2001 Essays « 10 Years after September 11

2001 Essays « 10 Years after September 11

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\ Blog \ Ultius \ Sample Essay on 9/11 World Trade Center Attacks
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Sample Essay on 9/11 World Trade Center Attacks


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    On the morning of September 11, 2001, four airliners were hijacked by members of al-Qaeda who aimed to carry out suicide attacks against important targets in the United States. Of the four planes, one struck the Pentagon, one crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, and the two remaining planes were flown into the Twin Towers in New York City. Claiming almost three thousand lives, this event gave birth to a war and brought about everyday sociological changes for Americans. If you need help with writing or editing, consider working with a writer from Ultius. We have many advanced writer selection options to connect you with the expert you need.

    Targeting the World Trade Center

    The World Trade Center was a commercial complex in Manhattan spanning over sixteen acres and containing a large plaza, seven buildings, and an underground shopping mall connecting them. The plaza’s centerpiece was the Twin Towers. The towers each had one hundred and ten stories and, together, were the workplace of approximately thirty five thousand people and over four hundred companies (FAQ about 9/11). The daytime population, location, and sheer size of the towers (each weighed more than 250,000 tons (FAQ about 9/11)) made it an obvious choice for a terrorist attack. In addition, the towers were considered to embody Americans’ influence and power (The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks). In fact, in 1993, there was an attack in which explosives were detonated in a car parked beneath the World Trade Center, killing six people and injuring thousands.

    The group targeting the World Trade Center (both in 1993 and in 2001) was al-Qaeda, an Islam extremist terrorist system started by Osama bin Laden. With franchise operations in at least sixteen other countries (McCormick), al-Qaeda seeks to overthrow Middle-Eastern governments or other places with strong Muslim representation that do not force religiously-sanctioned social and political order. The attacks on American soil were made in an attempt to reduce support in the United States for the ‘offending’ governments, which al-Qaeda saw as a huge obstacle in building a global order under Islam (FAQ about 9/11). In addition, they were angry over the American support of Israel, as well as their part in the Persian Gulf War and their strong military presence in Middle Eastern countries (9/11 Attacks).

    What happened on 9/11

    On September 11, 2001, four planes were headed for California when they were hijacked by members of al-Qaeda aboard the plane. Chosen because they would be adequately fueled for their journey, nineteen terrorists smuggled knives and box-cutters onto the planes and took over control shortly after departure (9/11 Attacks). The first was an American Airlines Boeing 767 leaving from Boston. The plane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center at 8:45 in the morning, leaving a smoking, fiery hole between the ninety third and ninety ninth floors (Schmemann). The impact killed hundreds of people and trapped hundred more in the floors above. People trapped by the damage and flames leaped off the side of the building to their deaths, desperate to escape (Weinberg). Evacuation began immediately, but eighteen minutes later, another Boeing 747, this one an United Airlines flight, sliced through the south tower between the seventy seventh and eighty fifth floors (9/11 Attacks). This crash caused a huge explosion, fueled by the planes’ full gasoline tanks. Both buildings collapsed and severely damaged five other buildings in the World Trade Center complex. The pile of ruins stretched seventeen stories high, a monument to the desolation caused by the attacks (FAQ about 9/11).

    9/11 – Timeline of eventsSource: HIST


    A timeline of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Both towers completely collapsed within roughly eight hours of the first plane crash. America watched in horror.

    Time of eventEvent description
    8:46 AMNorth Tower hit with American Airlines Flight 11 by Mohammed Atta and other hijackers.
    9:03 AMHijackers crash United Airlines Flight 175 into floors 75-85 of the South Tower.
    9:37 AMWestern facade of the Pentagon hit with American Airlines Flight 77.
    9:59 AMThe South Tower collapses.
    10:07 AMUnited Airlines Flight 93 deliberately crashed into Somerset County, PA by hijackers.
    10:28 AMNorth Tower collapses 102 minutes after being struck by Flight 11.
    5:20 PMWorld Trade Center collapses after burning for hours.

    The two other planes involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks had slightly different routes. The first, an American Airlines Boeing 757 left the airport in Washington D.C., headed for Los Angeles. Once hijacked, the attackers steered the plane towards the Pentagon where they slammed into the west side of the building, workplace to twenty four thousand people (Schmemann). After learning about the other attacks, passengers on the fourth plane, United Airlines Boeing 757, Flight 93, decided to take matter into their own hands. Fighting back, the passengers were able to steer the plane from its original target, Washington D.C., and crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, killing everyone aboard (September 11th Fast Facts).

    Additional Reading: Explore the possible link between terrorists’ motivations and free media .

    The aftermath

    All in all, almost three thousand people were killed from a total of ninety three nations. Over twenty seven hundred people were killed in the Twin Towers attack, one hundred eighty four were killed during the attack on the Pentagon, and forty people were killed on Flight 93 (FAQ about 9/11). In addition to the civilians and hijackers, three hundred and forty three firefighters and paramedics were killed, along with twenty three police officers and thirty seven Port Authority police officers. Only six people who were in the World Trade Center towers at the time of the collapse survived and almost ten thousand others were treated for injuries (9/11 Attacks). The death toll was beyond catastrophic and devastating to a nation.

    On September 12, 2001, the United Nations held an emergency meeting, in which they condemned the terrorist act, stating that “a terrorist attack on one country was an attack on all humanity” (The U.S. and Int’l Response to 9/11). For the first time in the history of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO decided to invoke Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which states that an armed attack against one or more NATO countries is an attack against all NATO countries (The U.S. and Int’l Response to 9/11). The United States invoked their right of self-defense during wartime, meaning that a nation that has been threatened or attacked has the right to defend itself. The country was officially at war.

    America’s reaction

    In America, Congress was busy. In October 2001, United States Congress passed the USA Patriot Act , giving law enforcement officials the right to searching property without warrants, detain and deport, monitor financial transactions, and eavesdrop on phone conversations (Rowen). This was met with mixed reviews, as many feared that the law would lead to overzealous infringement on civil liberties. Under the Patriot Act, approximately twelve hundred people were detained for a month without access to their attorneys (Rowen).

    October 7, 2001 marked the start of an American-led international effort to overthrow the Taliban’s hold in Afghanistan in order to destroy bin Laden’s terrorist base there. Before the operation was two months old, the United States had ousted the Taliban from power. However, the war carried on and American troops fought to defeat a Taliban insurgency campaign over Pakistan (9/11 Attacks). It was later revealed in 2005 that in 2002, President George W. Bush authorized the National Security Agency in secret to wiretap domestic emails and phone calls without warrants (Rowen).

    The United States also enacted the Department of Homeland Security Act of 2002, an act that created the position of Secretary of Homeland Security and established the Department of Homeland Security, a cabinet-level agency. The purpose of this department was to ensure the national security of the country, in addition to providing information about terrorist threats and suggested security measures for the public, the government, and hubs like airports (Rowen). Accomplishments of the Department of Homeland Security include training law enforcement to analyze threats and react accordingly, the launching of the ‘If You See Something Say Something’ campaign that encourages civilians to report suspicious behavior and activity, more in-depth screening of international passengers entering or leaving the United States, and the improvement of the country’s cyber infrastructure (Rowen). Some believe that the implementation of these laws encouraged the breaching of the basic rights and liberties of citizens and non-citizens alike. ( Read more about civil liberties and the right to privacy.) 

    Life after 9/11

    The War on Terror

    There have been a number of effects on the everyday lives of Americans made by the 9/11 attacks on the United States. First of all, United States troops invaded Afghanistan less than a month after the World Trade Center attacks to release al-Qaeda’s grip on the Middle East. In 2003, the United States troops invaded Iraq, which was not directly related to the attacks but was an important weapon in the War on Terror (Green). In December 2011, troops were pulled from Iraq and the United States left them in a state of volatile democracy.

    In 2014, President Obama aimed for our presence in Afghanistan to cease to be considered a combat mission, but rather a support mission. The Afghanistan war has been the longest war in United States history (Green). Between the years of 2001 and 2011, nearly two million United States troops were deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, with six thousand troops having been killed and approximately forty four thousand wounded. More than 18% of returned servicemen suffer from depression or post-traumatic stress disorder and 20% suffer from traumatic brain injuries (Green).

    Immigration and deportation 

    Another effect made by the 9/11 World Trade Center attack has been the United States’ stance on immigration and deportation. The creation of the Department of Homeland Security meant the merging of twenty two other government agencies, including the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the U.S. Customs Service. The department has streamlined deportation for criminals and law-breakers, leading to the number of deportations from the United States doubling (Green). Between the years of 2009 and 2010, deportation rates reached almost four hundred thousand people annually, with only half being convicted of a criminal offense and the majority of those being low-level offences.With the implantation of the Secure Communities program, the law, established in 2008, allows local law enforcement to check on the immigration status of any person booked in a jail, despite whether or not they are convicted of the crime they are accused of. This law has led to the deportation of people who were simply stopped for something as minor as not using a turn signal while driving (Green).

    Airport security

    Finally, another drastic change brought on by the terrorist attacks on America is the change in procedure at national airports. The Transportation Security Administration was created after the attacks to use new and more effective security practices at every commercial airport in the country. Before, passengers could arrive thirty minutes before their flight and not worry about making it to their gate in time. Now, fliers should be prepared to spend hours in line as each person, bag, and item of clothing is scanned, screened, and scrutinized. ( Learn more about the effects of 9/11 on airport security.) The TSA also uses a watch list of individuals who they believe may pose a threat to safety and security (Green). No one is safe from suspicion and must pass rigorous security checks to get clearance to fly.    

    Moving forward

    The 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center left both Americans and international citizens alike shattered and fearful. Other countries felt that the attack on the United States had been an attack on freedom everywhere. On September 12, 2001, the headline of a French newspaper read, “Today, we are all Americans” (Reactions to 9/11). The Queen of England herself sang the American national anthem for the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, Rio de Janeiro hung billboards of the city’s Christ the Redeemer statue embracing the New York skyline, and billions was donated all around the world by means of money and goods to relief and rescue organizations. The rest of the world embraced America as we embarked on the greatest changes in our country’s recent history. The effects of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks still remain today, even with the resurrection of the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero, opened exactly ten years after the fateful morning. Though the terrorist attack on American soil shook the country to its core, and despite the fact that we remain entangled with the Middle East to this day, the United States of American has proven that liberty and freedom will continue to persevere, even in the most unlikely circumstances. 

    If you enjoyed this essay, consider using our writing services for customized help with your next sample writing project with one of our writers.

    Works Cited

    “9/11 Attacks”. History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2010. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.history.com/topics/9-11-attacks>.

    “FAQ about 9/11”. 9/11 Memorial. National September 11 Memorial & Museum, 2014. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.911memorial.org/faq-about-911>.

    Green, Matthew. “Three Lasting Impacts of 9/11”. The Lowdown. KQED News, 11 Sept. 2012. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://blogs.kqed.org/lowdown/2012/09/11/911-turns-11-three-major-lasting-changes/>.

    McCormick, Ty. “Al Qaeda Core: A Short History”. Foreign Policy. Foreign Policy, 17 March 2014. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/03/17/al_qaeda_core_a_short_history>.

     “Reactions to 9/11”. History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2010. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.history.com/topics/reaction-to-9-11>.

    Schmemann, Serge. “Hijacked Jets Destroy Twin Towers and Hit Pentagon”. The New York Times: On This Day. The New York Times, 12 Sept. 2001. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/big/0911.html#article>.

    “September 11th Fast Facts.” CNN. CNN Library, 8 Sept. 2014. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/27/us/september-11-anniversary-fast-facts/>.

     “The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks”. BBC History. BBC, 2014. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/events/the_september_11th_terrorist_attacks>.

     “The U.S. and Int’l Response to 9/11.” The Heritage Foundation. The Heritage Foundation, 2014. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.heritage.org/research/projects/enemy-detention/response-to-911>.

    Weinberg, Jonathan. “What did it feel like to be inside the World Trade Center at the time of the 9/11 attacks?”. Quora. 23 Sept. 2014. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.quora.com/What-did-it-feel-like-to-be-inside-the-World-Trade-Center-at-the-time-of-the-9-11-attacks>.

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    History in an Hour

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    9/11 – a summary

    Posted on by admin

    It was the first multiple hijacking in the United States, and the first in the world in more than thirty years.  On September 11, 2001, nineteen terrorists boarded four commercial jetliners, all transcontinental flights, carrying a maximum load of 11,400 gallons of jet fuel.  Their objective was to take control of the planes once they were airborne and turn them into flying weapons of destruction.

    Four targets had been chosen, all iconic American buildings that would send a clear message of the depth of their hatred for the United States.  All four planes crashed, killing all on board—terrorists, crew members, and passengers, along with hundreds who were killed inside the structures, on the ground, and the men and women who ran into collapsing buildings in an effort to try and save others.

    Only one of the four planes did not find its target.  Thanks to cellular phones, passengers heard of the other crashes and chose to sacrifice themselves rather than let another plane devastate a fourth target, killing even more innocent people.

    What little is known of actual events on board the four flights comes from brief radio communications, observation by witnesses on the ground and phone calls made by crew and passengers.  The scenario on all four flights seems to have been basically the same.

    The Flights Depart

    The flights departed from three air fields on the East Coast and were scheduled for takeoff within fifteen minutes of one another.  The terrorists staggered their boarding times and seating, with an individual who had enough training to keep the plane in the air seated in first class.  Sometime after take off, the terrorists took control of the plane.  One or more forced their way into the cockpit and took over the controls, sometimes killing the captain and first officer in the process.  The other terrorists would begin to herd the flight crew and passengers toward the back of the plane, usually with bomb threats.

    It is a possibility that the terrorists might have used knives or the box cutters that one passenger reported to control the crew and passengers.  In 2001, airline security was minimal and was the responsibility of the airline.  Passengers were asked a few questions by ticket agents before they passed through check points with metal detectors that were calibrated to sound an alarm for anything larger than a small caliber handgun.  If an alarm did sound, security at the check point would use a hand wand to scan the passenger again to determine what had set off the alarm.  Bags were simply passed through an x ray machine.  Getting box cutters or small knives on board would not have been difficult.

    Both passengers and crew took the opportunity to call for help when they were able to use airphones or personal cellular phones.  If the terrorists were aware of what was happening, they made no effort to stop it.  One passenger commented to a family member that the terrorists didn’t seem to care that the passengers were making calls.

    The North Tower

    It was at 8:19AM that a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11 first advised the airline that a hijacking was taking place on one of their planes.  Less than half an hour later, at 8:46:40, American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.  The entire crew, all eighty-one passengers and an unknown number of people inside the building were killed instantly.

    Just as Flight 11 was taking off from Logan Field in Boston, Massachusetts, United Airlines Flight 175 was leaving the gate and preparing for take off from the same field.  Flight 175 was destined to follow Flight 11 to the same target in New York City.  News had already spread that a plane had hit one of the towers at the World Trade Center.  At 9:03:11AM, many were just turning on the nearest television to see smoke pouring from the North Tower of the World Trade Center.  Curiosity became confusion as a second plane flashed across the screen, and then shock and horror as it slammed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center.  All aboard, including fifty-six passengers, were killed.  How many died inside the building on impact is unknown.

    The Pentagon

    Ten minutes after Flight 11 took off from Logan Field, another American Airlines flight was leaving Dulles Field in Washington, DC.  This time, the terrorists were bound for a much closer target.  The Pentagon, named for the five sided shape of the structure, is located in Arlington, Virginia, and sits just across the Potomac River from Washington, DC.  At 9:37:46AM, the plane hit the Mall side of the Pentagon, killing the crew and all fifty-eight passengers, as well as civilians and military personnel inside the building.

    United Airlines Flight 93

    United Airlines Flight 93 is possibly the best known of the four suicide flights of 9/11.  Because of a delay in take-off of forty-two minutes, passengers had time to learn of the fate of three other flights.  Terrorists had already taken control of the plane that had left Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey, at 8:42AM.  When passengers began making and receiving calls, the terrorists made no attempt to stop them.  That was when they learned that they weren’t the only hijacked plane in the sky.  Knowing that there was little chance for their own survival, passengers said goodbye to families and friends and rushed the terrorists.  In an effort to throw off the people who were trying to pull him from the controls, the terrorist flying the plane rocked it back and forth, then gave up any attempt to reach his destination.  He rolled the plane onto its back, screaming, “Mohammed is the greatest!” into the radio as the plane drove into the ground near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  All aboard were killed on impact, but there were no fatalities on the ground.

    Speculation suggests that the White House in Washington, DC, was the terrorist target of Flight 93.  If the objective was to the kill the President of the United States, it would have failed.  On that fateful morning, George W. Bush was in Sarasota, Florida, preparing to enter a classroom at Emma E. Booker Elementary School when his advisor, Karl Rove approached him.  Rove told the president and his Chief of Staff, Andrew Card, that it had been reported that a twin engine plane had hit the World Trade Center.  Later, while still in the classroom, Card advised the president that a second plane had hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

    The media had gathered in the back of the room, out of line of sight of the children.  But the president watched as the indicator lights on pagers and cell phones began to flash.  Bush later stated that he felt a need to project calm and strength during a crisis.  He remained in the classroom for a few minutes longer before leaving to go to a holding room where he was briefed on what was happening and shown the TV coverage.  In phone communications with the White House, where Vice President Dick Cheney had been escorted to a secure facility, along with other key members of the president’s staff, the president was urged not to return to Washington, DC.

    Osama bin Laden

    The first question was who would do such a thing.  The second was why.  Suspicion immediately fell on al Queda and their chief, Osama bin Laden .  Initially, both denied any involvement.  In 2004, they and bin Laden admitted to the terrorist act, citing sanctions against Iraq, the presence of troops in Saudi Arabia and US support for Israel as the reason.

    The Saudi born son of a construction magnate, Osama Bin Laden had been involved for some time with al Queda, a group of Islamic extremists known as the “takfiri,” which means “those who define other Muslims as unbelievers.”  The takfiri believe in the demonization and murder of anyone who disagrees with their beliefs.  Bin Laden had come to Afghanistan in 1980 to join al Queda in the fight to oust Soviet forces.  Rather than a fighter, he became known for providing funding to the “jihad,” or holy war.  Bin Laden was a part of “the Golden Chain,” known for financing terrorist activities and moving their agents through world markets where they purchased arms and supplies.

    The War on Terror

    The United States government responded to 9/11 with what became known as “The War on Terror,” a united global opposition to oppose terrorism at legal, political, military and ideological levels.  It included the invasion of Afghanistan, home to the Taliban.  Congress passed the Homeland Security Act of 2002 which created the United States Department of Homeland Security and resulted in the largest restructuring of the government in US history.  The USA Patriot Act was also passed to help detect and prosecute terrorism.  And in November 2002, the National Commission Terrorism Attacks Upon The United States was formed.

    The 9/11 Commission

    The Commission proceeded, according to their own report, to investigate intelligence agencies, law enforcement agencies, diplomacy, immigration issues and border control, flow of assets of terrorist groups, commercial aviation, congressional oversight and resource allocation, and anything deemed relevant to the events of September 11, 2001.  They reviewed 2.5 million pages of documents, interviewed 1,200 people in ten countries, and heard testimony from 160 witnesses over a period of 19 days.

    Better known as the 9/11 Commission, the group produced a final report of nearly six hundred pages detailing everything from the events of September 11 to response from private and public agencies to the reason that al Queda and Osama bin Laden were suspected of complicity.  In the preface of the report, they stated, “We have listened to scores of overwhelming personal tragedies and astounding acts of bravery.”  Of al Queda, they said, “Its purpose is to rid the world of political and religious pluralism, the plebiscite, and equal rights for women.”

    After over a decade, the United States still mourns the people who died on September 11, 2001.  The tremendous loss of human lives and the contributions they would have made to the world and the lives of others can never be quantified.  But the statistics that resulted from the inquiry made by the 9/11 Commission and the actions of the people of the United States in the aftermath of the event does give some idea of how far reaching and how deep the shockwaves were felt by the American public and the world.

    Ground Zero 

    The site of the World Trade Center has become known as Ground Zero.  All seven structures that were part of the complex were either destroyed or damaged, along with other buildings in the vicinity.  A design for a memorial includes the names of every one of the victims set into the footprints of the two towers.

    Those names number in the thousands.  Inside the World Trade Center, 2,606 people died, along with 371 passengers and crew aboard American 11 and United 175.  One hundred twenty five people died at the Pentagon when American 77 crashed into the building, killing the 59 innocent victims aboard.  Forty people were killed as they turned on their attackers and prevented United 93 from reaching its target.

    Emergency response from all over the city of New York responded and suffered their own loses in an effort to do what they saw as no more than their job–to save lives.  The New York Fire Department lost 341 firefighters and two paramedics.  The Port Authority of New York lost thirty-seven officers while the New York Police Department lost twenty-three.  Eight more emergency medical technicians and paramedics from private emergency response services were also lost.

    From across North America, emergency responders took leave of absence from their jobs while towns, cities and counties began to prepare their emergency response units for a road trip.  They arrived in New York City, ready to help as  family and friends of victims wandered the area posting photos and building small memorials or asking every passer-by, “Have you see this person?” as they held up a photo of an unaccounted for loved one.  One witness described the subways and streets as being wallpapered with such posters and said that the city felt like a funeral.

    The statistics do not include the terrorists.  Nor is the man who became the face of terrorism and whose name will always be associated with that day.  On May 2, 2011, Osama bin Laden was located and killed by a special operations unit in Pakistan.  After taking the body to Afghanistan to confirm his identity, the body was buried at sea within 24 hours of his death, in keeping with Islamic custom.


    Every year, on the anniversary of 9/11, a ceremony is held at Ground Zero.  The names of each and every victim is read aloud, one by one, against a background of quiet that seems impossible for a city the size of New York.  And yet, it somehow isn’t surprising.  Across the entire United States, federal agencies and local organizations stop everything for a moment of silence at exactly 8:46 AM in remembrance of the victims of 9/11.

    Kat Smutz.

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