(Gary Hershorn / Reuters)
What Happened on 9/11?
Explain the September 11 terrorist attacks to kids with these informative questions and answers.
By Natalie Smith
What happened that day?
On September 11, 2001, terrorists attacked the Unites States. They hijacked four airplanes in mid-flight. The terrorists flew two of the planes into two skyscrapers at the World Trade Center in New York City. The impact caused the buildings to catch fire and collapse. Another plane destroyed part of the Pentagon (the U.S. military headquarters) in Arlington, Virginia. The fourth plane crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Officials believe that the terrorists on that plane intended to destroy either the White House or the U.S. Capitol. Passengers on the plane fought the terrorists and prevented them from reaching their goal. In all, nearly 3,000 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks.
Who attacked us?
A total of 19 terrorists hijacked the four planes on 9/11. All of the men were from nations in the Middle East. They belonged to a terrorist group called Al Qaeda (ahl KAY-dah), led by Osama bin Laden. Al Qaeda practices an extreme version of the religion of Islam. The group is intensely opposed to the United States and other Western, democratic nations. They are especially against the military presence of these countries in Arab nations. Since the group’s creation by bin Laden in the late 1980s, Al Qaeda has helped coordinate and fund numerous bombings worldwide.
How did America respond to 9/11?
In October 2001, the U.S. and its allies invaded Afghanistan, where Al Qaeda was based. The extreme Islamic group that ran Afghanistan's government, known as the Taliban, was protecting Bin Laden and allowing Al Qaeda to run training camps in the country. U.S.-led forces soon brought down the Taliban. They are are still working to help rebuild and stabilize the nation. Since 2001, many Al Qaeda members have been captured or killed. On May 1, 2011, U.S. troops killed Bin Laden where he was hiding in Pakistan.
The U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. Then President George W. Bush and other U.S. leaders believed that the country’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, was hiding terrible weapons that could be given to terrorists. Hussein was captured and later put to death by an Iraqi court. No weapons of mass destruction were found.
How did America change after 9/11?
Following 9/11, the U.S. government took many steps to try to make the country safer. It tightened security at airports and in public buildings. A new cabinet-level department—the Department of Homeland Security—was created. It works to protect the United States from terrorism.
On the morning of 11 September 2001, 19 hijackers took control of four commercial passenger jets flying out of airports on the east coast of the United States.
Two of the aircraft were deliberately flown into the main two towers (the Twin Towers) of the World Trade Center in New York, with a third hitting the Pentagon in Virginia.
The fourth plane never reached its intended target, crashing in Pennsylvania. It is believed that the passengers and crew overpowered the hijackers and took control of the plane.
The Twin Towers were widely considered to be symbols of America's power and influence. The Pentagon is the headquarters of the US Department of Defense.
Both 110-floor World Trade Center towers subsequently collapsed and substantial damage was caused to one wing of the Pentagon. Numerous other buildings at the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan were destroyed or badly damaged.
The total loss of life on 9/11 was nearly 3,000, including the 19 hijackers. It was the worst loss of life due to a terrorist incident on US soil.
The days that followed saw a significant effect on world economic markets and international confidence.
Suspicion falls on al-Qaeda
Suspicion soon fell on the radical Sunni Islamist group, al-Qaeda ('The Base' in Arabic) founded in 1988 and led by Saudi-born Osama Bin Laden.
There was good reason for this. Although difficult to confirm, it is thought al-Qaeda's involvement in world terrorism can be traced back to 1993, with the first World Trade Center bombing.
Over the next 8 years, al-Qaeda were implicated in a series of major attacks on US forces: the shooting down of two American Black Hawk helicopters in Somalia in October 1993, the killing of 19 Americans in a bombing at a military housing complex in Saudi Arabia in 1996, the bombing of US embassies in Dar Es Salaam and Nairobi in 1998, with the loss of 223 lives, and the suicide attack on the USS Cole in 2000, which killed 17 servicemen and wounded 39.
In 1996 Bin Laden called for his followers to "launch a guerrilla war against American forces and expel the infidels from the Arabian Peninsula"
Soon after the 1998 embassy bombings, The Federal Bureau of Investigation placed Bin Laden on their Ten Most Wanted list, offering a reward of $25million for his capture.
A new kind of enemy
On the night of 11 September, with al-Qaeda widely believed to have conducted the attacks, President George W Bush described the events of that day as "evil, despicable acts of terror" and said the US was "at war with a new and different kind of enemy". The attack was denounced by governments worldwide.
In October 2001, attacks were launched on Afghanistan by western coalition forces in conjunction with the anti-Taliban Afghan Northern Alliance