8:45 a.m. on a clear Tuesday morning, an American Airlines Boeing 767 loaded with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel crashes into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. The impact left a gaping, burning hole near the 80th floor of the 110-story skyscraper, instantly killing hundreds of people and trapping hundreds more in higher floors. As the evacuation of the tower and its twin got underway, television cameras broadcasted live images of what initially appeared to be a freak accident.
18 minutes after the first plane hit, a second Boeing 767—United Airlines Flight 175—appeared out of the sky, turned sharply toward the World Trade Center, and sliced into the south tower at about the 60th floor. The collision caused a massive explosion that showered burning debris over surrounding buildings and the streets below. America was under attack.
As millions watched in horror at the events unfolding in New York, American Airlines Flight 77 circled over downtown Washington, D.C. and slammed into the west side of the Pentagon military headquarters at 9:45 a.m. Jet fuel from the Boeing 757 caused a devastating inferno that led to a structural collapse of a portion of the giant concrete building.
A fourth California-bound plane–United Flight 93-was hijacked after leaving Newark International Airport in New Jersey. Because the plane had been delayed in taking off, passengers on board learned of events in New York City and Washington via cell phone and Airfone calls to the ground. Knowing that the aircraft was not returning to an airport as the hijackers claimed, a group of passengers and flight attendants planned an insurrection. The plane crashed n a rural field in western Pennsylvania at 10:10am.
While reading "The Pet Goat" with second-graders in Sandra Kay Daniels' class at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, FL, President George W. Bush is informed of the al-Qaeda attack when White House chief of staff Andrew Card whispers the terrible news.
Firefighters Daniel McWilliams, George Johnson and William “Billy” Eisengrein were unknowingly photographed raising an American flag at Ground Zero following the attacks. The image has been compared to a previous iconic photo of six U.S. Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima on February 23, 1945.
The annual Tribute in Light — powerful spotlights trained skyward to recreate the Twin Towers — shines brightly in commemoration of the attacks. The beams can be seen from 60 miles away.
Today, marks the 21st Anniversary of terrorist attacks. In a ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial, the 2,983 victims' names will be read. There will be six moments of silence, to mark when each World Trade Center tower was struck and fell, when the Pentagon was attacked, and when the hijacked Flight 93 crashed in a Pennsylvania field.