September 11th, 2001 Attacks

September 11th, 2001 Attacks

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Updated Sep 11, 2014 at 04:07PM EDT by Brad.

Added Sep 11, 2011 at 05:50AM EDT by Teddy Shark.

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Editor’s Note: This entry contains graphic images and videos.


September 11th, 2001 Attacks refers to the three suicide plane attacks against the World Trade Center twin towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia and the fourth plane that crashed into the fields near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.


On September 11th, 2001, four airliners, including two Boeing 757s and two Boeing 767s, were taken control of by 19 hijackers. Two planes left Boston’s Logan Airport and subsequently crashed into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center early that morning. One plane left Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia and crashed into the Pentagon. Another plane left Newark International Airport in New Jersey and crashed into the ground near Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers revolted. Within hours of the crash of two planes into the World Trade Center buildings, both North and South towers completely collapsed at 9:59 a.m. and 10:28 a.m. respectively, ultimate resulting in the death of 2,996 people, including 2,977 victims and 19 hijackers.


News Media Coverage

Media coverage was intense during the attacks and aftermath, beginning moments after the first crash into the World Trade Center. CNN was the first channel to break the news of the attacks, with anchor Carol Lin entering into the middle of a commercial at 8:49 a.m. (ET):

All day, non-stop live coverage, alternating among New York, the Washington area, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, was offered by most major U.S. news organizations. On September 12th, 2001, images of the 9/11 attacks were printed on the front pages of 145 news publications across 19 countries. The Internet Archive[21] established a library of television news coverage of the September 11th attacks.

Viral Media

As the real-time coverage of the events continued throughout the week, images from the Ground Zero captured by both amateur photographers and photojournalists became prominently featured in the news media throughout the world. On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, National Geographic highlighted 25 photographs in a gallery post titled “25 Indelible Pictures,” which included (from top left; clockwise): Spencer Platt’s Moment of Impact, Suzanne Plunkett’s Running for Their Lives, Richard Drew’s “Falling Man”, John Labriola’s 9/11 Firefighter and Alex Fuchs’ Ground Zero (AFP) among others.

In addition to news photographs and videos, some photoshopped images also began circulating in the forum communities, most notably the 9/11 Tourist Guy and the folded $20 bill hoax.



The same day the September 11th attacks took place, numerous photoshopped images and videos sampling the footage of the attacks surfaced in a large thread on the Something Awful Forums.[17] On the following day, a thread featuring various of September 11th-related jokes were posted on Usenet group alt.tasteless.jokes.[12] In November of 2001, the entertainment blog Ooze[18] published a compilation of jokes titled “Pentagon Disaster Jokes”, relating to the attacks on The Pentagon in Washington D.C. In June 2002, English professor Bill Ellis published two research papers titled “A Model for Collecting and Interpreting World Trade Center Disaster Jokes”[19] and “The Role of Humor in Constructing a Global Response to Disaster,”[20] both of which addressed the phenomenon of 9/11-related jokes.

9/11 Humor

Several comedians and commentators came under fire after making remarks or jokes that were considered too insensitive or too soon after the events of September 11th, 2001. The pundit Bill Maher was reprimanded by his network sponsors and the White House after making a remark about the U.S. bombing tactics:

“We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it’s not cowardly.”

Comedian Gilbert Gottfreid was also booed when he remarked at a Friar’s Club roast on September 17th:

“I’m flying back to L. A. tomorrow. I wanted a direct flight, but apparently they have to make a stop at the Empire State Building.”

On September 12th, 2010, Newgrounds user Kevin uploaded a flash game titled “9/11 Simulator”[16], in which the player assumes the control of a commercial airliner that must avoid missiles in order to crash into the twin towers.

On the anniversary of the September 11th attacks in 2012, the 4chan archive site Chanarchive featured several threads related to the September 11th attacks, including what games were being played on 9/11[13], the best and worst 9/11 memes[14] and “Happy American deserved it day”[15] threads.

Conspiracy Theories

Videos associated with the 9/11 film series Loose Change began circulating on April 13th, 2005, when the first edition was made available on the Internet. On November 27th, 2006, a video titled “911 Loose Change (full-length)” was uploaded to YouTube by user sdlhsn. The video had received over 6.3 million views by before being removed from YouTube for copyright claims by NBC Universal. On February 2nd, 2012, an updated version was uploaded by YouTuber lilesvend666.

According to an August 2006 article on Vanity Fair[2], Loose Change was one of the most popular web videos of 2006:

For the past three months, 20,000 people a day have been clicking on to the official Loose Change Web site,; more than 50,000 have placed orders for the DVD since its release. (“But we’re not really making any money,” says Rowe, “because we gave away like 100,000 copies for free.”) Millions more have been downloading the film from a growing number of unaffiliated sites.

Two most viewed September 11th videos on YouTube are conspiracy-related. On April 3rd, 2007, YouTuber NuffRespect uploaded a video titled “9/11: Total Proof That Bombs Were Planted In The Buildings!”, claiming the towers were intentionally demolished. On May 1st, YouTuber nwodetox uploaded a video titled “Strange things in 911 footage – look closely” (shown below), which shows one of the planes turning black during its approach on the twin towers. The NuffRespect video received over 23 million views prior to its removal and the nwodetox video has received over 38 million views as of September 11th, 2012.

Osama bin Laden

Since the confirmation of Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda’s involvement in the September 11th attacks, at least 35 video tapes carrying bin Laden’s announcements were broadcast across major U.S. networks and worldwide. Having been a both political and fundamental religious figure who maintained a level of presence through videotapes broadcast to millions of viewers , Osama bin Laden made himself a prticularly easy target for mockeries online and parodies in pop culture. For more on the Western media portrayal of Osama bin Laden and conspiracy hoax, read KYM Blog – Restrospect: Osama bin Laden in the Media.

On May 1st, 2011, President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden, which triggered a record-setting flood of conversations and reactions in the mainstream media as well as on the web. For more on the online media events following the confirmation of bin Laden’s death in May 2011, read KYMdb – Osama bin Laden’s Death.

“Never Forget”

The phrase Never Forget became the most common slogan associated with the attacks, often referring specfically to the World Trade Center attack in New York City. According to NY Mag[3], it first was used in relation to the Holocaust during World War 2:

“Never forget” long ago entered the lexicon, in relation to the Holocaust. It has now been reassigned to 9/11, where it is likely to remain. It has become a mantra and a marketing tool for politicians and merchandise alike.

“We Will Rebuild”

We Will Rebuild is another common slogan which became closely associated with the commemoration of 9/11, though on the Internet, it has since been used as a sarcastic reaction to a natural or man-made disaster with little to no casualties and minor damages in the aftermath. It is similar to, and is often used interchangeably with the sarcastic use of never forget.

Torres Gemelas

“Torres Gemelas” (“Twin Towers” in Spanish) is a viral music video starring Ecuadorian singer Delfin Quishpe, who wrote and performed the song as a lament for his girlfriend and thousands of victims that lost their lives to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Despite the tragic nature and sincere tone of the song’s lyrics, the music video became a hit mostly because of its ill-suited techno music and low-budget, kitschy green-screen aesthetics.

Search Interest

Search query volume for various keywords related to the September 11th attacks have seen progressively smaller spikes during the month of September each year since 2004, until the 10-year anniversary where it reached its highest recorded peak.

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