Attack on the U.S.: An Internet Guide

How an idea spread and grew on the Internet.
Sept. 12 2001 2:30 AM

Attack on the U.S.: An Internet Guide

Begin with one of the most haunting images on the web: Flightexplorer, a company that tracks commercial flights in the air, posts this radar map of American Airlines Flight 11's path from Boston to the World Trade Center. Where does the disaster begin? With the sharp left turn the plane takes over the Adirondack Mountains.

David Plotz David Plotz

David Plotz is Slate's editor at large. He's the author of The Genius Factory and Good Book.

The Slate home page posts all the stories we've published on the attacks.

Many Web news sites have been overwhelmed with traffic, but you should be able to view MSNBC's comprehensive coverage here.

MSNBC lists emergency numbers you can call for information about airline passengers and some World Trade Center employees. United Airlines will post updates on the disaster here. American Airlines will post them here. Morgan Stanley, which employed 3,500 people in the World Trade Center, posts its sad message here. You can check the American Red Cross site for information about donating blood.

The World Trade Center and the Pentagon:

The World Trade Center's site is, unsurprisingly, down. This is the most recent version of it cached by Google. This page, maintained by someone who must have had a World Trade Center office and a Webcam, offered real-time images of the Hudson River. Now it is a ghostly black. is nothing but this single grim sentence: "Domain to be donated as memorial or for some other suitable purpose." 

The Department of Defense's Pentagon site includes a history of the building and a virtual tour.

TerraServer posts satellite photographs of lower Manhattan and the Pentagon. It sells photos of those sites, or anywhere else, to anyone who wants to buy them.

The Terrorists:

CNN is reporting that U.S. officials have linked the attacks to Usama Bin Laden. The FBI already has Bin Laden on its Most Wanted list for the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Here is the poster, which includes the surprising detail that Bin Laden is extremely tall, perhaps 6 feet 6 inches. The Smoking Gun posts this CIA fact sheet on the Saudi terrorist. The State Department's most recent list of terrorist organizations includes Bin Laden's al Qaeda, as well as dozens of other groups. The Federation of American Scientists maintains a superb terrorist resource page that includes profiles of every known terrorist organization. The intelligence Web site has lots of instant analysis of the attacks and a guide to which countries might or might not be involved.

For a hint of what the U.S. response to the attacks might be, read " Catastrophic Terrorism: Elements of a National Policy," a paper by three scholars associated with Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. This article may have more pull than the usual academic paper: One of its authors is Philip Zelikow, a longtime collaborator with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. Another is John Deutch, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Planes and Disasters:

You can see a cockpit image and video of the Boeing 757 at the plane's home page. Fear of Flying has a day-by-day list of airplane disasters, which notes that a DC-9 crashed outside of Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 11, 1974, killing 70 passengers, and an American military helicopter crashed on Sept. 11, 1982, at a German air show, killing 46.

This site chronicles the history of disasters in New York City.  It notes that this is not the first time a plane has crashed into a New York skyscraper. In a thick fog on July 28, 1945, a B-25 crashed into the 78th floor of the Empire State Building, killing 13 people. Here is an account of that crash. History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as tragedy.


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