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Car bomb explodes outside state department on september 11

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U.S. Under Attack; World Trade Center Destroyed
Davide Dukcevich,, 09.11.01, 11:34 AM ET

The United States was struck Tuesday by what appeared to be a coordinate series of terrorist attacks on Washington, D.C., and New York City that have destroyed the World Trade Center and are feared to have left many thousands dead.

Both the towers of the World Trade Center collapsed after being hit by planes. An aircraft also hit the Pentagon in the Washington, D.C., area, causing serious damage. There are reports of a fourth airliner had been brought down near Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, by U.S. military fighters. A fifth plane has crashed in Western Pennsylvania. A car bomb exploded outside the State Department, according to State Department sources.

CBS News reported that as many as eight planes have been hijacked and only four have been accounted for.

President Bush described as the incidents as an "apparent terrorist attack" and "a national tragedy." He said that the U.S. "would hunt down and find" the perpetrators.

The White House has been evacuated and New York City is on full terror alert. The Federal Aviation Administration has grounded all outgoing flights in the country. All international flights to U.S. destinations have been diverted to Canada. Military jets flew above New York and Washington following the attacks.

The first incident happened at about 9 a.m. when an American Airlines passenger jet -- that had been reportedly hijacked on a flight from Boston to Los Angeles -- hit the northern tower of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan's financial district. Shortly afterward, the southern tower was struck by an unmarked plane.

An hour later, the tower collapsed, following what eyewitnesses describe as a series of 15 explosions inside the building. Half an hour after that, the second tower fell, leaving southern Manhattan covered in a pall of smoke and dust.

About 50,000 people work in the World Trade Center. Many were arriving to their jobs when the first plane struck. Workers in buildings across Manhattan were evacuated. The New York stock exchange was closed for the day.

"We looked outside and there was a second plane, it looked like it came from the east side, there were no markings," according to CFO Bob Tomlinson, who was facing the buildings from his Flatiron district office. "[The plane] was big, and dark --brown or black -- it was large, and it had a military look."

The second impact, which happened about 15 minutes after the first, caused an enormous ball of fire and scattered huge chunks of debris on the sidewalks and streets below. The fire could be seen for miles on the clear, cool September day

The attacks come 23 years after the signing of the Camp David Accords on Sept. 17, 1978. That agreement, brokered by President Jimmy Carter between Egyptian President Muhammad Anwar al-Sadat and Menachem Begin, the then Prime Minister of Israel was supposed to provide a framework for peace in the Middle East.

It also comes eight years after the World Trade Center was bombed in a terrorist attack, killing six people and injuring more than 1,000.

The twin towers of the World Trade Center, one of the most recognizable landmarks in the United States, each have 110 stories, rising up 1,300 feet and are the tallest buildings in New York City and the third tallest buildings on the planet. The towers are home to financial firms like long bond traders Cantor Fitzgerald and mutual fund firm Fred Alger Management, as well as the famous tourist restaurant Windows on the World.

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