite them together again.

Cause And Effects Of 9/11 Essay

The morning of Tuesday September 11, 2011 is one of the biggest tradgies of all time. On this specific day four airlines were hijacked by an Islamic group that goes by the name al-Qaeda. The attacks took the lives of 2,996 innocent people, injured nearly 6,000 people, and caused at least $10 billion in infracture and property damage. These attacks, also known as the 9/11 attacks, will forever be remebered as one of the most horrific days for so many people around this world.

Compare And Contrast Essay About 9/11

On September 1, 2001, the country of the United States of America along with the world changed. An orchestrated attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and another target- unknown but possibly the White House -put in place by a group of terrorist, made headlines all over the world. These attacks cost the lives of many people in Washington D.C, Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and New York City.

Cause And Effect Of 9/11 Essay

Nearly the whole country watched in horror on the morning of September 11, 2001. As the planes crashed and the towers burned, many thought it simply wasn’t true. They believed that it was impossible that someone could hate America that much. It was true, and it left lasting effects on Americans everywhere. Al-Qaeda had carried out a plan so horrific that it killed nearly three thousand people.

Why Is 9/11 Important

A day forever remembered in United States history is September 11, 2001. Not only did the event that occurred on this day effect the loved ones of many, it touched every U.S citizen. The event of 9/11 has gone down as one of the most tragic and influential events in all of history. There were many causes that led to this disaster and you mustn’t forget the effects it left on America.

2. The attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 occurred when I was in eighth grade. I remember a teacher walking into my English classroom to tell my English teacher that a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers. At that point, it was unclear what had happened, and it wasn 't until the second plane crashed that it became clear that it was a terrorist attack. Since that day, there has been an increase in border security and more surveillance activity on

Argumentative Essay On 9/11

“If we learn nothing from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate.” This quote comes from Sandy Dahl , the wife of the pilot on flight 93. When thinking about 9/11 this quote comes to mind because on that particular day, the world was reminded how short life really is. This quote also intertwines with 9/11 because it teaches us how there is no time to hate, but to move forward and help each other hand in hand. Even though I was only a year old when September 11th happened, I want to understand this horrific event that went down in history of the United States. These attacks were a changing point in American society because it increased the security in American airports, started a war in Iraq and Afghanistan,

9/11 Conspiracy Theory Essay

The events that occurred on September, 11, 2001 were among the most catastrophic events in American history. The events of the day were summarized as 19 militants associated with the terror group al-Qaeda hijacked four airplanes and carried out targeted attacks in the United States. Out of the four planes, two of them were flown into the World Trade Center in New York, a third one into the Pentagon in Washington and the fourth one crashing off course into a field. The attacks resulted in the deaths of over 3000 people and the beginning of a soon to come American counter terrorism policy and the subsequent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Although there are a lot of conspiracy theories around the real motives and players behind the attack,

More about Personal Narrative Essay: How 9/11 Changed The World

Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks

11 September 2001


Attack on the pentagon on 9/11, attack on the world trade center on 9/11, 9/11 terrorist attacks (general), selected imagery.

A bouquet lies on a bench at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial

A bouquet lies on a bench at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, 11 September 2019. Department of Defense photo by Lisa Ferdinando.

On the morning of 11 September 2001, 19 terrorists from the Islamist extreme group al Qaeda hijacked four commercial aircraft and crashed two of them into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center complex in New York City. A third plane crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. After learning about the other attacks, passengers on the fourth hijacked plane, Flight 93, fought back, and the plane was crashed into an empty field in western Pennsylvania about 20 minutes by air from Washington, D.C. The Twin Towers ultimately collapsed, due to the damage from the impacts and subsequent fires. Nearly 3,000 people were killed from 93 different countries. Most of the fatalities were from the attacks on the World Trade Center. The Pentagon lost 184 civilians and servicemembers and 40 people were killed on Flight 93. It was the worst attack on American soil since the  Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor  in 1941.

After the Taliban refused to turn over the mastermind of the attacks, Osama Bin Laden,  Operation Enduring Freedom  officially began 7 October 2001 with American and British bombing strikes against al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan. Initially, the Taliban was removed from power and al Qaeda was seriously crippled, but allied forces continually dealt with a stubborn Taliban insurgency, infrastructure rebuilding, and corruption among the Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police, and Afghan Border Police. Bin Laden would go into hiding for nearly 10 years.

On 2 May 2011,  U.S. Navy SEALs  launched a nighttime raid on Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, killing the al Qaeda leader. Operation Enduring Freedom officially ended 28 December 2014, although coalition forces remained on the ground to assist with training Afghan security forces. American troops departed Afghanistan in August 2021.

Oral Histories - Navy Archives

Navy Combat Documentation Detachment 206 Pentagon 9/11 Oral Histories

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks on 11 September, the Department of Defense and all of the branches of the Armed Forces began efforts to document the attacks. The Naval Historical Center (the predecessor of NHHC) activated its reserve unit, Navy Combat Documentation Detachment 206 (DET 206) to assist in the documentation efforts. Over the next ten months, DET 206 reservists and NHC Historians interviewed hundreds of individuals who were in the Pentagon on the day of the attack or were directly involved in the Navy’s response and the work that followed. The Navy Archives has received permission to release a portion of the oral histories to the public for the first time since they were recorded. The oral histories that have been authorized for release can be found at the link above.

Archives Collections - Navy Archives


Artifact Collection

Photo Gallery

Suggested Reading

Navy Combat Documentation Detachment 206: Documenting the Experiences of the Navy in New York City After 9/11

The oral histories document the experiences of Navy personnel in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island on the day of the attacks and in the days and weeks following.

Navy Combat Documentation Detachment 206 Pentagon 9/11 Oral History: CDR Terrence Dwyer

CDR Dwyer was the head of medical services on the USNS COMFORT in September 2001.  His oral history documents the service of USNS COMFORT in New York City following the attacks.

Archives Collection - Navy Archives

Navy Combat Documentation Detachment 206: Documenting Operation Enduring Freedom - Experiences at CINCUSNAVEUR London on 11 September 2001 and in the Aftermath

The oral histories focus on the experiences of Naval Staff on duty in London at Naval Forces Europe (CINCUSNAVEUR) on 9/11, as well their work in the aftermath and their observations on foreign reactions to the attacks.

Navy Combat Documentation Detachment 206: Documenting Operation Enduring Freedom - CINCLANTFLT & COMSECONDFLT Norfolk

DET 206 reservists deployed to Norfolk in December 2001 to document CINCLANTFLT and SECONDFLT operations leading up to September 11, the immediate response following the attacks; and operations in the days and weeks after the attacks.  The oral histories in this collection offer overlapping and complementary perspectives.

Artifact Conservation

A clock frozen at the time of impact

A clock, frozen at the time of impact, sat on a desk inside the Pentagon following the terrorist attack on 11 September 2001. Photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Larry A. Simmons.

World Trade Center

Devastation at the World Trade Center site in New York City, in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attack. National Archives identifier, 5609777.

President George W. Bush greeted rescue workers

President George W. Bush greeted rescue workers, firefighters, and military personnel, 12 September 2001, while he surveyed damage caused by the previous day’s terrorist attacks on the Pentagon. Photo by Eric Draper. Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library.

Two Navy F/A-18 Hornets patrol the skies over Afghanistan

Two Navy F/A-18 Hornets patrol the skies over Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Both carry external fuel tanks and are armed with Paveway II laser guided GBU-16 1,000-pound bombs and AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. In response to the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 at the New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President George W. Bush initiated Operation Enduring Freedom in support of the Global War on Terrorism. National Archives identifier, 6602325.

Shanksville, Pennsylvania

The tall gray walls are the walls of the Visitor Center at the Flight 93 Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The black walkway is the Flight Path Walkway. The Flight Path Overlook is beyond the second set of walls. National Park Service photograph.

Francis Assessing Laptop

Conservator Francis Lukezic begins assessing the laptop recovered from the Pentagon shortly after 9/11.

Overall Lab

Conservators stabilizing historic artifacts, including the “We Stand by You” bedsheet flown from FGS Lutjens as a banner of solidarity shortly after 9/11, at the Conservation Laboratory within the Collection Management Facility in Richmond, VA.

AT Glamour

Senior Conservator and textile specialist Yoonjo Lee completes the treatment process for the FGS Lutjens bedsheet at NHHC’s Conservation Laboratory in Richmond, VA.

Emergency response teams responded to the Pentagon

Emergency response teams responded to the Pentagon following a terrorist attack on 11 September 2001. Photo by the FBI.

Washington, DC, skyline

Smoke and flames in the Washington, DC, skyline in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon, 11 September 2001. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Houlihan.

Shanksville, Pennsylvania

Flight 93 impact crater with debris taken early in the investigation near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Department of Justice photograph.

An American flag was among the mementos left by German citizens

An American flag was among the mementos left by German citizens who marched from Ramstein Village to Ramstein Air Base on 14 September 2001. The march was a show of support and empathy for the victims of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers and at the Pentagon. Hijackers deliberately flew civilian airliners into the buildings, killing themselves, the passengers, and thousands on the ground, 11 September 2001. National Archives identifier, 6598788.

A U.S. Navy lieutenant dropped to one knee and placed flowers on a gravesite

A U.S. Navy lieutenant dropped to one knee and placed flowers on a gravesite, while family, friends and coworkers of the 184 victims of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attack on the Pentagon, look on during a memorial service at the Arlington National Cemetery, 11 September 2003. National Archives identifier, 6647599.

Laptop with Keys

Badly damaged laptop recovered from the Pentagon shortly after 9/11, prior to assessment by Conservation Branch staff.

Heat Damage

Heat damage from the fire after the attack on the Pentagon caused thermoplastic components to melt, warp, and keys to separate from the base of the laptop. Additionally, heat formed an impression of a security strap on the exterior of the laptop and cracked the screen. 

9/11 short essay

9/11 short essay

Encyclopedia Britannica

What were the September 11 attacks?

How many people were killed in the september 11 attacks, who planned the september 11 attacks, how did the september 11 attacks change america.

September 11 attacks

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September 11 attacks

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The September 11 attacks were a series of airline hijackings and suicide attacks committed in 2001 by 19 terrorists associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda . It was the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil; nearly 3,000 people were killed. The attacks involved the hijacking of four planes, three of which were used to strike significant U.S. sites. American Airlines flight 11 and United Airlines flight 175 were flown into the World Trade Center ’s north and south towers, respectively, and American Airlines flight 77 hit the Pentagon . United Airlines flight 93 crashed in a field near Shanksville , Pennsylvania, after passengers attempted to overpower the hijackers. The plane was believed to be headed to the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

The exact number of victims—particularly the number of those killed at the World Trade Center —is not definitively known. However, the official death toll, after numerous revisions and not including the 19 terrorists, was set at 2,977 people. At the World Trade Center in New York City , 2,753 people died, of whom 343 were firefighters. The death toll at the Pentagon near Washington, D.C. , was 184, and 40 individuals died outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is considered the mastermind of the attacks, though Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the operational planner. Mohammed came up with the tactical innovation of using hijacked planes to attack the United States, and al-Qaeda provided the personnel, money, and logistical support to execute the operation. Mohammed Atta was selected to head the operation. He and 18 other terrorists, most of whom were from Saudi Arabia , established themselves in the United States, where some received commercial flight training. All 19 hijackers died in the attacks, bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in 2011, and Mohammed was captured in 2003.

The attacks had a profound and lasting impact on the country, especially regarding its foreign and domestic policies. U.S. Pres. George W. Bush declared a global “ war on terrorism ,” and lengthy wars in Afghanistan and Iraq followed. Meanwhile, security measures within the United States were tightened considerably, especially at airports. To help facilitate the domestic response, Congress quickly passed the controversial USA PATRIOT Act , which significantly expanded the search and surveillance powers of federal law-enforcement and intelligence agencies. Additionally, a cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security was created.

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September 11 attacks

September 11 attacks , also called 9/11 attacks , series of airline hijackings and suicide attacks committed in 2001 by 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda against targets in the United States , the deadliest terrorist attacks on American soil in U.S. history. The attacks against New York City and Washington, D.C. , caused extensive death and destruction and triggered an enormous U.S. effort to combat terrorism . Some 2,750 people were killed in New York , 184 at the Pentagon , and 40 in Pennsylvania (where one of the hijacked planes crashed after the passengers attempted to retake the plane); all 19 terrorists died ( see Researcher’s Note: September 11 attacks ). Police and fire departments in New York were especially hard-hit: hundreds had rushed to the scene of the attacks, and more than 400 police officers and firefighters were killed.

(Read Britannica’s interview with Jimmy Carter on 9/11 and world affairs.)

flight paths on September 11, 2001

The September 11 attacks were precipitated in large part because Osama bin Laden , the leader of the militant Islamic organization al-Qaeda , held naive beliefs about the United States in the run-up to the attacks. Abu Walid al-Masri, an Egyptian who was a bin Laden associate in Afghanistan in the 1980s and ’90s, explained that, in the years prior to the attacks, bin Laden became increasingly convinced that America was weak. “He believed that the United States was much weaker than some of those around him thought,” Masri remembered, and “as evidence he referred to what happened to the United States in Beirut when the bombing of the Marines base led them to flee from Lebanon ,” referring to the destruction of the marine barracks there in 1983 ( see 1983 Beirut barracks bombings ), which killed 241 American servicemen. Bin Laden believed that the United States was a “paper tiger,” a belief shaped not just by America’s departure from Lebanon following the marine barracks bombing but also by the withdrawal of American forces from Somalia in 1993, following the deaths of 18 U.S. servicemen in Mogadishu , and the American pullout from Vietnam in the 1970s.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

The key operational planner of the September 11 attacks was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (often referred to simply as “KSM” in the later 9/11 Commission Report and in the media), who had spent his youth in Kuwait . Khalid Sheikh Mohammed became active in the Muslim Brotherhood , which he joined at age 16, and then he went to the United States to attend college, receiving a degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in 1986. Afterward he traveled to Pakistan and then Afghanistan to wage jihad against the Soviet Union , which had launched an invasion against Afghanistan in 1979.

According to Yosri Fouda, a journalist at the Arabic-language cable television channel Al Jazeera who interviewed him in 2002, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed planned to blow up some dozen American planes in Asia during the mid-1990s, a plot (known as “ Bojinka ”) that failed, “but the dream of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed never faded. And I think by putting his hand in the hands of bin Laden, he realized that now he stood a chance of bringing about his long awaited dream.”

In 1996 Khalid Sheikh Mohammed met bin Laden in Tora Bora, Afghanistan. The 9-11 Commission (formally the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States), set up in 2002 by Pres. George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress to investigate the attacks of 2001, explained that it was then that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed “presented a proposal for an operation that would involve training pilots who would crash planes into buildings in the United States.” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed dreamed up the tactical innovation of using hijacked planes to attack the United States, al-Qaeda provided the personnel, money, and logistical support to execute the operation, and bin Laden wove the attacks on New York and Washington into a larger strategic framework of attacking the “far enemy”—the United States—in order to bring about regime change across the Middle East .

The September 11 plot demonstrated that al-Qaeda was an organization of global reach. The plot played out across the globe with planning meetings in Malaysia , operatives taking flight lessons in the United States, coordination by plot leaders based in Hamburg , Germany , money transfers from Dubai , and recruitment of suicide operatives from countries around the Middle East—all activities that were ultimately overseen by al-Qaeda’s leaders in Afghanistan.

Mohammed Atta

Key parts of the September 11 plot took shape in Hamburg. Four of the key pilots and planners in the “Hamburg cell” who would take operational control of the September 11 attacks, including the lead hijacker Mohammed Atta , had a chance meeting on a train in Germany in 1999 with an Islamist militant who struck up a conversation with them about fighting jihad in the Russian republic of Chechnya . The militant put the Hamburg cell in touch with an al-Qaeda operative living in Germany who explained that it was difficult to get to Chechnya at that time because many travelers were being detained in Georgia . He recommended they go to Afghanistan instead.

Although Afghanistan was critical to the rise of al-Qaeda, it was the experience that some of the plotters acquired in the West that made them simultaneously more zealous and better equipped to carry out the attacks. Three of the four plotters who would pilot the hijacked planes on September 11 and one of the key planners, Ramzi Binalshibh, became more radical while living in Hamburg . Some combination of perceived or real discrimination , alienation, and homesickness seems to have turned them all in a more militant direction. Increasingly cutting themselves off from the outside world, they gradually radicalized each other, and eventually the friends decided to wage battle in bin Laden’s global jihad, setting off for Afghanistan in 1999 in search of al-Qaeda.

Atta and the other members of the Hamburg group arrived in Afghanistan in 1999 right at the moment that the September 11 plot was beginning to take shape. Bin Laden and his military commander Muhammad Atef realized that Atta and his fellow Western-educated jihadists were far better suited to lead the attacks on Washington and New York than the men they had already recruited, leading bin Laden to appoint Atta to head the operation.

The hijackers, most of whom were from Saudi Arabia , established themselves in the United States, many well in advance of the attacks. They traveled in small groups, and some of them received commercial flight training.

Throughout his stay in the United States, Atta kept Binalshibh updated on the plot’s progress via e-mail . To cloak his activities, Atta wrote the messages as if he were writing to his girlfriend “Jenny,” using innocuous code to inform Binalshibh that they were almost complete in their training and readiness for the attacks. Atta wrote in one message, “The first semester commences in three weeks…Nineteen certificates for private education and four exams.” The referenced 19 “certificates” were code that identified the 19 al-Qaeda hijackers, while the four “exams” identified the targets of the attacks.

In the early morning of August 29, 2001, Atta called Binalshibh and said he had a riddle that he was trying to solve: “Two sticks, a dash and a cake with a stick down—what is it?” After considering the question, Binalshibh realized that Atta was telling him that the attacks would occur in two weeks—the two sticks being the number 11 and the cake with a stick down a 9. Putting it together, it meant that the attacks would occur on 11-9, or 11 September (in most countries the day precedes the month in numeric dates, but in the United States the month precedes the day; hence, it was 9-11 in the United States). On September 5 Binalshibh left Germany for Pakistan . Once there he sent a messenger to Afghanistan to inform bin Laden about both the day of the attack and its scope.


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