As our country mourns the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the images are still haunting.
Two planes struck the World Trade Center in New York City, less than 20 minutes apart. Reports also came in of the Pentagon being hit and a fourth plane going down in rural Pennsylvania.
As the terror unfolded on that dark day, more than a thousand miles away, South Florida soon became the center of the investigation.
Ringleader Mohamed Atta and 14 of the 18 hijackers had lived and trained in both Miami-Dade and Broward county.
Atta and the others, lived in a rented apartment in Coral Springs. While living in the area, he was pulled over by a Broward Sherriff’s Deputy in May 2001 for driving without a valid license. The case was finally closed on the county clerk’s website in September 2014.
Atta also lived in Hollywood, at an apartment house on Jackson Street that has since been demolished.
On the weekend of the attack, Atta got into an argument with a bartender, at a now closed restaurant named Shuckums. It was over the bill. Atta stormed out saying " I can afford to pay. I’m a pilot.”
He and the other hijackers trained and took lessons in Venice on the west coast. They also trained on commercial air craft simulators in Opa-locka, where according to the FBI, both men requested training on “executing turns and approaches” but no other training.
The men opened bank accounts, took self defense courses at neighborhood gyms-- the 9/11 Commission presumes it was to stay fit for the attacks.
“You know conventional wisdom would tell you look at there are fifteen people here. They must have gotten some instruction. They must have gotten some support, but we haven’t found it yet,” said Hector Pesquera, former Miami Chief of the FBI.
Though Osama Bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were eventually identified as the masterminds behind the attacks, why the group settled in South Florida in the months before the attack is still not known.