The attacks of September 11, 2001 (commonly known as September 11, 9/11 in English) are four Islamist suicide bombings perpetrated on the same day in the United States and causing the death of 2,977 people, in the center of Manhattan in New York, Arlington in Virginia and Shanksville in Pennsylvania, in less than two hours, between 8:14 and 10:03. They are carried out by members of the jihadist network Al-Qaeda, two days after the suicide bombing of the organization killing the anti-Taliban commander and former Minister of Defense Ahmed Shah Massoud in Afghanistan. They target symbolic buildings in the northeast of the country, including the World Trade Center, which was attacked in 1993. Operation Bojinka, discovered in January 1995, is considered by US intelligence services as a precursor to these attacks.
Tuesday morning 11 September 2001, nineteen terrorists hijacked four airliners. Two planes are projected on the twin towers of the World Trade Center (WTC) in Manhattan (New York) and a third on the Pentagon, headquarters of the Department of Defense, in Washington, killing all the people on board and many others working in these buildings. The two towers of the World Trade Center, whose summits culminate at just over 415 m in height, collapsed less than two hours later, causing the destruction of two other buildings. The fourth plane, which was flying towards the federal capital without knowing which government building it was targeting, crashed in the open countryside in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after passengers and crew members, warned by telephone of what was happening elsewhere, tried in vain to regain control.
|Location||New York; Arlington County, Virginia and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.|
|Date||Tuesday 11 September 2001
08:14 – 10:03 (UTC−04:00)
|Dead||2,977 victims and 19 terrorists|
|Injured||Between 6,291 and 25,000|
The attacks of September 11, 2001, are the deadliest attacks ever perpetrated, the official toll is 2,977 dead and 6,291 wounded. The attack on the Twin Towers alone caused the death of 2,753 people, including 343 firefighters and 60 police officers, but only 1,647 victims were formally identified between 2001 and 2021. On October 17, 2001, Mary Robinson, in charge of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, qualifies these attacks as crimes against humanity, while they are also the subject of multiple conspiracy theories, denounced as ” revisionist” or even ” denial” theories.
The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Against the United States was created in 2002 to explain how these attacks can occur and, more importantly, prevent it from happening again. In its report published at the end of July 2004, it establishes the responsibility of the Al-Qaeda network, stating that the nineteen terrorists responsible for these suicide attacks are members and that the sponsor is Osama bin Laden, who claims responsibility for them on several occasions.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is designated as the main organizer of these attacks and admits the facts, during preliminary interrogations to his trial, which opens on January 11, 2021. The final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States estimates that the cost to al-Qaeda of preparing for and carrying out the September 11 attacks is $400,000 to $500,000.
The attacks of September 11, 2001, are experienced almost in real-time by hundreds of millions of television viewers around the world and cause considerable psychological shock, the images of the plane hitting the second tower of the World Trade Center, as well as those of the complete collapse in a few seconds of the twin towers, being broadcast live. Several sites were evacuated as a precaution across the country, including the United Nations headquarters, the Statue of Liberty, Disney and Universal parks in Florida and California, as well as the CN Tower in Toronto and the Parliament of Canada.
The U.S. federal government and that of many other countries are responding by strengthening their counterterrorism legislation. The US administration then launched a “war on terror”, notably in Afghanistan in October 2001 (whose Taliban regime favorable to Al-Qaeda sheltered Bin Laden and rejected American requests to hand it over to them) and in Iraq in March 2003, whose Baathist regime was designated by the American administration as a supporter of international terrorism and possessor of weapons of mass destruction.
Osama bin Laden was finally spotted in Pakistan and killed by an American commando on May 2, 2011. The Pentagon was repaired in one year, while six new towers, including One World Trade Center (the tallest in the United States), a memorial and museum on the site of the Twin Towers and a new train station were built and in operation, or nearing completion, on the site of the World Trade Center.
September 11 attacks: the facts
With their estimated (partial) fuel load of forty-six thousand liters each, the planes, two Boeing 757s and two Boeing 767s were used as flying incendiary bombs. Of the four hijacked planes, only United Airlines Flight 93 could not reach its target, having crashed in Pennsylvania en route to the capital.
A few passengers and crew were able to make phone calls, mainly from United Flight 93, mentioning the presence of hijackers armed with box cutters, which they used to threaten or kill cabin crew and passengers during the takeover of the aircraft. A witness also reported the use of a tear gas-type chemical used on American Flight 11 to keep passengers away from first class. The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Against the United States was able to establish that two of the hijackers had recently purchased Leatherman multi-function knives. Bomb threats were made on three of the aircraft (not the American 77).
Air traffic control in the United States is entrusted to the Federal Aviation Administration, this surveillance is provided by twenty-two regional control centers (Air Route Traffic Control Center) including those of Boston, New York, Washington, Cleveland and Indianapolis in the northeast of the country. The various control centers are placed under the direction of the Air Traffic Control System Command Center responsible for centralizing information. Military surveillance of North American airspace is entrusted to NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command). It is composed of several surveillance sectors including the NEADS (Northeast Air Defense Sector) for the Northeastern United States.
In February 2002, the NTSB released AA11, UA175, AA77 and UA93 routes. Aircraft trajectories are based on data collected by area control centers, John F. Kennedy and Washington Dulles airports, and the 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron. Added to this is the information recorded by the black boxes of flights AA77 and UA93 found in the rubble of crime scenes.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, four airliners, two Boeing 767s and two Boeing 757s, were hijacked by nineteen terrorists with the aim of crashing them into highly symbolic places in the United States. The four airliners were scheduled to take off between 7:45 a.m. and 8:10 a.m. but faced delays ranging from ten to forty-one minutes. Flight AA11 took off at 7:59 a.m., flight UA175 at 8:14 a.m., flight AA77 at 8:20 a.m. and flight UA93 at 8:42 a.m.
After its takeover by the terrorists, Flight 11 was held for thirteen minutes in a direction (the Northwest) that took it away from the terrorists’ objective (WTC 1). Flight 175 made a detour over New Jersey, before returning south to Manhattan and its target (WTC 2). The late takeover of AA77 and UA93 resulted in each significant departure from its purpose (Pentagon and Washington D.C.).
Flight AA 11
American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767 carrying eighty-one passengers and eleven crew members, took off at 7:59 a.m. fourteen minutes late from Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts. His destination was Los Angeles, California.
The aircraft was hijacked around 8:14 am, after fifteen minutes of flight, by the Egyptian Mohammed Atta and the Saudis Satam al-Suqami, Waleed al-Shehri, Wail al-Shehri and Abdulaziz al-Omari, present among the passengers. During the hijacking, Betty Ong, a flight attendant, alerted American Airlines to the hijacking of the plane. The Boston control center began briefing the chain of command at 8:28 a.m., beginning with FAA’s New England Regional Operations Center and the FAA Command Center.
The latter then informed the FAA headquarters at 8:32 a.m. The Boston control center then alerted the Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) at 8:38 a.m., eighteen minutes after the first alert. This was the first information received by the military regarding the hijacking of a plane on the morning of September 11. American Airlines Flight 11 struck the north face of the North Tower (WTC 1), between the 93rd and 99th floors of the World Trade Center, at 08:46 after thirty-two minutes of hijacking.
Flight UA 175
United Airlines Flight 175, a Boeing 767 carrying fifty-six passengers and nine crew, departed Boston Logan International Airport at 8:14 a.m. sixteen minutes late. He was also to go to Los Angeles.
At 8:45 a.m., after half an hour of flight, Emiratis Marwan al-Shehhi, Fayez Banihammad and Saudis Mohand al-Shehri, Ahmed al-Ghamdi and Hamza al-Ghamdi hijacked the aircraft. Ten minutes later, an air traffic controller alerted the New York City control center to the hijacking of the flight, which in turn alerted the FAA Command Center at 9:02 a.m. At 9:03 a.m., eighteen minutes after the terrorists took control of the aircraft, United Airlines Flight 175 struck the south side of the South Tower (WTC 2), between the 78th and 84th floors. More than two hundred people were killed instantly. At the same time, the New York Control Center alerted the Air Defense (NEADS) of the hijacking of the flight.
Flight AA 77
At 8:20 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757 with fifty-eight passengers and six crew, took off ten minutes late from Washington Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, near Washington, for Los Angeles.
After half an hour of flight, the plane was hijacked at 8:53 a.m. by Hani Hanjour, Nawaf al-Hazmi, Salem al-Hazmi, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Majed Moqed, five Saudis who were among the passengers. At 8:56 a.m., they shut down the transponder of the aircraft. The FAA headquarters was alerted to the hijacking of the flight at 9:25 a.m., twenty-seven minutes after its disappearance. Then at 9:34 a.m., the NEADS was notified, at the same time the plane began a 330-degree turn before crashing into the western part of the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m., after forty-four minutes of hijacking. The crash killed all sixty-four people on board flight AA77 as well as one hundred and twenty-five people in the Pentagon.
UA Flight 93
At 8:42 a.m., United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757 with seven crew members and thirty-seven passengers, took off forty-one minutes late because of heavy morning traffic at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey near New York City. His destination was San Francisco.
Flight 93 was hijacked by Lebanese Ziad Jarrah and Saudis Saeed al-Ghamdi, Ahmed al-Nami and Ahmed al-Haznawi at 9:28 a.m. Two minutes later, one of the terrorists said on the radio that there was a bomb on board. The message was intercepted by the Cleveland Control Center, which immediately alerted the FAA Command Center, which informed the FAA headquarters at 9:34 a.m. At 9:41 a.m., the transponder was shut down. At 9:57 a.m., the passengers of Flight 93 revolted against the terrorists. At 10:03 a.m., after thirty-three minutes of hijacking, United Airlines Flight 93 crashed southeast of Pittsburgh in Somerset County, Pennsylvania en route to the capital Washington. There were no survivors.
Air defense reactions
Coordination procedures between civil aviation and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) have been in place since the 1960s. On the morning of September 11, fourteen fighter jets were available to protect contiguous United States airspace. Thus NEADS (NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector) had four fighter planes, two at Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod, Massachusetts and two others at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia, ready to defend the Northeast, the other bases needing time to prepare and arm fighters.
According to the Kean Commission, the first fighters, F-15s of the 101st Fighter Squadron of Massachusetts ANG took off at 8:52 a.m., 38 minutes after the hijacking of flight AA11, from Otis Air Force Base, near Boston, 240 km from New York. After climbing in altitude and flying at Mach 1.4 towards Kennedy Airport, they took a waiting circuit off Long Island waiting to know where the airliner or planes they were to intercept were, because these, transponders disconnected, had disappeared from the air traffic control screens. They were 114 km from New York when UA175 hit the South Tower. After reaching New York at 9:11 a.m., they were assigned to patrol New York airspace.
Thinking that Flight 11 was still in the air, NORAD took off at 9:30 a.m. three F-16 fighters of the North Dakota ANG 119th Fighter Wing from Langley Air Force Base, located 210 km south of Washington. The fighters were directed toward Washington. When Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m., the fighters were 169 km away. They arrived at the Pentagon 12 minutes later.
Andrews Air Force Base located fifteen kilometers from the capital, including three F-16 fighters carrying only training ammunition were participating in an exercise in North Carolina that morning, was ordered by the Secret Service to prepare an armed patrol. But half an hour later, when they received the order from the Presidency to take off these fighters following the attack on the Pentagon, they were not yet ready. At 10:38, two unarmed F-16s of the 121st Fighter Squadron of the District of Columbia ANG took off from Andrews, 45 minutes after the alert and were eventually to ram their target.
After the third crash, the FAA’s Director of National Operations, Ben Sliney, ordered at 9:45 a.m. the total closure of U.S. airspace and Transport Canada launched Operation Yellow Ribbon, grounding planes scheduled to take off and diverting international flights from Europe and Asia to Canada. All commercial flights in the United States are canceled (and all international flights flying to them are redirected to Canada), and Los Angeles and San Francisco airports are closed.
The four thousand-five hundred civil aircraft then in flight were forced to land urgently and civil aviation remained grounded until September 14. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld triggers DEFCON 3 at 10:43 a.m. At about 11:00 a.m., NORAD Commander Ralph Eberhart triggered the SCATANA contingency plan, which forced all aircraft to land and gave military control over the airspace. At 12:15 p.m., there were no more commercial or private flights flying over the United States. At 1:04 p.m., George W. Bush puts the U.S. military on alert and triggers the FPCON DELTA, the highest level of terrorist alert.
The United States Navy announced at 2:51 p.m. the deployment of two aircraft carriers and other ships from the Norfolk Naval Base off New York and Washington and a carrier strike group off Los Angeles.
About two hours after the last crash, a hundred fighters were patrolling American airspace and, since September 14, an operation called Noble Eagle must ensure the air cover of the United States 24 hours a day. This cost forty billion euros for its first seven years and ” wears” seriously personal and material.
Among the military units deployed as reinforcements to the site of the disaster, a bacteriological warfare unit of the United States National Guard was tasked with analyzing the air to determine if pathogenic germs had been spread. Alerted a few minutes after the second impact, it confirmed at 20:30 the absence of risks in this area.
The attacks lasted less than two hours, with the first hijacking beginning at 8:14 a.m. on Flight 11 and the last hijacked airliner crashing at 10:03 a.m., 109 minutes later (102 minutes elapsed between the time the WTC North Tower was hit by a plane and the time the two towers collapsed). None of the fighter planes that were deployed succeeded in intercepting the hijacked flights. NORAD stated that this major failure of the airspace protection system was due to delays in the transmission of flight incidents (24 and 39 minutes for flights 11 and 77) or their non-transmission. Using NORAD data, the Kean Commission stated that the military would have been warned only minutes before the impacts of Flights 11 and 77, and after the impacts for the others.
Nor did the failure of NORAD prevent senior officials, such as Generals Eberhard and Myers, from being confirmed in office or even promoted. This failure was compounded by the fact that the WTC had been recognized as a prime target as early as the explosion of the explosives-laden truck in 1993.
Use of aircraft as a terrorist weapon
In 1994, an expert commissioned by the Pentagon stressed the symbolic value of the towers and envisaged that a terrorist attack would certainly consist of “multiple and simultaneous actions”. During the two years preceding the attacks, NORAD conducted exercises in which hijacked airliners were used against various targets, including the WTC. Moreover, the intelligence services of several countries, European among others, had several months earlier warned their American counterparts of a preparation for hijackings of civil aircraft on the territory of the United States. The report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States states that the terrorist threat using aircraft was conceivable:
“The threat reports also mention the possibility of using an aircraft filled with explosives. The most important of these mentioned a possible plot to fly an explosives-laden plane into an American city. The report, released in September 1998, came from a source who had walked to a U.S. consulate in East Asia. In August of the same year, the intelligence community received information that a group of Libyans hoped to crash a plane into the World Trade Center. In neither case could the information be corroborated. In addition, an Algerian group hijacked an airliner in 1994, probably with the intention of blowing it up over Paris, but possibly also crashing into the Eiffel Tower.”
Reported impacts and damages
Approximately 17,400 people were in the two towers at the time of the collisions and most of them had the opportunity to evacuate the scene before they were destroyed. This was the second attack on the complex since its commissioning, the first dating back to 1993.
Flights AA 11 and UA 175 that were hijacked to ram Towers 1 and 2 of the World Trade Center in New York were two Boeing 767-200ERs. The weight of flight AA11 was estimated at 128.6 tons (283,600lb) and carried nearly 38,000 liters (10,000 gallons) of fuel at the time of impact, flight UA175 was carrying more than 34,000 liters (9,100 gallons).
At 08:46 (local time, or 12 :46 in UTC), flight AA11 struck almost perpendicular in its center the northeast face of the North Twin Tower, its inclination (25°) resulting in a five-storey right-of-way (93 to 97). With an estimated speed of 713 km/h, the aircraft left its partial footprint on the façade (35 meters for 48 meters wingspan), the tips of the wings causing only superficial damage. The damage caused to the external structure was estimated at 35 columns sectioned on the sixty that make up the north face of the tower. According to the NIST report, 6 central columns were severed during the impact and 3 others were heavily damaged (the forty-seven central columns alone supported 60% of the static load).
According to the FEMA report, which echoes the opinion of experts expressed on September 11 during interviews, the top of the towers would have moved six to eight meters at the time of impacts. But, according to the study that followed the engineers commissioned by NIST, the maximum displacement of the South Tower (at the level of impact), obtained by simulation, would have been only forty centimeters, a result confirmed by the calculations of Professor Bazant of MIT (forty-five centimeters).
Only a small part of the landing gear came out from the opposite side, after losing about 95% of its energy, and was found on a street corner 385 meters away. The FBI claimed to have found the intact passport of one of the terrorists, Satam al-Suqami, nearby. With all the elevators broken down and the stairs rendered impassable, people above the affected floors were trapped and smoky.
The damage found in the lobby of the ground floor, reported in particular by firefighters (windows and elevator doors blown off, wall marble plaques peeled off) and rescuers (burned) are usually attributed to kerosene sprayed around the 95th floor, which would then have traveled the approximately four hundred meters of an elevator shaft, giving its combustion in a free atmosphere the ability to produce a powerful shock wave. According to these witnesses, the elevators concerned were those of the center, called locals, which served the lower floors and basements.
At 09:03, UA175 penetrated at an angle (about 15°) the south face of the South Tower, seven meters from its center. The event was widely recorded by broadcasters covering the attack on the North Tower.
According to the NIST report, the aircraft’s speed at impact was estimated at 872 km/h, giving it 50% more energy than AA11. But, striking the tower between floors 78 and 83, it left a shorter footprint (26 meters wingspan) despite a greater angle of heeling (38 °) because at this level the external structure was (twice) more resistant than at the level of floor 95.
The angulation of the flight direction meant that the starboard half of the aircraft could not meet the internal structure of the carrier poles, allowing parts of the engine, landing gear and cabin to exit through the east corner of the building and be found up to four hundred meters away. The aircraft severed 32 of the 60 outer columns of the south face on five floors, to which must be added those carried out in the eastern corner by the exit of the straight engine and landing gear parts. The footprint left by the aircraft had a surface area quite comparable to that of WTC1. The damage to the central structure is just as unknown as that of the north tower, at least one staircase remained passable.
At 09:38, flight AA77 entered the central part of the Pentagon’s west wing, with the aircraft flying at an estimated speed of 850 km/h. The aircraft entered the center of a section being completed, the exterior façade having just been reinforced to withstand a terrorist attack (steel poles, Kevlar cover). The row of steel columns was destroyed about ten meters wide at ground floor height. A whole set of concrete floor support columns was also destroyed immediately behind the impact, but also at a significant distance, severed at the base.
Hence the collapse of the section of floors half an hour later. One hundred meters from the impact, exactly in the axis of flight, a circular perforation 2.3 meters in diameter had been made by one of the reactors in the inner wall of the C ring of the building, marked above the orifice of a large deposit of gaseous residues of combustion and traces of a shock wave (broken windows). The impact and the fire ignited by the fuel that quickly spread into the structure killed all 64 people on the plane as well as 125 Pentagon occupants.
At 10:03 a.m., UA93 crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing all 44 people on the plane. The aircraft was about 200 km from the capital Washington (about 20 minutes of flight) when it hit the ground at a speed of 933km / h. The aircraft crashed at an angle of 44 degrees, leaving a crater 3 meters deep and 12 meters wide.
Instantly released by the bursting of the wings against the facades of the towers, kerosene (around thirty-five thousand liters per plane) spread widely with the debris in the direction given by the impacts until it came out partly through the entrance façade and those opposite, ignited as a result of numerous electrical short circuits within the buildings and the reactors themselves, forming huge fireballs (thus burning 20% of the fuel) ranging from yellow to orange, (due to the combustion of particles of the element carbon) generating fires that would move as the fuels were exhausted (according to NIST, the maximum heating resulting from the combustion of part of the kerosene — 40% — and furniture was reached twenty minutes after impact), and ignition of new materials.
This rapid combustion caused a shortage of oxygen, the fumes, gray and light following the fireballs, turning black after a quarter of an hour. Nowhere was there any reddening of steel parts (from 700 ° C), or even shattering of windows (above 600 ° C), even near the exit gaps of aircraft parts where debris of all kinds (furniture, equipment, etc.) must have accumulated, testifying to the relative weakness of the fires.
Analyzed by NIST, samples of external beams from the affected floors mostly indicate exposure to a maximum temperature of 250°C, an exception with a higher temperature, but below 600°C. Calculations by this organization indicated maximum temperatures of about 500 °C. These results are consistent with data from experiments carried out by the metallurgical industry where hydrocarbon fires in car parks were not able to heat unprotected steel beams to more than 360 °C.
The power of these fires also remains much lower than that of listed tower fires, such as One Meridian Plaza (on eight floors, for eighteen hours) or the First Interstate Bank (on five floors, for three and a half hours).
As for the effects of these fires, it should be noted that the role of passive fire protection is assessed from the perspective of a “fire resistance” which does not indicate the time during which a building must stand, but the time during which the fire must be contained in the space where it originated.
Despite the immediate depletion of most of the kerosene, the poor resistance of fires to collapse and the sprinkling of water on accumulated rubble, areas of high temperatures (above 700 °C) persisted for days according to a study by the US Geological Survey. One hundred days later, these outbreaks were still active.
The fires remained contained in the spaces opposite the impact, except for a burst on the 105th floor that exhibited the building’s only emergence of flames. The collapse of the south tower induces a reactivation of the fires inside the building (more voluminous and grayer smoke). The gaping left by the impact, putting ” in sight” the heart of the building, remained permanently a black hole, thus signaling the absence of fire at the level of the service cage.
The inclination of the impact caused the kerosene of the right-wing to come out through the facades in three huge fireballs. It followed that the consecutive fire was much less than for the North Tower and remained very localized at the “east” corner of the tower, with however an unusual phenomenon mentioned by NIST: shortly before the collapse was recorded an intense light flash followed, for several minutes, by a flow of molten metal.
At the time of the collapse, the fires gave indications of suffocation, only black smoke being visible, which escaped from the building. The fire team that arrived on the 78th floor reported the presence of two residual fires and requested that hoses be sent to extinguish them. A few minutes later, the tower collapsed before the evacuation order issued by the emergency command post in WTC7 could be transmitted. In the meantime, at least eighteen people on the upper floors had been able to cross the disaster area without difficulty by one of the three staircases of the service nucleus (where the columns of the internal support structure are grouped).
Hit by hot metal debris projected on its south face (in its eastern third) during the collapse of the North Tower, this forty-seven-storey skyscraper was the prey of a few fires, with flames sporadically and partially visible (levels 11 to 13 and 28 to 30). In August 2008, NIST issued a report regarding the collapse of WTC7, concluding that fire was the main cause.
The fire following the impact was relatively violent but confined to the northern part of the struck wing (in the direction of the flight axis). Firefighters could not approach the impact zone until 1 p.m. because of its intensity and it was still active eighteen hours later.
It was found that windows were liquefied, concrete split and that a fire truck, stationed in front of the heliport at the time of impact, had the rear partially melted, testifying to a high temperature (close to 1,500 °C).
The collapse of the towers
At 9:58 a.m., fifty-six minutes after being reached, the South Tower collapsed. The event was a surprise to firefighters as well as to New York City Hall. Indeed, having already responded to a fire and the 1993 bomb attack, New York firefighters had a perfect knowledge of buildings and believed that they were able to withstand such impacts. On this occasion, Leslie E. Robertson, who was one of the designers of the original plan for the structure of the World Trade Center buildings in the 1960s, said the twin towers were designed to withstand the collision of a Boeing 707 or DC-8, fully loaded and flying at 950 km/h (the maximum cruising speed).
He added that the impact would cause “only local damage that could not result in collapse or significant damage to the building”. Studies of such impacts, however, had underestimated the effect of fires. A Boeing 767-200 is 48.5 m (160 ft) long with a wingspan of 48 m (156 ft), with a capacity of up to 62.2 (-200) to 91 (-200ER)m3 of fuel. In addition to breaking a number of load-bearing columns, the explosions resulting from the impacts on each of the towers ignited 38 m3 (10,000 gallons) of fuel and immediately spread the fire over several floors while paper, furniture, carpet, computers, books, walls, framing and other objects were consumed in all affected floors.
The lightweight construction and hollow nature of the structures allowed fuel to penetrate all the way inside the towers, starting numerous fires simultaneously over a large area of the affected floors. The fuel of the planes burned at most a few minutes but the inside of the buildings burned for an hour or even an hour and a half. The high temperature of the fires weakened the columns and caused the floors to subside, pulling the outer columns inward and reducing their ability to support the upper mass of the building. The fires reached temperatures that, although well below the melting point, were high enough to weaken the base columns so that they suffered plastic deformation and creep under the weight of the upper storeys.
At 10:28 a.m., thirty minutes after the South Tower, its twin collapsed, destroying the Marriott World Trade Center, and at 5:25 p.m., WTC7, both heavily damaged by the fall of the South Tower. A combination of three factors allowed the North Tower to remain standing longer: the point of impact was higher (so that the gravity load on the most damaged area was lower), the aircraft’s speed was lower (and therefore less impact), and the affected stages had undergone fire-fighting treatment.
Within a radius of about one hundred and thirty meters, many windows of the buildings were destroyed by the shock wave produced by the destruction of the twin towers.
A few minutes after the last communication with the fire team that, having reached the 78th floor, was rescuing the injured and preparing to extinguish two residual fires, Fire Chief Ganci received the messenger of the Emergency Office (OEM), Steve Moscillo stating that “the buildings were going to collapse and they had to be evacuated” (Interviewed by ABC News, Mayor Giuliani, a member of the OEM, acknowledged that he had only passed on this information and the origin of this forecast remains unknown). A few minutes later, the section above the impact tilted to the south, a rotation that reflected the total loss of support for the internal structure, despite the strength of the intact part of the external structure (the “tube”).
Then, after acceleration to an angle of about 25 °, this rotation ceased abruptly, giving way to the development of a huge ” eruptive” cloud which progressed identically along the tower to its foot, heavy elements (several tens of tons) being projected one hundred and twenty meters away, the lightest at more than four hundred meters, the contents of the floors (cement floors, plaster of partitions, furniture, equipment, human beings) being reduced to dust or fragments. Most of the remains were thus distributed around the foot of the tower and on the surrounding buildings.
The collapse of the North Tower occurred with the same characteristics as that of its twin, except for the fact that the summit part collapsed immediately – without resistance – and roughly vertically after the antenna – supported by the central structure – oscillated on its base and preceded the global falling movement. The continuous propulsion of pulverized or fragmented remains towards the outside (at least 300,000 tons), that is to say, their non-accumulation in piles in the footprint of the tower, is the phenomenon that allowed the survival of rare survivors (20 people) surprised in the lower floors who found themselves either on the surface of the debris, or buried a few meters deep, allowing most of them (16 people) to escape from the premises immediately or after a few tens of minutes of effort.
More than twenty testimonies — mainly from firefighters — state that, around 4 p.m., the evacuation of the building was ordered for the reason that it was going to collapse. The owner’s statements, Larry Silverstein, indicate that (in agreement with fire chiefs) firefighting had to be abandoned, due to the risk of ignition of hydrocarbon reserves located on the lower floors. To describe the decision he had just made, he used the expression “pull it” (literally: “pull it”, but which in the context can take the meaning of “abandon”, “withdraw”), which he recounts during a PBS documentary broadcast on September 10, 2002, which generated speculation.
The alert is given that this building was going to collapse. At 5:25 p.m., firefighters watched the building fall, with the central block overlooking the top disappearing first. A cloud of dust developed from the base, the building descending as it was, as if sinking into the ground, the collapse creating a suction well made visible by the entrainment of the smoke from the fires. Contrary to what was found for the twin towers, the remains were found in a heap, in the footprint of the building, the walls of the lower part lying inwards. The media coverage of this collapse was very low, and the Kean Commission report makes no mention of the WTC7 tower.
When flight AA11 collided with WTC 1 at 8:46 a.m., nearly 8,900 people were in the tower. About 1,344 people were killed or stranded on the upper floors as a result of the impact. When UA175 hit the second tower at 9:03 a.m., about 3,440 of the 8,600 people in the tower had already evacuated, but 637 people were killed or trapped on impact. Almost all of the people on the floors below the impacts were evacuated before the towers collapsed at 9:59 a.m. (WTC 2) and 10:28 a.m. (WTC 1), or 87 percent of the 17,400 people in the towers that morning. In total, nearly 2,200 employees working in Towers 1 and 2 of the WTC were killed.
In less than three hours, more than 200 fire units from the New York Fire Department were mobilized to the scene of the attacks, half of the city’s fire units. It was the largest intervention in the history of the New York firefighters with nearly a thousand firefighters mobilized that day. New York City municipal employees and New York City Police Department (NYPD) officers were also on site.
The collapse of the Twin Towers resulted in the deaths of 343 firefighters from the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY), 23 New York City Police Department officers, and 37 officers from the Port Authority Police Department. Of the people in the Twin Towers, only about 20 people survived their collapses, including 16 people who were in staircase B of the North Tower on the 20th floor.
After the towers collapsed, more than ten thousand rescuers, rescuers and volunteers were present at the World Trade Center site in search of survivors. Around 8:00 p.m. Port Authority Police Department officer Will Jimeno was found alive from the rubble of the WTC, he was in the underground corridor that connects the Twin Towers. It will be extracted around 11:00 p.m. The next morning, shortly after 7:00 a.m., Sergeant John McLoughlin, a second PAPD officer who was with Will Jimeno, was pulled alive from the rubble. Then around 12:30 p.m., Genelle Guzman-McMillan was found alive in the rubble of the North Tower, 26 hours after it collapsed. This lady will be the last of the people pulled alive from the rubble of the WTC.
As part of Operation Noble Eagle, the U.S. Navy deployed the hospital ship USNS Comfort in September to assist relief efforts at the World Trade Center site. Thus the ship provided the necessary food and aid to the ten thousand rescuers, volunteers and workers who were working in search of survivors. Although the main mission of the USNS Comfort was logistical, the ship received nearly 600 wounded.
Between October 2001 and January 2002, the accounts of five hundred and three firefighters and rescuers were collected thanks to Thomas Von Essen, head of the fire sector at New York City Hall. For three years, these recordings remained inaccessible despite requests from victims’ families. Dragged to court by the New York Times, the city’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, was finally forced to make them public in August 2005.
The deadliest attack in history
The attacks of September 11, 2001, are the deadliest attacks (2,977 dead, 6,291 wounded) ever perpetrated since the beginning of history (as of June 6, 2017, since 2001, in Europe (including Russia and Turkey) there have been 2,363 deaths in terrorist attacks and nearly 8,200 injuries).
|Number of people killed by the September 11 attacks|
|World Trade Center||Tours||2,606 dead||2,203 civilians||403, of which:
|Flight AA11||92 deads||76 passengers||11 crew members||5 terrorists|
|Flight UA175||65 deads||51 passengers||9 crew members||5 terrorists|
|Pentagon||Building||125 deads||125 civilians and military|
|Flight AA77||64 deads||53 passengers||6 crew members||5 terrorists|
|Shanksville||Flight UA93||44 deads||33 passengers||7 crew members||4 terrorists|
|Total||2,996 deads||2,541 deads||436 deads||19 deads|
2,977 people were killed by the attacks. A person who disappeared the day before September 11 (Sneha Anne Philip) and three people who died after attacks from diseases caused by the cloud of toxic dust created during the collapses of the WTC towers were added to the official commission’s death toll of 2,973.
Of the 2,977 victims of the attacks, 310 were of foreign nationality, including 67 British, 41 Indians, 28 South Koreans, 24 Canadians, 24 Japanese, four French and one Belgian. The youngest victim was 2 years old, and the oldest was 85 years old.
As a result of the attacks, 6,291 people were injured.
Nearly 1,360 people in the North Tower and 600 in the South Tower were blocked above and at the impact level. Faced with a desperate situation due to smoke, about 200 of them preferred to jump into the void, crashing into the streets and roofs of adjacent buildings. Still others attempted to reach the roof in the hope of helicopter rescue and ran into locked access doors. Only 18 people were able to escape from the South Tower.
Marsh & McLennan Companies, which had offices between the 93rd and 101st floors of the North Tower, lost 295 employees killed instantly in the impact of Flight 11. Cantor Fitzgerald L.P. lost 658 employees who worked between the 101stand 105th floors. Aon (company) also lost 172 employees.
The collapse of the towers killed 343 FDNY firefighters from 75 different fire stations who were rescuing people trapped in the towers. Among them was department head Peter J. Ganci, Jr. and 19 battalion commanders. The Port Authority (PANY/NJ) lost 84 employees in the attacks, including 37 police officers. 23 NYPD police officers as well as an FBI agent and a Secret Service agent were also killed in the tower’s collapse.
Of the Pentagon’s 125 dead, 70 were civilians and 55 were military personnel. Timothy Maude, lieutenant general of the US Army, was the highest-ranking soldier killed in the attacks.
Of the 2,763 people who lost their lives in or near the Twin Towers (including 10 terrorists), only 293 bodies were recovered. In 2005, nearly a quarter of the 20,000 bone and tissue fragments recovered could be attributed, leaving 1,151 missing at that date, according to the Associated Press. In April 2006, three hundred bone fragments (less than 2 cm in length) were discovered in the debris accumulated on the roof of the Deutsche Bank building, located some 130 meters south of WTC2. The institution that carried out the identifications using the DNA markers, the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, reported “the incredible degree of fragmentation [of the bodies], with an average of only seven fragments recovered per victim”.
Finally, between 2001 and 2021, 1,647 of the 2,753 victims of the World Trade Center were formally identified.
More than 3,000 children have lost one or both parents.
The gigantic clouds of dust created by this destruction led to the greatest panic that New York City has ever known. They invaded the entire southern Manhattan Peninsula and even crossed the East River to reach Brooklyn. There were many wounded and a number missing, possibly even dead (never confirmed).
Under the Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act signed by George W. Bush on September 22, 2001, a compensation fund for the victims of the attacks was established. In total, the fund amounts to $7.049 billion for the families of 2,880 victims and 2,680 injured in the attacks.
All the dead of the attacks of 11 September 2001 were posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
Among the 2,977 people killed in the four suicide attacks, including those on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York, are the following:
- Abraham Zelmanowitz ( American computer programmer)
- Barbara Olson (American television journalist)
- Berry Berenson (actress and photographer).
- Betty Ong (American flight attendant).
- Bill Biggart ( American photographer)
- Carolyn Beug (American video producer)
- Charles Burlingame ( American Airlines pilot)
- Charles Edward Jones (American astronaut)
- Daniel M. Lewin (co-founder of Akamai Technologies).
- Danielle Kousoulis ( Vice-President of Cantor Fitzgerald).
- David Angell (American television producer)
- Dominick Pezzulo (American police officer)
- Eamon McEneaney (American lacrosse player)
- Garnet Bailey (Canadian hockey player)
- Jeremy Glick ( American Airlines passenger)
- John Ogonowski (American Airlines pilot)
- John P. O’Neill (American counterterrorism expert).
- Keith A. Glascoe (FDNY firefighter and American actor)
- Kevin Cosgrove (American businessman)
- Lauren Grandcolas ( American author)
- LeRoy Homer, Jr. ( American Airlines pilot)
- Madeline Amy Sweeney (American flight attendant).
- Mark Bingham (American Airlines passenger).
- Michael Richards (Jamaican-born American sculptor)
- Mohammad Salman Hamdani ( American paramedic)
- Mychal Judge (Franciscan Catholic priest, chaplain of the New York City Fire Department and the first official victim of today’s attacks).
- Neil David Levin ( Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey).
- Nezam Hafiz ( American cricketer, born Guyanese)
- Orio Palmer ( American firefighter)
- Peter J. Ganci, Jr. (American firefighter and head of the Fire Department of the City of New York).
- Rick Rescorla (head of World Trade Center security for Morgan Stanley and Dean Witter).
- Ronald Paul Bucca (U.S . citizen)
- Sneha Anne Philip ( Indian-American physician)
- Timothy Maude ( U.S. Army lieutenant general)
- Todd Beamer (American Airlines passenger).
- Tom Burnett (American Airlines passenger)
- Welles Crowther (American investment banker).
- William E. Caswell (physicist)
- William M. Feehan (Deputy Chief of the Fire Department of the City of New York)
- Wilson Flagg (U.S. military)
Terrorists who died in the September 11 attacks
Nineteen terrorists died on September 11, 2001:
- Abdulaziz al-Omari (Saudi citizen, on American Airlines Flight 11).
- Mohamed Atta (Egyptian citizen, on American Airlines Flight 11).
- Wail al-Shehri (Saudi citizen, on American Airlines Flight 11).
- Waleed al-Shehri (Saudi citizen, on American Airlines Flight 11).
- Satam al-Suqami (Saudi citizen, on American Airlines Flight 11).
- Ahmed al-Ghamdi (Saudi citizen, on United Airlines Flight 175).
- Fayez Banihammad (UAE citizen, on United Airlines Flight 175).
- Hamza al-Ghamdi (Saudi citizen, on United Airlines Flight 175).
- Marwan al-Shehhi (UAE citizen, on United Airlines Flight 175).
- Mohand al-Shehri (Saudi citizen, on United Airlines Flight 175).
- Hani Hanjour (Saudi citizen, on American Airlines Flight 77).
- Khalid al-Mihdhar (Saudi citizen, on American Airlines Flight 77).
- Majed Moqed (Saudi citizen, on American Airlines Flight 77).
- Nawaf al-Hazmi (Saudi citizen, on American Airlines Flight 77).
- Salem al-Hazmi (Saudi citizen, on American Airlines Flight 77).
- Ahmed al-Haznawi (Saudi citizen, on United Airlines Flight 93).
- Ahmed al-Nami (Saudi citizen, on United Airlines Flight 93).
- Saeed al-Ghamdi (Saudi citizen, on United Airlines Flight 93).
- Ziad Jarrah (Lebanese citizen, on United Airlines Flight 93).
The collapse of the Twin Towers caused the total or partial destruction of the other five buildings that make up the World Trade Center. The Greek Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas (1916), which stood below the South Tower, was totally destroyed. The debris produced by the collapses caused heavy damage to the many adjacent buildings. The Structural Engineers Association of New York (SEAoNY) counted a total of 48 damaged buildings near the World Trade Center site.
A total of eight buildings partially or totally collapsed: 1 World Trade Center (North Tower), 2 World Trade Center (South Tower), Marriott World Trade Center, 4 World Trade Center, 5 World Trade Center, 6 World Trade Center, 7 World Trade Center and St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church.
Of the forty-eight buildings damaged, eleven sustained heavy damage: 2 World Financial Center, 3 World Financial Center, Winter Garden building, 120 Cedar Street, 114 Liberty Street, Deutsche Bank Building, 130 Cedar Street, 90 West Street, Verizon Building, 45 Park Place and 30 West Broadway.
Medical and environmental sequelae
Content of the pollution cloud
The collapse of the towers on themselves (hundreds of thousands of tons of material) and their combustion for 99 days dispersed in the atmosphere of Manhattan a cloud of dust, then ash and fumes (combustion and pyrolysis) containing many dangerous pollutants: dioxin, lead (in the 50,000 computers of each tower), asbestos, mercury (in tens of thousands of fluorescent tubes), americium-241 (a radioactive element found in thousands of smoke detectors) and fiberglass in significant quantities. As well as polycarbonates in a concentration 75,000 times that which has never been measured before (in a workshop in the port) and ultra-fine dust at a rate never before observed.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which assesses air hazards, has recorded abnormally high spikes in concentrations of other volatile organic compounds such as ethylbenzene, propylene, styrene, and toluene, as well as bisphenol A. Aerosol products in the form of unusually fine particles, probably associated with high temperatures under the debris, were detected by Thomas Cahill’s team at the University of Californias Davis such as sulfur, silicon, aluminum, copper, nickel, iron, barium, and vanadium. The average level of benzene concentration in air recorded by the EPA from October to November 2001 was 18,000 ppb with a peak of 180,000 ppb in early November. And the EPA was still recording high levels of dioxin several months later.
Tens of thousands of people were directly or indirectly exposed, starting with survivors, firefighters and employees who worked at the site. Many are affected by lung problems, respiratory impairment.
In 2002, a study partly done by the State Department of Health’s Office of Managed Care showed that west of Brooklyn cases of aggravated asthma were 2.4 times higher than in the rest of the city after September 11, with 1.5 times more hospitalizations.
In 2006, the first death from pulmonary fibrosis is officially attributed to Ground Zero after an autopsy (60 people would have died as a result of this type of condition according to Dr. Levin of the World Trade Center Medical Monitoring Programs at Mt Sinai Hospital). Then new cases of mesothelioma (asbestos disease), or asbestosis are regularly attributed to what is locally called “the World Trade Center syndrome“.
In 2010, at the request of the New York Fire Department, a law opened a program to monitor the health of two groups of people victims of the pollution generated by the attack:
- 1) the “Responders” (rescuers, salaried cleaners and volunteers) who came to provide assistance (64,408 men and 9,036 women as of September 10, 2019) and
- 2) people who were outside in the era affected by the fallout (so-called “Survivors“; 10,979 men and 10,375 women as of September 10, 2019).
In 2011 (10 years after the attack), most firefighters and people exposed on the site during the first 12 months showed a clear decrease in lung capacity followed by a plateau (still noticeable in 2006 and persistent in 2015, with a degraded function, compared to the average of people of the same age). These individuals also develop more induced asthma, chronic non-specific bronchitis, and bronchiolitis, often concomitant with chronic rhinosinusitis and upper respiratory tract disease, sometimes with gastroesophageal reflux disease. Sarcoidosis and interstitial pulmonary fibrosis also appear, two pathologies with initially slow and silent development, which may underestimate future morbidity.
According to the health register (56,000 people) specially created to monitor the health effects of the attack by including cancers declared since 2008 (mostly voluntary participants), the risk of developing cancer seems to be increasing (about 300 after 5 years according to the New York Post in 2006, figure reassessed 14 years after the attack to 3,700 just for first responders and workers exposed to toxic fumes and waste, according to the New York Post in 2015 (and often with more than one type of cancer (mainly thyroid, colon, prostate and blood cancer or other lung conditions including pulmonary fibrosis and myeloma), a few hundred have gone to court for redress, finding that institutions are responsible for their condition by concealing air pollution.
Biases are possible because this registry is mainly composed of volunteers, and people who already had health problems may have been more likely to register than if they had been randomly selected from among those affected by the attack or involved in the clearing work, This could underestimate or overestimate the link between certain pathologies and the attack. In addition, cancers often take two to three decades to break out, which can underestimate the true number of cases induced by pollution and stress generated by the disaster.
Autoimmune diseases also increase markedly in those who have worked long-term at the site, with mainly rheumatoid arthritis (+ 37% of cases), spondyloarthritis (+ 22%), inflammatory myopathies (+ 14%), systemic lupus erythematosus (+ 12%), systemic scleroderma (+ 5%), Sjögren’s syndromes (+ 5%), and to a lesser extent antiphospholipid syndrome (+ 3%) and Wegener’s granulomatosis (+ 2% of cases), according to a report published in April 2015 by the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology;
For rescue workers exposed to the site, the risk of developing one of these autoimmune diseases in the decade has statistically increased (+/- 13% for each month working on the site).
In 2017, cardiometabolic sequelae are highlighted, in people who were children or adolescents when they were exposed to the pollution cloud: fifteen years later, they have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease (risk measured by the stiffness of the arterial wall, body mass index, insulin resistance, fasting total cholesterol (+9.2%), HDL, LDL and triglycerides (15.1%); lipid abnormalities being in young adults an early marker of atherosclerosis and several cardiovascular diseases). This could be due to the perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) they inhaled in 2001 (products found in large quantities in the waters around the site after the attack).
This is the conclusion of a study (2017) based on 308 children, including 123 who had been in direct contact with particles from the collapse of the twin towers, and enrolled in the cohort of the World Trade Center Health Program (2,900 children were in school or present in the south area of Manhattan on September 11, 2001). It was shown that about 15 years later, children on the World Trade Center Health Registry still had higher levels of serum PFAS than those in matched cohorts, which is plausible based on other studies showing that PFAS are persistent pollutants in the environment, but also in the human organism (e.g. in retired workers), with half-lives of 3 to 8 years or more. They were also found in the rescuer’s body.
In retrospect (in 2015), researchers at the Nelson Institute of Environmental Medicine (New York University) found that the main symptoms were not those associated with PM2.5 and that the importance of very high concentrations of larger, highly alkaline particles in the air that probably also contained a lot of toxic substances was underestimated. This has led to ” inadequate” risk management. These researchers call on public bodies to be better prepared to provide adequate advice to the public and to develop more relevant means of assessing exposure to pollutants, assessing risks, and in terms of preventive measures.
From 2010 to 2019, the number of cancers and diseases induced by the pollution cloud continued to increase among those exposed. About 10,000 people who participated in the relief efforts developed cancer, according to the WTC Health Program – a federal program of care reserved for survivors of the attacks. The number of (voluntary) registered in the follow-up register has increased: at the end of June 2019, more than 21,000 of them were registered in the care program (doubly since June 2016), of whom nearly 4,000 were diagnosed with cancer (prostate, breast or skin most often).
According to David Prezant (chief medical officer of the New York Fire Department), “the cancer rate increased between 10 and 30 % in exposed people” between 2001 and 2019 and it will increase further with the aging of exposed people because lung cancer or mesothelioma take 20 to 30 years to be detected.
Retention of information by the administration
Christine Todd Whitman, the administrator of the EPA, via five press releases published in the ten days following the attack, assured Americans of the healthy atmosphere of Manhattan, as well as the water of the city.
On August 21, 2003, an EPA report (signed by Inspector General Nikki Tinsley) revealed changes imposed by the Bush administration to precautionary statements written to warn of the danger posed by dust. In 2004, a review of the documents by the Sierra Club criticized the Agency for not immediately warning the public, even before measuring the pollution, because it knew the danger posed by certain materials constituting the buildings. And in 2006, we learn that the EPA had even considered classifying documents on this pollution “secret”. The patients’ complaints were accepted by Justices Deborah Batts and Alvin Hellerstein in February and October 2006.
“There could have been more efforts to limit the exposure of healthy adults and prevent them from entering the disaster zone… The priority was that “the city returned to normal, the New York Stock Exchange reopened after a few days” laments nearly 20 years later.
Financial compensation for health damage
In 2007 (March 8), at the request of Jerrold L. Nadler, the 9/11 Heroes Health Improvement Act of 2007 should provide $ 1.9 billion (1.4 billion euros) to finance the evaluation and solutions to the health problems induced by September 11.
In addition, the Mental Health Association of New York City reported in early 2006 that 12,000 people had sought psychological help since 2002 following this tragedy, which caused high immediate and post-traumatic stress.
8 years later (end of 2014), a study published by the Journal of Traumatic Stress (December 2014) concludes that a persistently high prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder, with depression and co-morbidity in nearly 30,000 former rescuers or people who contributed to the clearing (Manhattan residents and others present on the morning of 9/11).
As of mid-2019, 15,972 people have a mental disorder recognized by the World Trade Center Health Program (excluding 5,342 enrolled in the program and already deceased)
In March 2010, the city of New York planned to release a fund of $ 657.5 million to compensate ten thousand firefighters, police officers and workers complaining of health problems after working in the ruins of Ground Zero but the agreement was rejected by the judge. Finally, on June 23, 2010, the court approves a new agreement that provides for a compensation fund worth $712.5 million. Finally, on November 19, 2010, almost all of the ten thousand plaintiffs accepted the proposed $712 million. Between 2004 and 2010, 42 police officers died of illnesses officially related to the aftermath of September 11.
Adopted by the Senate on December 22, 2010, then signed by Barack Obama on January 2, 2011, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, provides for a compensation fund valued at $4.3 billion to help people suffering injuries resulting from exposure to dust and toxic debris at the World Trade Center site.
On January 7, 2014, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance reveals widespread disability pension fraud by former New York police and firefighters who simulated trauma allegedly caused by the 11 September 2001 and announces several dozen indictments at the end of an investigation that lasted 2 years.
In 2019, the deadline for filing an application to the Special Federal Compensation Fund was increased from 2020 to 2090; it will therefore have to be regularly replenished, knowing that in 2019, the average compensation is $ 240,000 per patient and $ 682,000 for a deceased person), Congress having even agreed that this fund should also cover “a person who was a baby (at the time of the attacks) until the end of his life”.
Explanatory theses on the collapse of the towers
Collapse of WTC1 and WTC2 towers
As early as September 11, the media presented the explanations of experts, most of them structural engineers or university professors, such as Hyman Brown or Richerd Ebeltoft for whom the fires, having released an intense heat (close to 1,500 °C), had melted the steel of the structures. The next day, an article in New Scientist supported an identical thesis. This explanation by the “infernal fire”, taken up a month later in Scientific American, although having benefited from these guarantees, disappeared from the debate with the publication of subsequent studies.
Fatal weakening thesis
On September 12, in a leading technical journal, the Journal of Engineering Mechanics ASCE published an article by Fr Bažant, a world leader on concrete structures, entitled: “Why did the WTC collapse? A first analysis”, in which he explained that “the towers were doomed to collapse when the majority of the support columns on the same floor were heated to 800 °C, losing their ability to hold their load”. This article is at the origin of the theory of the progressive collapse of the floors, destroyed in cascade by the fall of the blocks of floors located above the impacts.
Then, Scientific American magazine published an article on October 9 using the results of a simulation by MIT structural engineers, “When the Twin Towers Collapsed”. The essential parameter underlying the interventions of several structural experts would have been the intensity of the fires which, with their duration (hypothesis of the accumulation of heat in the metal masses), would have ended up causing the central support structure to lose its resistance. However, the simulation model used has not been published, thus preventing its evaluation.
The thesis can be summarized as Jon Magnusson, director of the firm that designed the World Trade Center, did: “It was the force of gravitation that finally defeated the strength of the structure. When the last levels began to collapse, they brutally weighed on the directly lower levels, adding the force of the impact to their own weight. A real chain reaction ensued, in which not only the weight, but also the speed increased rapidly. No structure could withstand this, no matter how sturdy. But it was the fire that allowed gravity to finally prevail against the intrinsic resistance of the two towers”.
The report commissioned by FEMA from the Building Performance Assessment Team (BPAT), entitled WTC building performance study, was published in May 2002. He presents an explanation of the collapse of the twin towers by the intensity of the fires, which had ended up weakening and deforming the metal structure of one floor to the point that he broke its attachments to the supporting structures, causing its fall, which successively caused that of the lower floors (pancake theory). As for the load-bearing structures, they would have been unable to maintain themselves, deprived of the support provided by the floors.
However, these theories of fires as the origin of the three collapses clashed with the fact that there is no example of a collapse of metal-framed skyscrapers as a result of a fire, however intense and lasting it was, the most convincing example being that of One Meridian Plaza in Philadelphia, in 1991. Moreover, the work of the BPAT had been carried out without the relevant plans, resulting in an erroneous representation of the central load-bearing structures. The government, under pressure from associations of victims’ families, decided to commission a second study, which it entrusted to NIST.
For three years, this agency of the Department of Commerce had carried out (by the same structural expert firms that FEMA had contracted out) a modeling of the affected floors, the aircraft, their approach and the exterior and internal structures of the towers, used in a series of simulations of impacts and fires, and issued a final report on the twin towers in October 2005. Two years later, work on WTC7, which was subcontracted to ARA with instructions to limit the study to floors 8 to 46, has still not been completed.
His study was restricted to the sequence of events that triggered the fall of the blocks of floors above the impacts. The theory presented attributes the collapse to a combination of destruction of central columns by aircraft, significant subsidence of the floors (1 m) and loss of strength of intact columns, this by heating (a temperature reaching 700 °C), heating made possible by the failure of the fire insulation of all columns, consisting of fibrous flocking (replacing asbestos) that would not have resisted impacts.
The process is as follows: with the holding of their attachments to the load-bearing structures (opposite conclusion to those of FEMA), the sagging of the floors pulls the outer columns inwards, causing them to bend and, finally, break. The evaluation of this work is made impossible by NIST’s refusal to publish the collapse simulations requested by independent civil engineers. However, the modeling of the internal structures is affected by the same shortcomings as those found for the BPAT work (for example, the model shows the 47 central columns as identical while 16 of them were duplicated of the others) and the impact simulations use for both towers the same internal structure model, leading to greater damage for WTC2 (level 80) than for WTC1 (level 95).
But above all, NIST did not try to link these simulations to the results of the tests it had carried out on the resistance of the floors (which showed only a 10 cm arrow), on the fire resistance of the central structure under maximum load by the Underwriters Laboratory (four tests lasting 2 hours without noticeable effect), on the resistance of the thermal insulation under the impact of firearm bullets (no stall), nor on analyses and calculations relating to the temperatures reached, up to 500 °C).
Finally, the intrinsic weakness of the method chosen by NIST remains the consideration of the only section affected by the impacts, thus avoiding the problem of the non-resistance of the supporting structures, especially internal, below the floors hit by the planes. This problem is dismissed with the postulate that “once engaged, the fall of the upper floors could no longer be interrupted”.
Explosion caused by molten aluminum
Christian Simensen, a Norwegian materials researcher at SINTEF, the largest independent research organization in Scandinavia, presented a theory in September 2011 that large amounts of aluminum from aircraft cabins melted from the heat caused by the fires. The contact of this molten aluminum with the water projected into the floors by the fire-fighting system, would have caused a “deflagration powerful enough to blow an entire section of the tower, the upper floors collapsing to carry away those below, like a house of cards”.
WTC7 Tower Collapse
With respect to WTC7, the report commissioned by FEMA from the Building Behavior Assessment Team (BPAT) concluded in December 2001 that a research, analysis and investigation effort was required in view of the preliminary finding that ‘the best estimate [of fire damage] represents only a low probability of occurrence’ (ibid.). ch. 5-7, pp. 5-31). However, a microstructural analysis of a beam sample showed a “rapid and unexpected deterioration”, resulting from three phenomena: oxidation, sulfidation and a temperature close to 1,000 °C.
The study by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) and private engineering companies on the collapse of WTC7 was published in August 2008. Based on classified data, however, it is not validated by the scientific community.
In 2020, a study led by Professor J.Leroy Hulsey, of the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), who demonstrates that, contrary to NIST’s findings, the fire could not have caused the collapse of WTC7 on September 11, 2001; This collapse would be due to an overall failure created by the almost simultaneous failure of each column of the building.
Investigations and controversies of the September 11 attacks
Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the September 11 attacks for the first time in a video recording broadcast on April 17, 2002, by the Arab television channel MBC. In the video, al-Qaeda spokesman Souleymane Abu Ghaith said: “We were able to strike the head of impiety on its own soil. […] God has asked us to terrorize the disbelievers, and we have terrorized the disbelievers”. On the same tape, Osama bin Laden welcomes the damage inflicted on the American economy.
On March 19, 2014, while testifying at his trial in New York where he is charged with “conspiracy to kill Americans”, “conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists”, “material support to terrorists” and complicity with Richard Reid, Souleymane Abu Ghaith, a former spokesman for Al-Qaeda and son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, explains to the bar that on the evening of September 11, 2001. The latter confided to him that he had organized the attacks.
Osama bin Laden has described his role in these attacks in several videos. On December 13, 2001, he states: “We calculated in advance the number of enemies that would be killed, based on the structure of the tower. We estimated that only three or four floors would be affected. I was the most optimistic of all […]. Because of my experience in the field, I thought that the fire in the aircraft’s fuel would melt the iron structure of the building, and that it would only cause the floors hit by the aircraft and those above it to collapse. That’s all we hoped for.
On October 30, 2004, he said: “I tell you, Allah knows that it did not occur to us to strike the towers. But after it became unbearable to see the oppression and tyranny of the US-Israeli coalition against our people of Palestine and Lebanon, I then had this idea. According to the As-Sahab website, he claimed responsibility for the attacks again in 2009.
Osama bin Laden also welcomed the destruction in videos released in October and November 2001. On October 7, 2001, he says, “Almighty God has struck the United States at its most vulnerable point. He destroyed their largest buildings. Praise be to God. The United States is filled with terror from north to south and from east to west. Praise be to God… He allowed a group of Muslims at the forefront of Islam to destroy the United States. I ask him to grant them paradise”.
September 11 attacks investigation
Human intelligence and telephone tapping reveal a rise in the power of clandestine Islamist networks, raising fears of attacks at the turn of the year 2000: Al-Qaeda is already suspected of being at the origin of this “Millennium Plot ” (example: Ahmed Ressam, nicknamed by the press “The Millennium Bomber”). The attack that killed Commander Massoud on September 9, 2001, is perceived by many observers as a preamble to these attacks, with the aim of depriving the United States of a military relay before the foreseeable American response to the attacks.
The attacks were attributed the same day by US authorities, the entire mass media and almost all foreign governments to the al-Qaeda terrorist network led and financed by Osama bin Laden, who had, on behalf of the CIA, been recruited with others by Saudi Arabia’s secret services to exacerbate the mujahideen resistance. against Soviet Union troops during the First Afghan War before turning against the West in 1991. Investigators believe that the operation was imagined by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, inspired by Operation Bojinka. In the days following the attacks, the Taliban regime in power in Afghanistan denied the involvement of bin Laden, as well as the person concerned.
The police investigation into this federal crime was entrusted by the Executive Branch to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He was given full control of the various aspects of these events: places, remains, testimonies of people and any communication of information to the public. The FBI investigation, called PENTTBOM, was, according to the Agency, the largest and most complex in FBI history, involving more than 7,000 agents. Within 72 hours of the attacks, the FBI offered the names of the 19 dead hijackers. Abroad, the U.S. Intelligence Community and the police and intelligence services of several nations are involved in the investigation.
At the WTC site in Manhattan, 750 FBI agents and more than 400 other police officers used the USS Intrepid (CV-11), a former aircraft carrier converted into a museum ship as headquarters to begin their investigations.
After Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, FBI agents confiscated surveillance camera footage from the Sheraton Hotel, CITGO gas station, and the traffic regulator. The FBI released the gas station videos, which did not film the attacks. As the fire raged, they combed the surroundings to retrieve the debris thrown by the explosion, the remains inside (some evacuated under a tarpaulin), and the black boxes.
In Pennsylvania, it was the local FBI official who organized the closure and the investigation at the site where Flight 93 ended. The black boxes that had been handed over to the NTSB for decryption were recovered by the FBI. They were the ones who forbade Cleveland’s air traffic controllers from revealing anything they had seen on their screens. They also silenced airline employees and confiscated recordings of communications between hijacked flights and the ground.
In November 2001, several people were arrested around the world as part of this investigation, including Imad Eddin Barakat Yar in Spain and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, considered the organizer of the attacks, who was arrested in Pakistan in 2003.
After six months of work, Robert Mueller, director of the Bureau, indicated that “the hackers left behind no documents. Our research has not resulted in the discovery of any documents, either here in the United States, or among the treasure trove of data unearthed in Afghanistan or elsewhere, mentioning in any way the September 11 plot”.
The hijackers have indeed exploited the vulnerabilities of the system to avoid being detected: phone booths, mobile phones, prepaid cards, financing of fees in several installments, by small sums, through intangible networks. Mueller says the investigation established “clear and definitive evidence that al-Qaeda was behind these attacks”. Other FBI officials, such as Dale L. Watson, made the same type of statement. Regarding bin Laden, Rex Tomb, head of Investigation Publicity, in a 2006 interview, argued that the FBI had no hard evidence to link him to September 11.
The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States was established in November 2002 pursuant to an Act of the United States Congress to study the circumstances surrounding the attacks of September 11, 2001. After two years of investigations, the Commission submits on July 22, 2004, the 585-page final report on terrorist attacks to be published at the end of August 2004.
The Commission concludes that the 19 terrorists were members of the Al Qaida terrorist organization led by Osama bin Laden.
The United States Congress also established a bipartisan Commission of Inquiry, the Senate and House Intelligence Committee, which had access to classified documents and completed its work in December 2002.
Part of the report of the Commission of Inquiry published in 2002 was classified as a “defense secret”.
Senator Bob Graham, head of the committee, has repeatedly requested the declassification of the 28 pages entitled “Elements, discussion and narrative concerning certain sensitive national security topics” that would implicate the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles, the Saudi embassy in Washington as well as wealthy Saudis living in Sarasota, Florida. He says: “For me, we have shown that whatever they do, there will be impunity. They have therefore continued to support al-Qaeda, and more recently in economic and ideological support for the Islamic State (Daesh). It was our refusal to face the truth that created the new wave of extremism that hit Paris (Charlie Hebdo attacks).
A resolution to this effect was tabled in the US Congress during the 2014-2015 fiscal year, then in 2015-2016 where it had 66 co-sponsors at the end of May 2016. According to a communication on Fox News of April 14, 2016, the American president would have taken the decision to declassify the 28 disputed pages within 60 days.
Declassifications and items published since
In July 2015, several working documents of the Committee of Inquiry, which until then had not been made available to the public, were declassified under the authority of the ISCAP (Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel).
Document No. 2012-048-doc17 would mention in particular that among the documents buried by Ghasaan Al-Sharbi (who had trained to fly with the September 11 suicide bombers but ultimately did not fly with them) shortly before his arrest was an envelope from the Saudi Embassy in the United States containing his flight certificate.
In July 2016, the US Congress published a 28-page document giving credibility to the accusations of Zacarias Moussaoui, described as “deranged” by Saudi Arabia.
” […] some of the September 11 hijackers were in contact with individuals connected to the Saudi government who were providing them with aid and support. that at least two of these individuals have been suspected of being Saudi intelligence agents.”
Internal CIA investigation
The CIA’s Office of Inspector General was asked to prepare a report on the responsibility of CIA officers for failing to prevent the September 11 attacks. The report of several hundred pages was completed in June 2005 but remained classified. On August 8, 2007, a congressional decision forced the CIA to produce a summary of the report, and on August 21, 2007, the CIA published part of the OIG Report on CIA Accountability With Respect to the 9/11 Attacks.
The report claims that no CIA officer broke the law but highlights the lack of cooperation between the CIA and the FBI. The report states that about 50 CIA officers were aware of the presence of Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar in the United States with valid passports, but none of them informed the FBI of the threat they might pose. On the other hand, the report accuses former CIA Director George Tenet of failing to do what he could to dismantle al-Qaeda in the years leading up to the 2001 attacks.
Financial investigation by the Swiss authorities
In the nebula of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Al-Taqwa bank is considered the “bank of September 11, 2001”; this is why she is the subject of an investigation launched by the Swiss authorities, at the request of the United States, which accuses her of having participated in the financing of the attacks of September 11, 2001.
According to Fabrice Maulion, “This bank, considered as the economic instrument of the international branch of the Brotherhood and as the lung of Islamism on a global scale, is interesting for several reasons: the Saudis are its main shareholders, through the Saudi private bank DMI […] Created in the second half of the 1970s, it has been banned in Egypt since 1988. A few months later, it set up its headquarters in the Bahamas where it shared its premises with the Saudi private bank, Dar al-Mal al-Islami (DMI), known for its Islamist sympathies. At the same time, it opened a branch in Lugano, in the ” province” of Ticino in Italian-speaking Switzerland, under the name Al-Taqwa management organization S.A”.
Development of conspiracy theories about the September 11 attacks
While al-Qaeda is responsible for these attacks is claimed by its spiritual leader, Osama bin Laden, and confirmed by most Western media, governments and specialists, the controversy over the nature of these events, its causes, and the responsibilities involved did not fail to appear quickly. From the beginning of 2002, the book L’Effroyable Imposture by Frenchman Thierry Meyssan, questioning the institutional explanation of the attacks, was widely distributed. Since then, other authors such as Jimmy Walter, Webster G. Tarpley and David Ray Griffin have also published books on this subject.
The Internet is the privileged place for the exhibition of these divergent theses via many sites that offer documents in the form of archive images, videos and interviews. Documentaries, the best known of which is Loose Change, have also been devoted to these issues. All have in common that they present refutations of certain aspects of the version – described by them as “official” – of the events of September 11. Some assert or assume the involvement — passive or active and to a greater or lesser degree — of the U.S. government, alleging that certain facts observed or reported are not taken into account by this version or are not explained by it.
For these perpetrators, the attacks would have provided the Bush administration with the pretext to radically change the domestic and foreign policies of the United States, including the legislative provisions of the Homeland Security Act and Patriot Acts 1 and 2, and thus to justify the military invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq that followed, projects that required, according to the principles of psychological warfare, a triggering event to be implemented.
Some politicians openly support this hypothesis, such as former German minister Andreas von Bülow, who has devoted a book to this issue, and Italian MEP Giulietto Chiesa. In January 2008, Japanese MP Yukihisa Fujita presented his doubts to his country’s defense and foreign affairs committees. Proponents of the conspiracy theory have also tried to attribute support for this hypothesis to former Italian head of state Francesco Cossiga, who claimed that the “attacks” on the World Trade Center towers were staged by US and Near Eastern intelligence, but it seems that Cossiga’s statement was instead tinged with irony towards the defenders of conspiracy theories.
The promoters of these theories say they are increasingly present in American public opinion following repeated demonstrations by victims’ families and conferences organized by these authors, sometimes with the help of local or regional media.
These theories are denounced as “hypercritical”, “conspiracy theorist”, “revisionist”, even “deniers”. To Mathieu Kassovitz who thinks it is necessary to question certain aspects of the attacks of September 11, 2001, and expresses it on the set of Ce soir (ou jamais!), the 15 September 2009, Marin Karmitz answers: “I think that conspiracy theory leads to something extremely serious, it is negationism, negationism, that is to say, people who say: “the gas chambers did not exist”. Good. We are in this filiation and it is extraordinarily dangerous”. Websites, such as Conspiracy Watch, observe conspiracy theories, analyze them, and deem them fallacious and devoid of any scientific basis.
In France, Guillaume Dasquié and Jean Guisnel published in 2002 with La Découverte, a book refuting these theories entitled L’effroyable mensonge. Theses and nonsense about the attacks of September 11. In 2010, Jérôme Quirant published La farce enjôleuse du 11 septembre (Books on Demand ) and 11 septembre and Théorie du Complot, ou le conspirationnisme à l’épreuve de la science published by Book-e-book.com.
In June 2011, the French Association for Scientific Information (AFIS) published a special issue of its journal Science et Pseudo-sciences, which gave the floor to French scientists. These experts, each speaking in his field of competence, point out the inanity of alternative theses and their ascientific character. In September 2011, Science et Vie magazine published a dossier entitled “The conspiracy theory put to the test by Science “.
On this subject, journalist Julian Assange states: “It constantly annoys me that people are distracted by false conspiracies like those surrounding September 11, while we provide evidence of real conspiracies regarding war and financial fraud”.
In his book “September 11, the Counter-investigation”, the investigative journalist Fabrizio Calvi focuses on the organizational and human aspects of the investigation, abandoning the technical aspects, and concludes that there was no precise knowledge and even less “laissez-faire” on the part of the Americans, but that there was very clearly a failure of intelligence, in particular, due to the slowness of procedures and the scattering of information and responsibilities.
The intelligence did not know ” anything” but did not know how to connect all the information at its disposal, turned a blind eye to the presence of dangerous individuals on American soil, and the official investigation reports have, according to Fabrizio Calvi, totally dismissed these aspects, thus operating a kind of lie by omission. But these lies, or at least these grey areas, feed conspiracy theories. Fabrizio Calvi sums up the ” conspiracy ” of September 11 as follows: “If there was a conspiracy in the United States, it was that of incompetents and fools. The American terms of the September 11 equation have only two variables, incompetence and bureaucracy, and one constant, lack of imagination. »
James G. Quintiere, an expert in fire physics and former member of NIST, considers that the investigation report is open to criticism in substance and form, that it arrived too late and that, as a result, it is not surprising that conspiracy theories have developed. Quintiere proposes elements of response to the collapses of the twin towers somewhat different from those of the NIST, in particular with regard to the insufficient thermal protection of metal structures.
Consequences of September 11, 2001
International emotion and condemnation
Few historical events have received such media coverage, far surpassing all previous attacks.
The place, one of the most famous cities in the world and headquarters of many press and television agencies, the presence of cameras and journalists on the scene since the crash of the first plane, led to considerable media coverage and live observation of the crash of the 2nd plane and the collapse of the towers.
Most of the world’s television stations broadcast the event simulcastly, starting at 9 a.m. local time on the East Coast.
These attacks and their aftermath remained on the front pages of the newspapers for several weeks. They came as a huge shock to the mass of Americans accustomed to seeing themselves as beyond the reach of international terrorism since, with the exception of the attack on the North Tower in February 1993, the only attacks suffered had been against the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on August 7, 1998 or military devices in Yemen.
On the evening of the attacks, many heads of state spoke out condemning the terrorist attacks, such as Russia, Japan, Mexico and China. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan condemned the attacks:
“We are all traumatized by this terrible tragedy. We don’t yet know how many people have been killed or injured, but inevitably, the number will be high. Our first thoughts and prayers must be for them and their families. I wish to express my deepest condolences to them and to the people and Government of the United States. There is no doubt that these attacks are deliberate acts of terrorism, carefully planned and coordinated — and as such, I totally condemn them. Terrorism must be fought wherever it appears resolutely.”
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, 11 September 2001
Jacques Chirac, President of the French Republic at the time of these events, held a televised speech on TF1 at 21:30 on 11 September 2001 in which he stated:
“It is with great emotion that the France has just learned of these monstrous attacks — there is no other word — that have just struck the United States of America. And in these appalling circumstances, the entire French people — I want to say this here — stand with the American people. He expresses his friendship and solidarity in this tragedy. I naturally assure President George Bush of my full support. As you know, France has always condemned and unreservedly condemns terrorism, and considers that terrorism must be combated by all means.”
French President Jacques Chirac, 11 September 2001
President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin condemned the terrorist attacks, stating:
“The United States today faced unprecedented aggression from international terrorism. First of all, I would like to express my sincere and deep condolences to all the victims and to the families of the disappeared. The event that took place in the United States today goes beyond national borders. This is a brazen challenge to all humanity, at least to civilized humanity. And what happened today is further proof of the relevance of the Russian proposal to pool the efforts of the international community in the fight against terrorism, this scourge of the twenty-first century.”
President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, September 12, 2001
The day after the attacks, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1368, condemning these terrorist acts:
“1. Condemns categorically in the strongest terms the appalling terrorist attacks that took place on 11 September 2001 in New York, Washington (DC) and Pennsylvania and considers such acts, like any act of international terrorism, as a threat to international peace and security;
2. Expresses its deepest sympathies and condolences to the victims and their families and to the people and Government of the United States of America.”
On October 17, 2001, Mary Robinson, in charge of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, describes these attacks as crimes against humanity.
In the rest of the world, the emotion provoked by the attacks has produced many compassionate reactions from media and political personalities. But there were also much less empathetic reactions from certain intellectuals and parties at the extremes of the political spectrum.
There were also reactions of joy from part of the world’s population, for example in Palestine.
The day after the attacks, Iraqi state television declared: “American cowboys are reaping the fruits of their crimes against humanity…”, then called the attacks the “operation of the century”.
On the evening of September 11, televisions showed images of Gaza’s streets celebrating and crowds making the “V” of victory in front of cameras and in cars.
Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian Authority, said he was very shocked by the attacks, condemned them and offered his condolences to the President and the American people from Gaza.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder declared after the attacks: “This is not a battle between civilizations, this is a battle for civilization.
Many countries are strengthening their security measures, for example, France which increased the alert level of its Vigipirate plan.
Response from the President of the United States
U.S. President George W. Bush learns that these are attacks, at 9:05 a.m. (Chronology of the attacks of September 11, 2001), from the mouth of Andrew Card (“A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack”.), while attending a reading lesson in a classroom at Emma E Elementary School. Booker, Florida. He improvised a speech in the school library, in front of more than 200 students and journalists, and declared: “Today we are living through a national tragedy. Two planes crashed in the World Trade Center, which looks like a terrorist attack on our country”.
In the afternoon, he left Offutt Air Force Base where the United States Strategic Command was located. At about 7 p.m., he arrived at the White House, and at 8:30 p.m., he addressed the American people from the Oval Office in these terms:
“These large-scale murderous acts were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and withdrawal… But they failed. Our country is strong. A great people rises up to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our tallest buildings, but they cannot shake America’s foundations. These attacks break the steel but cannot undermine the steel of determination […] America, its friends and allies join all those who want peace and security in the world, and we are united to win the war on terror.”
George W. Bush, September 11, 2001
In the evening, the president convened the National Security Council to discuss the response to the attacks. CIA Director George Tenet says al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan are essentially the same. While Bush favors a broad military response, Tenet is more cautious, recalling that “although the head of al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan, the terrorist organization operates almost everywhere. The CIA has actually been working on the Bin Laden problem for years”.
On September 20, 2001, President Bush addresses both houses of the United States Congress meeting on Capitol Hill, where he accuses the terrorist group al-Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden, of organizing the attacks. “Our war on terror starts with al-Qaeda, but it won’t end there. It will end only once all terrorist groups of global reach have been found, arrested and defeated”.
On the evening of the attacks, U.S. President George W. Bush speaks to the American people from the White House. He promised a response by the United States and its allies to the attacks by declaring war on terror.
The most direct military impact was the invasion of Afghanistan, designated as the operational headquarters of al-Qaeda, as early as October 2001. With the Taliban regime that rules the country hosting al-Qaeda training camps and their leader Osama bin Laden, the US government demands “that key figures in the al-Qaeda terrorist organization, including Osama bin Laden, be handed over to the responsible authorities, and that the Taliban close terrorist camps in Afghanistan”. But they declare that they have no proof of his guilt and oppose a plea of inadmissibility.
The imposition of an ultimatum led to the invasion of Afghanistan and the overthrow of the Taliban regime a few months later by the American, British, Canadian, French, and other armed forces. This overthrow and the establishment of a transitional government was accompanied by the arrest of many Muslims suspected of being terrorists, interned in camps scattered around the world, which provoked strong reactions from many NGOs, including Amnesty International. The creation of the Guantanamo prison is partly explained by this large influx of prisoners. Bin Laden, for his part, narrowly escaped US forces in Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan in December 2001.
One of Osama bin Laden’s many sons, Omar bin Laden, told Rolling Stone magazine in 2010: “My father’s dream was to bring Americans to Afghanistan. He wanted to do the same thing to them as to the Russians. I was surprised that they bit on the bait”.
Assassinated two days before the September 11 attacks, Ahmed Shah Massoud (commander of the United Islamic and National Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan, Jamiat-e Islami and leader of the Islamic Army who fought against the Soviet occupation and then against the Taliban regime from 1996 to 2001) had repeatedly tried to draw the attention of the international community to the danger represented by Osama ben Laden and was even preparing a major military operation with the support of the United States against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
A second major military impact was the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003 by the US and British armed forces. Although Saddam Hussein’s Iraq did not participate in the September 11 attacks, the Baathist regime was designated by the US administration as an active supporter of international terrorism and a possessor of weapons of mass destruction, despite the lack of evidence on the ground. Saddam Hussein’s regime has been replaced by a more democratic regime, including elections and representation of the Shia majority vis-à-vis Sunnis. The invasion of Iraq will provoke heated debates at the UN and demonstrations around the world, protesting against the real reasons that would be of an economic and strategic nature (energy independence vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia in particular).
Criticizing the Clinton-Gore administration for being too interventionist, candidate George W. Bush said during his campaign; “If we don’t stop sending our troops around the world on nation-building missions, we are heading for a serious problem. And I’m going to prevent that.
For historian Jean-Michel Lacroix, “George Bush’s strategy consists [after September 11] in capitalizing on collective emotion and security psychosis by posing as a “defender of the free world” at the risk of taking an imperial posture and feeding a Manichean vision of good and evil”. For José María Aznar, President of the Spanish Government during the years 1996-2004, the international action of President George Bush deserves to be welcomed. According to Alexander Adler, historian and geopolitical expert, “the great courage of President George Bush at the time of trial” must be recognized.
Security measures after September 11 attacks
In order to prevent any new air attack on American soil, Operation Noble Eagle has been launched since September 14, 2001. It consists of flying National Guard fighter planes permanently over the airspace of the United States. Thus the major cities of the United States are constantly flown over. From October 9, 2001, to May 6, 2002, Operation Eagle Assist mobilized AWACS and NATO soldiers to support the operation.
On November 19, 2001, the Transportation Security Administration was created under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. The TSA is a national transportation security agency, it is responsible for the surveillance and inspection of luggage in the 450 airports of the country.
On July 3, 2002, the first Maritime Safety and Security Team was created under the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002. The MSSTs are maritime anti-terrorist units under the direction of the United States Coast Guard, they are responsible for the security of ports and inland waters.
On October 1, 2002, a new joint command was created, the United States Northern Command (NORTHCOM). Its mission is to protect the territory of the United States and provide support to local or federal authorities.
On November 25, 2002, the United States Department of Homeland Security was created under the Homeland Security Act. Its objective is to organize and ensure the internal security of the country. It currently includes many agencies including the United States Coast Guard, Federal Protective Service, United States Secret Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Transportation Security Administration and US Border Patrol.
A secure zone (Air Defense Identification Zone) was created on February 10, 2003, which restricts access to general aviation airspace to less than 18,000 feet around the city of Washington. Since August 30, 2007, it has covered a radius of approximately 24 kilometers from the capital of the United States, i.e. three to five minutes of flight depending on the aircraft.
At the request of aviation security authorities such as the EASA and the FAA, aircraft cockpit door tamper evident systems are being implemented on all commercial aircraft. These systems are different depending on the aircraft and the airlines so as not to have a standard and to prevent possible terrorists from knowing how it works from one company to another and from one type of aircraft to another: armored door (some companies have tools such as axes or crowbars to break the door in case of emergency), video surveillance in front of the door which makes it possible to identify from the cockpit who wants to enter, digicode with secret code, switch (unlock/norm/lock) which can refuse access to the cockpit, “escape” type panel in the event of failure of the armored door.
Hundreds of complaints have been filed by victims of attacks against several individuals, states, corporations and organizations in the United States and abroad.
The 5 November 2001, a complaint with a civil party was filed with the Paris Public Prosecutor’s Office by the family of Thierry Saada, one of the four French victims of the attacks.
On August 15, 2002, about 600 relatives of the victims filed a complaint in the federal court in Washington against seven foreign banks, eight Islamic foundations, eight individuals including three members of the Saudi royal family (Prince Sultan bin Abd el-Aziz, Minister of Defense, Prince Turki al-Faisal al-Saud, former head of intelligence and Prince Mohammad al-Faisal al-Saud, director of the Faisal Islamic Bank), two companies and against the Sudanese government, accused of financing al-Qaeda.
Another on September 3, 2002, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Legal action was authorized in September 2002 by Judge Alvin Hellerstein against the airlines whose planes were hijacked, Boeing and the owners of the World Trade Center for failing to prevent the attacks, and against the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which was unable to provide appropriate evacuation plans.
Federal Judge Harold Baer declared Iraq co-responsible with al-Qaeda for the September 11 attacks in his ruling of May 7, 2003, and awarded $104 million (€92 million) in damages to the families of victims of the September 11 attacks and on September 22, 2005, a New York federal judge, Richard Casey, received the lawsuit filed against the International Islamic Relief Organization, a charity involved in funding Islamist networks.
In the United States, the only person to have been tried so far for his direct involvement with the September 11 attacks is Frenchman Zacarias Moussaoui. Arrested less than a month before the attacks, he was accused by US federal authorities of having knowledge of the upcoming attacks but of not having communicated his information. On May 3, 2006, after a two-month trial, he was convicted by a jury in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, of six counts of conspiracy in connection with the September 11 terrorist attacks and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of remission.
In Germany, Moroccan Mounir el-Motassadeq arrested on November 28, 2001, was sentenced for the first time to fifteen years in prison in 2003 for complicity in these attacks. Released in February 2006 after his conviction was overturned, his first sentence was upheld by the Hamburg court on January 8, 2007.
In Spain, the Syrian Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, head of the local al-Qaeda cell, was arrested on November 13, 2001, charged with conspiracy to commit to the September 2001 attacks. He was sentenced on September 26, 2005, to twenty-seven years in prison.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin Al-Shaiba, suspected of organizing the attacks have been in detention at Guantanamo since September 2006. They had claimed responsibility for the logistical organization of the attacks in an interview given in May 2002 and broadcast on Qatari television Al-Jazeera on September 5 and 8, 2002. In March 2007, they appeared before a military commission to determine their status. Their trial before a US military tribunal set up at the US naval base at Guantánamo with three other co-defendants began on June 5, 2008.
Le Monde points out that “the hearings are held within the framework of exceptional military justice”. Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali and Wallid bin Attash pleaded guilty on December 8, 2008. In November 2009, following the decision to close Guantánamo, their trial in a civil court, the Federal Court in New York, began.
In September 2015, complaints against Saudi Arabia, initiated by families of victims of the attacks, were rejected on the grounds that the Saudi Kingdom enjoyed sovereign immunity. In September 2016, Barack Obama vetoed a bill that would have allowed such prosecutions.
The New York Times revealed in 2015 that Zacarias Moussaoui had confessed to the magistrates of a federal court in New York the involvement of Saudi officials in the attacks of September 11, 2001. Moussaoui reportedly confessed that the head of the Saudi secret service Turki Al-Faisal, the Saudi ambassador to Washington Bandar bin Sultan, as well as the Saudi Prince Al-Walid Ben Talal participated in the financing of the attacks on the World Trade Center. No physical evidence has ever confirmed Moussaoui’s accusations, which were refuted by the US embassy in Saudi Arabia: “Moussaoui is a deranged criminal who provides no evidence. In 2004, the September 11 Commission absolved Saudi Arabia of any responsibility. But in 2016, the New York Post detailed the role played by the Saudi representation in the United States.
In January 2016, a bill was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee that allows victims’ families to sue governments involved in attacks against U.S. citizens, in other words, waiving immunity for those governments. It is a bipartisan agreement. The Saudi government must feel targeted because it threatens to sell the 750 billion dollars of US Treasury bonds it owns if the text is voted by Congress. The White House responded by warning him of the disorder that this would cause. On May 17, 2016, the Senate passed this bill, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act), known as JASTA, by a unanimous vote.
In May 2020, as part of a court filing, the FBI accidentally revealed the identity of a Saudi embassy official in Washington whom its agents suspected had provided crucial support to two of al-Qaeda’s hijackers. The disclosure came in a new statement filed in federal court by a senior FBI official in response to a lawsuit filed by families of September 11 victims that accuses the Saudi government of complicity in the terrorist attacks.
According to a spokesman for the families of the September 11 victims, this represents a major breakthrough in the long-running case, providing for the first time apparent confirmation that FBI agents investigating the attacks believed they had uncovered a link between the hijackers and the Saudi embassy in Washington. For Michael Isikoff, Yahoo News’ senior investigative correspondent, it also highlights the efforts made by senior Trump administration officials in recent months to prevent internal documents on the matter from becoming public.
Most economic analysts consider that the attacks of September 11 were the cause of a significant economic slowdown (or the amplification of the significant brake that was initiated by the bursting of the Internet bubble in the year 2000).
The attacks have had a significant economic impact on the United States and global markets. The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), the American Stock Exchange (AMEX) and the NASDAQ did not open on the morning of September 11, 2001, and remained closed until September 17. When stock markets reopened, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) fell by 7.1% and the NASDAQ by 6.5%. Markets closed the week of September 17-21 with sharp falls. Indeed, the Dow Jones fell by 1,369.70 points (14.26%) to finish at 8,235.81 points, the S&P 500 by 27.54 points (11.6%) to finish at 965.03 points and the NASDAQ by 272.11 points (16.1%) to finish at 1,423.19. It was the worst week on record for the Dow since the Great Depression.
According to the “WorldEconomic Report” of the International Monetary Fund of December 2001, the US National Income and Products Accounts estimates destruction and directly related expenditures, after September 11, at US$24.1 billion.
On May 23, 2007, seven insurers of the World Trade Center towers have reached an out-of-court settlement with the developer of the World Trade Center complex, Larry Silverstein. Swiss Re, Travelers Companies, Zurich American Insurance Company, Allianz Global Risks Insurance Company, Employers Insurance Company of Wausau, and Royal Indemnity Company will pay a total of $2.1 billion instead of the $7 billion claimed after the attacks.
More than 40,000 employees have been unemployed and thousands of businesses (particularly in the service sector) have disappeared or suffered considerable losses as a result of the destruction of this business center, which was one of the busiest in the world. Many companies left Downtown to settle in Brooklyn, Midtown, or Connecticut.
World airlines, especially those of the United States, which have already been in difficulty in recent years, have suffered greatly from the drop in passenger numbers on their routes and the safety work undertaken after this quadruple hijacking, despite government aid. Insurance premiums for buildings and airliners have risen sharply.
Post-September 11 attacks legislation
The legislative measures passed in the wake of the September 11 attacks have brought additional power to the US executive, the secret services (including the CIA) and the federal police (Federal Bureau of Investigation), as well as the military (Pentagon budget in particular).
The USA Patriot Act was submitted to parliamentarians on September 24 and voted on October 26. Under the simple assertion of participation in the fight against terrorism, the FBI is given the power to spy on political and religious associations without them being suspected of criminal activity. The government can sue owners of files and data who reveal that they had to requisition information. It may conduct searches and seize documents and effects possessed by citizens. Without having to justify itself, it can imprison anyone, including citizens, indefinitely and without trial, without these people being accused or confronted with those who would have testified against them.
The FBI and CIA are not held accountable to elected officials for their actions. This freedom of action thus granted to the secret services and the police is still the subject of debate on the political scene and in public opinion, because it is perceived as opposed to civil rights. Two senators who worked to slow down the passage of this bill, Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Tom Daschle, leader of the Senate majority, were the targets of envelopes loaded with military anthrax.
The Homeland Security Act was introduced in Congress in the months that followed and passed on November 25, 2002. He created the Department of Homeland Security, bringing together about twenty federal agencies such as FEMA, Customs, the Secret Service… This law takes up the content of a report of the so-called Hart-Rudman Commission (US Commission on National Security for the 21st Century) created in 1998 under the chairmanship of Bill Clinton, entitled Road Map for National Security: Imperative for Change. The Total Information Awareness Office (TIA), which materializes a project of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (a Pentagon structure), proposed to constitute a bank of 300 million files, gathering information from public and private sources on each American.
It authorizes secret meetings of the Presidential Councils, the exemption from justification intervening in opposition to Law 92-463 on the transparency of executive meetings. It guarantees immunity to anyone who provides a federal agency with information relating to breaches or bankruptcies, even as a result of negligence or fault. It allows, through commercial transaction, access by the administration to files compiled by private firms on citizens, thus circumventing the protection afforded by the Fourth Amendment.
Finally, the Military Commission Act, signed on 18 October 2006 by President Bush, repeals, with retroactive effect, the rights of individuals, hitherto recognized in international treaties signed by the United States, by defining a new class of individuals, “unlawful combatants”. They can be detained indefinitely, without the obligation to provide an indictment, are excluded from the protection afforded by the Geneva Conventions, can be subjected to psychological and physical torture. These “enhanced interrogation techniques” including waterboarding or execution, rape, food and sleep deprivation, are notably used on detainees at Guantanamo and in Europe. Several Amnesty International reports have denounced this violation of due process and arbitrary detention practices, which, moreover, have not been effective.
At the end of 2007, a specific law was under consideration by Congress (Law on Violent Radicalization and Prevention of Domestic Terrorism), a law designed to combat extremist ideologies and “beliefs that aim to facilitate violence aimed at promoting political, religious or social change”. Specifically targeted is the Internet that “helped facilitate violent radicalization … by providing U.S. citizens with access to the broad and continuing currents of propaganda related to terrorism”.
This legislation seems largely inspired by the work of Brian Michael Jenkins (of the RAND Corporation) on terrorism: “in their international campaign, jihadists will seek common ground with leftist, anti-American and anti-globalization forces, which, in turn, will see in radical Islamists comrades facing the same adversary.” A note from the RAND Corporation study entitled “Trends in Terrorism” (ch.4) draws attention to environmentalists, anti-globalists and anarchists, pointing to them as breeding grounds for potential terrorists.
Following the fire at the Twin Towers, legislation on the use of sprinklers was extended to existing buildings over 100 feet tall (approximately 30 meters) as early as 2019.
The Tribute in Light is an installation of 88 projectors installed on March 11, 2002, on the roof of the Battery parking garage, near the WTC site. The spotlights are directed toward the sky and are arranged in two squares, creating two vertical beams of light in the sky reminiscent of the twin towers.
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center is a non-profit corporation whose mission is to build a memorial and museum on the site of the World Trade Center. Bearing the name of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, the memorial is erected in memory of the victims of the attacks of September 11, 2001, as well as the attacks of February 26, 1993.
The crash area of UA Flight 93 near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania hosts Flight 93 National Memorial in honor of the 40 passengers and crew who died trying to stop the terrorists.
On November 14, 2001, Congress passed a resolution designating September 11 as Patriot Day; a Day of remembrance for the victims of terrorist attacks. Thus, every year, the President of the United States calls on the American people to observe a moment of silence.
In September 2003, 7.5 tons of steel recovered from the WTC site were used to build the USS New York (LPD-21), a San Antonio-class warship, renamed in memory of the victims and inaugurated in the presence of victims’ families, members of the NYPD and FDNY.
On September 11, 2006, Bill Clinton unveiled a “monument to the fight against global terrorism,” titled “The Tear of the Grief,” depicting a tear through a broken tower. This sculpture, made by Zurab Tsereteli, offered and installed by Russia, at the initiative of its president, Vladimir Putin, measures 33 meters in height and weighs 175 tons. It is installed in Bayonne (New Jersey), in the alignment of the Statue of Liberty.
Renewal of the site
More than 1.8 million tons of debris and rubble were removed from the World Trade Center site. In 2004, the former site of the World Trade Center, renamed ground zero, was cleared and ready to host a new construction, first designated as the Freedom Tower, for which an architectural competition was opened for a memorial, a place of life and activities.
A new 7 World Trade Center was inaugurated in 2006 but in 2008, “despite the din of cranes and excavators, not a single one of the ambitious reconstruction projects emerged four years from the official date of completion”.
The reconstruction of the site in 2019 includes the completed projects, chronologically the 7 World Trade Center, the September 11 memorial and its museum, the One World Trade Center, the tallest tower in North America, the Four World Trade Centers, the new PATH Station and the Three World Trade Center. The artistic center “Ronald E. Perelman Performing Arts Center” is under construction at the foot of One WTC, and the Two World Trade Center remains at the foundation stage.
It is on this site, as well as in Times Square and in front of the White House, that thousands of Americans demonstrated their joy, on May 1 and 2, 2011, after the announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden.
Representations in art of September 11 attacks
- Joel Meyerowitz, Aftermath, 2001
- Judit Reigl, New York, September 11, 2001, 2001
- Alain Declercq, Mike on the top of the World Trade Center, 2001
- Obey Giant, The World Trade Center has a posse, 2001
- Shuck One, State of Emergency, 2002
- Ron Drummond, A Garden Stepping into the Sky, 2002
- Ellsworth Kelly, Ground Zero, 2003
- Mounir Fatmi, Will understand who will understand the last, 2004
- Gerhard Richter, September, 2005
- Zourab Tsereteli, To the Struggle Against World Terrorism, 2005
- Scott Blake, 9/11 Flipbook, 2005
- Donald Levine, Devil Eyes, 2006
- Wolfe von Lenkiewicz, House of Mourning, 2008
- Ultra Violet, IX XI (Nine Eleven), 2010
- Hans-Peter Feldmann, 9/12, 2010
- Michael Richards (sculptor), September 11, Tar Baby vs. St. Sebastian, 2011
- Carole Feuerman, Afterwards and Forward: A Ten Year 9/11 Reflective Art Exhibition, 2011
- Exhibition September, 11, MOMA PS1, 2011
- Post 9/11, Dan Colen, Terence Koh, Hanna Liden, Ryan McGinley, Agathe Snow, Dash Snow, and Aaron Young, 2011
- Sket One, 2011
- Leokadia Makarska-Cermak, Golden Angels Over Lower Manhattan, 2011
- Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, 194X–9/11: American Architects and the City, 2012
- Banksy, TriBeCa at Jay and Staple Streets, 2013
- Jeff Koons, Balloon Flower, 2015
- Renaud Séchan composed Manhattan-Kabul (July 22, 2002), to denounce war and terrorism in the world through the portraits of a Puerto Rican integrated in America and an Afghan woman. He performs this title in duet with Axelle Red.
- Bruce Springsteen composed a song called The Rising (July 30, 2002), to thank the firefighters who gave their lives in the Twin Towers.
- John Coolidge Adams, On the Transmigration of Souls, composition for orchestra and chorus given its world premiere on 19 September 2002 at Lincoln Center. 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Music.
- U2 composed The Hands That Built America (December 17, 2002), a song that evokes September 11, 2001, in its last verse and is heard in the film Gangs of New York (December 9, 2002).
- Michael Jackson composed What More Can I Give in tribute to the victims of the attacks and was released on October 27, 2003.
- Medina has produced an album on September 11, the story of the 11th day on May 10, 2004, where he tells in music the attacks.
- French rapper Sinik performed 2 victims, 1 guilty on his album La Main sur le cœur (January 25, 2005), a song narrating the event from the point of view of three different people, an American who died in the towers and an Iraqi child victim of the war (the victims), and George Bush (the culprit).
- Dream Theater evoked the September 11 attacks in their album Octavarium (June 7, 2005), especially in the songs Panic Attack and Sacrificed Sons.
- Patrick Bruel composed Adieu, from the album Des souvenirs devant of March 20, 2006. It tells three stories shattered by three attacks.
- Robert Gulya composed a Concert for guitar and orchestra for guitarist Johanna Beisteiner in the fall of 2001. The theme of the “first movement” is influenced by the attacks
(hu) Interview with Robert Gulya on YouTube — Robert Gulya talks about his collaboration with Johanna Beisteiner and his Concert for guitar and orchestra composed for her and performed in 2009. Video. Gramy Records, 2010.
It was released on DVD in 2010.
- Steve Reich, WTC 9/11 (2010), composition for string quartet given in world premiere on March 19, 2011, at Duke University in North Carolina.
- Hélène Ségara performed Onze septembre on her album Entre la foule (April 25, 2011).
- Abd al Malik performed in 2006 a song entitled 12 September 2001 to a rap/slam tune.
- Tori Amos performed on her album Scarlet’s Walk the song I can’t see New York.
- Jerry Goldsmith during the recording sessions of the last castle paid a tribute: September 11, 2001 Theme From The Last Castle
- Flight 93, directed by Paul Greengrass, with Lewis Alsamari, Khalid Abdalla, Omar Berdouni, April 28, 2006
- World Trade Center, directed by Oliver Stone, with Nicolas Cage, Michael Pena, Maria Bello, August 9, 2006
- My Name Is Khan (film released May 26, 2010)
- The 9/11 Black Box (feature film), directed by Mohammedreza Eslamloo, with Thierry Meyssan in his own role, Special Prize, of the jury at the 29th Fajr Film Festival (February 2011). Representing Iran at the 64th Cannes Film Festival (May 2011)
- Extremely Strong and Incredibly Close, directed by Stephen Daldry, February 29, 2012
- 11 September, directed by Martin Guigui, 8 September 2017.