Remembering 9/11: The Day When America was Under Attack

Tuesday, 26 January 2021


Remembering 9/11: The Day When America was Under Attack

Nehal Jain | September 11, 2020 18:54 hrs

On September 11, 2001, a total of 19 terrorists associated with the Islamic extremist group, al-Qaeda, hijacked four airplanes and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States of America. 

Two planes were flown into the famous twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York City. The third plane hit the Pentagon just outside Washington, DC, and the fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. Over 3,000 people were killed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which triggered major US initiatives to combat terrorism.

On its 19th anniversary, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum said on Twitter, “Nineteen years ago, under clear blue skies, 102 minutes changed our lives forever. On Fri., Sept. 11, we lead the nation and the world in observing the 19th anniversary of the 2001 attacks and ask you to join us in commemorating.”

Who was behind the 9/11 attack?

The driving force behind the 9/11 operation was Kuwaiti-born Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who presented the idea for the attacks to the al-Qaeda leadership.

The hijackers were Islamic terrorists from Saudi Arabia and several other Arab nations. Reportedly financed by the al-Qaeda terrorist organization of Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden, they were allegedly acting in retaliation to America’s support of Israel, its involvement in the Persian Gulf War and its continued military presence in 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 planned 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.

Where is Al-Qaeda now?

Nineteen years after its massive attack on the US, the perpetrator - the then-Afghan based jihadist group al-Qaeda - is in a state of disarray.

As per reports, al-Qaeda's branch in Syria has been wiped out by its rivals; in Yemen it suffered a defeat at the hands of rebels shortly after losing its leader in a US drone strike, and the leader of its North Africa branch was killed in a French raid in Mali in June and is yet to name a successor.

Meanwhile, al-Qaeda's leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has been uncharacteristically absent for months, prompting speculation that he might be dead or incapacitated.

But al-Qaeda's Africa branches, in Somalia and Mali, remain a potent force.

As a militant group, al-Qaeda faces ideological challenges in gaining support from ordinary Muslims as it continues to stick to violence.

The hunt for Osama Bin Laden:

Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden went into hiding to avoid capture by the United States for his role in the September 11 attacks. He was finally tracked down and killed by U.S. forces at a hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 2, 2011. In June 2011, then-President Barack Obama announced the beginning of large-scale troop withdrawals from Afghanistan.

After evading capture at the Battle of Tora Bora in December 2001, Osama bin Laden's whereabouts became unclear, and various rumours about his health, continued role in al-Qaeda, and location were circulated. Bin Laden also released several video and audio recordings during this time.

In the decade following his disappearance, there were many attempts made by the United States government to locate bin Laden. 

In August 2010 the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency located a compound in Abbottabad in Pakistan and identified it as the likely location of bin Laden. On May 1, 2011, United States Navy SEALs of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DevGru) carried out an assault on the compound on orders from U.S. President Barack Obama. During a 40-minute raid, bin Laden was killed by one bullet above the left eye and another to the chest.

The SEALs overpowered the compound's remaining residents, killing several, and extracted bin Laden's body (which was subsequently buried at sea) as well as computer hard drives, documents, and other material.

Damage caused by the attack

A 2002 report from the New York Comptroller’s Office estimated the cost of 9/11's physical damage at $55 billion.

Of that, $24 billion is the expected income of the lives lost. The value of the World Trade Centre buildings alone was $8 billion. Computers, furniture and cars cost $6 billion. The damage to utilities and the subway system was also $6 billion. Damage to other buildings cost $5 billion. The city spent $5 billion to treat injuries, including those suffered by first responders who inhaled the toxic dust. It spent $1 billion to clean up the area.

Further, the airline industry lost $5 billion from the attacks. The four-day shutdown alone cost $1.4 billion. Passengers were afraid of flying for at least a year. As a result, 1,000 planes were parked during that time and thousands of workers were furloughed.

On September 22, President George W Bush signed into law $15 billion in federal loans.

Economic impact

The 9/11 attacks had both immediate and long-term economic impacts, some of which continue to this day. The attacks closed the market and further deepened the 2001 recession which had begun in March 2001. The towers were at the heart of New York’s financial district, and damage to Lower Manhattan’s infrastructure, combined with fears of stock market panic, kept New York markets closed for four trading days.

On the first day of trading after the attacks, the market fell 7.1 percent, or 684 points. 

New York City’s economy alone lost 143,000 jobs a month and $2.8 billion wages in the first three months. The heaviest losses were in finance and air transportation, which accounted for 60 percent of lost jobs. 

On September 20, 2001, President Bush called for a War on Terror. He said, “Americans should not expect one battle but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen.” Then he put it into action.

National Day of Service and Remembrance:

In the United States, Patriot Day or National Day of Service and Remembrance is observed on September 11 of each year in memory of the people killed in the September 11 attacks of the year 2001. 

On this day, the flag of the United States is flown at half-mast at the White House and on all US government buildings and establishments throughout the world; Americans are also encouraged to display flags in and outside their homes. Additionally, a moment of silence is observed to correspond with the attacks, beginning at 8:46 a.m. (Eastern Daylight Time), the time the first plane, American Airlines Flight 11, struck the North Tower of the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001.

However, this year, Americans are commemorating 9/11 with tributes that have been altered by coronavirus precautions and woven into the presidential campaign, drawing both President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden to pay respects at the same memorial without crossing paths.

Lesser-known facts about the September 11 attack

• The investigation into the 9/11 attacks, code-named “PENTTBOM” was the FBI’s largest investigation ever.
• While over 3,000 people were killed, only 20 people were able to survive the crash of the World Trade Centre. 
• The last fires at Ground Zero weren’t extinguished completely until December 2001. The rescue and recovery clean-up of the 1.8 million tons of wreckage from the WTC site took almost nine months. 
• The Pentagon building was repaired within a year's time.
• Over 185,101 tons of steel left at Ground Zero was used in memorials across the US, but some was also sold to China and India.
• An estimated 410,000 people were exposed to asbestos, a toxic substance, at WTC in 9/11.
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