Understanding Terrorism in America: From the Klan to Al Qaeda

By Christopher Hewitt | Go to book overview
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The latest atrocity

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked four planes filled with passengers. At 8:48 a.m. the first plane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. Fifteen minutes later the second plane flew into the south tower. Both towers burst into flames and later collapsed. Shortly before 10:00 a.m., the third plane crashed into the Pentagon outside Washington DC. The fourth plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania, after passengers attacked the hijackers. 1

The attacks were unprecedented in terms of the number of deaths, and the amount of damage which resulted. In addition to the 226 passengers on the four planes (including the nineteen hijackers), almost 3,000 persons lost their lives at the World Trade Center and 125 people perished at the Pentagon. 2 Preliminary estimates of the costs of the physical damage alone suggested that they would be over $5 billion. The attacks were certain to be the worst insurance disaster in history, with analysts saying that the total for all claims could run as high as $40 billion (Treastor 2001).

The American response was also unprecedented. All commercial air traffic was grounded for two days. Aircraft carriers and destroyers armed with surface-to-air missiles were stationed in the coastal waters off California and New York. Fighter jets patrolled the skies over Washington and New York, and soldiers stood guard in down-town areas.

The Justice Department launched “the most massive and intensive investigation ever conducted in America,” according to Attorney General Ashcroft, with 4,000 FBI agents assigned to the case. Within a few days, the nineteen hijackers were identified, and linked with the radical Islamic network of Osama bin Laden. They ranged in age from twenty to forty-one, with most being in their mid-twenties. Most were Saudis, but one was Lebanese and two were from the

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