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Early on the morning of September 11, 2001, the United States seemed to be just about the safest place in the world to live. The nation hadn’t been attacked on its own soil since the bombing of Pearl Harbor six decades before.

War seemed like something that happened elsewhere. Perhaps, that, more than anything, is what made the massive terror attacks of that day so shocking.

The 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was unprecedented in the scale of its destruction and the immediacy of its visual impact.

Americans had heard or read about other historical disasters, but this was the first to be witnessed by hundreds of millions of citizens as it occurred. The impact on society was dramatic and long lasting.

The first plane to hit its target was American Airlines Flight 11. It was flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan at 8:46 am.

Within minutes, live televised images of the burning skyscraper were breaking into the morning news. Many believed it must have been an accident. Seventeen minutes later at 9:03 am, the World Trade Center’s South Tower was hit by United Airlines Flight 175.

As a third plane hit Pentagon-the headquarters of the US armed forces-outside Washington D.C., and a fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, few believed this could be anything but an attack on the United States.

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