September 11, 2006
According to the 9/11 Commission, word of Flight 93’s hijacking reaches FAA headquarters. By this time, headquarters has established an open line of communication with the FAA Command Center at Herndon, Virginia. It had instructed the center to poll all flight control centers about suspect aircraft. So, at this time, the Command Center passes on Cleveland’s message: “United 93 may have a bomb on board.” The Command Center continually updates FAA headquarters on Flight 93 until it crashes. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS contacts Washington flight control to ask about Flight 11. A manager there happens to mention, “We’re looking—we also lost American 77.” The commission claims, “No one at FAA Command Center or headquarters ever asked for military assistance with American 77.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Yet, 38 minutes earlier, flight controllers determined Flight 77 was off course, out of radio contact, and had no transponder signal (see (8:56 a.m.)). They’d warned American Airlines headquarters within minutes. By some accounts, this is the first time NORAD is told about Flight 77, but other accounts have them warned around 9:25 a.m.
Tom Burnett calls his wife Deena a second time. He says, “They’re in the cockpit.” He has checked the pulse of the man who was knifed (later identified as Mark Rothenberg, sitting next to him in seat 5B) and determined he is dead. She tells him about the hits on the WTC. He responds, “Oh my God, it’s a suicide mission.” As they continue to talk, he tells her the plane has turned back. By this time, Deena is in constant communication with the FBI and others, and a police officer is at her house. [Longman, 2002, pp. 110]
President Bush’s motorcade leaves Booker Elementary School and heads toward Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. [Washington Times, 10/8/2002; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004] A few days after 9/11, Sarasota’s main newspaper reports, “Sarasota barely skirted its own disaster. As it turns out, terrorists targeted the president and Air Force One on Tuesday, maybe even while they were on the ground in Sarasota and certainly not long after. The Secret Service learned of the threat just minutes after Bush left Booker Elementary.” [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/16/2001] Kevin Down, a Sarasota police officer at the scene, recalls, “I thought they were actually anticipating a terrorist attack on the president while we were en route.” [BBC, 8/30/2002] ABC News reporter Ann Compton, who is part of the motorcade, recalls, “It was a mad-dash motorcade out to the airport.” [BBC, 9/1/2002] A year later, Chief of Staff Andrew Card says, “As we were heading to Air Force One, we did hear about the Pentagon attack, and we also learned, what turned out to be a mistake, but we learned that the Air Force One package could in fact be a target.” [MSNBC, 9/9/2002]
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