Headlines from 9/11: How Philadelphia news covered the attack that changed the U.S. forever

On this date in 2001, there were more questions than answers.

Background: Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa.

Background: Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa.

Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo; The Philadelphia Inquirer
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Two decades before the coronavirus pandemic sent the world into a frantic scramble to understand our “new normal,” everyday life for millions of people changed when four airplanes were hijacked and crashed into sites from New York City to Washington DC.

September 11 was 20 years ago, and it ushered in its own new normal.

We now know many details about what happened that day. We know who was behind the attacks that rocked the nation, and the names of those lost trying to stop them. We know many of the steps our country’s leaders sought to take to prevent it from happening ever again, and the lasting effects of those actions.

In Shanksville, Pennsylvania, about a 4-hour drive west of Philadelphia, we know a plane went down after a group of 33 passengers and seven crew members challenged four terrorists who diverted Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco, ostensibly heading the aircraft towards an attack on the Capitol in DC. President Joe Biden is visiting the Pa. memorial today.

But on this date in 2001, and during the days and weeks that followed, there were more questions than answers.

Here’s a look at some of The Philadelphia Inquirer headlines from the tragic event that defined a generation, and changed the United States forever.

It’s eerie now to see that 9/11 started like any other day in turn-of-millennium Philly, with a 50-cent paper reporting on policing, tax cuts, neighborhood renewal — and no inkling of what was to come.

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The Philadelphia Inquirer via Newspapers.com

Dramatic, disturbing, distressing, disruptive. Never-imagined scenes from New York City appeared on the front page of the Sept. 12 issue of The Inquirer.

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The Philadelphia Inquirer via Newspapers.com

The day after the planes crashed, investigations began into what’s often called the “fourth plane.” It was unclear at the time how much the Pa. disaster was linked to the NYC and D.C. attacks.

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The Philadelphia Inquirer via Newspapers.com

Within two days, eyes turned definitively toward retaliation.

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The Philadelphia Inquirer via Newspapers.com
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The Philadelphia Inquirer via Newspapers.com

Anti-Muslim xenophobia intensified in the days after the attack. The group behind it, Al Qaeda, gained a reputation as an extremist “Islamist” organization, causing many to vilify the entire religion. However, true Islam teaches love for one God and all of humanity, and is the world’s second largest religion.

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The Philadelphia Inquirer via Newspapers.com

Public opinion vacillated between war and peace, revenge and forgiveness, targeted action and all out retaliation.

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The Philadelphia Inquirer via Newspapers.com

Airlines and airports began unfurling ramped up security protocols that remain the standard today.

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The Philadelphia Inquirer via Newspapers.com

The staggering toll of 9/11 had yet to be realized. Today, we know a total of 2,977 people were killed on that day. More have since died as a result of the attacks.

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The Philadelphia Inquirer via Newspapers.com

Even before the U.S. government implemented heightened security and surveillance that would change life in every part of the country, people’s day-to-day existence was affected in immediate ways, like shifts in entertainment programming.

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The Philadelphia Inquirer via Newspapers.com

When President Bush heeded citizens to “get ready” for a long battle, he wasn’t exaggerating. The allusion marked the beginning of what experts say is the longest American war, which only ended last month when the last U.S. troops exited Afghanistan.

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The Philadelphia Inquirer via Newspapers.com

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