Why the Towers Collapsed
Why the Towers Collapsed
Thu Sep 13 00:22:25 2001
By Mark Riley and
Gay Alcorn, Herald
the United States
As rescue workers
found the first survivors
under the rubble of the
World Trade Centre,
the United States
moved on to a war
footing against the
shadowy enemy that
destroyed the twin towers in New York and part of the Pentagon.
With estimates of the death toll from Tuesday's catastrophic assaults with
hijacked airliners climbing into the thousands, President Bush called on
allies to "join forces for a war on terrorism".
As shock and grief gave way to anger over the attacks:
The Foreign Minister, Mr Downer, said three Australians were
confirmed dead and 58 unaccounted for.
Aircraft carriers with missile defence systems were positioned off both
the east and west US coasts and in the Arabian Gulf.
The Saudi extremist Osama bin Laden was reported as congratulating
the terrorists, but denying any involvement.
Regional financial markets descended into chaos, with billions of dollars
wiped off the value of sharemarkets.
Five Arabic men were reported to have been identified as suspects.
One of the Australians killed was on one of the jetliners that was flown
into the World Trade Centre. Mr Downer had said earlier that the attack
would constitute an act of terrorism against Australia if any of its citizens
had been killed.
No tally of Australians working in the World Trade Centre was made
available, but New York officials said they suspected it would be 100 or
Mr Bush, facing the first crucial test of his leadership, addressed the
nation from the Oval Office, declaring that the US would find and punish
"those behind these evil acts", along with any country that harbours them.
"These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American
resolve," he said.
As the National Security Council and intelligence services tried to
determine who was responsible and how to retaliate, the Secretary of
State, Mr Colin Powell, also lashed out, saying the attacks were the
equivalent of war against the US, democracy and civilisation.
"We've got to respond as if it is a war and we've got to respond in the
sense that it isn't going to be solved with a single counterattack against
one individual, it's going to be a long-term conflict and it's going to be
fought on many fronts," he said on ABC television's Good Morning
Republican and Democratic politicians also said the attack was an act of
war, and vowed swift revenge.
The White House said it had received no warning before two hijacked
aircraft slammed into the World Trade Centre, and another one into the
A fourth aircraft that plunged into a field in Pennsylvania was believed to
have been heading for the White House or the Capitol building in
Washington, or the presidential retreat at Camp David.
The sophisticated and co-ordinated act of terror lasted less than 90
minutes, but fear quickly spread throughout the country.
All flights were grounded for the first time in US history, government
buildings were shut, and Mr Bush criss-crossed the country aboard Air
Force One because the Secret Service feared for his safety.
The Commander of the US Atlantic Fleet, Admiral Robert Natter, said:
"We have been attacked like we haven't since Pearl Harbour."
No credible claim of responsibility had been made by yesterday, although
FBI and intelligence officials said they suspected it was the work of bin
"This apparently was well-planned over a number of years, planned by
real pros and experts," Republican Senator Orrin Hatch said in
Washington after a security briefing.
"Their belief is, at least initially, that this looks like Osama bin Laden's
He said intelligence services had intercepted communications between bin
Laden operatives discussing the attacks.
Bin Laden is thought to be hiding in Afghanistan, where the Taliban
regime denied any knowledge of those behind the attacks. However, the
Taliban militia said it would consider requests for the extradition of bin
Laden but would need evidence from US investigators.
Abu Dhabi Television's bureau chief in Islamabad, Jamal Ismail, reported
that bin Laden had praised the terrorists but denied being involved.
The scenes of terror were worst in New York, the largest city in the US
and financial capital of the world.
Six survivors were found as a massive rescue operation began amid the
rubble of the World Trade Centre and emergency services reported
receiving several mobile telephone calls from trapped people. Rescuers
also said they could hear screams.
They hoped more survivors would be found in large air-pockets between
broken building slabs. Mr Bush estimated the total dead to be in the
thousands. The Mayor of New York, Mr Rudolph Giuliani, said: "I have
a sense it's a horrendous number of lives lost. Right now we have to focus
on saving as many lives as possible."
Estimates of the death toll from the attack on the Pentagon ranged from
100 to 800. All 266 people in the four hijacked planes died.
Economists warned that the effect of the attacks on international markets
could tip the already flagging US economy into recession, taking the rest
of the world with it. Billions of dollars were wiped off the value of
sharemarkets as investors fled to government-backed bonds, gold and
oil. US stock exchanges were closed yesterday, along with all airports.
Fifteen warships were sent to protect the west coast and Hawaii, while
USS Kennedy and USS George Washington were off the east coast,
protecting New York City and Washington. USS Enterprise was ordered
to remain in the Gulf.
As many as 50,000 people worked in the two 110-storey towers at the
World Trade Centre, and an unknown number of visitors, business guests
and shoppers were also inside. The Australian property group Westfield
Holdings had recently signed a $US3.2 billion ($6.2 billion), 99-year
lease on the centre's shopping precinct. The company said one US-based
employee remained missing from its 10-person office.
US reports said five Arabic men had been identified as suspects and that
a rental car containing Arabic-language flight training manuals had been
seized at Boston's Logan International Airport.
Security officials in Massachusetts had identified the five, The Boston
Herald reported. Two were brothers, one of whom was a trained pilot.
None of the five had guns, but had used shaving kits and other carry-on
luggage to smuggle knife-like weapons. Once in the air, the hijackers in
one plane reportedly began killing flight attendants to lure a pilot from the
The men had boarded the two aircraft that crashed into the World Trade
Centre - an American Airlines 767 and a United Airlines 767 - which left
Logan bound for Los Angeles. The American Airlines plane crashed into
one of the towers and the other plane hit the second tower about 20
minutes later. Both towers and a smaller adjoining building collapsed.
An American Airlines 757 en route from Dulles Airport near Washington
to Los Angeles was flown into the Pentagon. The aircraft that crashed
outside Pittsburgh was a United Airlines 757 flying from Newark, New
Jersey, to San Francisco.
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