Looking Back on September 11

Engineering and insurance investigators are still looking back on September 11. Find out more below.


9/11 - A Slideshow From The CBS Documentary
CBS.com features a slideshow of images from a documentary of footage shot inside the towers by two French filmmakers on the morning of September 11.

Six Months: Rebuilding Our City, Rebuilding Ourselves
WNYC - March 4-8, 2001
Local public radio station WNYC has created a section of their site devoted to rebuilding six months after September 11. Their site accompanies a week-long radio series focusing on different topics concerning the rebuilding.

Six Months After
Newsday - March 10, 2001
A recap of the last six months, with a focus on the victims' families, psychological stress on New Yorkers, and memorials of September 11.

A History Of Crisis And Recovery
Gotham Gazette - October 1, 2001
In the very first week after the attack, the mayor looked to history for comfort and instruction in how New Yorkers could respond. The historical event he focused on was the blitz of London during World War II. But, as New Yorkers can discover in hundreds of history-related events starting this week, there is comfort and instruction as well in the long series of crises and recoveries that make up the history of New York City.

Two Views Of The Twin Towers
Gotham Gazette - October 15, 2001
As New Yorkers debate whether to replicate the World Trade Center, few have asked why the complex was built in the first place. Was it both the symbol and reality of global finance, as economist Rosemary Scanlon argues? Or was it just an elaborate scheme to bail out mid-century downtown business interests, as Robert Fitch maintains?

More Resources

Federal Emergency Management Agency Report on the World Trade Center Collapse (PDF format)
The federal government has released the results of their initial investigation into why the towers collapsed on September 11.

Nova Online: Why The Towers Fell
Nova, the popular science TV series on PBS, recently focused an entire episode on the collapse of the towers. See the website they created to accompany that episode.

The September 11 Archive
This site has assembled an archive of websites that chronicled September 11 as it happened.

Television Archive
Run by the same organization as the September 11 Archive, this is an amazing archive of television news broadcasts around the world preserved for viewing online.

BBC News: How The World Trade Center Fell
An interactive depiction of how the Twin Towers collapsed on September 11

News Stories

A Year Later, City is Still On Edge - Sep 1, 2002
A year after terrorists brought down the World Trade Center, most New Yorkers are coping uneasily with the aftermath of the debacle. Most are determined to carry on normally. But a striking majority - 72% - believe another terrorist attack is very or somewhat likely. (New York Daily News)

Covering the Terror, Again - Aug 25, 2002
Media coverage of the September 11 one-year anniversary will dwarf that of previous remembrances for the Oklahoma City bombing, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. (Newsday)

Remembering Sept. 11 in a Personal Way, or Maybe Ignoring It - Aug 8, 2002
The Times asked 20 New Yorkers how they plan to observe the anniversary of Sept. 11, and got at least 10 different answers. While some plan to stay at home and remember Sept. 11 with their familes, others said they had had more than enough remembrance of Sept. 11 already. (New York Times)

Sept. 11 to Be Marked With Music and Tributes - Aug 7, 2002
New York City will be transformed into a state of perpetual commemoration on Sept. 11, with readings, concerts and odes to the dead, tributes that in many cases grew out of ideas from people around the world. The business of the city of New York will not cease, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said yesterday, in detailing the city's plans to mark the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks. Rather, it will yield to various events in all five boroughs, beginning with a march into ground zero led by bagpipers and including a visit from President Bush and a reading of the names of every person who died in the World Trade Center attack. (New York Times)

Schedule for the Ceremony - Aug 7, 2002
A full schedule for the Sept. 11 commemoration, beginning with five bagpipe processions in each of the five boroughs. (Newsday)

Some Prefer to Mourn Privately - Aug 7, 2002
With the city's plans for the anniversary tribute finalized, hundreds of Sept. 11 victims' relatives are facing a new decision: whether to take part in the ceremony at the World Trade Center site or grieve in private. (New York Post)

9/11 Exposed Deadly Flaws in Rescue Plan - Jul 7, 2002
After months of grief, both the Fire and Police Departments are approaching the end of delicate internal reviews of their responses to the attack. Those reviews have concluded that major changes are needed in how the agencies go about their work and prepare for the next disaster, senior officials say. A six-month examination by the New York Times found that the rescuers' ability to save themselves and others was hobbled by technical difficulties, a history of tribal feuding and management lapses that have been part of the emergency response culture in New York City and other regions for years. (New York Times)

Commencement Speeches Throughout City And Country Evoke September 11 - Jun 2, 2002
Nearly everyone who worked the commencement speech circuit this spring talked about Sept. 11, whether it was the horror of that morning and its aftermath, or the lessons learned by both the nation's government and its citizens. Included with this article are excerpts from various commencement speeches delivered at schools throughout the country in recent weeks, many of them touching on September 11. (New York Times)

Times Square Emerges From Post-September 11 Winter - Jun 2, 2002
"While a few have moved away and others refuse to come, the city of humankind goes on nearly as before, and the lights of Times Square still burn like an electric timber fire. The greatest concentrate of humanity carries on," writes Charlie LeDuff in an article about Times Square after September 11. With the spring weather returning to the city, LeDuff applauds those who continue to visit and revel in Times Square. (New York Times)

Fighting to Live as the Towers Died - May 26, 2002
The New York Times traces the last 102 minutes of the victims within the World Trade Center in a comprehensive investigative piece. The minute-by-minute account includes recounts some of the harrowing stories of those who were able to escape and the final moments, heard through phone calls and answering machine messages, of those who did not survive. (New York Times)

City Council Hearing Reveals Role of Technology In Recovering From September 11 - May 7, 2002
A City Council hearing about technology and the lessons learned from September 11 revealed how computer systems and satellite mapping were integral to the recovery after September 11. Among the notable mentions: a database system to catalog a library's worth of information about possible victims; a satellite mapping system used to catalog where human remains and other debris were scattered at Ground Zero; a computer system for families to report missing family members; and a late night raid that salvaged computers critical to restoring trading on the New York Stock Exchange. (New York Times)

Federal Officials Propose More Comprehensive Investigation Of Collapse of Twin Towers - May 2, 2002
Federal officials proposed today an expansive new effort to determine exactly why the towers fell and how other buildings might be protected. The proposed investigation, which would begin with taking in more data from the scene of the collapse and use sophisticated computer analysis for a more detailed look at the collapse, would be led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Maryland, a federal agency with long experience in studying building disasters. (New York Times)

Relatives of Victims Criticize Government Investigation of September 11 - May 1, 2002
Victims' relatives and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn) will be at a news conference today to criticize a report detailing the federal government's investigation of September 11. "Many families don't have confidence in the ... report because of how sloppy the investigation was at the outset," Weiner said. (New York Daily News)

A Census of the September 11 Victims Released By Department Of Health - Apr 19, 2002
The New York City Department of Health has released a census of the September 11 victims. It is the first detailed look at the age, gender, and national origins of the 2,617 who are officially counted as having died on that day. (Several hundred more are still classified as missing). Forty-three percent of the dead were from New York City, with Manhattan accounting for the greatest number, followed by Brooklyn and then Queens. One out of five was a foreign-born resident living in the city, with the toll from Latin America exceeding that of more populous countries like Russia and Italy. (New York Times)

Dispatchers Still Haunted by the Voices of Sept. 11 - Apr 17, 2002
Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly recognized 192 police communications workers yesterday for the vital service they provided on Sept. 11. Many recounted their troubling stories. In many cases, their voices were the last voices the victims heard. There were more than 3,000 calls within the first 18 minutes; more than 57,000 calls in the 24 hours after the first plane hit at 8:46 a.m. It was the single busiest day ever for the dispatchers, with nearly twice the average number of calls logged. (New York Times)

Towers' Collapse Raises New Doubts About Fire Tests - Apr 8, 2002
The fiery collapse of three World Trade Center skyscrapers has led scientists, engineers and building officials to question the century-old practice of relying on fire tests conducted in low-tech furnaces to determine if building materials will survive out-of-control blazes. (New York Times)

Museum of Television & Radio To Focus On September 11 - Apr 2, 2002
The Museum of Television & Radio will spotlight September 11 and its aftermath for its third annual Television Documentary Festival, unspooling May 1-19 in New York, Variety reports. The festival will open May 1 with a panel discussion, to be headed by "60 Minutes" producer Don Hewitt, that will debate moral responsibility in capturing 9/11-related images. Other participants for the session, titled "To Testify or to Sanitize: Portraying 9-11," include filmmaker Jon Alpert and HBO original programming executive Lisa Heller. (Reuters)

First Federal Assessment Of Twin Tower Collapse Cites "Spray-Applied Fireproofing" And Other Flaws Common To Modern Skyscrapers - Apr 2, 2002
The first federal assessment of the trade center disaste has made clear that there may have been no reasonable precautions that could have stopped the towers from collapsing once they were struck and huge fires broke out. "Spray-applied fireproofing may be vulnerable to damage from blasts and impacts," says a draft of the FEMA report, adding that failure of support structures protected with this fireproofing "is likely critical to the ultimate building failure." (New York Times)

Towers Withstood Impact, but Fell to Fire, Report Says - Mar 29, 2002
A draft of a study by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Society of Civil Engineers shows that the towers survived the initial impacts of the planes, but eventually collapsed due to the effect of the fire and heat on the steel support structures. Under normal circumstances, fire suppression systems are designed to allow a high-rise blaze to burn itself out before the building collapses. But the report concludes that there were across-the-board failures in the towers' fire suppression systems. (New York Times)

As Jets Get Bigger, No Towers Will Be Able To Withstand Future Attacks - Mar 14, 2002
Speaking at a talk at the New-York Historical Society, the chief structural engineer for the trade center project said last night that as commercial jets grow larger, faster and carry ever-greater amounts of fuel, no skyscraper can be built to withstand a terrorist attack of the kind that destroyed the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, "We have to conclude, we cannot fail to conclude, that it's not practical to design buildings as we know them -- buildings that we'd want to live and work in -- to resist the impact of these jet aircraft," said the engineer, Leslie E. Robertson. (New York Times)

World Trade Center Stamp To Be Unveiled - Mar 10, 2002
The U.S. Postal Service will unveil a special World Trade Center memorial stamp on Monday at a White House ceremony marking six months since the terrorist attacks on America. The special stamp will be worth 34 cents in postage but will cost 45 cents. The extra 11 cents will go to a fund set up by the Federal Emergency Management Administration to aid families of perished World Trade Center rescue workers. (New York Daily News)

Congressional Hearing Shows Problems With Disaster Investigation - Mar 7, 2002
A lack of clear authority and poor cooperation among government agencies has hampered engineering studies of the World Trade Center collapses, a congressional committee was told yesterday. Investigators complained of lack of access to the site and difficulties acquiring blueprints of the buildings that collapsed. Furthermore, no single agency stepped forward to perform a comprehensive collapse investigation until just last month. (Newsday)

Congress To Hold Hearings on World Trade Center Collapse - Mar 5, 2002
Questions about the engineering probe of the collapses will be the subject of a hearing tomorrow in Washington before the House Science Committee, chaired by Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, an upstate Republican. The probe's leader, engineer Gene Corley, is to testify, as are officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Institute for Standards and Technology. John Jay College professor Glenn Corbett said he will ask for backing of research into the evacuation and emergency response and argue for a formalized federal disaster probe process. (Newsday)

Diesel Fuel Fire Led To Collapse of 7 WTC - Mar 2, 2002
Investigators believe a fire fed by diesel fuel stored in 7 World Trade Center may have led to the building's collapse, according to a published report. The fire, which was ignited by falling debris from the burning twin towers, raged for about seven hours before the 47-story building collapsed on Sept. 11. According to a preliminary report, the fire may have caused a group of steel beams that supported the skyscraper _ called "transfer trusses" _ to fail. (Associated Press)

Families Group Asks CBS To Postpone September 11 Video - Mar 1, 2002
Bergen County Prosecutor William H. Schmidt, writing on behalf of families of September 11 victims, has asked CBS to postpone a March 10 documentary featuring exclusive videotape shot inside the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. Schmidt suggested that CBS wait at least six more months before showing "9/11," because it could be upsetting to family and friends of those lost in the terrorist attacks. He did not threaten to take any legal action in a bid to stop the broadcast. (Newsday)

First Tower To Fall Was Hit At Higher Speed, Study Finds - Feb 23, 2002
Researchers trying to explain why the World Trade Center's south tower fell first, though struck second, are focusing on new calculations showing that the passenger jet that hit the south tower had been flying as fast as 586 miles an hour, about 100 miles an hour faster than the other hijacked plane. (New York Times)

Police Hire Firm To Study September 11 Response - Feb 22, 2002
The Police Department has hired a high-powered business consulting firm to analyze its response to the World Trade Center attack and is seeking $700 million in federal funds to pay for anti-terrorism equipment. McKinsey & Co., which says it helps two-thirds of the companies on the Fortune 1,000 improve operations, will analyze the police response to the Sept. 11 attack, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said yesterday after a City Council hearing on anti-terrorism tactics. Kelly said the consulting firm will interview officers and supervisors who were at the scene, looking at "a whole myriad of things." (Newsday)

Experts Still Probing Why Towers Fell - Feb 2, 2002
Engineers and other experts have been struggling to answer the monumental questions of exactly why and how the Twin Towers, designed to sustain a jet impact, completely collapsed. Much of the effort is focused on trying to find steel that was at or above the floors rammed by the hijacked jets. The towers collapsed from the top down and the fires were concentrated in these areas, so the presumption is that the answer to why they fell down should be found by examining the steel from these spots. Perhaps the deepest mystery uncovered in the investigation involves extremely thin bits of steel collected from the trade towers and from 7 World Trade Center, a 47-story high rise that also collapsed for unknown reasons. The steel apparently melted away, but no fire in any of the buildings was believed to be hot enough to melt steel outright. (New York Times)

Before the Towers Fell, Fire Dept. Fought Chaos - Jan 30, 2002
The Fire Department's most senior commanders have provided new and, in some cases, alarming revelations about the events of Sept. 11 in an internal inquiry. They said they had little reliable radio communication that morning, could not keep track of all the firefighters who entered the towers, and were unable to reach them as the threat of a collapse became unmistakable. Although they feared that the buildings were doomed, they could not bring their troops back in time. One chief estimated that at the moment the north tower fell, nearly every civilian below the floors directly hit by the airplane had already evacuated, and that only firefighters remained inside. (New York Times)

Facts Find Sept. 11 Myths Misleading - Jan 16, 2002
The common myth of a nicer, more unified America since the September 11 attacks apparently does not match up statistical reality. While Laura Bush has touted a drop in divorces and an increase in marriages since September 11, the available numbers tell the opposite story, with marriages down in Reno, Nevada (the marriage capital of the country) and divorces up. Also, while Americans cite the increased role of religion in their lives, church attendance has not increased since the attacks. And military enlistment has not, contrary to Colin Powell's belief, increased in the last few months. Analysts cite the pre-existing economic downturn as the most likely cause for these numbers rather than the attacks themselves. (Associated Press)

Expert: WTC Probe Underfunded - Jan 11, 2002
The engineering investigation into the Twin Towers' collapse is woefully underfunded, a former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said yesterday. James Lee Witt, who led FEMA in the Clinton administration, said in an interview that the $100,000 the federal government allocated so far for the probe is far from enough. "It wouldn't even make a dent," Witt said. "We [the United States] have some of the best engineers and architects. If they have the funding, they can show how the collapses happened and why." (Newsday)

Insurers: WTC Collapse Was One Event - Jan 10, 2002
A lawyer for Travelers Indemnity Co. told a federal court Wednesday that one hijacked airliner could have felled both the World Trade Center towers because they shared a six-story basement. After a plane hit the first tower on Sept. 11, it "may well have rendered the second building unusable even in the absence of a second airplane," attorney Harvey Kurzweil argued at the hearing. (Associated Press)

Expert: Impact Would Have Brought WTC Down - Jan 8, 2002
Richard Gewain, a member of the federally designated panel of engineers investigating the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, said yesterday that the impact of the two hijacked planes was so great that the buildings could have collapsed even without the ensuing fire. Gewain's view is in opposition to that of other fire experts, who have questioned whether the towers were adequately fireproofed. The panel, formed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Society of Civil Engineers, is investigating a wide range of theories. (Newsday)

History Is Impatient to Embrace Sept. 11 - Nov 18, 2001
Museums and other institutions are considering how to collect and preserve the countless artifacts and images that documented the events of September 11. Some museums and galleries are already presenting exhibitions about the tragedy. For example, "New York September 11 by Magnum Photographers," which will open Tuesday at the New-York Historical Society, is the first of at least six exhibitions on the events of that day planned by the society. But not everyone believes that an immediate response is necessarily best. The Museum of the City of New York, for example, is not planning an exhibition directly connected to September 11 until it moves from its current Fifth Avenue location to the Tweed Courthouse near City Hall in 2004.