September 11, 2001: Two commercial airliners strike the World Trade Center complex in New York City, and one strikes the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
Believed to have been on course for the U.S. Capitol, a fourth jet crashes into an open field in western Pennsylvania. About 3,000 people die in the events, which result in the complete destruction of the World Trade Center Twin Towers and severe damage to the Pentagon building. The U.S. labels the incidents terrorist actions and suspects Muslim extremists are responsible. The U.S. launches attacks in Afghanistan, eventually ousting the ruling Muslim fundamentalist regime known as the Taliban. The Taliban and its leader, Mullah Omar, are thought to sponsor the terrorist network al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden.