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The 9/11 hijackers who lived among us in Palm Beach County
Palm Beach Post
By Eliot Kleinberg
Editor’s note: This story was originally published Sept. 9, 2016.
DELRAY BEACH — On a July night 15 years ago, in Delray Beach, a police officer stopped a motorist for speeding. He let the man go with a warning.
“Take a minute and consider how your careless driving affects the people you share these streets with and try to help make our streets a safer place to be,” the written warning read.
Nine weeks later, Mohamed Atta flew an airplane into a building.
In the summer leading up to the deadly terrorist attacks, 12 of the 19 hijackers who commandeered and crashed four jetliners on Sept. 11, 2001, killing nearly 3,000 people, lived in or had connections to Palm Beach County. Nearly the entire crew of the two jets that brought down the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center were here.
They shopped at Target and Winn-Dixie, banked at SunTrust and Bank of America, and visited Lion Country Safari, The Palm Beach Post has found in documents declassified by the FBI.
But at the same time they roamed amid our daily lives, they prepared to unleash the deadliest attack on U.S. soil in history, an attack so profoundly personal to every American that it need be identified by only two numbers: 9 and 11.
The terrorists who came to South Florida — including Atta, the leader of the operation — hardly kept low profiles in the weeks before the attack. They visited strip clubs, argued with bar managers and intimidated hotel maids. Two used the Internet at the Delray Beach library. Atta quizzed an Atlantic Avenue pharmacist about how to relieve irritated hands and bought a utility knife in Boynton Beach.