World Trade Center tower burning after attack

The hijackers waited for a few minutes before taking control of the planes they were aboard. By the time officials figured out what was happening, it was too late to stop the worst of the damage.

Paul Turner/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

September 11, 8:45 a.m. -- America Under Attack

As Flight 11 speeds toward New York City, air traffic controllers try to piece together what's happening in the skies. They overhear a man in the cockpit announcing to the passengers, "We have some planes. Just stay quiet and you will be OK." Not only does the statement confirm that the plane's been hijacked, but the man's use of the word planes, in the plural, also seems a harbinger of things to come. More planes will be -- or already have been -- hijacked.

At 8:45 a.m., Atta and his team deliberately crash Flight 11 into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. At 9:03, Flight 175 smashes into the South Tower.

Within five minutes, the FAA halts all takeoffs scheduled to fly to New York City or through New York City airspace. By 9:17 a.m., all New York City airports are shut down.

At 9:26 a.m., the FAA stops takeoffs for all civilian aircraft throughout the country. Five minutes later, President George W. Bush calls the plane incidents an "apparent terrorist attack on our country."

At 9:43 a.m. Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon, in Virginia. Two minutes later, the White House is evacuated.