When terrorists struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, none of us would know the full impact of the attacks on our nation and our world. What follows was the original article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, as well as the Extra Edition published that afternoon.
Terrorism hit home with apocalyptic force on Tuesday, as hijackers punched airliners into the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center and then into the Pentagon.
The towers collapsed as a shocked nation watched -- and wondered whether more attacks loomed. Nobody knows yet how many Americans perished. But on a typical day, the Trade Center alone is filled with 50,000 workers.
"Today, our nation saw evil," President George W. Bush said in a four-minute speech to the nation Tuesday evening.
He did not identify suspects and made no specific mention of retaliation, except to say that those responsible would be found and brought to justice, as would those who harbored them.
"Our military is powerful -- and it's prepared," he said.
Bush said, "None of us will ever forget this day" -- a reminder that Sept. 11, 2001, would forever be a date with the evocative power of Dec. 7, 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor, or Nov. 22, 1963, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Word of the attacks reached Bush on Tuesday morning in Sarasota, Fla., where he was visiting an elementary school. Bush quickly flew out, landing first at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. Then he flew on to Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. -- the headquarters of the U.S. Strategic Command, America's nuclear strike arm.
Finally, Bush flew to Washington to address the nation. En route, he said in a phone call to aides: "We will find these people. They will suffer the consequences of taking on this nation. We will do what it takes."
But so far, nobody in authority has pinpointed the identity of the terrorists. Speculation centered on Osama bin Laden, the exiled Saudi with a grudge against the United States. Late Tuesday, authorities were preparing to search locations in Florida connected to supporters of bin Laden.
Among the other unanswered questions:
• How did the hijackers slip past airport security nets?
• Why did America's intelligence agencies fail to sniff out what was coming?
• What were the terrorists trying to accomplish?
• How does the United States respond?
Altogether, Tuesday's hijackers commandered four planes carrying 266 people, all of whom perished.
That number alone surpasses the death total of the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995. Until Tuesday, its 168 lives lost constituted the deadliest act of terrorism on U.S. soil.
Still to be counted after Tuesday's disasters were the dead in the ruins of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said his city's total would probably not be compiled at least until today, maybe days later.
But he said the final number would be "more than any of us can bear."
A union official said he feared 300 firefighters who first reached the scene had died in rescue efforts at the trade center
Because all four hijacked planes had taken off on transcontinental flights against the prevailing west wind, they bore heavy loads of fuel. Its volatility added to the carnage.
In just under an hour, the fire in the World Trade Center's south tower from the fuel softened, perhaps even melted, the steel members supporting the 50 undamaged floors above the impact point.
The top floors slumped to the damaged area. The dead weight then pancaked the whole building.
A half-hour later, the north tower collapsed in just the same way.
Minutes after the airstrike on the Pentagon, the Federal Aviation Administration shut down the skies of America. At 8:49 a.m., the agency barred all takeoffs and ordered all planes still aloft to land im mediately. Many touched down at Canadian airports.
On the streets around the World Trade Center, witnesses described watching in disbelief as first one tower and then the other appeared to explode, floor by floor.
Several witnesses spoke of bodies falling from the twin towers -- and of desperate people jumping before the first of the buildings collapsed.
The chaos washed across much of the city. For much of the work day, entering or leaving Manhattan was all but impossible. City officials closed most bridges and tunnels to and from Manhattan.
New York City officials called off primary elections for municipal offices.
Reports of survivors
On Tuesday night, more than 12 hours after the first strike, New York's Giuliani said some people remained alive in buildings near the rubble of the World Trade Center.
One man caught under the rubble used his cell phone to reach his family in Pennsylvania with a plea for help.
The man -- his name was withheld -- gave specifics about his location and reported that he was trapped along with two New York police sergeants, said a 911 official in Allegheny County, Pa. The 911 office passed the message along to New York authorities.
Several passengers on the hijacked planes also used cell phones to call loved ones. Among them was conservative television commentator Barbara Olson.
Shortly before her plane rammed the Pentagon, she called her husband -- Theodore B. Olson, the solicitor general of the United States. She described the scene to Olson, who in turn told her of the New York crashes.
St. Louis-area residents have remembered the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the victims with school services and memorial ceremonies.
In the final moments of their conversation, he said, they exchanged more personal words, which he said he would not share.
The blast at the Pentagon collapsed part of the wall on its west side. Tuesday night, officials were still fighting the fire and were unsure how many people might be dead or injured inside.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had been inside but was unharmed. Overall, about 20,000 people work in the Pentagon.
Washington hospitals treated at least 40 victims of the attack. Officials put the number of dead and wounded at the Pentagon at about 100 or more, with some news reports suggesting it could rise to 800.
Security officials moved quickly to put Vice President Dick Cheney and House Speaker Dennis Hastert out of harm's way. After Cheney, Hastert stands next in the line of presidential succession.
In New York, the collapse of the Trade Center towers poked a gap in the skyline -- and, at least momentarily, in the American way of life.
The Internet quickly clogged, as did telephone and cell phone networks across the nation. Telephone companies and wireless carriers asked customers in New York and Washington to use their phones for emergencies only.
Panicky drivers formed long lines at gas stations, anticipating -- perhaps causing -- shortages and price spikes. Other Americans quietly formed long lines to donate blood.
Securities markets halted trading. They remained closed today, and some economists fretted that the disastrous day might shove the economy down the shaft of recession.
Major-league baseball teams canceled Tuesday's games. Amusement parks shut down.
In Washington, the federal government also largely shut down. Although agencies planned to reopen today, federal workers will be allowed to take unscheduled leave if they feel "unsafe or uncomfortable," one federal official said.
Airports became islands of the marooned, as stranded travelers found no way out. Air traffic will remain grounded until at least late this morning.
Across the land, places of worship quickly scheduled special services of prayer and mourning.
The day of disaster started at 7:45 a.m. (St. Louis time). That's when one of the hijacked airliners rammed the north tower of New York's World Trade Center.
Television networks were beaming live shots of the destruction when their cameras caught a second jetliner as it smacked the south tower in a ball of flame at 8:03 a.m.
Barely more than a half an hour later, at 8:40 a.m., a third airliner flew into the Pentagon.
At 8:50 a.m., before Americans could fully absorb those three shocks, they got a fourth. The 110-story south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed, sending up a dust cloud of volcanic intensity.
Within 10 minutes, a section of the badly damaged Pentagon collapsed.
At 9:10 a.m., a fourth hijacked airliner crashed near Somerset, Pa., southeast of Pittsburgh.
At 9:29 a.m., the north tower of the world Trade Center -- also 110 stories -- collapsed.
At 4:25 p.m., a 47-story building in the World Trade Center complex collapsed.
The details of the hijacked planes:
• The World Trade Center towers were hit by two Los Angeles-bound jetliners that had taken off from Boston 15 minutes apart. The first to crash was American Flight 11, a wide-body Boeing 767 with 92 people aboard. The second was United Flight 175, also a Boeing 767, carrying 65 people.
• The Pentagon was hit by American Flight 77, a Boeing 757 seized while carrying 64 people from Dulles International Airport outside Washington to Los Angeles.
• The Pennsylvania crash involved United Flight 93, a Boeing 757 en route from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco. Although details of those hijackers' destination remain hazy, the plane went down 85 miles from Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland.
Within hours of the attacks in America, explosions resounded around the airport at Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. But the Pentagon quickly squelched speculation that the United States was hitting back.
"That is not a U.S. strike," a senior Pentagon official said. Instead, those explosions were said to be the response of an Afghan opposition faction to the killing over the weekend of its leader, Ahmad Shah Masood. He had led the fight against Afghanistan's ruling Taliban.
Ever since terrorists rammed a bomb-laden boat into the U.S. destroyer Cole on Oct. 12 in Yemen, warnings of fresh attacks had flickered on and off in the news:
• In November, U.S. military people in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait went on high alert because of a terrorist threat.
• Late in June, Marines taking part in maneuvers in Jordan hurried back to their ships after another terrorism alert.
• Just three weeks later, the State Department reported strong signs of imminent attacks against Americans in the Arabian Peninsula.
The Associated Press, The New York Times News Service, Reuters And The Knight-Ridder News Service Contributed To This Report