On the morning of September 11, 2001, terrorists systematically hijacked four American passenger jets – fully fueled for transcontinental flights – and crashed two of them into the World Trade Center towers in New York City. Desperate workers leaped from the windows as terrified victims were evacuated from the burning buildings. After burning for nearly an hour, both of the 110-story towers collapsed, sending a concussive plume of smoke torpedoing through the streets, destroying neighboring buildings and covering all of Lower Manhattan in acrid dust and debris.
In the days, weeks and months following the attacks, New Yorkers struggled to navigate an unrecognizable city. Downtown Manhattan became a virtual war zone. Residents were evacuated from their homes and thousands of posters of the missing blanketed the city. It took months to remove the more than one million tons of twisted steel that served as a constant reminder of the horrific event. The Fire Department of New York City had never sustained such a catastrophic loss of life as it did the morning of September 11th. From 1865 until 2001, the FDNY had lost 774 members. On September 11th, they lost 343 in less than an hour. As many as 40 units were wiped out completely. Nearly three thousand people died in the September 11, 2001, World Trade Center attacks.