Timeline of the 9/11 terror attacks on September 11, 2001 from that occurred from 8:46 a.m. – 10:28 a.m. EDT when 19 Islamic extremist terrorists hijacked four commercial passenger jets with intent to commit mass murder, suicide attacks in New York City and Washington D.C. in the United States. Three of the hijack teams succeeded in hitting their targets, which killed 2,977 victims and all 19 al-Qaeda terrorists as a result of the attacks. The Fire Department of New York (FDNY) lost 343 personnel on September 11, 2001. Injuries totaled about 25,000, and many victims died years later or suffered disabilities, lung disease, and cancer from exposure to hazardous materials at the scene of the terror attacks.
TERROR MOTIVE …
Osama bin Laden declared a holy war against the United States, with a 1998 fatwā signed by bin Laden and others, calling for the killing of Americans. The fatwā is indicated by investigators as evidence of a motive. Osama bin Laden’s November 2002 “Letter to America” explicitly states al-Qaeda’s motives for the 9/11 attacks:
U.S. support of Israel
Support for the “attacks against Muslims” in Somalia
Support of Philippines against Muslims in the Moro conflict
Support for Israeli “aggression” against Muslims in Lebanon
Support of Russian “atrocities against Muslims” in Chechnya
Pro-American governments in the Middle East by proxy for the United States act against Muslim interests
Support of Indian “oppression against Muslims” in Kashmir
The presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia
Sanctions against Iraq
TIMELINE Below Photos
Lead hijacker Mohamed Atta flies to Boston to board American Airlines Flight 11. Ringleader Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz al Omari fly to Logan International Airport in Boston after passing through airport security at Portland International Jetport in Maine on 9/11
Mohamed Atta, a 33-year-old Egyptian national, had travelled in June 2000 from Europe to the US, where he and the other hijack team leaders began pilot training. Earlier in 2001 Mohamed Atta met with some of the other hijackers after they arrived in the US.
President George W. Bush jogs with US Secret Service agents around the Florida resort where he and his staff had stayed the night before a school visit schedule for later that day.
Second hijack team checks in at Newark International Airport in New Jersey boarding United Airlines Flight 93.
Third hijack team arrives at Washington Dulles Airport in Virginia near Washington D.C. boarding American Airlines Flight 77 at about 7:45 a.m.
Fourth hijack team boards United Airlines Flight 175.
The fourth hijack team boarded Flight 175 at Boston’s Logan airport.
Ringleader Mohamed Atta and his hijackers board American Airlines Flight 11 at Logan in Boston.
American Airlines Flight 11 departs with team leader Mohamed Atta.
Flight 11 was a Boeing 767 with 81 passengers and 11 crew on board that departed 14 minutes late from Logan, bound for Los Angeles. Among the passengers are Islamic terrorists Mohamed Atta and other hijackers Abdulaziz al Omari, Waleed al Shehri, Wail al Shehri, and Satam al Suqami.
United Airlines Flight 175 departs.
United Airlines Flight 175 departs with leader of the Flight 175 hijack team Marwan al Shehhi. Flight 175 was a Boeing 767 with 56 passengers and nine crew members on board that departed 14 minutes late from Logan. Flight 175 was also bound for Los Angeles. Among the passengers are the hijack team leader Marwan al Shehhi, and hijackers Fayez Banihammad, Hamza al Ghamdi, Ahmed al Ghamdi and Mohand al Shehri.
First hijack begins.
Waleed and Wail al Shehri get up from their seats and stab two cabin crew members on American Airlines Flight 11.
Mohamed Atta then approaches the cockpit. Another hijacker stabs a passenger as the passenger tries to stop Mohamed Atta. Mace is sprayed in the first class and business class cabins. At 8:19 a.m., another crew member alerts the airline operations about the stabbings. Hijackers turn off the aircraft’s transponder. Air traffic controllers realize a hijacking has occurred.
American Airlines Flight 77 departs.
American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757 with 58 passengers and six crew on board, departs 10 minutes late from Washington Dulles Airport, bound for Los Angeles. Among the passengers are hijack team leader Hani Hanjour, and team members Nawaf al Hazmi, Khalid al Mihdhar, Majed Moqed and Salem al Hazmi.
American Airlines Flight 11 veers towards New York, making a sharp turn toward the south, in the direction of New York City. Atta is heard over an aircraft radio channel saying the plane is returning to the airport. Boston air traffic controllers alert other flight controllers about the hijacking.
Over 100 recordings of air traffic controllers as the hijackings on September 11, 2001 were taking place have been released for the first time (Enyclopedia Brittanica). YouTube Tips ⓘ
American Airlines Flight 11 begins a rapid descent, headed toward the World Trade Center.
United Airlines Flight 93 departs.
United Airlines Flight 93 – a Boeing 757 with 37 passengers and seven crew on board – departs 42 minutes late from Newark, bound for San Francisco. Among those on the plane are hijack team leader Ziad Jarrah, together with hijackers Ahmed al Nami, Ahmed al Haznawi and Saeed al Ghamdi.
A fifth potential hijacker was refused entry into the US earlier in August 2001 by immigration officials.
Hijack of United Airlines Flight 175 begins.
On United Airlines Flight 175, research indicates the hijackers forced their way into the cockpit and stabbed the pilots to death.
Another hijacker tells passengers to get to the back of the cabin, and also stabs the flight crew. Al Shehhi then takes over the aircraft controls. Five minutes later, United Airlines Flight 175 changes course and the transponder’s signal is altered.
American Airlines Flight 11 hits the North Tower (WTC1).
American Airlines Flight 11 crashes into the north side of the World Trade Center’s North Tower (WTC1), and a fireball engulfs floors 93 to 99 of the skyscraper, which is 1,368ft high. Fire shoots down elevator shafts and kills people in the elevator shafts and lobby. Other people were killed at the impact area and above the impact area. More than 1,300 people were on the impact floors or were above the impact area.
Some people begin leaving the South Tower immediately, but an order to evacuate is not initially given.
The entire occupancy at the World Trade Center complex at the time of the first attack is estimated between 16,400 and 18,800.
Fire crews with NYFD Battalion 1’s group were nearby investigating an underground gas leak and taking air samples at a manhole cover when they witnessed the crash of American Airlines Flight into the north side of the World Trade Center building. They immediately responded to the World Trade Center, and Battalion Chief 1 immediately called for an extra alarm response while responding to the scene. The firefighters enter the lobby and find people burned to death from burning jet fuel that flowed down the elevator shaft of the North Tower.
American Airlines Flight 77 hijackers seize control apparently without attacking the crew.
The pilots and flight attendants are forced by the hijackers to the back of the plane with the rest of the passengers. Three minutes later, the aircraft heading is altered toward Washington DC.
Fire crews on scene at WTC.
Fire chiefs quickly determine it will be a rescue, not a firefighting operation. Teams of firefighters begin to head up the stairwells to help those trapped or injured.
One of the first fire crews at the scene with Battalion 1’s group found the windows in the street-level lobby blown out, and when they entered the lobby of the North Tower they found the badly burned civilians who had been hit by a jet fueled fireball.
NYPD helicopter crew checks roof rescue options.
A police helicopter crew hovered close to the roof — so close that they could see the pebbles on the roof. The roof extraction option was not available because the roof and top floors were involved with heavy black smoke and fire.
NYPD police officers were also working with firefighters from ground level to help with evacuation. They also helped keep pedestrian flow moving away from the buildings.
United Airlines Flight 175 hits the South Tower.
Flight 175 crashes into the south side of the South Tower (WTC2) and floors 77 to 85 become engulfed with flames.
Parts of the aircraft – including an engine, landing gear and a section of fuselage – a fall in different directions. The debris hit other buildings – including WTC5, one of the smaller buildings in the WTC complex. A falling landing gear from one of the two hijacked aircraft also seriously injured a young woman on the street.
The number of people killed in the South Tower was lower than that in the North Tower. Excluding those at street level and first responders, more than 600 lives inside the South Tower were lost.
President Bush reads children a story at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida.
President George enters a classroom about the same time that Flight 175 crashes into the South Tower.
At about 9:05 a.m. just as President George Bush is about to read a children’s book to students to the Emma E. Booker Elementary School students, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card tells the president about the planes crashing into the World Trade Center.
He goes ahead with the story – and says later that he did not want to alarm the schoolchildren.
Civilians in both towers told to stay in the towers.
Emergency call operators advise people to stay put and wait to be evacuated. A number of Port Authority employees on the 64th floor contact their organization’s police desk in Jersey City and are told they should “be careful, stay near the stairwells, and wait for the police to come up”. Some people who were evacuating from the South Tower after the North Tower had been hit, but before the South Tower had been hit, started to evacuate on their own, and were told to turn around and go back to their offices because they were safe in the South Tower. Some became trapped after the South Tower was hit but made it out of the building. Many are believed to have not made it out alive.
Initial statement from President Bush.
President George W. Bush speaks to children, staff and the media at Booker Elementary School. Bush is moved to a another classroom by the US Secret Service, where he and senior officials monitor what is taking place by watching live television reports in the other classroom.
He delivers a televised speech schoolchildren, teachers and media at the Booker Elementary School and announces that two planes had crashed into the WTC “in an apparent terrorist attack on our country”.
United Airlines Flight 93 hijack begins.
On Flight 93, hijackers attempt to take over the aircraft, but with only three “muscle men” as the FBI later dubbed them, and with the pilots, crew and passengers knowing their possible fate after the World Trade Center had been hit, the hijackers meet more resistance.
In the following minutes, air traffic controllers hear the sounds of a struggle, moans and shouts from one of the pilots and a flight attendant being silenced by the terrorists.
One passenger calls his wife telling her the plane has been hijacked and that another passenger has died after a stabbing. After his wife tells him about the WTC attacks, he says he has heard the hijackers speak about intentionally crashing his plane. Another passenger calls his mom. Another passenger spoke with a GTE airphone supervisor, telling her that a group of passengers planned to jump the hijackers and force the plane into the ground. He also recited the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23. The passenger said to the airphone supervisor, “If I don’t make it, please call my family and let them know how much I love them.” Then his last word were, “Are you ready? Okay. Let’s roll.” These words were heard by the airphone supervisor closer to 10:00 a.m.
At 9:35 a.m., Flight 93 is turned around and heads towards Washington DC.
Jumper or fall victim kills firefighter on ground.
First responders were at risk because of falling debris and people that were deciding to jump or had fallen from the upper floors. The first firefighter to die on September 11, 2021 was killed when he was hit by a person who had jumped or fallen from one of the upper floors of the South Tower, and ground at street level the corner of West and Liberty streets. Firefighters in the lobby of the North Tower heard the repeated dropping of victims crashing into the lobby roof or the ground nearby. An estimated 100 to 200 victims jumped or fell from both the North Tower and the South Tower.
Due to risk of being hit by people or debris falling from above, firefighters used alternative protected routes to enter the building.
Vice President Dick Cheney moved to bunker in White House
Vice President Dick Cheney heads to the bunker underneath the White House, where he directs operations while President George Bush is transferred from his motorcade to Air Force One in Florida. After Air Force One takes off and is secured in the air with fighter escorts, authorities decide to transfer President Bush to Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, Louisiana. A driver transferring President Bush from Air Force One to a secure location at Barksdale AFB speeds away from Air Force One. President Bush tells him to slow down, and jokes he doesn’t think there are any al Qaeda at Barksdale.
American Airlines Flight 77 hits the Pentagon.
Flight 77 crashes into the west side of the Pentagon with no operating transponder after the hijackers had turned off the transponder at 8:56 a.m. Air traffic controllers were unable to track the movements of Flight 77, and were unsure where the Boeing 757 was located before the impact with the Pentagon. Limited radar coverage known as a ‘radar gap’ prevented air traffic controllers from locating Flight 77. Limited radar coverage at Indianapolis Center caused Flight 77 to disappear from radar screens for at least 30 minutes when hijackers turned the aircraft around over southern Ohio and headed toward Washington D.C. Military jet fighters without missiles were scrambled for a suicide mission to collide with any hijacked aircraft, but did not arrive over Washington D.C. in time to prevent the crash.
As American Airlines Flight 77 descended, the maneuvers made by the hijacker/pilot were described as dangerous for a Boeing 757. The aircraft at a very low altitude clipped street lamps before hitting the first floor of the Department of Defense’s headquarters at high speed.
The crash killed 6 crew members, 53 passengers, 125 at the Pentagon, and the 5 terrorist — totaling 189. Among the plane’s passengers is TV news personality Barbara Olson, the wife of US Solicitor General Theodore Olson. She had called her husband to tell him the plane had been hijacked.
First claim of responsibility — a false claim.
The first claim of responsibility is made by the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, but this is later denied by a senior official from the group.
U.S. airspace shut down
United States airspace is shut down and all civilian aircraft pilots are ordered to land at the nearest airport.
United Airlines Flight 93 passengers fight back.
Passengers on Flight 93 – aware of the WTC attacks after several communicate with family members by phone – decide to prevent their craft from reaching its target.
Passengers on a vote for a revolt, decide to attempt to seize back control of United Airlines Flight 93. For a few minutes, the voice cockpit recorder picks up the sounds of the struggle, with the hijacking pilot threatening to down the plane. A struggle is also heard on the aircraft radio that communicates with air traffic controllers. An air traffic controller calls out to United 1523 — an uninvolved commercial pilot — asking if they heard screaming on the radio. A pilot replies they heard it too, but couldn’t tell what it was either.
Firefighters and a Battalion Chief finished their climb to the 78th floor Sky Lobby of the South Tower.
The group that made it to the 78th floor had taken an elevator to the 40th floor, and then climbed a stairwell for 37 flights of stairs. After rescuing people from an elevator, Battalion Chief 7 reported the Sky Lobby was open to the impact area of the 79th floor. He found numerous dead and injured at the impact area.
South Tower collapses.
The South Tower of the World Trade Center collapses 56 minutes after impact with Flight 175, collapsing before the North Tower, which was hit first. All civilians and emergency personnel inside are killed, as well as a number of civilians and first responders in the concourse, in the Marriott Hotel, and on streets nearby.
Rushing clouds of dust and pulverized concrete rapidly moved through the streets of lower Manhattan after the South Tower collapsed, causing people to run for their lives. As the harmful, choking dust and debris spread throughout south Manhattan, people watching live on television, and people watching while standing across the Hudson River in New Jersey realized in horror that the skyscraper had collapsed.
Order to evacuate the North Tower.
The complete evacuation of the North Tower is ordered. Failures in communication equipment prevent all fire personnel on scene from receiving the order. Concern and panic spreads to other cities with the concern of a wider scale attack. The 1,450ft Sears Tower in Chicago (now Willis Tower) was one of the skyscrapers evacuated as a precaution.
United Airlines Flight 93 crashes.
Flight 93 crashes at more than 500 mph and at an angle of about 40 degrees into an open field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The aircraft disintegrates on impact. Witnesses say the aircraft was either upside down or rolled to its side before the crash.
North Tower collapses.
The North Tower of the World Trade Center collapses one hour and 42 minutes after it was hit by Flight 11. The Marriott Hotel located in 3 World Trade Center (WTC3) is also largely destroyed, practically split down the middle by the falling North Tower structure. People also become trapped, injured or killed in the Marriott Hotel.
As the North Tower collapses, all civilians on the upper floors, and an unknown number of civilians and first responders at street level are killed. Some were killed just as they made it out of the collapsing North Tower.
Evacuation of Lower Manhattan.
People are told to run toward the highway. People flee from Manhattan over New York’s Brooklyn Bridge.
New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani orders an evacuation of Lower Manhattan.
In the minutes and hours afterwards, crowds are seen heading out of the area, along all along sides streets leading away from the World Trade Center complex, and across the bridges connecting the island to the rest of the city.
US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who had helped rescue people at the Pentagon, raises the threat level to DEFCON3
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld activated DEFCON3 for the first time since 1973.
Canada grounds non-essential aircraft.
Canadian authorities ban all aircraft from taking off from airports in Canada, excluding police, military or humanitarian agency aircraft. Canadian airport authorities allow US planes to land at airports in Canada.
Miraculous survival in Stairwell B.
Fourteen people (12 firefighters, one police officer, and a civilian) who had been descending Stairwell B in the North Tower become trapped in a pocket of safety in the stairwell when the North Tower collapsed. Firefighters evacuating the North Tower were on the 22nd floor when they found a 59 year-old woman, who was tired and crying, and thought she couldn’t make it any further. The firefighters helped her down the stairwell, but their travel was slow, and other groups of evacuees were passing them down the stairwell. At one point she told the 12 firefighters and a Port Authority K-9 officer to go on without her. They continued to carry her down when the tower began to rumble loudly. A strong wind rushed through the stairwell as the North Tower was collapsing. When the collapse started, the group was scattered from the 6th floor down to the floor above the lobby. The portion of the stairwell was a protective pocket, and all 14 people survived without serious injuries. A firefighter that wasn’t part of their group called out for help, but the group couldn’t reach him. He had been on the 12th floor, but was now trapped in collapsed debris. He died a short time later. A Port Authority officer who had been just ahead of the group of 14 was killed by the collapsed debris at ground level. The group of 14 in Stairwell B would be rescued later.
Only military aircraft flying.
Aircraft visible flying over Chicago and other major cities are military aircraft on patrol. All aircraft in the US were grounded and had landed, and most airports are closed.
CIA Director George Tenet says al Qaeda are the likely suspects.
Air Force One transfers President Bush to Offutt Air Base in Omaha. Inside a secure bunker, President George W. Bush meets with his principal advisers through a video conference and tells attendees: “We’re at war.”
The 47-story WTC7 building collapse.
WTC7 or 7 World Trade Center collapses after impact from the debris of the North Tower and further damage from a subsequent fire burning through the building.
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This is a clip from the 2009 documentary, “9/11 Phone Calls from the Towers” which portrays the actions of Battalion Chief Orio Palmer on September 11, 2001. YouTube Tips ⓘ
He sent firefighters, including his brother, into the tower to evacuate after the first plane hit. YouTube Tips ⓘ
9/11 ATC Transcripts & Audio – FAA NORAD Tapes YouTube Tips ⓘ