President Barack Obama will deliver remarks at a Pentagon ceremony Sunday marking the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed in New York City, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon during terrorist attacks carried out by al-Qaida, a Muslim militant group founded by Osama bin Laden.
One hundred and eighty-four people perished at the Pentagon when an American Airlines jetliner slammed into the five-sided building in Arlington, Va.
Bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan during a May 2011 raid authorized by Obama.
September 11th Commemoration Ceremony, Sept. 11, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET
Tribute in Light, Sept. 11, 3 p.m. - 11:59 p.m. ET
INTERACTIVE: Tour of 9/11 Memorial Museum
Sept. 11 Q&A: How America sees terrorism 15 years after the 9/11 attacks
By Rick Jervis, USA TODAY
What happened on September 11, 2001?
Nineteen men hijacked four fuel-laden U.S. commercial airplanes and crashed them into each tower of New York City’s World Trade Center complex, the Pentagon building in Washington and a field in Shanksville, Pa.
How many people died? Were injured?
The attacks caused a total of 2,996 deaths, making it the deadliest foreign attack ever on U.S. soil. It surpassed the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, which claimed 2,403 American lives. More than 6,000 others were injured in the 9/11 attacks.
Who was behind the attacks, and why? The terrorist group Al-Qaeda coordinated and took credit for the attacks. An earlier declaration of holy war against the United States by Al-Qaeda’s leader, Osama bin Laden, was seen as the main motivator for the hijackers. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia and the rest originated from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon. Some had lived in Europe and were able to assimilate in the USA.
What was the World Trade Center? What was it used for before 9/11?
The World Trade Center was a complex of seven buildings in Lower Manhattan used mostly as office and commercial space. At the time of their completion in the early 1970s, the landmark twin towers, standing at about 1,300 feet, were the tallest buildings in the world.
Were the 9/11 attacks the first time the World Trade Center was targeted?
No. In 1993, terrorists detonated a truck bomb in the underground garage beneath the World Trade Center complex. The explosion tore a hole seven stories up, killed six people and injured more than 1,000. But the towers remained standing. The FBI later arrested several Islamic terrorists responsible for the bombing.
Was America caught completely off guard by the 9/11 attacks, or was there intelligence suggesting an attack was coming?
There were several incidents leading up to the 9/11 attacks that hinted at a larger attack coming, including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole while harbored in Yemen. The CIA had even tracked some of the 9/11 hijackers into the United States as potential threats, but authorities never acted on that information.
PHOTOS: Flight 93 National Memorial
How did the hijackers commandeer those planes? And how did the passengers aboard the flight that crashed in Shanksville, Pa., overpower them? Where was that plane headed?
The hijackers entered the cockpit of all four planes and killed or subdued the crew using box cutters and other rudimentary tools. Passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 revolted against the hijackers and managed to get into the cockpit before the hijackers drove the plane into the ground, killing everyone onboard. The plane was headed to Washington D.C., where its likely target was either the White House or Capitol Building.
Less than a month after the attacks, the U.S. and its allies invaded Afghanistan. Why?
Al Qaeda, sheltered by the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist political movement that dominated Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, quickly took credit for the 9/11 attacks. Then-PresidentGeorge W. Bush, with backing from Congress, ordered a full military invasion of Afghanistan to disrupt al-Qaeda and drive the Taliban out of power.
How did that lead America into war with Iraq? What was the role of “weapons of mass destruction?”
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration alleged ties between al-Qaeda operatives and Iraq’s intelligence services. Bush officials also said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, specifically mobile biological weapons labs. None were ever found following the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
How long did it take to find Osama bin Laden?
It took U.S. authorities nearly 10 years to track down and kill bin Laden, considered the architect of the 9/11 attacks, despite a $25 million bounty on his head. On May 2, 2011, a team of Navy SEALS raided his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, killing bin Laden and several of his bodyguards.
PHOTOS: National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial
What’s at the site of the World Trade Center now? The Pentagon? Shanksville?
The World Trade Center site is now home to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum and the 1,776-foot-tall One World Trade Center. Other skyscrapers and buildings are planned for the site. At the Pentagon, there's an outdoor memorial at the site where American Airlines Flight 77 struck the building, and, inside, there's a memorial honoring victims of the attack. In Shanksville, Pa., a memorial embedded into an open field honors the passengers who brought down the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93.
How has America changed since the 9/11 attacks?
The attacks greatly increased government focus on terrorism, not just in the U.S. but around the world. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security was created to coordinate efforts between security agencies, airports beefed up passenger screenings, and cooperation and intelligence gathering between nations sharply increased. “We now see terrorism as a top responsibility of presidents and our political leaders in a way we didn’t before 9/11,” said Daniel Byman, a national security professor at Georgetown University and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Could a similar attack occur in America today?
Not impossible, but not likely. The improved intelligence sharing between U.S. security services and between nations, increased attention to terrorist groups and, most importantly, increased cooperation from U.S. Muslim communities make it much harder to pull off a terrorist attack of that scale, Byman said. In the 15 years since the 9/11 attacks, 94 people have died in jihadist terrorist attacks on U.S. soil -- far less than those killed by car accidents, heart disease or accidental gun discharges. “All those things that led [the 9/11 attacks] to succeed would be much harder to do today,” he said.
Sources: The 9/11 Commission Report, Global Terrorism Database, Stastistic Brain, 9/11memorial.org, USA TODAY research
WATCH: 9/11 Memorial webcam
Flag firefighters raised at ground zero returns to site
The Associated Press
An American flag that firefighters hoisted at ground zero in the hours after the 9/11 terror attacks returned to the World Trade Center site after disappearing for more than a decade.
The 3-foot-by-5-foot flag went on display Thursday at the Sept. 11 museum in New York.
It was the centerpiece of a photo that became a defining image of patriotic perseverance. The image shows three firefighters raising the flag over the rubble.
The flag was turned in two years ago by an as-yet-unidentified man at a firehouse in Everett, Wash.
Painstaking tests and examinations indicated it was indeed the same Star Spangled Banner.
The History Channel will air a documentary about the flag's recovery on Sunday, the 15th anniversary of the attacks.
9/11 museum to open first art exhibit
By Michael Burke, USA TODAY
To recognize the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum is unveiling its first-ever art exhibit.
"Rendering the Unthinkable: Artists Respond to 9/11" opens Sept. 12. The exhibit features paintings, sculptures, videos and more from 13 New York City-based artists who were impacted by the attacks. Each piece of art displays the artist’s reaction to the attacks.
One artist lost a brother in the attacks, while some lost friends and others personally witnessed the attacks as they unfolded.
"Through the lens of art, we reflect on the raw emotion we all felt on that unforgettable Tuesday morning 15 years ago," 9/11 Memorial Museum Director Alice Greenwald said in a statement. "Artists, like all of us, struggled to comprehend the unfathomable destruction and loss of innocent life. They responded the way they knew best – through their art."
One artist, Manju Shandler, painted a series of roughly 3,000 paintings, with one painting for each of the victims in the attack.
Two other artists, Doug and Mike Starn, used sheets of paper from the World Trade Center that wind carried to their studio following the attacks for their artwork. They superimposed decaying leaves onto the sheets of paper.
Colleen Mulrenan McFarlane — whose father, James Mulrenan, was a deputy fire chief of the New York City Fire Department on Sept. 11 — captured video of her father returning home after working three days straight at Ground Zero. The piece focuses on Colleen washing her father’s shirt, and includes a soundtrack with exchanges based on James’ radio transmissions at the site of the attack.
World Trade performing arts center design to be unveiled
The Associated Press
Officials say Barbra Streisand will serve as board chair of a planned performing arts center at the World Trade Center.
The announcement was made Thursday at a design-unveiling for the long-stalled project.
The center will be shaped like a cube and made out of translucent marble. It will have three theaters with moveable walls that could be reconfigured for works of dance, opera, music and theater. It also will be home to the Tribeca Film Festival.
The center will be called the Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center and is scheduled to open in early 2020. The billionaire businessman donated $75 million for the $250 million project in June.
It has undergone numerous changes and delays since it was first included as part of the site's 2003 master plan.
Talking your children about 9/11
It is not easy task explaining the events of the 9/11 terror attacks to your children.
9/11memorial.org has provided a guide featuring tips for navigating the conversation for those needing help.