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The Smoke Week: Sept. 11-21, 2001 - The Stories and Lessons of the Worst Terrorist Attack in U.S. History

The Smoke Week: Sept. 11-21, 2001

The week following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was one of the most traumatic and surreal periods in American history. For nine days, New York City and much of the world were engulfed in a cloud of smoke, dust, and debris that emanated from the ruins of the World Trade Center. This week came to be known as the Smoke Week, a time of grief, shock, anger, fear, and solidarity. In this article, we will explore what happened during the Smoke Week, how it affected New York City and the world, and what impact it had on various aspects of life.

The Smoke Week: Sept. 11-21, 2001


What was the Smoke Week?

The Smoke Week was the period from Sept. 11 to Sept. 21, 2001, when a thick plume of smoke rose from the site of the collapsed Twin Towers in Lower Manhattan. The smoke was caused by the fires that burned for weeks after the attacks, as well as by the pulverized concrete, steel, glass, and other materials that were released into the air by the collapse. The smoke spread across New York City and beyond, reaching as far as New Jersey and Connecticut. It created a haze that reduced visibility and cast a somber mood over the city.

Why was it called the Smoke Week?

The term "Smoke Week" was coined by writer Luc Sante in an essay he wrote for The New York Review of Books on Sept. 27, 2001. He described the smoke as "a visible reminder of death" that "hung over everything like a shroud". He also noted that the smoke had a distinctive smell that was "acrid, metallic, chemical, organic". He wrote: "The smoke made everything provisional. It suggested that nothing could be taken for granted anymore, that anything might happen next."

How did it affect New York City and the world?

The Smoke Week had a profound effect on New York City and the world in many ways. It disrupted daily life, transportation, communication, business, education, health care, and entertainment. It also triggered a range of emotions, from sadness and despair to anger and patriotism. It sparked a wave of solidarity and compassion among New Yorkers and people around the world who offered their help and support. It also provoked a sense of vulnerability and uncertainty about the future. It marked a turning point in history that changed the course of global politics, security, culture, and society.

The Events of Sept. 11, 2001

The hijacked planes and the targets

The Smoke Week began with a series of coordinated terrorist attacks that shocked the world on Sept. 11, 2001. Nineteen members of al-Qaeda, an Islamist extremist group led by Osama bin Laden, hijacked four commercial airliners and crashed them into strategic targets in the United States. Two planes hit the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, one plane hit the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and one plane crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after the passengers fought back against the hijackers. The attacks killed nearly 3,000 people and injured more than 6,000 others.

The collapse of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon attack

The impact of the planes caused massive damage and fires in the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. The towers, which were 110 stories high and housed more than 50,000 workers and visitors, collapsed within two hours of being hit. The collapse generated a huge amount of debris and dust that covered the surrounding area and created a massive crater. The Pentagon, which is the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense and employs about 26,000 people, suffered a partial collapse and a fire that burned for days. The attacks on these symbols of American power and prestige were intended to inflict maximum casualties and damage, as well as to instill fear and terror.

The heroism of the first responders and the passengers of Flight 93

The attacks also inspired acts of heroism and bravery by many people who risked their lives to save others. The first responders, including firefighters, police officers, paramedics, and emergency workers, rushed to the scenes of the attacks and tried to rescue as many people as possible from the burning buildings. Many of them lost their lives in the process. The passengers and crew of Flight 93, which was heading to San Francisco from Newark, learned about the other attacks from phone calls and decided to fight back against the hijackers. They stormed the cockpit and prevented the plane from reaching its intended target, which is believed to be either the White House or the Capitol. They sacrificed their lives to save others.

The aftermath and the casualties

The aftermath of the attacks was devastating and heartbreaking. Thousands of people were killed or injured, many of them trapped under the rubble or missing. Thousands more lost their loved ones, friends, colleagues, or neighbors. Millions of people witnessed the horror on live television or online. The scenes of destruction, chaos, grief, and despair were overwhelming. The attacks also caused billions of dollars in economic losses and damages. The recovery and cleanup efforts took months and years to complete.

The Impact of the Smoke Week

The environmental and health consequences

One of the most immediate and lasting impacts of the Smoke Week was on the environment and health of New York City and its residents. The smoke that filled the air for nine days posed serious health risks for those who breathed it in. It contained toxic substances such as asbestos, lead, mercury, dioxins, benzene, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These substances can cause respiratory problems, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, neurological disorders, and other illnesses. Many people who were exposed to the smoke developed chronic health conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, headaches, fatigue, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and cancer. Some of them died from their illnesses.

The economic and social repercussions

Another major impact of the Smoke Week was on the economy and society of New York City and beyond. The attacks disrupted many sectors of the economy such as tourism, transportation, finance, media, ```html The political and security implications

The Smoke Week also had a significant impact on the political and security landscape of the United States and the world. The attacks triggered a global war on terror that aimed to dismantle al-Qaeda and its affiliates, as well as to prevent future attacks. The U.S. and its allies invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 to overthrow the Taliban regime that harbored bin Laden and his followers. They also invaded Iraq in March 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein, who was accused of having weapons of mass destruction and links to al-Qaeda. These wars resulted in thousands of deaths, injuries, displacements, human rights violations, and humanitarian crises. They also increased the instability and violence in the Middle East and other regions. The attacks also led to the creation of new laws and agencies to enhance the security and intelligence capabilities of the U.S. and its allies. These included the USA PATRIOT Act, the Department of Homeland Security, the Transportation Security Administration, and the National Security Agency. These measures increased the surveillance and screening of citizens and travelers, as well as the detention and interrogation of suspects. They also raised concerns about civil liberties, privacy, and human rights.

The cultural and emotional responses

The Smoke Week also influenced the cultural and emotional expressions of New York City and the world. The attacks inspired many forms of artistic and creative works that reflected the pain, anger, hope, and resilience of the people. These included songs, poems, novels, films, documentaries, paintings, sculptures, photographs, murals, memorials, and museums. Some of the most notable examples are Bruce Springsteen's album The Rising, Don DeLillo's novel Falling Man, Paul Greengrass's film United 93, Spike Lee's film 25th Hour, Thomas Hoepker's photograph of Brooklyn Bridge Park, Michael Arad's design of Reflecting Absence at Ground Zero, and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. The attacks also elicited various forms of emotional reactions from people around the world. These included grief, sympathy, solidarity, compassion, generosity, gratitude, patriotism, pride, courage, ```html Conclusion

Summary of the main points

In conclusion, the Smoke Week was a pivotal moment in American and world history that had lasting effects on various aspects of life. It was a time of tragedy and trauma, but also of heroism and solidarity. It was a time of disruption and change, but also of resilience and recovery. It was a time of challenge and uncertainty, but also of hope and courage.

The legacy of the Smoke Week

The legacy of the Smoke Week is still evident today, 20 years after the attacks. The Smoke Week has shaped the memories and identities of millions of people who lived through it or witnessed it. It has also influenced the policies and actions of governments and organizations that seek to prevent or respond to terrorism and other threats. It has also inspired the efforts and initiatives of individuals and groups that strive to honor the victims and survivors, as well as to promote peace and justice.

The lessons learned and the challenges ahead

The Smoke Week has also taught us some valuable lessons and posed some critical challenges for the future. Some of the lessons are: to cherish life and appreciate our loved ones; to respect diversity and embrace humanity; to stand up for our values and principles; to cooperate and collaborate for the common good; to be vigilant and prepared for any situation; to be adaptable and flexible in a changing world; to be compassionate and empathetic to those who suffer; to be optimistic and positive in the face of adversity. Some of the challenges are: to balance security and freedom; to address the root causes and consequences of terrorism; to foster dialogue and understanding among different cultures and religions; to heal the wounds and scars of trauma; to rebuild trust and confidence in our institutions and leaders; to foster innovation and creativity in our economy and society; to protect our environment and health from pollution and disease; to pursue our dreams and aspirations with passion and determination.


What is al-Qaeda?

Al-Qaeda is a militant Islamist group that was founded by Osama bin Laden in the late 1980s. It aims to establish a global caliphate based on a strict interpretation of Islamic law. It opposes Western influence and intervention in Muslim countries. It is responsible for many terrorist attacks around the world, including the Sept. 11 attacks.

What is Ground Zero?

Ground Zero is the name given to the site where the Twin Towers once stood in Lower Manhattan. It is also known as the World Trade Center site or the 9/11 Memorial site. It is now a place of remembrance and reflection for the victims and survivors of the attacks.

What is PTSD?

PTSD stands for post-traumatic stress disorder. It is a mental health condition that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, such as a terrorist attack, a natural disaster, a war, or a violent crime. It can cause symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, depression, anger, guilt, insomnia, isolation, and substance abuse.

What is the USA PATRIOT Act?

The USA PATRIOT Act stands for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept ```html of 2001. It is a law that was passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. It gives the federal government expanded powers and authority to combat terrorism and enhance national security. It also allows the government to access and monitor various types of information and communication, such as phone calls, emails, bank records, and internet activity.

What is the National September 11 Memorial & Museum?

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is a memorial and museum that honors the victims and survivors of the Sept. 11 attacks and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. It is located at Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan. The memorial consists of two reflecting pools that mark the footprints of the Twin Towers, surrounded by bronze panels that bear the names of the nearly 3,000 people who died in the attacks. The museum displays artifacts, photographs, videos, audio recordings, and personal stories that tell the history and impact of the attacks.


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