NEW YORK, Sept. 11 Two aircraft slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York on Tuesday, creating a horrific scene that President Bush called an apparent terrorist attack on our country. A short time later, a blast was reported at the Pentagons heliport, and it, the West Wing of the White House and the Capitol were being evacuated. In addition, the Federal Aviation Administration grounded all civilian aircraft nationwide and ordered planes in the air to land immediately at the nearest airport.
NBCS JIM MIKLASEWSKI, reporting from the Pentagon, said an official told him a bomb was apparently detonated at the Pentagons heliport, which lies beyond the buildings tight security. Other reports said the blast could have been caused by yet another aircraft.
In New York, the aircraft struck minutes apart, starting fires and sending smoke billowing out of the skyscrapers. The first crash happened shortly before 9 a.m. ET.
MSNBC.com reporter Martin Wolk, who was inside one of the towers, said the lights flickered and then a loud bang was heard. People panicked and started to flee the building.
When they reached the lobby, smoke started to fill the building and people could see debris falling and many cars outside were damaged. It was sheer pandemonium, people were screaming and crying, afraid to go outside because of the falling debris, Wolk said. We looked up and it looked like the top 20 floors were in flames.
Another bystander described a barrage of debris raining down on the sidewalk below.
Shortly after 9 a.m., a second aircraft was seen crashing into the other tower. Broadcast cameras already watching the scene filmed the second plane as it slammed into the tower and exploded in a huge fireball.
A half hour later, President Bush made a brief statement to reporters, calling the disaster a national tragedy and attributing it to terrorists. He did not cite any specific terrorist groups.
In the wake of the crashes, New York airports and the Lincoln Tunnel were closed as precautionary measures. The stock exchanges in New York also did not open.
Large holes were visible in sides of the 110-story buildings. The tops of the twin towers were obscured by the smoke.
Thousands of pieces of what appeared to be office paper came drifting over Brooklyn, about three miles from the tower, one witness said.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon