A lone plane smashed into the World Trade Center in New York City. Then the second plane. Then a third plane hit the Pentagon. Then a fourth plane was downed in Pennsylvania. Terrorists had struck the United States with full force.
With the collapse of the Twin Towers, the hope for a culture of peace was shattered for every American and the world at large.
The second tower of the World Trade Center explodes into flames after being hit by an airplane in New York, September 11, 2001. (Reuters)
The attacks killed 2,977 people from 93 nations. 2,753 people were killed in New York, 184 people were killed at the Pentagon, and 40 people were killed on Flight 93.
In numbers: America’s 20-year war on terror since 9/11
The 9/11 terrorists were members of Islamist extremist group al-Qaida who planned the attacks from their base in Afghanistan.
President George W. Bush listens as White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card informs him of a second plane hitting the World Trade Center. (Reuters)
The post 9/11 period is the time after the September 11 attacks, characterised by heightened suspicion of non-Americans in the United States, increased government efforts to address terrorism, and a more aggressive American foreign policy.
The deadliest terrorist attack in the history of the United States of America marks its 20th anniversary this year. This timeline traces pivotal years whose reverberations continue today.
The damaged area of the Pentagon building, where a commercial jetliner slammed into it September 11, is seen in the early morning at sunrise with the US Capitol Building in the background, September 16, 2001. (Reuters)
September 11, 2001
Terrorists strike the United States
al-Qaida operatives hijack 4 commercial airliners, crashing them into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.
President George W Bush pledges to ‘win the war against terrorism.’ US zeros in on al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.
The economic impact of 9/11
The market fell 7.1% on the first day of trading after the attacks. New York City’s economy alone lost 143,000 jobs a month. The heaviest losses were in finance and air transportation, which accounted for 60% of lost jobs, according to History.com.
Bioterrorism and creation of a department of homeland security
Letters containing anthrax spores were sent to the offices of several media houses including The New York Post and NBC in New York City — just a week after the 9/11 attacks. It killed two and infected 17.
The letter sent to Former United States senator Tom Daschle, which contained anthrax. (FBI/Getty Images)
September 18, 2001
A war footing
President George W Bush signs into law a joint resolution authorising the use of force against those responsible for attacking the United States on 9/11.
Top 10 quotes on America’s war on terror
October 7, 2001
The opening burst
The US military starts a bombing campaign against Taliban forces. The early phase of the war mainly involves US airstrikes on al-Qaida and Taliban forces.
A US Air Force B-52 flies over after releasing its bombs on front line Taliban positions near Bagram airport, some 30kms north of Kabul, November 8, 2001. (Reuters)
Osama Bin Laden escapes
al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was tracked down into the well-equipped Tora Bora cave complex southeast of Kabul.
Afghan armies and al-Qaida militants engage in a fierce 2-week battle. Few hundred people died and Laden eventually escapes to Pakistan.
December 9, 2001
The Taliban collapses
As per reports, the end of the Taliban regime is generally tied to this date.
Taliban surrender Kandahar and Taliban leader Mullah Omar flees the city. He leaves Kandahar under tribal law administered by Pashtun leaders. However, al-Qaida leaders continue to hide out in the mountains, reported Council on Foreign Relations.
April 17, 2002
Reconstruction of Afghanistan
President George W Bush calls for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
Establishing a framework
The US military creates a civil affairs framework to coordinate redevelopment with UN and non-governmental organisations and to expand the authority of the Afghanistan government.
US President George W Bush addresses US Army soldiers and their families at Fort Hood, Texas, January 3, 2003. Bush addressed the possiblity of military action against Iraq. (Reuters)
May 1, 2003
End of the ‘Major combat’
Secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld declares an end to major combat.
The announcement came along with President George W Bush’s ‘mission accomplished’ declaration of an end to fighting in Iraq.
As of now, there are only 8,000 US soldiers stationed in Afghanistan.
October 29, 2004
Bin Laden reappears
Osama bin Laden releases a videotaped message 3 weeks after the US presidential election and just days before the US polls in which George W Bush will win re-election.
Bin Laden taunts the Bush administration in his remarks that was aired on the Arab television network Al Jazeera, and takes responsibility for the attacks of September 11, 2001.
A previously unreleased video of slain former al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden is seen in this still image taken from a video released on September 12, 2011. (SITE Monitoring Service via Reuters TV)
Bin Laden was quoted as saying, “We want to restore freedom to our nation, just as you lay waste to our nation.”
May 23, 2005
A lasting commitment
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and US President George W Bush issue a joint declaration that pronounces their counties’ strategic partners.
February 17, 2009
Obama recommits to Afghanistan
New US President Barack Obama announces plans to send 17,000 more troops to the war zone.
As of January 2009, there are 37,000 troops in Afghanistan, roughly divided between US and NATO commands.
December 1, 2009
Obama’s Afghan surge
President Obama announces a major escalation of the US mission. He commits an additional 30,000 forces to the fight, on top of the 68,000 in place.
May 1, 2011
Osama bin Laden killed
al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, who was responsible for the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, is killed by US forces in Pakistan at a hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. (Reuters/White House/Pete Souza)
September 11, 2011
On the 10th anniversary of the attacks, the 9/11 memorial opened. It is located on the western side of the former World Trade Center complex where the Twin Towers once stood.
May 27, 2014
Obama announces US troop withdrawal
Obama announces a timetable for withdrawing most US forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2016.
April 14, 2021
Biden decides on complete US withdrawal by 9/11
President Biden said that the US will not meet the deadline set under the US-Taliban agreement to withdraw all troops by May 1. Iinstead releases a plan for a full withdrawal by September 11, 2021.
August 15, 2021
The return of the Taliban
The Taliban surged back to power two decades after US-led forces toppled its regime in what led to the United States’ longest war.
September 7, 2021
Identified victims of 9/11
It’s been nearly two decades since September 11, 2001, and just 60% of the people who died that day have been officially identified.
On September 7, just days before the 20th anniversary of the attacks, New York City’s Chief Medical Examiner’s Office said it has identified two more victims.
(With inputs from cfr.org)