A group of men hijacked two planes and flew them into the World Trade Center, a pair of skyscrapers in downtown Manhattan (New York City). After several enormous explosions, both buildings collapsed, killing almost 3,000 people. On that same day, two additional planes were hijacked by members of the same group. One was flown into the Pentagon in Washington, DC, killing 125 people, while the other crashed in a field in Pennsylvania killing all on board. Though it was never proven, that last plane was thought to be on its way to the White House or the Capitol.
People throughout the United States were shocked by these attacks on American soil. They came together, asking how this could have happened and what it meant. In New York City people consoled and supported each other. They set up impromptu memorials to remember the victims, including some that called for peace and no war. People from other parts of the country, including children and young people, sent cards and gifts, and some came to the city to help out.
It was a difficult time for Muslims and Arab-Americans, because the men who carried out the attacks were Arabs and Muslims (most of them citizens of Saudi Arabia) who said they were waging a holy war against the United States. As a result, some people took out their anger on Muslims and Arab-Americans who had nothing to do with the attacks: some children were teased or harassed in school; some Muslims and Arab-Americans were threatened; in Texas three Muslims were killed. Political leaders, including then President George W. Bush, cautioned that 9/11 should not be an excuse for discriminating against anybody.
The site where the Twin Towers came down has been known as Ground Zero ever since. It has become a place for people to go and honor and remember those who were killed that day.
The September 11th attacks changed the course of history. They led to other events that affect our lives today. Airport security has been tightened. Congress passed laws aimed at preventing further acts of terrorism, which critics say have infringed on our civil liberties. And as a result of 9/11 the United States initiated two wars - in Afghanistan and Iraq - in which hundreds of thousands have died.