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20 Years Of 9/11: How Satellites Captured Twin Tower Attacks From Space | See Photos



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New Delhi: Two airplanes crashing into two towers of concrete one after the other, bringing down 110 storeys of each and reducing them to dust, smoke and rubble — the visuals don’t leave you, even though 20 years have passed since September 11, 2001, when the world was shaken by one of the deadliest terror attacks it has ever seen.  

The 9/11 attacks on the two towers of World Trade Center were captured by countless cameras, by those present in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan in New York City on the fateful day and lived to tell the tale through their lenses. 

But there were some images that were clicked by eyes in the sky. The data visualisation team at the NASA Earth Observatory shared a satellite image 10 years after the attack. The image captured by the Advanced Land Imager on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 satellite shows an aerial view of New York City on September 12, 2001, with smoke still billowing out at the WTC attack site. 

20 Years Of 9/11: How Satellites Captured Twin Tower Attacks From Space 2 Decades Ago | See Images
Photo: NASA

Another image, visible from space, shows a plume of smoke rising from the Manhattan area after the attacks. This photo was captured from the International Space Station (ISS) on the morning of September 11, 2001, and it shows New York City and areas around it at the time. 

“Our prayers and thoughts go out to all the people there, and everywhere else,” Station Commander Frank Culbertson of Expedition 3, ISS was quoted as saying after the attacks.

20 Years Of 9/11: How Satellites Captured Twin Tower Attacks From Space 2 Decades Ago | See Images
Photo: NASA

According to NASA, Culberston posted a public letter the following day narrating his initial thoughts of what happened that day. “The world changed today. What I say or do is very minor compared to the significance of what happened to our country today when it was attacked,” he wrote.

“It’s horrible to see smoke pouring from wounds in your own country from such a fantastic vantage point. The dichotomy of being on a spacecraft dedicated to improving life on the earth and watching life being destroyed by such willful, terrible acts is jolting to the psyche, no matter who you are,” Culbertson added.

Another true-colour image was taken on September 12, 2001 by the Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus aboard the Landsat 7 satellite, at around 11:30 am EDT.

20 Years Of 9/11: How Satellites Captured Twin Tower Attacks From Space 2 Decades Ago | See Images
Photo: USGS Landsat 7 team


The attacks killed 2,753 people at the WTC towers site alone. There were two more suicide attacks by terrorist group al Qaeda, headed by Osama bin Laden, on that day. As many as 19 militants had hijacked four airplanes, two of which crashed into the twin WTC towers in New York City, one flew into the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C., and a fourth plane crashed on a field in Pennsylvania. The four attacks left a total of 2,977 people dead.


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