Two Hours Shook the World and the Shock Waves Go on; It Is Nearly 10 Years since the Attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. Here the Western Mail Looks Back at a Moment That Changed the World - and Which Left a Legacy That Continues to Affect Our Lives
A WORLD watched in shock a decade ago as hijacked passenger jets emerged from a clear blue sky to strike at the heart of the world's sole remaining superpower.
Televised live around the globe to a shocked audience of billions, the 9/11 attacks were meticulously planned by Islamist fanatics to kill as many people and gain as much publicity as possible.
Tuesday, September 11, 2001 dawned bright and sunny on the east coast of the United States, and millions of people began their journeys to work or set off on business trips across the country.
But among the innocent travellers boarding early morning flights that day were 19 terrorists inspired by the hate-filled ideology of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Armed with small knives and box-cutters, they killed flight attendants and pilots to seize control of four domestic airliners with the aim of flying them into landmark business and government buildings.
The first anyone on the ground knew of the true nature of their murderous plot came at 8.46am local time, when American Airlines Flight 11 smashed into the north tower of the World Trade Centre in New York.
Many people assumed at first that this was a tragic accident, but it became clear that it was far more serious when United Airlines Flight 175 hit the south tower at 9.03am.
US president George Bush was meeting Florida elementary school pupils when his chief of staff whispered the news in his ear seven minutes later. He narrowed his eyes but continued listening to the children read a story.
At 9.30am the grim-faced president told his nation and the world: "Two aeroplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country."
But the horrors of the day were not over. At 9.37am American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the US Department of Defence, in Washington DC.
Meanwhile, back in New York, firefighters and other rescue workers were battling to get people out of the twin towers as fires raged on the upper floors.
Those trapped above the inferno by heat and smoke called their families to tell them they loved them, many leaving poignant answerphone messages to say goodbye.
An estimated 200 people chose to jump from the upper floors of the skyscrapers rather than face being burned to death.
At 9.59am, less than an hour after it was hit, the south tower collapsed, crushing those trapped inside and sending a vast dust cloud billowing through the streets of downtown Manhattan. …