9/11 as the Chilling Details Unfolded Online


On September 11, 2001 the blogosphere  was still in its infancy and Twitter was five years away. Instead of tweeting, Americans turned to e-mail lists, message boards, chat rooms, and forums. At the time, Free Republic was — and still is — a popular forum for sharing news and discussing issues — including many issues the mainstream media ignored or couldn’t keep up with. On 9/11 there were twenty-one different threads at Free Republic related to the attacks — the first comment was posted at 8:52 a.m., just six minutes after Flight 11 slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. By the end of the day there would be thousands of comments as Freepers discussed the attacks and sought information.

It’s heart-rending to read through the threads and relive the play-by-play as the events unfolded. But it’s also fascinating to see the crowdsourcing aspect of the forum as Freepers across the country pieced the story together and tried to make sense of the senseless.

The Free Republic moderator who collected and archived the threads wrote:

Bookmark this thread, and bump it from time to time when the nation and the press seems to forget why we need resolve in the face of evil. Forgive some of the early misinformation and broken photo links, and recall the horror and fury.

To help us remember the “horror and fury” I’ve gone through the threads and posted a sampling of the comments on the next few pages. I did not edit the comments — I left spelling and grammar the way they were originally posted on 9/11 — I think it helps to convey the sense of urgency in the comments.


8:46 a.m. –  American Airlines Flight 11, enroute to Los Angeles with a crew of 11 and 76 passengers, hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

8:52 a.m. – CNBC reports a plane has hit the World Trade Center in NY. No details…

8:54 a.m. – Some guy is freakin out on the local NBC station. It looks like a whole bunch of floors are messed up

8:55 a.m. – Per FOX: 737 Huge explosion…..Gaping hole in tower One.

8:56 a.m. – From CNN’s website:Reports: Plane crashes into world trade center Television pictures showed a huge gash in one of the world trade center towers, and unconfirmed reports said a plane had crashed into the building. FULL STORY SOON

8:58 a.m. – I can see it from my office here in NJ. A lot of smoke near the top of the building. I can’t see any details.

8:59 a.m. – OH MY LORD! Start praying people!

8:59 a.m. – Fox is close up. Fire spewing out two sides of the building on the top floors. Roof is all smoke. Plane went in one wall and out another wall Fox says twin engine plane. Fox says it LOOKS deliberate.

9:00 a.m. – witness on nbc saying it made “steady, straight decline into the building”.

9:01 a.m. – Per FOX: “If this is an accident, it is a needle in a haystack kind of accident”..Dr Vernon Gross, NTSB says could have been inattention, engine failure, etc…Angle of the sun could factor in.

9:02 a.m. – Don Dahler ABC reported live that it was definately NOT A PROP PLANE…low whining sound ….

9:03 a.m. – I was right there. I was across the street. Oh lordy. I am stunned.

9:17 a.m. – CNN is saying a faulty guidance systems are leading these to aircraft into the buildings. Fox is calling is a terrorist attack.

9:22 a.m. – Per FOX: could be 737 or Airbus….could have come down from Canada. First plane flew right down 5th avenue. Markings on plane: BLUE LOGO…

9:40 a.m. – Oh Lord, people are jumping to avoid the fire!

It would be some time before the aircraft would be identified. News sources reported conflicting information about the type of plane based upon early eyewitness reports, but as the second plane hit, the realization began to set in that this was a deliberate act.


9:03 a.m. – American Airlines Flight 175, enroute to Los Angeles  with a crew of nine and 51 passengers, hit the South Tower:

9:04 a.m. – Another plane just flew into the building!


9:04 a.m. – Another plane flew into the second tower. TERRORISTS!!!!

9:04 a.m. – Dear God! They just hit the other tower.

9:04 a.m. – A SECOND plane just flew into the tower. This IS DELIBERATE!

9:07 a.m. – NOW looking like terrorist attack….Both towers now smoking…2nd one hit farther down the tower. Now Replaying!! JET PLANE.

9:08 a.m. – So far 6 people dead, 1000 injured. Both towers hit.

Sadly, this was only the beginning of carnage.

The thread from Free Republic reminds us how much technology has changed in the ensuing years:

9:08 a.m. – To all with VCRs. KEEP THEM TAPING!

9:08 a.m. – Can anyone capture a picture from the TV?

9:09 a.m. – Just saw a tape. Second plane was a twin engine jet!!


It didn’t take long for the speculation to begin about the perpetrators as well as the future of our country in the aftermath of the attack.

9:07 a.m. – God Save NY! This was a purposeful attack….

9:08 a.m. – It takes a lot of cash to smash two jets, don’t you think? Can you say Osama bin-Laden?

9:08 a.m. – Get ready for martial law people…!!!!!

9:09 a.m. – CBS nesw is interviewig a guy who said the first impact was most definately deliberate… visibility is excellent.. he is now saying the second plane turned intentionally into the tower… martial law time???

9:10 a.m. – Looks like Anti-Globalists air force.

9:10 a.m. – Both towers aflame. Both took plane hits. Are more coming????

9:10 a.m. – Speculating that planes may have been hijacked.. oh my God.

9:11 a.m. – I’m wondering if this is an attack, too. I’m also wondering if these are suicide pilots with empty planes. Or if somebody has screwed with the electronics and re-routed the signals for instrument approach so that commercial planes on automatic instrument approach automatically fly into the buildings.

9:14 a.m. – There was just an AP report saying that there had been a plane hijacking before the crash. Could it be a commercial jet full of people hijacked and crashed?

9:19 a.m. – Nobody paid for the last 5 terrorist attacks on US interests. Bin Laden should have been a dead man by now. I hope and pray that W has the strength and will to do what has to be done.

9:23 a.m. – My brother-in-law and my nephew were both in the building, high up. Please pray for them and our family

9:41 a.m. – I wonder if there are any OTHER hijacked planes(in other parts of the country) that they haven’t bothered to mention? DFW, LA, Chicago? If it REALLY is a Bin Laden operation, (or other large player) I would expect more than just 2.

10:02 a.m.  – My father was at a meeting on the 44th floor of North Tower (Tower One) at the time of the first hit. He called my mother and left a message that everything was okay. That was before the second attack. I am praying and waiting to hear some news. Phones are useless at this point.

10:04 a.m. – This is the response we reap from clinton’s chickensh**, one day, “War on terrorism” when he bombed Osama Bin Laden as a diversion on the day Lewinsky testified.

11:01 a.m. –  This was almost certainly Osama Bin Laden. This is war. It needs to be declared, and we need to start invading Afghanistan, Pakistan, and anywhere where these vermin are hiding, and take them out. Yes, all the pissant little countries will scream and yell, but what else can they do to us they haven’t now already done?

11:03 a.m. – DRAW your families close to you and get right w/ God the end is near!!!!!God save us all.

12:16 a.m. – Folks… I don’t think it’s overstating things. This is the beginning of World War III.


President Bush, who was in a classroom in Sarasota, Florida at the time of the attacks, gave his first comments from the school less than an hour after the first plane hit:

9:26 a.m. – Fox at bottom of screen says “Awaiting Presidential Statement On WTC Crashes”

9:32 a.m. – Bush is calling it an apparrent terrorist attack

9:32 a.m. – Bush: terrorism will not stand, moment of silence, prayer.

9:34 a.m. – Well, George Bush, just called it what it was. Terrorism. Man, Bush is pissed, and I can tell this guy actually has feelings about this. The difference between Bush and Clinton, is right now, Bush has nothing to cover up, or direct attention away from by having something like this happen. God Bless George Bush.

9:34 a.m. – Pray for our President’s safe return to Washington. He is in Florida now.

9:35 a.m. – President Bush just called it “an apparent act of terrorism.” Thank God his first remarks had to do with helping the victims and his second remarks had to do with bringing the perps to justice. Shalom.

9:38 a.m. – I’m just glad we have some grownups in the White House and, DOJ and Defense Department. Let us pray for wisdom for our leaders in making the correct response.

9:37 a.m. – American Airline Flight 77, enroute to Los Angeles with a crew of six and 53 passengers, crashed into the Pentagon.

9:44 a.m. – Something just happened at the Pentagon per MSNBC….

9:44 a.m. – Whitehouse and pentagon being evacuated

9:44 a.m. – Possible Explosion at Pentagon – NBC News – Jim Miklaszowski reporting live from the Pentagon…Developing…


9:46 a.m.  – Was on the phone w/ my boss who is in DC today….said he saw a plane go barrelling by his office building….hit the pentagon.

9:47 a.m. – Hearing reports that this was also a result of another plane attack…

9:47 a.m.  – I just saw the smoke billowing from the Pentagon. I can’t believe what I am seeing. I am dreading what will learn next.

9:48 a.m. – Large airliner confirmed slamming into the Pentagon…

9:49 a.m. – Washington Mall just hit according to a friend who phoned me.

9:50 a.m. – Brokaw is reporting that Palestinian terrorists in Dubai are claiming responsibility

9:51 a.m. – Capitol now being evacuated Explosion at pentagon huge!!! Speculating we are under seige. All airlines nationwide stopped. No planes at all!


And then unthinkable horror and loss of life:

10:03 a.m. – I just saw from my window. TOP OF THE World Trade Center just collapsed!! OH MY GOD! PEOPLE ARE CRYING HERE!


10:07 a.m. – An eyewitness reported earlier that people were flinging themselves out of the windows to hasten their deaths. The City has been shut down as has all the US airports. WH evacuated and Pentagon was struck by a plane.

10:09 a.m. – Just showed live on tv… dear God.

10:18 a.m. – City is in complete shutdown. The photos being shown by Fox are the most frightening I’ve ever witnessed.

10:18 a.m. – I just heard on NBC that 50,000 people work in the World Trade Center! My God! Please help those poor people, Lord. We are going to WAR people, I’ll bet you anything!

10:21 a.m. – Nam Vet—-Ranger, 54 and a little overweight, other than that……………..When do I collect my ordinance? I VOLUNTEER!!!! Just let us old Rangers win THIS one!

10:23 a.m. – I am in complete and total shock. I feel sick to my stomach yet I am SO angry that someone did this to my country, to my home. When will this end…

10:31 a.m. – BOTH TOWERS GONE NOW!!!

10:21 a.m. – HELP US!

10:34 a.m. – I feel so angry and helpless.

10:38 a.m. – An eyewitness on fox said that bodies were flying everywhere. I can’t imagine the horror. Sweet Jesus, help us in our time of need.

10:41 a.m. – “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves….” Until recent decades, America’s leadership acknowledged through America’s laws and its public discourse its dependence upon the Supreme Power of that Being who, as the Founders stated, is the “Ruler of Nations.” An America that ignores God’s commandments and His sustaining power is a vulnerable America. Perhaps it is time to reconsider the Founding ideas in this time of emergency!

10:55 a.m. – We want justice but let’s not throw liberty (including gun rights and the bill of rights) on the dustbin of history to achieve it. Unfortunately, this may well happen as hysteria boils over.

10:56 a.m. – Death. All I want is death for whoever did this. Bush had better nuke the country that did this. My God…I cannot believe I’m watching this…my God..

11:10 a.m. – I have a sister in there somewhere. I pry for the families of those lost, and for those who are yet to be lost. I want the country responsible destroyed.


And the terrifying reports of another hijacked plane…somewhere:

10:29 a.m. – unconfirmed: another plane hijacked and on way

10:31 a.m. – SHOOT IT DOWN

10:32 a.m. – From FOX, a police report that a hijacked plane is south of washington and headed that way.

10:33 a.m. – A horrible thought. But what’s the alternative? I wouldn’t want to give that order.

10:33 a.m. – The White House?

10:34 a.m. – That plane, if true, will not make it anywhere near teh WH before it is shot down with no regard for who is on the ground.

10:35 a.m. – Foxnews reporting that Capitol police are pushing people away from Capitrol because of hijacked plane heading for Washington. 10 minutes away!

10:35 a.m. – Oh my God, when will this end?

10:36 a.m. – I just got an unconfirmed report of a downed 747 in Summerset/Buckstown, PA. Sorry, nothing more is known.

10:39 a.m. – SHOOT THE PLANE DOWN!!!! Can it collide with Air Force One???? OMG this is just horrible.


10:46 a.m. – Pray that the pilot ditches it somewhere other than a targeted building.

10:48 a.m. – Just guessing, but if this plane did not hit anything then this plane may have been a hi-jacked plane that was shot down. Or the pilot may have been fighting with terroists.

10:52 a.m. – Speculation: A commercial pilot would never crash a plane into a populated area, even under threat of death. This seems to mean the terrorists had their own pilots on each of these planes. The crew was killed and the kamakaze pilot took over. This implies a very coordinated and sophisitcated operation with terrorist pilots who can fly these commercial airliners?

10:58 a.m. – Oh sweet jesus…….those poor people. Maybe the highjackers just found out that Alla is really the Devil himself….may they burn eternally!

11:13 – It time to put bounties on the heads of all known terrorists, starting with Osama Bin Laden – $50 Million – DEAD OR ALIVE!. And if thats enough to tempt some destitute Arab to drop a grenade in Osama’s shorts, then make it more more.

Of course, we now know the plane that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania was Flight 93, on which the heroic passengers wrestled with the hijackers to gain control of the plane, likely preventing more loss of life in Washington, D.C., the probable target.

And finally, an update from the woman who was concerned about her father:

11:00 p.m. – My father is okay!!! He made it out of the North Tower ten minutes before it collapsed. He was on the 44th floor and the descent took 45 minutes. Clearly, many thousands did not make it out. They passed a lot of firemen who were heading up the stairs as the building was being evacuated. Those fireman must have perished. We didn’t get the news that my Dad was okay until after noon, so it was a rough morning. Thanks for all of your concern and prayers.

A dozen years after 9/11, it’s cathartic to read the raw emotions of the day and to revisit the fear, the uncertainty, and the anger we experienced together as a nation. Just a decade after the first Gulf War at the time, it seemed reasonable to assume that a war to let our enemies “hear from all of us soon,” as President Bush promised from the pile of rubble at Ground Zero, would be quick and relatively painless. Few, if any, could have imagined that twelve years hence we would still be prosecuting the long War on Terror and none could have imagined this week’s Opposite World, in which far left Democrats would beat the war drums. The patriotism we basked in after 9/11 has turned into a national cynicism. There’s a sense that we don’t really know who the enemy is — or rather, that the enemy is everywhere and our whack-a-mole strategy isn’t adequately addressing the problem of radical Islam.

More than a decade after 9/11 it’s time to have a national debate about the nature and scope of the War on Terror and determine how it should look going forward. “Peace through bargains with Russia” is a dangerous strategy for the United States. Radical Islamists have changed the rules of the game and we don’t seem to have a long term for winning now that the game is in overtime. This may be the most important debate of our generation and we must not shrink from the difficult questions. We cannot afford to fumble or punt the ball to another country.