Fascinating Facts: 20 Less-known Facts Related To The 9/11 Attacks

The world looked in horror when the World Trade Center was hit by two planes collapsing the buildings and killing thousands of innocent people. It was a day that can never be erased from the memory of anyone directly or indirectly affected by it. As much as the scale of the incident is shocking there are also less-known facts related to 9/11 that move the hearts and fill us with a longing emptiness left in the wake of the tragedy.

1. Nuclear power plants were the initial targets for 9/11 attack. Al-Qaeda later decided not to pursue it for fear that things could get out of control.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

In an interview with Yosri Fouda, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the Al-Qaeda military commander, revealed that they considered targeting nuclear facilities. He was the organization’s number three according to CIA and FBI, and more important than Bin Laden himself. Their motive was to take as many lives as possible. According to Khalid, they didn’t lack any potential volunteers, or martyrs for the attack.(source)

2. Actor James Woods reported noticing four suspicious men behaving strangely one week before the incident. The flight attendant and the authorities were said to have shrugged off the matter.

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According to the actor, during his journey from Boston to Los Angeles in first class there were only four other middle-eastern looking men along with him. He felt they acted strangely as they did not eat, drink or sleep during the entire flight and were only talking in low voices. The day after the incident he told the FBI of his experience. Later his spokesperson said the actor thought it best to let them do their duty. Whether those four men really were the hijackers or not was never confirmed by the FBI.(source)

3. Betty Ann Ong, a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11, made a telephone call to the operators to report the hijacking. She managed to speak for over eight minutes and give the seat numbers of the hijackers.

Image Source: www.youtube.comwww.bettyong.org

Ong was returning to Los Angeles to visit her sister and go to Hawaii for a vacation. When the hijacking happened she was able to notify a lot of useful information to the operators. She told them that the cockpit was locked and could not be reached or contacted. She also informed that two other attendants were stabbed and that Mace, a self-defense aerosol spray, was sprayed in the business class making it hard for them to breathe.(12)

4. Ben Sliney made the call to ground 4000 planes on 9/11. It was his first day as chief of air-traffic control at FAA’s command center.

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Four planes were hijacked on the 11th of September 2001, with two of them crashing into the World Trade Center, the third into the Pentagon and fourth intended for the Capitol building. When the news came to the command center, Ben Sliney promptly took the decision to have all the 4000 planes grounded and the airborne ones to be landed in nearby airports. His role was so important that he was asked to play himself in the movie United 93 by Universal Pictures.(source)

5. $100 million worth of art was destroyed in 9/11 attacks, including the works Pablo Picasso and Auguste Rodin.

Image Sources: nationalgeographicyahoo

Among the many things that were destroyed during the attack were 21 libraries and many files and case files of the CIA, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, including all their office facilities in the buildings. Invaluable works of art belonging to both private collections and public were destroyed. Studios, photography and equipment were destroyed.(source)


6. The pilot episode of the Lone Gunmen was about a conspiracy of the US government to hijack an airline and fly it into the World Trade Center to start a profit making war. It aired March 4, 2001.

Image source: x-files.wikia.com

A spin-off of The X-Files, the show was about investigating corporate crimes and conspiracies by some of the characters. Even with good reviews the show was canceled because of low ratings. The pilot was aired on March 4, 2001, months before the actual 9/11 incident. The difference being, in the episode the arms manufacturer conspires by creating a fake terrorist and thus pushing the US to war to increase their weapon sale.(source)

7. Ahmad Shah Massoud, an Afghan political and military leader, warned of the imminent large-scale attacks on the US in his speech while addressing the European Parliament in Brussels in April 2001. He was assassinated in a suicide attack on September 9, 2001.

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Massoud was a favorite among many western governments. His efforts to bring democracy in Afghanistan and fight the Taliban’s raise to power were monumental. He was awarded “Hero of Afghan Nation” posthumously by President Hamid Karzai and September 9, the day he was assassinated, was declared a national holiday called “Massoud Day”.(source)

8. 9/11 wasn’t the first attack on World Trade Center. On February 26, 1993 the North Tower was bombed, killing six and injuring thousands, but failed to have the intended effect.

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A group of terrorists detonated a truck bomb below the North Tower with the purpose of sending it crashing into the South Tower killing tens of thousands of people. If the truck had been parked near the concrete foundations of the North Tower their plan would have succeeded. The group mailed their demands to various newspaper agencies saying that the attacks would continue if the US doesn’t stop aiding Israel and interfering with the affairs of the Middle East.(source)

9. Michael Jackson could have been a 9/11 victim. He had a meeting at WTC on that fateful day, but couldn’t attend.

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Michael Jackson was a long-time sufferer of pain and sleep deprivation because of the burns he received while filming Pepsi commercial in 1984. According to his brother, Jermaine Jackson, he was with his mother the night before and didn’t sleep until four in the morning. After that he “just slept”, luckily missing the meetings he had to attend that day.(source)

10. A month before 9/11, President George W. Bush was handed a memo titled: “Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US” saying it would be by hijacking planes, possibly targeting NYC.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons, gctelegram

According to the memo, Bin Laden wanted to attack the US since 1997 and wanted his followers to find inspiration from the previous attack in 1993 by Ramzi Yousef. Instead of fighting in Afghanistan he wanted to bring the fight to America just the way Yousef did. The memo also states that he prepares for the attacks years in advance and that millennium plotting in Canada was his first serious attempt at a terrorist strike on the US.(source)

11. There was to be an investors meeting in the Tower 1 of WTC on the day of the attack about what to do in case of a terrorist attack. They postponed it because one of the members could not come.

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Larry A. Silverstein and his consortium of investors were a few of the lucky people who were not present in the towers when the attack happened. Regardless, it caused each of them great financial loss in terms of investment, equipment and loss of premises, and there were also some who lost their entire investment in the incident. They also had to take care of customers’ claims under business interruptions, accident and worker compensations.(source)

12. Two F16 pilots flew up into the air on a suicide mission to crash into Flight 93. They had to act quick as the attacks were coming faster than they could load ammunition.

Image Sources: bangordailynews, Wikimedia Commons

By the time the third plane crashed into the Pentagon, everyone was getting ready to act and stop attacks no matter what it takes. Lt. Heather Penney and Col. Marc Sasseville were two pilots who got up on their F16 to crash into the cockpit of the fourth plane to stop it from causing further damage. They had to take that decision because it could take at least an hour to arm a plane and there was no other way to stop the plane.(source)

13. An indirect death toll of 1,595 via car accidents has been reported during the year after 9/11. Many travelers took to traveling by road for fear of dying in another plane attack.

Image Source: ubertopic

According to the German Professor Gerd Gigerenzer who specialized in risk analysis humans have an evolutionary tendency to avoid situations in which people die. This means people are more responsive to overt incidents causing fatalities than passive ones such as deaths from preventable medical conditions or accidents. He also states that when it comes to safety  the government takes a defensive stand and prefers not to be blamed for decisions people make such as driving a car instead of flying, which technically had less probability of death.(source)

14. Soon after the attack a banking firm that lost 66 employees set up a foundation to raise funds and pay for college for their employees’ children.

Sandler O’Neill & Partners was a foundation established for the sole purpose of supporting the families and the children of their employees who lost their lives in 9/11 attacks. Within a week they started the foundation and were ready to help. According to Jimmy Dunne, the Senior Managing Principal of the foundation, their efforts were an act of defiance against terror and a beginning to survive and flourish in the face of such tragedy.(source)

15. The captains, crews and civilian boat owners all came to the aid of those who were stranded on Manhattan Island. In an unprecedented act known as “9/11 Boatlift” they transported around 500, 000 to one million people off the island to safety.

And that is not all they have done. They provided water and other supplies necessary immediately after the incident as the water mains were destroyed. The act was called the “largest marine evacuation in the United States” by the Secretary of Transports.(source)

16. After 9/11 The New York Times interviewed the families and wrote articles on almost all victims under the title “Portrait of Griefs”.

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The 9/11 attack brought many valiant acts and reactions from all corners of the society. Among such wonderful acts was New York Times’ articles on all the victims that died. The articles most elegantly depict them as they were seen through the eyes of their family, friends or loved ones.(source)

17. Actor Steve Buscemi rejoined his old firehouse to volunteer after the 9/11 incident. He dug the debris for missing firefighters for twelve hour shifts for a week until the firehouse was closed.

Image Sources: thenypostpicsofcelebrities

Steve Buscemi worked as a firefighter in Little Italy section of New York. When the authorities cut down the number of uniformed personnel working at the site he also participated in the protest and was arrested. He narrated and starred in a HBO documentary A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY based on the efforts and role of the firefighters in helping after 9/11.(source)

18. Almost 19, 435 body parts were recovered along with 1.4 million tons or 110, 000 truckloads of debris removed from the site.

Image Source: publicintelligence

By the midnight of 9/11 search and rescue operations have started and Genelle Guzman was the last survivor of the 18 people rescued alive. After a few weeks of examining and analyzing the structural integrity of the building, recovery and cleaning work started. With the help of uniformed crew and volunteers the recovery was completed and debris finally cleared by the last week of June, 2002.(source)

19. During the aftermath of 9/11, Search and Rescue dogs found so few living people, that it caused them great stress because they believed they had failed. Handlers and Rescue workers had to regularly hide in the rubble in order to give the rescue dogs a successful find, and keep their spirits up.

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One of the dogs, Worf, used in 9/11 survivor search was got so depressed after only finding dead people that he lost appetite, started shedding and wouldn’t play with other dogs. The dogs were trained to find living people and are rewarded for it. Seeing so much death and destruction, and not finding anyone alive was too emotional for them. After the rescue work they were given thorough and periodic medical and psychological examinations to ensure their well-being.(source)

20. Over 400 tonnes of asbestos used in constructing the building was released as toxins in the dust cloud after the attack. Over 410, 000 people were exposed during and after the incident. There will be a significant increase in cancer cases by the year 2041 due to exposure.

Image Source: www.abc.net.au

Police officers, construction workers, debris removal crew, firefighters, truck drivers, transit workers, nearby office workers and many more groups of people were exposed to the toxic dust and asbestos. Inhaling such huge quantities causes serious lung conditions such as asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. As they take around 20 to 50 years to show any signs or symptoms there will be an expected rise in the number of cancer cases in the future.(source)


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