Nearly 3,000 people died on Sept. 11, 2001, when 19 terrorists working for al-Qaida hijacked four planes and launched coordinated attacks on American soil.
What transpired that day 18 years ago stunned the nation and the world. Almost every New Yorker who was old enough can tell you where they were or what they were doing when news broke of the first plane hitting the north tower of the World Trade Center.
Here’s a timeline of the tragic events, as told by the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, from the time the hijackers began to carry out their plot to when the last survivor was pulled from the rubble of the WTC.
Hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdul Aziz al-Omari go through security at Portland International Jetport in Maine. They take a commuter flight to Boston Logan International Airport, where they board American Airlines Flight 11. In total, 19 hijackers will board four California-bound planes on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
Los Angeles-bound American Airlines Flight 11 takes off from Boston Logan International Airport. There are 76 passengers, 11 crew members and five hijackers on board.
United Airlines Flight 175 departs from Boston Logan International Airport, headed for Los Angeles. There are five hijackers, nine crew members and 51 passengers on board.
Flight 11 flight attendant Betty Ann Ong calls ground personnel for American Airlines via an in-flight phone and reports that the plane has been hijacked.
American Airlines Flight 77 takes off from Washington Dulles International Airport. The Los Angeles-bound plane is carrying 53 passengers, six crew members and five hijackers.
Flight 11’s transponder, which is used to track a plane’s movement in the air, is turned off by the hijackers. Air traffic control is no longer able to track the plane’s flight path.
Atta unintentionally makes contact with ground control twice while trying to make an announcement to passengers and crew on Flight 11. One of those communications was heard by Flight 175 pilot Victor J. Saracini, who conveys what he learned to the Federal Aviation Administration. Saracini’s own plane is later hijacked.
Boston’s air traffic control personnel alert the United States Air Force’s Northeast Air Defense Sector, which deploys jets to identify and follow Flight 11.
United Airlines Flight 93 — carrying 33 passengers, seven crew members and four hijackers — takes off from Newark Liberty International Airport after a delayed departure. The plane is en route to San Francisco.
Flight 11 hits the north tower of the World Trade Center between floors 93 and 99. Immediately following the plane’s impact, emergency dispatchers direct FDNY, EMS and NYPD to the scene. The Port Authority Police Department is also mobilized and evacuation and rescue efforts begin.
President George W. Bush is informed that a plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center while he visits an elementary school in Sarasota, Florida.
A Flight 175 attendant, believed to be Robert John Fangman, alerts a United Airlines operator in San Francisco that the plane has been hijacked.
A Port Authority fire safety worker announces that the World Trade Center’s south tower is secure and there is no need to evacuate.
Evacuations of the north and south towers are ordered. The entire World Trade Center complex, made up of seven buildings, is ordered to evacuate shortly after.
Flight 175 crashes into the south tower of the World Trade Center between floors 77 and 85. Many are trapped above the impact zone after the crash destroys two of the building’s three emergency stairwells and severs a majority of the elevator cables.
Bush, still at the Florida elementary school, is told that a second plane has crashed into the south tower. He then makes a televised statement outside of the school, calling the attacks a “national tragedy.”
Renee A. May, a flight attendant on Flight 77, calls her mother from the plane and informs her that they’ve been hijacked. May’s mother then calls American Airlines.
A Secret Service agent’s report of more hijackings prompts the New York City Office of Emergency Management to evacuate from its headquarters in 7 World Trade Center. Vice President Dick Cheney, meanwhile, is evacuated to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center located below the White House.
Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon, killing 125 military and civilian workers on the ground in addition to the 59 victims and five hijackers on the plane.
All civilian flights across the U.S. are grounded by the FAA.
The White House and U.S. Capitol building are evacuated.
Flight 93 passenger Edward P. Felt successfully calls 911 from the bathroom of the plane after the hijackers fly low enough for cellphone service to work. In total, 37 calls were made by passengers from the hijacked plane.
The south tower of the World Trade Center collapses 56 minutes after being hit by Flight 175. The collapse, which lasted 10 seconds, killed over 800 people and first responders inside the building and the surrounding area. At the same time, the protocol for protecting high-level government officials during a national emergency, called continuity of government procedures, is enacted for the first time in American history.
Flight 93 crashes into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing everyone on board. The hijackers crashed the plane after passengers and crew members stormed the cockpit.
A section of the Pentagon’s outer ring collapses due to damage from the crash.
The north tower of the World Trade Center collapses, killing more than 1,600 people.
Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who had first arrived at the NYPD command post around 9:05 a.m. and was near the south tower when it collapsed, orders the evacuation of lower Manhattan.
Thirteen first responders and one civilian are rescued from a section of the north tower’s stairwell B, which survived the collapse and protected the people inside. Rescue efforts at the World Trade Center continue throughout the day. Within hours, rescuers and journalists begin referring to the area of the collapsed towers as “Ground Zero.”
Seven World Trade Center collapses after being engulfed in fire for several hours. There are no casualties since the building had been previously evacuated.
Bush addresses the nation, saying that the search for those responsible for the “evil acts,” was already underway and vowing to bring those responsible for the attacks to justice.
Port Authority Police Officer William Jimeno and PAPD Sgt. John McLoughlin are found alive but injured in the debris. It takes rescuers three hours to free Jimeno and eight hours to reach McLoughlin.
Afternoon of Sept. 12, 2001:
Rescuers pull Genelle Guzman, the 18th and final survivor, from the rubble of the World Trade Center.
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