United States under attack

NEW YORK ? In a horrific sequence of destruction, terrorists hijacked two airliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center in a coordinated series of attacks this morning that brought down the twin 110-story towers. A plane also slammed into the Pentagon, raising fears that the seat of government itself was under attack.”I have a sense it?s a horrendous number of lives lost,” Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said. “Right now we have to focus on saving as many lives as possible.”Authorities had been trying to evacuate those who work in the twin towers, but many were thought to have been trapped. About 50,000 people work at the Trade Center. American Airlines said its two aircraft were carrying a total of 156 people.”This is perhaps the most audacious terrorist attack that?s ever taken place in the world,” said Chris Yates, an aviation expert at Jane?s Transport in London. “It takes a logistics operation from the terror group involved that is second to none. Only a very small handful of terror groups is on that list. … I would name at the top of the list Osama bin Laden.”President Bush ordered a full-scale investigation to “hunt down the folks who committed this act.”Within the hour, the Pentagon took a direct, devastating hit from an aircraft. The fiery crash collapsed one side of the five-sided structure.The White House, the Pentagon and the Capitol were evacuated along with other federal buildings in Washington and New York.Authorities in Washington immediately began deploying troops, including an infantry regiment. The Situation Room at the White House was in full operation. And authorities went on alert from coast to coast, halting all air traffic and tightening security at strategic installations.”This is the second Pearl Harbor. I don?t think that I overstate it,” said Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.American Airlines identified the planes that crashed into the Trade Center as Flight 11, a Los Angeles-bound jet hijacked after takeoff from Boston with 92 people aboard, and Flight 77, which was seized while carrying 64 people from Washington to Los Angeles.In Pennsylvania, United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757 en route from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco, crashed about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh with 45 people aboard. The fate of those aboard was not immediately known and it was not clear if the crash was related to the disasters elsewhere. In a statement, United said another of its planes, Flight 175, a Boeing 767 bound from Boston to Los Angeles with 65 people on board, also crashed, but it did not say where.Evacuations were ordered at the United Nations in New York and at the Sears Tower in Chicago. Los Angeles mobilized its anti-terrorism division, and security was intensified around the naval installations in Hampton Roads, Va. Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., was evacuated.At the World Trade Center, “everyone was screaming, crying, running, cops, people, firefighters, everyone,” said Mike Smith, a fire marshal. “It?s like a war zone.””I just saw the building I work in come down,” said businessman Gabriel Ioan, shaking in shock outside City Hall, a cloud of smoke and ash from the World Trade Center behind him.Nearby a crowd mobbed a man on a pay phone, screaming at him to get off the phone so that they could call relatives. Dust and dirt flew everywhere. Ash was 2 to 3 inches deep in places. People wandered dazed and terrified.The planes blasted fiery, gaping holes in the upper floors of the twin towers. A witness said he saw bodies falling and people jumping out. About an hour later, the southern tower collapsed with a roar and a huge cloud of smoke; the other tower fell about a half-hour after that, covering lower Manhattan in heaps of gray rubble and broken glass. Firefighters trapped in the rubble radioed for help.”Today we?ve had a national tragedy,” Bush said in Sarasota, Fla. “Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country.” He said he would be returning immediately to Washington.The crashes at the World Trade Center happened minutes apart, beginning just before 9 a.m.Heavy black smoke billowed into the sky above one of New York City?s most famous landmarks, and debris rained down on the street, one of the city?s busiest work areas. When the second plane hit, a fireball of flame and smoke erupted, leaving a huge hole in the glass and steel tower.John Axisa, who was getting off a commuter train to the World Trade Center, said he saw “bodies falling out” of the building. He said he ran outside, and watched people jump out of the first building. Then there was a second explosion, and he felt heat on the back of neck.WCBS-TV, citing an FBI agent, said five or six people jumped out of the windows. Witnesses on the street screamed every time another person leaped.People ran down the stairs in panic and fled the building. Thousands of pieces of what appeared to be office paper drifted over Brooklyn, about three miles away.Several subway lines were immediately shut down. Trading on Wall Street was suspended. New York?s mayoral primary election Tuesday was postponed. All bridges and tunnels into Manhattan were closed.David Reck was handing out literature for a candidate for public advocate a few blocks away when he saw a jet come in “very low, and then it made a slight twist and dove into the building.”Terrorist bombers struck the World Trade Center in February 1993, killing six people and injuring more than 1,000 others.”It?s just sick. It just shows how vulnerable we really are,” Keith Meyers, 39, said in Columbus, Ohio. “It kind of makes you want to go home and spend time with your family. It puts everything in perspective,” Meyers said. He said he called to check in with his wife. They have two young children.In New York, “we heard a large boom and then we saw all this debris just falling,” said Harriet Grimm, who was inside a bookstore on the World Trade Center?s first floor when the first explosion rocked the building.”The plane was coming in low and … it looked like it hit at a slight angle,” said Sean Murtagh, a CNN vice president, the network reported.In 1945, an Army Air Corps B-25, a twin-engine bomber, crashed into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building in dense fog.In Florida, Bush was reading to children in a classroom at 9:05 a.m. when his chief of staff, Andrew Card, whispered into his ear. The president briefly turned somber before he resumed reading. He addressed the tragedy about a half-hour later.

Other updates

WASHINGTON ? An aircraft crashed near the Pentagon this morning, and the Capitol and White House were evacuated after bomb threats.President Bush said the two earlier plane crashes into the World Trade Center were “an apparent terrorist attack on our country.”The Federal Aviation Administration shut down all airplane traffic nationwide.The White House was evacuated today after the Secret Service received credible threat of a terrorist act against the presidential mansion and residence.

ORLANDO ? Walt Disney World closed its theme parks at mid-morning today following the apparent terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington D.C.Disney?s four theme parks, three water parks, and its shopping and entertainment complex were cleared of all visitors and employees as a precautionary security measure.All Disney hotels remained open, Disney spokeswoman Rena Callahan said.Other Orlando-area theme parks ? Sea World and Universal Studios ? remained open, though officials were meeting Tuesday to decide whether to shut down the parks.”We?re taking this measure with an abundance of caution and we are in communication with law enforcement,” Callahan said.

LIMA, Peru ? Secretary of State Colin Powell cut short his first official visit to South America to return home to deal with devastating terrorist explosions in New York and Washington on Tuesday.Before leaving, Powell, urged foreign ministers from the Organization of American States to quickly pass a democracy pact as a clear collective message against terrorism.The charter was adopted unanimously, and Powell immediately left for Lima?s military airport to fly back to Washington.”A terrible, terrible tragedy has befall my nation, but it has befallen all those who believe in democracy,” Powell told the OAS assembly.”I hope we can move the order of business to the adoption of the charter,” he said, “because I very much want to be here to express the United States? commitment to democracy in this hemisphere.”The session opened with a moment of silence before representatives of Venezuela, Colombia, El Salvador and Canada all made statements condemning the terrorists who earlier in the day crashed two planes into the World Trade Center. Explosions also rocked the Pentagon and the State Department and spread fear across the nation.”I will bring to President Bush your expressions of sorrow and your words of support,” Powell said. “You can be sure that America will deal with this tragedy in a way that brings those responsible to justice.””Terrorism, as is noted, is everyone?s problem,” he added, “and there are countries represented here who have been fighting terrorism for years and have seen horrible things happen in your countries. It is something we must all unite behind.”