HT THIS DAY: Sept 11, 2001 — America under attack: Thousands feared dead in multiple terrorist strikes on US cities
Washington- Fortress America was breached today by the world’s most spectacular terrorist attack. In the first of a series of coordinated attacks, two hijacked planes crashed into and levelled New York’s 110-storey World Trade Center. In Washington DC, another hijacked aircraft wrecked parts of the Pentagon and a car bomb damaged the State Department. Thousands of people are feared dead.
US President George Bush said the explosions were an “apparent terrorist attack” and said “terrorism against our nation will not stand”. He promised the US would hunt down those responsible.
A Boeing 767, also believed to have been hijacked, also crashed in western Pennsylvania.
The attacks began shortly before 9 a.m. local time (2 p.m. EST), when two hijacked passenger planes flew directly into the upper floors of the World Trade Center towers in the heart of New York’s financial district.
Shortly afterwards in Washington DC an aircraft hit the helicopter pad at the Pentagon. One side of the five-sided US military headquarters collapsed and there are an unknown number of casualties.
A third explosion in New York an hour after the initial crashes brought the south tower of the World Trade Center crashing to the ground. A witness said he saw bodies falling from the towers and people jumping out. Minutes later, the Center’s north tower also collapsed.
“I just saw the building I work in come down,” said businessman Gabriel Ioan, outside City Hall, with a cloud of smoke and ash from the World Trade Center behind him. “I just saw the top of Trade Two come down.”
The ash was two to three inches deep in places. People wandered dazed and terrified.
Senator Chuck Hagel said: “This is the second Pearl Harbour. I don’t think that I overstate it.”
Authorities had been trying to evacuate the 50,000 people who work in the twin towers. New Yorkers have been told to head to the north of the city away from the disaster zone, and bridges and tunnels in Manhattan have been closed amid fears of further attacks.
Subway lines were shut down and trading on Wall Street suspended. The Federal Aviation Administration said it was diverting transatlantic flights headed for the US to Canada after earlier grounding all flights in response to the attacks in New York and Washington.
Thousands of people have been evacuated from the White House and all other government and public buildings in Washington DC and New York, including the Treasury, the White House, the UN headquarters and the State Department. Chicago has also begun evacuations. Other US cities are on alert. Borders with Canada and Mexico have been sealed.
An Arab journalist said that bin Laden had warned of an unprecedented attack against the US a fortnight ago. From Abu Dhabi there was a report that a Palestinian group had owned responsibility but the group later denied these reports.