On Tuesday September 11th, 2001, four hijacked commercial airplanes, each carrying between 45 and 130 people, were involved in a major attack.

The first airplane, American Airlines flight 11, crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center twin towers at 8:45 am EDT. With many people watching this, another airplane flew into the second tower 18 minutes later. Thirty minute to an hour later, the top of one of the towers fell straight down, destroying the tower in a very contained way (definitely better than having it fall over sideways). The same thing happens to the other one shortly after. Later in the day, another building, #7 World Trade Center, collapsed after evacuation. A witness who was driving towards the scene said that the smoke changed within seconds from a dark grey to white, and the local radio then started reporting on the collapse.

Fortunately, an unknown number of people were able to escape from nearly everywhere in both towers - i've heard reports of people getting out of the 88th floor of Tower 1. Many people in the lower floors were probably able to escape safely. Although it was right after rush hour, and the offices were probably busy, things didn't happen as fast as it looked on TV, so the number of potential victims is reduced.

The towers were designed to withstand an airplane crash, but I believe that when the airplanes went into the A car bomb went off in front of the State Department, previously thought to be merely a rumor.

towers, they created fires and explosions that eventually left the tops standing on supports that could no longer hold them, causing them to fall off. No matter how well they was designed, they couldn't take 20-50 stories falling through it. It is very lucky though that the airplanes did not hit lower down and cause at least the upper two thirds of each tower to fall sideways.

Another American Airlines airplane crashed into the Pentagon an hour after the beginning of the attack. One part of the Pentagon collapsed later."with a chasm 200-300 feet across and fires on six stories". The airplane hit the south-west side near the heliport. The section that was hit had just been renovated and had new blast-resistant windows, which is thought to have saved some people. The Pentagon asked personel to call 1-877-663-6772 to be accounted for. There are now five confirmed crashes - a "Camp David" crash that you may have heard about is actually the Pittsburgh crash (80 miles south of Pittsburgh to be more specific), which occured near Camp David.

CBC had an interview with a former American Airlines pilot, who describes what may have happened and some new facts: for one, there were probably no firearms on the airplanes. The terrorists all used pocket knives that anyone might be carrying, and therefore could get them through security easily - they even probably wouldn't be confiscated if they were found. The flight attendants attempt to analyze passengers as they board to find potential troublemakers, and the pilots do so to a smaller extent. Since all the flights took off, the terrorists must have passed off as completely normal passengers. They would need three to five people to take control of each airplane: they would need to secure the cockpit and front galley, and the rear galley. Both can page each other, so they had to do this simultaneously and stealthily. In theory, this means that with the minimum of three people, they could have one pilot, one person securing the cockpit, and one person securing the rear galley. All airplanes were Boeing 767 and 757s, which are very similar - the terrorists could even have gone to Boeing flight school to learn them, and a terrorist who knew how to fly one could fly any other similar Boeing aircraft. This means they didn't have to bring special pilots - if they trained every person to fly Boeing aircraft, they could work with as little as one uninterupted person in each airplane.

They also had to navigate from the hijacking point to NYC, but that could easily be done by telling the pilots to go to John F Kennedy airport in New York (the pilots would probably comply with this request to avoid the terrorists taking more drastic action) - they wouldn't have to take control until they neared the airport, at which point they would be able to see the World Trade Center. This ex-AA pilot also said that once in the air, the airplanes would be as easy to drive as a car. The terrorist pilot would of course have to know the basic principles of flight, but other than that they didn't need a lot of training. Therefore, they needed three things: to get their weapons past security (a group of people well trained in martial arts might even be able to do something like this without weapons), either get the pilots to fly to NYC or have someone who can navigate, and then have someone who knows the basic principles of flight to aim at the target.

The airplanes involved were American Airlines flight 11, with 81 passengers and 11 crew members, Unite Airlines flight 93, which crashed near Pittsburg (rumored to be an intentional destruction by the pilot to avoid hitting the intended target), United Airlines flight 175, with 56 passengers and nine crew members, is said to have been the second airplane involved in the WTC destruction, and American Airlines flight 77, a Boeing 757 with 51 passengers and 6 crew members which hit the Pentagon. Three more airplanes are currently unaccounted for.

An emergency dispatcher recieved a cell phone call from a passenger on UA flight 93, who said they were being hijacked and they were going down. They lost contact after hearing an explosion. The hijacking is thought to have been carried out by four terrorists on each airplane, who would likely have had to replace the pilots or have their people already at the controls to be able to hit their targets. The FAA reported losing track of several airplanes, but regained control later.

A Korean airliner was escorted to Whitehorse in the Yukon by Canadian and American fighters after suspicion that it had been hijacked, but it is now reported that a low fuel indication triggered an emergency beacon, leading to the suspicions.

A car bomb went off in front of the State Department, previously thought to be merely a rumor.

So far, over 300 firemen and 85 policemen are reported missing from the site of the world trade center. Up to 800 people vere killed at the Pentagon (this may or may not include the airplane).

Three men were stopped in New Jersey late in the evening and are being held for questioning. Reports of them carrying explosives are false. There are also reports of South Florida police ready to serve search warrants.

George W Bush, who was in Florida, said "Freedom itself was attacked" and "the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts", speaking to the public for the second time since the attack. He will be staying away from the White House until the situation calms down. Sky News describes him as "Clearly shaken as the full extent of the tragedy sank in".

Possibly all airports in North America are being closed, and all flights are supposed to land as soon as possible. Early after the attack, many international flights were being diverted to Canada, where airports were overloaded and being evacuated. However, 22 international flights will be permitted to land in the US. All police officers in New York were called in, and the army, navy and air force bases were put on Threatcon Delta..Border security is being tightened. In NATO bases in Europe, staff were put on alert, and all NATO staff in Brussels except the essential personel were sent home. There are evacuations in New York and Washington, including all government agencies, and many other parts of America, as well as some parts of Toronto. There were also other evacuations in major cities around thw world. There is a no-fly zone over New York and Washington, with the US Air Force patroling it.

Five battleships and two aircraft carriers were deployed on the East Coast, with two aircraft carriers going to New York. All bridges and tunnels were closed. FEMA takes unpsecified action.

Stock markets in the US are closed, and in worldwide trading the prices of gold and oil are said to have increased - according to CBC, something that happens in disasters like this.

Governments and officials around the world are denouncing this attack, and there have been several reports of people claiming responsibility, but none that can be taken seriously yet - there have been many denials however.

Sources: slashdot, MSNBC, CNN, CBC, e2, Ananova and more.