(Gary Hershorn / Reuters)
What Happened on 9/11?
Explain the September 11 terrorist attacks to kids with these informative questions and answers.
By Natalie Smith
What happened that day?
On September 11, 2001, terrorists attacked the Unites States. They hijacked four airplanes in mid-flight. The terrorists flew two of the planes into two skyscrapers at the World Trade Center in New York City. The impact caused the buildings to catch fire and collapse. Another plane destroyed part of the Pentagon (the U.S. military headquarters) in Arlington, Virginia. The fourth plane crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Officials believe that the terrorists on that plane intended to destroy either the White House or the U.S. Capitol. Passengers on the plane fought the terrorists and prevented them from reaching their goal. In all, nearly 3,000 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks.
Who attacked us?
A total of 19 terrorists hijacked the four planes on 9/11. All of the men were from nations in the Middle East. They belonged to a terrorist group called Al Qaeda (ahl KAY-dah), led by Osama bin Laden. Al Qaeda practices an extreme version of the religion of Islam. The group is intensely opposed to the United States and other Western, democratic nations. They are especially against the military presence of these countries in Arab nations. Since the group’s creation by bin Laden in the late 1980s, Al Qaeda has helped coordinate and fund numerous bombings worldwide.
How did America respond to 9/11?
In October 2001, the U.S. and its allies invaded Afghanistan, where Al Qaeda was based. The extreme Islamic group that ran Afghanistan's government, known as the Taliban, was protecting Bin Laden and allowing Al Qaeda to run training camps in the country. U.S.-led forces soon brought down the Taliban. They are are still working to help rebuild and stabilize the nation. Since 2001, many Al Qaeda members have been captured or killed. On May 1, 2011, U.S. troops killed Bin Laden where he was hiding in Pakistan.
The U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. Then President George W. Bush and other U.S. leaders believed that the country’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, was hiding terrible weapons that could be given to terrorists. Hussein was captured and later put to death by an Iraqi court. No weapons of mass destruction were found.
How did America change after 9/11?
Following 9/11, the U.S. government took many steps to try to make the country safer. It tightened security at airports and in public buildings. A new cabinet-level department—the Department of Homeland Security—was created. It works to protect the United States from terrorism.
Though your teens don’t have their own memories of 9/11, it’s important that they learn about and reflect on that day and its long-term effects. Ask them to write a short essay, journal entry, poem, or even a list about the events of September 11, 2001. Here are a few writing prompts about 9/11 to get them started.
1. Ripple Effect
You may be too young to remember the actual events of 9/11, but you’re not immune to the ripple effect. Write about how the September 11th attack continues to affect even those who have no memory of that day.
There were many heroes during the September 11th tragedy. Write about a hero or a heroic event that you have read about or observed in a documentary. If you need ideas, try one of these.
3. A Different World
Much has changed in the years since 9/11. The events of that day have impacted not just America, but the world. Do you think the world is more or less vulnerable today than in 2001? How have our freedoms been impacted? Write a paragraph explaining your answer.
4. Through Their Eyes
Interview a parent, grandparent, or other adult who remembers the attack of September 11, 2001. Ask about where they were or what they were doing when the attack was first announced. How did they first react? What are their feelings about 9/11 today? Assemble their responses into an essay or poem.
5. Gratitude Is an Attitude
September 11th is a Day of Remembrance. As we honor those who lost their lives on this day in 2001, make a list of at least 10 things in your life that you are thankful for.
If you love our writing prompts, Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!