"This is pure, unadulterated evil."; "There was fire and smoke everywhere. It was surreal."; The terrorists flew on devil's wings in a horrifying moment, singular in history. They changed the course of a presidency, a nation, and, quite likely, the world
On one sun-splashed September morning, the country in a sense was remade. The skyline of New York, an icon of American prowess, was forever changed, and downscaled. The twin towers of the World Trade Center are now consigned to postcard memories in a shockingly short amount of time. And among the thousands of victims were scores of firefighters and rescue workers whose very job was to try to bring about small miracles. But there were only horrors. Even a fire department chaplain, a Roman Catholic priest, was killed while he administered last rites to another victim.
Amid all the devastation, though, there was hope. The nation erupted with patriotism. Flag sales soared. By the tens of thousands, people stood out at 7 p.m. on Friday to light a candle and show the world the nation would not be cowed.
The president was told of the attack in Florida, where he was promoting an education initiative at an elementary school. He was shaking hands in a receiving line. When the first plane struck the World Trade Center, aides thought it might have been an accident. They hastily plugged in a TV. "We watched the second plane hit the building and we told the president," one top aide tells U.S. News. Bush spoke with Cheney and FBI Director Robert Mueller. After those calls, Bush turned to his aides and said: "We're at war."
Four California-bound jetliners were hijacked and steered back toward their targets.
[Map is not available.]
American Airlines 11
Departs Boston 7:59 a.m.
Veers off course 8:29 a.m.
Crashes World Trade Center 8:46 a.m.
United Airlines 93
Departs Newark 8:01 a.m.
Veers off course 9:37 a.m.
Crashes Shanksville 10:10 a.m.
United Airlines 175
Departs Boston 7:58 a.m.
Veers off course 8:47 a.m.
Crashes World Trade Center 9:03 a.m.
American Airlines 77
Departs Boston 8:10 a.m.
Veers off course 9:00 a.m.
Crashes Pentagon 9:40 a.m.
[Map labels] Boston; World Trade Center; Newark; Shanksville; Dulles; Pentagon
Source: Flight Explorer (flight paths)
Words wrapped within words
It's too early to know for sure, but some security experts suspect that the U.S. intelligence community might have been tricked by terrorists through the age-old practice of steganography--hiding information within information. In ancient Greece, messengers tattooed information on their foreheads, then grew their hair back to hide the images. They shaved their heads again only when they reached the intended recipient.
Today, Osama bin Laden has reportedly used steganographic software--versions are freely available on the Internet--to communicate with his terrorist cells, planting hidden messages for them on bulletin boards and Web sites.
With Edward T. Pound, David E. Kaplan, Doug S. Pasternak, Chitra Ragavan, Linda Robinson, Angie Cannon, Rick Newman, Mark Mazzetti, Bruce B. Auster, Kevin J. Whitelaw, Gloria Borger, Michael Tackett, Rochelle Sharpe, Ricardo Castillo and Juli Cragg Hilliard