Iconic images from the September 11 attacks and their aftermath

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

FRANCE 24 looks back at some of the most iconic images to emerge from the September 11 terrorist attacks and their aftermath, 20 years on.

Two planes hit the World Trade Center

American Airlines Flight 11 was hijacked by five al Qaeda terrorists led by Mohamed Atta and was deliberately crashed into the North Tower (on the right) of the World Trade Center at 8:46am local time.

Another five al Qaeda hijackers then flew United Airlines Flight 175 into the South Tower – with its impact creating the fireball seen on the left – at 9:30am.

Crew and passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 successfully resisted a similar hijacking attempt and the plane was forced to crash into a field in rural Pennsylvania at 10:03am.

In total, the September 11 attacks claimed the lives of 2,977 people, in addition to the deaths of the 19 hijackers.

Falling man

The photo of a man either falling from an escape attempt or jumping to escape a slower death at the top of the smouldering, crumbling North Tower is one of the most extraordinary images of 9/11.

Ahead of the 20th anniversary, AP photographer Richard Drew, who took the falling man photo, told CBS News: “I didn't take the picture. The camera took the picture of the falling man. And when these people were falling, I would then put my finger on the trigger of the camera and I'd hold the camera up, and I'd photograph and follow them going down, and then the camera would open and close and take the pictures as they were going down. I have, I think, eight or nine frames of this gentleman falling, and the camera just happened to cycle in that time when he was completely vertical. I didn't see that picture really until I got back to the office and then started looking at my stuff on my laptop.”

Attack on the Pentagon

Five al Qaeda hijackers flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the west side of the Pentagon housing the US Department of Defense in Arlington, Virginia, at 9:37am. The plane penetrated three of the Pentagon's five rings, killing more than 100 people inside the building as well as everyone onboard the flight.

Giuliani and Clinton at Ground Zero

New York City's Republican mayor at the time, Rudy Giuliani – photographed here leading Republican governor George Pataki and Democratic New York senator Hillary Clinton on a visit to Ground Zero – was hailed for the leadership he displayed as the city reeled from the attacks. “Tomorrow, New York is going to be here," he said. "And we’re going to rebuild, and we're going to be stronger than we were before [...] I want the people of New York to be an example to the rest of the country, and the rest of the world, that terrorism can’t stop us.”

Giuliani was nicknamed “America’s Mayor” in the aftermath of 9/11 and was Time magazine’s Person of the Year in 2001.

Covered in dust

Debris from the collapse of the Twin Towers – including more than 2,500 contaminants – blanketed Lower Manhattan. The toxic dust is estimated to have made more than 18,000 people ill since 9/11.

Firefighters, police, doctors, paramedics and other emergency workers rushed to the World Trade Center as soon as the first plane hit. It is still the deadliest single event for emergency services in US history, with 441 first responders dying in their efforts to save lives.

View from space

A view from NASA's Landsat 7 satellite shows smoke billowing up above New York City in the aftermath of the destruction of the Twin Towers.

Rubble smoulders

The South Tower crashed to the ground at 9:59am after fire ripped through it for 56 minutes. The North Tower collapsed at 10:28am after burning for 102 minutes. Debris from the collapsing North Tower hit the nearby, smaller 7 World Trade Center building, starting fires that eventually caused the building also to collapse.

Ruins of the towers

As well as sending toxic dust throughout Lower Manhattan, the collapse of the three buildings left hundreds of thousands of tons of debris at the site. Workers transported the ruins from Ground Zero to the Fresh Kills Landfill site in Staten Island in a colossal cleanup operation that lasted until May 2002.

Tribute in Light

This installation of 88 searchlights projected into the sky in two blue columns representing the Twin Towers started as a temporary act of remembrance in 2002 – but has now become an annual event to mark the anniversary.

The beams of light can be seen throughout New York City and in most of the suburbs of Long Island and northern New Jersey on clear nights.

Freedom Tower

The first cornerstone of this replacement for the Twin Towers, officially known as One World Trade Center, was set down in July 2004 – and the skyscraper opened in November 2014 when magazine publisher Condé Nast moved in as the first tenant.

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum stands at the south of the tower at the exact spot where the Twin Towers once stood.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting