This attack killed 2,977 people in New York, the Pentagon and in the field of rural Pennsylvania. This unfortunate event has shaped the United States policy over the last 15 years in order to combat terrorism. However, let’s take a look at some of the elements that led up to the attack on that day. Here are 10 things that you may not know about 9/11:
1. No one knows how the hijackers got into the cockpits.
The reports published in 2004 suggest that no one could determine how these planes were hijacked in the first place. One flight attendant on American Flight 11 “speculated that they had ‘jammed their way’ in,” the 9/11 report said. “Perhaps the terrorists stabbed the flight attendants to get a cockpit key, to force one of them to open the cockpit door, or to lure the captain or first officer out of the cockpit.” Once they gained control, they guided it towards New York’s World Center towers where it struck the North Tower at 8:46am. All passengers and highjackers died (81 passengers and five highjacker and 9 crew members died.)
2. Passengers and crew provided critical information.
All those aboard the four hijacked planned used their cell phones or the aircraft radio communications to call family and friends. This alerted the authorities to the hijackings which enabled the investigators to piece together the events on board each place to determine how the hijackings occurred.
3. The planes were not filled with passengers which made it easier for the hijackers to maneuver.
American 11 (from Boston to Los Angeles) had 81 passengers on board out of a possible 158.
United 175, ( another one from Boston for Los Angeles) had 56 passengers out of a possible 168, a “load factor” of 33%, which is lower than the 49% average for that flight.
American 77, (to Los Angeles from Washington), had 58 passengers out of a capacity of 176.
United 93, (from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco), had only 37 passengers for a 20% load factor which normally has a 52% “load factor”
4. One hijacker was missing on United 93 which made it easier for passengers to storm the cockpit.
This plane was the only one that didn’t reach its intended destination which was the U.S. Capitol. The reason is because it only had four hijackers instead of 5. According to the 9/11 report, “ The operative likely intended to round out the team for this flight, Mohamed al Kahtani, had been refused entry by a suspicious immigration inspector at Florida’s Orlando International Airport in August”. As the passengers attempted to enter the cockpit, the hijacker at the controls crashed into the empty field at Shanksville, Pa.
5. The World Trade Center was targeted before.
The New York World Trade center was an iconic status for terrorists long before 9/11. Back in February 26, 1993, a bomb was planted in a van that was parked in the center’s underground parking garage which exploded, killing six people and wounding more than 1,000. The 9/11 report said, “The bombing signaled a new terrorist challenge, one whose rage and malice had no limit. Ramzi Yousef, the Sunni extremist who planted the bomb, said later that he had hoped to kill 250,000 people.”
6. Vice President Cheney ordered this plane (United 93) to be shot down.
Before the passengers raided the cockpit of this plane, forcing it to go down, the vice president, Dick Cheney gave his approval for it to be shot down before it could reach Washington. The 9/11 report said, “The Vice President authorized fighter aircraft to engage the aircraft.” It also added, “officials have maintained consistently that had the passengers not caused the United 93 to crash, the military would have prevented it from reaching Washington D.C. That conclusion is based on a version of events that we now know is incorrect.”
7. Earlier plots of terrorism also targeted commercial aircraft.
Ramzi Yousef (who planted the bomb at the World Trade Center in 1993) also planned a massive attack on 12 U.S. Airliners over the Pacific in 1995. According to the 9/11 report, Ramzi worked with his uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who later became the masterminds of 9/11.
8. The U.S. Made multiple attempts to kill Osama bin Laden before 9/11.
The CIA, plus other agencies, had a plan to capture bin Laden in 1998. However, it was thwarted by concerns from military officials about relying on Afghan tribal leaders. When the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed on October 8, 1998, President Bill Clinton authorized missile strikes against bin Laden’s compound in Afghanistan in which he survived but then was later killed by a Navy SEAL team in May of 2011.
9. President Clinton was warned by the CIA about the hijackings back in 1998.
On December 4, 1998, the CIA told Clinton that “Bin Laden was preparing to hijack US Aircraft and other attacks.” Their plan, according to the 9/11 report was to gain the release of Yousef and other terrorists.
10. Saudi Arabia had ties with the hijackers.
When the 9/11 report released in 2004, 28 pages of it remained of it remained classified. They were eventually released in July and showed multiple links to associates of Saudi Arabian Prince Bandar. The documents “show possible conduits of money from the Saudi royal family to Saudis living in the United States and two of the hijackers in San Diego. The documents also indicate substantial support to California mosques with a high degree of radical Islamist sentiment”. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia but the details contained in the released documents were not confirmed as being relevant to the 9/11 attacks.