September 11 2001 Photo Essay

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Thick smoke rises over the New York City skyline after the World Trade Center towers were downed by terrorists on September 11, 2001.

Nineteen men hijacked four passenger planes that day in an attack orchestrated by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Two of the planes were intentionally crashed into the two World Trade Center towers. The fourth crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. In this image taken from video, American Airlines Flight 11 is seen seconds before crashing into the north tower of the World Trade Center at a.m. It was the first plane that hit the World Trade Center.

Flight 11 took off from Boston and was scheduled to fly to Los Angeles.

The steel seemed to have melted around the impact zone and it reflected the sunlight, giving the edges a quicksilver sheen, like an overwrought special effect.

Despite the horror of the scene, there was an assumption that the worst had already occurred; few people thought that the towers would actually come down.After all, they had been bombed before in 1993, and though six people had died and thousands were injured, the Twin Towers still stood.Subways were shut down and taxis proved impossible to find, so I made my way down Broadway against a sea of people evacuating uptown.It should not be forgotten that September 11 began as a beautiful blue-sky day.Primary elections were being held throughout the city, and as people were lining up to vote at polling places or dropping their children off at school, suddenly they stopped and turned their heads toward a rumble in the sky. The pilot of the first hijacked airplane, Mohammed Atta, was flying American Airlines Flight 11 low and loud down the length of Manhattan with the lives of 92 passengers in his hands, above stores, churches, and finally past the Washington Square Arch as he aimed for the heart of the Twin Towers.New York City's "Tribute In Light," a memorial to the victims of the 9/11 attacks, shines from One World Trade into the sky over Manhattan on Monday, September 10, as they are tested for ceremonies marking the 11th anniversary. I was sleeping late after a long weekend of work, when my girlfriend heard the roar of its engines approaching.She shook me and we both saw its silver underbelly pass by the window of my fifth-floor walkup in Greenwich Village.On the streets people stood frozen in mid-commute, gathered at street corners, talking to strangers or on their cell phones, gazing at the blazing scars cut into the sides of the Twin Towers.I passed a kindergarten playground opposite a firehouse where children were still playing as their teachers looked over their shoulders at the buildings burning in the distance.We assumed it was going to crash, but the plane seemed strangely in control to be flying so low.We waited for impact, heard a faint sound, and then saw the beginning of the black smoke curl above the trees, beyond the church steeple of Our Lady of Pompeii.

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