20 Years After 9/11, Remembering the Day That Changed America
New Yorkers awoke to pristine blue skies on September 11, 2001, following a storm that had saturated America’s northeastern seaboard the day before.
The cold front had been pushed out into the Atlantic by a building of high pressure, resulting in a weather phenomena called as “severe clear” in aviation jargon.
The clear sky was no foreshadowing of the bleak, history-making day that lay ahead.
As New Yorkers began their commutes to work, 19 hijackers boarded planes in Boston, Washington, and Newark.
Knives were carried by the Islamist fanatics, who were mostly from Saudi Arabia. Knives were allowed on planes at the time if the blade was less than four inches (10 centimeters) long.
American Airlines Flight 11 took off from Logan Airport in Boston at 7:59 a.m., destined for Los Angeles. There were 92 individuals on board, five of whom were hijackers, including Mohamed Atta, the ringleader.
United Airlines Flight 175 took off from the same airport sixteen minutes later, likewise heading for Los Angeles. There were sixty passengers and crew members on board, as well as five hijackers.
A hijacker stabbed a passenger on Flight 11 around the same time, becoming the first victim of 9/11. The jet was taken over by jihadists, who diverted it towards New York.
American Airlines Flight 77, headed for Los Angeles, took off from Dulles airport just outside the US capital a few minutes later. On board were six crew members, 53 passengers, and five hijackers.
United Airlines Flight 93 took off from Newark, New Jersey, at 8:42 a.m. bound San Francisco.
Those four planes were not going to make it to their destinations.
50,000 workers at the World Trade Center, a symbol of America’s economic supremacy and home to New York’s two tallest towers, began to pour into their offices in central Manhattan.
Joseph Dittmar, one of the witnesses questioned by AFP in the lead-up to the 20th anniversary of the assaults, was one of them.
Dittmar, a 44-year-old insurance expert from Chicago, boarded the elevator to the 105th floor of the 110-story South Tower for an 8:30 a.m. meeting.
The lights in the windowless room flickered at 8:46 a.m. The meeting’s 54 attendees were told to leave. They didn’t realize it at the moment, but Flight 11 had just collided with the North Tower across the street.
Dittmar and his coworkers shuffled down to the 90th floor, when they saw the tragedy for the first time.
Dittmar, now 64, told AFP, “That was the worst 30-40 seconds of my life.”
“To see these,” says the speaker. Brief News from Washington Newsday.