On September 11, 2001, nineteen terrorists associated with the Islamist extremist group known as al-Qaeda, hijacked four commercial airplanes scheduled to fly from the East Coast to California.

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One plane hit the Pentagon, one went down in Pennsylvania when passengers stormed the cockpit and terrorists intentionally flew two of the planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center complex in New York City, causing the towers to collapse.  The television coverage was incredible and millions of us actually watched the second plane crash in real time.

Not The First Time

Virtually every American over ten years of age in 2001 knows exactly where they were when the planes struck. On this day in history, July 28, 1945, a United States military plane crashed into the Empire State Building killing 14 people. The B-25 Mitchell bomber, with two pilots and one passenger aboard, was flying from New Bedford, Massachusetts, to LaGuardia Airport in New York City.  As the plane came into the metropolitan area on Saturday morning, the fog was quite thick and air-traffic controllers instructed the plane to fly to Newark Airport instead.

Miracle On The Hudson

All good pilots are trained to be able to handle a last minute change of plans.  Just ask Chesley Burnett "Sully" Sullenberger III . Sully is best known for his heroism as captain of US Airways Flight 1549 that he ditched in the Hudson River in 2009 after both engines were disabled by a bird strike. Thanks to Sullenberger's skill and experiemce, all 155 people aboard survived.

How It Happened

But back to 1945 where the B-25's new flight plan took the plane over Manhattan at a time when the crew was specifically warned that the Empire State Building, the tallest building in the city at the time, was not visible. Not good.

According to the History Channel:

The bomber was flying relatively slowly and quite low, seeking better visibility, when it came upon the Chrysler Building in midtown. It swerved to avoid the building but the move sent it straight into the north side of the Empire State Building, near the 79th floor. Upon impact, the plane’s fuel exploded, filling the interior of the building with flames all the way down to the 75th floor and sending flames out of the hole the plane had ripped open in the building’s side. One engine from the plane went straight through the building and landed in a penthouse apartment across the street

An 18 foot by 20 foot hole was left in the side of the Empire State Building. Though its structural integrity was not affected, the crash did cause nearly $1 million in damages, about $10.5 million in today’s money.

KEEP READING: Scroll to see what the big headlines were the year you were born

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