On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, nineteen al-Qaeda terrorists, mostly from Saudi Arabia, hijacked four commercial jetliners and turned them into flying bombs. Two of the hijacked planes slammed into the 110-story twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Americans watched their TV screens in horror as the two skyscrapers, among the tallest in the world, collapsed. Another plane hit the Pentagon, and the fourth jet crashed in rural Pennsylvania.
Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks, including more than 400 firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical services workers who had rushed to the World Trade Center to help survivors before the buildings fell.
Among the day’s heroes were passengers on board United Flight 93, which had left Newark International Airport for San Francisco but changed course toward Washington, D.C., after four terrorists seized control. Passengers who began making frantic calls on their cell phones learned that other airliners had been hijacked and crashed in suicide missions. Realizing their captors must be headed toward a high-profile target, a group of Flight 93 passengers resolved to stop them.
Passenger Todd Beamer told an operator that he and a few others were going to jump the hijackers. “Are you guys ready?” the operator heard him say to someone. “Let’s roll!”
Moments later, Flight 93 went down in rural southwestern Pennsylvania. All aboard were killed. The hijackers’ target was probably the U.S. Capitol building or the White House.
Congress and the president have designated September 11 as Patriot Day. The flag should be flown at half-staff, and Americans are asked to observe a moment of silence to honor the innocent victims who perished during the worst acts of terrorism ever carried out against the United States.