On September 11, 2001, the United States suffered its largest terrorist attack in history. Nearly 3,000 Americans lost their lives. And, while any U.S. casualty is tragic, American response to the attack helped turn tragedy into a triumph of the human spirit.
After returning to the White House, President George W. Bush addressed the nation: “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America.”
Keep reading to learn more about the day and America’s response to the attacks.
September 11, 2001
At 8:45 a.m,. al Qaeda terrorists hijacked an American Airlines Boeing 767 and guided it straight into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Just as emergency crews began to respond to the crash, a United Airlines Boeing 767 was steered directly into the south tower, immediately alerting officials that these weren’t separate incidents but a coordinated attack.
Approximately one hour later, Americans would, once again, watch as a third plane was flown into a building. This time, it was the Pentagon. Terrorists had hijacked an American Airlines Boeing 757 headed to California. A fourth plane, spared from hitting any buildings by the heroic actions of passengers, crashed into a field in western Pennsylvania. The passengers, after learning of the other planes, are said to have fought back against the hijackers.
Just as the final plane was spiraling toward the ground, the final tower collapsed causing massive amounts of damage and debris. More than 2,900 Americans died, among them were 343 firefighters and paramedics and 60 police officers.
The Response and Recovery
The economic effect was almost immediate. Aside from the loss of New York City jobs and nearly $3 billion in wages, industries like insurance, airlines and tourism lost billions. U.S and global markets fell sharply; the U.S. recorded the highest one-day point decline.
President George W. Bush’s response was swift. By the end of September, he helped pass a $40 billion relief bill. In a massive reorganization, the Department of Homeland Security was created and absorbed approximately 22 agencies. Finally, the U.S. Government launched Operation Enduring Freedom less than a month after the attacks.
For many Americans, this was a moment to rally. Through the Red Cross, more than $3 million was raised in just two days alone. New Yorkers donated 36,000 units of blood and more than 600,000 were collected across the country in the following month.
Planned in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attack, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum monument was opened to the public on September 12, 2011, followed by the Museum on May 21, 2014. The initial Memorial was designed by Michael Arad, whose “Reflecting Absence” design was selected among 5,201 competition entries. The design features the names of all of the victims on bronze parapets.
In a final statement after the attacks, President Bush remarked, “These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve,” an important sentiment as we all reflect on what happened on September 11, 2001.