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Shocked and in sheer disbelief, many New Yorkers simply stood in the street and watched the World Trade Center towers smolder.Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images
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A distant view of the burning towers as seen from Brooklyn. Neville Elder's photographs of downtown Manhattan on 9/11 were published around the world. He returned to the same spots 10 years later to capture New York City as it was in 2011. Neville Elder/Corbis via Getty Images
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New York Daily News staff photographer David Handschuh is carried to safety after his leg was shattered by falling debris while photographing the attack.Todd Maisel/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images
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Countless people were covered in ash and forced to inhale smoke while the area around the World Trade Center was being evacuated.Mario Tama/Getty Images
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A man standing on the hood of a car screams out for a missing friend as the World Trade Center's towers collapse.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
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President George W. Bush learns of the attacks while sitting in front of a class of children at a school event in Florida.PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
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New Yorkers gather in the street and watch the World Trade Center go up in flames.Spencer Platt/Getty Images
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An unidentified NYFD firefighter walks away from Ground Zero after the towers collapse.Anthony Correia/Getty Images
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Mike Scott from California Task Force-8 and his dog, Billy, search through WTC rubble for living or dead victims of the attack.Andrea Booher/FEMA/Getty Images
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One of the many trapped victims opting to leap to their death rather than be consumed by the intense heat and fire of the burning buildings.Jose Jimenez/Primera Hora/Getty Images
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Horrified onlookers stare in disbelief at the WTC inferno as smoke and ash fill the air.Mario Tama/Getty Images
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A sobbing woman reacts in horror as she looks up at the World Trade Center.Spencer Platt/Getty Images
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A firefighter emerging from the debris-filled smoke that was once the World Trade Center.U.S. Navy Photo by Jim Watson/Getty Images
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A NYFD firefighter calls for 10 more rescue workers to make their way into the rubble.U.S. Navy Photo by Jim Watson/Getty Images
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People run away from the World Trade Center as the second tower comes crashing down into its footprint, sending waves of debris down the streets.Jose Jimenez/Primera Hora/Getty Images
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The enormous amount of wreckage produced by the the three collapsed buildings, as seen through a broken office window.ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images
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A solitary fire fighter standing amidst rubble and smoke from fires still burning days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Mai/Mai/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images
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A New York firefighter gazes at the rubble of one of the towers just after the collapse.Wikimedia Commons
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Members of the U.S. Coast Guard watch the towers in the wake of the attacks.U.S. Coast Guard
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Retired Fire Chief Joseph Curry screams his orders to the rescue teams as they wade through the debris that was once the World Trade Center.U.S. Navy Photo by Jim Watson/Getty Images
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President George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld assess the damage at the Pentagon the day after 9/11.David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images
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Injured people, covered in ash and debris, evacuate the World Trade Center area after the south tower collapsed.Thomas Nilsson/Getty Images
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Civilians escape downtown Manhattan after one of the two towers collapses.Spencer Platt/Getty Images
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A shocked survivor is brought to his knees after witnessing the horrors of the attacks in which nearly 3,000 people died in under two hours.Jose Jimenez/Primera Hora/Getty Images
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Smoke emanates from the Pentagon after the attack.Alex Wong/Getty Images
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A man falls to his death from the World Trade Center. Many chose to jump instead of facing the fires within. Jose Jimenez/Primera Hora/Getty Images
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The entrance to the World Financial Center just after the attacks. It would be buried by 110 stories crashing down minutes later.Mai/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images
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A view from a distance of the Pentagon after the plane struck its southwestern side.Alex Wong/Getty Images
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At 8:46 a.m. on September 11, 2001, terrorists flew the first plane into the World Trade Center.Wikimedia
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It took the 110-floor Twin Towers 56 and 102 minutes to collapse from the resulting structural damage.Wikimedia
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After the attacks, it took more than eight months to clear the wreckage from the World Trade Center, with the last rubble removed in May 2002.Wikimedia
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The view of south Manhattan from Brooklyn after both World Trade Center towers collapsed.Wikimedia
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The toxic dust that surged from the buildings has created long-term health issues for survivors and responders, including elevated incidences of cancer and decreased lung functionality.Wikimedia
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Firefighters search through the rubble for survivors in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.Getty Images
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Firefighters paid a tremendous price for their bravery in response to the attack, with hundreds dying during rescue efforts.Getty Images
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A German Shepherd, part of the Urban Search and Rescue Task Force, works to uncover survivors at the site of the collapsed World Trade Center. Nearly 100 dogs were a part of the search and rescue effort.Wikimedia
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The plume from the September 11th attacks in New York as photographed from space by NASA.Wikimedia
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A United States Geological Survey map captures the size of the plume from the attacks.Wikimedia
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A woman flees from the collapsing towers.New York Magazine
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A person jumps from smoke and flames at the World Trade Center.Robert Giroux/Getty Images
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Workers emerge from the dust of the rubble around the World Trade Center complex.James Nachtwey
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A woman searches for her friend who worked at the World Trade Center.Getty Images
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Rescuers pull out the body of Father Mychal Judge, the Chaplain for the New York Fire Department.James Nachtwey
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A firefighter breaks down after the World Trade Center buildings collapsed.Mario Tama/Getty Images
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All told, the economic damage from the September 11th terrorist attacks totaled more than $3 trillion.Twitter
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The attacks of September 11, 2001, were the deadliest foreign attack on American soil since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.Twitter
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In addition to 343 firefighters, 72 law enforcement officers and 55 military personnel also died during the attacks.Getty Images
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A firefighter searches through the wreckage.Getty Images
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September 11th caused the U.S. stock market to remain closed until September 17th.Wikimedia
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Firefighters put out a fire in the aftermath of the attacks.TIME
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A man holds a sign with his blood type while in line to donate blood in downtown New York.James Nachtwey
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For three days following 9/11, no civilian flights flew to or from the United States.TIME
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Hundreds of thousands of tons of toxic debris spread across Manhattan due to the Twin Towers' collapse, which has been linked to illnesses in more than 18,000 New York City residents.Wikimedia
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A rescue worker rests next to a car turned upside down. Photographer James Nachtwey described the worker as having "eyes were rimmed in black, and he had a thousand-yard stare."James Nachtwey
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A firefighter looks at the remains of the South Tower.Wikimedia
9/11 Pictures That Reveal The Tragedy Of America’s Darkest Day
On September 11, 2001, the United States experienced the worst assault ever carried out on American soil and the deadliest terrorist attack in world history.
In the span of just 102 minutes, both of New York's World Trade Center towers collapsed after planes hijacked by Al Qaeda operatives crashed into them. According to CNN, the attacks in downtown Manhattan that Tuesday in September left 2,753 people dead. That number rose to 2,977 with the assaults on the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and the plane that went down outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Thousands more were left injured, trillions of dollars of damage was done, and America would never be the same. The War on Terror would soon begin and the whole world eventually felt the effects of the fallen towers.
BETH A. KEISER/AFP/Getty ImagesFire and rescue workers search through the rubble of the World Trade Center's collapsed towers two days after the attacks.
It all started with those tragic 102 minutes on that clear, late summer morning in New York. Revisit that tragedy with the arresting 9/11 pictures above, which represent the wide spectrum of horror, heartbreak, confusion, and courage of that traumatic day.
The Devastating Terror Attacks Of September 11, 2001
Even after seeing the most powerful 9/11 pictures, the true scope of the chaos is difficult to convey.
It all began at 8:46 a.m. when American Airlines Flight 11 — hijacked by five Al Qaeda operatives on its way from Boston to Los Angeles — crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. At the time, people weren't sure whether this was an accident made by an amateur pilot or due to some sort of malfunction, but that confusion would soon cease.
A CBS News segment showing the south tower being hit on live television.
As the North Tower's crash site smoldered and smoke wafted across the sky, the world's media kept its cameras trained firmly on the buildings. Then, at 9:03 a.m., United Airlines Flight 175 — also traveling from Boston to Los Angeles — crashed into the South Tower. By this point, it was clear that New York City was under attack. By whom, or why, would remain a question for some time.
"Boom! Boom! Just like that. The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now ― with somebody ― and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives. It will be a Religious War, a sort of Christian Jihad, fueled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides. It will be guerilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines and no identifiable enemy."
American Airlines Flight 77 traveling from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m., tearing a massive hole into the side of the building. Just 22 minutes later, the unimaginable happened back in New York City: In around 10 seconds, the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed into its footprint — reducing 110 stories to rubble forever.
A live report by Eyewitness News ABC7NY as the Twin Towers begin to collapse.
United Airlines Flight 93, meanwhile, crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania a few minutes later. The San Francisco-bound flight had been hijacked by four Al Qaeda terrorists after departing Newark, New Jersey.
The damage had already been staggering, but things were about to get even scarier. At 10:28 a.m., the North Tower collapsed. Tower 7, said to be plagued by such intense fires that it gave out and buckled, collapsed at 5.21 p.m.
As the 9/11 pictures above clearly show, it was the deadliest day in American history.
The Aftermath Of The Attacks And The 9/11 Pictures That Remain
President George W. Bush learned of the attacks while attending a reading at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. He addressed the nation on live television that night, stating that the government "will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them." The seeds for the War on Terror had been planted.
Three days later, Bush stood among the rubble as well as New York's firefighters and first responders, assuring them that the nearly 3,000 victims of the 9/11 attacks would not be forgotten:
"I can hear you! I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!"
Soon, the U.S. would begin launching its strikes against terrorist groups and other suspected enemies around the world, with Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, and other countries eventually facing American military action. It's unknown for certain how many people have died in the ongoing war that has spanned 2001 to the present, but one 2018 study from Brown University put the death toll as high as 507,000, with 244,000 of them civilian.
Meanwhile, the economic impact of 9/11 was astonishing. While the estimated cost of planning and executing the attacks themselves was around half a million dollars — cleanup and response costs were far greater, with $123 billion the estimated losses during just the first month post-9/11.
Jose Jimenez/Primera Hora/Getty ImagesFirst responders run away from the smoke, debris, and ash shooting down Manhattan's streets after the buildings' collapse.
The World Trade Center site suffered $60 billion in damage on September 11 while a $40 billion anti-terrorism package was approved by Congress on September 14. Nearly $10 billion in insurance claims stemming from the attacks were filed.
In terms of Ground Zero and the actual cleanup there, the work didn't end until May 30, 2002. It cost $750 million to remove 1.8 million tons of debris — and 3.1 million hours of labor to do so. In the end, untold scores of haunting 9/11 artifacts were retrieved from the rubble.
The total cost of the attacks is estimated to be more than $3 trillion.
"Never before in our history has America asked so much over such a sustained period of an all-volunteer force. So I can say without fear of contradiction or being accused of exaggeration, the 9/11 generation ranks among the greatest our nation has ever produced, and it was born — it was born — it was born right here on 9/11."
But no figures can truly capture the size of the tragedy. Perhaps the images of the towers that fell and the people who were there to bear witness can begin to convey the horror. Witness the historic devastation for yourself in the gallery of 9/11 pictures above.
A staff writer for All That’s Interesting, Marco Margaritoff has also published work at outlets including People, VICE, and Complex, covering everything from film to finance to technology. He holds dual bachelor's degrees from Pace University and a master's degree from New York University.