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This Day, 20 years Back: The 9/11 Attack

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This day, 20 years back – the 9/11 attack took place, to date the deadliest terrorist attack ever. After 20 years, the United States of America looks back at this date and lands up in a tear-stained nostalgic trance.

On the morning of 11th of September back in 2001, nineteen hijackers hailing from the militant Islamist terrorist group al-Qaeda took control of four American commercial aircraft
shortly after takeoff. What followed afterwards was a catastrophe.

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Those were the days when US hegemony was turning out to be a lodestone. US retaliation against extremist Islamist groups was becoming conspicuous day by day – the Operation Infinite Reach launched during the Clinton years which was a series of cruise missile strikes on Al-Qaeda terrorist targets in Sudan and Afghanistan. But these reflex actions were a mere beginning.

The four commercial airplanes had specific targets and flew towards them. The first airliner – American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Centre in New York at 08:46 ETD (Eastern Time Zone). Seventeen minutes later at 09:03 ETD, the second airliner – United Airlines Flight 175 hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Causing significant damage to nearby buildings, the 110-story towers collapsed within a span of an hour and forty-two minutes.

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This Day, 20 Years Back: The 9/11 Attack
Fire and smoke billows from the north tower of New York’s World Trade Center after the 9/11 attack. (Image Source: Reuters)

A third aircraft – American Airlines Flight 77 crashed at 09:37 ETD into the west side of the Pentagon (the headquarters of the American military) in Arlington County, Virginia, causing a partial collapse of the building’s side.

This Day, 20 Years Back: The 9/11 Attack
Flames and smoke pour from a building at the Pentagon in Washington after the 9/11 attack. (Image Source: Reuters)

The fourth aircraft – United Airlines Flight 93, was the only plane that did not hit its intended target. Presumably bound for the White House or the Capitol building of
the US Congress, it came down in a field in Pennsylvania.

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The attacks have come to be known as “9/11”. In America, the convention is to write the month first, followed by the date; hence the short form ‘9/11’ instead of ‘11/9’ as per the Indian convention.

This Day, 20 Years Back: The 9/11 Attack
The New York Times edition dates 10.09.2001 reporting the 9/11 attack. (Image Source: nytimes.com)


This Day, 20 Years Back: The 9/11 Attack
The remains of the World Trade Center stand amid the debris in New York after the 9/11 attack. (Image Source: Reuters)

In terms of loss of life, 9/11 was the most severe attack on US soil since the founding of the country in 1776. In addition, it led to property and infrastructure damage of about $10 billion.

Hundreds of thousands of tons of toxic debris containing more than 2,500 contaminants, including known carcinogens, were spread across Lower Manhattan due to the Twin Towers’ collapse. Several deaths have been linked to the toxic dust, and the victims’ names were included in the World Trade Center memorial. On every anniversary, in New York City, the names of the victims who died there are read out against a background of sombre music. Read more here.

This Day, 20 Years Back: The 9/11 Attack
A survivor of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, looks at photos of those who perished, in a display at the 9/11 Tribute Museum, Friday, Aug. 6, 2021, in New York. (Image Source: NY Times)

The attacks had a significant economic impact on the United States and world markets. The stock exchanges remained closed until September 17. After reopening, by the end of the week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) was at its largest one-week point drop in history. In 2001 dollars, U.S. stocks lost $1.4 trillion in valuation for the week. The economic effects were mainly on the economy’s export sectors.

In addition, the 9/11 attack led to the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as additional homeland security spending, totaling at least $5 trillion.


The US response to 9/11 was swift and ferocious. After Clinton, George W. Bush of the Republican Party, son of the earlier President George H.W. Bush, tookw2 office. Unlike Clinton, Bush had a much harder view of US interests and of the means to advance them. Therefore, President Bush had launched a “Global War on Terror”.

This Day, 20 Years Back: The 9/11 Attack
The 43rd American President George W. Bush. (Image Courtesy: The George W. Bush Presidential Library)

Above all, as a part of its “Global War on Terror”, the US launched “Operation Enduring Freedom” against all those suspected to be behind this attack, mainly Al-Qaeda and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The Taliban regime, on not complying with the U.S. demands to expel al-Qaeda from Afghanistan and extradite the then al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, was overthrown.

Above all, the US forces made arrests all over the world and transported these persons across countries, and detained them in secret prisons such as the one in Guantanamo Bay, a US Naval base in Cuba. The inmates/”illegal enemy combatants” did not enjoy the protection of international law or the law of their own country or that of the US.

However, remnants of the Taliban and AlQaeda still remained potent. Although bin Laden initially denied any involvement, in 2004 he formally claimed responsibility for the attacks. After evading capture for almost a decade, bin Laden was located in a hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and subsequently killed during “Operation Neptune Spear”.

This Day, 20 Years Back: The 9/11 Attack
Then al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden (Image Source: Military.com)


“We will hunt you down and make you pay.”

– President Joe Biden

in his address to the world after the 8/26 Kabul attack

This Day, 20 Years Back: The 9/11 Attack
46th American President Joe Biden pauses as he listens to a question about the bombings at the Kabul airport that killed at least 12 U.S. service members, from the East Room of the White House, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The opening remark of President Biden’s address resonates with that of President George W. Bush after the 9/11 attack.

On the 26th of August, 13 US service members were killed in an airport attack, injuring 18 others, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Moreover, 60+ Afghans died and 140 got wounded. (Source: CNN)

This attack is the “8/26” attack. Above all, it rang a familiar bell for Americans bringing back tear-stained memories.

Read more on the 8/26 attack here.

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