Updated: September 11, 2021 10:55:21 am
On the morning of September 11, almost exactly two decades ago, 19 Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four California-bound commercial airplanes with the intention of striking some of the US’s most iconic buildings. In the hours that followed, two of the hijacked planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, another struck the west side of the Pentagon building in Washington DC, while the fourth fell in a field in Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 people were killed and countless more injured in the terror attack.
New York City
Once the tallest buildings in the world, the 110-storey World Trade Center towers in lower Manhattan were destroyed during the attacks.
Known as the Twin Towers, the distinctive skyscrapers designed by American architect Minoru Yamasaki formed part of the Manhattan skyline since they were completed in 1973. At 1,368 and 1,362 feet tall, the towers overtook the Empire State Building to become the world’s tallest buildings when they opened. When the two Boeing 767 passenger jets flew right into the towers, the impact resulted in a fire causing the Twin Towers to collapse within two hours.
Following the attack, a major rebuilding of the World Trade Center site was planned. “We’re going to rebuild, and we’re going to be stronger than we were before,” New York mayor Rudy Giuliani had said in the immediate aftermath of the attack. “I want the people of New York to be an example to the rest of the country, and the rest of the world, that terrorism can’t stop us.”
Plans to rebuild the site were altered over the years and the final one that took shape included five skyscrapers, alongside a memorial, museum transport hub and performing arts centre.
The first of these structures to complete was the National September 11 Memorial, which opened on the ten-year anniversary of the attack in 2011. Below the memorial, an underground museum designed by US studio Davis Brody Bond contains 40,000 images and 14,000 artefacts from the attack. The museum is entered through a pavilion in the deconstructivist style designed by architecture studio Snøhetta.
The focal point of what the city got is the memorial — the two imprints of the twin towers that are lined with waterfalls — and what was initially known as the Freedom Tower, the 1,776-foot tall skyscraper that replaced the towers as the city’s tallest building.
Twenty years after 9/11, and 10 years after it opened to the public, the memorial stitches the site back into the everyday life of the city. The 1-acre-sqare pools are ringed by parapets, bronze panels into which 2,983 names are etched, of the men, women and children killed in the attacks, and an earlier attack on the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993.
Around the North Pool are those who were in or near that tower, those on American Airlines Flight 11 and those killed in the 1993 bombing of the trade center.
Around the South Pool are those who were in or near that tower, first responders who received the 9/11 Heroes Medal of Valor, those on United Airlines Flight 175, those at the Pentagon, those on American Airlines Flight 77 and on United Airlines Flight 93.
Both the memorial and the museum are open from 10 am to 5 pm every day. However, it will stay open till midnight on the 20th anniversary.
At the Pentagon in northern Virginia, the Department of Defense will hold a private ceremony Saturday morning to honor the 184 victims of the attacks there. Since 2008, the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial has been a solemn and quiet place for mourners to pay respect to those who died at the Pentagon when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the west side of the building at 9.37 am on September 11.
The memorial comprises hallowed grounds and each of the victims is honored with a memorial unit — a cantilevered bench, a lighted pool of flowing water and a permanent tribute by name. Each memorial bench is made of stainless steel, inlaid with granite. The Memorial displays a timeline of the victims’ ages, spanning from the youngest victim, 3-year-old Dana Falkenberg, who was onboard Flight 77, to the eldest, John D Yamnicky, 71, a Navy veteran, also on the flight that morning.
The memorial units are situated to distinguish those who were inside the Pentagon from those who were onboard Flight 77. At the 125 memorials honoring the victims inside the Pentagon, visitors see the victim’s name and the Pentagon in the same view. At the memorials honoring the 59 lives lost on the flight, visitors see the victim’s name and the direction of the plane’s approach in the same view.
A private observance for the family members and guests to honor the 40 people killed onboard United Airlines Flight 93 will be held at the National Memorial site near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The names of the passengers and crew members will be read as the Bells of Remembrance are rung.
The 2,200-acre site has an exhibit inside the visitors’ centre that narrates the story of Flight 93 — how the four hijackers, seated in first class, took control at 9.28 am over eastern Ohio, the desperate struggle by the passengers, and how at 10.03 am, the flight finally came down, killing all 33 passengers and seven crew members.