New York police and firefighters hold a US flag as a band plays the US National Anthem at the National 9/11 Memorial during a ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, in New York, on September 11, 2021. (Photo by ED JONES/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
UPDATED 6:45 AM PT – Saturday, September 11, 2021
On the morning of September 11, 2001, the Twin Towers stood high among the New York City skyline as no one predicted the tragedy that would strike the buildings just hours later. At 7:59 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 departed Logan International Airport in Boston and headed for Los Angeles, California.
15 minutes later, United Airlines Flight 175 also left for Los Angeles from Boston. In addition, American Airlines Flight 77 to Los Angeles took off from Dulles International Airport at 8:20 a.m. In New Jersey, United Flight 93 departed from Newark International Airport at 8:41 a.m. to travel to San Francisco.
Within just 42 minutes, four planes were in the air with terrorists on board. Flight attendants aboard United Flight 11 were the first to report hijackers and at 8:46 a.m., the plane flew into the north tower of the World Trade Center.
17 minutes later, an image that has burned into the minds of Americans unfolded on live television as hijackers flew United Flight 175 into the South Tower. By 9:31 a.m., President George W. Bush declared the events an apparent terrorist attack.
Just six minutes later, Flight 77 crashed into the western side of the Pentagon. At 9:59 a.m., the south tower collapsed to the ground. For the first time, all flights over or headed to the continental U.S. were grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration.
United Flight 93 was the only plane still in the air and the pilots sent a mayday call to air traffic control. After those aboard the flight heard about the attacks in New York and Washington, they attempted to take control away from the hijackers.
The Boeing 757 crashed into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania at 10:07 a.m. Two hours and 18 minutes after the first plane took of from Boston, hundreds of Americans had been killed as part of a terrorist attack.
However, the death toll continued to rise. The World Trade Center’s north tower collapsed at 10:28 a.m.
Americans across the country were in a panic as the president announced U.S. military forces worldwide were on high alert. George W. Bush returned to the White House at nearly 7 p.m. and declared a war on terrorism during a nationwide address later that night.
Today, the skyline of Manhattan looks different than it did on the morning of September 11, 2001. The One World Trade Center, also known as the Freedom Tower, opened on November 3, 2014 and stands on the northwest corner of the World Trade Center site.
Memorials have also been built to honor the victims. The 9/11 Memorial opened on September 11, 2011 in remembrance of the 2,977 lives lost in the tragic events of that day.
Two reflecting pools now sit within the footprints left by the Twin Towers, with the names of every victim inscribed in bronze panels around them. There is also a Pentagon memorial in Arlington County, Virginia and a Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania.
September 11, 2001 was the single largest loss of life from a foreign attack on U.S. soil. A day that will never be forgotten by Americans.