terror attacs at the 11th September 2001

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From top to bottom: The Burning World Trade Center; part of the Pentagon collapses; Flight 175 crashes into WTC 2; a firefighter calls for help at Ground Zero; an engine from Flight 93 is recovered; Flight 77 hits the Pentagon.

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 were four coordinated aircraft hijackings followed by suicide bombings on key civil and military buildings in the United States of America . They were planned by the Islamist terrorist network al-Qaeda and perpetrated by 19 of its members, including 15 citizens of Saudi Arabia . The events of this day are also known as Nine-Eleven or 9/11 in the USA for short , in German also as September 11th .

The perpetrators abducted in three groups of five and a group of four between 8:13 and about 9:30 local time, four airliners, two of which deflected into the towers of the World Trade Center (WTC) in New York City , New York and one into the Pentagon in Arlington , Virginia . The fourth plane was probably a government building in Washington, DC meeting, but was after fights with passengers from the pilots of the hijackers in Shanksville ( Pennsylvania crashed). The attacks caused the deaths of nearly 3,000 people and are considered mass terrorist murder . Around 15,100 of 17,400 people were able to escape from the WTC buildings.

The US government under George W. Bush responded with the war in Afghanistan since 2001 , which it claims was supposed to crush al-Qaeda, its leader Osama bin Laden and overthrow the Taliban regime allied with him . The 2003 Iraq war was also justified by the US government with the attacks . Bin Laden first acknowledged himself as its initiator in 2004. US soldiers killed him in Operation Neptune Spear on May 2, 2011.

Some historians see September 11, 2001 as a historic turning point , others contradict this thesis. The state of emergency declared on September 14, 2001 in the USA is still in force.



(Eastern Daylight Time)
08:46 a.m. Flight AA 11 hits WTC 1 (north tower)
09:03 am Flight UA 175 hits WTC 2 (south tower)
09:37 am Flight AA 77 flies into the Pentagon
09:59 a.m. WTC 2 collapses
10:03 a.m. Flight UA 93 crashes near Shanksville
10:28 am WTC 1 collapses
5:20 pm WTC 7 collapses
Sketch of the towers with the position of the aircraft
impacts left: south tower (WTC 2) right
: north tower (WTC 1)

It was later determined that at 8:14 am local time, the perpetrators hijacked the American Airlines Flight 11 aircraft that took off in Boston . At 8:19 a.m. they switched off its transponder so that it was only recorded by the primary radar and its altitude, speed and identifier were no longer automatically assigned. The air traffic controllers no longer recognized the machine on the screen. Two flight attendants informed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and its airline company about the facts of the hijacking from 8:19 a.m. At 8:37 am, the FAA asked the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) to raise fighter jets to control the flight course. Two F-15s took off at 8:45 a.m., but received no destination information. They first flew over the open sea.

At 8:46 a.m., AA-11 flew into the north tower of the WTC. More and more TV stations reported about this from 8:48 a.m. At first it was believed that there was an accident and the people in the south tower of the WTC were asked to keep calm and stay at work.

Impact (explosion) of flight UA 175 in the south tower of the WTC (photo from the north)

United Airlines Flight 175 , which also took off from Boston, was hijacked between 8:42 am and 8:46 am . At 9:03 a.m. this Boeing 767 flew from the south into the south tower of the WTC. The US authorities thus recognized that targeted attacks were taking place here and initiated an evacuation of the entire WTC.

American Airlines Flight 77 was hijacked between 8:51 and 8:54 am. The plane hit the Pentagon near Washington, DC at 9:37 a.m. and cut through three sections of the building on the west side. The exploded jet fuel caused a major fire. As a result, the affected facade collapsed around 10:10 a.m. At 9:42 a.m., FAA headquarters ordered all passenger planes in US airspace to land at the nearest airport.

Impact damage at the Pentagon, September 14, 2001

United Airlines Flight 93 was hijacked at 9:28 a.m. and changed course to the east at 9:32 a.m. At 9:55 a.m., one of the kidnappers entered the frequency of a navigation system at Ronald Reagan Airport into the on-board computer to enable navigation in the direction of Washington DC. The flight control confirmed the change of course. The White House , the Capitol or the country residence of the US President in Camp David were later suspected as targets . In an interview with Al Jazeera editor Yosri Fouda in June 2002, al-Qaida member Ramzi Binalshib said the fourth plane was supposed to hit the Capitol.

Some passengers on this flight learned of the attacks on the WTC when they called on board and tried from 9:57 a.m. to penetrate the cockpit and overpower the hijackers. The pilot then steered the aircraft to the ground at 10:03 a.m. It shattered near Shanksville, about 100 kilometers east of Pittsburgh . NORAD did not find out about the hijacking of this flight until 10:15 a.m. The Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome (New York) did not receive the order until around 10:30 a.m. to intercept and possibly shoot down hijacked aircraft.

When the first two aircraft crashed, a total of around 58.1 tons of kerosene entered the WTC buildings, spread over the elevator shafts on many floors and caused persistent fires, fed by combustible materials. The south tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m., the north tower at 10:28 a.m. (56 and 102 minutes after the impacts, respectively). Debris from the collapsing north tower severely damaged WTC 7 and triggered ongoing internal fires. The building was evacuated due to the risk of collapse and collapsed at 5:20 p.m.

Rescue operations

Debris of the collapsed World Trade Center
Remains of the destroyed World Trade Center

The rescue attempts began immediately after the impact of the first hijacked passenger aircraft in the north tower of the World Trade Center, as a unit leader of the fire brigade observed the approach and impact of the aircraft from close by and reported it to the operations center. The New York Fire Department (FDNY) initially wanted to evacuate the employees working in the north tower, rescue the injured and possibly put out fires. She gave up this comprehensive goal after the second impact, as she now expected the buildings to collapse. The New York Port Authority supported the city's fire brigade and police in evacuation and extinguishing attempts in the WTC with its own police and rescue units. Their work was made more difficult because the plane impacts destroyed some of their control centers in the WTC towers. Despite an evacuation order, some fire departments in the north tower continued their evacuations; many of them were buried when the tower collapsed. Rescue attempts that had been started had to be expanded after the collapse of the south and north towers. In addition, other buildings within a radius of 500 meters were now at risk of collapsing due to rubble damage. The command infrastructure of the FDNY on site was largely destroyed and had to be rebuilt.

The New York police first cordoned off the closer and then the wider area around the WTC, supported the evacuation of the towers and began to investigate the progress of the attacks. With helicopter flights, the police command received information about the situation in the towers, but this did not reach the fire brigade's command. Around 87 percent of the 17,400 people who were in the WTC buildings at the time of the first impact were able to save themselves or were rescued by the emergency services. As of September 12, they only rescued a few survivors in the immediate vicinity.

The city council, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his staff, New York State, the federal government, the FBI , FEMA , the National Military Command Center (NMCC) and other government agencies were also involved.

By May 2002, around 40,000 people were involved in the rescue and clean-up work at Ground Zero . You and others were exposed to varying degrees with pollutants from the WTC in the air you breathe. The extent and management of the long-term health consequences have been increasingly discussed in the USA since around 2005. In November 2010, the City of New York approved an aid package of US $ 625 million for ten thousand affected aid workers. In addition, US President Barack Obama signed a law on January 2, 2011, according to which police officers, fire fighters and other helpers should receive a total of 4.2 billion US dollars in compensation payments for late health consequences.

Dead and injured

The attacks killed at least 2,989, according to other sources 2,992 people. These include 2,759 fatalities in New York, including 127 passengers, 18 crew members and 10 hijackers of the two aircraft, around 200 people who fell from the towers to their death - unconscious or deliberately to avoid a burn, and 411 helpers (343 firefighters , 60 police officers and 8 paramedics). 189 people died at the Pentagon, including 125 government officials, 53 aircraft passengers, 6 crew members and 5 hijackers. 44 people, including 33 passengers, 7 crew members and 4 hijackers, died near Shanksville.

372 fatalities were foreigners, most of them from the United Kingdom , the Dominican Republic and India . Eleven victims were Germans, two Swiss.

Since not all victims' families reported missing relatives or applied for death certificates and not all of the related procedures had been completed, the figures for various private or official lists of victims differ from one another. Deaths that occurred during the cleanup were not taken into account. There were later deaths among the clean-up workers. It is partly controversial whether these died from their long-term effects.

The number of those acutely injured on September 11th is estimated at over 6,000. Over 3,200 children lost their parents to the attacks. Many of them suffered traumatic separation fears. The US federal government launched an eight billion US dollar program, known as Liberty Bonds, for the damage and victims' relatives .

Until February 23, 2005, the New York Forensic Institute was working on the genetic identification of body parts of the victims. 1,600 victims could be identified in this way. A little over 10,000 fragments have so far remained unidentifiable. Of 1,100 people killed in New York, all body parts were missing and could not be identified. On April 2, 2009, the 1624th victim was identified at the WTC.

When the towers collapsed, many carcinogens were released in the rubble. The fear that these would cause many cancers was not confirmed until 2008: incidence rates remained constant among the rescue workers and helpers working on site who were exposed to the carcinogens.

Out of fear, many Americans changed their travel behavior and used cars instead of airplanes. As a result, air traffic fell by up to 20%, while road traffic rose by up to 5.2%. As a result, there were 1,500 more fatal accidents with 1,600 more road deaths in the first 12 months after the attacks than were statistically expected. After a year these numbers returned to normal.



The FBI announced the names of all 19 hijackers on September 13, 2001, determined from passenger lists and seat numbers booked with real names:

On September 27, 2001, the FBI released photos and personal information of the 19 kidnappers, including alternate spelling of names, as some names had been confused with living people. On September 28, the FBI released a four-page handwritten letter , copies of which had been found in three places, assigning it to pilots on three of the four hijacked flights. Atta's copy was found in a late-checking bag at Boston Airport. In this will , combined with a “primer for suicide bombers” , said something like: “Open your heart, welcome death in the name of God ... because you are only a short moment away from the good, eternal life in the company of martyrs .” Abdelghani Mzoudi confirmed the authenticity of the document in October 2001.

In 2002, FBI counter-terrorism expert Dale Watson testified that the 19 attackers were linked to al-Qaeda and bin Laden. The FBI continued its investigation into approximately 7,000 out of 11,000 employees under the name PENTTBOM for years.

The remains of all 19 kidnappers were found. Up to 2008, 13 of these could be identified with DNA analyzes (nine by exclusion, four by comparison samples). The remains of six of the ten kidnappers in New York City could not be individually identified. 15 of the 19 kidnappers were citizens of Saudi Arabia .


The US government accused Osama bin Laden (1957–2011) of commissioning and co-financing the attacks because of the evidence gathered by their secret services. He welcomed the attacks as the will of Allah , but initially denied any involvement in them. In November 2001, the US Army found a video tape in Jalalabad in which bin Laden talked to members of his group about planning the attack, named some of the kidnappers, praised them and explained that he first told them about the attack targets in the USA and not with him total collapse of the WTC building expected. Possible translation errors were checked by the US media: They found nine names of the kidnappers involved and further evidence of prior knowledge of the attacks in Bin Laden's statements.

In March 2002, Ramzi bin asch-Schaiba and Chalid Sheikh Mohammed described in detail to Al-Jazeera editor Yosri Fouda in Karachi about ten years of preparation for the attacks on behalf of bin Laden. Based on tapped phone calls, money transfers and testimony, the US sees Chalid and Mohammed Atef as the main planners of the attacks. Muhammad Haidar Zammar is considered to be the recruiter for the assassins. Bin Laden selected the later assassins in 1999, helped finance the attack plan and in November 1999 ordered the later hijackers to fly to the United States.

On November 1, 2004, three days before the re-election of George W. Bush , bin Laden turned to the US people and explained when and why he had the idea of ​​the attacks and that more of these would follow if they did USA did not change its policy. In further video and tape messages , he made his plans for the attacks clear. He and his most important co-planners always cited the US's support for Israel and its policy towards the Palestinians as the main motive for this .


The terror group al-Qaeda has been orienting itself towards the fight against " the West " and its values since the US's second Gulf War against Iraq in 1991 and the subsequent stationing of the US military in Saudi Arabia . Its members see the USA as the "great Satan" who covers the "little Satan" (the State of Israel) in order to oppress and divide the Islamic nation, to exploit its riches and to help it to unite and spread Islam prevent. They claim the West is ruled by " infidels " and " crusaders " (Jews and Christians). From this they derive the right to indiscriminately kill civilians and citizens of various nations, including Muslims in the USA.

Operation Bojinka , planned and failed by al-Qaeda , was a first attempt in 1995 to use aircraft as bombs by guiding them into important buildings. Al Qaeda members carried out attacks on US targets, including the bomb attack on the WTC (1993), bombings on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania (1998) and a suicide attack on the warship USS Cole (DDG 67) in Yemen (2000). In 1998 , under President Bill Clinton, the United States responded with rocket attacks on suspected Afghan al-Qaeda training camps and bombed the Ash Shifa drug factory in Sudan, which the CIA had classified as a chemical weapons factory .

On September 9, 2001, al-Qaida suicide bombers carried out an attack on Ahmad Shah Massoud, and the Taliban launched an offensive against his troops in the Afghan Punjjir Valley .

In 2002 the FBI published a timeline on the hijackers' career. They all came from affluent, respected, more secular families and enjoyed an education that qualified them to study abroad. It was only there that they sought and found contacts with radical Islamic preachers who propagated jihad against the West. Its ideology included a belief in a world Jewish conspiracy , the image of an imperialist West colonizing and continually humiliating the Islamic world, and a hatred of the worldwide social injustice created by globalization . Atta wanted to be martyred since 1996, and so have his friends since 1999. At first they did not plan a suicide attack in the west. The decision to do so may have been made after first contact with an al-Qaida member in autumn 1998.

Marienstraße at number 54 in Hamburg-Harburg , the residence of some of the attackers from 1998 to 2001

Atta, Jarrah, Al-Shehhi and Ramzi Binalshibh lived in Hamburg since 1998 and studied as a group of Islamist students at the TU Hamburg-Harburg . According to witnesses, they had been planning the attacks since the spring of 1999 as the “ Hamburg terrorist cell ”. In November 1999 they traveled to Afghanistan and in December met Bin Laden in Kandahar, who selected them and others for the attacks because of their technical and linguistic skills and prepared them ideologically and technically in his training camps. There they announced their last will on January 18, 2000, shortly before they flew back to Hamburg.

In May 2000, Atta, Al-Shehhi and Jarrah received entry visas for the United States, but not Binalshibh. Bin Laden then appointed Hani Hanjour, who was studying in the USA, as a replacement. In Florida and Arizona these four acquired a commercial pilot license by December 2000 , in the case of Ziad Jarrah a private pilot license . Then they began their training on the simulator for passenger aircraft. Jarrah and Hanjour booked small aircraft practice flights in the New York and Washington, DC areas to learn about flight routes, air traffic and topography. At a meeting with Binalshibh in Europe in spring 2001, Atta received more detailed instructions from Bin Laden and was the only one to learn about the targets of the attack. He coordinated all of the assassins involved, selected by Bin Laden and who entered the United States in April 2001. He is also said to have set September 11th as the attack date and the Capitol instead of the more difficult-to-reach White House as the attack target.


Initial reactions in the USA

Andrew Card , the then Chief of Staff of the White House , informed US President George W. Bush at a school lecture in Sarasota ( Florida ) around 9:00 a.m. local time of the first attack on the WTC and shortly afterwards of the second attack: "A second plane has it hit second tower. America is under attack. ”Bush continued the school event in front of the camera for seven minutes. After a brief discussion with his staff, he made an initial statement and then flew to various US Air Force bases on the Presidential Air Force One aircraft. After a stopover, he reached Washington, DC and the White House around 7:00 p.m.

Detail of a plaque on the fence of St. Paul's Chapel near Ground Zero
Wall painting: The human spirit

In the first few days, desperate relatives posted missing persons notices on barriers and wall surfaces. These places quickly developed into spontaneous memorials after more people took part by means of photos, candles, letters and objects (e.g. toys from missing children).

In a large, nationally televised memorial service at New York Football Stadium, representatives of all New York-based groups and religions commemorated the dead together and reaffirmed their multicultural tolerance as an essential feature of the metropolis of New York.

Already in the first days after the attacks there were offers to help the victims: blood donations, free hotel use, medical care and medication for people without proof of residence or rent-free office space for group meetings and so on. Later there were a large number of concerts or CDs, most of which went to the offers. In some cases, new aid funds were created or a new focus for affected families and children was established within existing aid funds. Became known z. B. the Coalition of 9/11 Families, Children of September 11th , the New York Police and Fire Widows' and Children's Benefit Fund or the New York Times 9/11 Neediest Cases Fund. In 2001, many self-help groups were founded, the special focus of which arose from the group composition of the victims and the situation of the relatives.

In the first days after the attacks, hundreds of Muslims, Arabs or Arab-looking people wearing turbans , often Sikhs , were insulted, attacked, threatened and some were murdered in the USA. There were also arson attacks on Islamic institutions. US President Bush then visited a mosque on September 17, 2001 , condemned the attacks, distinguished Islam from terror and called for tolerance towards Muslim US citizens.

Global public sympathy

In the days that followed, many people around the world commemorated the victims of the attacks with a minute's silence and funeral ceremonies. Leading politicians in many countries condemned them and sent letters of condolence to the United States.

The German President Johannes Rau declared on the evening of September 11, 2001: “Hate destroys the world and hate destroys people. That's what it's all about ...: To resist hatred and to make room for charity . Those who don't hate also say no to violence. Those who say no to violence make our children's lives possible. ”On September 14, 2001, at a solidarity demonstration in Berlin attended by around 200,000 people, Rau said:“ Hate must not tempt us to hate. Hatred blinds. […] The best protection against terror, violence and war is a just international order. ”This was seen as a contrast to the “ unrestricted solidarity ”and the rejection of war that Chancellor Gerhard Schröder had previously declared.

A funeral service was held at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. The guards in front of Buckingham Palace played the US national anthem.

War against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan

On September 12, 2001, the UN Security Council unanimously condemned the attacks with Resolution 1368 and allowed the USA to engage in military self-defense. For the first time in its history, NATO declared an " alliance case ": a military attack on the territory of a NATO member state had occurred, which, according to Article 5 of the NATO treaty, was to be assessed as an attack on all contracting parties and required their military assistance.

President Bush speaking on September 20, 2001

On September 20, 2001, in an extraordinary government statement before the US Congress , US President Bush first expressed his gratitude to the US for international solidarity and particularly emphasized its "loyal friend" Great Britain . He then named the international terrorist network al-Qaeda under Osama bin Laden as the organization responsible for the attacks, as indicated by all the evidence, and demanded that bin Laden's immediate extradition by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Otherwise he announced a " war on terror ". He emphasized the difference between the Afghan people and their government, whose human rights violations he criticized. He also called on all nations to ultimately decide to support the USA: "Either you are on our side or on the terrorists' side." Then he differentiated Islam from terror in the name of Allah : He respects the beliefs of Muslims; Al-Qaeda finds itself in blasphemous opposition to this. He called attacks on Muslims in the US “un-American.” The speech was welcomed across parties; the approval rates for Bush in the USA rose at times to over 90 percent.

While Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld wanted to attack Afghanistan as soon as possible, Secretary of State Colin Powell managed to get the Taliban an ultimatum to extradite bin Laden. Their offer to hand him over to a friendly Islamic country under Islamic hospitality law was rejected. On October 7, 2001, the US Army began bombing Taliban positions and infrastructure in Afghanistan. The USA initially excluded its own ground troops. On November 13, the Northern Alliance, allied with them, took Kabul without a fight; Kunduz was occupied on November 25th and Kandahar on December 7th. By the end of the year, the regime under Mullah Omar was overthrown. Bin Laden escaped at the Battle of Tora Bora in December. Assumptions that he had gone into hiding in the border area with Pakistan turned out to be incorrect in 2011.

From December 2001 onwards, several European countries, including the Federal Republic of Germany with Bundeswehr soldiers , supported the other security and reconstruction missions OEF and ISAF .

Domestic measures

The attacks led to an unprecedented expansion of presidential power and a de facto abolition of the separation of powers in the United States. This was based, in addition to the role of the president as the constitutional head of the executive branch and commander-in-chief of the American armed forces, above all on the theory of the unitary executive , the “unified executive”. According to this, the executive stands legally above the legislative and judicial branches , its ability to fulfill its constitutional duty and to protect the American people should not be hindered by decisions of the Congress: According to this, it can decide autonomously whether and how to apply the law. Congress followed Bush in this interpretation of the constitution, only the Supreme Court of the United States insisted in several decisions since 2004 that principles of the rule of law such as habeas corpus and the separation of powers continue to apply .

Under the term Disaster Preparedness , the US government increased resources, personnel, competencies and tasks for civil protection , airport security and aviation security . A state of emergency was declared on September 14, 2001 .

In October 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney ordered eight domestic intelligence agencies to circumvent an existing law dating from the 1970s that banned trawling and dredging without a judicial order. On October 26, 2001, the USA PATRIOT Act went into effect, which defines "domestic terrorism" as intimidating or coercive influence on the government and allows federal agencies far-reaching encroachments on civil rights for counterterrorism investigations, such as monitoring suspects without a judge Order, secret tapping of telephone calls, saving connection data and spying on e-mail contacts, obtaining personal information from insurance companies, financial institutions and employers, imprisoning and deporting foreigners suspected of terrorism without giving information and judicial review of suspicions and with more difficult judicial review rights. According to this, over 5,000 foreigners, mostly young male Muslims with contacts in Arab states, were arrested by 2003, 531 of whom were expelled, some detained for up to eight months, but none of them were charged. Although the Supreme Court ruled some of these provisions unconstitutional since 2004, in March 2006 the US Congress extended 14 of 16 provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act indefinitely. Bush broke the legal requirement to provide Congress with complete information about the implementation of the measures - in total, in addition to the central Ministry for Home Security with 170,000 employees, 263 new security agencies were established or reorganized in the USA; 1200 state organizations and 1931 private companies have been dealing with security since then.

Other western states passed similar laws, tightened entry requirements and expanded personal surveillance. The Federal Republic of Germany reintroduced the computer search and leniency program from the fight against the RAF in the 1970s and passed two " anti-terror packages ". Draft legislation for the introduction of a preventive detention (2004), for telecommunications monitoring (2005), for permission kills hijacked airplanes and for preventive dragnet (2006), to the secret online searches of private computer (2008) and data retention (2010), the declared Federal Constitutional Court each unconstitutional.

The European Council decided on September 21, 2001 to give priority to the fight against terrorism in the territory of the European Union (EU). With Common Position 931 of December 27, 2001, the EU member states unanimously adopted additional measures to combat terrorism. With Regulation (EC) No. 2580/2001 in particular, a uniform list of persons, associations or bodies was adopted that may be subject to financial sanctions in order to combat and prevent terrorism (freezing of funds and economic resources, prohibition of the provision of funds and economic resources). With this and with the so-called EU terror list, the EU complied with UN resolution 1373 .

Dealing with terror suspects

In the Afghan war and in the course of further investigations, the US Army captured over 1,000 suspects, mostly people of Arab or Asian origin. They were taken to Guantánamo Bay Detention Center , Bagram Military Prison, and other camps outside the United States, where they were isolated from the outside world, and held for years without charge or disclosure of their identity. Legally, the US government defined them as "irregular fighters" and tried to apply international law , such as Article 4 of III. Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War , and evade US criminal law. CIA interrogators also used some of the suspected suspects' methods, such as sleep deprivation and waterboarding , which are defined as torture under international law . This led to sustained international protests by human rights organizations and allied Western states.

The torture practices and military exemption procedures to which detainees were subjected and were also met with opposition in the United States. A public criminal case lawsuit in US courts was dismissed on appeal. A ruling in June 2008 required the US government to treat these prisoners according to US legal standards. In November 2009, US Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the suspected masterminds of the terrorist attacks would be brought before a civil court in New York. Chalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-defendants from the Guantánamo camp are said to answer for their actions near the former World Trade Center. The civil proceedings are intended to replace the previous military proceedings before the controversial special tribunals in Guantánamo, which were set up by former US President George W. Bush. Some victims' relatives criticized this decision.

Iraq war

In September 2002, Bush derived the United States' right to preventive strikes from the fight against terrorism (the so-called Bush doctrine ) and justified the Iraq war sought since the end of September 2001 on the one hand with an alleged collaboration between the dictator Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda, on the other with his alleged disposal of weapons of mass destruction that he could and wants to use against the US and US troops stationed in Saudi Arabia. Germany, France, Russia and China rejected this doctrine, the US justification for war and their participation in the Iraq war. In February 2003, the UN Security Council denied the United States the legitimacy of the Iraq war. The US government then formed a “ coalition of the willing ”, in which some NATO countries also participated, and began the Iraq war in March 2003 without a UN mandate. It led to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, followed by years of terrorist attacks by a new Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda and other groups in Iraq.

International Relations

Political scientist Jochen Hippler classified the US war in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2003 not only as a reaction to the attacks, but also as a continuation of a unilateral US foreign policy. It used its position as the only remaining superpower after the Cold War to implement a neoconservative program that had existed since around 1995 to disempower “rogue states” and hostile regimes, expand US power in the Middle East and Central Asia and strengthen its global leadership role. Scientists in the USA, such as George Leaman , also take this point of view .

The terrorist attacks made this policy much easier at first, but the pretext overthrow of the Ba'ath regime has intensified violence and terror in Iraq enormously, widened the gap between the Arab dictatorships supported by the West and their people and thus increased the instability of the Middle East region. At the same time he had ended international solidarity with the USA, damaged the authority of the UN and international law and the relationship between the West and the Islamic world, created a gap between the USA and Europe and between supporter and rejection states in the EU and thus a unified foreign policy. and EU military policy.

The wars that the USA waged after the attacks and the neoconservative project of "Benevolent Imperialism" to spread democracy and a market economy in the Middle East are now viewed as imperial overstretching and are no longer pursued by the USA.


Commemoration: Tribute in Light, 2014
South Pool of the 9/11 Memorial

Every year on September 11th, commemorations are held to commemorate the victims of the attacks, especially in New York, at the Pentagon and in Shanksville. In New York, the names of the 2,791 people who were killed in the attack are usually read out by their relatives in alphabetical order. High-ranking politicians take part, although at the request of the relatives, speeches are dispensed with and literary or historical texts are read out instead.

At night, a light installation, the Tribute in Light, shone in NYC . It was repeated annually until 2011, but its future is uncertain.

At the site of the World Trade Center there is a memorial under construction - it was inaugurated on September 11, 2011. The National September 11 Memorial and Museum was designed by Daniel Libeskind , Michael Arad and the landscape architect Peter Walker. These are two water basins that show the floor plan of the two high-rise towers (like “footprints”) - their name Reflecting Absence can be translated as “thinking about what is missing”. The memorial also has a pavilion with a museum. The construction of the memorial was preceded by a discussion of whether it should be built directly on the site where the victims died.

On June 10, 2006, on the outer wall of the Liberty Street fire station , directly opposite the former WTC complex, a memorial to the fire service (FDNY, mainly a wall relief) and in 2008 the Pentagon Memorial in Arlington was inaugurated as a two-dimensional installation near Washington.


Five other WTC buildings, including the neighboring WTC 7, were also destroyed, as were four subway stations . 23 other buildings surrounding the WTC were damaged so badly that they were later demolished. The small St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church was completely destroyed , the former Bankers Trust Building, 90 West Street , 130 Cedar Street, the New York Telephone Building , 30 West Broadway ( Fiterman Hall ), three buildings of the World Financial Center as well as badly damaged the winter garden in between. Almost all damaged buildings could be restored. The badly damaged Deutsche Bank Building (130 Liberty Street) was demolished in 2009 after a long insurance dispute. Previously, for years it was completely covered in black and carried a large US flag on the side facing Ground Zero . The new Five World Trade Center is being built there . Building 30 West Broadway ( Fitterman Hall ) was also demolished from November 2008 to summer 2009 and replaced by a new building - the opening took place on August 12, 2012.

On April 2, 2006 of the began construction One World Trade Center (the first name of the draft Freedom Tower , German: Freedom Tower ) as the successor building at the site of the destroyed World Trade Center and worn begun. The main building was designed by the architect David Childs . This was preceded by a long discussion about the type of rebuilding. The structure reached its final height in May 2013 and was opened on November 3, 2014.

The building is 541.3 meters high, which is 1776 feet. This is supposed to be reminiscent of the United States' Declaration of Independence in 1776 and goes back to the design by Daniel Libeskind. In 2002, the city of New York initially commissioned the prestigious Beyer Blinder Belle office to create six different designs. However, in the opinion of many New Yorkers, these failed because the skyscrapers planned on the site were lower than the former World Trade Center and, above all, were not spectacular enough. The tower was completed in autumn 2014. In addition, three more buildings are to be built ( Two World Trade Center , Three World Trade Center and Four World Trade Center ).

A newly constructed building with the designation 7 World Trade Center of the previous building was built from 2002 and opened in May 2006.

Legal proceedings

Criminal proceedings

Mounir al-Motassadeq was involved in al-Qaida in the preparations for the terrorist attacks. Therefore, after several years of proceedings in Germany, he was found guilty of having participated in the hijacking of the aircraft and the murder of the passengers and crew members. The destruction of the World Trade Center was not criminally charged with him. He was therefore sentenced to a prison term of 15 years for aiding and abetting murder in 246 cases and membership in a terrorist organization on January 8, 2007, which became effective on May 2, 2007.

Since February 11, 2008, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed , Ramzi Binalshibh , Ali Abdel Asis Ali , Mustafa Ahmed al-Hausaui and Walid bin Attasch have been indicted by the United States in connection with planning and carrying out the attacks. The criminal case against another defendant was dropped in 2008.

Civil proceedings

On September 5, 2012, World Trade Center Properties LLC allowed a lawsuit against American Airlines and United Airlines in the United States. The airlines were accused of negligently allowing the boarding of 19 terrorists on their aircraft due to inadequate security controls, whereby they are supposed to bear legal responsibility for the destruction of the World Trade Center buildings. Shortly before the attacks, the plaintiff had leased the World Trade Center for 99 years. The amount in dispute was $ 2.8 billion. In a 2015 settlement, plaintiffs accepted an amount of USD 95.2 million

In July 2016, the US government released the previously blacked-out pages of a congressional report that documented or suggested some bombers had contacts with the government of Saudi Arabia. (For background information, see 9/11 Commission # Unclear role of Saudi Arabia ). In September 2016, the House of Representatives passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which allows the immunity of states suspected of terrorism to be lifted. As a result, a New York law firm filed a lawsuit for damages against the state of Saudi Arabia on March 17, 2017 on behalf of several thousand victims and their families. He is accused of providing financial and, in particular, logistical support to al-Qaeda, without which the attacks could not have been carried out.

The US judge George B. Daniels issued a default judgment requiring Iran to pay the victims of the attacks more than 6 billion US dollars. At the trial it was alleged that Iran had provided training and other assistance to the kidnappers. Iran would be instructed to “$ 12.5 million per spouse, $ 8.5 million per parent or child, and $ 4.25 million per sibling, with an annual interest rate of 4.96% (as of September 11, 2001 through the date of Judgment) ”to the families of the deceased, it said in the court records.

Effects on the economy

Although the terrorists wanted to hit the American financial and economic power with the World Trade Center, the economic consequences of the attacks were comparatively small. The Dow Jones Index lost around seven percent after the New York Stock Exchange reopened on September 17, 2001. The proportion of jobs in the financial sector in New York fell from 25 to 20 percent within ten years. However, the relative importance of New York in the financial industry has been declining since the 1990s, so that the terrorist attacks cannot be seen as the only factor in this development. The disruption to American economic life caused by the attacks is estimated at just one percent of gross domestic product . The attacks did not trigger a recession , although this was precisely what was feared when the dot-com bubble burst in March 2000. The economic growth in the US and around the world moved to 2001 soon again, which is also on the massive spending deficit can be attributed to which the United States funded the subsequent wars. Whether the massive national debt of the United States (in 2001 it still had a budget surplus , in 2018 the national debt was over 22 trillion dollars) can be indirectly attributed to the attacks or whether it was caused by the Great Recession from 2007 is a matter of dispute.

A turning point?

Whether the attacks of September 11, 2001 represent a historic turning point is a matter of dispute in journalism and specialist science. At first contemporaries clearly perceived them as such. The New York Times wrote on September 12, 2001 that it was "one of those moments when history divides and we define the world as 'before' and 'after'". In Germany, on that day, both the Bild newspaper and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung ran the headlines independently of each other: “Nothing will be the same as it was before”.

But just a few years later, historians and political scientists contradicted the perception of contemporaries in two volumes. They emphasized the continuity of the American striving for hegemony vis-à-vis the Islamic world and the tendency to perceive international conflicts in Manichaean terms as a struggle between good and evil . On the left , too, emphasis was placed on the continuity of imperialism and the “American search for world domination ” (so the subtitle of a book by Noam Chomsky ).

In 2011 the Americanist Michael Butter published the volume 9/11, Not a Day That Changed the World . In it he argues that the concrete changes that have occurred in American politics since 2001 cannot be attributed monocausally to the attacks. These were not so much a trigger as a catalyst for developments that made them happen faster and more obviously. The historian Martin Sabrow, on the other hand, cites the attacks of September 11th as an example of a historical turning point, if only as an "orthodox turning point": This, in contrast to the "heterodox turning point" such as the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 , is still valid Basic norms and ideas intact and create "no new lines of sight and thinking horizons, but confirm previously known ones". For the social scientist Samuel Salzborn , the attacks were the "prelude to an anti-Semitic revolution that is currently underway around the world". It is not only directed against Jews, but also represents a general threat to the values ​​of the Enlightenment , namely the promise that every individual can become a self-determining subject .

The historian Manfred Berg counterfactually weighs up which events would have to be considered unlikely without the attacks, because only if there are several of them can one speak of a turning point. The war on terror, the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq can be clearly traced back to the attacks, as can the enormous expansion of executive power in the USA. With increasing time lag, there could be no question of a “ unipolar world”, which some commentators saw coming at the beginning of the millennium, given the American-Chinese rivalries. The danger of a repetition of the attacks does not shape the everyday life of people in the USA and Europe either. Hence the prevailing impression “that '9/11' was not a historic turning point that decisively changed the long-term global political and global economic trends”.

Investigations into the causes

US Authority Conduct

Findings of debris from the two planes in NYC

From February to December 2002, one committee each from the Senate and the US House of Representatives carried out the “Joint investigation into the activities of the secret services before and after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001” . In 2002 the “Joint report of the fire service management and the consulting firm McKinsey & Co” on management structures and operational guidelines appeared on September 11, 2001 and the consequences to be drawn from them.

At the urging of victims' associations, the House of Representatives set up the bipartisan 9/11 Commission in the fall of 2002, despite considerable opposition from the US government . It consisted of five MPs each from the Democratic and Republican parties , chaired by ex-Governor Thomas Kean, and 78 staff members. It should clarify the history, course of the attacks and the reactions of the US authorities to them and propose security policy measures to prevent such attacks in the future. She should not investigate the physical causes of the collapse of the WTC buildings. Working from January 2003 to August 2004, she interviewed approximately 1,200 witnesses, including 120 government officials including George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice . Their final report (July 22, 2004) showed serious systemic errors of the US authorities that had made the attacks possible: for example, a lack of screening of domestic passengers before checking in at the airport, lengthy and cumbersome procedural channels and hierarchies of command that prevented NORAD from intervening quickly , failure to check flight schools in the USA for flight students suspected of terrorism, failure to prosecute al-Qaida members who have entered the USA, lack of information exchange between the CIA and FBI about suspects and the Bush administration's passivity towards acute attack warnings. From May to August 6, 2001, it had received 40 short daily reports on al-Qaeda, including several that warned of a multiple attack in the United States, possibly with hijacked planes and targets in New York. Coordination problems, misunderstandings, lack of information, non-disclosure of commands, unclear guidelines and wrong reactions at all levels were proven in detail. Persons responsible for this were not named and personal consequences were not requested. As a result of this analysis, the operational guidelines of the FDNY, the New York Police, the FBI and the CIA were changed. The Ministry of Internal Security was re-established and the “Preparedness” city campaign was set up.

Physical causes of collapse

Until May 2002, the disaster control agency FEMA examined the building security and structural problems that caused the collapse of the WTC buildings for the first time. After their report was criticized as inadequate, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) received a precisely defined research assignment, which it divided into individual tasks on its own and delegated to experts from various disciplines. There were several reports as a result:

In September 2005 a detailed study of all relevant aspects of the collapse of WTC 1-6 was published. Over 300 experts and scientists were involved in the three-year research. Two fact sheets from August 2006 and December 2007 summarized NIST's answers to the most important questions about the technical process of the collapses and their explanation. The final report for WTC 7, which has been postponed several times, was published on August 21, 2008.

Scientists without a government mandate calculated the causes of the WTC collapse days after September 11th and published articles on it. Scientists from Purdue University ( Indiana ) developed simulation models and carried out the most detailed, high-precision simulations of the collapses to date. They prove that 17 of the 47 load-bearing columns in the north tower were destroyed, so that the collapse became inevitable after a fire lasting almost two hours. Previously, NIST had assumed that six pillars had been destroyed, which, together with the ongoing internal fires, would have been sufficient for the collapse of the floors above the impact zone.

Social, economic and political backgrounds

There are various theories about the longer-term and deeper causes of Islamist terror: “ Anti-imperialist ” explanations make the West, especially the Middle East policy of the USA and Israel , responsible for the hatred and radicalization of many Muslims. Because the mujahideen in Afghanistan received considerable military, financial and logistical support from the USA since 1980 in order to be able to successfully fight the Soviet occupiers in the Soviet-Afghan War , Osama bin Laden was often seen as a product of the CIA and his attack planning as a result of a failed US Foreign policy considered in the Cold War . This finally fell back on the USA itself ( blowback ).

The failure of the rich western industrialized countries to tackle the problem of poverty through unilateral globalization has also created a breeding ground for terror (but not for their masterminds). This view is often represented by left-wing intellectuals like Noam Chomsky or human rights activists like the Indian Arundhati Roy .

From a cultural sociological perspective, the phenomenon of so-called Islamic terrorism is also interpreted as the formation of a front against cultural modernization in the respective home country. The insecurity that goes hand in hand with the breakage of old, traditional structures and ideologies is compensated for by an increased focus on one's own roots (e.g. Salafism ) and lived out in the terrorist fight against the western world. With the spectacular attack in the center of the western world, the perpetrators wanted to symbolically demonstrate the vulnerability of the “Jews and Crusaders ”. In this perspective, the ideology of the perpetrators is interpreted as " Islamic fascism " and the component of anti-Semitism is emphasized.

Artistic reception


Many musicians reacted to the attacks with special works. In many of these titles, concern, sadness, remembrance and the desire for tolerance were in the foreground.

In the US, the song was Only Time by Enya in the version with superimposed votes affected the unofficial anthem for the 11th of September. The American Hardcore Alliance's hardcore techno song We Will Never Forget commemorates the victims. The country musician Alan Jackson wrote the song Where were you When the world stopped turning? , Darryl Worley wrote the song Have You Forgotten? . Other topics works are the studio album The Rising by Bruce Springsteen , Let's Roll with respect to the resistance of the passengers on the flight UA-93 by Neil Young , "Believe" by Yellowcard , the instrumental title Darkness of Sept. 11th of guitarist Chris Mike and Towers On Fire by Brazilian thrash / death metal band Torture Squad . When the Eagle Cries by Iced Earth refers to the bald eagle, the heraldic animal of the USA, whose tears symbolize the grief of the USA. On September 16, 2001, the German rapper Curse released the freetrack Nothing will be the same , in which he called for more tolerance and responsibility.

Others dedicated their appearances and recordings to the victims. Michael Jackson wrote the song What More Can I Give with the aim of raising $ 50 million for the victims' dependents. Paul McCartney was in New York on September 11, 2001 and then wrote the song Freedom for a tribute concert. Sting dedicated his concert, scheduled for September 11 in Tuscany, to the victims after his chosen concert guests spoke out against a cancellation. The concert recording was released as a live album entitled All This Time , the classic Fragile from it appeared on the album America: A Tribute to Heroes . The saxophonist Sonny Rollins gave a concert in Boston on September 15, 2001 , the live recording of which was released under the title Without a song: the 9/11 Concert .

Some musicians dealt with the consequences of the attacks: for example the band Tomte with their song New York or the Eagles with Hole In The World (2003). The Mono group for everyone! critically deals with the memory of it with her song September 11th . Heads Will Roll from Pro-Pain describes feelings of revenge and criticizes the development of the Iraq war. In a controversial music video I Like To Watch, techno musician Chris Korda combined media images of the attacks with pornographic film clips. With its title 9/11 Self-made, the Duisburg hip-hop band Die Breite criticizes previous US policies. Finally, in the song Jihad , the thrash metal band Slayer addressed the attacks from the perspective of the terrorists.

The Hungarian composer Robert Gulya , who lived in the USA from 2000 to 2002, wrote a new guitar concerto in the fall of 2001, shortly after the 9/11 attacks. In the first movement of this concert, Gulya chose a theme that is reminiscent of that terrorist attack. The world premiere of this work was filmed and published on DVD Live in Budapest by Austrian guitarist Johanna Beisteiner .

Painting and sculpture

After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Eric Fischl designed the ten breaths series of works with gouaches and sculptures showing people falling and fallen. The Tumbling Woman sculpture , which depicts a woman in free fall, has been the subject of controversy in the United States. The series of works processes the press photos of the desperate people who fell from the windows of the burning towers of the World Trade Center after the attacks in order to avoid death by fire.

By Gerhard Richter , the image "September" has been made in dealing with the event. The artwork To the Struggle Against World Terrorism is dedicated to the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011 and that of 1993 .


In his novel Windows on the World , published in 2003, Frédéric Beigbeder meticulously tells of a father and two sons who were in the Windows on the World restaurant in the north tower of the World Trade Center during the attacks .

Jonathan Safran Foer's novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close , published in 2005, tells the story of a traumatized nine-year-old boy whose father was killed in the attacks.

The protagonist of Don DeLillo's 2007 novel Falling Man is a survivor of the attacks. Leitmotif performances run through the novel of a performance artist named Falling Man, who suspended the now famous photograph on a rope the falling man of Richard Drew stalking.

The novel Die habenichtse by Katharina Hacker , published in 2006, is set against the backdrop of the terrorist attacks and the beginning Iraq war.

Satire and comedy

Occurs Shazia Mirza

More or less black humor under the motto Where was King Kong when we needed him? as well as jokes spread online in particular emerged the day after the attack. They have also found expression in folklore research.

The British-Pakistani comedienne Shazia Mirza became known nationwide when she appeared in a hijab on her first stage appearance after the terrorist attacks and began with the words:

“My name is Shazia Mirza. At least, that's what it says on my pilot's license. "

“My name is Shazia Mirza. At least that's what it says in my pilot's license. "

In 2011, Wiglaf Droste interpreted the attacks on the Twin Towers as a satirical critique of architecture in an article for the Marxist newspaper Junge Welt :

“The collapse of two ugly and very dispensable towers has only national folkloristic significance. For me, September 11, 2001 will remain the hour of birth of the manned flying architecture criticism. The engineering office bin Laden & Erben could continue to do a lot to beautify the world. Against blind and deaf brains / the wrecking ball helps quite well. To say it presidential: also and especially in Germany. "

The feature film Postal by German director Uwe Boll deals with the subject.


Manhattan September 12th, NASA satellite image

In May 2019, 441 titles on this topic are listed in the IMDb .


The Mercy Seat (dt. Day of grace ) by Neil LaBute is about the fictional story of a married man who has worked in the World Trade Center, however, survived the attacks because he secretly met his mistress. The play, which takes place on September 12, 2001, deals with the two considerations of how to deal with this lie. Itpremiered on Broadway in2002 with Liev Schreiber and Sigourney Weaver under the direction of the author; the German premiere took place in 2003 at the Deutsches Theater Berlin .

conspiracy theories

Many conspiracy theories have developed in relation to the attacks of September 11th . Their representatives usually assume that the US government or its secret services knowingly approved the attacks or carried them out themselves. They doubt the identified causes for the damage and claim other causes, such as a controlled demolition of the WTC buildings. Supporters of the so-called 9/11 Truth Movement have been demanding a new investigation of the events since 2005. Their theses contradict not only experts from FEMA and NIST, but also non-governmental scientists.

See also




Background, causes

Individual aspects

  • Helga Embacher / Margit Reiter: Europe and September 11, 2001. Böhlau Verlag, Vienna 2011, ISBN 978-3-205-78677-1 .
  • Clément Chéroux: Diplopia. Image policy of September 11th. Konstanz University Press, Konstanz 2011, ISBN 978-3-86253-007-6 .
  • Brian A. Monahan: The shock of the news. Media coverage and the making of 9/11 . New York University Press, New York a. a. 2010, ISBN 0-8147-9554-4 .

Web links


Causes of collapse




Image and sound documents

Commons : Terrorist Attacks on September 11th 2001  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Part 1 ,: Part 2 ,
Part 3 ,: Part 4

Individual evidence

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  90. ^ Noam Chomsky: Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance. Metropolitan Books, New York 2003.
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  93. ^ Samuel Salzborn: Global anti-Semitism. A search for traces in the abyss of modernity. Beltz Juventa, Weinheim 2018, p. 28 (here the quote).
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  95. ^ Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001 (final report 2002)
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  98. ^ FEMA, May 2002: World Trade Center Building Performance Study ( Memento of September 18, 2010 on WebCite )
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  102. ^ NIST: Investigation of the World Trade Center Disaster FAQ
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  104. Examples: Zdeněk P. Bažant, Jia-Liang Le, Frank R. Greening, David B. Benson (May 2007; revised March 2008): What Did and Did not Cause Collapse of WTC Twin Towers in New York (PDF; 728 kB ); Zdeněk P. Bažant, Yong Zhou: Why Did the World Trade Center Collapse? - Simple Analysis. (PDF; 146 kB); Oral Buyukozturk, Franz-Josef Ulm (Massachusetts Institute of Technology): Materials and structures (PDF; 1.41 MB)
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  106. Robert Gulya talks about his collaboration with Johanna Beisteiner and the guitar concerto that he wrote for her. Video, Gramy Records , 2010. (Hungarian with English subtitles) Interview with Robert Gulya on YouTube
  107. On Gerhard Richter's picture “September” , Kölner Stadtanzeiger, June 4, 2008
  108. Giselinde Kuipers: "Where Was King Kong When We Needed Him?" Public Discourse, Digital Disaster Jokes, and the Functions of Laughter after 9/11 . In: Wiley (Ed.): The Journal of American Culture . 28, No. 1, March 2005, pp. 70-84. doi : 10.1111 / j.1542-734X.2005.00155.x .
  109. ^ Bill Ellis: A Model for Collecting and Interpreting World Trade Center Disaster Jokes Archived from the original on September 6, 2013. In: NewFolk (Ed.): New Directions in Folklore . No. 5, October 2001. Retrieved May 26, 2019.
  110. Veiled humor Shazia Mirza was supposed to be a teacher and marry a nice Muslim man - but she prefers the loneliness of the mostly-male comedy circuit. Why? By Geraldine Bedell, The Observer, April 20, 2003
  111. Wiglaf Droste: From Beckenbauer to Atta - Another eleventh September is possible. Junge Welt from September 10, 2011, accessed on September 11, 2018. online , category focus, p. 3. Complete article requires online subscription.
  112. ^ IMDb: Films for September 11, 2001 , accessed on September 16, 2013