Editor's Note: This entry contains graphic images and videos.
The September 11th, 2001 Attacks refer 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. Since 2001, the 9/11 attacks have been a major world event with far-reaching impacts, generating heated debates, memes and other viral discussions online over the years across most platforms and sites.
On September 11th, 2001, four commercial 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 the North and South towers completely collapsed at 9:59 a.m. and 10:28 a.m., ultimately 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 established a library of television news coverage of the September 11th attacks.
As the real-time coverage of the events continued throughout the week, images from 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.
On September 12th, 2010, Newgrounds user Kevin uploaded a flash game titled "9/11 Simulator", 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, the best and worst 9/11 memes and "Happy American deserved it day" threads.
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. On the following day, a thread featuring various September 11th-related jokes was posted on Usenet group alt.tasteless.jokes. In November of 2001, the entertainment blog Ooze 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" and "The Role of Humor in Constructing a Global Response to Disaster," both of which addressed the phenomenon of 9/11-related jokes.
Since the day of the attacks in September 2001, dozens of public figures and companies have come under public scrutiny for various remarks or jokes on 9/11 that were deemed too insensitive.
Bill Maher's Commentary
On September 17th, American pundit and comedian 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."
Gilbert Gottfried's Joke
Also on September 17th, 2001, comedian Gilbert Gottfried was also booed when he remarked at a Friar’s Club roast:
“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.”
AT&T 9/11 Memorial Ad
On September 11th, 2013, on the twelfth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, American multinational telecommunications company AT&T tweeted a photograph of the New York City skyline with the “towers of light” framed inside the screen of a Blackberry smartphone, accompanied by a short message which read “Never Forget”] The photograph was also simultaneously posted via AT&T’s Instagram and Facebook accounts.
Donald Trump's "7-Eleven" Gaffe
Donald Trump’s "7-Eleven" Gaffe was an incident in which 2016 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump mistakenly referred to the "9/11 attacks" as “seven-eleven (7/11),” an international chain of convenience stores, during a speech at a campaign rally in April 2016. Trump's blunder quickly led to many parodies and ridicule online.
9/11 Mattress Commercial
9/11 Mattress Ad Controversy refers to the reaction surrounding an advertisement by mattress store Miracle Mattress in San Antonio, Texas promoting their “Twin Towers Sale.” The advertisement drew criticism from blogs and social media users for what many considered its tasteless approach to the events of September 11th, 2001.
9/11 Truth Movement
The 9/11 Truth Movement is a loosely-affiliated network of conspiracy theorist groups and individuals who believe that the United States government was either responsible for or complicit in the terrorist attacks that took place on September 11th, 2001.
Videos associated with the 9/11 documentary 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 before being removed from YouTube for copyright claims by NBC Universal. On February 2nd, 2012, an updated version was uploaded by YouTuber lilesvend666, but this was also taken down.
According to Vanity Fair, Loose Change became one of the most popular web videos of 2006, with its website receiving upwards of 20,000 visitors a day and selling more than 50,000 copies of the DVD within the first three months. In addition to the official statistics, the digital copy of the film is believed to have been downloaded by millions.
9/11 Was an Inside Job
911 Was an Inside Job is a slogan associated with the 9/11 Truth movement and other related conspiracy theories that accuse the United States government of orchestrating the September 11th, 2001 attacks as part of a large-scale false flag operation. 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 YouTuber Nwodetox's video has received over 38 million views as of September 11th, 2012.
Operation Neptune Spear
Since the confirmation of Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda's involvement in the September 11th attacks, at least 35 videotapes carrying bin Laden’s announcements were broadcast across major U.S. networks and worldwide. Having been both a political and fundamental religious figure who maintained a level of presence through videotapes broadcast to millions of viewers, Osama bin Laden made himself a particularly 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 – Retrospect: 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.
9/11 Tourist Guy
9/11 Tourist Guy (also known as “WTC Guy” or “Tourist of Death”) is an exploitable photoshop meme and an internet hoax based on a photograph of a man standing on the observation deck of a building overlooking Manhattan with an airplane flying towards the vantage point. The image, which was manipulated to appear as if it was taken during the World Trade Center attack of September 11th, 2001, spread across a wide range of discussion forums and online news sites shortly after the tragic events and ignited a series of photoshopped derivatives as well as conspiracy theories surrounding the man’s identity.
"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.
"Bush Did 9/11"
Bush Did 9/11 is a catchphrase often used in jest to implicate the former United States president George W. Bush as the perpetrator behind the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. While it has long been used to mock the adherents of 9/11 conspiracy theories and the infamous slogan "9/11 Was an Inside Job," the phrase saw a notable resurgence of popularity in 2015.
"Jet Fuel Can't Melt Steel Beams"
Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams is an assertion made by September 11th, 2001 attack conspiracy theorists that the burning fuel from crashed planes would not have been able to melt the supporting beams of the World Trade Center. The claim is widely mocked online for being based on flawed evidence.
Never Forget is an expression and political slogan used to urge others to remember the events surrounding a national tragedy, most notably the September 11th, 2001 attacks. On the web, the phrase has been used ironically to poke fun at news events that have been blown out of proportion or to celebrate a variety of disappearing relics of the past.
"We Will Rebuild"
We Will Rebuild is another common slogan that 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.
#WhereWereYou is a 9/11 commemorative hashtag used by Americans on social media to share their memories of what they were doing at the very moment they first found out the attacks had happened. Since 2006, the hashtag has seen a recurrent resurgence on the anniversary of the attacks.
Search query volume for various keywords related to the September 11th attacks has 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.
 Newseum (via Wayback Machine) – Today's Front Pages / Wednesday, September 12, 2001
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