How Many People Died in 911?

March 16, 2024

Nearly 3,000 people were killed on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists from the Al Qaeda group hijacked four planes. Two flew into the Twin Towers of New York City's World Trade Center, one slammed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the fourth plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after passengers fought back against their captors. Countless others were injured or suffered long-term health problems after the attacks.

A painstaking process to positively identify victims continues more than two decades later, with DNA technology allowing scientists to connect remains with individuals. As of this week, the New York City Medical Examiner's office has identified another two victims using this technology.

Many first responders also developed illnesses linked to their exposure to contaminants at the site, now called Ground Zero. One study found that firefighters who spent the longest time at the site and made repeat visits to the area had a higher rate of illness than those who went there only once. Another study found that women who were exposed to the trauma, stress and airborne contaminants during pregnancy had babies with lower birth weights and shorter gestational periods.

A survey of more than 4,000 people who were exposed to the World Trade Center disaster showed that 31% surveyed had experienced PTSD. Almost as many had chronic respiratory issues and cancer. Inflamed sinuses and GERD were also common among those with illnesses connected to 9/11. Cancers with longer latency times, like pleural mesothelioma, have only recently started to appear in the data, but they're expected to become more common as more first responders die of their ailments from that day.


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