Special Report—United We Stand

Twelve Months of Events Since 9/11: A Timeline

September 11, 2001, dawned on the United States like any other day. Commuters in the East were already streaming into work, many Midwesterners were having breakfast, and Westerners were just waking up. In moments, these commonplace activities were disrupted by news that was almost impossible to comprehend. The United States was under attack. Terrorists had launched multiple, massive strikes within the borders of the United States against countless innocent civilians. The attackers intentionally targeted two national symbols of democracy and prosperity—Washington, D.C., and New York City.

The crisis triggered a series of events that, to this day, test the patriotism of Americans, the responsiveness of our leaders, and our system of government. By the time the sun set on that September day, it had become clear that the country was equal to the test. Ordinary people did the extraordinary, saving the lives of strangers in the burning towers of the World Trade Center. New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani seemed to be everywhere at once, unifying and calming a shaken city. Blocks away from the wreckage at the Pentagon, President George W. Bush declared the attack an act of war. That day and in the months to follow, the President, Congress, the U.S. military, and law enforcement agencies moved swiftly to seek justice and protect American citizens. Although stunned and grieving, Americans united in prayer vigils, blood drives, and aid for those in need.

The timeline below presents a month-by-month summary of some of the key events that took place in the challenging, inspiring 12 months that followed September 11, 2001. Use the links below to choose a specific month.

September 2001
October 2001
November 2001
December 2001
January 2002
February 2002
March 2002
April 2002
May 2002
June 2002
July 2002
August 2002
September 2002

September 2001

Less than a half-hour after the second plane hit the World Trade Center, President George W. Bush addresses the nation and promises to hunt down the planners of the attack. An hour after the attacks begin, the Federal Aviation Administration bans planes from taking off in the United States. Many government offices are closed for the day. Within hours, the U.S. military is on high alert and has deployed missile destroyers in New York and Washington. Many world leaders condemn the attacks and voice support for the United States. On the evening of the attacks, President Bush addresses the nation from Washington. Some 4,000 CIA and FBI agents are assigned to investigate the attacks. Americans line up at blood donation centers. New York stock exchanges are closed for the week following the attacks.

President Bush calls the attacks "acts of war" and asks U.S. allies to join a war on terrorism. For the first time in its history, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) calls into force Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which states that an attack on any member nation "shall be considered an attack against them all." Secretary of State Colin Powell says that terrorist leader Osama bin Laden is the leading suspect behind the attacks. Vice President Richard Cheney says that nations harboring terrorists will "face the full wrath of the United States." President Bush declares a national emergency, and calls for a national day of prayer and remembrance. The U.S. Senate authorizes the use of the military against the attackers. Congress approves $40 billion in emergency aid. The President urges the American people not to blame Arab Americans or Muslims for the attacks.

Pakistan agrees to support the United States in its war on terrorism and ends its alliance with the Taliban government of Afghanistan. The Taliban had provided a base for Osama bin Laden and his terrorist organization, al-Qaeda. President Bush says that he wants bin Laden captured "dead or alive." At the urging of the United States, Pakistan closes its border with Afghanistan. Pakistan sends a delegation to the Taliban asking them to turn over bin Laden for prosecution. The Taliban refuse. President Bush warns the Taliban to turn bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders over to the United States or face the consequences. The Taliban refuse to hand bin Laden over without evidence showing his involvement in the attacks. The United States refuses to negotiate with the Taliban, but Secretary of State Colin Powell says that the United States has "an abundance of evidence" linking bin Laden to the attacks on September 11 and to earlier terrorist attacks.

The United States government arrests and detains hundreds of foreign citizens in the United States suspected of involvement in terrorist activity. The United States freezes the assets of believed terrorist organizations and asks foreign banks to do the same.

The United States sends over 100 military aircraft to bases in the Middle East and other areas near Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. It also sends a large naval task force to Indian Ocean waters near Afghanistan, and over 1,000 troops by air to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to prepare for an invasion of neighboring Afghanistan.

October 2001

The NATO alliance agrees to steps to support the U.S. war on terrorism. The United States begins bombing Taliban targets in Afghanistan. Targets include Afghanistan's capital, Kabul; the Taliban headquarters in the city of Kandahar; and Osama bin Laden's training camps. Attacks continue after this date. The United States cooperates with the Northern Alliance, an Afghan rebel group fighting the Taliban. President Bush announces a plan to deliver hundreds of millions of dollars of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.

On October 8, President Bush establishes a new Office of Homeland Security to oversee anti-terrorism efforts in the United States and names former Governor of Pennsylvania Tom Ridge as director. The president releases a "most wanted" list of suspected terrorists and offers rewards for their capture. The FBI warns of a severe threat of terrorist attacks one month after the original World Trade Center attacks. Later in the month, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft claims evidence of a likely terrorist attack within days and puts the country on the highest state of alert.

On October 5, Bob Stevens, a photo editor working for a Florida newspaper, is the first American to die of anthrax in 25 years. After one of Stevens's coworkers contracts anthrax, the FBI announces that the Florida anthrax outbreak was probably the result of a deliberate attack. The FBI begins a criminal investigation into the Florida anthrax outbreak. Exposure to anthrax spreads to other states. Thirty people in the offices of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle test positive for anthrax. Evidence later emerges that postal workers in Washington, D.C., have been exposed to anthrax.

U.S. troops and aircraft are sent to Pakistan to support the war against the Taliban early in the month. U.S. bombs accidentally hit an International Red Cross building in Kabul amid charges that bombing has killed Afghan civilians. Despite continued U.S. bombing support, the Northern Alliance has failed to gain territory in Afghanistan. Later in October, the United States confirms that U.S. Special Forces are operating inside Afghanistan. U.S. bombers kill more than 20 fighters linked to al-Qaeda in Kabul.

The United States and Pakistan agree that Afghanistan's future government should include all major ethnic groups in a democratic structure. Northern Alliance leaders meet to plan for post-Taliban government of Afghanistan.

November 2001

The United States stations more Special Forces troops in northern Afghanistan alongside the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance and intensifies bombing of Taliban fighters along the northern front. The Northern Alliance begins a rapid advance. By the middle of November, the Northern Alliance captures Mazar-e-Sharif, the chief city of northern Afghanistan; Herat, the main city in the west; and Kabul, the Afghan capital. Taliban forces flee as the Northern Alliance advances. Ethnic Pashtun leaders in southern Afghanistan begin to rebel against the Taliban and surround their headquarters in the city of Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan. Hundreds of U.S. Marines land near Kandahar. Northern Alliance troops capture Kunduz, the last Taliban stronghold in northern Afghanistan.

The United States announces plans to try suspected terrorists in military tribunals where their legal rights will be limited. The United Nations announces plans to send an international peacekeeping force to Afghanistan.

December 2001

Pashtun tribal fighters, who do not belong to the Northern Alliance, attack Taliban positions in Kandahar. U.S. Marines surround Kandahar. After several days of fighting, Taliban forces surrender in Kandahar, the last major city under Taliban control. Members of Afghanistan's main ethnic groups agree to share power in a post-Taliban government.

In mid-December, the United States government charges Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, with involvement in the September 11 attacks.

Al-Qaeda fighters, and possibly Osama bin Laden, are said to be hiding in caves in the Tora Bora Mountains of eastern Afghanistan, along the border of Pakistan. American planes begin to carpet-bomb the caves of Tora Bora. U.S. troops and anti-Taliban Afghan fighters surround these caves. Remnants of al-Qaeda flee Tora Bora under American fire. A Saudi Arabian source linked to Osama bin Laden claims that bin Laden has fled to Pakistan.

On December 22, Richard Reid allegedly tries to set off explosives hidden in his shoes while he is a passenger on board a jetliner flying from Paris to Miami. Flight attendants and other passengers manage to stop Reid by tying him to his seat. Escorted by military jets, the plane lands safely in Boston. Reid, a British citizen, is placed under arrest and charged with allegedly trying to blow up a commercial flight.

January 2002

American troops move in on an Afghan mountain village where Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban leader, is believed to be hiding. Witnesses report that Mullah Omar escaped from the American forces surrounding him on a motorbike. As an American campaign to secure Tora Bora comes to an end, there are more reports of al-Qaeda fighters fleeing into Pakistan. The U.S. bombing campaign against suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda strongholds in Afghanistan continues. The United States airlifts al-Qaeda prisoners to a prison camp at the Guantánamo Bay naval base in Cuba. President Bush says that Iran, Iraq, and North Korea form an "axis of evil" in support of terrorism.

February 2002

The United States extends the war on terror into the Philippines, where guerillas in the southern part of the country challenge the elected government. American Special Forces troops travel to the Philippines to train that country's soldiers.

March 2002

The federal government introduces the Homeland Security Advisory System to warn Americans of the risk of terror attacks. With most of Afghanistan liberated, the United States launches Operation Anaconda against an al-Qaeda and Taliban stronghold in the mountains and caves of eastern Afghanistan. More than one thousand American soldiers successfully drive the enemy out of the region in two weeks of difficult fighting. Operation Anaconda officially ends on March 18.

April 2002

President Bush promises that the United States will help rebuild Afghanistan and keep troops there "until the mission is done." The search for Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in the mountains moves across the border into Pakistan. Abu Zubaydah, a senior member of al-Qaeda and aide to Osama bin Laden, is captured in Pakistan and turned over to the United States for questioning.

May 2002

On May 8, Brigadier Roger Lane, commander of British forces in Afghanistan, declares the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda "all but won." Troops continue to search caves for weapons and al-Qaeda fighters. New York City commemorates the symbolic end of the recovery effort at Ground Zero, the name used to describe the site of the collapsed World Trade Center.

June 2002

Representatives at the loya jirga, a traditional Afghan assembly of tribal leaders, choose interim leader Hamid Karzai to become the new president of Afghanistan. The new Afghan president chooses his cabinet, which includes two women. News stories indicate that the CIA and FBI might have had information about the terrorist attacks before they took place. Congress and the President call for better use of intelligence reports and sharing of information.

On June 20, federal prosecutors file an indictment against Zacarias Moussaoui, the first person to be charged in direct connection to the September 11 terrorist attacks. Although the indictment replaces an earlier one, Moussaoui remains charged with six counts of conspiracy: to commit acts of terrorism, to commit aircraft hijacking, to destroy aircraft, to use weapons of mass destruction, to murder Americans, and to destroy property.

July 2002

President Bush introduces a plan for a Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security. If approved by Congress, the Department of Homeland Security will become the newest executive department in the executive branch.

On July 24, an exhibit displaying the six concept plans for the World Trade Center Site opens in New York City. The exhibit is sponsored by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, created in the aftermath of September 11 by Governor Pataki and then-Mayor Giuliani to help plan and coordinate the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan.

August 2002

New York City announces plans to mark the first anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Mayor Michael Bloomberg describes the plans as a "a day of simple and powerful observances that gives the world an opportunity to remember." Anniversary plans include a morning ceremony at the World Trade Center site featuring readings of the Gettysburg Address and a part of the Declaration of Independence. Former mayor Rudy Giuliani is scheduled to lead a reading of the names of more than 2,800 victims of the attacks. The day is set to close with the lighting of an eternal flame at Battery Park and a reading of Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" speech.

President Bush announces he will visit the World Trade Center site, the Pentagon, and the site of the crash of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.

On August 11, state and federal law enforcement agencies increased security patrols on and around the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, after officials learned of a potential terrorist threat.

September 2002

On September 11, Americans remember the terrorist attacks that took place exactly one year ago. Ceremonies take place in New York City, Washington, D.C., and in rural Pennsylvania. Many people in schools and workplaces observe a moment of silence in memory of those who perished in the attacks. The President visits the site of each attack and takes part in memorial services. Family members of the deceased leave roses at the site of the World Trade Center. In New York City, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani begins reading aloud the names of the more than 2,800 people who died at the World Trade Center, a ceremony that continues until every name is read by various New Yorkers. In the evening, candlelight vigils are held in the five boroughs of New York: Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, Brooklyn, and the Bronx.