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The NYPD marked the 15th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks

with a parade to honor the 23 officers it lost on Sept. 11, 2001. Police departments from around the United States and Canada joined the march around lower Manhattan.(Sept. 9) AP

WASHINGTON — Sunday marks the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, that killed 2,977 people in New York, the Pentagon and in a field in rural Pennsylvania. The attacks and the reaction to them have shaped U.S. policy for the last 15 years, leaving a nation that is far more vigilant and jittery about terrorism. Yet for all of the talk about 9/11, many elements of the attacks and the actions leading up to them have receded from the public memory. Here are 10 things you may have forgotten about 9/11:

1. We don't know how the hijackers got into the cockpits of some of the planes

The comprehensive report of the commission created to investigate the attacks, which was published in 2004, said no one could determine how the hijackers were able to get into the cockpits of the four commercial airliners they hijacked. A flight attendant on American Flight 11 "speculated that they had 'jammed their way' in," the 9/11 report said. "Perhaps the terrorists stabbed the flight attendants to get a cockpit key, to force one of them to open the cockpit door, or to lure the captain or first officer out of the cockpit." Once the hijackers gained control of American 11, they guided it toward New York's World Trade Center towers, where it stuck the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. All 81 passengers, including the five hijackers, and nine crew members died in the crash, along with an unknown number of people in the tower.

2. Passengers and crew aboard the planes provided critical information

Those aboard the four hijacked flights — American 11, United 175, American 77 and United 93 — called family and friends from their cellphones or used the aircrafts' radio communications to report the hijackings. That alerted authorities to the hijackings and enabled them to understand why they could not track the planes after their navigation systems were turned off.

American 77, which departed Washington's Dulles airport, was hijacked near Indianapolis and then turned back toward Washington. Its destination: the Pentagon. Passenger Barbara Olson, the wife of Solicitor General Ted Olson, called her husband to report "that the flight had been hijacked, and the hijackers had knives and box cutters." American 77 crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m., killing all 64 people on board, including the five hijackers. Information gathered from the calls from flight attendants and passengers enabled investigators to piece together the events on board each plane and how the hijackings occurred.

3. Light passenger loads made it easier for the hijackers to maneuver

American 11, bound from Boston to Los Angeles, had 81 passengers on board out of a possible 158, according to the 9/11 report and aircraft data.

United 175, which also left Boston for Los Angeles, had 56 passengers out of a possible 168. That was a "load factor" of 33%, considerably lower than the 49% average for that flight, a federal investigation showed.

American 77, headed to Los Angeles from Washington, had 58 passengers out of a capacity of 176, the 9/11 report and other reports said.

United 93, bound from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco, had only 37 passengers for a 20% load factor, which was far below the normal 52%.

4. Missing hijacker made it easier for United 93 passengers to storm the cockpit

This is the only one of the four hijacked flights that did not strike its intended target, the U.S. Capitol. Some of that is because it was the only one that had four hijackers instead of the five that took down American 11, American 77 and United 175. “The operative likely intended to round out the team for this flight, Mohamed al Kahtani, had been refused entry by a suspicious immigration inspector at Florida’s Orlando International Airport in August,” the 9/11 report said. As the passengers were just seconds away from getting into the cockpit, the hijacker at the controls crashed the plane in an empty field in Shanksville, Pa., just 20 minutes flying time from Washington.

Unforgettable images from September 2001

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The Manhattan skyline and the twin towers of the World
The Manhattan skyline and the twin towers of the World Trade Center are shown from Jersey City in this March 2000 photo.  Mark Lennihan, AP
United Airlines Flight 175 approaches the World Trade
United Airlines Flight 175 approaches the World Trade Center buildings prior to impact on Sept. 11, 2001.   William Kratzke, AP
Smoke billows from one of the towers of the World Trade
Smoke billows from one of the towers of the World Trade Center and flames and debris explode from the second tower.  Chao Soi Cheong, AP
People run from the collapse of one of the twin towers
People run from the collapse of one of the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center.  Suzanne Plunkett, AP
President George W. Bush has his early morning school
President George W. Bush has his early morning school reading event interrupted by his chief of staff Andrew Card, shortly after the news of a plane hitting one of the World Trade Center buildings in Sarasota, Fla.  Paul J. Richards, AFP/Getty Images
Marcy Borders is covered in dust as she takes refuge
Marcy Borders is covered in dust as she takes refuge in an office building after one of the World Trade Center towers collapsed in New York. The former bank clerk, known as "The Dust Lady" died in 2015 of cancer.  Stan Honda, AFP/Getty Images
Two women hold each other as they watch the World Trade
Two women hold each other as they watch the World Trade Center burn.  Ernesto Mora, AP
A police officer and others walk up Park Row from St.
A police officer and others walk up Park Row from St. Paul's Chapel, a few blocks from the World Trade Center site, shortly after the two towers collapsed.  Stan Honda, AFP/Getty Images
A charred document sits in the soot near the destroyed
A charred document sits in the soot near the destroyed World Trade Center.  Stan Honda, AFP/Getty Images
Military personnel flee from the Pentagon after a plane
Military personnel flee from the Pentagon after a plane crashed into the building.  H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY
A helicopter flies over the burning Pentagon.
A helicopter flies over the burning Pentagon.  Tom Horan, AP
The rubble of the World Trade Center smolders Sept.
The rubble of the World Trade Center smolders Sept. 11, 2001.  Alex Fuchs, AFP/Getty Images
Firefighters gather near the World Trade Center site
Firefighters gather near the World Trade Center site Sept. 11, 2001.  Beth Keiser, AP
Women wearing dust masks flee across the Brooklyn Bridge
Women wearing dust masks flee across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn following the collapse of both World Trade Center towers Sept. 11, 2001.  Mark Lennihan, AP
Smoke fills the air around the World Trade Center in
Smoke fills the air around the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.   Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY
A man stands in the rubble, and calls out asking if
A man stands in the rubble, and calls out asking if anyone needs help, after the collapse of the World Trade Center towers Sept. 11, 2001.  Doug Kanter, AFP/Getty Images
A Pennsylvania State Trooper stands guard at the crash
A Pennsylvania State Trooper stands guard at the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93 near Shanksville, Pa., on Sept. 11, 2001.  David Maxwell, AFP/Getty Images
President George W. Bush puts his arms around firefighter
President George W. Bush puts his arms around firefighter Bob Beckwith while standing in front of the World Trade Center site Sept. 14, 2001.  Doug Mills, AP
A man looks at photos of people missing in the World
A man looks at photos of people missing in the World Trade Center disaster Sept. 14, 2001.  Joe Raedle, Getty Images
Firefighter Tony James cries while attending the funeral
Firefighter Tony James cries while attending the funeral service for New York Fire Department Chaplain Rev. Mychal Judge on Sept. 15, 2001.  Joe Raedle, Getty Images
With the skyline of New York City as a backdrop, two
With the skyline of New York City as a backdrop, two young men light candles in remembrance of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on Sept. 14, 2001.  Henny Ray Abrams, AFP/Getty Images
Brooklyn firefighters George Johnson, left, of ladder
Brooklyn firefighters George Johnson, left, of ladder 157, Dan McWilliams, center, of ladder 157, and Billy Eisengrein, right, of Rescue 2, raise a flag at the World Trade Center site in New York.  Thomas E. Franklin, The Bergen Record

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5. The World Trade Center had been targeted before

New York’s World Trade Center held an iconic status for terrorists even before 9/11. Shortly after noon on Feb. 26, 1993, a bomb planted in a van parked in the center’s underground parking garage exploded, killing six people and wounding more than 1,000, the 9/11 report said. “The bombing signaled a new terrorist challenge, one whose rage and malice had no limit,” the 9/11 report said. “Ramzi Yousef, the Sunni extremist who planted the bomb, said later that he had hoped to kill 250,000 people.”

6. Vice President Cheney ordered United 93 to be shot down

Before the passengers forced the crash of United 93, then-vice president Dick Cheney gave the approval for the plane to be shot down before it could reach Washington, the 9/11 report said.

“The Vice President authorized fighter aircraft to engage the aircraft,” the report said.

However, the report added, the Air Force fighters that were airborne at the time probably would not have found and reached United 93 in time. Military “officials have maintained consistently that had the passengers not caused United 93 to crash, the military would have prevented it from reaching Washington, D.C.,” the 9/11 report said. “That conclusion is based on a version of events that we now know is incorrect.”

7. Earlier plots also targeted commercial aircraft

Ramzi Yousef, who planned the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, had planned a massive attack on 12 U.S. airliners over the Pacific in 1995, the 9/11 report said. Yousef worked with his uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to devise the plot, the report said. Mohammed later became one of the masterminds of 9/11. Yousef was arrested in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Feb. 7, 1995, after an accomplice turned him in, the report said. The Manila plot was never carried out.

8. The U.S. worked on multiple attempts to kill Osama bin Laden before 9/11

The CIA and other agencies developed a plan to capture bin Laden in early 1998, the report said. That was delayed and then revived, but it was hampered by concerns from military officials about relying on Afghan tribal leaders. Then-national security adviser Sandy Berger was concerned about what would be done with bin Laden if he was captured and whether the evidence against him could lead to a criminal conviction in a U.S. court. After the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed on Oct. 8, 1998, President Bill Clinton authorized cruise missile strikes against bin Laden’s compound in Afghanistan. He survived but was later killed by a Navy SEAL team in May 2011.

9. The CIA warned President Clinton about hijackings in 1998

In the Dec. 4, 1998, President’s Daily Brief from the CIA, the agency told Clinton that “Bin Ladin Preparing to Hijack US Aircraft and Other Attacks.” The plan, the agency said, was to hijack the planes to gain the release of Yousef and other terrorists, the 9/11 report said.

But the agency had no firm information, and the hijackings did not take place. Throughout December 1998, U.S. officials tracked bin Laden around the region and tried to develop a plan to attack him with cruise missiles.

10. Saudi Arabia had multiple ties to the hijackers

When the 9/11 report was released in 2004, 28 pages of material remained classified and the subject of intense speculation about their contents. Those pages, which were released in July, showed multiple links to associates of Saudi Arabian Prince Bandar, the former longtime ambassador to the United States. The documents, as USA TODAY reported in July, "show possible conduits of money from the Saudi royal family to Saudis living in the United States and two of the hijackers in San Diego. The documents also indicate substantial support to California mosques with a high degree of radical Islamist sentiment." The pages were not released, because the details contained in them had not been confirmed or shown to be relevant to the 9/11 attacks. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia.

Other stories you'll want to read:

1,113 families still have no real confirmation of 9/11 deaths

15 years after Sept. 11, the questions that still remain in our minds

The touching stories behind 9/11 tattoos

Newly published notes recount 9/11 aboard Air Force One: 'We're at war'

Clinton, Trump pay tribute to victims of 9/11

Obama praises diversity at Pentagon 9/11 tribute

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REMEMBERING SEPT. 11President Obama honors 15th anniversary of 9/11 | 0:28

President Obama commemorated the lives lost at the Pentagon building in the 2001 attacks by saying the best way to honor them is by standing together. AP

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REMEMBERING SEPT. 11Remembering 9/11: Thousands gather in New York City | 1:02

On the 15th anniversary of Sept, 11, 2001, thousands gathered at Ground Zero in New York City to remember the lives lost in the terror attacks. USA TODAY

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REMEMBERING SEPT. 11Permanent Reminders: 9/11 memorial tattoos | 1:08

Fifteen years after 9/11, we spoke to dozens of people who chose to memorialize the event on their skin. Here's a look at some of their stories.

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REMEMBERING SEPT. 11NYPD mark 9/11 anniversary with parade | 1:03

The NYPD marked the 15th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks with a parade to honor the 23 officers it lost on Sept. 11, 2001. Police departments from around the United States and Canada joined the march around lower Manhattan.(Sept. 9) AP

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REMEMBERING SEPT. 11Similar photos of One World Trade approaching 9/11 captured a year apart | 0:30

For the second straight year, a stunning photo of One World Trade was captured the Thursday before the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. USA TODAY

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REMEMBERING SEPT. 11Service dog helps 9/11 hero cope with PTSD | 1:52

Retired Port Authority police sergeant Dennis Frederick depends on his service dog to help fight PTSD.

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REMEMBERING SEPT. 11A 9/11 survivor stays alive by not listening to others | 1:44

Evelyn Lugo, a 9/11 survivor, explains why her "never forget" tattoo gives her strength

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REMEMBERING SEPT. 11Lost colleagues and friends remembered in 9/11 tattoos | 0:59

On 9/11 Steven Waldron was an off duty police officer who responded when people were in need. It took him fifteen years to finally get his memorial tattoo.

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REMEMBERING SEPT. 11Never forget: Here's why memorial tattoos are important | 0:52

Grief expert Susan Salluce talks about the importance of memorializing people and moments through tattoos.

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REMEMBERING SEPT. 1115 years later, 9/11 tattoos remain strong | 1:05

Brian Branco wants you to remember his friends. Of of the five people he was with on September 11, 2001, only he and another colleague got out. The other three he has memorialized on his arm.

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REMEMBERING SEPT. 11Permanent reminder: A touching story behind 9/11 ink | 1:13

Max Giaccone lost his father on September 11, 2001, when he was ten. A portrait of the two of them sits on his back. He says tattoos are a way to carry his father with him every day.

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REMEMBERING SEPT. 11Deaf children sign the 9/11 story | 1:19

Deaf school children in Texas use sign language to paint a powerful portrait of what happened on Sept. 11.

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REMEMBERING SEPT. 11Daily remembrance: White roses honor birthdays of 9/11 victims | 1:17

Every morning before the National September 11 Memorial & Museum opens to the public, a volunteer places a white rose for every victim who would have celebrated a birthday that day. Danielle Parhizkaran, The Bergen Record

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REMEMBERING SEPT. 11Video: 9/11 Anniversary: Glenn Guzi's decision to skip work | 3:46

Peekskill's Glenn Guzi, program director for the World Trade Center at the Port Authority of NY and NJ, reflects on the last 15 years, Aug. 30, 2016 in Manhattan. Video by Tania Savayan/The Journal News

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REMEMBERING SEPT. 11Permanent Reminders: 9/11 tattoos keeping stories alive 15 years later | 2:00

These 9/11 tattoos represent grief, anger, courage, patriotism, frustration, hope and resilience. They pay tribute. They invite observers to ask questions. Here are the stories behind them.

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REMEMBERING SEPT. 11Video: Welles Crowther, the Man in the Red Bandanna | 2:47

Remembering Welles Remy Crowther of Upper Nyack, the Man in the Red Bandanna, 15 years after Sept. 11. Peter Carr/The Journal News

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REMEMBERING SEPT. 1115 years after 9/11, unwelcome spotlight returns to Islam | 1:40

James Sues, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the difficulties facing Muslim-American 15 years after 9/11. Video by Chris Pedota, NorthJersey.com

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REMEMBERING SEPT. 119/11 Museum's Flag Exhibit | 2:51

Shirley Dreifus, original owner of the famous Ground Zero flag, talks about its importance after it went missing for 15 years.

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REMEMBERING SEPT. 11Video: World Trade Center Observatory - 102 floors up | 1:04

The observatory on the 102nd floor of One World Trade Center, along with the 9/11 Memorial, have made the World Trade Center site one of the most popular tourist sites in New York City. Video by Seth Harrison/The Journal News

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REMEMBERING SEPT. 11Video: Sites, sounds of National Sept. 11 Memorial | 2:11

The reflecting pools provide the backdrop for a solemn experience for those visiting the National Sept. 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center. Video by Seth Harrison/The Journal News

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REMEMBERING SEPT. 1115 years after 9/11, U.S. struggles to unite | 3:20

After Sept. 11, signs of unity seemed to well up everywhere in America, but 15 years later, many whose lives changed after the attacks wonder where that unity has gone. (Sept. 6) AP

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REMEMBERING SEPT. 119/11 museum unveils special exhibition for 15th anniversary | 1:08

New York's 9/11 Museum unveils its first ever special exhibition. 'Rendering the Unthinkable' brings together artworks inspired by the attacks of 11 September 2001, the 15th anniversary of which falls this month. It is the first time the museum has put together an exhibition outside of its permanent collection. Video provided by AFP Newslook

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  • President Obama honors 15th anniversary of 9/11
    President Obama honors 15th anniversary of 9/11
  • Remembering 9/11: Thousands gather in New York City
    Remembering 9/11: Thousands gather in New York City
  • Permanent Reminders: 9/11 memorial tattoos
    Permanent Reminders: 9/11 memorial tattoos
  • NYPD mark 9/11 anniversary with parade
    NYPD mark 9/11 anniversary with parade
  • Similar photos of One World Trade approaching 9/11 captured a year apart
    Similar photos of One World Trade approaching 9/11 captured a year apart
  • Service dog helps 9/11 hero cope with PTSD
    Service dog helps 9/11 hero cope with PTSD
  • A 9/11 survivor stays alive by not listening to others
    A 9/11 survivor stays alive by not listening to others
  • Lost colleagues and friends remembered in 9/11 tattoos
    Lost colleagues and friends remembered in 9/11 tattoos
  • Never forget: Here's why memorial tattoos are important
    Never forget: Here's why memorial tattoos are important
  • 15 years later, 9/11 tattoos remain strong
    15 years later, 9/11 tattoos remain strong
  • Permanent reminder: A touching story behind 9/11 ink
    Permanent reminder: A touching story behind 9/11 ink
  • Deaf children sign the 9/11 story
    Deaf children sign the 9/11 story
  • Daily remembrance: White roses honor birthdays of 9/11 victims
    Daily remembrance: White roses honor birthdays of 9/11 victims
  • Video: 9/11 Anniversary: Glenn Guzi's decision to skip work
    Video: 9/11 Anniversary: Glenn Guzi's decision to skip work
  • Permanent Reminders: 9/11 tattoos keeping stories alive 15 years later
    Permanent Reminders: 9/11 tattoos keeping stories alive 15 years later
  • Video: Welles Crowther, the Man in the Red Bandanna
    Video: Welles Crowther, the Man in the Red Bandanna
  • 15 years after 9/11, unwelcome spotlight returns to Islam
    15 years after 9/11, unwelcome spotlight returns to Islam
  • 9/11 Museum's Flag Exhibit
    9/11 Museum's Flag Exhibit
  • Video: World Trade Center Observatory - 102 floors up
    Video: World Trade Center Observatory - 102 floors up
  • Video: Sites, sounds of National Sept. 11 Memorial
    Video: Sites, sounds of National Sept. 11 Memorial
  • 15 years after 9/11, U.S. struggles to unite
    15 years after 9/11, U.S. struggles to unite
  • 9/11 museum unveils special exhibition for 15th anniversary
    9/11 museum unveils special exhibition for 15th anniversary
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