Another morning in the Big Apple, the city that almost decides the economy of more than half of the world, New York City was going as usual on Tuesday, September 11 (9/11), 2001. 

But 19 members of the terrorist group al-Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden, had other plans; to hijack four airplanes and carry out suicide attacks against the marked, significant targets inside the United States.

The targets included the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon just outside Washington DC, and the fourth one none less than the White House, the abode of the POTUS.

The world has since known the names of all 19 of them, led by Mohamed Atta of Egypt, aged 33. Of the 19 men, most were from Saudi Arabia, while two were from UAE and one from Lebanon.

Here is a look at the events that unfolded on 9/11 seventeen years ago.

Hijackings and attacks

Hitting the North Tower

Mohamed Atta and his partners, Abdulaziz al-Omari, Wail al-Shehri, Waleed al-Shehri, and Satam al-Suqami, took control of the American Airlines Flight 11 and crashed it into the North Tower at 08:46:30 at a speed of approximately 748 km/h with 38,000 litres of jet fuel on board.

They hit the target between the 93rd and 99th floors of the North Tower.

Hitting the South Tower

Just a few minutes later, at 9:03:02, Fayez Banihammad and Mohand al-Shehri took charge of United Airlines Flight 175 while Hamza al-Ghamdi and Ahmed al-Ghamdi started moving passengers and crew to the back of the aircraft. United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center at a speed of approximately 950 km/h with 38,000 liters of jet fuel on board.

They hit between floors 77 and 85.  

It took less than two hours for both the 110-storey towers to collapse.

Hitting the Pentagon

Hani Hanjour, along with Khalid al-Mihdhar, Majed Moqed, and Salem al-Hazmi took control of American Airlines Flight 77 towards the Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, the symbol of the US military might.

They crashed into the west side of the Pentagon around 9:45 am. The impact resulted in structural collapse of a portion of the building.

Attack on White House foiled

At 09:28 am, Ziad Jarrah led the hijacking of United Airlines Flight 93, joined by Ahmed al-Haznawi, Ahmed al-Nami, and Saeed al-Ghamdi. Their target was The White House. But the passengers fought the hijackers, and the plane crashed into an empty field in Stonycreek, Pennsylvania at 10:03:09.

Casualties and damage

According to official estimates, the attacks killed 2,996 people with over 6,000 being reported injured. About $10 billion worth of infrastructure and property were damaged. A significant number of people died of attack related cancer and respiratory diseases in the following months and years.

Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda

The reaction, or rather say the retaliation from the United States, was prompt as the administration responded by launching the War on Terror in October 2001 by invading Afghanistan. The purpose was to overthrow the taliban, which was believed to be providing safe haven to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his terror group.

Osama bin Laden had initially denied any involvement in the attacks but in a 2004 admission he claimed responsibility for the attacks. He evaded capture for years but was hunted down by the US Navy SEALs on May 2, 2011 as part of Operation Neptune Spear.

Even seven years after his death and 17 years following 9/11, the war is still on and there are no clear winners, yet.