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Twenty Years Ago: 2001

Updated: Oct 14, 2021

In the second year of the new millennium a lot happened. It featured a lot of launches from iTunes to Wikipedia and it also brought 21st century legal changes and new safety measures.

The original Wikipedia logo (2001)

For example, in the Netherlands same-sex marriage was legalised while in Italy the Leaning Tower of Pisa was re-opened after being closed for 11 years while it underwent safety upgrades.

What do you remember from 2001? Here is a very quick run down of the top stories from the year.


From a political perspective the President of the Congo was assassinated, George W Bush was sworn in as the new US President and the former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic surrendered to face trial on war crimes.

If you thought you had family problems, they’re nothing on what happened in Nepal! In scenes straight out of medieval monarchical history, on 1 June 2001 Crown Prince Dipendra killed his father (the King), his mother and other members of the royal family. He automatically became King however he shot himself during the rampage so was in coma.

As he had killed most of the line of succession his uncle became King when he ultimately died in hospital a few days later. Many questions still remain over the incident, especially as no motive was ever truly found and most of the immediate line of succession was taken out in one event.

Over in Argentina the year ended with a series of riots over the countries growing economic crisis and sadly in Afghanistan the 6th century Buddahs of Bamiyan were destroyed by the Taliban in an attempt to destroy religious iconology of another faith. This was not just an attack on faith but brought great grief to archaeologists, historians and students of history as it was the largest example of a standing Buddha carving in the world.

One of the Buddhas of Bamiyan before and after destruction (Source: Washington post)


A 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit El Salvador killing at least 800 people and leaving thousands homeless. This tragedy pales compared to that which occurred in Western India. The Gujarat earthquake was 7.7 in magnitude, so almost the same as that in El Salvador but the death toll rose to over 20,000. These are just two of the earthquakes to shake the earth in the year 2001.

In Angola a train triggered a landmine that killed 252 people and in Portugal the 100-year-old Hintze Ribeiro Bridge collapsed killing 59 people, many who drowned after plummeting from the bridge. Strong currents floated the bodies of the deceased as far away as France and Spain which made the recovery process difficult.

For air travel there were a few notable incidents in the skies. On 24 August an Airbus A330 operated by Air Transat enroute to Lisbon, Portugal from Toronto, Canada lost all power mid-flight and had to be glided to safety by the pilots. Surprisingly the plane was glided for 120km to safety, the longest aircraft passenger glide! The cause was found to be improper maintenance.

The most iconic image of 2001 as shown on People magazine, September 2001

The most notable incident of 2001 and that with the greatest implications for the future, was the attack on America by terrorists. Across the world trade centre site, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania over 3,000 people were killed. America reacted by launching the “War on Terror” that would last over a decade. No place on earth would not feel the ramifications of this event in some way.

Everyone remembers where they were when this happened, especially when the second plane hit. I was just 12 but I remember it as if it was yesterday. I was on a cruise with my family, and we were about 3 days out of returning to Sydney.

It was early in the morning when a message from the captain came over the loudspeakers. Usually, they don’t broadcast into the rooms except in emergencies so when his address woke us it led to panic. His accent was very strong, and the PA wasn’t very clear, but he kept saying that passenger safety was his upmost priority. Straight away we thought something was wrong but due to what he was saying, without any context, we thought we were sinking or something bad was happening to the ship. My Mum quickly got dressed and went up on deck while we waited with my Dad in our room. We put on the TV but unlike today satellite TV was not easily accessible in the rooms. My Mum came back with the news about what had happened, and I must say I was relieved that we were not sinking.

Given our location and the fact we were on holiday I must admit the severity of the situation didn’t hit me until a year later. We were very isolated from what was going on and all I knew when we returned was that certain things were very different, e.g., security around buildings in the city.

Just as iconic. The raising of the American flag from the destruction at Ground Zero. Photograph by Thomas E. Franklin of The Record

It wasn’t until a year later when I began to see memorials and footage play on TV that I began to understand what had happened.

Following the incidents of September 11 passengers on flights across the world were on high alert. On 22 December 2001 on board an American Airlines flight from Paris, France to Miami, USA a passenger was restrained by other passengers and crew when he attempted to detonate a bomb he had hidden in his shoes. No one was injured and the perpetrator was subsequently sentenced to three life sentences plus 110 years without parole. Again, aviation safety was heightened after this incident.

One of the other most noted airline incidents from 2001 was the crash of a small Cessna in the Caribbean. This private plane left the Bahamas on 25 August carrying eight passengers as well as the pilot. Onboard were Virgin Records employees as well as urban pop star Aaliyah. All on board were killed with the cause being an overloaded plane. It was also revealed afterwards that the pilot was not qualified to fly the plane and he had falsified documents to obtain his pilot’s license. The song you probably know best by Aaliyah is “Try Again”.

*Note: See below for an added piece on aviation disasters of 2001

Popular Culture

The biggest film of the year was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, kicking off a global phenomenon and one of the most popular film series of all time. Also released this year was the first film of another popular series, “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”.

Two very popular children’s films were also released “Shrek” and “Monsters Inc”. Both would go on to have sequels of various success.

In music the top Billboard song of the year was “Hanging by a Moment” by Lifehouse. Shaggy returned to the charts with the songs “It wasn’t me” and “Angel”. Women dominated the charts with other popular songs being “Fallin” by Alicia Keys, “Independent Women” by Destiny’s Child, “Hit Em Up Style (oops)!”by Blu Cantrell and “Lady Marmalade” from the hit film Moulin Rouge, performed by Christina Aguilera, Lil’Kim, Mya And Pink.

This year was the "Double Denim" look from Britney Spears and boyfriend Justin Timberlake who sported these outfits (pictured here) at the American Music Awards. While Britney performed "Stronger" Justin took home Artist of the Year as part of N'Sync.

The 2001 Oscar for best picture went to Gladiator who just beat the foreign language film “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” for the most nominations and awards. You could say the show was stolen though by singer Bjork with her swan dress! (pictured here)

Australian star Nicole Kidman, made the headlines in 2001 when she and husband Tom Cruise divorced.

In Australia

Nicole wasn’t the only Australian making world news!

An Australian train made the news as the longest train in the world. Operated by BHP between Newman and Port Headland in Western Australia the train was 7.353km long and travelled a distance of 275km carrying over 82,000 tonnes of iron ore.

Also, in the year 2001 the Aussie airline Ansett ceases operations.

Australia’s most famous cricketer of all time, Sir Donald Bradman died aged 92 and in the NRL the Newcastle Knights defeat the Parramatta Eels. In the Melbourne Cup, Sheila Laxon becomes the first female trainer to win the prestigious race with Ethereal.

When it came to music we were listening to the same things as overseas but the top song on the Australian charts was “Can’t Fight the Moonlight” by Le Ann Rimes. Another top song was "Me, Myself and I" by the band Scandal Us that was created on the TV show Pop Stars.

It’s also interesting to note that the #9 song for the year was “Can we Fix it” by Bob the Builder! His popularity didn’t end there coming in at #25 with his rendition of “Mambo #5”!

On our TV screens the Australian version of Big Brother debuted, bringing with it the “Bum Dance” and a few new faces for the Aussie pop culture scene (some that remain loosely relevant today while others have easily been forgotten).

In regard to game shows the long running Sale of the Century, which ran for over 20 years, came to an end while the Weakest Link debuted.

When it came to drama the Aussie classic McLeod’s Daughter’s premiered.

The National Museum of Australia also opened in Canberra.

One of my memories from 2001 is how morning TV was changed forever in Australia. Morning cartoons and children’s shows across the major networks came to an abrupt end as they were replaced by morning news shows in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Indeed no one can deny the September 11 attacks were the most far reaching incident of the year.

To end on a lighter note - remember that cruise I mentioned? Here is a terrible pre-teen photo of me not looking very happy to be having my photo taken! To show that I could take nice photos in 2001 there is also one of me dressed up with my sister and a giant bear! Ah the memories!!

2001 Aviation Disasters

When I put this recent blog together I gave a really quick snapshot of the air disasters in the year 2001. With the September 11 attacks at the forefront of my mind I only mentioned a few others that gained considerable coverage but did you know that there were approximately 24 plane crashes in 2001 that (without taking the September 11 figures into account) resulted in over 630 deaths?

Interestingly, most of these crashes that resulted in loss of life occurred after September 11 which is possibly why they are not as well covered in the media of the day however in some instances there was a lot of immediate coverage as everyone jumped to terrorism conclusions in many of the incidents, although all were found to have other causes.

Four that should be noted are:

On 4th October a Siberian Airlines flight was shot down by the Ukrainian Air force on its approach to Russia from Israel. The plane went down in the Black Sea and eventually the Ukraine admitted it “may” have caused the crash with a stray missile during training with Russian forces. All 66 passengers and 12 crew were killed.

Just four days later on 8 October a Scandinavian Airline plane collided with a small Cessna business jet while taking off in fog at Milan, Italy. The Scandinavian plane then crashed into a nearby hanger that subsequently caught fire. All 104 passengers and 6 crew of the Scandinavian flight were killed as were the four occupants of the Cessna and four workers on the ground. This remains the deadliest incident in Italian aviation and was caused by a series of failures in safety systems at the airport.

In New York City on 12 November, three months after the September 11 attacks, an American Airlines Flight crashed into Queens shortly after take-off killing all 251 passengers and 9 crew as a result of mechanical failure and an aggressive use of the rudder control by the pilot. On the ground five people were killed.

These crashes resulted in the highest loss of life (other than September 11) for the year 2001 and the only other with a high loss of life occurred before September 11 when a Vladivostok Air flight crashed during its approach to Irkutsk, Russia on 4 July. The crash was the result of pilot error with the plane stalling on approach. All 145 passengers and 9 crew were killed in the incident.

Each of these incidents has helped developed aviation safety which makes flying safer every day.


Sources and Further Reading or watching:


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