20 Rarely Seen Photos of the Events of Sept. 11, 2001

By Katie Lange
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

Today marks Patriot Day, a national day of service and remembrance that commemorates the catastrophic events of Sept. 11, 2001, in which terrorists took the lives of nearly 3,000 people on American soil.

The Pentagon was one of those targets. When American Airlines Flight 77 hit the west wall of the building‘s first floor, it set off a chain of events that killed 125 people inside – most of whom were Army and Navy service members and employees – along with the 64 people onboard the Boeing 757. In New York, 17 Marine reservists were among the firefighters killed as the World Trade Centers collapsed.

That day was 16 years ago, but it’s one that changed life for everyone in America, as well as many across the globe. It’s what propelled many to join the military, go into civil service or just be inspired to do more for their country.

We’ve all seen photos of the devastation from that day, but here are a few lesser-seen images. While some aren’t as iconic as others you’ve seen over the years, they’re impactful just the same:

Photo by Eric Draper, courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library

President George W. Bush turns around to watch television coverage of the attacks on the World Trade Center Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, as he is briefed in a classroom at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. 

Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Cedric H. Rudisill

An aerial view of the damage at the Pentagon two days after Sept. 11, 2001. On that day, five members of al-Qaida, a group of fundamentalist Islamic Muslims, hijacked American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757-200, from Dulles International Airport just outside Washington and flew the aircraft and its 64 passengers into the side of the Pentagon.

Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Houlihan

The aftermath in Washington of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon, Sept. 11, 2001. 

Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Larry A. Simmons

A clock, frozen at the time of impact, inside the Pentagon.  

Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Larry A. Simmons

Burned and melted items sit atop an office desk inside the fifth floor of the Pentagon. 

Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Larry A. Simmons

View of a damaged office on the fifth floor of the Pentagon. 

Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library

President George W. Bush talks on the telephone Sept. 11, 2001, as senior staff huddle aboard Air Force One. 

National Archives photo

President George W. Bush talks with Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and other advisors during meetings at the President’s Emergency Operations Center, Sept. 11, 2001. 

National Archives photo

Vice President Dick Cheney sits with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice in the President’s Emergency Operations Center during meetings on the day of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. 

National Archives photo

Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice look on inside the President’s Emergency Operations Center during meetings on the day of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. 

Photo by Paul Morse, courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library

Smoke rises from the site of the World Trade Center, Sept. 11, 2001. 

New York National Guard photo

New York National Guard soldiers from the 69th Infantry Division and New York City firefighters band together to remove rubble from ground zero at the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

New York National Guard photo

Wearing a gas mask, a New York National Guard soldier from the “Fighting” 69th Infantry Division pauses amid the rubble at ground zero.

National Archives photo

Secretary of State Colin Powell gets briefed inside the President’s Emergency Operations Center, Sept. 11, 2001. 

National Archives photo

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney meet in the President’s Emergency Operations Center during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. 

Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library

President George W. Bush greets rescue workers, firefighters and military personnel, Sept. 12, 2001, while surveying damage caused by the previous day’s terrorist attacks on the Pentagon. 

Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library

The president greets firefighters, police and rescue personnel, Sept. 14, 2001, while touring the site of the World Trade Center terrorist attack in New York. 

Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library

President George W. Bush grasps the hand of his father, former President George H. W. Bush, after speaking at the service for America’s National Day of Prayer and Remembrance at the National Cathedral in Washington, Sept. 14, 2001. 

Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Pendergrass

Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) render honors as firefighters and rescue workers unfurl a huge American flag over the side of the Pentagon while rescue and recovery efforts continued following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack. The garrison flag, sent from the U.S. Army Band at nearby Fort Myer, Virginia, is the largest authorized flag for the military. 

Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Darin Overstreet

Sandra Dahl, left, is the widow of Jason Dahl, the pilot of United Airlines Flight 93, which went down in Somerset, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 11, 2001. The plane was believed to have been en route to the White House. Here, she holds an American flag along with Air Force Lt. Col. Mike Low after flying in the back seat of his F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter.
Though this photo was taken Feb. 8, 2004 – not immediately during or after the attacks – it depicts the spirit and determination of all of those who carry the legacy of the men and women who sacrificed that day.

What memory stands out to you most from that day? Leave your comments and remembrances below.

READ MORE: 8 Things You May Not Know About Our Air Defense on 9/11

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11 Responses to 20 Rarely Seen Photos of the Events of Sept. 11, 2001

  1. J.D. D says:

    On 9/11/01 I will never forget where I was or what I was doing. It was a day that started out just like any other but ended like no other. My heart goes out to the families of those who lost their lives just setting out for what they, and everyone thought would be just another day. Everyday since I have and always will stop what I’m doing and spend just a moment thinking about what happened and those families, how their lives changed forever on that day, in that split second. Hug your Wife, kids and friends today they won’t know why but do it because as those families of those who lost their lives know you may not have another chance too.

  2. Kala says:

    It was a day of horrible images, shock and uncertainty followed by sorrow of loss and pride in Americans.

  3. Jack-b-Quicker says:

    Wow, looks like a bomb went off.

  4. Bungo Baggins says:

    The airplane, like, totally vaporized!

  5. Bitemore Gfotwo says:

    That day is frozen in my memory. It will always be there… I was unemployed, a college student, with final exams scheduled for the next day. I was on my treadmill, watching the news on TV, when they cut to a scene that I can never forget: the World Trade Center immediately after the first plane hit. Now, my treadmill has a cardiac monitor, and I always set it so that if my heart-rate exceeds a certain count, the treadmill will automatically slow down. Well… my heart rate must have gone wild, because the treadmill slowed to where it barely functioned. I hit the “stop” button, and stood there watching the TV for what seemed like hours… then, I knew I had a lot of studying to do for Finals, but I also knew I couldn’t focus. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before I learned that classes and exams had been canceled for that Wednesday, and would be made up at a later date. I will never, ever, forget that horrible day. Never.

  6. The dead deserve the truth , It is time for a legitimate investigation of the events on 9/11/01,

  7. Sonny says:

    where is the plane?

  8. Paul Brown says:

    The one thing that stands out in my memory is the sight I saw across this world. People from all over, every country all stood still and saluted America for what had taken place. People got out of cars parked on highways and held their hands over their hearts and said prayers. People were coming together like never before, until the day when Osama the Islamic dictator was elected, then he went around apologizing to the world for big bad America, how dare we attack the arabs and muslimes for doing that to us.

  9. AlbanyDon says:

    What I remember is getting home from work and the news was still showing people falling from window of the towers. I later realized that these were people jumping to avoid the flames. My nephew was one of the many Marsh and McLennan employees that lost their lives. The sad part is that many of the Fire and police first responders had to take NYC to court in order to get their medical bills covered. They had to prove that respiratory ailments were linked to them working in the cleanup period

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