Attack and Destruction
New York City and Washington, D.C.


Timeline of events, September 11, 2001
(East Coast time)

7:58 a.m. 
United Airlines Flight 175, a Boeing 767, departs Boston's Logan nonstop for Los Angeles International Airport with 2 pilots, 7 flight attendants and 56 passengers. In standard configuration, the airplane has a 168-passenger capacity. Fuel cap. 16,700 gals.

7:59 a.m. 
American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767, departs Boston's Logan nonstop for Los Angeles International Airport with 2 pilots, 9 flight attendants and 81 (or 91?) passengers. Fuel capacity 16,700 gals.

8:01 a.m. 
United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757, departs Newark International Airport, NJ, nonstop for San Francisco with 2 pilots, 5 flight attendants, and 38 (or 58?) passengers In standard configuration. The B-757 has a 182 passenger capacity. Fuel cap. 11,275 gals.

8:10 a.m.
American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757, departs Washington Dulles Airport nonstop for Los Angeles International Airport with 2 pilots, four flight attendants and 58 passengers. Fuel cap. 11,275 gals.

Against headwinds on the flights to the West Coast, all four airplanes were carrying heavy fuel loads.

8:25 a.m. 
All four airplanes are airborne before American Airlines Flight 11 turns sharply off its planned westbound flight and heads south toward Manhattan. Shortly before the turn, the jet's transponder is turned off. By this time, controllers suspected something was amiss when the airplane did not respond to their clearance to climb to 31,000 feet. One of the cockpit crew, Capt. John Ogonowski or First Officer Thomas McGuinness, had the presence of mind to key open a cockpit microphone, enabling ground controllers to hear the terrorists' threats for the pilots "not to do anything foolish."

8:45 or 8:48 a.m.
American Airlines Flight 11 slams into the North Tower, 1 World Trade Center. Impact area is at floors 79-95 of the 110-story structure. Before the impact, a flight attendant succeeded in getting a call through to the American Airlines operations center at Dallas-Ft. Worth. She related multiple stabbings, that hijackers stormed the cockpit; she also reported the seat number of one of the hijackers. Elapsed flight time: about 46 minutes.

9:03 or 9:06 a.m.
Approximately 18 minutes later, United Airlines Flight 175 hits the south tower, 2 World Trade Center, in the area of floors 63- 78. A businessman on the flight reportedly gets off two cell phone calls to his father, in one reporting that a flight attendant had been stabbed. Elapsed time of flight to impact: about 49 min.

9:05 a.m. 
President Bush, who is reading to children in a Sarasota, Florida, classroom, is approached by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, who whispers news of the attack in the President's ear.

9:17 or 9:18 a.m. 
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) shuts down all airports in the New York City area.

9:20, 9:24 or 9:30 a.m.
President Bush issues a terse statement promising to hunt down those responsible for the WTC attacks. Hecalls the crashes “an apparent attack on our country.”

9:21 a.m.
New York City Port Authority closes all bridges and tunnels connecting Manhattan Island with the Mainland and Long Island.

9:32 a.m.
New York Stock Exchange closed.

9:40 a.m.
The FAA orders the entire nationwide air traffic system shut down. All flights at U.S. airports are stopped.

9:40 or 9:43 a.m.
American Airlines Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon. One of the building’s five sides collapses. The Pentagon's 2-ft. thick outer walls are breached as the airplane penetrates deep into the five concentric "rings" of the building's structure. Elapsed time of flight: 90 minutes. The time of flight is explained by the fact that the airplane flew westward, past West Virginia and briefly into Kentucky before turning around and heading back to the capital.

Three targets symbolizing America's economic and military power have been struck in the space of some 49 minutes.

Herded with other passengers, and at least one of the pilots, into the back of the aircraft before its final plunge, those with cell phones are ordered by the hijackers to call relatives to inform them they are about to die. CNN reporter Barbara Olson used her cell phone to twice call her husband's office at the Justice Department (her husband, Solicitor General Ted Olson, argued President Bush's case before the U.S. Supreme Court during the Florida vote- counting fiasco of the last presidential election). Understandably declining to provide details of the conversations with his wife of just seven weeks, Ted Olson said she described the hijackers as armed with "knife-like" weapons. Barbara Olson's last words to her husband: "What do I tell the pilot to do?"

Air traffic controllers notice the aircraft, with its transponder apparently disabled, heading at high speed directly for unauthorized airspace around the White House, and sound the alarm. The inbound plane circles tightly 270? and drops below radar coverage before plunging into the Pentagon. Apparently the White House was the primary target, but for reasons unknown at this stage the airplane was turned and struck what may have been its secondary target, the Pentagon.

9:45 a.m.
The White House is evacuated based on receipt of a "credible threat".

9:50, 9:59 or 10:05 a.m. 
WTC South tower collapses, its fire weakened steel skeleton unable to support the 100,000-ton weight of the 50 stories above the section damaged by the impact of the United Airlines 767. Although building engineers had designed the WTC towers to withstand the impact of a Boeing 707, they had not anticipated the raging fires fed by tons of spilled jet fuel. The steel had been insulated to protect against an office fire, but the insulation may have been blown or seared away when the jet struck. In any event, the structure held for just 47 minutes before giving way.

Experts speculate that the terrorists may have had some knowledge of civil engineering. They apparently knew that maximum damage would be wreaked by flying into the middle sections of the buildings. Had they struck the very highest floors, the subsequent damage might not have led to collapse. Similarly, with the structure stronger at the lower floors to support the weight of those above, an impact at the bottom of the building might not have led to its collapse.

9:54 or 9:57 a.m. 
President Bush departs Florida aboard Air Force One.

9:58 a.m.
A passenger who locked himself in a lavatory aboard United AirlLines Flight 93 called 911 and advises that the airplane has been hijacked, and that his call is not a hoax. Passenger Mark Bingham also used a cell phone to contact his mother in San Francisco, saying that the plane had been commandeered by three terrorists claiming to have a bomb. At some point in the flight, air traffic control received a radio call from the cockpit asserting the airplane was going to Washington, DC. Apparently the captain or first officer had the presence of mind to leave the microphone keyed open. At 35,000 feet over Cleveland, Ohio, the sound of shots and commands to "get out of here" were transmitted. During the course of events, passenger Tom Burnette called his wife four times by cell phone, saying that he and two others were going to try to overpower the hijackers.

10:00, 10:06 or 10:10  a.m.
United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757 en route from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco with 38 passengers and seven crew members, hving reversed its westward course over Cleveland, Ohio crashes just north of the Somerset County Airport in a filed 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh (and 85 miles northwest of the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md.).

A passenger calls on his cell phone from a locked bathroom: “We are being hijacked, we are being hijacked!” At this time there was concern the plane was headed to Camp David.

The crash occurs 8 min. later, the site being described by one official as "nothing but a big gouge in the earth and some broken trees." It is possible that the airplane's near-90(?) plunge to the earth resulted from a struggle between passengers and hijackers in the cockpit. Elapsed time of flight from takeoff at Newark: about 2 hours and 5 min.

10:08 a.m.
Secret Service agents armed with automantic rifles are deployed into Lafayett Park across from the White House.

10:10 a.m.
A portion of the Pentagon collapses.

10:13 a.m. 
The United Nations complex in New York City is evacuated, including 4,700 people from the headquarters building and 7,000 total from UNICEF and U.N. development program.s

10:20 a.m. 
Financial markets end all trading.

10:22 a.m. 
In Washington, DC, State and Justice Department buildings are evacuated, along with the World Bank.

10:24 a.m.
The FAA reports that all inbound transatlantic flights are to be diverted to Canada.

10:28 or 10:29 a.m.
World Trade Center north tower collapses in similarly spectacular fashion to South tower. Struck higher up on the 110-story structure by the American Airlines jet, vertical steel beams held in place longer, about an hour and 45 min. in this case, before finally succumbing in their fire-weakened state to the weight above. Witnesses described the two buildings' collapse as a rain of concrete, blinding dust and ash, and "thousands" of body parts. The second tower comes down on the order established by the emergency response teams after the collapse of the WTC South tower. Emergency command posts, triage centers, etc., are destroyed by falling debris, presenting a major setback for emergency response.

10:35 a.m. 
As airplanes land per the FAA's 9:49 grounding order, some 1,100 flights remain airborne, down from 3,600.

10:38 a.m.
Another explosion rocks the rubble that remains of WTC South.

10:45 a.m.
All federal office buildings in Washington are evacualted.

10:46 a.m.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell cuts short his trip to Latin America to return to the United States.

10:48 a.m.
Police confirm the plane crash in Pennsylvania.

10:53 a.m.
New York's primary elections, scheduled for Tuesday, are postponed.

10:57 a.m.
New York State governor George Pataki says all state government offices are closed.

11:02 a.m.
New York City Mayor Rudolph Giulian urges New Yorkers to stay at home and orders an evacuation of the area south of Canal Street.

11:16 a.m.
CNN reports that the centers for Disease Control and Prevention is preparing emergency-response teams in a precautionary move.

11:18 a.m.
American Airlines reports it has lost two aircraft. American Flight 11, a Boeing 767 flying from Boston to Los Angeles, had 81 passengers and 11 crew aboard. Flight 77, a Boeing 757 en route from Washington's Dulles International Airport to Los Angeles, had 58 passengers and 6 crew members aboard. Flight 11 slammed into the into the north tower of the World Trace Center and Flight 77 hit the Pentagon.

11:26 a.m.
United Airlines reports that United Flight 93, en route from Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco, California has crashed in Pennsylvania. The airline also says that it is "deeply concerned" about United Flight 175.

11:40 a.m. 
Only some 290 flights remain in the air, down from the 3,600 being tracked at the time of the FAA's 9:49 a.m. grounding order. By this time, virtually all commercial air travel has ceased. nationwide, airports are being shut down and evacuated.

11:44 a.m. 
President Bush arrives at Barksdale Air Force Base (AFB), Louisiana. It is later reported that both the White House and Air Force One were targets, hence the indirect route of the President's return to the capital by nightfall.

11:59 a.m.
United Airlines confirms that Flight 175, from Boston to Los Angeles, has crashed with 56 passengers 9 crew members aboard. It hit the World Trade Center's south tower.

12:00 NOON
New York City hospitals begin to receive the injured. In Louisiana, President Bush issues a second statement, vowing to punish the perpetrators.

12:04 p.m.
Los Angeles International Airport, the destination of three of the crashed airplanes, is evacuated.

12:15 p.m.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service says U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico are on the highest state of alert, but no decision has been made about closing borders - per CNN. Contradition: some border crossings with Canada and Mexico are closed.

San Francisco International Airport is evacuated and shut down. The
airport was the destination of United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in

12:30 p.m.
The FAA says 50 flights are in U.S. airspace, but none are reporting any problems.

12:45 p.m.
Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, declares on CNN, "This is the most godawful wakeup call we've ever had."

1:02 p.m.
New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani orders an evacuation of Manhattan south of Canal Street.

1:04 p.m.
In a speech at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, President Bush announces that security measures are being taken and says: “Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.”

1:27 p.m.
A state of emergency is declared by the city of Washington.

1:38 p.m.
President Bush aboard Air Force One departs Barksdale AFB for Offutt AFB in Nebraska.

1:44 p.m.
The Pentagon says five warships and two aircraft carriers will leave the U.S. Naval Station in Norfolk, Virginia, to protect the East Coast from further attacks and to reduce the number of ships in port. The two carriers, the USS George Washington and the USS John F. Kennedy, are headed for the New York coast. The other ships headed to sea are frigates and guided missile destroyers capable of shooting down aircraft. Around the country, fighters, airborne radar and refueling planes scramble. The North American Aerospace Defense Command go to its highest alert.

1:44 or 1:48 p.m.
President Bush leaves Barksdale Air Force Base for Nebraska’s Offutt Air Force Base, home to the U.S. Strategic Command.

2:00 p.m.
Senior FBI sources tell CNN they are working on the assumption that the four airplanes that crashed were hijacked as part of a terrorist attack.

2:30 p.m.
The FAA announces there will be no U.S. commercial air traffic until noon EDT Wednesday at the earliest.

2:49 p.m.
At a news conference, Mayor Giuliani says that the subway and bus service are partially restored in New York City. Asked about the number of people killed, Giuliani says, "I don't thnk we want to speculate about that - more than any of us can bear."

2:50 p.m.
Air Force One arrives at Offutt Air Force Base.

3:55 p.m.
Karen Hughes, a White House counselor, says the president is at an undisclosed location, later revealed to be Offutt Air Force Base in Nebrasca, and is conducting a National Security Council meeting by phone. Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice are in a secure facility at the White House. Defense Secretary Donal Romsfeld is at the Pentagon.

Mayor Giuliani now says the number of critically injured in New York City is up to 200 with 2,100 total injuries reported.

4:00 p.m
CNN National Security Correspondent David Ensor reports that U.S. officials say there are "good indications" that Saudi militant Osama bin Laden, suspected of coordinating the bombings of two U.S. embassies in 1998, is involved in the attacks, based on "new and specific" information developed since the attacks.

4:06 p.m.
California Gov. Gray Davis dispatches urban search-and-rescue teams to New York. 

4:10 p.m.
Building 7 of the World Trade Center complex is reported on fire.

4:15 p.m. 
Reports of at least 200 New York City firemen, police and other emergency personnel killed in collapse of World Trade Center towers.

4:20 p.m.
U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says he was "not surprised there was an attack (but) was surprised at the specificity." He says he was "shocked at what actually happened -- the extent of it."

4:25 p.m.
The American Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange say they will remain closed Wednesday.

4:30 p.m.
The president leaves Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska aboard Air Force One to return to Washington.

4:40 p.m. 
President Bush departs Offutt AFB on Air Force One bound for Wash. DC

4:45 p.m.
The City of New York announces that 200 firefighters have been killed and 78 police officers are missing.

5:00 p.m. 
Explosions rock Kabul, Afghanistan. U.S. officials deny they signify a military counterattack on a country known to harbor Saudi expatriate terrorist Osama bin Laden. Other sources advise the explosions could represent rocket barrage from factions loyal to Ahmed Shah Massoud, who had been assassinated the day before in internecine warfare between the Taliban and dissident factions.

5:15 p.m.
CNN Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre reports fires are still burning in part of the Pentagon. No death figures have been released yet.

5:20 or 5:25 p.m.
Seven World Trade Center, a 47-story (or 45?) tower, collapses from ancillary damage, weakened by the fires that raged for hours inside the building. Other nearby buildings in the area remain ablaze.

5:30 p.m.
CNN Senior White House Correspondent John King reports that U.S. officials say the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania could have been headed for one of three possible targets: Camp David, the White House or the U.S. Capitol building.

6 p.m.
Explosions are heard in Kabul, Afghanistan, hours after terrorist attacks targeted financial and military centers in the United States. The attacks occurred at 2:30 a.m. local time. Afghanistan is believed to be where bin Laden, who U.S. officials say is possibly behind Tuesday's deadly attacks, is located. U.S. officials say later that the United States had no involvement in the incident whatsoever. The attack is credited to the Northern Alliance, a group fighting the Taliban in the country's ongoing civil war.

6:10 p.m.
Giuliani urges New Yorkers to stay home Wednesday if they can.

6:40 p.m.
Rumsfeld, the U.S. defense secretary, holds a news conference in the Pentagon, noting the building is operational. "It will be in business tomorrow," he says.

6:54 or 6:55 p.m.
Bush arrives back at the White House aboard Marine One and is scheduled to address the nation at 8:30 p.m. By this time, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta has announced a tightening of aviation security. Most notably, curbside check-in will no longer be allowed. He does not indicate whether curbside check-in enabled the terrorists to breach the security system.

The president earlier landed at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland with a three-fighter jet escort. CNN's John King reports Laura Bush arrived earlier by motorcade from a "secure location."

In addition, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, has revealed telephone intercepts by U.S. intelligence of Bin Laden supporters discussing the attacks.

By this time, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta has announced a tightening of aviation security. Most notably, curbside check-in will no longer be allowed. He does not indicate whether curbside check-in enabled the terrorists to breach the security system.

7:17 p.m.
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft says the FBI is setting up a Web site for tips on the attacks: He also says family and friends of possible victims can leave contact information at 800-331-0075.

7:02 p.m.
CNN's Paula Zahn reports the Marriott Hotel near the World Trade Center is on the verge of collapse and says some New York bridges are now open to outbound traffic.

7:45 p.m.
The New York Police Department says that at least 78 officers are missing. The city also says that as many as half of the first 400 firefighters on the scene were killed.

8:00 p.m. 
President Bush gives nationwide address from Oval Office, vowing to hunt down the perpetrators of the day's tragedies. The president fundamentally alters U.S. foreign policy, declaring bluntly that no distinction will be made between terrorists and those who harbor them.

8:30 p.m.
President Bush addresses the nation, saying "thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil" and asks for prayers for the families and friends of Tuesday's victims. "These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve," he says. The president says the U.S. government will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed the acts and those who harbor them. He adds that government offices in Washington are reopening for essential personnel Tuesday night and for all workers Wednesday.

9:22 p.m.
CNN's McIntyre reports the fire at the Pentagon is still burning and is considered contained but not under control.

9:57 p.m.
Giuliani says New York City schools will be closed Wednesday and no more volunteers are needed for Tuesday evening's rescue efforts. He says there is hope that there are still people alive in rubble. He also says that power is out on the westside of Manhattan and that health department tests show there are no airborne chemical agents about which to worry.

10:49 p.m.
CNN Congressional Correspondent Jonathan Karl reports that Attorney General Ashcroft told members of Congress that there were three to five hijackers on each plane armed only with knives.

10:56 p.m:
CNN's Zahn reports that New York City police believe there are people alive in buildings near the World Trade Center.

11:54 p.m.
CNN Washington Bureau Chief Frank Sesno reports that a government official told him there was an open microphone on one of the hijacked planes and that sounds of discussion and "duress" were heard. Sesno also reports a source says law enforcement has "credible" information and leads and is confident about the investigation.

By day's end, amidst growing criticism of the FAA's aviation security system, and the failure of the national intelligence apparatus to provide warning of the attack, estimates of the dead range from 2,500 to 10,000.


  •, September 11: Chronology of Terror -
  • MSNBC - Timeline -
  • Air Safety Week Timeline - Copyright 2001 PBI Media, LLC and Gale Group

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Created: Saturday, September 15, 2001, Last Updated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
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