Sept. 15, 2001
The District of Columbia looked like a ghost town by early afternoon on Sept. 11, after the White House and other federal buildings were evacuated minutes after a passenger plane plowed into the Pentagon, less than an hour after two plans crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.
“This was a vicious, well-coordinated attack against the U.S,” said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld at a late evening press conference. He did not want to say whether the attack was “an act of war.”
Firefighters spary water on a section of the Pentagon Tues. Sept. 11, after the building took a direct hit by an aircraft. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
American Airlines flight 77, a Boeing 757, which left Dulles International Airport heading to Los Angeles, crashed into the northwest side of the Pentagon, the seat of the American military power, around 9:43 a.m., according to the Associated Press. Earlier, American flight 11, which left Boston heading for Los Angeles, slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center around 8:45 a.m. And United Airlines Flight 175 en route from Boston to Los Angeles smashed into the other tower a little after 9 o’clock.
Then United Airline flight 93, which left Newark, N.J., for San Francisco around 8 a.m., crashed in western Pennsylvania, a little after 10 a.m. The death toll from the flights numbered about 266, according to reports, in what government officials described as the worse attack on the United States since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Within an hour, the towers in New York had completely collapsed to the ground.
Aviation officials pointed out that the fact that the flights were all heading to the West Coast was not by accident. The tanks would have been filled with several thousand gallons of gasoline, and that would have caused the large explosions.
As soon as the Pentagon was attacked, the areas around the White House became chaotic as many people began leaving the area quickly. The cars in the area were gridlocked. Emergency vehicles had their sirens blaring, as they rushed to the Pentagon.
And several persons, such as Wallicia McCaskill and Deborah Feggins, both employees at the Export/Import Bank of the United States, left their office around 10:00 a.m., walking up 14th St., N.W., in the hope of meeting up with family members at U Street, to carry them home in Maryland.
“Traffic’s so backed up, it was crazy down there,” said Ms. McCaskill, whose office is across the street from the White House.
The economy was also affected as all U.S. financial markets were closed Sept.11. Officials for the New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq Stock Market, American Stock Exchange, Chicago Board of Trade, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Chicago Board Options Exchange and Chicago Stock Exchange said they would stay closed Sept. 12.
There was a heightened monitoring of all bridges and dams. The Grand Coulee Dam and powerhouse in central Washington state locked down, tours were canceled and visitor centers remained closed. The Hoover Dam on the Nevada-Arizona line was closed, including the highway that crosses it. Security was heightened at Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
Other large corporations closed down for the day. Exxon Mobile in Fairfax sent its employees home earlier. General Motors Corp. gave 6,000 employees at its Detroit’s Renaissance Center headquarters the day off. Ford Motor Co. closed its world headquarters in Dearborn. Michigan’s Internal Revenue Service closed its 18 tax offices and sent 1,600 employees home. Sears Tower shut down in Chicago.
The 51-story IDS Center was closed in Minneapolis, as was the Mall of America in suburban Bloomington and the World Trade Center in St. Paul. Other state and federal buildings closed nationwide.
Major league baseball postponed its schedule of 15 games that night. The Second Annual Latin Grammy Awards, to be broadcast Sept. 11 was postponed. The Emmy Awards, to be broadcast live Sunday night, was postponed. Late night show host Jay Leno cancelled his program for the rest of the week.
In California, Disneyland, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Knott’s Berry Farm closed. The Museum of Tolerance and the 1,700-foot Library Tower in Los Angeles shut down. In Florida, Walt Disney World evacuated and closed its four theme parks and shopping and entertainment complex. Sea World, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens in Tampa and Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven closed early. Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell and Independence Hall were closed. Seattle’s Space Needle was evacuated and closed.
President Bush reassured the nation that the country stays strongly united despite the “acts of mass murder.”
“Our way of life…and thousands of lives were ended by evil,” President Bush said, adding that the administration will work tirelessly to bring those responsible to justice.
According to an anonymous source from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, this could be considered a “successful terrorist attack.”
“The economy was shut down, the military was destabilized, the areas were cleared of people and everyone was sent home early,” he said.
Although many have speculated that Afghanistan-based Saudi millionaire, Osama Bin Laden is responsible for the attacks, at AFRO press time Wednesday afternoon, that remained unconfirmed. Also several reports have come out that hundreds, maybe thousands, may have been killed in the attacks. That included casualties not only in the planes, but also on the ground, rescue personnel and workers in the buildings that were hit.
Farkhunda Ali, a spokesperson at the American Muslim Council, said her organization strongly condemned the plane attacks.
“American Muslims utterly condemn what are apparently vicious and cowardly acts of terrorism against innocent civilians,” said Ms. Ali in a written statement. “We join all Americans in calling for the swift apprehension and punishment of the perpetrators.”