Two decades later, Americans remember the day that changed the history of their country and the world
After a stormy day on the east coast of the United States, New Yorkers woke up on the morning of Tuesday 11 September 2001 to a clear blue sky, without knowing that they were about to witness the darkest day in their history that will change the face of their country and the world.
As New Yorkers began to go to work, 19 terrorists were on flights from airports in Boston, Washington, and New York.
They had knives that were allowed at the time on planes, provided that the blade length did not exceed ten centimeters.
At exactly eight in the morning, an American Airlines flight carrying No. 11 left Logan Airport in Boston, bound for Los Angeles, with 92 people on board, five of them hijackers, including Muhammad Atta, who led the attacks.
Sixteen minutes later, United Airlines flight 175 left the same airport, bound for Los Angeles with sixty passengers, crew and five hijackers on board.
At about the same time, on Flight 11, a hijacker stabbed a passenger who was the first victim of the September 11 attacks.
The hijackers seized the plane and directed it towards New York.
A few minutes later, American Airlines flight No. 77 took off from Washington Dulles Airport outside the capital, bound for Los Angeles.
It had a crew of six, in addition to 53 passengers and five hijackers.
At 8:42 a.m. in Newark, New Jersey, United Airlines Flight 93 took off for San Francisco.
Subsequently, none of the four planes reached their final destination.
- "Very scared" -
In midtown Manhattan, nearly 50,000 employees of the World Trade Center, the most powerful symbols of the American economy and the site of the two tallest skyscrapers in New York, were flocking to their offices, including Joseph Dittmar, a witness who survived the operation.
Dietmar, then 44 and now an insurance expert in Chicago, recounts what happened on that fateful morning.
He entered the elevator toward the 105th floor of the 110-story South Tower, for a meeting at 8:30 in the morning.
At 8.46 am, the lights flashed in the windowless room, and the 54 participants were warned to vacate.
Little did they know at the time that Flight 11 had hit the adjacent North Tower.
Dietmar and his colleagues moved to the ninetieth floor, where they viewed the first horror scene.
"This was the worst 30-40 seconds of my life," Dietmar, 64, told AFP.
And he regained his vision of flames and black clouds of smoke rising from the windows of the tower, which looked like black holes.
"The flames were redder than any red I've ever seen," he says.
"We saw furniture and papers... and people coming out against their will from the building," he adds with a grin, trying to hold back his tears.
I was very afraid.”
While many were dumbfounded by what was happening around them, Dietmar decided to head for the stairs to leave the building, not realizing at the time that this right decision would save his life.
"America is under attack"-
At the bottom of the tower, chef Michael Lomonaco was walking out of a shopping center after suddenly deciding to go elsewhere to fix his glasses.
And the shocking process happened.
He recounts how, in the meantime, he looked out the windows of his kitchen in the restaurant located on the 107th floor of the North Tower.
"I could see people waving tablecloths from the windows of our restaurant," he recalls.
The scene was horrific and horrible.”
Soon, news spread of the collision at a polling station as voters were casting their ballots to choose a successor to New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
At first, residents did not understand how the pilot failed to see the giant skyscraper, while broadcasters on television channels began to speculate about the reasons behind the accident.
At 8.50 a.m., President George W. Bush, Jr., while visiting an elementary school in Florida, was informed that a small plane had tragically crashed into the North Tower by mistake.
Meanwhile, the New York Control Tower attempted to call Flight 175, but received no response.
Minutes earlier, the hijackers had taken control of a Boeing 767 over New Jersey.
As emergency services rushed to evacuate people from the North Tower, a call went out through the loudspeaker in the South Tower asking those in the tower to stay put while ensuring that the building was safe.
Dietmar ignored his colleagues' request to take one of the rapid elevators from the 78th floor to the ground.
He knew the stairs to go out in case of a fire.
Somewhere between the 74th and 75th floors, Dietmar remembers how the stairs began to shake violently under his feet.
"The railing was separated from the walls, the steps under our feet were tumbling like ocean waves... We felt a wall of fire and smelled the smell of the fuel of that plane," he says.
At 9.03 a.m., Dietmar was unaware that the assailants had directed Flight 175 to the South Tower, where the plane had penetrated the building directly above it, between the 77th and 85th floors.
The whole world was frozen in front of the television screens that transmitted the horrific scene of the collision.
Meanwhile, the US president was reading "Pet Goat" to second-graders at Emma Booker Elementary School in Sarasota.
His chief of staff Andy Card interrupted him to inform him that a second plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.
"America is under attack," he whispered in the president's ear.
At 9:30, Bush made a brief statement in which he suggested that the attacks were terrorist.
He ordered "a comprehensive investigation to track down the perpetrators."
Meanwhile, some office workers in the South Tower, trapped in the upper floors, began to do what those trapped in the North Tower did: jump out of the windows to their inevitable death.
On the 31st floor, Dittmar overtook firefighters and emergency service workers who were first responders for distress.
He remembers those difficult moments, “their looks (saying) that they knew that they were going upstairs and would never go back.”
When Dietmar and his colleagues reached the ground floor, they saw large pieces of steel, scattered cement rubble, and bloodstains.
As debris continued to fall from the top, rescuers directed them toward the shopping arcade under the World Trade Center, exiting several blocks to the north.
By ten o'clock in the morning they heard a deafening sound from the South Tower, which began to collapse behind them. Soon the cries of tens of thousands of panicked people resounded, as a huge cloud of ash covered the atmosphere of Manhattan.
The safest place -
in every US state and around the world, millions of TV viewers have their eyes glued to their eyes.
Amid the rubble, the Kim family's body was covered in thick ash.
The spurting heat caused his nose, upper respiratory tract and eyebrows to burn as he rushed to the World Trade Center to help evacuate the wounded to the nearby Marriott Hotel before the South Tower collapsed.
He says as he remembers those moments, I couldn't breathe.
The air was very hot.
I remember using my shirt to cover my mouth.
I couldn't even see my hand in front of my eyes.
Around him, the sirens of the firefighters were blaring.
He tells how he recognized the voices of two of his colleagues.
The three clasped their hands, as “schoolchildren” do, and slowly made their way through the rubble, the darkness, and the fire.
Thousands of feet in the air, tragedy unfolded.
At 9.25 a.m., the Federal Aviation Administration prevented all flights from taking off.
After 15 minutes, all civilian aircraft in US airspace were ordered to land, in a directive unprecedented in the history of American aviation.
But the directives came late to prevent the hijackers from taking control before nine in the morning, on American Airlines Flight 77 heading towards the American capital.
Inside the Pentagon, media relations specialist Karen Baker didn't think she was in danger.
She remembers how she told her colleague at the time, "This is the safest place in the world right now."
But upon her return at 9.37 am from the cafeteria to her office, it turned out that what she thought was nothing but an illusion, as Flight 77 crashed into the headquarters of the US Department of Defense and killed those on board, in addition to 125 people who were in the building.
And, Troy, there was a loud bang and then we felt a jolt.
At the time, we thought it was a bomb that had been launched somewhere inside the building.
At about the same time, the White House was evacuated, and Vice President Dick Cheney ran into an underground bunker.
- Battle in the Air -
Just before 9:30 a.m., in Ohio, four gunmen hijacked United Airlines Flight 93. While the plane carrying 33 passengers and seven crew members was about to land, passenger Edward Felt (41 years old), a father called For two children, from the bathroom to the emergency service at 911, to report the kidnapping.
During calls with their relatives, some passengers learned what had happened at the World Trade Center.
A group of them decided to storm the cockpit to prevent the hijackers from directing the plane to the intended target, which was later suggested to be Washington.
Among the group was Todd Beamer who, on a call with the operator on the floor, was heard saying, Are you ready?
Well, let's move forward.
The confrontation lasted six minutes.
While the passengers were about to force open the cockpit door, the hijackers tampered with the plane and tried to cut off the oxygen.
At 10:30, the plane crashed into a wooded area in the small town of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, 120 kilometers south of Pittsburgh.
Its impact caused a huge fireball, as its fuel reserves exploded, killing all who were in it.
Meanwhile, Gordon Felt received a phone call from his brother's wife, Edward, informing him that her husband was on Flight 93. Gordon quickly sent his brother a short message, writing, "Ed, when (the plane) lands, call us."
We are concerned about you.
Air Force One flying high
Meanwhile, Air Force One, unaware of where it was headed, flew over the Gulf of Mexico at a record 45,000 feet, where communications were virtually non-existent.
Bush wanted to return to Washington, but the intelligence community, worried about the possibility of more hijacked planes on their way to the capital, considered that a risky option.
So the plane headed west, to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.
By 10.28 am, the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York collapsed after burning for 102 minutes.
Giuliani, the mayor of New York, urged residents to "remain calm", but asked them to evacuate downtown Manhattan.
With the subway system shut down, hundreds of thousands took off on foot.
Many walked for hours, north into the northern part of New York and east toward Brooklyn.
And a naval fleet, which was spontaneously formed from ferries, fishing boats, yachts and coast guard ships, evacuated about 500,000 people throughout the day by sea.
- Defend Aharih-
rescue efforts continued amid hectic Almenbtah smoke from the
twin towers of the
withdrawal of the
World Trade Center, at the
launched by journalists after naming «Ground Zero» throughout the afternoon.
Later, many rescuers, volunteers and trained staff developed lung cancer from inhaling the toxic dust.
Paramedic Kim helps rescue firefighter Kevin Shea, the only survivor of his group of 12.
At 12:30 p.m., 14 people emerged alive from an intact staircase in the North Tower.
Their survival became known as the "Peace B" miracle.
Chef Lomonaco tried to find out the identity of the staff in the restaurant, but was unable to communicate with many.
It took him days to realize that 72 people were in the restaurant and none survived.
From Louisiana, Bush declared that the US military is on high alert.
He was then flown to a base in Nebraska.
Gordon Felt, after learning that the passengers of Flight 93 had died, called his mother to inform her of the death of his brother Edward.
Dietmar took a train to his parents' home in Pennsylvania.
He remembers the complete silence that prevailed on the train and how everyone was in shock.
At 8:30 in the evening, he collapsed from fatigue and was unable to follow the speech of the American president, who announced from the Oval Office that thousands had been killed in the attacks.
None of us will forget that day, says Dietmar bitterly, but we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.
Returning home, Baker collapsed while embracing her husband and two young children.
She remembers how the extreme stress had pushed them over the edge and they were just sobbing.
Kim didn't get home in Brooklyn until midnight.
He took a few hours of rest before getting up early.
We had a lot to do, he says, so many funerals to attend and we didn't have a moment to think, what happened.
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