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Terrorism and Americans Pre - 9/11

Although the events of September 11, 2001 are among the most well-known to be classified as terrorism, they were preceded by a number of such episodes all over the world. Some were directly aimed at Americans, while others just happened to affect US citizens by chance. In some cases, people were killed, but in other situations everyone kept their lives.

In 1979, a group of students took over the US Embassy building in Tehran, Iran. Originally taking 66 hostages, the students let 14 people go soon thereafter. The other 52 hostages were held until President Ronald Reagan took the oath of office, 444 days after the hostage situation began.

An even longer-lived kidnapping took place in 1982, when members of the Hezbollah group abducted 30 Westerners, including Americans. Over the next nine years, the group released some hostages, but others were killed or died while being held. The final hostage, Terry Anderson, spent 2,454 days in captivity before being released in 1991.

Pan Am flight 103 exploded over the town of Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21, 1988, killing all 259 people on the plane, including US military members and 35 students from Syracuse University. Eleven people on the ground were also killed by debris following the bombing. In August of 2003, the country of Libya confessed responsibility and offered surviving family members a multibillion dollar settlement.

The North tower, also known as Tower One, of the World Trade Center, which would be destroyed eight years later, was the target of a bombing on February 26, 1993. The explosion originated in the basement garage, injuring more than 1,000 people and killing six. Conspirators were convicted in 1995 and 1998, and the group Al-Qaeda was suspected to have ties to the attack.

In the worst terrorist attack on US soil until 9/11, the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma was destroyed by a car bomb on April 19, 1995. Of the 168 people who died, 19 were children at the office building’s daycare facility. Timothy McVeigh was convicted of the attack in 1997 and executed exactly three months before the World Trade Center/Pentagon/Pennsylvania events unfolded.

On September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, DC and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania all became crime scenes after three planes were hijacked and crashed. Although the exact events of this day are subject to heated debate by some, the end result, the death toll, is undeniable. Excluding the hijackers, the New York deaths included 2,606 people in the World Trade Center, 87 people on American Airlines flight 11 and 60 on United Airlines flight 175. At the Pentagon, 125 people in the building and 59 aboard American Airlines flight 77 lost their lives. United Airlines flight 93 claimed no lives on the ground, but 40 people aboard the plane died when it crashed into a field. The toll may continue to rise, as three people who died from complications related to exposure to carcinogen-laden dust following the collapse of the Twin Towers.

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