The events of September 11, 2001, have been called the worst attacks by terrorists in United States history. On the 20th anniversary of that terrible day, the nation will honor the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives.
The attacks were carried out by al-Qaeda. This is a militant group that wanted to harm the U.S. Terrorists hijacked four passenger airplanes. They flew two of them into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, causing the towers to collapse. Another plane crashed into the Pentagon military headquarters, in Washington, D.C. The fourth plane crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after passengers and crew fought back against the hijackers.
“Those events shaped so much of our world today,” Noah Rauch told TIME for Kids. He works at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, in New York City.
After the attacks, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. That’s where al-Qaeda was based. This led to what’s often called the longest war in U.S. history.
Since then, security in public places has become more common. Before 2001, there were no full-body scanners at airports. Now, people go through complicated security checks, usually with long lines, at places like airports, museums, and concert halls.
Islamophobia—fear of Muslims, who practice the religion of Islam—has also increased. This is because of a wrongful association of all Muslims with the 9/11 hijackers. As a result, Muslims in the U.S. sometimes face discrimination based on their religion.
On September 11, 2021, a ceremony will take place at each 9/11 site in memory of the victims. The night before, lanterns will be lit near Shanksville to honor the 40 passengers and crew members who died there. In Washington, D.C., at the Pentagon, 184 benches have been built, one for each victim of the attacks. In New York City, the names of 2,983 victims will be read aloud, and two columns of light will beam into the sky.
In an online program by the 9/11 Museum, students will meet a police officer who was pulled from the World Trade Center rubble, a firefighter, and people who lost family members in the attacks. The program’s focus, Rauch says, is the impact of 9/11 on everyday Americans. “These were ordinary people who were called to do extraordinary things.