Former President George W. Bush visits Ground Zero.

Photo via the U.S. National Archives/Flickr (Public Domain)

16 photos that show what America was like in the aftermath of 9/11

A lot has changed since then. Here's a glimpse of what happened after Sept. 11, 2001.


Andrew Wyrich


Posted on Sep 11, 2017   Updated on May 22, 2021, 5:54 pm CDT

Sixteen years ago, the United States suffered the worst terrorist attack in its history.

Terrorists hijacked four planes, nearly 3,000 people were killed—and countless lives, and America as a whole, were changed forever on Sept. 11, 2001.  

An unfathomable spectrum of life has changed since then, but the National Archives has collections of photos that can forever remind us of the immediate hours, weeks, and months following the tragedy that is summed up in a single inescapable phrase: #NeverForget.

Here is a look at what America was like in the aftermath of 9/11, through the lens of the National Archives, when George W. Bush was president . (Captions are from the U.S. National Archives.)

1) President George W. Bush participates in a reading demonstration the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida.


2) A highway sign reads, “All Crossings to New York Closed” Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001.

3) After departing Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska for Washington, D.C. Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush talks on the phone with Vice President Dick Cheney from Air Force One.

4) Vice President Dick Cheney, Chief of Staff Andy Card and Karen Hughes, Counselor to the President, tend to business Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2001, in the Outer Oval of the White House. 

5) President George W. Bush delivers remarks in front of the damaged Pentagon Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2001, in Arlington, Va. The President is accompanied by Karen Hughes, Counselor to the President, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

6) President George W. Bush addresses reporters in the Oval Office Thursday, Sept. 13, 2001, after his telephone conversation with New York Gov. George Pataki and New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

7) Remains of the World Trade Center Friday, Sept. 14, 2001, in New York City.

8) President George W. Bush tours the World Trade Center disaster site aboard Marine One Friday, Sept. 14, 2001, with New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, left, and New York Gov. George Pataki.


9) Firefighters look on Friday, Sept. 14, 2001, as President George W. Bush surveys the destruction left by terrorist attacks on New York City.

10) Standing atop rubble with retired New York City firefighter Bob Beckwith Friday, Sept. 14, 2001, President George W. Bush waves an American flag after addressing recovery workers in New York City.

11) The World Trade Center rescue site in New York City is seen the evening of Friday, Sept. 14, 2001, from Marine One.

12) President George W. Bush meets with Foreign Minister Saudi Al-Fail of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office.

13) President George W. Bush pets Spot while looking out the window from his desk in the Oval Office of the White House.

14) A worker stands at Ground Zero Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2001, in New York City.

15) President George W. Bush shakes hands with Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2001, prior to throwing out the ceremonial first pitch in Game Three of the World Series between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in New York City.

16) President George W. Bush signs the USA Patriot Act Friday, Oct. 26, 2001, in the East Room of the White House. Standing behind the President from left are: U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft; Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.; Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, and Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla.

To view the National Archives’ full collection of 9/11 photos, see its albums here, herehere, and here.

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*First Published: Sep 11, 2017, 6:00 am CDT