Shock waves reverberated around the world from the suicide attacks by aircraft hijackers that flattened New York City’s signature World Trade Center and smashed a hole in the Pentagon. Many thousands are feared to have been killed in the attacks yesterday, which stunned the world, bringing condemnation from all sides and sowing confusion in financial markets. Rescue workers battled through the night after hijackers who seized four passenger aircraft flew two of them into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, and one into a wood in rural Pennsylvania.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but U.S. officials said the tightly coordinated operation bears the hallmarks of Osama bin Laden, the Saudi-born dissident now living in Afghanistan who is blamed for bombing two U.S. embassies in East Africa and other anti-American attacks. There is no evidence that’s been presented at this point to prove their assertions. A Pakistani newspaper, Khabrain, said bin Laden had denied blame. “The terrorist act,” it said, “is the action of some American group. I have nothing to do with it,” it quoted him as saying via sources close to the Taliban. The Taliban movement, which rules most of Afghanistan, said bin Laden could not have been involved. Western aid workers in Kabul began pulling out of the Afghan capital amid fears for their safety if the United States retaliates. A special U.N. flight carried some aid workers out of Kabul in the middle of the day, and United Nations said it’s considering a general withdrawal of its foreign staff from the battered country.
The Senate and U.S. House of Representatives plan to pass a bipartisan resolution condemning the terrorist strikes and promising retaliation. Lawmakers also ripped into the Central Intelligence Agency and the FBI for failing to prevent the attacks. They said efforts must be improved to detect such pending operations before they’re carried out. Senator Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, said, “War has been declared against the United States,” and said, “We ought to act accordingly.”
The capital of the United States struggled to get back on its feet today, a day after a hijacked plane slammed into the Pentagon as part of the coordinated attack. President Bush, who returned to Washington last night, said federal agencies that were shut after the attacks on the Pentagon and New York’s World Trade Center will reopen for business today amid extraordinary security measures in the capital. Local fire authorities said up to 800 people are believed to have died when an American Airlines jetliner, commandeered at Washington Dulles International Airport, crashed into a newly renovated section of the massive Pentagon. Officials said the Pentagon would reopen today despite significant damage, with some personnel moved into alternate work sites. More than 20,000 civilians and military men and women work in the Pentagon, the world’s biggest office building and home to the Defense Department. District of Columbia Mayor Anthony Williams declared a state of emergency in the city, and all the hospitals in the region were put on maximum alert. Most of the federal government shut down yesterday. National Guard military vehicles blocked some streets near the White House and heavily armed police and Secret Service agents surrounded the gate leading into the Naval Observatory, the vice-presidential residence, as well as the British embassy. Military vehicles were seen rumbling through the city’s streets. The attack forced the evacuation of the White House and the U.S. Capitol and drove top U.S. government officials, congressional leaders and Supreme Court justices into safe but secret locations. The White House reopened later in the day.
More than 300 firefighters in New York sent to the scene of the World Trade Center disaster are missing, this according to the head of the New York City Fire Department. The firefighters were among the rescuers who were in the process of evacuating people trapped inside the Twin Towers when the buildings collapsed after being hit by two hijacked airliners. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said the city’s fire department also lost its first deputy commissioner, William Feehan, the chief of the department, as well as the chief in charge of the special operations command, Raymond Downey, as well as Father Mychal Judge, a chaplain. And President Bush said yesterday, he would “make no distinction between terrorists and their hosts” in the hunt for those responsible for killing thousands in the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.