The objective of this research was to document and explore British university students' immediate understanding of the events of September 11 th. A network analysis of lay causal perceptions procedure was employed to capture the social perceptions and sense-making of respondents at a time when they and the world struggled to impose meaning and coherence on the events. The study also examined the possible effects of 'belief in a just world' and 'right-wing authoritarianism' on the pattern of perceived causes. The results suggest that most participants perceive cultural and religious differences, the history of conflict in the Middle East, unfairness and prejudice as being the distal causes of the individual agent's emotions and actions. There is also some evidence that right-wing authoritarianism and belief in a just world have an interactive effect on the strength of the perceived link between some of these causes.