September 11 was one of, if not the greatest tragedy in American History. For many alive today, it is the most devastating event ever experienced. Those old enough to remember the day will never forget where they were when they heard the news. Whether in school or at work, everything seemed to stop when the news broke that an airplane had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
Everyone thought it was an accident, initially, but that was until the second plane hit. It was like we were trapped in a movie. Those watching on TV had a hard time wrapping their head around the fact that this was really happening. Those on the ground, who witnessed the horrors firsthand, would never forget what Transpired on September 11, 2001.
While the country unified and triumphed in the months and years that followed 9/11, there are some chilling and iconic photos of the incident. If you were not old enough to remember or need to be reminded of how terrifying the whole thing was, here are 15 chilling photos of the aftermath.
15. Satellite Photo
This satellite image was taken around 9:30 AM as a Geological Survey satellite flew over New York City. This photo was taken about half an hour after the second plane struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Though nothing can be made out in detail from the above photo, the devastation inflicted on New York City and the country as a whole can be seen as clear as day.
At 9:30, people were still trying to make heads or tails of the situation. Kids were being pulled from school as people around the country and the world were finding out about the devastation that had occurred. This photo is almost symbolic, as you can see the smoke billowing and beginning to spread, just like the news and sorrow spread across the country on this day that will live in infamy.
14. The Devastation
While the tragedy of September 11 reverberated across the country and the world, the hardest-hit area was obviously ground zero of the attacks—New York City. In this photo, onlookers can be seen in disbelief and tears as they look on helplessly at the tragedy unfolding before their eyes.
No one in the area was unaffected by the 9/11 attacks, and this photo shows how the whole city felt. Many families had loved ones that were killed when the planes hit the World Trade Center buildings and there was nothing they could do but watch in horror. While these people may have been thankful to be out of harm’s way, there was a cloud of devastation that would not be lifted for months, if not years, after the dust had cleared.
13. Hanging On
After the plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center, the building was on fire suffocating nearly everyone inside. As the fire spread, the clouds of smoke became too thick to breathe, which led people to turn to their only source of air—the windows. All these people were thinking about was survival and there was far less of a risk on the outside than the smoke and fire within.
These are some of the people who were trying to find a way to breathe without the smoke-filled air. They can be seen hanging from the windows of the North Tower after the first plane hit. Almost no one had any idea what was going on at this point, as these people hung on to any hope they have of being rescued.
12. The Pentagon Burning
In the aftermath of American Airlines Flight 77 crashing into the Pentagon, firefighters and other emergency personnel tried to extinguish the flames and limit the destruction caused by the attack. The damage had been done and people had lost their lives despite the fact that the first rescuers did everything in their power to limit the amount of casualties in the explosion.
This photo shows the attempts of these individuals at putting out the fire raging in the building. The two planes that hit the World Trade Center buildings had done far more damage, but the Pentagon housed multiple intelligence officials. Thankfully, the amount of casualties was limited by the fact that many of the offices that were affected were vacant on the day of the attack.
11. The President Being Informed
This photo and the accompanying video clip have become staples of the September 11 terror attacks. It shows Chief of Staff Andrew Card informing President George W. Bush that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center, and that America was under attack.
At the time, President Bush was reading to a group of schoolchildren in Florida. It was a stark reminder that disaster can happen at any moment. Through the many tragedies this country has had to face, a president has never been captured on camera during a moment like this. Many people like to throw stones at Bush’s reaction when he heard the news (most frequently the conspiracy theorists), but it is impossible to tell how any of us would react if we were in his shoes.
10. Covered In Dust
When onlookers fell in a wide range of the towers, they found themselves covered in dust from head to toe. This is one of the more striking images for September 11, showing people walk through the rubble of the World Trade Center buildings. These people were complete strangers, but all experienced the same heartache and sorrow that day.
It was as if the feelings of the city were physically manifested in the dust that covered the people on the streets. It choked out the sun and made it hard to breathe, and turned one of the most progressive cities in the world upside down. Still, people pushed forward, and moved on with their lives. Even a shocking terror attack like this one would not prevent Americans from continuing on.
Some of the most chilling images from September 11 are of the people who were trapped in the World Trade Center buildings after the planes hit. Those who were on the lower levels were able to get out of the buildings, but those who were on the highest levels were all but finished. There was no way, with the amount of people that needed help, that these people would be saved, and despite their best efforts, there was no escaping their fate.
Instead of waiting for death to come for them, a lot of people chose to go out on their own terms and jumped from the building. It was truly the only way to escape the terror for people above a certain level of the buildings. Some were even seen holding hands as they jumped from the building that would soon go up in smoke.
8. Pentagon Wreckage
While most of the devastation of September 11 took place in New York City, the nation’s capital wasn’t spared either. The plane that hit the pentagon did substantial damage as 125 people were killed on initial impact with many more wounded. This picture was taken after the plane struck the building, as flames and smoke poured from inside. A few smoking and destroyed cars can be seen through the rubble.
Of course, the photos taken from New York City on the day of the attack are more striking. This image from the Pentagon makes it look like they were taken of a war-torn country, not the capital of America. It’s hard to imagine how a large passenger plane was able to strike the building, but the wreckage it left behind can be seen firsthand.
7. Running From Danger
Throughout the whole day of September 11, nobody knew what to expect. The Twin Towers were sitting with gaping holes on their sides, but no one expected them to topple straight down on top of themselves. As the towers fell, dust flew into the air and sent people sprinting for cover.
Civilians and authorities alike had to run for cover when the buildings fell, adding more chaos and confusion to an already tragic day. The collapse of the towers put a stamp on the horrific nature of 9/11 and sealed the fate for anyone hoping trapped in the buildings, hoping to be rescued. This picture looks like it was taken out of a movie, as the dust seems to be chasing people down narrow streets as they try to get themselves out of harm’s way.
6. Plane Tire
A tire from one of the hijacked planes made it through the crash and was found sticking into the ground at the base of one of the towers. It’s truly unbelievable to think of the logistics of a plane hitting one of these buildings, and photos like this give tangible evidence on how it all happened.
With only the skeleton of the buildings standing after the attack, there were even less of the planes that hit them. The impact of the crash, the fire, and the eventual collapse left virtually nothing that could be recognized. But one of the tires from the plane made it through to the ground. It’s shocking to think that all that’s left from a 737 was this one tire stuck in the ground.
5. The View From Jersey City
One of the many iconic and devastating pictures of the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks was taken from Jersey City, New Jersey four days after the towers fell on the morning of September 15. The Statue of Liberty, an icon of New York City and the country as a whole, can be seen in the forefront of the picture with the rest of the city skyline shrouded in dust and smoke.
While sad and tragic to think back on, this photo serves as an inspiring message for the country. Through all of the tragedy and turmoil of September 11 and the grieving process that followed, the country united as one. One of the monuments of freedom and liberty stood with her hand raised, symbolically showing that the country will not be broken. We will stand together and triumph through any hardship that faces us.
4. The Tragic Aftermath
There was no one in the entire country that the September 11 terror attacks did not affect. Those at ground zero of the attacks had it worse than anyone, as the debris and dust rained down on them for hours and days after the planes hit and the buildings toppled.
These three men, who probably just came from work, were now reduced to being merely virtual refugees in their own city. None of these men could have predicted that something so terrible would ever happen right in front of them. This photo also shows three different reactions to the event. While this picture only captured a moment, the man in the front seems disgusted and shaken, the man in the middle appears scared, and the one in the back, defiant.
3. Pure Shock
This is a photo of Lt. William Roberts of Ladder 113, one of the first firefighters on the scene the day of the attacks. Here, he can be seen staring up at the sky in disbelief after the first tower collapsed on itself. Everyone in the country felt this way when the towers fell, and one can only imagine how these firefighters felt watching the tragic incident unfold right before their eyes.
These individuals were some of the heroes of the day, saving lives and doing what they could to try to put an end to this terrible tragedy. The symbolism of one of the men tasked with assisting the wounded looking up helplessly is striking, especially with a burning fire truck in the background of the photo.
2. Apocalyptic Scenery
This view of a portion of the devastation caused by the September 11 attacks looks like it was taken out straight from an apocalyptic movie. For many, it was as if the world had ended that day. Water can be seen running through the streets, as cars sit idly in the spots they had been placed before the attack. The cars, which had been running only hours before, are now completely covered in dust and ash, looking as though they’ve been abandoned for a lifetime.
This was what a significant portion of New York City looked like only a decade and a half ago. A shot that seems like it’s taken right out of a movie of a dystopian future was the reality for New Yorkers for months to come.
1. A Glimpse Of The Destruction
This photo was taken on September 17, six days after the events that would change the country forever. This is only a portion of the destruction caused by the destruction of the World Trade Center buildings and shows some of the rubble with the damage caused to the surrounding buildings.
While this is only a portion of the massive debris field that covered the area, it shows the small piles to which these giant buildings were reduced. Rescue teams were still searching the area for possible survivors at this time, as people were trapped beneath the rubble when the buildings came down. Unfortunately, many of them were never saved due to the sheer amount of rubble in the way.