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Fall and Rise

The Story of 9/11

By Mitchell Zuckoff
13-minute read
Audio available
Fall and Rise by Mitchell Zuckoff

Fall and Rise (2019) recounts the morning of September 11, 2001, a date when the world changed forever. Operating under the direction of Osama bin Laden, terrorists seized control of four commercial airliners, crashing them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It tells a story of fear, courage, and strength through the eyes of just a few of the men, women, and children who were there. 

  • People who want to go past the headlines and learn more about the individuals who lived and died on this tragic day
  • Anyone who wants to know what it was like to be a part of history

Mitchell Zuckoff is a journalist who covered 9/11 for the Boston Globe on the day of the attacks. He has authored seven previous nonfiction books, including the best-seller 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi.

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Fall and Rise

The Story of 9/11

By Mitchell Zuckoff
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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Fall and Rise by Mitchell Zuckoff
Synopsis

Fall and Rise (2019) recounts the morning of September 11, 2001, a date when the world changed forever. Operating under the direction of Osama bin Laden, terrorists seized control of four commercial airliners, crashing them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It tells a story of fear, courage, and strength through the eyes of just a few of the men, women, and children who were there. 

Key idea 1 of 8

The September 11 attacks were the result of years of careful planning.

The roots of what would grow into the September 11 attacks can be traced at least as far back as 1998. That was the year when Osama bin Laden issued a fatwa, a religious decree declaring war on the United States, its citizens, and its interests around the world. 

Bin Laden had been on the radar of American intelligence agencies for some time. He was wanted thanks to his role in attacks in Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere. But while there were some that took the threat seriously, the idea of a large-scale, coordinated terrorist attack was unimaginable to most at the time.

The key message here is: The September 11 attacks were the result of years of careful planning.

The orchestrator of the attacks was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who had originally envisioned hijacking ten planes and attacking targets on both coasts. The plan was known as the Planes Operation, and Bin Laden approved a less complicated version in 1999. In order to carry it out, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would need men who spoke English, knew something of life in the West, and could obtain travel visas to the United States. 

One such man was Mohamed Atta, a 33-year-old Egyptian who had been recruited by al-Qaeda while he was a graduate student in Germany. After he had trained in Afghanistan, bin Laden selected him as the tactical commander of the Planes Operation. Shaving his beard and adopting Western clothes in an attempt to blend in, Atta returned to Germany, where he began emailing American flight schools. By late summer 2000, outfitted with new passports and tourist visas, Atta led a small group to Florida, where they began studying to be pilots.

At the same time, bin Laden handpicked 16 additional men for the operation. One, who already had flight experience, was selected as the fourth pilot. The others, intended as “muscle” to control the passengers and crew, received training in close combat in Afghanistan. By spring 2001, the entire group had entered the United States. 

As the spring and summer passed, bin Laden became impatient and demanded that the Planes Operation be put into motion. But Mohamed Atta wasn’t ready, continuing to take practice flights and study the routines of airport security and airline crews. Finally, near the end of August, Atta chose the second Tuesday in September as the date. Whether this was simply a logistical choice or if the date had some other, deeper significance remains a mystery. 

With the date set, Atta and his men purchased plane tickets and found motels in and around Boston, Newark, and Washington, DC. On the evening of September 10, they made their final preparations for what would be their final act.

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