On September 11, 2001, the United States experienced the deadliest terrorist attack in its history. Orchestrated by the Islamist extremist group al-Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden, these attacks were motivated by a complex web of reasons, including opposition to U.S. foreign policies, particularly those involving the Middle East.
## First target: The World Trade Center
The attacks unfolded in a series of four coordinated suicide missions using commercial airliners. The first plane, American Airlines Flight 11, was hijacked after taking off from Boston and flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center (WTC) in New York City at 8:46 AM. The impact caused a massive fire and led to the eventual collapse of the tower.
Less than 20 minutes later, at 9:03 AM, a second plane, United Airlines Flight 175, also originating from Boston, struck the South Tower of the WTC. This attack was broadcast live on television, leaving no doubt that the crashes were deliberate. The South Tower collapsed at 9:59 AM, less than an hour after being hit.
## Second target: The Pentagon
The third hijacked plane, American Airlines Flight 77, took off from Washington Dulles International Airport and crashed into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, at 9:37 AM, causing a partial collapse of the building's side.
The fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93, took off from Newark International Airport bound for San Francisco. Passengers on board, learning of the other attacks, attempted to regain control of the aircraft. In response, the hijackers deliberately crashed the plane into a field in Pennsylvania at 10:03 AM, thwarting its intended target, believed to be either the White House or the U.S. Capitol.
In total, the attacks killed 2,977 victims from over 90 countries, not including the 19 hijackers. The majority of deaths occurred in New York City, where 2,606 people died in the Twin Towers and the surrounding area. The victims included civilians, firefighters, and law enforcement officers.
## 9/11 aftermath
The aftermath of the attacks was profound and far-reaching. Immediate responses included the closure of U.S. airspace, the evacuation of high-profile buildings nationwide, and a significant increase in security measures. The emotional impact on the American public and the world was enormous, leading to widespread grief, fear, and anger. Additionally, the events spawned a number of [9/11 conspiracy theories](https://doctorparadox.net/conspiracy-theories/9-11-conspiracy-theories/) that persist long after numerous investigations and debunkings proved otherwise.
Internationally, the attacks prompted a global war on terror. The U.S. led an invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 to dismantle al-Qaeda and remove the Taliban from power for harboring bin Laden. This marked the beginning of the longest war in U.S. history. Additionally, the [[Iraq War]] to topple dictator Saddam Hussein was justified in part due to alleged connections to al-Qaeda that were later shown to be largely fabricated as pretense.
### PATRIOT Act
In the U.S., the attacks reshaped national security policies and led to the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security in 2002. The USA PATRIOT Act was also passed, expanding the government's surveillance and investigative powers.
The attacks had lasting [economic](https://doctorparadox.net/category/economics/) impacts as well, particularly on the airline and insurance industries. The New York City skyline was forever changed, and the site of the WTC came to be known as Ground Zero. A memorial and museum now stand there to commemorate the victims and educate about the attacks.
## Anti-Muslim bigotry
On a societal level, 9/11 resulted in increased [[prejudice]] and [[hate crimes]] against Muslims and those perceived to be Middle Eastern or South Asian. It also sparked debates about immigration, national security, and personal liberties.
The hunt for Osama bin Laden became a focal point of U.S. foreign policy, culminating in his death during a U.S. military operation in Pakistan in May 2011 under President [[Barack Obama]].
In conclusion, the 9/11 attacks were a watershed moment in world history, profoundly affecting international relations, national security policies, and the global perception of terrorism. The legacy of that day continues to influence global politics, security, and the collective consciousness of people around the world.