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Terrorist Attack on the Pentagon, Photograph, 11 September 2001


Materials in the Library of Virginia’s collections contain historical terms, phrases, and images that are offensive to modern readers. These include demeaning and dehumanizing references to race, ethnicity, and nationality; enslaved or free status; physical and mental ability; and gender and sexual orientation. 


On the morning of September 11, 2001 four flights were hijacked by members of the Islamic extremist group, al- Qaeda, in coordinated attack against the United States. All four hijacked planes were scheduled to be cross-country flights from the East Coast to California. American Airlines Flight 11 (81 passengers, 11 crew, 5 hijackers) and United Airlines Flight 175 (56 passengers, 9 crew, 5 hijackers) left Logan International Airport in Boston, MA bound for Los Angeles. Both flights were hijacked and were crashed into the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Flight 11 struck the north tower and Flight 175 struck the south tower. The impact of the planes and extreme damage caused towers to fall within two hours. The Capital Building or the White House were believed to be another target of the attack. United Airlines Flight 93 (37 passengers, 7 crew, 4 hijackers) left Newark International Airport bound for San Francisco and was hijacked over Ohio. Upon hearing of the other attacks, the passengers revolted against the hijackers and the plane was crashed in Shanksville, PA. American Airlines Flight 77 (58 passengers, 6 crew, 5 hijackers) left Washington Dulles International Airport bound for Los Angeles and was crashed into the Pentagon. There was a total of 2,996 victims of the 9/11 attack including the 19 al- Qaeda hijackers.

The Pentagon, located in Arlington, Virginia, is the world's largest low-rise office building and is home to the United States Department of Defense. Construction began in 1941 and was completed by 1943. The photograph shows the damage which resulted from the plane impact on September 11, 2001. Flight 77 crashed into the western side of the Pentagon which caused an intense and ferocious fire. The section of the building struck was the only portion of the Pentagon that had been renovated at that time. The renovations included installing blast-resistant windows, making structural improvements, and adding sprinkler systems. The ongoing renovations meant the area was only half populated which reduced the number casualties on the ground. However, there were still 125 people who lost their lives inside the Pentagon that day.  

Following the attacks, the Pentagon Renovation Program, nicknamed the Phoenix Project, set a goal to complete all reconstruction within one year of the attacks. By the first anniversary, the goal was met, offices at the point of impact had been restored, and people were working in those offices. Since the attacks, many memorials have been dedicated to remembering the victims and the first responders who saved many lives, including a memorial erected at the Pentagon which honors the184 lives lost in the attack, those on Flight 77, those who died in the pentagon, and the families of the victims.

Citations: Pentagon—photo courtesy of Edwin C. Bearss
National September 11 Memorial & Museum. FAQ about 9/11. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Vogel, S. The Pentagon. (2011, April 7). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from


USII.1, USII.9, VUS.1, VUS.15

Suggested Questions

Preview Activities

Look at It: Look at the photo of the Pentagon on 9/11. Photos of tragic events often invoke feeling in the viewer.  How does this photo make you feel? Why?

Post Activities

Analyze: What might have been some reasons that the Pentagon was a target of the 9/11 attacks? Think about what government agencies are found in the Pentagon.

Be the Journalist: You are a journalism student writing a short article on the impacts of 9/11. What fact would you include? How would describe the damage to the Pentagon to individuals who might not have seen the actual event unfold?

STEM STAT:  Examine the photo of the Pentagon after the 9/11 attack.  From the photo, what can you tell about the plane's angle of entry and the subsequent damage to the building?  Be specific.