Twenty years ago, Islamic terrorist organisation al-Qaeda flew two planes into New York City’s Twin Towers, killing 2,996 people and injuring thousands more. The majority of victims were civilians, yet the attacks also remain the deadliest incident for law enforcement officers and firefighters in United States history. 343 firefighters and 732 law enforcement officers were killed.
The first hijacked plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center complex in central New York at 8.45am. Eighteen minutes later, a second plane crashed into the South Tower. Enormous fires led to the collapse of both 110-story buildings within 102 minutes, and numerous structures around the area were also destroyed.
At the same time, a third hijacked plane was flown into the Pentagon in Virginia, and a fourth, en route to Washington DC, crashed in Pennsylvania when passengers attempted to overcome the hijackers.
The September 11, 2001 attacks shook the world, generating extreme fear and resulting in the War on Terror in Afghanistan. The attacks stand not just as a dark memory in United States history, but as a testament to the bravery, love and dedication of Americans in times of trial.
Today a beautiful memorial stands in the former location of the Twin Towers, providing a powerful setting to remember those who passed away in the tragic attacks.
Visitors look over the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York.
The second tower of the World Trade Center bursts into flames after being hit by a hijacked airplane in New York in this September 11, 2001 file photograph. Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in a firefight with U.S. forces in Pakistan on May 1, 2011, ending a nearly 10-year worldwide hunt for the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. The Brooklyn bridge is seen in the foreground. REUTERS/Sara K. Schwittek/Files
A man walks in the street near the World Trade Center towers in New York City, early September 11, 2001. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Pedestrians react to the World Trade Center attack September 11. REUTERS/Stringer
U.S. President George W. Bush listens as White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card informs him of a second plane hitting the World Trade Center while Bush was conducting a reading seminar at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. REUTERS/Win McNamee-Files HB/
The World Trade Center south tower (L) is engulfed in smoke after being struck by hijacked United Airlines Flight 175, as the north tower burns following an earlier attack by a hijacked airliner.
An American flag flies near the base of the destroyed World Trade Center in New York. REUTERS/Peter Morgan-Files HB
A group of firefighters walk amid rubble near the base of the destroyed south tower of the World Trade Center. REUTERS/Peter Morgan-Files HB/
Smoke continues to rise from the base of what was once one of the World Trade Center twin towers. REUTERS/Shaun Best KC/ME
A New York City fireman calls for more rescue workers to make their way into the rubble of the World Trade Center September 15, 2001. (CREDIT REUTERS/HO/U.S. Navy Photo by Journalist 1st Class Preston Keres)
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 U.S. Capitol Building in the background, September 16, 2001.
Aerial view of ground zero at the World Trade Center in New York on September 26, 2001. Fifteen days after the attack, hundreds of rescue workers continued to sift through the ruins of the World Trade Center in a desperate search for survivors and, failing that, for the remains of those killed. New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has said it would need a miracle for any survivors to be found, and made clear that many victims would never be recovered from the rubble. (CREDIT REUTERS/U.S. Customs Service-Handout)
An aerial view of the remains of the World Trade Center is seen September 26, 2001. More than two weeks after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the United States sought to build confidence in its drive against global terrorism, lining up international diplomatic support while preparing new safety measures to coax nervous Americans back onto airplanes. (CREDIT REUTERS/Chief Brandon Brewer/U.S. Coast Guard)
Smoke continues to rise from of the wreckage of the World Trade Center as the landmark Woolworth tower stands lit in green in the background at the site of the World Trade Center disaster in New York City, October 4, 2001, more than three weeks since the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center towers that caused their collapse.
A lone police officer sits away from where family members of the victims of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center were gathering at the base of the “Ground Zero,” September 11, 2002. REUTERS/Mike SegarMS/SV
A man grieves outside the World Trade Center site in New York September 11, 2006. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (United States)