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Saturday, Feb. 4, 2006

Terrorists attack United States

By TERRY WEBER, Globe and Mail Update
Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Co-ordinated strikes level World Trade Center, damage Pentagon; condemned by world leaders

In a shocking wave of terrorism, the United States was attacked Tuesday, with two airplanes striking the World Trade Centre — levelling the landmark building's twin towers and a smaller building — while another strike left fire and smoke pouring out of the Pentagon.

There was no formal word on fatalities, but the worst was feared in what is being called the most deadly attack on American soil and in major cities, New York City and near the capital. As many as 50,000 people work at the World Trade Centre and about 30,000 at the Pentagon.

The co-ordinated terrorist attacks began about 8:45 a.m. EDT, leaving both the United States and the rest of the world reeling in shock and horror.

Some police officials speculated that thousands may have been injured or killed in the attacks on New York alone.

Addressing his nation for the second time Tuesday, U.S. President George W. Bush told reporters that the United States would "hunt down and punish" those responsible for the attacks.

"Freedom itself was attacked this morning by faceless cowards," Mr. Bush said during a brief press conference in Louisiana. "And freedom will be defended."

"I want to reassure the American people that the full resources of the federal government are working to assist local authorities to save lives and to help the victims of these attacks."

All appropriate measures, he said, have been taken and U.S. military both at home and around the world is on "high-alert" status.

Mr. Bush was set to return to the capital from the Strategic Air Command headquarters in Nebraska, and is expected to address the nation 9 p.m. EDT Tuesday.

It was unclear how many were in the building at the time of the attacks. Some witnesses reported seeing people leaping from the building, while others reported hearing people trapped in the debris. Hundreds more were aboard the downed airliners.

After 5:20 p.m. EDT, the World Trade complex's building 7, which is 47-storeys tall, also collapsed. It had been on fire and was in danger of falling.

Hospitals in New York were overwhelmed tending to the injured. Police were estimating that thousands of of people may have been injured or killed in the attack.

At an afternoon press conference, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani would not speculate on the number of fatalities, saying the final number would likely be "more than any of us can bear."

"New York has 170 hospitals, and we are utilizing all of them," Mr. Giuliani said.

Television networks from across the world aired the footage of the second aircraft hitting the World Trade Centre building, and crowds from all nations were pictured around television sets and electronic billboards. Daily newspapers put out afternoon Extra editions, including one by the Toronto Star, which headlined "America Under Attack." And Web sites stripped their pages of all content to accommodate surfers.

International leaders, from Jean Chrétien and Tony Blair to Ariel Sharon sent their condolences and pledged help.

Within hours of the initial reports, two airplanes had crashed into New York's World Trade Center — levelling both of the landmark 110-storey building's towers — while a third hit the Pentagon. A United Airlines plane also crashed outside Pittsburgh, and unconfirmed reports say it was headed toward Camp David.

American Airlines said two of its jets, carrying a total of 156 people, were lost. United Airlines said a flight from Newark to San Francisco crashed with 45 people on board and another plane from Boston to Los Angeles, crashed with 65 people on board.

"... Today we've had a national tragedy," Mr. Bush said at an earlier, 9:30 a.m. EDT, news conference after the initial attack on the World Trade Center. "Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country."

The full resources of the federal government, he said, will go to help the victims and their families. A full-scale investigation, he added, will be conducted.

"Terrorism against our nation will not stand," he said, calling for a moment of silence. "May God bless the victims, their families and America."

Those responsible for the attacks have yet to be determined.

Information about the attacks was revealed in bits and pieces. Throughout the morning, dread continued that more attacks could follow. As the day wore on, televisions showed images of throngs of people leaving central New York by foot.

In Washington, the White House and the Capitol were evacuated as a result of what the U.S. government called a credible terrorist threat.

The Federal Aviation Administration also halted all air travel in the nation. A White House spokeswoman said late in the day that the FAA has has been instructed to suspend operations — meaning U.S. jets will remain grounded until noon EDT on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, flights were being diverted to Canada. In this country, all air travel was also suspended.

The Pentagon — the centre of U.S. military operations — was struck by a plane, causing part of the building to burst into flames and a portion of it to collapse. One report quoted a spokesman as saying there were "extensive casualties and an unknown number of fatalities."

A spokesman for the Pentagon urged workers who escaped the disaster to call their families and let them know that they were safe. He couldn't say how many people did not get out of the building.

In the wake of the attacks, the United States was virtually sealed off, with border crossings between Canada and the United States being closed. Financial markets were closed and appeared unlikely to reopen Wednesday. Another report suggested that the U.S. border with Mexico was also closed.

In a scene of shock and horror, television stations around the world broadcasting shocking photos of explosion after explosion at the New York building.

By 10:32 a.m. EDT, both towers of the World Trade Center had collapsed. MSNBC reported that people were still trapped in the rubble.

As the morning progressed, television stations were forced to split their screens to also show black smoke billowing from the Pentagon.

After the initial explosions in New York, a spokeswoman confirmed to that the agency was already investigating the incident as a deliberate attack.

A senior U.S. intelligence official, insisting on anonymity, told Associated Press, "We don't know who's doing it. Clearly, it's terrorism related, a carefully co-ordinated attack. It's not the work of an unsophisticated enemy. It's too soon to say who."

Former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger said during an interview with CNN that the attacks appeared to be the result of a highly organized effort, noting that it would require "a safe haven" to formulate such a plan.

"You can't do that in a back room," he said.

The scenes in both Washington and New York were ones almost beyond belief.

In Washington, televised reports showed black smoke billowing out of the Pentagon, amid reports that a plane or helicopter had crashed into that building.

Some witnesses there reported thick black smoke and shards of metal after "something hit on the outside of the fifth corridor." Others described seeing a fire ball before the flames broke out. About 24,000 people work in the building, most of whom were reportedly outside the building following the apparent attack.

In New York, Manhattan office workers watched in horror as the north tower of the World Trade Center broke into flames. A second explosion — triggered by a plane crashing into the building — was reported in the south towers. By mid-morning, both towers had been levelled.

"As the towers collapsed, my building shook," Karina Byrne, a Canadian living in New York, told in an e-mail interview.

"You couldn't see outside. The smoke was pitch black. Papers were flying everywhere. A friend lives close to the WTC and could see people jumping off the WTC. It's chaos here. The entire financial district is covered in layers of ash."

In 1993, the World Trade Center was the subject of a terrorist bombing.

Speaking with CNN, a former NATO supreme commander said at 11:30 a.m. EDT that he feared attacks would continue throughout the day. He said a number of airplanes were still in the air, making them vulnerable to attack.

World reaction to the events was immediate.

"I was stricken by news and television pictures coming from the United States this morning," Mr. Chrétien said. "It is impossible to fully comprehend the evil that would have conjured up such a cowardly and depraved assault upon thousands of innocent people."

"There can be no cause or grievance that could ever justify such unspeakable violence. Indeed, such an attack is an assault not only on the targets but an offense against the freedom and rights of all civilized nations.

"All Canadians are praying that the brave firefighters and rescue crews who are currently on the scene will be successful in limiting the casualties. We stand ready to provide any assistance that our American friends may need at this very, very difficult hour and in the subsequent investigation."

Mr. Chrétien was at the official residence at 24 Sussex Dr. at the time of the apparent attacks in New York.

Mr. Chrétien was to travel to Halifax later in the day for a speech, but those plans were cancelled in light of the events.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police have evacuated the buildings surrounding the U.S. Embassy, located beside Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

Canada and the United States co-operate closely on anti-terrorism measures and defence officials, RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service anti-terrorism experts were convening emergency meetings in Ottawa at mid-morning.

Mr. Chrétien said in his statement that "there can be no cause or grievance that could justify such unspeakable violence. Indeed, such an attack is an assault not only on the targets but an offence against the freedom and rights of all civilized nations."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair echoed those sentiments.

"There have been the most terrible, shocking events taking place in the United States of America within the last couple of hours," Mr. Blair said.

"We can only imagine the terror and carnage there and the many, many innocent people who have lost their lives."

A Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said that a toll-free number had been set up for Canadian families to call if they have friends and relatives in New York. That number is 1-800-387-3124.

Meanwhile, OPEC Secretary-General Ali Rodriguez said the oil-exporting cartel was committed to ensuring stable oil supplies and prices after the attack.
With Reuters News Agency


Life Goes On

Voices From After the Fall, The Facts Behind the Fear, and the preview of a new Discovery documentary filmed at Ground Zero.


   (RealPlayer required)

  • Six-month Memorial for Sept. 11 - U.S. President George Bush speaks from the White House. "The terrorists will remember Sept. 11 as the day their reckoning began," he said.

  • In Canada - Relatives of Canadian victims of the World Trade Centre attacks wonder why there's no six-month memorial here at home. video reports

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