September 11, 2006
Before going to sleep, President Bush writes in his diary, “The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today. ... We think it’s Osama bin Laden.” [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
It is reported that Attorney General Ashcroft has told members of Congress that there were three to five hijackers on each plane armed only with knives. [CNN, 9/12/2001]
President Bush meets with his full National Security Council in the PEOC beneath the White House for about 30 minutes. He then meets with a smaller group of key advisers. Bush and his advisers have already decided bin Laden is behind the attacks. CIA Director Tenet says that al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan are essentially one and the same. Bush says, “Tell the Taliban We’re finished with them.” [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] He goes on to say, “I want you all to understand that we are at war and we will stay at war until this is done. Nothing else matters. Everything is available for the pursuit of this war. Any barriers in your way, they’re gone. Any money you need, you have it. This is our only agenda.” When Rumsfeld points out that international law only allows force to prevent future attacks and not for retribution, Bush yells, “No. I don’t care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 23-24]
President Bush addresses the nation on live television. [CNN, 9/12/2001] In what will later be called the Bush Doctrine, he states, “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.” [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
Secretary of State Powell returns to Washington from Lima, Peru. He is finally able to speak to President Bush for the first time since the 9/11 attacks began when they both arrive at the White House at about the same time. Powell later says of his flight, “And the worst part of it, is that because of the communications problems that existed during that day, I couldn’t talk to anybody in Washington.” [ABC News, 9/11/2002] The Daily Telegraph later theorizes, “Why so long? In the weeks before September 11, Washington was full of rumors that Powell was out of favor and had been quietly relegated to the sidelines...” [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001]
President Bush arrives at the White House, after exiting Air Force One at 6:42 p.m. and flying across Washington in a helicopter. [ABC News, 9/11/2002; Salon, 9/12/2001; Washington Times, 10/8/2002; CNN, 9/12/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Associated Press, 8/19/2002]
As Air Force One is approaching Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, with the president on board, the FAA reports an aircraft racing towards it. Fighters quickly intercept the aircraft, which turns out to be a Lear business jet, “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” [Filson, 2004, pp. 88]
Building 7 of the WTC complex, a 47-story tower, collapses. No one is killed. [MSNBC, 9/22/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Associated Press, 8/19/2002] Many questions will arise over the cause of this collapse in the coming weeks and months. Building 7, which was not hit by an airplane, is the first modern, steel-reinforced high-rise to collapse because of fire. [Chicago Tribune, 11/29/2001; Stanford Report, 12/5/2001; New York Times, 3/2/2002] Some later suggest that the diesel fuel stored in several tanks on the premises may have contributed to the building’s collapse. The building contained a 6,000-gallon tank between its first and second floors and another four tanks, holding as much as 36,000 gallons, below ground level. There were also three smaller tanks on higher floors. [Chicago Tribune, 11/29/2001; New York Times, 3/2/2002; New York Observer, 3/25/2002; Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002] However, the cause of the collapse is uncertain. A 2002 government report concludes: “The specifics of the fires in WTC 7 and how they caused the building to collapse remain unknown at this time. Although the total diesel fuel on the premises contained massive potential energy, the best hypothesis has only a low probability of occurrence.” [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002] Some reports indicate that the building may have been deliberately destroyed. Shortly after the collapse, CBS News anchor Dan Rather comments that the collapse is “reminiscent of ... when a building was deliberately destroyed by well-placed dynamite to knock it down.” [CBS News, 9/11/2001]
President Bush leaves Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska for Washington. [MSNBC, 9/22/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Washington Times, 10/8/2002]
The area around WTC Building 7 is evacuated at this time. [Kansas City Star, 3/28/2004] New York fire department chief officers, who have surveyed the building, have determined it is in danger of collapsing. Several senior firefighters have described this decision-making process. According to fire chief Daniel Nigro, “The biggest decision we had to make was to clear the area and create a collapse zone around the severely damaged [WTC Building 7]. A number of fire officers and companies assessed the damage to the building. The appraisals indicated that the building’s integrity was in serious doubt.” [Fire Engineering, 9/2002]
After President Bush leaves his video conference, other top leaders continue to discuss what steps to take. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke asks what to do about al-Qaeda, assuming they are behind the attacks. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage states, “Look, we told the Taliban in no uncertain terms that if this happened, it’s their ass. No difference between the Taliban and al-Qaeda now. They both go down.” Regarding Pakistan, the Taliban’s patrons, Armitage says, “Tell them to get out of the way. We have to eliminate the sanctuary.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 22-23]
World Trade Center Building 7 is reported to be on fire. [CNN, 9/12/2001]
CNN reports US officials say there are “good indications” that bin Laden is involved in the attacks, based on “new and specific” information developed since the attacks. [CNN, 9/12/2001]
President Bush has just told his advisers that he is returning to Washington as soon as the plane is fueled— “No discussion.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 21-22] Yet, Bush adviser Karl Rove later says that at this time President Bush is hesitant to return to Washington because, “they’ve accounted for all four [hijacked] planes, but they’ve got another, I think, three or four or five planes still outstanding.” [New Yorker, 9/25/2001] However, the FAA points out there are no such reports and that Bush had been quickly informed when domestic US skies were completely cleared at 12:16 p.m. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004]
White House adviser Karen Hughes briefly speaks to the media and says President Bush is at an undisclosed location, taking part in a video conference. This is possibly the only in-person media appearance by any Bush administration official since the attacks and until a news conference by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld at 6:40 p.m. [CNN, 9/12/2001]
President Bush begins a video conference call from a bunker beneath Offutt Air Force Base. He and Chief of Staff Andrew Card visually communicate directly with Vice President Cheney, National Security Adviser Rice, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, CIA Director Tenet, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, and others. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Washington Times, 10/8/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002] According to Clarke, Bush begins the meeting by saying, “I’m coming back to the White House as soon as the plane is fueled. No discussion.” Clarke leads a quick review of what has already occurred, and issues that need to be quickly addressed. CIA Director Tenet states that al-Qaeda is clearly behind the 9/11 attacks. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld states that about 120 fighters are now above US cities. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 21-22] The meeting ends at 4:15 P.M. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Washington Times, 10/8/2002]
Having left Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana at around 1:30 p.m. (see (1:30 p.m.)), Air Force One lands at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska. President Bush stays on the plane for about ten minutes before entering the United States Strategic Command bunker at 3:06 p.m. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Salon, 9/12/2001] Offutt Air Force Base appears to be the headquarters of the US Strategic Command (Stratcom) exercise Global Guardian that was “in full swing” at the time the attacks began (see 8:30 a.m.). While there, the president spends time in the underground Command Center from where Global Guardian was earlier being directed, being brought up to date on the attacks and their aftermath. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002; Washington Times, 10/8/2002]Posted by jeff at 2:50 PM | TrackBack
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is provided information from the CIA indicating that three of the hijackers were suspected al-Qaeda operatives. Notes composed by aides who were with Rumsfeld in the National Military Command Center on 9/11 are leaked nearly a year later. According to the notes, information shows, “One guy is [an] associate of [USS] Cole bomber.” (This is a probable reference to Khalid Almihdhar or Nawaf Alhazmi.) Rumsfeld has also been given information indicating an al-Qaeda operative had advanced details of the 9/11 attack. According to the aide’s notes, Rumsfeld wants the “best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time. Not only UBL [Osama bin Laden]. Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.” [CBS News, 9/4/2002; Bamford, 2004, pp. 285]
It is later revealed that only hours after the 9/11 attacks, a US “shadow government” is formed. Initially deployed “on the fly,” executive directives on government continuity in the face of a crisis dating back to the Reagan administration are put into effect. Approximately 100 midlevel officials are moved to underground bunkers and stay there 24 hours a day. Officials rotate in and out on a 90-day cycle (see September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 3/1/2002; CBS News, 3/2/2002]
F-15 fighter pilot Major Daniel Nash returns to base around this time, after chasing Flight 175 and patrolling the skies over New York City. He says that when he gets out of the plane, “he [is] told that a military F-16 had shot down a fourth airliner in Pennsylvania.” [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002]
The Pentagon announces that aircraft carriers and guided missile destroyers have been dispatched toward New York and Washington. Around the country, more fighters, airborne radar (AWACs), and refueling planes are scrambling. NORAD is on its highest alert. [MSNBC, 9/22/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001]
President Bush leaves Louisiana on Air Force One, and flies to Nebraska’s Offutt Air Force Base, where the US Strategic Command is located. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Salon, 9/12/2001; MSNBC, 9/22/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001] He travels with Chief of Staff Andrew Card, senior adviser Karl Rove, communications staffers Dan Bartlett, Ari Fleischer, and Gordon Johndroe, and a small group of reporters. [Salon, 9/12/2001]
A state of emergency is declared in Washington. [CNN, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001]
President Bush announces that the US military has been put on high alert worldwide. [CNN, 9/12/2001; Associated Press, 8/19/2002] Apparently, this occurs in a televised speech that was actually recorded half an hour earlier.
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld later claims that he says to President Bush on the phone, “This is not a criminal action. This is war.” [Washington Times, 2/23/2004]
New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani orders an evacuation of Manhattan south of Canal Street. [MSNBC, 9/22/2001; Associated Press, 8/19/2002]
President Bush spends most of his time at Barksdale Air Force Base arguing on the phone with Vice President Cheney and others over where he should go next. “A few minutes before 1 p.m.,” he agrees to fly to Nebraska. As earlier, there are rumors of a “credible terrorist threat” to Air Force One that are said to prevent his return to Washington. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001]
President Bush records a short speech that is played by the networks at 1:04 p.m. [Salon, 9/12/2001; Washington Times, 10/8/2002] In a speech at the Louisiana base, President Bush announces that security measures are being taken and says: “Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.” [MSNBC, 9/22/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001] He also states, “Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward. And freedom will be defended.” [ABC News, 9/11/2002]
US airspace is clear of aircraft except for military and emergency flights. Only a few transoceanic flights are still landing in Canada. [USA Today, 8/12/2002] At 12:30 p.m., the FAA reports about 50 (non-civilian) planes still flying in US airspace, but none are reporting problems. [CNN, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001]
It is announced that US borders with Canada and Mexico are on the highest state of alert, but no decision has been made about closing borders. [CNN, 9/12/2001]
CIA Director Tenet tells Defense Secretary Rumsfeld about an intercepted phone call from earlier in the day at 9:53 a.m. An al-Qaeda operative talked of a fourth target just before Flight 93 crashed. Rumsfeld wrote notes to himself at the time. According to CBS, “Rumsfeld felt it was ‘vague,’ that it ‘might not mean something,’ and that there was ‘no good basis for hanging hat.’ In other words, the evidence was not clear-cut enough to justify military action against bin Laden.” [CBS News, 9/4/2002] More evidence suggesting an al-Qaeda link comes several hours later.
President Bush arrives at the Barksdale Air Force Base headquarters in a Humvee escorted by armed outriders. Reporters and others are not allowed to say where they are. Bush remains in this location for approximately one hour, recording a brief message and talking on the phone. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001]
Senator Orrin Hatch (R), a member of both the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, says he has just been “briefed by the highest levels of the FBI and of the intelligence community.” He says, “they’ve come to the conclusion that this looks like the signature of Osama bin Laden, and that he may be the one behind this.” [Salon, 9/12/2001]
At some point during the afternoon of 9/11, WTC leaseholder Larry Silverstein receives a phone call from the Fire Department commander, where they discuss the state of Building 7 of the WTC complex. Silverstein will discuss this call in a PBS documentary broadcast in 2002, saying that he told the commander, “You know, we’ve had such terrible loss of life, maybe the smartest thing to do is pull it. And they made that decision to pull and then we watched the building collapse.” [PBS, 9/10/2002] Some people suggest that by “pull it” Silverstein meant the deliberate demolition of the building. But a spokesman for Silverstein states that he was expressing “his view that the most important thing was to protect the safety of those firefighters, including, if necessary, to have them withdraw from the building.” [US Department of State, 9/16/2005] Yet this claim is contradicted by some accounts, according to which firefighters decided early on not to attempt fighting the fires in WTC 7 (see After 10:28 a.m.). Building 7 eventually collapses at around 5:20 in the afternoon (see (5:20 p.m.)).
Air Force One lands at Barksdale Air Force Base near Shreveport, Louisiana. “The official reason for landing at Barksdale was that President Bush felt it necessary to make a further statement, but it isn’t unreasonable to assume that—as there was no agreement as to what the president’s movements should be—it was felt he might as well be on the ground as in the air.” [Salon, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/16/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; CBS News, 9/11/2002]
Within two hours of the attacks the 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron (RADES) based at Hill Air Force Base, Utah begins reviewing the radar trails of the four earlier hijacked aircraft, after Pentagon officials have turned to them to find out exactly what happened. Using their own software, the unit has the unique ability to create a “track of interest analysis,” singling out and zooming in on each of the planes. The unit has captured most of the flights of the four planes, but lost sight of Flight 93 at some point. [Airman, 12/2003] The FBI also contacts RADES within hours of the attacks, requesting detailed information on the hijacked planes. [Hilltop Times, 4/15/2004] NORAD official Colonel Alan Scott later will tell the 9/11 Commission that much of his radar data for the “primary targets” on 9/11 was not seen that day. He will say, “It was reconstructed days later by the 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron, and other agencies like it who are professionals at going back and looking at radar tapes and then given that they are loaded with knowledge after the fact, they can go and find things that perhaps were not visible during the event itself.” [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] Data reconstructed by RADES will be used as a source several times in the account of the hijackings and military response to them in the 9/11 Commission’s final report. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 457-459]
General Wesley Clark, former Supreme Commander of NATO, says on television, “This is clearly a coordinated effort. It hasn’t been announced that it’s over. ... Only one group has this kind of ability and that is Osama bin Laden’s.” [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/2001]
Two congressmen, Dan Miller (R) and Adam Putnam (R), are on Air Force One. they’ve been receiving periodic updates on the crisis from President Bush’s adviser Karl Rove. At this time, they’re summoned forward to meet with the president. Bush points out the fighter escort, F-16s from a base in Texas, has now arrived. He says that a threat had been received from someone who knew the plane’s code name. However, there are doubts that any such threat ever occurred (see 10:32 a.m.). [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004]
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld speaks with President Bush, and tells him that the Department of Defense is working on refining the rules of engagement, so pilots will have a better understanding of the circumstances under which an aircraft can be shot down. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 465] He also briefs the president on the earlier decision to go to Defcon Three (see (10:10 a.m.)). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554]
Russian President Vladimir Putin phones President Bush while he is aboard Air Force One. Putin is the first foreign leader to call Bush following the attacks. He earlier called the White House to speak with the president, but had to speak with Condoleezza Rice instead (see Between 10:32 and 11:45 a.m.). Putin tells Bush he recognizes that the US has put troops on alert, and makes it clear that he will stand down Russian troops. US forces were ordered to high alert some time between 10:10 and 10:46 a.m. (see (10:10 a.m.)) Bush later describes, “In the past ... had the President put the—raised the DEF CON levels of our troops, Russia would have responded accordingly. There would have been inevitable tension.” Bush therefore describes this phone call as “a moment where it clearly said to me, [President Putin] understands the Cold War is over.” [US President, 10/1/2001; US President, 11/19/2001; CNN, 9/10/2002] Putin also sends a telegram to Bush today, stating: “The series of barbaric terrorist acts, directed against innocent people, has evoked our anger and indignation. ... The whole international community must rally in the fight against terrorism.” [Russian Embassy, 9/17/2001]
A message sent from Korean Air Flight 85 is misinterpreted to indicate a possible hijacking. At 1:24 p.m., the pilots accidentally issue a hijacking alert as the plane nears Alaska on its way to Anchorage. Two fighters tail the plane, and notify it that it will be shot down unless it avoids populated areas. Strategic sites are evacuated across Alaska. The plane eventually lands safely in Whitehorse, Canada, at 2:54 p.m. [USA Today, 8/12/2002]
More skyscrapers and tourist attractions are evacuated, including Walt Disney World, Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, Seattle’s Space Needle, and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. [Times Union (Albany), 9/11/2001]
The FAA Command Center is told that all the flights over the United States are accounted for and pilots are complying with controllers. There are 923 planes still in the air over the US. Every commercial flight in US airspace—about a quarter of the planes still in the air—is within 40 miles of its destination. Others are still over the oceans, and many are heading toward Canada. [USA Today, 8/13/2002]
Robert Bonner, the head of Customs and Border Protection, later testifies, “We ran passenger manifests through the system used by Customs—two were hits on our watch list of August 2001.” (This is presumably a reference to hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, watch-listed on August 23, 2001.) “And by looking at the Arab names and their seat locations, ticket purchases and other passenger information, it didn’t take a lot to do a rudimentary link analysis. Customs officers were able to ID 19 probable hijackers within 45 minutes. I saw the sheet by 11 a.m. And that analysis did indeed correctly identify the terrorists.” [New York Observer, 2/11/2004] However, Bonner appears to be at least somewhat incorrect: for two days after the attacks (see September 13, 2001-September 14, 2001), the FBI believes there are only 18 hijackers, and the original list contains some erroneous Arab-sounding names on the flight manifests, such as Adnan Bukhari and Ameer Bukhari. [CNN, 9/13/2001] Some hijacker names, including Mohamed Atta’s, were identified on a reservations computer around 8:30 a.m. (see (Before 8:26 a.m.)), and Richard Clarke was told some of the names were al-Qaeda around 10:00 a.m. (see (9:59 a.m.))
Colonel Mark Tillman, pilot of Air Force One, is told there is a threat to President Bush’s plane. Tillman has an armed guard placed at his cockpit door while the Secret Service double-checks the identity of everyone on board. Air traffic controllers warn that a suspect airliner is dead ahead, according to Tillman: “Coming out of Sarasota there was one call that said there was an airliner off our nose that they did not have contact with.” Tillman takes evasive action, pulling his plane high above normal traffic. [CBS News, 9/11/2002] Reporters on board notice the rise in elevation. [Dallas Morning News, 8/28/2002; Salon, 9/12/2001] The report is apparently a false alarm.
No fighters escort President Bush’s Air Force One until around this time, but accounts conflict. At 10:32 a.m., Vice President Cheney said it would take until about 11:10 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. to get a fighter escort to Air Force One. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] However, according to one account, around 10:00 a.m., Air Force One “is joined by an escort of F-16 fighters from a base near Jacksonville, Florida.” [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] Another report states, “At 10:41 [am.] ... Air Force One headed toward Jacksonville to meet jets scrambled to give the presidential jet its own air cover.” [New York Times, 9/16/2001] But apparently, when Air Force One takes evasive action around 10:55 a.m., there is still no fighter escort. NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold later says, “We scrambled available airplanes from Tyndall [near Tallahassee and not near Jacksonville, Florida] and then from Ellington in Houston, Texas,” but he does not say when this occurs. [Code One Magazine, 1/2002 Sources: Larry Arnold] In yet another account, two F16s eventually arrive, piloted by Shane Brotherton and Randy Roberts, from Ellington, not from any Florida base. [CBS News, 9/11/2002] The St. Petersburg Times, after interviewing people on Air Force One, estimate the first fighters, from Texas, arrive between 11:00 and 11:20. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] By 11:30 a.m., there are six fighters protecting Air Force One. [Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/2001] The BBC, however, reports that the Ellington, Texas, fighters are scrambled at 11:30 a.m., and quotes ABC reporter Ann Compton, inside Air Force One, saying fighters appear out the windows at 11:41 a.m. [BBC, 9/1/2002] Given that two of the seven bases said to have fighters on alert on 9/11 are in Florida (Homestead Air Station, 185 miles from Sarasota; and Tyndall Air Station, 235 miles from Sarasota), why a fighter escort does not reach Air Force One earlier remains unclear. Philip Melanson, author of a book on the Secret Service, comments, “I can’t imagine by what glitch the protection was not provided to Air Force One as soon as it took off. I would have thought there’d be something in place whereby one phone call from the head of the security would get the fighters in the air immediately.” [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004]
New York’s primary elections, already in progress, are postponed. [CNN, 9/12/2001]
Wallace Miller, the coroner of Somerset County, is one of the first people to arrive at the Flight 93 crash scene. However, he is surprised by the absence of human remains there. He later says, “If you didn’t know, you would have thought no one was on the plane. You would have thought they dropped them off somewhere.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 217] The only recognizable body part he sees is a piece of spinal cord with five vertebrae attached. He will later tell Australian newspaper The Age, “I’ve seen a lot of highway fatalities where there’s fragmentation. The interesting thing about this particular case is that I haven’t, to this day, 11 months later, seen any single drop of blood. Not a drop.” [Age (Melbourne), 9/9/2002] Dave Fox, a former firefighter, also arrives early at the crash scene, but sees just three chunks of human tissue. He says, “You knew there were people there, but you couldn’t see them.” [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/11/2002] Yet, in the following weeks, hundreds of searchers are able to find about 1,500 scorched human tissue samples, weighing less than 600 pounds—approximately eight percent of the total body mass on Flight 93. Months after 9/11, more remains are found in a secluded cabin, several hundred yards from the crash site. [Washington Post, 5/12/2002]
According to the 9/11 Commission, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld makes the decision to go to Defcon Three, the “highest alert for the nuclear arsenal in 30 years.” [ABC News, 9/11/2002] His decision is broadcast on the air threat conference call. Then, according to the Commission, “A minute later, Secretary Rumsfeld spoke to the Vice President, and he asked Rumsfeld to run the issue by the President. At 10:45 conferees were told to ‘hold off’ on Defcon 3, but a minute later the order was reinstated. Rumsfeld believed the matter was urgent and, having consulted DOD directives, concluded he had the authority to issue the order and would brief the President. Rumsfeld briefed the President on the decision at 11:15.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326 and 554] According to other accounts, the US military is put on high alert about 35 minutes earlier than the 9/11 Commission states (see (10:10 a.m.)).
Two F-16 fighters take off from Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, near Syracuse, NY. The fighters belong to the 174th Fighter Wing, a unit of the New York Air National Guard. A commander from Syracuse had called NORAD offering to help earlier in the morning (see (After 9:03 a.m.)). Three more fighters from the 174th FW will take off from Hancock Field at around 1.30 p.m., and a further two at 3:55 p.m. [Post-Standard (Syracuse), 9/12/2001] The Hancock pilots are ordered to “Identify all aircraft ... Intercept them. Tell them to land. ‘Engage’ them if they [don’t].” [Post-Standard (Syracuse), 9/25/2001] Also at some time this morning, following the attacks, 174th FW officials form a command center to monitor the situation across the US. [Post-Standard (Syracuse), 9/11/2001; Post-Standard (Syracuse), 9/12/2001] 100 of the 174th FW’s staff have spent the last month deployed to Saudi Arabia and are due back this afternoon. However, they are diverted to Canada and arrive back at the base later in the week (see Mid-August-September 11, 2001).
Two F-16s take off from Andrews Air Force Base lightly armed with nothing more than “hot” guns and non-explosive training rounds. Lead pilot Lieutenant Colonel Marc Sasseville flies one; the other pilot is only known by the codename Lucky. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002] These fighters had been at another base that morning, waiting to be armed with AIM-9 missiles, a process that takes about an hour. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] Since they took off without the missiles, presumably they could have taken off unarmed much earlier. (The first call for them to scramble came not long after 9:00 a.m.). Two more F-16s, armed with AIM-9 missiles, take off twenty-seven minutes later, at 11:09 a.m. These are apparently piloted by Major Dan Caine and Captain Brandon Rasmussen. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] F-16s from Richmond, Virginia, and Atlantic City, New Jersey, arrive over Washington a short time later. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002] The Andrews fighters are apparently the only fighters in the US scrambled before 11:00 with official shootdown authorization, but the first Andrews fighters into the air have no missiles. It is unclear if the Andrews fighters relaunching a few minutes earlier had shootdown orders, but they had no weapons either. It appears the Andrews fighters launching at 11:09 a.m. are the first fighters in the US with both shootdown orders and missiles to use.
Around this time (roughly), the FAA tells the White House that it still cannot account for three planes in addition to the four that have crashed. It takes the FAA another hour and a half to account for these three aircraft. [Time, 9/14/2001] Vice President Cheney later says, “That’s what we started working off of, that list of six, and we could account for two of them in New York. The third one we didn’t know what had happened to. It turned out it had hit the Pentagon, but the first reports on the Pentagon attack suggested a helicopter and then later a private jet.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/17/2001] Amongst false rumors during the day are reports of a bomb aboard a United Airlines jet that just landed in Rockford, Illinois. “Another plane disappears from radar and might have crashed in Kentucky. The reports are so serious that [FAA head Jane] Garvey notifies the White House that there has been another crash. Only later does she learn the reports are erroneous.” [USA Today, 8/13/2002]
After taking off from Andrews Air Force Base, Lt. Col. Marc Sasseville and Captain Heather Penney Garcia are flying at low altitudes over Washington, DC. The three fighters launched from Langley Air Force Base at 9:30 a.m. are flying above them at around 20,000 feet. The Langley pilots are communicating with controllers at NEADS, while the Andrews pilots are communicating with civilian controllers at the FAA. However, both sets of pilots hear a message over a shared channel: “Attention all aircraft monitoring Andrews tower frequency. Andrews and Class Bravo airspace is closed. No general aviation aircraft are permitted to enter Class Bravo airspace. Any infractions will be shot down.” [Filson, 2004, pp. 82]
Vice President Cheney tries to bring Defense Secretary Rumsfeld up to date over the NMCC’s conference call, as Rumsfeld has just arrived there minutes before. Cheney explains that he has given authorization for hijacked planes to be shot down and that this has been told to the fighter pilots. Rumsfeld asks, “So we’ve got a couple of aircraft up there that have those instructions at the present time?” Cheney replies, “That is correct. And it’s my understanding they’ve already taken a couple of aircraft out.” Then Rumsfeld says, “We can’t confirm that. We’re told that one aircraft is down but we do not have a pilot report that they did it.” Cheney is incorrect that this command has reached the pilots. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
The 9/11 Commission claims that the first fighters from Andrews Air Force Base scramble at this time and are flying patrol over Washington by 10:45 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] The three F-16s flying on a training mission in North Carolina, 200 miles away have finally been recalled to their home base at Andrews. As soon as lead pilot Major Billy Hutchison lands and checks in via radio, he is told to take off again immediately. His fighter apparently has no weapons whatsoever. The two other fighters only have training rounds for their guns, and very little fuel. “Hutchison was probably airborne shortly after the alert F-16s from Langley arrive over Washington, although [the] pilots admit their timeline-recall ‘is fuzzy.’” The officer who sent Hutchison off “told him to ‘do exactly what ATC asks you to do.’ Primarily, he was to go ID [identify] that unknown [aircraft] that everybody was so excited about [Flight 93]. He blasted off and flew a standard departure route, which took him over the Pentagon.” Flight 93 crashed half an hour before this; it is unclear how the Andrews base could still not know it crashed by this time. The pilots later say that, had all else failed, they would have rammed into Flight 93, had they reached it in time. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002]
A Secret Service agent again contacts Andrews Air Force Base and commands, “Get in the air now!” It’s not clear if this is treated as an official scramble order, or how quickly fighters respond to it. According to fighter pilot Lieutenant Colonel Marc Sasseville, almost simultaneously, a call from someone else in the White House declares the Washington area “a free-fire zone. That meant we were given authority to use force, if the situation required it, in defense of the nation’s capital, its property, and people.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002] Apparently, this second call is made to General David Wherley, flight commander of the Air National Guard at Andrews, who has made several phone calls this morning, seeking airborne authorization for his fighters. Wherley had contacted the Secret Service after hearing reports that it wanted fighters airborne. One Secret Service agent, using two telephones at once, relays instructions to Wherley from another Secret Service agent in the White House who has been given the instructions from Vice President Cheney. Wherley’s fighters are to protect the White House and shoot down any planes that threaten Washington. Wherley gives Lieutenant Colonel Marc Sasseville, lead pilot, the authority to decide whether to execute a shootdown. According to a different account, during this call Wherley is speaking with a woman in the Secret Service’s command and control center at the White House. Wherley says, “She was standing next to the vice president (Dick Cheney) and she said, ‘They want you to put a CAP up.’ Basically what they told me, and this is another one of those things that’s clear in my mind ... ‘We want you to intercept any airplane that attempts to fly closer than 20 miles around any airport around the Washington area. ... Attempt to turn them away, do whatever you can to turn them away and if they won’t turn away use whatever force is necessary ... to keep them from hitting a building downtown.’” President Bush and Vice President Cheney later claim they were not aware that any fighters had scrambled from Andrews at the request of the Secret Service. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Filson, 2004, pp. 79] Sasseville and the pilot code-named Lucky will take off at 10:42 a.m. (see (10:42 a.m.))
Air Force One turns toward a new destination of Barksdale Air Force Base, near Shreveport, Louisiana, in response to a decision that Bush should not go directly to Washington. [CBS News, 9/11/2002; Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
Russian President Vladimir Putin phones the White House, wanting to speak with the US president. With Bush not there, Condoleezza Rice takes the call. Putin tells her that the Russians are voluntarily standing down a military exercise they are conducting, as a gesture of solidarity with the United States. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] The Russian exercise began on September 10 in the Russian arctic and North Pacific oceans, and was scheduled to last until September 14. [NORAD, 9/9/2001; Washington Times, 9/11/2001] It involved Russian bombers staging a mock attack against NATO planes that are supposedly planning an assault on Russia. [BBC Worldwide, 2001, pp. 161] Subsequently, Putin manages to talk to Bush while he is aboard Air Force One (see (After 11:15 a.m.)).
Vice President Cheney reportedly calls President Bush and tells him of a threat to Air Force One and that it will take 40-90 minutes to get a protective fighter escort in place. Many doubt the existence of this threat. For instance, Representative Martin Meehan (D) says, “I don’t buy the notion Air Force One was a target. That’s just PR, that’s just spin.” [Washington Times, 10/8/2002] A later account calls the threat “completely untrue,” and says Cheney probably made the story up. A well-informed, anonymous Washington official says, “It did two things for [Cheney]. It reinforced his argument that the president should stay out of town, and it gave George W. an excellent reason for doing so.” [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001]
The FAA allows “military and law enforcement flights to resume (and some flights that the FAA can’t reveal that were already airborne).” All civilian, military, and law enforcement flights were ordered at 9:26 a.m. to land as soon as reasonably possible. [Time, 9/14/2001] Civilian flights remain banned until September 13. Note that the C-130 cargo plane that witnessed the Flight 77 crash (see 9.36 a.m.) and which came upon the Flight 93 crash site (see 10:08 a.m.) right after it had crashed was apparently not subject to the grounding order issued about an hour earlier.
According to the 9/11 Commission, NORAD Commander Major General Larry Arnold instructs his staff to broadcast the following message over a NORAD chat log: “10:31 Vice President [Cheney] has cleared us to intercept tracks of interest and shoot them down (see 10:14 a.m.) if they do not respond, per CONR CC [General Arnold].” NEADS first learns of the shootdown order from this message. However, NEADS does not pass the order to the fighter pilots in New York City and Washington. NEADS leaders later say they do not pass it on because they are unsure how the pilots should proceed with this guidance. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] The pilots flying over New York City claim they are never given a formal shootdown order that day.
Acting Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers enters the NMCC, though exactly when this happens remains unclear. According to his own statements, he was on Capitol Hill, in the offices of Senator Max Cleland (D) from the time just prior to the first WTC attack until around the time the Pentagon was hit (see (After 8:48 a.m.)). However, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke claims Myers takes part in a video conference for much of the morning. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, who enters the NMCC around 10:30 a.m., claims that as he entered, Myers “had just returned from Capitol Hill.” [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004 Sources: Donald Rumsfeld, Richard A. Clarke] In Myers’ testimony before the 9/11 Commission, he fails to mention where he was or what he was doing from the time of the Pentagon crash until about 10:30 a.m., except to say, “I went back to my duty station. And we—what we started doing at that time was to say, ‘OK, we’ve had these attacks. Obviously they’re hostile acts. Not sure at that point who perpetrated them.’” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] These discrepancies in Myers’ whereabouts remain unresolved.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, missing for at least 30 minutes, finally enters the NMCC, where the military’s response to the 9/11 attacks is being coordinated. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; CNN, 9/4/2002] Rumsfeld later claims that he only started to gain a situational awareness of what was happening after arriving at the NMCC. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Rumsfeld was in his office only 200 feet away from the NMCC until the Pentagon crash at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m.). His activities during this period are unclear. He went outside to the Flight 77 crash site and then stayed somewhere else in the Pentagon until his arrival at the NMCC. Brigadier General Montague Winfield later says, “For 30 minutes we couldn’t find him. And just as we began to worry, he walked into the door of the [NMCC].” [ABC News, 9/11/2002] Winfield himself apparently only shows up at the NMCC around 10:30 a.m. as well.
Vice President Cheney and others in the White House bunker are given a report of another airplane heading toward Washington. Cheney’s Chief of Staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, later states, “We learn that a plane is five miles out and has dropped below 500 feet and can’t be found; it’s missing.” Believing they only have a minute or two before the plane crashes into Washington, Cheney orders fighters to engage the plane, saying, “Take it out.” However, reports that this is another hijacking are mistaken. It is learned later that day that a Medevac helicopter five miles away was mistaken for a hijacked plane. [Newsweek, 12/31/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
The World Trade Center’s North Tower collapses. It was hit by Flight 11 at 8:46, 102 minutes earlier. [MSNBC, 9/22/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001; Associated Press, 8/19/2002; Kim and Baum, 2002 pdf file] The death toll could have been much worse—an estimated 15,000 people made it out of the WTC to safety after 8:46 a.m. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/2002]
According to Captain Michael Currid, the sergeant at arms for the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, some time after the collapse of the North Tower, he sees four or five fire companies trying to extinguish fires in Building 7 of the WTC. Someone from the city’s Office of Emergency Management tells him that WTC 7 is in serious danger of collapse. Currid says, “The consensus was that it was basically a lost cause and we should not lose anyone else trying to save it.” Along with some others, he goes inside WTC 7 and yells up the stairwells to the fire fighters, “Drop everything and get out!” [Murphy, 2002, pp. 175-176] Although Currid doesn’t say exactly at what time this occurs, it is later reported that at 12:10 to 12:15 p.m. fire fighters find individuals inside the building and lead them out. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/2004, pp. L-18 pdf file] So presumably it is some time after this when they call the fire fighters to evacuate. However, contradicting this account, one report later claims, “Given the limited water supply and the first strategic priority, which was to search for survivors in the rubble, FDNY did not fight the fires [in WTC 7].” [Fire Engineering, 9/2002] And a 2002 government report says, “the firefighters made the decision fairly early on not to attempt to fight the fires, due in part to the damage to WTC 7 from the collapsing towers.” [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 5-21] Building 7 eventually collapses late in the afternoon of 9/11 (see (5:20 p.m.)).
Jane Garvey, head of the FAA, orders the diversion of all international flights with US destinations. Most flights are diverted to Canada. [Time, 9/14/2001; MSNBC, 9/22/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001]
United Airlines headquarters receives confirmation that Flight 93 has crashed from the airport manager in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] Cleveland flight control had confirmation of the crash at 10:08 a.m. (see 10:08 a.m.)
Patrick Madigan, the commander of the Somerset Barracks of the Pennsylvania State Police, arrives at the Flight 93 crash scene around 10:20 a.m. [Department of the Army and the Air Force National Guard Bureau, 2002 pdf file] He says that at some point later in the day (he does not specify a time), a “strange incident” occurs: “We were there at the site and an airplane started circling. It was a jetliner circling the crash site very low. No one knew what to expect because we knew that all of the planes were supposedly grounded.” (The FAA had, at about 9:45 a.m., ordered that all aircraft be instructed to land at the nearest airport (see (9:45 a.m.)).) After a few minutes of uncertainty, it is announced that the plane is carrying United Airlines executives, who are circling the site to view it before they land in nearby Johnstown. [Kashurba, 2002, pp. 63] Another low-flying jet plane was witnessed over the site earlier on, around the time Flight 93 went down (see (Before and After 10:06 a.m.)).
The National Military Command Center (NMCC) has been conducting an interagency teleconference to coordinate the nation’s response to the hijackings since 9:29 a.m. Yet the 9/11 Commission Reports that the FAA is unable to join the call until this time, apparently due to technical difficulties. NORAD asked three times before the last hijacked plane crashed for the FAA to provide a hijacking update to the teleconference. None were given, since no FAA representative was there. When an FAA representative finally joins in, that person has no proper experience, no access to decision makers, and no information known to senior FAA officials at the time. Furthermore, the highest-level Defense Department officials rely on this conference and do not talk directly with senior FAA officials. As a result, the leaders of NORAD and the FAA are effectively out of contact with each other during the entire crisis. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
Fire and rescue workers at the Pentagon in response to the attack are evacuated to a nearby highway overpass, due to the warning of another hijacked aircraft flying towards Washington, DC, currently 20 minutes away. The warning is passed on by Special Agent Chris Combs, the FBI’s representative at the Pentagon crash site. Combs received this information from the FBI’s Washington Field Office, which is in direct contact with the FAA. According to a report put out by the government of Arlington County, Virginia, updates are announced of the approaching aircraft “until the last warning when [it] went below radar coverage in Pennsylvania, an estimated 4 minutes flying time from the Pentagon.” [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A30; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 315] Yet if the timing of this account is correct, the approaching plane could not have been Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania considerably earlier (see (10:03-10:10 a.m.)).
The front section of the Pentagon that had been hit by Flight 77 collapses. [CNN, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001] A few minutes prior to its collapse, firefighters saw warning signs and sounded a general evacuation tone. No firefighters were injured. [NFPA Journal, 11/1/2001]
According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS calls Washington flight control at this time. Asked about Flight 93, flight control responds, “He’s down.” It is clarified that the plane crashed “somewhere up northeast of Camp David.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
The FBI has issued a warning that a plane originating in San Diego might be hijacked and specifically targeting Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, where NORAD’s operations center is located. In response, the massive steel doors designed to protect the mountain from a nuclear blast are closed for the first time in its history. One report suggests, however, that these doors are closed in response to the US military being put on high alert (see (10:10 a.m.)). The NORAD operations center is also informed that a Ryder rental truck driven by “Arab-looking men” and packed with explosives is heading their way. Lt. Col. William Glover, chief of NORAD’s air defense operations, says, “It didn’t make sense, but those phone calls were happening.” [Toronto Star, 12/9/2001; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; BBC, 9/1/2002]
According to the 9/11 Commission, beginning at this time, the White House repeatedly conveys to the NMCC that Vice President Cheney confirmed fighters were cleared to engage the inbound aircraft if they could verify that the aircraft was hijacked. However, the authorization fails to reach the pilots. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
More prominent buildings in Washington begin evacuation. The United Nations building in New York City evacuates first; many federal buildings follow later. [CNN, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke apparently began arranging these evacuations a short time before this. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 14-15]
The 9/11 Commission later concludes that if Flight 93 had not crashed, it would probably have reached Washington around this time. The commission notes that there are only three fighters over Washington at this time, all from Langley, Virginia. However, the pilots of these fighters were never briefed about why they were scrambled. As the lead pilot explained, “I reverted to the Russian threat... I’m thinking cruise missile threat from the sea. You know, you look down and see the Pentagon burning and I thought the b_stards snuck one by us. ... You couldn’t see any airplanes, and no one told us anything.” The pilots knew their mission was to identify and divert aircraft flying within a certain radius of Washington, but did not know that the threat came from hijacked planes. In addition, the commission notes that NEADS did not know where Flight 93 was when it crashed, and wonders if they would have determined its location and passed it on the pilots before the plane reached Washington. They conclude, “NORAD officials have maintained that they would have intercepted and shot down United 93. We are not so sure.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
All US military forces are ordered to Defcon Three (or Defcon Delta), “The highest alert for the nuclear arsenal in 30 years.” [ABC News, 9/11/2002; CNN, 9/4/2002; Clarke, 2004, pp. 15; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] Rumsfeld claims that he makes the recommendation, but it is hard to see how he can do this, at least at this time. He later asserts that he discusses the issue with acting Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers in the NMCC first. However, they do not arrive at the PEOC until about 10:30 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004] At 10:15 a.m., the massive blast doors to US Strategic Command, headquarters for NORAD in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, are closed for the first time in response to the high alert. [BBC, 9/1/2002; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] In another account, acting Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers gives the Defcon order by himself. President Bush later contradicts both accounts, asserting that he gives the order. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004] According to the 9/11 Commission’s final report, though, the decision to go to Defcon Three takes place about 35 minutes later (see (10:43 a.m.)).
The Secret Service, viewing projected path information about Flight 93, rather than actual radar returns, does not realize that Flight 93 has already crashed. Based on this erroneous information, a military aide tells Vice President Cheney and others in the White House bunker that the plane is 80 miles away from Washington. Cheney is asked for authority to engage the plane, and he quickly provides authorization. The aide returns a few minutes later and says the plane is 60 miles out. Cheney again gives authorization to engage. A few minutes later and presumably after the flight has crashed or been shot down, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten suggests Cheney contact President Bush to confirm the engage order. Bolten later tells the 9/11 Commission that he had not heard any prior discussion on the topic with Bush, and wanted to make sure Bush knew. Apparently, Cheney calls Bush and obtains confirmation. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] However, there is controversy over whether Bush approved a shootdown before this incident or whether Cheney gave himself the authority to make the decision on the spot. As Newsweek notes, it is moot point in one sense, since the decision was made on false data and there is no plane to shoot down. [Newsweek, 6/20/2004]
Armed agents deploy around the White House. [CNN, 9/12/2001]
Cleveland flight controller Stacey Taylor has asked a nearby C-130 pilot to look at Flight 93’s last position and see if they can find anything. Remarkably, this C-130 pilot is the same pilot who was asked by flight control to observe Flight 77 as it crashed in Washington earlier (see 9.36 a.m.). He tells Taylor that he saw smoke from the crash shortly after the hijacked plane went down. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; Guardian, 10/17/2001]
According to the 9/11 Commission, the FAA Command Center reports to FAA headquarters at this time that Flight 93 has crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside. “It hit the ground. That’s what they’re speculating, that’s speculation only.” The Command Center confirms that Flight 93 crashed at 10:17 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; Guardian, 10/17/2001]
According to the 9/11 Commission, the NEADS Mission Crew Commander is sorting out the orders given to the Langley fighter pilots. The Commander does not know that Flight 93 had been heading toward Washington or that it had crashed. He explicitly instructs the Langley fighters that they cannot shoot down aircraft—they have “negative clearance to shoot” aircraft over Washington. Authorization to shoot down hijacked civilian aircraft only reaches NEADS at 10:31 a.m. (see 10:31 a.m.) Even then, the authorization is not passed on to the pilots. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS finally receives a call from Cleveland flight control about Flight 93. Cleveland passes on the plane’s last known latitude and longitude. NEADS is unable to locate it on radar because it has already crashed. By the commission’s account, this is NORAD’s first notification about the Flight 93 hijacking, even though Cleveland realized Flight 93 was hijacked at 9:32 a.m., 35 minutes earlier, and notified FAA headquarters at 9:34 a.m., 33 minutes earlier. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
Despite the apparent lack of plane wreckage and human remains at the Flight 93 crash site (see (After 10:06 a.m.))(see 10:45 a.m.), a large amount of paper debris is found there, mostly intact. Faye Hahn, an EMT who responds to the initial call for help, finds “pieces of mail” everywhere. [McCall, 2002, pp. 31-32] Roger Bailey of the Somerset Volunteer Fire Department finds mail “scattered everywhere” around the site. He says, “I guess there were 5,000 pounds of mail on board.” [Kashurba, 2002, pp. 38] Some envelopes are burned, but others are undamaged. Flight 93 had reportedly been carrying a cargo of thousands of pounds of US mail. [Longman, 2002, pp. 213-214] Whether this is later examined as crime scene evidence is unclear: According to Bailey, over subsequent days, whenever a lot of this mail has been recovered, the post office will be called and a truck will come to take it away. Several of the first responders at the crash site also see an unscorched bible lying open on the ground, about 15 yards from the crash crater. [Kashurba, 2002, pp. 43, 110 and 129; Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 6/13/2006] Local coroner Wallace Miller will later come across a second bible at the warehouse where the Flight 93 victims’ belongings are kept. [Washington Post, 5/12/2002] Other paper debris rains down on the nearby Indian Lake Marina (see (Before 10:06 a.m.)). According to witness Tom Spinelli, this is “mainly mail,” and also includes “bits of in-flight magazine.” [Mirror, 9/12/2002] Other paper items will be recovered from the crash site in the following days. These include a fragment of Ziad Jarrah’s passport and a business card linking al-Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui to the 9/11 hijackers. [CNN, 8/1/2002; Washington Post, 9/25/2002]
In the tiny town of Boswell, about ten miles north and slightly to the west of Flight 93’s crash site, Rodney Peterson and Brandon Leventry notice a passenger jet lumbering through the sky at about 2,000 feet. They realize such a big plane flying so low in that area is odd. They see the plane dip its wings sharply to the left, then to the right. The wings level off and the plane keeps flying south, continuing to descend slowly. Five minutes later, they hear news that the plane has crashed. Other witnesses also later describe the plane flying east-southeast, low, and wobbly. [Longman, 2002, pp. 205-206; New York Times, 9/14/2001] “Officials initially say that it looks like the plane was headed south when it hit the ground.” [News Channel 5 (Cleveland), 9/11/2001]
Shortly after 9/11, NORAD claims that there is a fighter 100 miles away from Flight 93 when it crashes. However, no details, such as who the pilot is, or which base or direction the fighter is coming from, are ever given by NORAD. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001] CBS television reports that two F-16 fighters were tailing the flight and within 60 miles of the plane when it crashed. [CBS News, 9/16/2001; Independent, 8/13/2002] Shortly after 9/11, an unnamed New England flight controller ignores a ban on controllers speaking to the media, reportedly claiming “that an F-16 fighter closely pursued Flight 93 ... the F-16 made 360-degree turns to remain close to the commercial jet.” He adds that the fighter pilot “must’ve seen the whole thing.” He reportedly learned this from speaking to controllers nearer to the crash. [Associated Press, 9/13/2001; Telegraph (Nashua), 9/13/2001] However, a Cleveland flight controller named Stacey Taylor later claims to have not seen any fighters on radar around the crash. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] Major General Paul Weaver, director of the Air National Guard, had previously claimed that no military planes were sent after Flight 93. [Seattle Times, 9/16/2001] A different explanation by ABC News says, “The closest fighters are two F-16 pilots on a training mission from Selfridge Air National Guard Base” near Detroit, Michigan. These are ordered after Flight 93, even though they reportedly aren’t armed with any weapons. The two pilots, Lt. Col. Tom Froling and Major Douglas Champagne, have just fired the last of their 20mm cannon ammunition during their training mission. They are oblivious to what has happened in New York and Washington, but have heard unusual conversation over their radio frequencies. It is claimed they are supposed to crash into Flight 93 if they cannot persuade it to land. [ABC News, 8/30/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002; Filson, 2004, pp. 68] However, these fighters apparently are not diverted from Michigan until after Flight 93 crashes at 10:06 a.m.
Flight 93 apparently starts to break up before it crashes, because debris is found very far away from the crash site. [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001] The plane is generally obliterated upon landing, except for one half-ton piece of engine found some distance away. Some reports indicate that the engine piece was found over a mile away. [Independent, 8/13/2002] The FBI reportedly acknowledges that this piece was found “a considerable distance” from the crash site. [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001] Later, the FBI will cordon off a three-mile wide area around the crash, as well as another area six to eight miles from the initial crash site. [CNN, 9/13/2001] One story calls what happened to this engine “intriguing, because the heat-seeking, air-to-air Sidewinder missiles aboard an F-16 would likely target one of the Boeing 757’s two large engines.” [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001] Smaller debris fields are also found two, three, and eight miles away from the main crash site. [Independent, 8/13/2002; Mirror, 9/12/2002] Eight miles away, local media quote residents speaking of a second plane in the area and burning debris falling from the sky. [Reuters, 9/13/2001] Residents outside Shanksville reported “discovering clothing, books, papers, and what appeared to be human remains. Some residents said they collected bags-full of items to be turned over to investigators. Others reported what appeared to be crash debris floating in Indian Lake, nearly six miles from the immediate crash scene. Workers at Indian Lake Marina said that they saw a cloud of confetti-like debris descend on the lake and nearby farms minutes after hearing the explosion...” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/13/2001] Moments after the crash, Carol Delasko initially thinks someone had blown up a boat on Indian Lake: “It just looked like confetti raining down all over the air above the lake.” [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/14/2001] Investigators say that far-off wreckage “probably was spread by the cloud created when the plane crashed and dispersed by a ten mph southeasterly wind.” [News Journal (Wilmington, DE), 9/16/2001] However, much of the wreckage is found sooner than that wind could have carried it, and not always southeast.
Numerous eyewitnesses see and hear Flight 93 just before its crash:
- Terry Butler, at Stoystown: He sees the plane come out of the clouds, low to the ground. “It was moving like you wouldn’t believe. Next thing I knew it makes a heck of a sharp, right-hand turn.” It banks to the right and appears to be trying to climb to clear one of the ridges, but it continues to turn to the right and then veers behind a ridge. About a second later it crashes. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/12/2001] Accounts of the plane making strange noises:
- Laura Temyer of Hooversville: “I didn’t see the plane but I heard the plane’s engine. Then I heard a loud thump that echoed off the hills and then I heard the plane’s engine. I heard two more loud thumps and didn’t hear the plane’s engine anymore after that.” (She insists that people she knows in state law enforcement have privately told her the plane was shot down, and that decompression sucked objects from the aircraft, explaining why there was a wide debris field.) [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001]
- Charles Sturtz, a half-mile from the crash site: The plane is heading southeast and has its engines running. No smoke can be seen. “It was really roaring, you know. Like it was trying to go someplace, I guess.” [WPXI 11 (Pittsburgh), 9/13/2001]
- Michael Merringer, two miles from the crash site: “I heard the engine gun two different times and then I heard a loud bang...” [Associated Press, 9/12/2001]
- Tim Lensbouer, 300 yards away: “I heard it for ten or 15 seconds and it sounded like it was going full bore.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/12/2001] Accounts of the plane flying upside down:
- Rob Kimmel, several miles from the crash site: He sees it fly overhead, banking hard to the right. It is 200 feet or less off the ground as it crests a hill to the southeast. “I saw the top of the plane, not the bottom.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 210-211] Eric Peterson of Lambertsville: He sees a plane flying overhead unusually low. The plane seemed to be turning end-over-end as it dropped out of sight behind a tree line. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/12/2001]
- Bob Blair of Stoystown: He sees the plane spiraling and flying upside down, not much higher than the treetops, before crashing. [Daily American, 9/12/2001] Accounts of a sudden plunge and more strange sounds:
- An unnamed witness says he hears two loud bangs before watching the plane take a downward turn of nearly 90 degrees. [News Channel 5 (Cleveland), 9/11/2001]
- Tom Fritz, about a quarter-mile from the crash site: He hears a sound that “wasn’t quite right” and looks up in the sky. “It dropped all of a sudden, like a stone,” going “so fast that you couldn’t even make out what color it was.” [St. Petersburg Times, 9/12/2001]
- Terry Butler, a few miles north of Lambertsville: “It dropped out of the clouds.” The plane rose slightly, trying to gain altitude, then “it just went flip to the right and then straight down.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/12/2001]
- Lee Purbaugh, 300 yards away: “There was an incredibly loud rumbling sound and there it was, right there, right above my head—maybe 50 feet up. ... I saw it rock from side to side then, suddenly, it dipped and dived, nose first, with a huge explosion, into the ground. I knew immediately that no one could possibly have survived.” [Independent, 8/13/2002] Upside down and a sudden plunge:
- Linda Shepley: She hears a loud bang and sees the plane bank to the side. [ABC News, 9/11/2001] She sees the plane wobbling right and left, at a low altitude of roughly 2,500 feet, when suddenly the right wing dips straight down, and the plane plunges into the earth. She says she has an unobstructed view of Flight 93’s final two minutes. [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001]
- Kelly Leverknight in Stony Creek Township of Shanksville: “There was no smoke, it just went straight down. I saw the belly of the plane.” It sounds like it is flying low, and it’s heading east. [Daily American, 9/12/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 9/12/2001]
- Tim Thornsberg, working in a nearby strip mine: “It came in low over the trees and started wobbling. Then it just rolled over and was flying upside down for a few seconds ... and then it kind of stalled and did a nose dive over the trees.” [WPXI 11 (Pittsburgh), 9/13/2001] Some claim that these witness accounts support the idea that Flight 93 is hit by a missile. [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001] While this theory certainly can be disputed, it is worth noting that some passenger planes hit by missiles continued to fly erratically for several minutes before crashing. For instance, a Korean Airline 747 was hit by two Russian missiles in 1983, yet continued to fly for two more minutes. [Korean Air, 8/31/1983]
Flight 93 crashes into an empty field just north of the Somerset County Airport, about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, 124 miles or 15 minutes from Washington, D.C. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; Guardian, 10/17/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; MSNBC, 9/3/2002; USA Today, 8/13/2002; Associated Press, 8/19/2002; CNN, 9/12/2001] The point of impact is a reclaimed coal mine, known locally as the Diamond T Mine, that was reportedly abandoned in 1996. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/12/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 9/12/2001; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/11/2002] Being “reclaimed” means the earth had been excavated down to the coal seam, the coal removed, and then the earth replaced and planted over. [Kashurba, 2002, pp. 121] A US Army authorized seismic study times the crash at five seconds after 10:06 a.m. [Kim and Baum, 2002 pdf file; San Francisco Chronicle, 12/9/2002] As mentioned previously, the timing of this crash is disputed and it may well occur at 10:03 a.m., 10:07 a.m., or 10:10 a.m.
Soon after Flight 93 has crashed, Sherry Stalley, who is a reporter with a Johnstown, Pennsylvania, television station, is traveling in a car and hears a dispatch over the scanner (a type of radio receiver used by reporters), reporting that apparently another plane, possibly with a bomb onboard, is heading towards the Johnstown airport (located about 14 miles north of the Flight 93 crash site). According to Stalley, “The scanner was jammed with talk. Emergency crews and firefighters were being sent to the airport. Police were being dispatched to shut down roads. Every available unit within a thirty-mile radius was asked to help.” [Gilbert et al., 2002, pp. 111] The control tower at the Johnstown airport was evacuated at around 10 a.m., following reports of a suspect aircraft heading towards it (see (Between 9:40 and 10:00 a.m.)).
At some point after Flight 93 crashes, NORAD diverts “unarmed Michigan Air National Guard fighter jets that happened to be flying a training mission in northern Michigan since the time of the first attack.” [Associated Press, 8/30/2002] The 9/11 Commission concludes these fighters and fighters from Ohio are scrambled for Delta Flight 1989, a flight that was never hijacked or even out of contact. Meanwhile, reportedly, no fighters are scrambled after Flight 93 at all, which has already crashed. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is told by an aide, “Secret Service reports a hostile aircraft ten minutes out.” Two minutes later, he is given an update: “Hostile aircraft eight minutes out.” In actual fact, when Flight 93 crashes at 10:06 a.m., it’s still about 15 minutes away from Washington. Clarke is also told that there are 3,900 aircraft still in the air over the Continental US (which is roughly accurate); four of those aircraft are believed to be piloted by terrorists (which is inaccurate by this time). Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Richard Myers then reports, “We have three F-16s from Langley over the Pentagon. Andrews is launching fighters from the D.C. Air National Guard. We have fighters aloft from the Michigan Air National Guard, moving east toward a potential hostile over Pennsylvania. Six fighters from Tyndall and Ellington are en route to rendezvous with Air Force One over Florida. They will escort it to Barksdale.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 8-9; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001] However, fighters do not meet up with Air Force One until about an hour later. Franklin Miller, a senior national security official who worked alongside Clarke on 9/11, and another official there, later fail to recall hearing any aide warning that a plane could be only minutes away. [New York Times, 3/30/2004] The time of this incident is not given, but the Michigan fighters are not diverted until after 10:06 a.m. (see (After 10:06 a.m.)). If this takes place after 10:06 a.m., it would parallel similar warnings about Flight 93 after it has already crashed provided to Vice President Cheney elsewhere in the White House.
Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is told by an aide, “United 93 is down, crashed outside of Pittsburgh. It’s odd. Appears not to have hit anything much on the ground.” The timing of this event is unclear. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 14-15]
President Bush is told that Flight 93 crashed a few minutes after it happened, but the exact timing of this notice is unclear. Because of Vice President Cheney’s earlier order, he asks, “Did we shoot it down or did it crash?” Several hours later, he is assured that it crashed. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
According to Newsweek, “shortly after the suicide attacks,” US intelligence picks up communications among bin Laden associates relaying the message: “we’ve hit the targets.” [Newsweek, 9/13/2001]
The local structure most severely damaged when Flight 93 crashes in rural Pennsylvania is a stone cottage, an estimated 1,000 feet from the crash site. Located within thick trees, the cottage belongs to Barry Hoover who is away at work at the time of the crash. Reportedly, “every window and door” has been “blown off and obliterated, its ceilings and floor tiles had been blasted loose and much of the interior was wrecked.” Hoover describes it as “like what you see after a tornado or hurricane goes through—a total ruin.” The garage adjacent to it has its door blown off by the shockwave from the crash. According to Somerset County Solicitor Dan Rullo, “The way it was described to me was that it must have been blown up, the springs snapped, and it came back upside down.” The surrounding area is scattered with remains and debris. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/14/2001; Washington Post, 5/12/2002; Kashurba, 2002, pp. 122]Posted by jeff at 10:06 AM | TrackBack
According to the 9/11 Commission, the NMCC learns about the Flight 93 hijacking at this time. Since the FAA has not yet been patched in to the NMCC’s conference call, the news comes from the White House. The White House learned about it from the Secret Service, and the Secret Service learned about it from the FAA. NORAD apparently is still unaware. Four minutes later, a NORAD representative on the conference call states, “NORAD has no indication of a hijack heading to Washington, D.C., at this time.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
Exactly when Flight 93 crashes remains unclear. According to NORAD, Flight 93 crashes at 10:03 a.m. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001] The 9/11 Commission gives an exact time of 11 seconds after 10:03 a.m. They claim this “time is supported by evidence from the staff’s radar analysis, the flight data recorder, NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board] analysis, and infrared satellite data.” They do note that “[t]he precise crash time has been the subject of some dispute.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] However, a seismic study authorized by the US Army to determine when the plane crashed concluded that the crash happened at 10:06:05 a.m. [Kim and Baum, 2002 pdf file; San Francisco Chronicle, 12/9/2002] The discrepancy is so puzzling that the Philadelphia Daily News publishes an article on the issue, titled “Three-Minute Discrepancy in Tape.” It notes that leading seismologists agree on the 10:06 a.m. time, give or take a couple of seconds. [Philadelphia Daily News, 9/16/2002] The New York Observer notes that, in addition to the seismology study, “The FAA gives a crash time of 10:07 a.m. In addition, the New York Times, drawing on flight controllers in more than one FAA facility, put the time at 10:10 a.m. Up to a seven-minute discrepancy? In terms of an air disaster, seven minutes is close to an eternity. The way our nation has historically treated any airline tragedy is to pair up recordings from the cockpit and air-traffic control and parse the timeline down to the hundredths of a second. However, as [former Inspector General of the Transportation Department] Mary Schiavo points out, ‘We don’t have an NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) investigation here, and they ordinarily dissect the timeline to the thousandth of a second.’” [New York Observer, 2/11/2004] (Note that this work uses 10:06 a.m. as the most likely time of the crash, detailed below).Posted by jeff at 10:03 AM | TrackBack
Vice President Cheney and other leaders now in the White House bunker begin receiving reports from the Secret Service of a presumably hijacked aircraft heading toward Washington. The Secret Service is getting this information about Flight 93 through links to the FAA. However, they are looking at a projected path, not an actual radar return, so they do not realize that the plane crashes minutes later. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
The cockpit voice recording of Flight 93 was recorded on a 30-minute reel, which means that the tape is continually overwritten and only the final 30 minutes of any flight would be recorded. The government later permits relatives to hear this tape. Apparently, the version of the tape played to the family members begins at 9:31 a.m. and runs for 31 minutes, ending one minute before, according to the government, the plane crashes. [CNN, 4/19/2002; Longman, 2002, pp. 206-207] The New York Observer comments, “Some of the relatives are keen to find out why, at the peak of this struggle, the tape suddenly stops recording voices and all that is heard in the last 60 seconds or so is engine noise. Had the tape been tampered with?” [New York Observer, 6/17/2004]
According to the 9/11 Commission, a Flight 93 hijacker says, “Pull it down! Pull it down!” The airplane rolls onto its back as one of the hijackers shouts, “Allah o akbar! Allah o akbar!” The commission comments, “The hijackers remained at the controls but must have judged that the passengers were only seconds from overcoming them.” Presumably the plane crashes seconds later. [San Francisco Chronicle, 7/23/2004] However, there are questions as to whether the voice recording actually ends at this time. Furthermore, there is a near complete disconnect between these quotes and the quotes given in previous accounts of what the cockpit recording revealed (see (9:57 a.m. and After)). For instance, in other accounts, passenger voices saying, “Give it to me!,” “I’m injured,” and “Roll it up” or “Lift it up” are heard just before the recording ends. [MSNBC, 7/30/2002; Daily Telegraph, 8/6/2002; Newsweek, 11/25/2001; Observer, 12/2/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 270-271]Posted by jeff at 10:02 AM | TrackBack
Bill Wright is piloting a small plane when a flight controller asks him to look around outside his window, according to his later claims. He sees Flight 93 three miles away—close enough that Wright can see the United Airlines colors. Flight control asks him the plane’s altitude, and then commands him to get away from the plane and land immediately. Wright sees the plane rock back and forth three or four times before he flies from the area. [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/19/2001] According to the 9/11 Commission, the FAA Command Center tells FAA headquarters that a nearby plane had seen Flight 93 “waving his wings.” The commission says, “The aircraft had witnessed the radical gyrations in what we believe was the hijackers’ effort to defeat the passenger assault.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] This presumably is a reference to Wright.
NORAD orders F-16 fighters to scramble from Toledo, Ohio. Although the base has no fighters on standby alert status, it manages to put fighters in the air 16 minutes later, a “phenomenal” response time—but still ten minutes after the last hijacked plane has crashed. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001] The 9/11 Commission concludes these fighters, along with fighters from Michigan, are scrambled to go after Delta Flight 1989. (Delta Flight 1989 was not out of contact with air traffic controllers, and was not hijacked.) Meanwhile, according to the 9/11 Commission, no fighters are ever scrambled to intercept Flight 93. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]Posted by jeff at 10:01 AM | TrackBack
The transponder for Flight 93 briefly turns back on. The plane is at 7,000 feet. The transponder stays on until about 10:03 a.m. It is unclear why the transponder signal briefly returns. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; Guardian, 10/17/2001]
Flight 93 passenger Elizabeth Wainio says to her stepmother, “Mom, they’re rushing the cockpit. I’ve got to go. Bye,” then hangs up. This may have been a delayed reaction to events, since her stepmother says that in their 10-minute call, Elizabeth was in a trancelike state, appeared to have resigned herself to death, was breathing in a strange manner, and even said she felt she was leaving her body. The timing for this call is also approximate, and variously reported as taking place just before or just after 10:00 a.m. [MSNBC, 7/30/2002; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001]
According to the 9/11 Commission, the hijacker pilot, presumably Ziad Jarrah, has been rolling the plane sharply to the left and right in an attempt to prevent passengers from reaching the cockpit. At this time, he stabilizes the plane and asks another hijacker, “Is that it? Shall we finish it off?” Another voice answers, “No. Not yet. When they all come, we finish it off.” The pilot starts pitching the nose of the airplane up and down. A few seconds later a passenger’s voice can be heard saying, “In the cockpit. If we don’t we’ll die!” Another voice says, “Roll it!” which some speculate could be a reference to pushing a foot cart into the cockpit door. By 10:01, the pilot stops the pitching and says, “Allah o akbar! Allah o akbar!” (“God is great”), then asks, “Is that it? I mean, shall we put it down?” Another hijacker responds, “Yes, put it in it, and pull it down.” [New York Times, 7/22/2004; San Francisco Chronicle, 7/23/2004]
During this time, there apparently are no calls from Flight 93. Several cell phones that are left on record only silence. For instance, although Todd Beamer does not hang up, nothing more is heard after he puts down the phone, suggesting things are quiet in the back of the plane. [Longman, 2002, pp. 218] The only exception is Richard Makely, who listens to Jeremy Glick’s open phone line after Glick goes to attack the hijackers. A reporter summarizes Makely explaining that, “The silence last[s] two minutes, then there [is] screaming. More silence, followed by more screams. Finally, there [is] a mechanical sound, followed by nothing.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/17/2001] The second silence lasts between 60 and 90 seconds. [Longman, 2002, pp. 219] Near the end of the cockpit voice recording, loud wind sounds can be heard. [CNN, 4/19/2002; Longman, 2002, pp. 270-271] “Sources claim the last thing heard on the cockpit voice recorder is the sound of wind—suggesting the plane had been holed.” [Mirror, 9/12/2002] There was at least one passenger, Don Greene, who was a professional pilot. Another passenger, Andrew Garcia, was a former flight controller. [Newsweek, 9/22/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Daily Telegraph, 8/6/2002]
According to a 9/11 Commission staff report, Vice President Cheney is told that a combat air patrol has been established over Washington. Cheney then calls President Bush to discuss the rules of engagement for the pilots. Bush authorizes the shootdown of hijacked aircraft at this time. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] According to a Washington Post article, which places the call after 9:55 a.m., “Cheney recommended that Bush authorize the military to shoot down any such civilian airliners—as momentous a decision as the president was asked to make in those first hours.” Bush then talks to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to clarify the procedure, and Rumsfeld passes word down the chain of command. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] Cheney and Bush recall having this phone call, and National Security Adviser Rice recalls overhearing it. However, as the commission notes, “Among the sources that reflect other important events that morning there is no documentary evidence for this call, although the relevant sources are incomplete. Others nearby who were taking notes, such as the vice president’s chief of staff, [I. Lewis ‘Scooter’] Libby, who sat next to him, and [Lynne] Cheney, did not note a call between the president and vice president immediately after the vice president entered the conference room.” The commission also apparently concludes that no evidence exists to support the claim that Bush and Rumsfeld talked about such procedures at this time. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Commission Chairman Thomas Kean says, “The phone logs don’t exist, because they evidently got so fouled up in communications that the phone logs have nothing. So that’s the evidence we have.” Commission Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton says of the shootdown order, “Well, I’m not sure it was carried out.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; New York Daily News, 6/18/2004] Newsweek reports that it “has learned that some on the commission staff were, in fact, highly skeptical of the vice president’s account and made their views clearer in an earlier draft of their staff report. According to one knowledgeable source, some staffers ‘flat out didn’t believe the call ever took place.’” According to a 9/11 Commission staffer, the report “was watered down” after vigorous lobbying from the White House. [Newsweek, 6/20/2004] An account by Canadian Captain Mike Jellinek (who was overseeing NORAD’s Colorado headquarters, where he claims to hear Bush give a shootdown order), as well as the order to empty the skies of aircraft, appears to be discredited. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001]
Rumsfeld returns from the Pentagon crash site “by shortly before or after 10:00 a.m.” Then he has “one or more calls in my office, one of which was with the president,” according to his testimony before the 9/11 Commission. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] The commission later concludes that Rumsfeld’s call with President Bush has little impact: “No one can recall any content beyond a general request to alert forces.” The possibility of shooting down hijacked planes is not mentioned. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Then Rumsfeld goes to the Executive Support Center before finally entering the NMCC at 10:30 a.m. Acting Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers repeats all these details. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] The Executive Support Center has secure video facilities [Washington Times, 2/23/2004] , so it is possible Rumsfeld joins or rejoins the video conference that counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke claims Rumsfeld is a part of much of the morning (see (9:10 a.m.)).Posted by jeff at 10:00 AM | TrackBack
Large amounts of gold are stored in vaults in the massive basement below the WTC, and some of this is being transported through the basement this morning. Several weeks later, recovery workers will discover hundreds of ingots in a service tunnel below WTC 5, along with a ten-wheel lorry and some cars (which were, presumably, transporting the gold) (see (Mid-October-mid November 2001)). The lorry and cars had been crushed by falling steel, but no bodies will be reported found with them, so presumably they were abandoned before the first WTC collapse, at 9:59 a.m. [New York Daily News, 10/31/2001; London Times, 11/1/2001]
In the lobby of Building 7 of the WTC, EMS Division Chief John Peruggia is in discussion with Fire Department Captain Richard Rotanz and a representative from the Department of Buildings. As Peruggia later describes, “It was brought to my attention, it was believed that the structural damage that was suffered to the [twin] towers was quite significant and they were very confident that the building’s stability was compromised and they felt that the north tower was in danger of a near imminent collapse.” Peruggia grabs EMT Richard Zarrillo and tells him to pass on the message “that the buildings have been compromised, we need to evacuate, they’re going to collapse.” Zarrillo heads out to the fire command post, situated in front of 3 World Financial, the American Express Building, where he relays this message to several senior firefighters. Seconds later, they hear the noise of the South Tower as it collapses. [City of New York, 10/23/2001; City of New York, 10/23/2001; City of New York, 10/25/2001; City of New York, 10/25/2001] Others also appear to have been aware of the imminent danger. Fire Chief Joseph Pfeifer, who is at the command post in the lobby of the north tower, says, “Right before the south tower collapsed, I noticed a lot of people just left the lobby, and I heard we had a crew of all different people, high-level people in government, everybody was gone, almost like they had information that we didn’t have.” He says some of them are moving to a new command post across the street. [City of New York, 10/23/2001; Firehouse Magazine, 4/2002; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 214]
Between 9:25 a.m. and 9:45 a.m., one senior New York fire chief recommends to the Fire Department Chief of Department that there might be a WTC collapse in a few hours, and, therefore, fire units probably shouldn’t ascend much above the sixtieth floor (presumably this assumes the collapse would be gradual so those on lower floors would still have time to evacuate). This advice is not followed or not passed on. Apparently, no other senior fire chiefs mention or foresee the possibility of the WTC towers falling. [9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004] However, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani recounts, “I went down to the scene and we set up headquarters at 75 Barclay Street, which was right there, with the police commissioner, the fire commissioner, the head of emergency management, and we were operating out of there when we were told that the World Trade Center was going to collapse. And it did collapse before we could actually get out of the building, so we were trapped in the building for ten, 15 minutes, and finally found an exit and got out, walked north, and took a lot of people with us.” [ABC News, 9/11/2001] As can be seen by another account of similar events, this happens before the first WTC tower falls, not the second. [9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004] It is not clear who tells Giuliani to evacuate when no fire chiefs were considering the possibility of an imminent collapse.
According to Major Daniel Nash, pilot of one of the two fighters first scrambled on 9/11 at 8:52 a.m., their fighters over New York City are never given a shootdown order by the military that day. He recalls that around the time of the collapse of the South Tower, “The New York controller did come over the radio and say if we have another hijacked aircraft, we’re going to have to shoot it down.” [BBC, 9/1/2002] However, he says this is an off-the-cuff personal statement, not connected to the chain of command. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002]
The 9/11 Commission Reports, “An Air Force Lieutenant Colonel working in the White House Military Office [joins] the [NMCC] conference and state[s] that he had just talked to Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. The White House request[s]: (1) the implementation of Continuity of Government measures, (2) fighter escorts for Air Force One, and (3) the establishment of a fighter combat air patrol over Washington, D.C.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke gave the Continuity of Government orders a few minutes before from inside the White House (see (Between 9:45-9:55 a.m.)). This is consistent with Bush’s claim that he doesn’t make any major decisions about the 9/11 attacks until shortly before 10:00 a.m.
The South Tower of the World Trade Center collapses. It was hit by Flight 175 at 9:03 A.M., 57 minutes earlier (see 9:03 a.m.). [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; MSNBC, 9/22/2001; Associated Press, 8/19/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002; New York Times, 9/12/2001; USA Today, 12/20/2001]
Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is told in private by Dale Watson, the head of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, “We got the passenger manifests from the airlines. We recognize some names, Dick. They’re al-Qaeda.” Clarke replies, “How the f_ck did they get on board then?” He is told, “Hey, don’t shoot the messenger, friend. CIA forgot to tell us about them.” As they are talking about this, they see the first WTC tower collapse on television. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 13-14] Some hijacker names, including Mohamed Atta’s, were identified on a reservations computer over an hour earlier.
According to Lyz Glick, as recounted in the book “Among the Heroes,” she is speaking to her husband Jeremy Glick on Flight 93 when he tells her that passengers have been hearing from other phone calls that planes are crashing into the World Trade Center. He asks her, “Are [the hijackers] going to blow this plane up?” Lyz replies that she doesn’t know, but tells him that it is true two planes have crashed into the World Trade Center. He asks her if they’re going to crash the plane into the World Trade Center. She replies, “No. They’re not going there.” He asks why, and she replies that one of the towers has just fallen. “They knocked it down.” The first World Trade Center tower collapses at 9:59 and is seen by millions on television. The book makes clear that this exchange takes place at “almost ten o’clock” —within a minute of the tower collapse. [Longman, 2002, pp. 147] This account contradicts the 9/11 Commission’s conclusion that the passenger assault on the cockpit begins at 9:58, because the tower collapse was definitely at 9:59. Only later in the same phone call does Jeremy Glick mention that passengers are still taking a vote on whether or not to attack the hijackers. He confers with others and tells Lyz that they’ve decided to do so, and then gets off the phone line. [Longman, 2002, pp. 153-54]
At some point between the collapse of the two WTC towers, it is claimed that fire chiefs order the firefighters to come down. It has not been reported exactly who issued this order or when. Witnesses claim that scores of firefighters, unaware of the danger, were resting on lower floors in the minutes before the second tower collapsed. “Some firefighters who managed to get out said they had no idea the other building had already fallen, and said that they thought that few of those who perished knew.” At least 121 firefighters in the remaining tower die. The Fire Department blames a faulty radio repeater. However, Port Authority claims later transcripts of radio communications show the repeaters worked. [New York Times, 11/9/2002]
WTC Building 7 appears to have suffered significant damage at some point after the WTC Towers had collapsed, according to firefighters at the scene. Firefighter Butch Brandies tells other firefighters that nobody is to go into Building 7 because of creaking and noises coming out of there. [Firehouse Magazine, 8/2002] According to Deputy Chief Peter Hayden, there is a bulge in the southwest corner of the building between floors 10 and 13. [Firehouse Magazine, 4/2002] Battalion Chief John Norman later recalls, “At the edge of the south face you could see that it was very heavily damaged.” [Firehouse Magazine, 4/2002] Deputy Chief Nick Visconti also later recalls, “A big chunk of the lower floors had been taken out on the Vesey Street side.” Captain Chris Boyle recalls, “On the south side of 7 there had to be a hole 20 stories tall in the building, with fire on several floors.” [Firehouse Magazine, 8/2002] The building will collapse hours later.
Some time after the first WTC tower collapse, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke orders all landmark buildings and all federal buildings in the US evacuated. He also orders all harbors and borders closed. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 14-15] The Sears Tower in Chicago begins evacuation around 10:02 a.m. Other prominent buildings are slower to evacuate. [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/2001]Posted by jeff at 9:59 AM | TrackBack
Todd Beamer ends his long phone call with a Verizon phone company representative saying that they plan “to jump” the hijacker in the back of the plane who has the bomb. In the background, the phone operator already could hear an “awful commotion” of people shouting, and women screaming, “Oh my God,” and “God help us.” He lets go of the phone but leaves it connected. His famous last words are said to nearby passengers: “Are you ready guys? Let’s roll” (alternate version: “You ready? Okay. Let’s roll”). [Longman, 2002, pp. 204; Newsweek, 9/22/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001] Sounds of fighting in the back of the plane where Beamer is can be heard about a minute after such sounds in the front. [Observer, 12/2/2001]
CeeCee Lyles says to her husband, “Aah, it feels like the plane’s going down.” Her husband Lorne says, “What’s that?” She replies, “I think they’re going to do it. they’re forcing their way into the cockpit” (an alternate version says, “they’re getting ready to force their way into the cockpit”). A little later she screams, then says, “they’re doing it! they’re doing it! they’re doing it!” Her husband hears more screaming in the background, then he hears a “whooshing sound, a sound like wind,” then more screaming, and then the call breaks off. [Longman, 2002, pp. 180; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001]
Sandy Bradshaw tells her husband, “Everyone’s running to first class. I’ve got to go. Bye.” She had been speaking with him since 9:50 a.m. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Boston Globe, 11/23/2001]
A man dials emergency 9-1-1 from a bathroom on the plane, crying, “We’re being hijacked, We’re being hijacked!” [Toronto Sun, 9/16/2001] The operator reports, “He heard some sort of explosion and saw white smoke coming from the plane and we lost contact with him.” [ABC News, 9/11/2001; ABC News, 9/11/2001; Associated Press, 9/12/2001] One minute after the call begins, the line goes dead. [Pittsburgh Channel, 12/6/2001] Investigators believe this was Edward Felt, the only passenger not accounted for on phone calls. He was sitting in first class, so he probably was in the bathroom near the front of the plane. At one point, he appears to have peeked out the bathroom door during the call. [Longman, 2002, pp. 193-194, 196] The mentions of smoke and explosions on the recording of his call are now denied. [Longman, 2002, pp. 264] The person who took Felt’s call is not allowed to speak to the media. [Mirror, 9/12/2002]
According to New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s 9/11 Commission testimony in 2004, about one minute before the first WTC tower falls, he is able to reach the White House by phone. Speaking to Chris Henick, deputy political director to President Bush, Giuliani learns the Pentagon has been hit and he asks about fighter cover over New York City. Henick replies, “The jets were dispatched 12 minutes ago and they should be there very shortly, and they should be able to defend you against further attack.” [9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004] If this is true, it means fighters scramble from the Otis base around 9:46 a.m., not at 8:52 a.m., as most other accounts have claimed. While Giuliani’s account may seem wildly off, it is consistent with reports shortly after 9/11. In the first few days, acting Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers, and a NORAD spokesman, Marine Corps Major Mike Snyder, claimed no fighters were scrambled anywhere until after the Pentagon was hit. [US Congress, 9/13/2001; Boston Globe, 9/15/2001] This story only changed on the evening of September 14, 2001, when CBS reported, “contrary to early reports, US Air Force jets did get into the air on Tuesday while the attacks were under way.” [CBS News, 9/14/2001]Posted by jeff at 9:58 AM | TrackBack
One of the hijackers in the cockpit asks if anything is going on, apparently meaning outside the cockpit. “Fighting,” the other says. [Longman, 2002, pp. 210] An analysis of the cockpit flight recording suggests that the passenger struggle actually starts in the front of the plane (where Mark Bingham and Tom Burnett are sitting) about a minute before a struggle in the back of the plane (where Todd Beamer is sitting). [Observer, 12/2/2001] Officials later theorize that the Flight 93 passengers reach the cockpit using a food cart as a battering ram and a shield. They claim digital enhancement of the cockpit voice recorder reveals the sound of plates and glassware crashing around 9:57 a.m. [Newsweek, 11/25/2001]
“In the cockpit! In the cockpit!” is heard. The hijackers are reportedly heard telling each other to hold the door. In English, someone outside shouts, “Let’s get them.” The hijackers are also praying “Allah o akbar” (God is great). One of the hijackers suggests shutting off the oxygen supply to the cabin (which apparently would not have had any effect since the plane was already below 10,000 feet). A hijacker says, “Should we finish?” Another one says, “Not yet.” The sounds of the passengers get clearer, and in unaccented English “Give it to me!” is heard. “I’m injured,” someone says in English. Then something like “roll it up” and “lift it up” is heard. Passengers’ relatives believe this sequence proves that the passengers did take control of the plane. [MSNBC, 7/30/2002; Daily Telegraph, 8/6/2002; Newsweek, 11/25/2001; Observer, 12/2/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 270-271]Posted by jeff at 9:57 AM | TrackBack
President Bush departs from the Sarasota, Florida, airport on Air Force One. [New York Times, 9/16/2001; Daily Mail, 9/8/2002; Washington Post, 1/27/2002; Associated Press, 9/12/2001; ABC News, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004; CBS News, 9/11/2002; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] Amazingly, his plane takes off without any fighters protecting it. “The object seemed to be simply to get the president airborne and out of the way,” says an administration official. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] There are still 3,520 planes in the air over the US. [USA Today, 8/13/2002] About half of the planes in the Florida region where Bush’s plane is are still airborne. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/7/2002] Apparently, fighters don’t meet up with Air Force One until about an hour later. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke claims to have heard around 9:50 a.m. from the bunker containing Vice President Cheney that fighter escort had been authorized. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 8-9]
After flying off in Air Force One, President Bush talks on the phone to Vice President Cheney. Cheney recommends that Bush authorize the military to shoot down any plane under control of the hijackers. “I said, ‘You bet,’” Bush later recalls. “We had a little discussion, but not much.” [Newsday, 9/23/2001; USA Today, 9/16/2001; Washington Post, 1/27/2002; CBS News, 9/11/2002] The 9/11 Commission claims that Cheney tells Bush three planes are still missing and one has hit the Pentagon. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Bush later says that he doesn’t make any major decisions about how to respond to the 9/11 attacks until after Air Force One takes off [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004] , which fits with this account of Bush approving shootdown authorization shortly after take off.
Air Force One takes off and quickly gains altitude. One passenger later says, “It was like a rocket. For a good ten minutes, the plane was going almost straight up.” [CBS News, 9/11/2002] Once the plane reaches cruising altitude, it flies in circles. Journalists on board sense this because the television reception for a local station generally remains good. “Apparently Bush, Cheney, and the Secret Service argue over the safety of Bush coming back to Washington.” [Salon, 9/12/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] For much of the day Bush is plagued by connectivity problems in trying to call Cheney and others. He is forced to use an ordinary cell phone instead of his secure phone. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]Posted by jeff at 9:56 AM | TrackBack
The three F-16s scrambled after Flight 77 from Langley, Virginia, at 9:30 a.m. finally reach Washington and the burning Pentagon. The 129 mile distance could theoretically be covered by the fighters in six minutes, but they’ve taken a wide detour over the ocean. The exact time they arrive is very unclear. NORAD originally claimed they arrive as soon as 9:49 a.m., but the 9/11 Commission implies they don’t arrive until shortly after 10:00 a.m., though no exact time is specified. [CNN, 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; New York Times, 9/15/2001; CBS News, 9/14/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Press accounts of when the first fighters reach Washington are highly contradictory. Early news accounts of fighters arriving from Andrews Air Force Base “within minutes,” “a few moments,” or “just moments” after the Pentagon crash appear to have been accounts of these Langley fighters, since they apparently arrive before Andrews fighters do. [Daily Telegraph, 9/16/2001; Denver Post, 9/11/2001; ABC News, 9/11/2002] Yet other newspaper accounts inaccurately deny fighters from Andrews were deployed [USA Today, 9/16/2001] , and some deny Andrews even had fighters at all. [USA Today, 9/16/2001] Defense officials initially claimed, “There were no military planes in the skies over Washington until 15 to 20 minutes after the Pentagon was hit” —in other words, 9:53 a.m. to 9:58 a.m. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 9/14/2001] ABC News reports that by 10:00 a.m., “Dozens of fighters are buzzing in the sky” over Washington. [ABC News, 9/11/2002] Whereas the New York Times reports, “In the White House Situation Room and at the Pentagon, the response seemed agonizingly slow. One military official recalls hearing words to the effect of, ‘Where are the planes?’” The Pentagon insists it had air cover over its own building by 10 a.m., 15 minutes after the building was hit. However, witnesses, including a reporter for the New York Times who was headed toward the building, did not see any until “closer to 11.” [New York Times, 9/16/2001] It is likely, though not completely certain, that fighters would have reached Washington before Flight 93 did, had the plane not crashed.
While President Bush is still in Sarasota, an AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System plane) is flying a training mission off the coast of Florida. Referring to the AWACS plane, NORAD Commander Larry Arnold later says: “I had set up an arrangement with their wing commander at Tinker [Air Force Base, Oklahoma] some months earlier for us to divert their AWACS off a normal training mission to go into an exercise scenario simulating an attack on the United States. The AWACS crew initially thought we were going into one of those simulations.” Another AWACS is also flying a training mission, near Washington, DC, the morning of 9/11. [Code One Magazine, 1/2002]
The Langley F-16s headed to Washington are told that all planes in the US have been ordered to land (that command was given at 9:45 a.m.). According to the New York Times, at some point after this, someone from the Secret Service gets on the radio and tells the pilots, “I want you to protect the White House at all costs.” [New York Times, 10/16/2001] F-16 pilot Honey (who is apparently Captain Craig Borgstrom) gives a similar, though less dramatic, account. At some point after the F-16s had set up a defensive perimeter over Washington, the lead pilot (again, Borgstrom) receives a garbled message about Flight 93 that isn’t heard by the other two pilots. “The message seemed to convey that the White House was an important asset to protect.” Honey says he is later told the message is, “Something like, ‘Be aware of where it is, and it could be a target.’” Another pilot, codenamed Lou, says Honey tells him, “I think the Secret Service told me this.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 76] Both Lou and Honey state they are never given clear and direct orders to shoot down any plane that day. [Longman, 2002, pp. 222]
Two F-16s from the 147th Fighter Wing, Ellington Air National Guard Base, Texas, are said to be already airborne on a local training mission when they are instructed to escort Air Force One after it departs Sarasota, Florida, with President Bush on board. [American Defender, 12/2001; Code One Magazine, 1/2002]Posted by jeff at 9:55 AM | TrackBack
Tom Burnett calls his wife, Deena, for the fourth and last time. In early reports of this call, he says, “I know we’re all going to die. There’s three of us who are going to do something about it.” [Toronto Sun, 9/16/2001; Boston Globe, 11/23/2001] However, in a later, more complete, account, he sounds much more upbeat. “It’s up to us. I think we can do it.” He adds, “Don’t worry, we’re going to do something.” He specifically mentions they plan to regain control of the airplane over a rural area. [Longman, 2002, pp. 118]Posted by jeff at 9:54 AM | TrackBack
The National Security Agency (NSA) reportedly intercepts a phone call from one of bin Laden’s operatives in Afghanistan to a phone number in the Republic of Georgia. The caller says he has “heard good news” and that another target is still to come (presumably, the target Flight 93 is intended to hit). [CBS News, 9/4/2002] The caller is also supposed to say that the attackers are following through on “the doctor’s program.” This is said to be a reference to al-Qaeda’s number two leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who has a doctorate in medicine. [New Yorker, 9/9/2002] Since the 9/11 crisis began, NSA translators have been told to focus on Middle Eastern intercepts and translate them as they are received instead of oldest first, as is the usual practice. This call is translated in the next hour or two, and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld hears about it just after noon. [CBS News, 9/4/2002; Bamford, 2004, pp. 54]
According to Flight 93’s cockpit voice recording, the hijackers grow concerned that the passengers might retaliate. One urges that the plane’s fire axe be held up to the cockpit door’s peephole to scare the passengers. [Longman, 2002, pp. 209-210]
According to the 9/11 Commission, FAA headquarters informs the FAA Command Center that the deputy director for air traffic services is talking to Deputy Administrator Monty Belger about scrambling aircraft after Flight 93. Yet in interviews with the commission, neither Belger nor the deputy director recall this discussion, and Belger subsequently e-mails the commission saying he does not believe the conversation took place. However, tape recordings reveal a staff person from headquarters at this time telling the Command Center, “Peter’s talking to Monte now about scrambling.” FAA headquarters is also informed that the flight is 20 miles northwest of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Incredibly, FAA headquarters has known since 9:34 A.M. about hijackers talking about a bomb on board the flight, and more evidence has since been passed on confirming a hijacking in progress. Still, reportedly, no one tells NORAD anything about the plane.Posted by jeff at 9:53 AM | TrackBack
Two firefighters climbing up the south tower, Orio Palmer and Ronald Bucca, have reached its 78th floor, the lower end of the impact zone where Flight 175 hit. [New York Times, 8/4/2002] They are just two floors below the level where, minutes later, its collapse initiates. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 2-34] Over radio, Palmer tells firefighter Joseph Leavey, “We’ve got two isolated pockets of fire. We should be able to knock it down with two lines.” [Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 206] The fact that they reached so high up the tower only comes to light almost a year later, when a tape of radio communications from 9/11 is made public (see August 4, 2002). The New York Times will report “[N]owhere on the tape is there any indication that firefighters had the slightest indication that the tower had become unstable or that it could fall.” [New York Times, 11/9/2002] Palmer’s communication appears to contradict claims that “extreme fires” contributed to the tower’s collapse. [BBC, 9/13/2001; New York Times, 10/20/2004] Ronald Bucca, a Special Forces veteran, had actually conducted his own private research into Islamic militancy following the 1993 WTC bombing. He’d even taken time, in 1996, to attend the beginning of the trial of Ramzi Yousef, a mastermind of the bombing (see September 5, 1996). [Lance, 2003, pp. 180-183, 333-334]
According to the 9/11 Commission, Lynne Cheney joins her husband, Vice President Cheney, in the PEOC (Presidential Emergency Operations Center) bunker below the White House. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] She had been at a downtown office around 9:00 a.m. when she was escorted by the Secret Service to the White House. [Newsweek, 12/31/2001] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke describes the people in the PEOC as “decidedly more political” than those in his bunker below the other wing of the White House. In addition to Cheney and his wife, most of the day the PEOC contains National Security Adviser Rice, political adviser Mary Matalin, Cheney’s Chief of Staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Deputy White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, and White House Communications Director Karen Hughes. Clarke is told later in the day by someone else in the PEOC, “I can’t hear the crisis conference [led by Clarke] because Mrs. Cheney keeps turning down the volume on you so she can hear CNN ... and the vice president keeps hanging up the open line to you.” Clarke notes that the “right-wing ideologue” Lynne Cheney frequently offers her advice and opinions during the crisis. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 18]Posted by jeff at 9:52 AM | TrackBack
Video footage later reveals that in the minutes immediately before the collapse of the WTC’s south tower, a stream of molten metal starts pouring out of a window opening around the northeast corner of its 80th floor. FEMA later suggests that this is “possibly aluminum from the airliner,” and comments, “This is of particular interest because, although the building collapse appears to have initiated at this floor level, the initiation seems to have occurred at the southeast rather than the northeast corner.” [Civil Engineering, 5/2002; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 207; Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 2-34] According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, “The composition of the flowing material can only be the subject of speculation, but its behavior suggests it could have been molten aluminum.” [Pitts, Butler, and Junker, 9/2005, pp. 375] However physics professor Steven E. Jones will in 2006 dispute this, saying that molten aluminum is silvery and never turns yellow, like what is in the video footage. He will instead claim the presence of this molten metal supports the theory that explosives, specifically thermite, are what caused the twin towers to collapse. He says thermite can cause steel to melt and become yellowish. [Deseret Morning News, 4/10/2006]
Sandy Bradshaw calls her husband from Flight 93. She says, “Have you heard what’s going on? My flight has been hijacked. My flight has been hijacked with three guys with knives.” [Boston Globe, 11/23/2001] She tells him that some passengers are in the rear galley filling pitchers with hot water to use against the hijackers. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001]
There are numerous false reports of additional terror attacks. Before 10:00 a.m., some hear reports on television of a fire at the State Department. At 10:20 a.m., and apparently again at 10:33 a.m., it is publicly reported this was caused by a car bomb. [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/2001; Broadcasting and Cable, 8/26/2002; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] At 10:23 a.m., the Associated Press reports, “A car bomb explodes outside the State Department, senior law enforcement officials say.” [Broadcasting and Cable, 8/26/2002] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke hears these reports at this time and asks Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in the State Department to see if the building he’s in has been hit. Armitage goes outside the building, finds out there’s no bomb, and calls his colleagues to inform them that the reports are false. Reports of a fire on the Capitol Mall also appear and are quickly found to be false. [ABC News, 9/15/2002; Clarke, 2004, pp. 8-9] There are numerous other false reports over the next hour, including explosions at the Capitol building and USA Today headquarters. [Broadcasting and Cable, 8/26/2002] For instance, CNN reports an explosion on Capitol Hill at 10:12 a.m. CNN then announces this is untrue 12 minutes later. [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/2001]Posted by jeff at 9:50 AM | TrackBack
The FAA orders the Pittsburgh control tower evacuated. Shortly before the order, Cleveland flight controllers called Pittsburgh flight control to say that a plane is heading toward Pittsburgh and the pilot refuses to communicate. The plane is Flight 93. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/23/2001] Also, around this time, while Flight 93 is heading east, NEADS Commander Robert Marr hears that the FAA is evacuating its Cleveland Center. [Filson, 2004, pp. 73]
According to the 9/11 Commission, the FAA Command Center has just twice warned FAA headquarters that United 93 is now “29 minutes out of Washington, D.C.” Someone at headquarters says to someone at the Command Center, “they’re pulling Jeff [last name unknown] away to go talk about United 93.” Command Center replies, “Uh, do we want to think about, uh, scrambling aircraft [NORAD fighters]?” FAA headquarters replies, “Uh, God, I don’t know.” Command Center says, “Uh, that’s a decision somebody’s gonna have to make probably, in the next ten minutes.” FAA headquarters answers, “Uh, ya know, everybody just left the room.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] This is 13 minutes since Cleveland flight control had asked the Command Center in vain to contact NORAD about Flight 93.
In the words of the 9/11 Commission, the commander of NORAD (General Ralph Eberhart) directs “all air sovereignty aircraft to battle stations fully armed.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Apparently, this means all fighters with air defense missions are to be armed and ready to scramble. This may be connected to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke’s claim that after the Pentagon is hit, he orders an aide, “Find out where the fighter planes are. I want Combat Air Patrol over every major city in this country. Now!” (see (Between 9:37-9:45 a.m.)) Another account says calls to bases to scramble don’t begin until about 10:01 a.m. (see 10:01 a.m.). [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001] It has not been explained why this order wasn’t given much earlier. Calls from Air Force bases across the country offering to help had started “pouring into NORAD” shortly after 9:03 a.m. (see (After 9:03 a.m.)), when televised reports made an emergency situation clear. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] With a couple of exceptions, other fighters do not actually start taking off until about 11:00 a.m.Posted by jeff at 9:49 AM | TrackBack
The Capitol building in Washington begins evacuation. Congress is in session, but apparently the chambers are not filled with congresspeople. [Guardian, 7/22/2004; Associated Press, 8/19/2002] Senator Tom Daschle, Majority Leader of the Senate, later states, “Some capitol policemen broke into the room and said, ‘We’re under attack. I’ve got to take you out right away.’” Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, third in line of succession to the presidency behind Vice President Cheney, is in the Capitol building with other congresspeople. Only after this time are Hastert and others in the line of succession moved to secure locations. Some time after this, Hastert and other leaders are flown by helicopter to secret bunkers. [ABC News, 9/11/2002]Posted by jeff at 9:48 AM | TrackBack
A man who is on the 105th floor of the South Tower calls emergency 9-1-1 to report that floors below his location, “in the 90-something floor,” have collapsed. The 9-1-1 operator types a record of this call into the Special Police Radio Inquiry Network (SPRINT) data link, which will be passed on to the New York fire department’s Emergency Medical Service (EMS). It isn’t known when the call is made exactly, but the EMS Dispatch computer apparently receives the call record at this time. However, because it is classified as a “supplement message,” it is not yet read by anyone. The police dispatcher dealing with the area around the WTC also receives the call record, but misinterprets it as meaning that the floor the person is on has collapsed. EMS dispatchers are dealing with an enormous volume of calls as well as performing many other tasks under extreme pressure during the crisis, so a report later concludes that the EMS operators didn’t have the time to review the information before the collapse of the South Tower at 9:59 (see 9:59 a.m.), and the fire chiefs never received the information. [New York City Fire Department, 8/19/2002]
On Flight 93, Jeremy Glick is still on the phone with his wife, Lyz. He tells her that the passengers are taking a vote if they should try to take over the plane or not. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001] He later says that all the men on the plane have voted to attack the hijackers. [Toronto Sun, 9/16/2001] When asked about weapons, he says they don’t have guns, just knives. This appears to contradict an earlier mention of guns. His wife gets the impression from him that the hijacker standing nearby, claiming to hold the bomb, would be easy to overwhelm. [Longman, 2002, pp. 153-154]Posted by jeff at 9:47 AM | TrackBack
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s office, and acting Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Myers’ office, report to the NMCC teleconference that they are still trying to track down Rumsfeld and Myers, respectively, and bring them into the conference. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Rumsfeld is apparently outside the Pentagon looking at the Flight 77 crash site (see (After 9:37 a.m.)), though counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke suggests Rumsfeld is elsewhere in the Pentagon for much of the time (see (Between 9:37-9:45 a.m.)). Myers’ whereabouts in the period after the Pentagon crash have not been fully explained (see (Before 10:30 a.m.)). Rumsfeld and Myers do not enter the NMCC until about 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.)).
According to the later-recovered Flight 93 cockpit voice recording, around this time one hijacker in the cockpit says to another, “Let the guys in now.” A vague instruction is given to bring the pilot back in. It’s not clear if this is a reference to an original pilot or a hijacker pilot. Investigators aren’t sure if the original pilots were quickly killed or allowed to live. [Longman, 2002, pp. 208]Posted by jeff at 9:46 AM | TrackBack
United Airlines headquarters receives a report that an aircraft has crashed into the Pentagon. They learn it is Flight 77. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004]
Tom Burnett calls his wife, Deena, for the third time. She tells him about the crash at the Pentagon. Tom speaks about the bomb he’d mentioned earlier, saying, “I don’t think they have one. I think they’re just telling us that.” He says the hijackers are talking about crashing the plane into the ground. “We have to do something.” He says that “a group of us” are making a plan. [Longman, 2002, pp. 111] This indicates there would have been at least 19 minutes advance notice that a passenger takeover was likely, if the contents of these phone calls are being passed on to the right authorities. Note that by Burnett’s second call at 9:34 a.m., the FBI was already listening in. [Toronto Sun, 9/16/2001]
After having some trouble getting authorization to use an Airfone to call his family, passenger Todd Beamer is able to speak to Verizon phone representative Lisa Jefferson, with the FBI listening in. He talks for about 15 minutes. Beamer says he has been herded to the back of the plane along with nine other passengers and five flight attendants. A hijacker, who says he has a bomb strapped to his body, is guarding them. Twenty-seven passengers are being guarded by a hijacker in first class, which is separated from the rest of the aircraft by a curtain. One hijacker has gone into the cockpit. One passenger is dead (that leaves one passenger unaccounted for—presumably the man who made a call from the bathroom, thought to be Edward Felt). The two pilots are apparently dead. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/16/2001; Newsweek, 9/22/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Boston Globe, 11/23/2001] A conflicting version states that 27 passengers were in the back, and that Beamer saw four hijackers instead of just three. [Boston Globe, 11/23/2001] It is not clear if Tom Burnett’s first class section group is in contact with Todd Beamer’s coach section group or if there are two independent plans to take over the plane.
The White House begins a general evacuation. This comes about 30 minutes after the probable time Vice President Cheney has been evacuated from the White House (see (9:10 a.m.)). [New York Times, 9/12/2001; MSNBC, 9/22/2001; Washington Post, 1/27/2002; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Associated Press, 8/19/2002] Initially the evacuation is orderly, but soon the Secret Service agents are yelling that everyone should run. [ABC News, 9/11/2002]
Ben Sliney, FAA’s National Operations Manager, orders the entire nationwide air traffic system shut down. All flights at US airports are stopped. Around 3,950 flights are still in the air. Sliney makes the decision without consulting FAA head Jane Garvey, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, or other bosses, but they quickly approve his actions. It’s Sliney’s first day on the job. [USA Today, 8/13/2002; USA Today, 8/13/2002; MSNBC, 9/22/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001; Associated Press, 8/12/2002; Associated Press, 8/19/2002; Newsday, 9/10/2002; USA Today, 8/13/2002; Washington Post, 9/12/2001] Seventy-five percent of the planes land within one hour of the order. [USA Today, 8/12/2002] The 9/11 Commission will later remark that this “was an unprecedented order” that the “air traffic control system handled ... with great skill.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 29] The Washington Post has reported that Mineta told Monty Belger at the FAA: “Monty, bring all the planes down,” even adding, “[Expletive] pilot discretion.” [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] However, it is later reported by a different Post reporter that Mineta did not even know of the order until 15 minutes later. This reporter “says FAA officials had begged him to maintain the fiction.” [Slate, 4/2/2002]
According to the 9/11 Commission, Chief of Staff Andrew Card, the lead Secret Service agent, the president’s military aide, and Air Force One pilot Colonel Mark Tillman, confer on a possible destination for Air Force One around this time. According to witnesses, some support President Bush’s desire to return to Washington, but the others advise against it. The issue is still not decided when Air Force One takes off around 9:55 a.m. (see (9:56 a.m.)). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
At some point after the White House is evacuated, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke institutes Continuity of Government plans. Important government personnel, especially those in line to succeed the president, are evacuated to alternate Command Centers. Additionally, Clarke gets a phone call from the PEOC Command Center where Vice President Cheney and National Security Adviser Rice are positioned. An aide tells Clarke, “Air Force One is getting ready to take off with some press still on board. [President Bush will] divert to an air base. Fighter escort is authorized. And ... tell the Pentagon they have authority from the president to shoot down hostile aircraft, repeat, they have authority to shoot down hostile aircraft.” However, acting Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers wants the rules of engagement clarified before the shootdown order is passed on, so Clarke orders that pilots be given guidelines before receiving shootdown authorization. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 8-9] Clarke’s account that Cheney is giving shootdown authorization well before 10:00 a.m. matches Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta’s account of seeing Cheney giving what he interprets as a shootdown order before the Pentagon crash. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] However, the 9/11 Commission later asserts that Cheney doesn’t make the shootdown decision until about 10:00 a.m. (see (Between 10:00-10:15 a.m.)). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]Posted by jeff at 9:45 AM | TrackBack
NORAD briefs the NMCC teleconference on the possible hijacking of Delta Flight 1989. Four minutes later, a representative from the White House bunker containing Vice President Cheney asks if there are any indications of other hijacked planes. Captain Charles Leidig, temporarily in charge of the NMCC, mentions the Delta Flight and comments, “that would be the fourth possible hijack.” Flight 1989 is in the same general Ohio region as Flight 93, but NORAD doesn’t scramble fighters toward either plane at this time. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]Posted by jeff at 9:44 AM | TrackBack
President Bush’s motorcade arrives at Sarasota’s airport and pulls up close to Air Force One. As the motorcade nears the airport, he learns a plane has hit the Pentagon. Bush immediately boards the plane. [Washington Times, 10/8/2002; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] Congressman Dan Miller and others hurry up the rear steps of the plane while Bush enters through the exposed front stairs. Bush pauses in the doorway to wave to photographers. The St. Petersburg Times notes this raises “further questions about security [on 9/11].” [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] Security then does an extra-thorough search of all the baggage of the other passengers, delaying takeoff until 9:55 a.m. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/2002]Posted by jeff at 9:43 AM | TrackBack
Flight 93 passenger Marion Birtton calls a friend. She tells him two people have been killed and the plane has been turned around. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001]
Newark, New Jersey, flight controller Greg Callahan is talking on the phone to an FBI agent. The agent says about Flight 93: “We suspect that this aircraft has now been taken over by hostile forces.” The agent describes the sharp turn it has made over eastern Ohio and that it is now heading back over southwestern Pennsylvania. Callahan says he could tell the plane is on a course for Washington. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] The FBI has been in contact with Deena Burnett and informed of what her husband, Flight 93 passenger Tom Burnett, has been saying since at least 9:34 a.m. (see 9:34 a.m.) [Longman, 2002, pp. 110] It is unclear where in the chain of command details of these Flight 93 calls reach, and the 9/11 Commission has not clarified the issue of what the FBI knew and when.Posted by jeff at 9:42 AM | TrackBack
From Flight 93, Mark Bingham calls his mother and says, “I’m on a flight from Newark to San Francisco and there are three guys who have taken over the plane and they say they have a bomb.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001] In an alternate version, he says, “I’m in the air, I’m calling you on the Airfone. I’m calling you from the plane. We’ve been taken over. There are three men that say they have a bomb.” [Toronto Sun, 9/16/2001; Boston Globe, 11/23/2001]
Within five minutes of the Pentagon being hit, the first group from the FBI’s National Capital Response Squad arrives there. Due to this being a terrorist attack, the Pentagon and its grounds are immediately declared a federal crime scene. Under the terms of a 1995 presidential directive, this makes them the exclusive responsibility of the FBI. The FBI immediately begins collecting evidence and is also responsible for recovering bodies. Its agents are able to confiscate security videos from a nearby gas station within minutes of the crash (see (After 9:37 a.m.)). More than 700 FBI agents, assisted by hundreds of individuals from other organizations, will participate in the recovery operation. [US President, 6/21/1995; Washington Times, 9/12/2001; Arlington County, 7/2002, pp. A-7, A-23, C-1, C-54]Posted by jeff at 9:42 AM | TrackBack
The transponder signal from Flight 93 ceases. [MSNBC, 9/3/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; CNN, 9/17/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] However, the plane can be—and is—tracked using primary radar by Cleveland flight controllers and at United headquarters. Altitude can no longer be determined, except by visual sightings from other aircraft. The plane’s speed begins to vary wildly, fluctuating between 600 and 400 mph before eventually settling around 400 mph. [Longman, 2002, pp. 77, 214; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
Newark, New Jersey, flight controller Bob Varcadapane is talking on the phone with the FAA Command Center. He is told that the Command Center is still suspicious of at least ten planes for one reason or another, all possible hijackings. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002]
At some time shortly before 10 a.m.—as early as 9:40 a.m. according to one report—air traffic manager Dennis Fritz, in the control tower at Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, 70 miles east of Pittsburgh, receives a call from Cleveland Air Traffic Control reporting a large, suspicious aircraft about 20 miles south of them, descending below six thousand feet. Despite the clear day, Fritz and his colleagues can see no plane approaching through binoculars. Soon afterwards, in response to another call from Cleveland, Fritz orders trainees and custodial staff to evacuate the tower, yet he is still unable to see any plane approaching. Less than a minute later, though, Cleveland calls a third time, saying to disregard the evacuation: The plane has turned south and they have lost radar contact with it. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/12/2001; Knight Ridder, 9/13/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 197] Flight 93 crashes around 10:03 a.m. or soon thereafter (see (10:03-10:10 a.m.)), going down in a field just 14 miles south of Johnstown. [Washington Post, 9/13/2001]
Soon after the Pentagon is hit, medical workers initiate their mass casualty plan (MASCAL) for dealing with disasters. Sergeant Matthew Rosenberg, a medic at the Pentagon’s DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic, arrives at the center courtyard. Seeing smoke rising from the side of the building and patients staggering out, he radios the clinic: “You need to initiate MASCAL right now! We have mass casualties! I need medical assets to the courtyard!” Major Lorie Brown, chief nurse of the DiLorenzo Clinic, says that as soon as she sees people running down the corridor to evacuate, “we initiated the MASCAL, started galvanizing all of our assets and put our plan in action.” [Washington Post, 9/16/2001; Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 7, 39] The Pentagon has actually conducted at least three MASCAL training exercises in the previous 12 months, based around a plane crashing into the place (see Between October 24 and 28, 2000)(see May 2001)(see Early August 2001). Lieutenant Colonel John Felicio, the deputy commander for administration of the DiLorenzo Clinic, says, “The saving grace to our efforts was the two MASCAL exercises we previously had conducted. ... Our scenario for both MASCALS was a plane flying into the Pentagon courtyard.” Furthermore, the nearby Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC), which sends ambulances in response to the attack, has recently recovered from a four-day power loss (see August 27-31, 2001). A military report will later state: “Many believe that [this] extended emergency ... helped WRAMC in its response on September 11.” [Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 18, 146]Posted by jeff at 9:40 AM | TrackBack
Captain Charles Leidig, a low ranking officer temporarily in charge of the NMCC, is handling the NMCC’s crisis teleconference. He mentions reports of a crash into the opposite side of the Pentagon, and requests that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld be added to the conference. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] As one magazine has noted, “On September 11, the normal scramble-approval procedure was for an FAA official to contact the [NMCC] and request Pentagon air support. Someone in the NMCC would call NORAD’s Command Center and ask about availability of aircraft, then seek approval from the defense secretary—Donald H. Rumsfeld—to launch fighters.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] Rather than join the NMCC conference, Rumsfeld has already gone out of the Pentagon to see the crash site, and remains out of contact for some time. It is unknown if Rumsfeld had a cell phone or pager, and if so, why he cannot be reached.
Two seconds after 9:39 a.m., reporter Jim Miklaszewski states on NBC News, “Moments ago, I felt an explosion here at the Pentagon.” [Name Missing, n.d.] However, no media outlets record video footage of the Pentagon crash, and the cause of the crash remains unknown for some minutes afterward.
The Flight 93 hijackers (probably inadvertently) transmit over the radio: “Hi, this is the captain. We’d like you all to remain seated. There is a bomb on board. And we are going to turn back to the airport. And they had our demands, so please remain quiet.” [Boston Globe, 11/23/2001; MSNBC, 9/3/2002; Longman, 2002, pp. 209; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] The controller responds, “United 93, understand you have a bomb on board. Go ahead,” but there is no response. There was a very similar “bomb on board” warning from the same flight at 9:32 a.m. (see (9:32 a.m.)). The 9/11 Commission indicates that these are separate incidents. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Cleveland flight control apparently continues to wait for FAA superiors to notify NORAD. Earlier in the morning, Boston flight control directly contacted NORAD (see (8:37 a.m.)) and local air force bases when they determined Flight 11 was hijacked.Posted by jeff at 9:39 AM | TrackBack
In response to an emergency 9-1-1 telephone call, the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center dispatches several units to deal with an apartment fire in Rosslyn, Virginia—within the vicinity of the Pentagon. Because this fire is in a high-rise building, nine different fire and medical service units are dispatched. However, the first engine crew to arrive radios to the other units that the fire has gone out. Consequently, by “sheer coincidence,” at the time when the Pentagon is hit, there are a significant number of available fire and medical service units already on the road nearby. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002; Fire Engineering, 11/2002] Additionally, Secret Service personnel are concentrated around the heliport a short distance from where Flight 77 will hit: “President Bush was scheduled to fly from Florida that afternoon, and his helicopter, Marine One, would carry him to the Pentagon. That meant Secret Service everywhere and their cars blocking the driveway.” [Scripps Howard News Service, 8/1/2002]
Washington flight controllers are watching Flight 77’s radar blip. Just before radar contact is lost, FAA headquarters is told, “The aircraft is circling. It’s turning away from the White House.” [USA Today, 8/13/2002] Then the blip disappears. Its last known position is six miles from the Pentagon and four miles from the White House. The plane is said to be traveling 500 mph, or a mile every seven seconds. [CBS News, 9/21/2001; Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002; USA Today, 8/13/2002]
Representative Christopher Cox later claims he is still meeting with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. They are still discussing missile defense, apparently completely oblivious of the approaching Flight 77. Watching television coverage from New York City, Rumsfeld says to Cox, “Believe me, this isn’t over yet. There’s going to be another attack, and it could be us.” According to the Daily Telegraph, Flight 77 hits the building “moments later.” [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] In another telling, Cox claims that Rumsfeld says, “If we remain vulnerable to missile attack, a terrorist group or rogue state that demonstrates the capacity to strike the US or its allies from long range could have the power to hold our entire country hostage to nuclear or other blackmail. And let me tell you, I’ve been around the block a few times. There will be another event.” Rumsfeld repeats that sentence for emphasis. According to Cox, “Within minutes of that utterance, Rumsfeld’s words proved tragically prophetic.” Cox also claims, “I escaped just minutes before the building was hit.” [Office of Representative Christopher Cox, 9/11/2001] However, Rumsfeld claims that this meeting with Cox ended before the second WTC crash, which occurred at 9:03 a.m. Cox himself said that after being told of the WTC, “[Rumsfeld] sped off, as did I.” Cox says he immediately headed to his car, making it impossible for him to still be in the Pentagon “just minutes before” it is hit. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001] Another account puts Rumsfeld’s “I’ve been around the block a few times. There will be another event” comment two minutes before the first WTC crash at 8:46 a.m., when Rumsfeld reportedly makes other predictive comments. [Associated Press, 9/16/2001]
Fireman Alan Wallace is busy with a safety crew at the Pentagon’s heliport pad. As Wallace is walking in front of the Pentagon, he looks up and sees Flight 77 coming straight at him. It is about 25 feet off the ground, with no landing wheels visible, a few hundred yards away, and closing fast. He runs about 30 feet and dives under a nearby van. [Washington Post, 9/21/2001] The plane is traveling at about 460 mph, and flying so low that it clips the tops of streetlights. [CBS News, 9/21/2001] Using the radio in the van, he calls his fire chief at nearby Fort Myer and says, “We have had a commercial carrier crash into the west side of the Pentagon at the heliport, Washington Boulevard side. The crew is OK. The airplane was a 757 Boeing or a 320 Airbus.” [Scripps Howard News Service, 8/1/2002]
Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon. Approximately 125 people on the ground are later determined killed or missing. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; CNN, 9/17/2001; Guardian, 10/17/2001; USA Today, 8/13/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002; CBS News, 9/11/2002; Associated Press, 8/19/2002; MSNBC, 9/3/2002] Flight 77 strikes the only side of the Pentagon that had recently been renovated—it was “within days of being totally [renovated].” [US Department of Defense, 9/15/2001] “It was the only area of the Pentagon with a sprinkler system, and it had been reconstructed with a web of steel columns and bars to withstand bomb blasts. The area struck by the plane also had blast-resistant windows—two inches thick and 2,500 pounds each—that stayed intact during the crash and fire. While perhaps, 4,500 people normally would have been working in the hardest-hit areas, because of the renovation work only about 800 were there...” More than 25,000 people work at the Pentagon. [Los Angeles Times, 9/16/2001]
A C-130 transport plane that has been sent to follow Flight 77 is trailing only a short distance behind the plane as it crashes. This curious C-130, originally bound for Minnesota, is the same C-130 that will be 17 miles from Flight 93 when it later crashes into the Pennsylvania countryside. [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/11/2002; Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/2001] A number of people see this plane fly remarkably close to Flight 77:
- Kelly Knowles says that seconds after seeing Flight 77 pass, she sees a “second plane that seemed to be chasing the first [pass] over at a slightly different angle.” [Daily Press (Newport News), 9/15/2001]
- Keith Wheelhouse says the second plane was a C-130; two other witnesses aren’t certain. [Daily Press (Newport News), 9/15/2001] Wheelhouse “believes it flew directly above the American Airlines jet, as if to prevent two planes from appearing on radar, while at the same time guiding the jet toward the Pentagon.” As Flight 77 descends toward the Pentagon, the second plane veers off west. [Daily Press (Newport News), 9/14/2001]
- USA Today reporter Vin Narayanan, who saw the Pentagon explosion, says, “I hopped out of my car after the jet exploded, nearly oblivious to a second jet hovering in the skies.” [USA Today, 9/17/2001]
- USA Today Editor Joel Sucherman sees a second plane but gives few details. [eWeek, 9/13/2001] Brian Kennedy, press secretary for a congressman, and others also see a second plane. [Sacramento Bee, 9/15/2001]
- An unnamed worker at Arlington National Cemetery “said a mysterious second plane was circling the area when the first one attacked the Pentagon.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/20/2001]
- John O’Keefe is driving a car when he sees the Pentagon crash. “The first thing I did was pull over onto the shoulder, and when I got out of the car I saw another plane flying over my head. ... Then the plane—it looked like a C-130 cargo plane—started turning away from the Pentagon, it did a complete turnaround.” [New York Law Journal, 9/12/2001]
- The pilot of the C-130, Lieutenant Colonel Steve O’Brien, is later interviewed, but his account differs from the on-the-ground eyewitnesses. He claims that just before the explosion, “With all of the East Coast haze, I had a hard time picking him out,” implying he is not nearby. He also says that just after the explosion, “I could see the outline of the Pentagon,” again implying he is not nearby. He then asks “the controller whether [I] should set up a low orbit around the building,” but he is told “to get out of the area as quickly as possible.” “I took the plane once through the plume of smoke and thought if this was a terrorist attack, it probably wasn’t a good idea to be flying through that plume.” [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/11/2002]
- President Bush is in Sarasota, Florida. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
- Secretary of State Powell is in Lima, Peru. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
- General Henry Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is flying across the Atlantic on the way to Europe. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
- Attorney General Ashcroft is flying to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
- Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Joe Allbaugh is at a conference in Montana. [ABC News, 9/14/2002] Others are in Washington:
- Vice President Cheney and National Security Adviser Rice are at their offices in the White House. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
- Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is at his office in the Pentagon, meeting with a delegation from Capitol Hill. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
- CIA Director Tenet is at breakfast with his old friend and mentor, former senator David Boren (D), at the St. Regis Hotel, three blocks from the White House. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
- FBI Director Mueller is in his office at FBI Headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
- Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta is at his office at the Department of Transportation. [US Congress, 9/20/2001]
- Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is at a conference in the Ronald Reagan Building three blocks from the White House. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 1]
Accounts differ as to how far from Washington the F-16 fighters scrambled from Langley are when Flight 77 crashes. The Langley, Virginia, base is 129 miles from Washington. NORAD originally claimed that, at the time of the crash, the fighters are 105 miles away, despite having taken off seven minutes earlier. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001] The 9/11 Commission claims that at 9:36 a.m., NEADS discovers that Flight 77 is only a few miles from the White House and is dismayed to find the fighters have headed east over the ocean. They are ordered to Washington immediately, but are still about 150 miles away. This is farther away than the base from which they took off. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] The F-16 pilot codenamed Honey (who is apparently Captain Craig Borgstrom) offers a different explanation. As previously mentioned, he says they are flying toward New York, when they see a black column of smoke coming from Washington, about 30 or 40 miles to the west. He is then asked over the radio by NEADS if he can confirm the Pentagon is burning. He confirms it. He says that the mission of the Langley pilots at this time is clear: to keep all airplanes away from Washington. The F-16s are then ordered to set up a defensive perimeter above Washington. [Longman, 2002, pp. 76; New York Observer, 2/11/2004; Filson, 2004, pp. 66] The maximum speed of an F-16 is 1,500 mph. [Associated Press, 6/16/2000] Had the fighters traveled straight to Washington at 1,300 mph, they would have reached Washington at least one minute before Flight 77. Furthermore, at the time the Pentagon is hit, according to Craig Borgstrom, he and the other Langley pilots are hearing a lot of chatter over their radios, but nothing about airliners crashing into buildings. He says they are “all three on different frequencies ... and [are] getting orders from a lot of different people.” [Filson, 2004, pp. 66]
There are conflicting accounts of what Defense Secretary Rumsfeld does in the 35 minutes between the second WTC crash and the Pentagon crash. In his 9/11 Commission testimony, he covers the time with the phrase “shortly thereafter:” “I was in my office with a CIA briefer and I was told that a second plane had hit the other tower. Shortly thereafter, at 9:38 a.m., the Pentagon shook with an explosion of then unknown origin.” [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004] In the book Bush at War, Bob Woodward writes, “Aware of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Rumsfeld had been proceeding with his daily intelligence briefing in his office” when the Pentagon gets hit. [Woodward, 2002] However, according to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, Rumsfeld joins a video conference at 9:10 a.m. (see (9:10 a.m.)), shortly after the second WTC hit, and stays with the conference, possibly from his office. After being told the Pentagon has been hit, Clarke says, “I can still see Rumsfeld on the screen, so the whole building didn’t get hit”. The military response to the 9/11 crisis is being coordinated in the NMCC, apparently located only around 200 feet away, directly below Rumsfeld’s office. [WBZ Radio 1030 (Boston), 9/15/2001; Reuters, 9/11/2001]
Captain Jim Hosking, piloting United Flight 890 from Japan to Los Angeles, is sent a warning message to his cockpit printer. It reads, “There has been a terrorist attack against United Airlines and American Airlines aircraft. We are advised there may be additional hijackings in progress. Shut down all access to the flight deck. Unable to elaborate further.” He tells his first officer, “Get out the crash axe.” Other pilots are receiving similar messages around this time. [USA Today, 8/13/2002]
Jeremy Glick calls his wife, Lyz, from Flight 93. He describes the hijackers as Middle Eastern- and Iranian-looking. According to Glick, three of them put on red headbands, stood up, yelled, and ran into the cockpit. He had been sitting in the front of the coach section, but he was then sent to the back with most of the passengers. Glick says the hijackers claimed to have a bomb, which looked like a box with something red around it. Family members immediately call emergency 9-1-1 on another line. New York State Police are patched in midway through the call. Glick finds out about the WTC towers. Two others onboard also learn about the WTC at about this time. Glick’s phone remains connected until the very end of the flight. [Longman, 2002, pp. 143; MSNBC, 7/30/2002; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Toronto Sun, 9/16/2001]
An employee at a gas station located across the street from the Pentagon servicing military personnel later says the station’s security cameras should have recorded the moment of impact. However, he says, “I’ve never seen what the pictures looked like. The FBI was here within minutes and took the film.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch, 12/11/2001] A security camera atop a hotel close to the Pentagon also records the impact. Hotel employees watch the film several times before the FBI confiscates the video. [Washington Times, 9/21/2001] The Justice Department will refuse to release the footage, claiming that if they did it might provide intelligence to someone who would want to harm the US, but some Pentagon officials say they see no national security value to the video. [CNN, 3/7/2002] Reporter Sandra Jontz, who is evacuated from the Pentagon some time after it is hit, notices a Department of Transportation camera that monitors traffic backups pointed towards the crash site. [Bull and Erman, 2002, pp. 281] The footage from this camera has not been released either.
By all accounts, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is in his Pentagon office when Flight 77 crashes, though accounts differ as to what he’s doing there. Rumsfeld later relates what he does next: “I was sitting here and the building was struck, and you could feel the impact of it very clearly, and I don’t know what made me do anything I did, to be honest with you. I just do it instinctive. I looked out the window, saw nothing here, and then went down the hall until the smoke was too bad, then to a stairwell down and went outside and saw what had happened. Asked a person who’d seen it, and he told me that a plane had flown into it. I had been aware of a plane going into the World Trade Center, and I saw people on the grass, and we just, we tried to put them in stretchers and then move them out across the grass towards the road and lifted them over a jersey wall so the people on that side could stick them into the ambulances. I was out there for awhile, and then people started gathering, and we were able to get other people to do that, to hold IVs for people. There were people lying on the grass with clothes blown off and burns all over them. Then at some moment I decided I should be in here figuring out what to do, because your brain begins to connect things, and there were enough people there to worry about that. I came back in here, came into this office. There was smoke in here by then.” [Parade Magazine, 10/12/2001] Versions of this story appear elsewhere. [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/12/2001; Larry King Live, 12/5/2001; ABC News, 9/11/2002; Vanity Fair, 5/9/2005] Rumsfeld says the crash site is “around the corner” from his fourth floor office [ABC News, 9/11/2002] , but, in fact, the crash site is on the opposite site of the huge Pentagon. [Reuters, 9/11/2001] Rumsfeld says he reaches the crash site “moments after” the crash, which would be an impressive feat given the over 2,000 feet distance. [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004] One report even has Rumsfeld pull budget analyst Paul Gonzalez to safety from the burning wreckage. [Daily Telegraph, 9/16/2001] However, Gonzalez later offers his own detailed recollections of pulling other people to safety, which fail to involve Rumsfeld in any way. [Washington Post, 3/11/2002] Deputy Defense Secretary Torie Clarke, in the Pentagon at the time, says Rumsfeld is “one of the first people” outside [KYW Radio 1060 (Philadelphia), 9/15/2001] , and remains outside for “about half an hour.” [WBZ Radio 1030 (Boston), 9/15/2001] A Pentagon spokesperson has Rumsfeld helping for “15 minutes or so...” [Reuters, 9/11/2001] In another account, he loads the wounded onto stretchers for 15 minutes. [Scripps Howard News Service, 9/11/2001] Rumsfeld reportedly helps at the crash site until a security agent urges him to leave. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] However, in his 2004 testimony to the 9/11 Commission, he no longer mentions helping the wounded, merely saying, “I went outside to determine what had happened. I was not there long because I was back in the Pentagon with a crisis action team shortly before or after 10:00 a.m. (see (Between 10:00-10:30 a.m.)).” [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004] There are no photographs or eyewitness accounts of Rumsfeld outside the Pentagon that morning, except for one photograph of him walking down a sidewalk with some aides. In counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke’s account, Rumsfeld never leaves a video conference for very long, except to move from one secure teleconferencing studio to another elsewhere in the Pentagon. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 8-9 Sources: Richard A. Clarke]
Having learned that the Pentagon had been hit, Vice President Cheney telephones President Bush, who is on his way to the Sarasota airport, and tells him that the White House has been “targeted.” Bush says he wants to return to Washington, but Cheney advises him not to “until we could find out what the hell was going on.” According to Newsweek, this call takes place in a tunnel on the way to the PEOC underground bunker. Cheney reaches the bunker “shortly before 10:00 a.m.” [Newsweek, 12/31/2001] The 9/11 Commission’s account largely follows Newsweek’s. He reaches the tunnel around the time of the Pentagon crash and lingers by a television and secure telephone as he talks to Bush. The commission has Cheney enter the bunker just before 10:00, but they note, “There is conflicting evidence as to when the vice president arrived in the shelter conference room.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Indeed, in other accounts, including those of Richard Clarke and Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, Cheney reaches the bunker before the Flight 77 crash at 9:37 a.m. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 3-4; ABC News, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003 Sources: Norman Mineta, Richard A. Clarke] Regardless of Cheney’s location, as Cheney and Bush talk on the phone, Bush once again refrains from making any decisions or orders about the crisis. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
After the Pentagon is hit, fighters at nearby Andrews Air Force Base are still preparing to launch. At some unknown point, flight squad commander Lieutenant Colonel Marc Sasseville assembles three F-16 pilots and gives them a curt briefing. He recalls saying, “I have no idea what’s going on, but we’re flying. Here’s our frequency. We’ll split up the area as we have to. Just defend as required. We’ll talk about the rest in the air.” All four of them dress up and get ready. One officer at Andrews recalls, “After the Pentagon was hit, we were told there were more [airliners] coming. Not ‘might be’—they were coming.” Meanwhile, a “flood” of calls from the Secret Service and local FAA flight control centers pour into Andrews, as the fighter response is coordinated. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002] However, the loading of missiles onto the fighters is very time consuming, and when these fighters finally take off nearly an hour later, they will launch without the missiles installed.
At an indeterminate time after Flight 77 hits the Pentagon, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is given a note by the head of the Secret Service. The note reads, “Radar shows aircraft headed this way. I’m going to empty out the [White House].” The Secret Service knows this because they have equipment that can see what the FAA’s radar is seeing around Washington. However, the note is too late: Flight 77 has already crashed. At almost the same time, another aide says to Clarke, “A plane just hit the Pentagon.” He replies, “I can still see Rumsfeld on the screen, so the whole building didn’t get hit. No emotion in here. We are going to stay focused.” He orders an aide, “Find out where the fighter planes are. I want Combat Air Patrol over every major city in this country. Now!” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 7-8; Australian, 3/27/2004] NORAD does give this nationwide order around 9:49 a.m. (see 9:49 a.m.), but bases had been calling into NORAD and asking for permission to send up fighters since the second WTC crash. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Other cities generally remain unprotected until after 11:00 a.m. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001] The Secret Service order to evacuate the White House takes place at 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.))
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is told by his chief of staff that the White House knows of seven planes that are unaccounted for. He is told that the Pentagon has been hit, but also hears erroneous reports that the Sears Tower and other buildings have been hit. [9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004]
At the Education Center at Fort Myer, an army base 1.5 miles northwest of the Pentagon, the base’s firefighters are undertaking training variously described as “an airport rescue firefighters class”; “an aircraft crash refresher class”; “a week-long class on Air Field Fire Fighting”; and a “training exercise in airport emergency operations.” Despite hearing of the first WTC crash during a break, with no access to a TV, the class simply continues with its training. According to Bruce Surette, who is attending the session: “We had heard some radio transmissions from some other units in Arlington about how they thought they had a plane down here or a plane down there. So you’re thinking, ‘Hey this could be real.’ But it really didn’t strike home as being real until our guy came on the radio and said where the plane crash was.” The Fort Myer firefighters then immediately head for the Pentagon, arriving there at 9:40 a.m., only three minutes after it is hit, and participate in the firefighting and rescue effort there. The fire station at the Pentagon heliport is actually operated by the Fort Myer Fire Department, and is manned on the morning of 9/11 by three Fort Myer firefighters who have already undertaken the airfield firefighting training. [MDW News Service, 10/4/2001; Pentagram, 11/2/2001; JEMS, 4/2002 ; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002; First Due News, 4/17/2003] The Fort Myer military community, which includes Fort Myer and Fort Lesley J. McNair—another army base, just two miles east of the Pentagon—was scheduled to hold a “force protection exercise” the week after 9/11. However this has been cancelled, so just prior to the attacks the morning of September 11, “some of its participants [are] breathing a sigh of relief.” [Pentagram, 9/14/2001]Posted by jeff at 9:37 AM | TrackBack
According to one account given by NEADS Commander Robert Marr, some time before around 9:36 when it changes direction, while it is still flying west, Flight 93 is being monitored by NEADS. Marr describes how, “We don’t have fighters that way and we think [Flight 93 is] headed toward Detroit or Chicago.” He says he contacts a base in the area “so they [can] head off 93 at the pass.” Not only does NORAD know about the flight, but also, according to NORAD Commander Larry Arnold, “We watched the 93 track as it meandered around the Ohio-Pennsylvania area and started to turn south toward DC.” (This change of direction occurs around 9:36 a.m.) [Filson, 2004] This account completely contradicts the 9/11 Commission’s later claim that NEADS is first notified about Flight 93 at 10:07 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
An unnamed senior Air Force officer tells a CNN reporter minutes later that, just prior to the Pentagon being hit, he is outside the building and sees what appears to be a US military helicopter circling the Pentagon. He says it disappears behind the building where the helicopter landing pad is, and then he sees an explosion. [CNN, 9/11/2001] The Guardian reports one witness claiming that the explosion occurring when the Pentagon is hit blows up a helicopter circling overhead. [Guardian, 9/12/2001] No other witnesses are known to report seeing this helicopter. However, Dick Cheney will later tell NBC’s Meet the Press that “the first reports on the Pentagon attack suggested a helicopter” hit it. [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001] Interestingly, New York Times columnist William Safire will report that, at approximately this time, Dick Cheney is told that either another plane or “a helicopter loaded with explosives” is heading for the White House. [New York Times, 9/13/2001 ]
Reagan Airport flight control instructs a military C-130 (Golfer 06) that has just departed Andrews Air Force Base to intercept Flight 77 and identify it. [Guardian, 10/17/2001; New York Times, 10/16/2001] Remarkably, this C-130 is the same C-130 that is 17 miles from Flight 93 when it later crashes into the Pennsylvania countryside (see 10:08 a.m.). [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/11/2002; Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/2001] The pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Steve O’Brien, claims he took off around 9:30 a.m., planning to return to Minnesota after dropping supplies off in the Caribbean. He later describes his close encounter: “When air traffic control asked me if we had him [Flight 77] in sight, I told him that was an understatement—by then, he had pretty much filled our windscreen. Then he made a pretty aggressive turn so he was moving right in front of us, a mile and a half, two miles away. I said we had him in sight, then the controller asked me what kind of plane it was. That caught us up, because normally they have all that information. The controller didn’t seem to know anything.” O’Brien reports that the plane is either a 757 or 767 and its silver fuselage means it is probably an American Airlines plane. “They told us to turn and follow that aircraft—in 20 plus years of flying, I’ve never been asked to do something like that.” [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/11/2002] The 9/11 Commission Reports that it is a C-130H and the pilot specifically identifies the hijacked plane as a 757. Seconds after impact, he reports, “Looks like that aircraft crashed into the Pentagon, sir.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
Flight 93 files a new flight plan with a final destination of Washington, reverses course and heads toward Washington. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Guardian, 10/17/2001; MSNBC, 9/3/2002; Longman, 2002, pp. 219] Radar shows the plane turning 180 degrees. [CNN, 9/13/2001] The new flight plan schedules the plane to arrive in Washington at 10:28 a.m. [Longman, 2002, pp. 78]
According to the 9/11 Commission, at about this time Cleveland flight control specifically asks the FAA Command Center whether someone has requested the military to launch fighters toward Flight 93. Cleveland offers to contact a nearby military base. The Command Center replies that FAA personnel well above them in the chain of command have to make that decision and are working on the issue. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Cleveland overheard a hijacker say there was a “bomb on board” at 9:32 a.m. and passed the message to FAA higher ups.Posted by jeff at 9:36 AM | TrackBack
The San Francisco United Airlines maintenance center receives a call from an unnamed flight attendant on Flight 93 saying that the flight has been hijacked. The information is quickly passed on. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] Within ten minutes, “everyone” in the United Airlines crisis center “now [knows] that a flight attendant on board had called the mechanics desk to report that one hijacker had a bomb strapped on and another was holding a knife on the crew.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001]
When Flight 93 is over Youngstown, Ohio, Stacey Taylor and other Cleveland flight controllers see it rapidly climb 6,000 feet above its assigned altitude of 35,000 feet and then rapidly descend. The plane drops so quickly toward Cleveland that the flight controllers worry they might be the target. Other accounts say the climb occurs around 9:35 a.m. Controllers continue to try to contact the plane but still get no response. [Guardian, 10/17/2001; USA Today, 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
The Treasury Department is evacuated a few minutes before Flight 77 crashes. [9/11 Commission, 1/26/2004] Yet, CNN notes that “after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) warned the military’s air defense command that a hijacked airliner appeared to be headed toward Washington, the federal government failed to make any move to evacuate the White House, Capitol, State Department, or the Pentagon.” [CNN, 9/16/2001] A Pentagon representative says, “The Pentagon was simply not aware that this aircraft was coming our way.” Even Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and his top aides in the Pentagon remain unaware of any danger up to the moment of impact. [Newsday, 9/23/2001] Senators and congresspeople are in the Capitol building, which is not evacuated until 9:48 a.m. (see 9:48 a.m.) Only Vice President Cheney, National Security Adviser Rice, and possibly a few others are evacuated to safety a few minutes after 9:03 a.m. (see (After 9:03 a.m.)). Yet, supposedly, since at least the Flight 11 crash, “military officials in a Command Center [the National Military Command Center] on the east side of the [Pentagon] [are] urgently talking to law enforcement and air traffic control officials about what to do.” [New York Times, 9/15/2001] The White House is evacuated at 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.))Posted by jeff at 9:35 AM | TrackBack
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]Posted by jeff at 9:34 AM | TrackBack
The BBC reports that pilot Major Dean Eckmann gets a message as he’s flying from Langley, Virginia. “They said—all airplanes, if you come within (I believe it was) 30 miles of Washington, D.C., you will be shot down.” [BBC, 9/1/2002] It’s not clear who “they” are and what authority they have. However, fighters are not actually given shootdown orders until later, if at all.
Radar data shows Flight 77 crossing the Capitol Beltway and headed toward the Pentagon. However, the plane, flying more than 400 mph, is too high when it nears the Pentagon at 9:35 a.m., crossing the Pentagon at about 7,000 feet up. [CBS News, 9/21/2001; Boston Globe, 11/23/2001] The plane then makes a difficult high-speed descending turn. It makes a “downward spiral, turning almost a complete circle and dropping the last 7,000 feet in two-and-a-half minutes. The steep turn is so smooth, the sources say, it’s clear there [is] no fight for control going on.” [CBS News, 9/21/2001] It gets very near the White House during this turn. “Sources say the hijacked jet ... [flies] several miles south of the restricted airspace around the White House.” [CBS News, 9/21/2001] The Daily Telegraph later writes, “If the airliner had approached much nearer to the White House it might have been shot down by the Secret Service, who are believed to have a battery of ground-to-air Stinger missiles ready to defend the president’s home. The Pentagon is not similarly defended.” [Daily Telegraph, 9/16/2001] White House spokesman Ari Fleischer suggests the plane goes even closer to the White House, saying, “That is not the radar data that we have seen. The plane was headed toward the White House.” [CBS News, 9/21/2001 Sources: Ari Fleischer]Posted by jeff at 9:33 AM | TrackBack
The New York Stock Exchange closes. It is a short distance from the WTC. [MSNBC, 9/22/2001]
The FAA notifies United Airlines’ headquarters that Flight 93 is not responding to radio calls. This lack of response, combined with the plane’s turning to the east, causes United to believe, by 9:36 a.m., that the plane has been hijacked. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 456]
According to the 9/11 Commission, the Dulles Airport terminal control facility in Washington has been looking for unidentified primary radar blips since 9:21 a.m. (see 9:21 a.m.) and now finds one. Several Dulles flight controllers “observed a primary radar target tracking eastbound at a high rate of speed” and notify Reagan Airport. FAA personnel at both Reagan and Dulles airports notify the Secret Service. The identity or aircraft type is unknown. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] However, other accounts place the discovery of this plane by Dulles around 9:24 a.m. (see (9:24 a.m.)) or 9:30 a.m. (see (9:30 a.m.)), and Vice President Cheney is told radar is tracking Flight 77 at 9:27 a.m. (see (9:27 a.m.)).
A hijacker says over the radio to Flight 93’s passengers: “Ladies and gentlemen, here is the captain, please sit down. Keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb aboard.” Apparently, Cleveland flight controllers can understand about a minute of screams, before a voice again says something about a “bomb on board.” A hijacker says in broken English that they are returning to the airport. [Newsweek, 9/22/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; MSNBC, 9/3/2002] According to the 9/11 Commission’s account, the hijacker’s voice says, “Keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb on board.” The controller understands, but chooses to respond, “Calling Cleveland [flight control], you’re unreadable. Say again, slowly.” Apparently there’s no answer. The controller notifies his supervisor, who soon passes the notice to FAA headquarters. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]Posted by jeff at 9:32 AM | TrackBack
A few minutes after 9:31 a.m., a hijacker on board Flight 93 can be heard on the cockpit voice recorder ordering a woman to sit down. A woman, presumably a flight attendant, implores, “don’t, don’t.” She pleads, “Please, I don’t want to die.” Patrick Welsh, the husband of flight attendant Debbie Welsh, is later told that a flight attendant was stabbed early in the takeover, and it is strongly implied it was his wife. She was a first-class attendant, and he says, “knowing Debbie,” she would have resisted. [Longman, 2002, pp. 207]Posted by jeff at 9:31 AM | TrackBack
United Airlines begins landing all of its flights inside the US (Note: All planes nationwide were already ordered down at 9:26 a.m. (see (9:26 a.m.)) and told to land in a reasonable amount of time. Now they’re told to land immediately.) American Airlines begins landing all of their flights five minutes later. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001]
The three F-16s at Langley, Virginia, get airborne. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; ABC News, 9/11/2002; Washington Post, 9/12/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] The pilots are Major Brad Derrig, Captain Craig Borgstrom, and Major Dean Eckmann, all from the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing stationed at Langley. [Associated Press, 8/19/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002] If the assumed NORAD departure time is correct, the F-16s would have to travel slightly over 700 mph to reach Washington before Flight 77 does. The maximum speed of an F-16 is 1,500 mph. [Associated Press, 6/16/2000] Even traveling at 1,300 mph, these planes could have reached Washington in six minutes—well before any claim of when Flight 77 crashed. Yet it is claimed they are accidentally directed over the Atlantic Ocean instead, and they will only reach Washington about 30 minutes later. NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold admits in 2003 testimony that had the fighters been going at full speed, “it is physically possible that they could have gotten over Washington” before Flight 77. But asked if the fighters would have had shootdown authorization had they reached the hijacked plane, Arnold says no, claiming that even by this time in the morning it is only “through hindsight that we are certain that this was a coordinated attack on the United States.” [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003 Sources: Larry Arnold]
As President Bush begins a speech in Florida, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke orders all US embassies overseas closed and orders all military bases to an alert level named Combat Threatcon. Over the next few minutes, Clarke discusses with aides where Bush should go from Sarasota, Florida. He telephones PEOC, the command bunker containing Vice President Cheney and National Security Adviser Rice, and says, “Somebody has to tell the president he can’t come right back here [to Washington]. Cheney, Condi, somebody, Secret Service concurs. We do not want them saying where they are going when they take off. Second, when they take off, they should have fighter escort. Three, we need to authorize the Air Force to shoot down any aircraft—including a hijacked passenger flight—that looks like it is threatening to attack and cause large-scale death on the ground. Got it?” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 5-7] However, when Bush departs on Air Force One about half an hour later, there are no fighter escorts, and none appear for an hour or so. In addition, if Clarke requests authorization for a shootdown order at this time, it is apparently ignored; neither President Bush nor Vice President Cheney give shootdown authorization for at least another 30 minutes (see (Between 10:00-10:15 a.m.)).
Radar tracks Flight 77 as it closes within 30 miles of Washington. [CBS News, 9/21/2001] Todd Lewis, flight controller at Washington’s Dulles Airport, later recalls, “... my colleagues saw a target moving quite fast from the northwest to the southeast. So she—we all started watching that target, and she notified the supervisor. However, nobody knew that was a commercial flight at the time. Nobody knew that was American 77. ... I thought it was a military flight.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] Another account is similar, saying that just before 9:30 a.m., a Dulles Airport controller sees an aircraft without a transponder traveling almost 500 mph headed toward Washington. [USA Today, 8/13/2002] In yet another account, Danielle O’Brien, the Dulles flight controller said to be the first to spot the blip, claims she doesn’t spot it until it is around 12 to 14 miles from Washington. [ABC News, 10/24/2001; ABC News, 10/24/2001] There are also accounts that Vice President Cheney is told around 9:27 a.m. that radar is tracking Flight 77, 50 miles away from Washington. The 9/11 Commission says the plane isn’t discovered until 9:32 a.m.
The FAA’s Emergency Operations Center gets up and running, five minutes after the FAA issues an order grounding all civilian, military, and law enforcement aircraft. [Time, 9/14/2001] This center’s role in the crisis response remains unclear.
Chris Stephenson, head flight controller at Washington’s Reagan National Airport tower, says that he is called by the Secret Service around this time. He is told an unidentified aircraft is speeding toward Washington. Stephenson looks at the radarscope and sees Flight 77 about five miles to the west. He looks out the tower window and sees the plane turning to the right and descending. He follows it until it disappears behind a building in nearby Crystal City, Virginia. [USA Today, 8/12/2002] However, according to another account, just before 9:30 a.m., a controller in the same tower has an unidentified plane on radar, “heading toward Washington and without a transponder signal to identify it. It’s flying fast, she says: almost 500 mph. And it’s heading straight for the heart of the city. Could it be American Flight 77? The FAA warns the Secret Service.” [USA Today, 8/13/2002] In short, it is unclear whether the Secret Service warns the FAA, or vice versa.
The headquarters of New York’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), which is on the 23rd floor of WTC Building 7, is evacuated. The headquarters was opened in 1999 and was specifically intended to co-ordinate the city’s response to disasters such as terrorist attacks (see June 8, 1999). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 283-284] A senior OEM official orders the evacuation after being told by a Secret Service agent that additional commercial planes are unaccounted for. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305] All civilians were evacuated from WTC 7 around the time the second WTC tower was hit (see After 9:03 a.m.). Despite these evacuations though, firefighters reportedly find individuals on the 7th and 8th floors of WTC 7 at around 12:10 to 12:15 p.m., who they then lead out of the building. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/2004, pp. L-18 ]
Flight controllers mistakenly suspect that Delta Flight 1989, flying west over Pennsylvania, has been hijacked. The controllers briefly suspect the sound of hijackers’ voices in Flight 93 is coming from this plane, only a few miles away. USA Today reports the flight “joins a growing list of suspicious jets. Some of their flight numbers will be scrawled on a white dry-erase board throughout the morning” at FAA headquarters. Miscommunications lead to further suspicion of Flight 1989 even after the source of the hijackers’ message is confirmed to come from Flight 93. At some point, the Cleveland Airport flight control tower is evacuated for fear Flight 1989 will crash into it. Flight 1989 lands in Cleveland at 10:10 a.m. Eventually, about 11 flights will be labeled suspicious, with four of them actually hijacked. [USA Today, 8/13/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002] The 9/11 Commission later has another explanation as to why Flight 1989 is suspected. They claim that at 9:41 a.m., Boston flight control identifies Flight 1989 as a possible hijacking strictly because it is a transcontinental 767 that had departed from Logan Airport. Although NEADS never loses track of the flight, it launches fighters from Ohio and Michigan to intercept it soon after 10:00 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
The three Langley fighters are airborne, but just where they go and how fast are in dispute. There are varying accounts that the fighters are ordered to Washington, New York, Baltimore, or no destination at all. The 9/11 Commission Reports that, in fact, the pilots don’t understand there is an emergency and head east. They give three reasons. “First, unlike a normal scramble order, this order did not include a distance to the target, or the target’s location. Second, a ‘generic’ flight plan incorrectly led the Langley fighters to believe they were ordered to fly due east (090) for 60 miles. The purpose of the generic flight plan was to quickly get the aircraft airborne and out of local airspace. Third, the lead pilot and local FAA controller incorrectly assumed the flight plan instruction to go ‘090 for 60’ was newer guidance that superseded the original scramble order.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] However, the Wall Street Journal gives a different explanation, surprisingly from 9/11 Commission testimony. “Once they got in the air, the Langley fighters observed peacetime noise restrictions requiring that they fly more slowly than supersonic speed and takeoff over water, pointed away from Washington, according to testimony before the [9/11 Commission].” The fighters that departed to New York City over 30 minutes earlier at 8:52 a.m. (see 8:52 a.m.) traveled faster than supersonic because they realized they were in a national emergency. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004] In 2003 testimony, NORAD Commander Major General Larry Arnold explains that the fighters head over the ocean because NORAD is “looking outward” and has to have clearance to fly over land. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] One of the Langley pilots, Craig Borgstrom, later says that after taking off, “They (NEADS) [are] giving us the heading and altitude of north-northeast up to 20,000 feet. Then shortly after takeoff they changed our heading more north-westerly and gave us max-subsonic. That’s as fast as you can go without breaking the sound barrier.” Reportedly, the Langley fighters are now being vectored toward Washington, instead of New York. [Filson, 2004, pp. 63-65] Yet, in contrast to these accounts, the BBC reports that just before takeoff at 9:24 a.m., the pilots are specifically told that Flight 77 may have been hijacked, and they get a cockpit signal indicating they are in an emergency wartime situation (see (9:24 a.m.)). All the above accounts concur that, for whatever reason, the fighters go too far east. They don’t reach Washington until roughly around 10:00 a.m.
Apparently, the only cockpit voice recording recovered undamaged from any of the 9/11 crashes is from Flight 93. It recorded on a 30-minute reel, which means that the tape is continually overwritten and only the final 30 minutes of any flight is recorded, though in practice sometimes the tape is slightly longer. Flight 93’s recording lasts 31 minutes and begins at this time. [CNN, 4/19/2002; Longman, 2002, pp. 206-207; Hartford Courant, 4/19/2004] According to one account, it begins seconds before the plane is hijacked. [Washington Post, 11/17/2001] However, the version of the tape later played for the victims’ relatives begins “too late to pick up the sounds of the hijackers’ initial takeover.” [MSNBC, 4/18/2002]
Kevin Down, a Sarasota police officer, recalls that immediately after President Bush’s speech concludes, “The Secret Service agent [runs] out from the school and [says] We’re under terrorist attack, we have to go now.” [BBC, 9/1/2002] The motorcade departs a few minutes later.
The Command Center of New York’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), based in WTC Building 7, was evacuated around 9:30 a.m. (see 9:30 a.m.). Subsequently, OEM staff members request the OEM command bus, which is equipped with radios and computers, to use as a mobile operations center. This is then used to set up a temporary command post, located at one point in front of 70 Barclay Street, with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, OEM Commissioner John Odermatt, and the police and fire commissioners all present. Giuliani is apparently at this post when forewarned of the WTC collapse (see (Before 9:59 a.m.)). Alarm is raised when a panel truck is stopped near the temporary command post, with a painting of a plane flying into the World Trade Center on it. Fearing that it might be a truck bomb, the New York Police Department immediately evacuates the surrounding area and calls out the bomb squad. NYPD temporarily detains the truck’s occupants, who turn out to be a group of Middle Easterners who speak no English, and have rented the truck. According to a report by the Mineta Transportation Institute, the vehicle turns out to be an innocent delivery truck. The report does not state who rented the truck to the Middle Easterners, or why it shows a picture of a plane hitting the WTC. [9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004; Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 20]Posted by jeff at 9:30 AM | TrackBack
Flight 77’s autopilot is disengaged. The plane is flying at 7,000 feet and is about 38 miles west of the Pentagon. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9] Information from the plane’s recovered flight data recorder (see September 13-14, 2001) later will indicate the pilot had entered autopilot instructions for a course to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (which is nearby the Pentagon). [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004]
Inside Booker Elementary School, President Bush gives a brief speech in front of about 200 students, plus many teachers and reporters. [Daily Mail, 9/8/2002] He says, “Today we’ve had a national tragedy. Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country.” [Federal News Service, 9/11/2001] The talk occurs at exactly the time and place stated in his publicly announced advance schedule—making Bush a possible terrorist target. [MSNBC, 9/22/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001] This is the last most Americans will see of Bush until the evening. reporters at Booker Elementary School.
Shortly after hearing strange noises from the cockpit of Flight 93, Cleveland flight controllers notice the plane has descended about 700 feet. They try to contact the plane several times, but get no answer. At 9:30 a.m., a controller asks other nearby flights on his frequency if they’ve heard screaming; several say that they have. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] However, despite these disturbing sounds and lack of contact with the plane, Cleveland doesn’t notify anyone else about it.
Captain Charles Leidig is in command of the National Military Command Center (NMCC), “the military’s worldwide nerve center.” [CNN, 9/4/2002] Telephone links are established with the NMCC located inside the Pentagon (but on the opposite side of the building from where the explosion will happen), Canada’s equivalent Command Center, Strategic Command, theater commanders, and federal emergency-response agencies. An Air Threat Conference Call is initiated and it lasts for eight hours. At one time or another, President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, key military officers, leaders of the FAA and NORAD, the White House, and Air Force One are heard on the open line. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] NORAD command director Captain Michael Jellinek claims this happens “immediately” after the second WTC hit. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] However, the 9/11 Commission concludes it starts nearly 30 minutes later, at approximately 9:29 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Brigadier General Montague Winfield, who later takes over for Leidig, says, “All of the governmental agencies that were involved in any activity going on in the United States at that point, were in that conference.” [ABC News, 9/11/2002] The call continues right through the Pentagon explosion; the impact is not felt within the NMCC. [CNN, 9/4/2002] However, despite being in the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld doesn’t enter the NMCC or participate in the call until 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.)).Posted by jeff at 9:29 AM | TrackBack
CNN quotes the Associate Press as reporting that a US official believes the attacks are believed to have been carried out by terrorists. [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/2001]
Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, directing a video conference with top officials, asks Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Richard Myers, “I assume NORAD has scrambled fighters and AWACS. How many? Where?” Myers replies, “Not a pretty picture, Dick. We are in the middle of Vigilant Warrior, a NORAD exercise, but ... Otis has launched two birds toward New York. Langley is trying to get two up now [toward Washington]. The AWACS are at Tinker and not on alert.” Vigilant Warrior may be a mistaken reference to the on-going war game Vigilant Guardian. Otis Air National Guard Base is in Massachusetts, 188 miles east of New York City; Langley is in Virginia, 129 miles south of Washington; Tinker Air Force Base is in Oklahoma. Clarke asks, “Okay, how long to CAP [combat air patrol] over D.C.?” Myers replies, “Fast as we can. Fifteen minutes?” Note that according to Clarke, Myers is surrounded by generals and colonels as he says this (which contradicts Myers’ own accounts of where he is and what he’s doing). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 5] The first fighters don’t reach Washington until 30 minutes or more later.
Cleveland flight controller Stacey Taylor has been warned to watch transcontinental flights heading west for anything suspicious. She later recalls, “I hear one of the controllers behind me go, ‘Oh, my God, oh my God,’ and he starts yelling for the supervisor. He goes, ‘What is this plane doing? What is this plane doing?’ I wasn’t that busy at the time, and I pulled it up on my screen and he was climbing and descending and climbing and descending, but very gradually. He’d go up 300 feet, he’d go down 300 feet. And it turned out to be United 93.” (Note the time of this incident is not specified, but presumably it is prior to when Cleveland controllers note Flight 93 descends 700 feet at 9:29 a.m. (see (9:29 a.m.))) [MSNBC, 9/11/2002]
Flight 93 acknowledges a transmission from a Cleveland flight controller. This is the last normal contact with the plane. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] According to the 9/11 Commission, less than a minute later, the controller, and pilots of aircraft in the vicinity, hear “a radio transmission of unintelligible sounds of possible screaming or a struggle from an unknown origin...” [Newsweek, 11/25/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Guardian, 10/17/2001] Someone, presumably pilot Jason Dahl, is overheard by controllers as he shouts, “Mayday!” [New York Times, 7/22/2004] Seconds later, the controller responds: “Somebody call Cleveland?” Then there are more sounds of screaming and someone yelling, “Get out of here, get out of here.” [MSNBC, 7/30/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Observer, 12/2/2001; Toronto Sun, 9/16/2001; Newsweek, 9/22/2001] Then the voices of the hijackers can be heard talking in Arabic. The words are later translated to show they are talking to each other, saying, “Everything is fine.” [Newsweek, 11/25/2001] Later passenger phone calls describe two dead or injured bodies just outside the cockpit; presumably these are the two pilots. [New York Times, 7/22/2004]
According to former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, around this time the acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers tells him via video link: “We are in the middle of Vigilant Warrior, a NORAD exercise, but ... Otis [Air National Guard Base] has launched two birds toward New York.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 5] However, no other references have been found to this exercise, “Vigilant Warrior.” Considering that exercise terms are “normally an unclassified nickname,” [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 4/23/1998 ] this is perhaps a little odd. Could Richard Clarke have mistakenly been referring to the Vigilant Guardian exercise (see (6:30 a.m.)), which is taking place on 9/11? According to a later news report though, NORAD confirms that “it was running two mock drills on Sept. 11 at various radar sites and Command Centers in the United States and Canada,” one of these being Vigilant Guardian. [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 12/5/2003] If this is correct then there must be another NORAD exercise on 9/11. If not “Vigilant Warrior,” a possibility is that the exercise referred to by Richard Clarke is in fact “Amalgam Warrior,” which is a NORAD-sponsored, large-scale, live-fly air defense and air intercept field training exercise. Amalgam Warrior usually involves two or more NORAD regions and is held twice yearly, in the spring for the West Coast and in the autumn for the East Coast. [Airman, 1996; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/14/2002; US Congress, n.d.; Arkin, 2005, pp. 254] Is it possible that in 2001 the East Coast Amalgam Warrior is being held earlier than usual (like Global Guardian (see 8:30 a.m.)) and is taking place on 9/11? In support of this possibility is a 1997 Defense Department report that describes the Stratcom exercise Global Guardian, saying it “links with other exercise activities sponsored by the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Unified Commands.” The exercises it links with are Crown Vigilance (an Air Combat Command exercise), Apollo Guardian (a US Space Command exercise), and—significantly—the NORAD exercises Vigilant Guardian and Amalgam Warrior. [US Department of Defense, 5/1997; GlobalSecurity (.org), 10/10/2002] Since in 2001, Vigilant Guardian (see (6:30 a.m.)) is occurring the same time as Global Guardian, might Amalgam Warrior be as well? In his book Code Names, William Arkin says that Amalgam Warrior is “sometimes combined with Global Guardian.” [Arkin, 2005, pp. 254] Amalgam Warrior tests such activities as tracking, surveillance, air interception, employing rules of engagement, attack assessment, electronic warfare, and counter-cruise-missile operations. A previous Amalgam Warrior in 1996 involved such situations as tracking unknown aircraft that had incorrectly filed their flight plans or wandered off course, in-flight emergencies, terrorist aircraft attacks, and large-scale bomber strike missions. Amalgam Warrior 98-1 was NORAD’s largest ever exercise and involved six B-1B bombers being deployed to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, to act as an enemy threat by infiltrating the aerial borders of North America. [Airman, 1996; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/14/2002; Arkin, 2005, pp. 254] Another Amalgam Warrior in fall 2000 similarly involved four B-1 bombers acting as enemy forces trying to invade Alaska, with NORAD going from tracking the unknown aircraft to sending up “alert” F-15s in response. [Eielson News Service, 10/27/2000; Associated Press, 10/29/2000] If either one (or both) of these exercises ending with the name “Warrior” is taking place on 9/11, this could be very significant, because the word “Warrior” indicates that the exercise is a Joint Chiefs of Staff-approved, Commander in Chief, NORAD-sponsored field training exercise. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 8/25/1989] Real planes would be pretending to be threats to the US and real fighters would be deployed to defend against them.Posted by jeff at 9:28 AM | TrackBack
Vice President Cheney and National Security Adviser Rice, in their bunker below the White House, are told by an aide that an airplane is headed toward Washington from 50 miles away. The plane is Flight 77. FAA deputy Monty Belger says, “Well We’re watching this target on the radar, but the transponder’s been turned off. So we have no identification.” They are given further notices when the plane is 30 miles away, then ten miles away, until it disappears from radar (time unknown, but the plane is said to be traveling about 500 mph and was 30 miles away at 9:30 a.m., so 50 miles would be about three minutes before that). [ABC News, 9/11/2002] Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta gives virtually the same account before the 9/11 Commission. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] However, the 9/11 Commission later claims the plane heading toward Washington is only discovered at 9:32 a.m. (see 9:32 a.m.). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
Tom Burnett calls his wife, Deena, using a cell phone and says, “I’m on United Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco. The plane has been hijacked. We are in the air. They’ve already knifed a guy. There is a bomb on board. Call the FBI.” Deena connects to emergency 9-1-1. [ABC News, 9/12/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 107; MSNBC, 7/30/2002; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Toronto Sun, 9/16/2001] Deena wonders if the call might have been before the cockpit was taken over, because he spoke quickly and quietly as if he was being watched. He also had a headset like phone operators use, so he could have made the call unnoticed. Note that original versions of this conversation appear to have been censored. The most recent account has the phone call ending with, “We are in the air. The plane has been hijacked. They already knifed a guy. One of them has a gun. They’re saying there is a bomb onboard. Please call the authorities.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 107] The major difference from earlier accounts, is the mention of a gun. The call wasn’t recorded, but Deena’s call to 9-1-1 immediately afterwards was, and on that call she states, “They just knifed a passenger and there are guns on the plane.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 108] Deena Burnett later says of her husband: “He told me one of the hijackers had a gun. He wouldn’t have made it up. Tom grew up around guns. He was an avid hunter and we have guns in our home. If he said there was a gun on board, there was.” [London Times, 8/11/2002] This is the first of over 30 phone calls by passengers inside the plane. [MSNBC, 7/30/2002] Passengers are told what happened at the WTC in least five of the phone calls. Five calls show an intent to revolt against the hijackers. [San Francisco Chronicle, 7/23/2004]Posted by jeff at 9:27 AM | TrackBack
Time magazine later reports that Jane Garvey, head of the FAA, “almost certainly after getting an okay from the White House, initiate[s] a national ground stop, which forbids takeoffs and requires planes in the air to get down as soon as is reasonable. The order, which has never been implemented since flying was invented in 1903, applie[s] to virtually every single kind of machine that can takeoff—civilian, military, or law enforcement.” Military and law enforcement flights are allowed to resume at 10:31 a.m. (see 10:31 a.m.) A limited number of military flights—the FAA will not reveal details—are allowed to fly during this ban. [Time, 9/14/2001] Garvey later calls it “a national ground stop ... that prevented any aircraft from taking off.” [US Congress, 9/21/2001] Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta later says he was the one to give the order: “As soon as I was aware of the nature and scale of the attack, I called from the White House to order the air traffic system to land all aircraft, immediately and without exception.” [US Congress. Senate. Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, 9/20/2001] According to Mineta, “At approximately 9:45 ... I gave the FAA the final order for all civil aircraft to land at the nearest airport as soon as possible.” [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] At the time, 4,452 planes are flying in the continental US. A later account states that Ben Sliney, the FAA’s National Operations Manager, makes the decision without consulting his superiors, like Jane Garvey, first. It would be remarkable if Sliney was the one to make the decision, because 9/11 is Sliney’s first day on the job as National Operations Manager, “the chess master of the air traffic system.” [USA Today, 8/13/2002] When he accepted the job a couple of months earlier, he had asked, “What is the limit of my authority?” The man who had promoted him replied, “Unlimited.” [USA Today, 8/13/2002] Yet another account, by Linda Schuessler, manager of tactical operations at the FAA Command Center where Sliney was located, says, “... it was done collaboratively ... All these decisions were corporate decisions. It wasn’t one person who said, ‘Yes, this has got to get done.’” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 12/17/2001] About 500 planes land in the next 20 minutes, and then much more urgent orders to land are issued at 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.)). [USA Today, 8/13/2002; Time, 9/14/2001; USA Today, 8/13/2002; US Congress, 9/21/2001; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; Newsday, 9/23/2001; Associated Press, 8/19/2002; Newsday, 9/10/2002]Posted by jeff at 9:26 AM | TrackBack
According to the 9/11 Commission, the FAA Command Center advises FAA headquarters that American 77 is lost in Indianapolis flight control’s airspace, that Indianapolis has no primary radar track, and is looking for the aircraft. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] The Command Center had learned this 16 minutes earlier at 9:09 a.m. (see 9:09 a.m.). American Airlines headquarters was notified of the same information before 9:00 a.m. (see (Before 9:00 a.m.)).
According to his own account, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, started a video teleconference from the White House’s Secure Video Conferencing Center, next to the Situation Room, at around 9:10 a.m.(see (9:10 a.m.)). However, the 9/11 Commission says that logs indicate this conference beginning 15 minutes later than this. Included in the conference are the FBI, the CIA, the FAA, the departments of State, Justice, and Defense, and the White House shelter. The FAA and CIA join at 9:40 a.m. The 9/11 Commission says, “It is not clear to us that the video teleconference was fully under way before 9:37, when the Pentagon was struck.” Furthermore, it states: “We do not know who from Defense participated, but we know that in the first hour none of the personnel involved in managing the crisis did. And none of the information conveyed in the White House video teleconference, at least in the first hour, was being passed to the NMCC [in the Pentagon].” Clarke’s video teleconference is not connected into the area of the NMCC from where the crisis is being managed. Consequently, “the director of the operations team-who was on the phone with NORAD-did not have the benefit of information being shared on the video teleconference.” And, “when the Secretary [of Defense Rumsfeld] and Vice Chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Myers] later participated in the White House video teleconference, they were necessarily absent from the NMCC and unable to provide guidance to the operations team.” Clarke, however, gives a specific recollection of Myers speaking over video at 9:28, which is seemingly at odds with the 9/11 Commission’s account (see 9:28 a.m.). One witness later recalls: “[It] was almost like there were parallel decision-making processes going on; one was a voice conference orchestrated by the NMCC ... and then there was the [White House video teleconference]. ... [I]n my mind they were competing venues for command and control and decision-making.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004]
Theodore (Ted) Olson, the Justice Department’s Solicitor General, calls the Justice Department’s control center to relate his wife Barbara’s call from Flight 77. Accounts vary whether the Justice Department already knows of the hijack or not. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Channel 4 News (London), 9/13/2001; New York Times, 9/15/2001] Olson merely says, “They just absorbed the information. And they promised to send someone down right away.” He assumes they then “pass the information on to the appropriate people.” [Hannity & Colmes, 9/14/2001]Posted by jeff at 9:25 AM | TrackBack
Shortly after 9/11, NORAD reported that the FAA notified them at this time that Flight 77 “may” have been hijacked and that it appears headed toward Washington. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; Associated Press, 8/19/2002; CNN, 9/17/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Guardian, 10/17/2001] Apparently, flight controllers at Dulles International Airport discover a plane heading at high speed toward Washington; an alert is sounded within moments that the plane appears to be headed toward the White House. [Washington Post, 11/3/2001] In 2003, the FAA supported this account, but claimed that they had informally notified NORAD earlier. “NORAD logs indicate that the FAA made formal notification about American Flight 77 at 9:24 a.m. (see (9:24 a.m.)), but information about the flight was conveyed continuously during the phone bridges before the formal notification.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 5/22/2003] Yet in 2004, the 9/11 Commission claims that both NORAD and the FAA are wrong. The 9/11 Commission explains that the notification NEADS received at 9:24 a.m. was the incorrect information that Flight 11 had not hit the WTC and was headed south for Washington, D.C. Thus, according to the 9/11 Commission, NORAD is never notified by the FAA about the hijacking of Flight 77, but accidentally learns about it at 9:34 a.m. (see 9:34 a.m.). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
The BBC later reports that at this time, Robert Marr, head of NEADS, gives the scramble order to the F-16 fighters based in Langley, Virginia: “North East sectors back on. We ought to be getting the weapons crews back in. Get the scramble order rolling. Scramble.” [BBC, 9/1/2002] The 9/11 Commission concurs that the scramble order is given now. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] NORAD also has agreed. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001] However, many media reports have placed it later. [CNN, 9/17/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/17/2001; Washington Post, 9/15/2001] A pilot codenamed Honey gives a slightly different account. He claims that at this time a battle stations alert sounds and two other pilots are given the order to climb into their F-16s and await further instructions. Then, Honey, the supervising pilot, talks to the two other pilots. Then, “five or ten minutes later,” a person from NORAD calls and Honey speaks to him at the nearby administrative office. He is told that all three of them are ordered to scramble. Honey goes to his living quarters, grabs his flight gear, puts it on, runs to his plane, and takes off. [Longman, 2002, pp. 64-65] Honey appears to be the codename for Captain Craig Borgstrom, because in another account, Borgstrom is given an alert and then talks to the two other pilots. [Associated Press, 8/19/2002] A different pilot account has the battle stations warning three minutes earlier, while the 9/11 Commission claims that it happens fifteen minutes earlier. Pilot Major Dean Eckmann recalls, “They go ‘active air scramble, vector zero one zero one, max speed.’ And then I push us over to the tower frequency and get our departure clearance and they launch us out right away. ... We can carry M9-Heat Seekers, Side Winders for the M7-Sparrow, plus we have an internal 20mm Vulcan Cannon, and we were pretty much armed with all that. We had a pretty quick response time. I believe it was four to five minutes we were airborne from that point.” The BBC reports, “Even while last minute pre-launch checks are being made, the controllers learn that a third plane—American Airlines flight 77 out of Washington—may have been hijacked.” Just before the fighters take off, the BBC says, “The pilots get a signal over the plane’s transponder—a code that indicates an emergency wartime situation.” [BBC, 9/1/2002]Posted by jeff at 9:24 AM | TrackBack
According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS has just been told that the hijacked Flight 11 is still in the air and heading toward Washington. The NEADS Battle Commander says, “Okay, uh, American Airlines is still airborne. Eleven, the first guy, he’s heading towards Washington. Okay? I think we need to scramble Langley right now. And I’m gonna take the fighters from Otis, try to chase this guy down if I can find him.” The NEADS Mission Crew Commander issues the order, “Okay ... scramble Langley. Head them towards the Washington area.” The Langley, Virginia, base gets the scramble order at 9:24 a.m. (see (9:24 a.m.)). NEADS keeps their fighters from the Otis base over New York City. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]Posted by jeff at 9:23 AM | TrackBack
The New York City Port Authority closes all bridges and tunnels in New York City. [MSNBC, 9/22/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001; Associated Press, 8/19/2002]
According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS is contacted by Boston flight control. A controller says, “I just had a report that American 11 is still in the air, and it’s on its way towards—heading towards Washington. ... That was another—it was evidently another aircraft that hit the tower. That’s the latest report we have. ... I’m going to try to confirm an ID for you, but I would assume he’s somewhere over, uh, either New Jersey or somewhere further south.” The NEADS official asks, “He—American 11 is a hijack? ... And he’s heading into Washington?” The Boston controller answers yes both times and adds, “This could be a third aircraft.” Somehow Boston is told by FAA headquarters that Flight 11 is still airborne, but the commission hasn’t been able to find where this mistaken information came from. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
According to the 9/11 Commission, the FAA Command Center advises the Dulles Airport terminal control facility in Washington to look for primary targets. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] By at least one account, Dulles notices Flight 77 a few minutes later.
Major Dean Eckmann, an F-16 fight pilot at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, recalls, “The scramble horn goes off and we get the yellow light, which is our battle stations. So at that point I go running out to the airplanes—to my assigned alert airplane—get suited up and I get into the cockpit ready to start.” [BBC, 9/1/2002] A few minutes before the battle stations order, Eckmann is told that a plane has hit the WTC. He assumes it’s some kind of accident. [Associated Press, 8/19/2002] However, another pilot, codenamed Honey (apparently Craig Borgstrom), claims the battle stations command happens at 9:24 a.m. (see (9:24 a.m.)); while the 9/11 Commission claims it happens at 9:09 a.m. (see 9:09 a.m.).
At 9:21 a.m., United Airlines dispatchers are told to advise their flights to secure cockpit doors. Flight dispatcher Ed Ballinger has apparently already started doing this on his own a couple of minutes earlier. Sending electronic messages one by one, at 9:24 he sends a message to Flight 93 reading: “Beware of cockpit intrusion. Two aircraft in New York hit Trade Center buildings.” Ballinger claims that he was specifically instructed by superiors not to tell pilots why they needed to land (apparently he added the detail about the WTC against orders). [New York Observer, 6/17/2004] Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl acknowledges the message two minutes later, replying, “Ed, confirm latest message please Jason.” This is the last vocal contact from the cockpit of Flight 93. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] Note that this formal warning is in addition to an informal one sent by Ballinger that reached Flight 93 around 9:00 a.m. In contrast to United Airlines, the 9/11 Commission finds no evidence that American Airlines sends such warnings to their pilots at any time during the hijackings.Posted by jeff at 9:21 AM | TrackBack
According to the 9/11 Commission, Indianapolis flight control learns that there are other hijacked aircraft by this time (presumably at least Flights 11 and 175). Millions of people have known about the crashes since CNN and all other media began broadcasting images from New York at 8:48 a.m., but Indianapolis is reportedly unaware until this time. The Indianapolis flight controllers begin to doubt their assumption that Flight 77 has crashed and consider that it might be hijacked. After a discussion between the Indianapolis manager and the FAA Command Center, the Command Center notifies some other FAA facilities that Flight 77 is lost. By 9:21 a.m., the Command Center, some FAA field facilities, and American Airlines join the search for Flight 77. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
The FAA sets up a hijacking teleconference with several agencies, including the Defense Department. This is almost one hour after the FAA’s Boston flight control notified other flight control centers about the first hijacking at 8:25 a.m. (see 8:25 a.m.). Yet even after this delay, FAA and Defense Department participants in the teleconference later claim it plays no role in coordinating the response to the hijackings. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
Transportation Secretary Mineta arrives at the White House bunker containing Vice President Cheney and others. In later testimony, he recalls that Cheney is already there when he arrives. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] This supports accounts of Cheney reaching the bunker not long after the second WTC crash, but the 9/11 Commission concludes Cheney doesn’t arrive until a few minutes before 10:00 a.m.. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
In a government report analyzing the effectiveness of rescue worker response to the Pentagon crash, it is mentioned that, “At about 9:20 a.m., the WFO [FBI Washington Field Office] Command Center [is] notified that American Airlines Flight 77 had been hijacked shortly after takeoff from Washington Dulles International Airport. [Special Agent in Charge Arthur] Eberhart dispatche[s] a team of 50 agents to investigate the Dulles hijacking and provide additional security to prevent another. He sen[ds] a second team to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport as a precautionary step. At the WFO Command Center, Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) Jim Rice [is] on the telephone with the Pentagon when Flight 77 crashe[s] into the building.” [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002] Yet according to the 9/11 Commission, NORAD is not told that Flight 77 had been hijacked at this time or any time before it crashes. However, the FAA has claimed they officially warned NORAD at 9:24 a.m. (see (9:24 a.m.)) and informally warned them even earlier (see (9:24 a.m.)).
A passenger on Flight 77, Barbara Olson, calls her husband, Theodore (Ted) Olson, who is Solicitor General at the Justice Department. [San Francisco Chronicle, 7/23/2004] Ted Olson is in his Justice Department office watching WTC news on television when his wife calls. A few days later, he says, “She told me that she had been herded to the back of the plane. She mentioned that they had used knives and box cutters to hijack the plane. She mentioned that the pilot had announced that the plane had been hijacked.” [CNN, 9/14/2001] He tells her that two planes have hit the WTC. [Daily Telegraph, 3/5/2002] She feels nobody is taking charge. [CNN, 9/12/2001] He doesn’t know if she was near the pilots, but at one point she asks, “What shall I tell the pilot? What can I tell the pilot to do?” [CNN, 9/14/2001] Then she is cut off without warning. [Newsweek, 9/29/2001] Ted Olson’s recollection of the call’s timing is extremely vague, saying it “must have been 9:15 [am.] or 9:30 [am.]. Someone would have to reconstruct the time for me.” [CNN, 9/14/2001] Other accounts place it around 9:25 a.m. [Miami Herald, 9/14/2001; New York Times, 9/15/2001; Washington Post, 9/21/2001] The call is said to have lasted about a minute. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001] By some accounts, his message that planes have hit the WTC comes later, in a second phone call. [Washington Post, 9/21/2001] In one account, Barbara Olson calls from inside a bathroom. [Evening Standard, 9/12/2001] In another account, she is near a pilot, and in yet another she is near two pilots. [Boston Globe, 11/23/2001] Ted Olson’s account of how Barbara Olson made her calls is also conflicting. Three days after 9/11, he says, “I found out later that she was having, for some reason, to call collect and was having trouble getting through. You know how it is to get through to a government institution when you’re calling collect.” He says he doesn’t know what kind of phone she used, but he has “assumed that it must have been on the airplane phone, and that she somehow didn’t have access to her credit cards. Otherwise, she would have used her cell phone and called me.” [Hannity & Colmes, 9/14/2001] Why Barbara Olson would have needed access to her credit cards to call him on her cell phone is not explained. However, in another interview on the same day, he says that she used a cell phone and that she may have been cut off “because the signals from cell phones coming from airplanes don’t work that well.” [CNN, 9/14/2001] Six months later, he claims she called collect “using the phone in the passengers’ seats.” [Daily Telegraph, 3/5/2002] However, it is not possible to call on seatback phones, collect or otherwise, without a credit card, which would render making a collect call moot. Many other details are conflicting, and Olson faults his memory and says that he “tends to mix the two [calls] up because of the emotion of the events.” [CNN, 9/14/2001] The couple liked to joke that they were at the heart of what Hillary Clinton famously called a “vast, right-wing conspiracy.” Ted Olson has been a controversial choice as Solicitor General since he argued on behalf of Bush before the Supreme Court in the 2000 presidential election controversy before being nominated for his current position.Posted by jeff at 9:20 AM | TrackBack
The FAA Command Center finally issues a nationwide alert to flight controllers to watch for planes disappearing from radar or making unauthorized course changes. [Washington Post, 11/3/2001]Posted by jeff at 9:18 AM | TrackBack
The FAA shuts down all New York City area airports. [CNN, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001] A flight controller at La Guardia airport reports the taxiways, runways, and airspace are completely clear at 9:37 a.m.m [New York Times, 12/30/2003]Posted by jeff at 9:17 AM | TrackBack
According to a NORAD timeline from a week after 9/11, NORAD claims that Flight 93 may have been hijacked at this time. The timeline inexplicably fails to say when the FAA told them about the hijack, the only flight for which they fail to provide this data. [CNN, 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001] However, there may be one explanation: There are media reports that “investigators had determined from the cockpit voice recorder from United Airlines Flight 93 ... that one of the four hijackers had been invited into the cockpit area before the flight took off from Newark, New Jersey.” Cockpit voice recordings indicate that the pilots believed their guest was a colleague “and was thereby extended the typical airline courtesy of allowing any pilot from any airline to join a flight by sitting in the jumpseat, the folded over extra seat located inside the cockpit.” [Fox News, 9/24/2001; Herald Sun (Melbourne), 9/25/2001] However, this account has not been confirmed. The 9/11 Commission asserts the hijacking begins around 9:28 a.m. (see (9:28 a.m.)) [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Note that during the 9/11 Commission hearings in May 2003, NORAD officials stated that the FAA informed NEADS at 9:16 a.m. that United Flight 93 was hijacked. According to a commission report in 2004, “this statement was incorrect.” No further explanation is offered for NORAD’s incorrect timeline. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
President Bush leaves the Sarasota classroom where he has been since about 9:03 a.m.(see 9:03 a.m.). The children finish their lessons and put away their readers. [Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/2001] Bush advises the children to stay in school and be good citizens. [Tampa Tribune, 9/1/2002; St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/2002] He also tells the children, “Thank you all so very much for showing me your reading skills.” [ABC News, 9/11/2002] One student also asks Bush a question, and Bush gives a quick response on his education policy. [New York Post, 9/12/2002] A reporter asks, “Mr. President, are you aware of the reports of the plane crash in New York? Is there any...” This question is interrupted by an aide who has come into the room, saying, “All right. Thank you. If everyone could please step outside.” Bush then says, “We’ll talk about it later.” [CBS News, 9/11/2002] Bush then tells school principal Gwen Tose-Rigell, who is in the room, about the terror attacks and why he has to leave. [Washington Times, 10/7/2002] He then goes into an empty classroom next door and meets with his staff there. [ABC News, 9/11/2002] Bush’s program with the children was supposed to start at 9:00 a.m. and end 20 minutes later. [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/16/2001] He leaves the classroom only a couple of minutes earlier than planned, if at all. The “goodbyes” and questions on the way out may have taken another minute or two.
President Bush works with his staff to prepare a speech he will deliver at 9:29 a.m. (see 9:29 a.m.) He intermittently watches the television coverage in the room. [Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/2002] He also speaks on the phone to advisers, first calling National Security Adviser Rice, then Vice President Cheney, then New York Governor George Pataki. [Daily Mail, 9/8/2002] Bush often turns to look at a television screen. He declares, “We’re at war.” [BBC, 9/1/2002] Bush later claims he makes no major decisions about the crisis until after boarding Air Force One at 9:55 a.m. (see (9:56 a.m.)).Posted by jeff at 9:16 AM | TrackBack
American Airlines orders no new take-offs in the US United Airlines follows suit five minutes later. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001]
Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke begins a crisis response video conference by asking FAA Administrator Jane Garvey what she knows. Garvey replies, “The two aircraft that went in [to the WTC] were American flight 11, a 767, and United 175, also a 767. Hijacked.” She says that she has put a hold on all takeoffs and landings in New York and Washington, then states, “We have reports of eleven aircraft off course or out of communications.” Clarke and Garvey discuss the feasibility of canceling all takeoffs nationally, and grounding all planes in the air. Garvey says it is possible, but will take time. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 4-5]Posted by jeff at 9:15 AM | TrackBack
A Port Authority police officer calls a flight controller at La Guardia Airport in New York City. The officer asks, “They are inquiring whether or not you can call Kennedy’s tower, because they can’t get through, and inquire whether or not they had any contact with these aircrafts.” The flight controller responds, “At this time, we do not think that anyone in the FAA had any contact with them.” [New York Times, 12/30/2003] “Kennedy” is a reference to John F. Kennedy Airport, another major airport in New York City. Port Authority police, who patrol both the WTC and the airports, seek information from the controllers about the hijackers. However, the controllers are unable to offer any news. [New York Times, 12/30/2003]Posted by jeff at 9:13 AM | TrackBack
Renee May, a flight attendant on Flight 77, uses a cell phone to call her mother in Las Vegas. She tells her mother that the flight has been hijacked, and that everyone has been asked to move to the back of the plane. She asks her mother to call American Airlines and let them know Flight 77 has been hijacked. Her mother (Nancy May) calls the airline. [Las Vegas Review-Journal, 9/13/2001; Las Vegas Review-Journal, 9/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; San Francisco Chronicle, 7/23/2004] American Airlines headquarters is already aware that Flight 77 is hijacked, but supposedly Indianapolis flight control covering the flight still is not told.Posted by jeff at 9:12 AM | TrackBack
According to released transcripts, a caller from the Port Authority police desk tells a La Guardia Airport control tower employee that, “they are considering [the crashes into the WTC] a criminal act.” The control tower employee replies, “We believe that, and we are holding all aircraft on the ground.” [Associated Press, 12/29/2003] La Guardia is one of two major New York City airports, and the Port Authority patrol both the WTC and the city’s airports.
According to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke and others, Vice President Cheney goes from his White House office to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), a bunker in the East Wing of the White House, at about this time. National Security Adviser Rice, after initiating a video conference with Richard Clarke in the West Wing, goes to the PEOC to be with Cheney. There is no video link between response centers in the East and West Wings, but a secure telephone line is used instead. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 3-4; ABC News, 9/14/2002; New York Times, 9/16/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] One eyewitness account, David Bohrer, a White House photographer, says Cheney leaves for the PEOC just after 9:00 a.m. [ABC News, 9/14/2002] However, there is a second account claiming that Cheney doesn’t leave until sometime after 9:30 a.m. In this account, Secret Service agents burst into Cheney’s White House office. They carry him under his arms—nearly lifting him off the ground—and propel him down the steps into the White House basement and through a long tunnel toward an underground bunker. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; BBC, 9/1/2002; Newsweek, 12/31/2001; New York Times, 10/16/2001; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] At about the same time, National Security Adviser Rice is told to go to the bunker as well. [ABC News, 9/11/2002] In addition to the eyewitness accounts of Clarke and Bohrer, ABC News claims that Cheney is in the bunker when he is told Flight 77 is 50 miles away from Washington at 9:27 a.m., suggesting that accounts of Cheney entering the bunker after 9:27 a.m. are likely incorrect.
Washington flight control notices a new eastbound plane entering its radar with no radio contact and no transponder identification. They do not realize it is Flight 77. They are aware of the hijackings and crashes of Flights 11 and 175, yet they apparently fail to notify anyone about the unidentified plane. [Newsday, 9/23/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Another report says they never notice it, and it is only noticed when it enters radar coverage of Washington’s Dulles International Airport at 9:24 a.m. (see (9:24 a.m.)). [Washington Post, 11/3/2001]
Around this time, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke reaches the Secure Video Conferencing Center next to the Situation Room in the West Wing of the White House. From there, he directs the response to the 9/11 attacks and stays in contact with other top officials through video links. On video are Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, CIA Director Tenet, FBI Director Mueller, FAA Administrator Jane Garvey, Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson (filling in for the traveling Attorney General Ashcroft), Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (filling in for the traveling Secretary of State Powell), and Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers (filling in for the traveling Chairman Henry Shelton). National Security Adviser Rice is with Clarke, but she lets Clarke run the crisis response, deferring to his longer experience on terrorism matters. Clarke is also told by an aide, “We’re on the line with NORAD, on an air threat conference call.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 2-4; Australian, 3/27/2004] The 9/11 Commission says of this conference in a staff report: “The White House Situation Room initiated a video teleconference, chaired by Richard Clarke. While important, it had no immediate effect on the emergency defense efforts.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] The 9/11 Commission’s Final Report covers the conference in greater depth and suggests begins about 15 minutes later than Clarke claims, at 9:25 a.m.(see 9:25 a.m.). Yet, as the Washington Post puts it, “everyone seems to agree” Clarke is the chief crisis manager on 9/11. [Washington Post, 3/28/2004] Even Clarke’s later opponent, National Security Adviser Rice, calls him 9/11’s “crisis management guy.” [United Press International, 4/10/2004] The conference is where the government’s emergency defense efforts are concentrated.Posted by jeff at 9:10 AM | TrackBack
The mission crew commander at NEADS is considering launching F-16s at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, towards New York to provide backup for the Otis fighters. However, the command area at NEADS overlooking the operations floor (the “Battle Cab”) orders “battle stations only at Langley.”  [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 460] Consequently, at this time, according to some reports, NORAD orders the Langley fighters on battle stations alert. Around this time, the FAA Command Center reports that 11 aircraft are either not in communication with FAA facilities, or flying unexpected routes. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 460] The 9/11 Commission also later accepts this version, claiming that the intent of the alert was not to protect Washington, but because there is a concern that the fighters currently hovering over New York City will run low on fuel, and need to be replaced, and also because of the general uncertainty of the situation in the sky. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 460] NEADS Commander Robert Marr says that after seeing Flight 175 hit the WTC (at 9:03 a.m.), “we’re thinking New York City is under attack,” so he directs the Langley pilots to battle stations. “The plan was to protect New York City.” [Filson, 2004, pp. 60] However, at least one pilot, Major Dean Eckmann, asserts that the battle stations alert does not occur until 9:21 a.m. Another pilot, code-named Honey (presumably Craig Borgstrom), asserts that this does not occur until 9:24 a.m. [BBC, 9/1/2002]
Indianapolis flight control reports the loss of contact with Flight 77 to the FAA regional center. They describe it as a possible crash. The center waits 16 minutes before passing the information to FAA headquarters at 9:25 a.m. (see 9:25 a.m.) [Washington Post, 11/3/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] However, American Airlines headquarters has been notified of the same information before 9:00 a.m. (see (Before 9:00 a.m.)).
According to the 9/11 Commission, “During the course of the morning, there were multiple erroneous reports of hijacked aircraft in the system.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Around 9:09 a.m., the FAA Command Center reports that 11 aircraft are either not communicating with FAA facilities or flying unexpected routes. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] NORAD’s Major General Larry Arnold claims that during the “four-hour ordeal” of the attacks, a total of 21 planes are identified as possible hijackings. [Filson, 2004, pp. 71; Code One Magazine, 1/2002] Robert Marr, head of NEADS on 9/11, says, “At one time I was told that across the nation there were some 29 different reports of hijackings.” [Newhouse News Service, 3/31/2005] It is later claimed that these false reports cause considerable chaos. Larry Arnold says that particularly during the time between the Pentagon being hit at 9:37 and Flight 93 going down at around 10:06, “a number of aircraft are being called possibly hijacked ... There was a lot of confusion, as you can imagine.” [Filson, 2004, pp. 55,122; Filson, 2004, pp. 55,122] He says, “We were receiving many reports of hijacked aircraft. When we received those calls, we might not know from where the aircraft had departed. We also didn’t know the location of the airplane.” [Code One Magazine, 1/2002] According to Robert Marr, “There were a number of false reports out there. What was valid? What was a guess? We just didn’t know.” [Filson, 2004, pp. 73]Posted by jeff at 9:09 AM | TrackBack
The two F-15s scrambled to find Flight 11 in New York are now ordered to circle in a 150-mile window of air space off the coast of Long Island. It is not clear whether they reach New York City before being directed over the ocean. Pilot Major Daniel Nash states, “Neither the civilian controller or the military controller knew what they wanted us to do.” [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002] At 9:09 a.m., the NEADS Mission Crew Commander learns of the second WTC crash, and decides to send the fighters to New York City. At 9:10 a.m., the senior director on the NEADS floor tells the weapons director, “I want those fighters closer in.” NEADS controllers are concerned about refueling, and are simultaneously working with a tanker to relocate close to the Otis fighters. Then, at 9:11 a.m., either the senior weapons director at NEADS or his technician instructs the Otis fighters to “remain at current position [holding pattern] until FAA requests assistance.” According to the 9/11 Commission, the record of this instruction is the only NEADS recording of the NEADS senior weapons director and weapons director technician responsible for controlling the Otis scramble that is available to them. This, they state, is because of a “technical issue.” The Commission says the Otis fighters remain in a holding pattern over the ocean until 9:13 a.m. while the FAA clears the airspace. The fighters then establish a Combat Air Patrol over the city at 9:25 a.m. What the fighters do between 9:13 a.m. and 9:25 a.m. is unclear. The distance between the two locations is unknown but presumably not large. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004] These fighters remain over New York City for the next four hours. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002]Posted by jeff at 9:08 AM | TrackBack
All flight control facilities nationwide are notified that the Flight 11 crash into the WTC was probably a hijacking. [US Congress, 9/21/2001; Newsday, 9/23/2001]
President Bush is in a Booker Elementary School second-grader classroom. His chief of staff, Andrew Card, enters the room and whispers into his ear, “A second plane hit the other tower, and America’s under attack.” [New York Times, 9/16/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/2002; Washington Times, 10/8/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002] Intelligence expert James Bamford describes Bush’s reaction: “Immediately [after Card speaks to Bush] an expression of befuddlement passe[s] across the president’s face. Then, having just been told that the country was under attack, the commander in chief appear[s] uninterested in further details. He never ask[s] if there had been any additional threats, where the attacks were coming from, how to best protect the country from further attacks. ... Instead, in the middle of a modern-day Pearl Harbor, he simply turn[s] back to the matter at hand: the day’s photo-op.” [Bamford, 2002, pp. 633] Bush begins listening to a story about a goat. But despite the pause and change in children’s exercises, as one newspaper put it, “For some reason, Secret Service agents [do] not bustle him away.” [Globe and Mail, 9/12/2001] Bush later says of the experience, “I am very aware of the cameras. I’m trying to absorb that knowledge. I have nobody to talk to. I’m sitting in the midst of a classroom with little kids, listening to a children’s story and I realize I’m the commander in chief and the country has just come under attack.” [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] Bush listens to the goat story for about ten more minutes. The reason given is that, “Without all the facts at hand, George Bush ha[s] no intention of upsetting the schoolchildren who had come to read for him.” [MSNBC, 10/29/2002] Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport is only three and a half miles away. In fact, the elementary school was chosen for the photo-op partly because of its closeness to the airport. [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/12/2002] Why the Secret Service does not move Bush away from his publicized location that morning remains unclear.
President Bush, having just been told of the second WTC crash, stays in the Booker Elementary School Classroom, and listens as 16 Booker Elementary School second-graders take turns reading “The Pet Goat.” It’s a simple story about a girl’s pet goat. [Agence France-Presse, 9/7/2002; Editor & Publisher, 7/2/2004] They are just about to begin reading when Bush is told of the attack. One account says that the classroom is then silent for about 30 seconds, maybe more. Bush then picks up the book and reads with the children “for eight or nine minutes.” [Tampa Tribune, 9/1/2002] In unison, the children read aloud, “The—Pet—Goat. A—girl—got—a—pet—goat. But—the—goat—did—some—things—that—made—the—girl’s—dad—mad.” And so on. Bush mostly listens, but does ask the children a few questions to encourage them. [Washington Times, 10/7/2002] At one point he says, “Really good readers, whew! ... These must be sixth-graders!” [Time, 9/12/2001] In the back of the room, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer catches Bush’s eye and holds up a pad of paper for him to read, with “DON’ T SAY ANYTHING YET” written on it in big block letters. [Washington Times, 10/7/2002] (Note that three articles claim that Bush leaves the classroom at 9:12 a.m.) [New York Times, 9/16/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Daily Mail, 9/8/2002] However, a videotape of the event lasts for “at least seven additional minutes” and ends before Bush leaves. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004] (The timing of this entry is a rough approximation based mostly on the Tampa Tribune estimate. Much of this video footage is shown in Michael Moore’s documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. [New York Times, 6/18/2004]Posted by jeff at 9:06 AM | TrackBack
Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is driving up to a gate outside the White House when an aide calls and tells him, “The other tower was just hit.” He responds, “Well, now we know who we’re dealing with. I want the highest level person in Washington from each agency on-screen now, especially the FAA.” He has already ordered this aide to set up a secure video conference, about five minutes earlier. A few minutes later, he finds Vice President Cheney and National Security Adviser Rice in Vice President Cheney’s White House office. Cheney tells Clarke, “It’s an al-Qaeda attack and they like simultaneous attacks. This may not be over.” Rice asks Clarke for recommendations, and he says, “We’re putting together a secure teleconference to manage the crisis.” He also recommends evacuating the White House (However, evacuation does not begin until 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.)), after a critical 40 minutes has passed). Rice notes the Secret Service wants them to go to the bomb shelter below the White House, and as Clarke leaves the other two, he sees Rice and Cheney gathering papers and preparing to evacuate. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 1-2; Australian, 3/27/2004]
According to the 9/11 Commission, Flight 77’s radar blip, missing for the last eight minutes, reappears on Indianapolis flight control’s primary radar scope. It is east of its last known position. It remains in air space managed by Indianapolis until 9:10 a.m., and then passes into Washington air space. Two managers and one flight controller continue to look west and southwest for the flight, but don’t look east. Managers don’t instruct other Indianapolis controllers to join the search for the flight. Neither they nor FAA headquarters issues an “all points bulletin” to surrounding centers to search for Flight 77. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Newsday claims that rumors circulate the plane might have exploded in midair. [Newsday, 9/23/2001] However, the 9/11 Commission’s conclusion that Indianapolis flight controllers did not look east is contradicted by an account indicating that American Airlines headquarters was told that Flight 77 had turned around.Posted by jeff at 9:05 AM | TrackBack
The second plane hitting the World Trade Center (see 9:03 a.m.) causes internal alarms to go off in WTC Building 7, located just a few hundred feet away from the twin towers. The alarms warn there is no water pressure and that the building’s emergency power generator has been activated. Office of Emergency Management (OEM) staff, based in Building 7, immediately request air security over New York. They are told that federal support is on its way, but the Federal Aviation Administration instructs them to use NYPD and Port Authority Police Department air assets to clear the airspace around the WTC. They are also warned that the Kennedy Airport control tower is reporting an unaccounted for plane heading towards New York. A report by the Mineta Transportation Institute will claim that this plane is Flight 93, which later crashes in Pennsylvania. [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 16] However, Flight 93 is still flying west at this time, and only reverses course and heads towards Washington at around 9:36 a.m. (see (9:36 a.m.)). According to at least one person at the scene, WTC 7 is evacuated around this time due to the reports of this incoming third plane (see After 9:03 a.m.). [Jems And FireRescue Supplement, 3/2002, pp. 68 ]Posted by jeff at 9:04 AM | TrackBack
At some point before the second WTC crash, the FAA Command Center sets up a teleconference with FAA facilities in the New York area. Also on the same floor of the same building is “the military cell” —the Air Traffic Services Cell—created by the FAA and the Defense Department to coordinate priority aircraft movement during warfare or emergencies if needed. “The Pentagon staffs it only three days per month for refresher training, but September 11 happen[s] to be one of those days.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 12/17/2001] Additionally, just weeks earlier the cell had been given a secure terminal and other hardware “greatly enhancing the movement of vital information.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/10/2002] The 9/11 Commission later determines that communication between the FAA and the military is extremely poor. It is unclear why this connection, which the 9/11 Commission fails to mention, does not help.
Flight 175 hits the South Tower of the World Trade Center (Tower Two). Seismic records pinpoint the time at six seconds before 9:03 a.m. (rounded to 9:03 a.m.). [CNN, 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; Associated Press, 8/19/2002; USA Today, 9/2/2002; New York Times, 9/11/2002; USA Today, 12/20/2001] Millions watch the crash live on television. The plane strikes the 78th through 84th floors in the 110-story building. Approximately 100 people are killed or injured in the initial impact; 600 people in the tower eventually die. All but four of those killed work above the crash point. The death toll is far lower than in the North Tower because about two-thirds of the South Tower’s occupants have evacuated the building in the 17 minutes since the first tower was struck. [USA Today, 12/20/2001] The combined death toll from the two towers is estimated at 2,819, not including the hijackers. [Associated Press, 8/19/2002]
According to Sarasota County Sheriff Bill Balkwill, just after President Bush enters a Booker Elementary classroom, a Marine responsible for carrying Bush’s phone walks up to Balkwill, who is standing in a nearby side room. While listening to someone talk to him in his earpiece, the Marine asks, “Can you get me to a television? We’re not sure what’s going on, but we need to see a television.” Three Secret Service agents, a SWAT member, the Marine, and Balkwill turn on the television in a nearby front office just as Flight 175 crashes into the WTC. “We’re out of here,” the Marine tells Balkwill. “Can you get everyone ready?” [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2002] However, Bush stays at the school for another half-hour. Who makes the decision to stay—and why—remains unclear, and the Secret Service won’t comment on the matter. Philip Melanson, author of a book on the Secret Service, comments, “With an unfolding terrorist attack, the procedure should have been to get the president to the closest secure location as quickly as possible, which clearly is not a school. you’re safer in that presidential limo, which is bombproof and blastproof and bulletproof. ... In the presidential limo, the communications system is almost duplicative of the White House—he can do almost anything from there but he can’t do much sitting in a school.” [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004]
Flight controllers in Newark, New Jersey, are on the phone with New York flight controllers and are asked to find Flight 175 from their windows. They see it and watch in horror as it drops the last five thousand feet and crashes into the WTC. Rick Tepper (who also saw the explosion of the first crash) recalls, “He was in a hard right bank, diving very steeply and very fast. And he—as he was coming up the Hudson River, he—he made another hard left turn and—just heading for downtown Manhattan. ... You could see that he was trying to line himself up on the tower. Just before he hit the tower, he almost leveled it out and just—just hit the building.” Newark immediately calls the Air Traffic Control System Command Center in Washington and tells them they will not land any more airplanes in Newark, in an effort to keep aircraft away from New York City. It is the first step in shutting down the national airspace system. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002]
The minute Flight 175 hits the South Tower, pilot Major Daniel Nash says that clear visibility allows him to see smoke pour out of Manhattan, even though NORAD says he is 71 miles away. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002] The other Otis pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, recalls, “We’re 60 miles out, and I could see the smoke from the towers.” They call NORAD right then for an update, and Duffy relates, “At that point, they said the second aircraft just hit the World Trade Center. That was news to me. I thought we were still chasing American [Airlines Flight] 11.” [ABC News, 9/14/2002] In another account Duffy again relates, “It was right about then when they said the second aircraft had just hit the World Trade Center, which was quite a shock to both [Nash] and I, because we both thought there was only one aircraft out there. We were probably 70 miles or so out when the second one hit. So, we were just a matter of minutes away.” [BBC, 9/1/2002] He asks for clarification of their mission, but the request is met with “considerable confusion.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] Bob Varcadapane, a Newark, New Jersey, flight controller who sees the Flight 175 crash, claims, “I remember the two F-15s. They were there moments after the impact. And I was just—said to myself, ‘If only they could have gotten there a couple minutes earlier.’ They just missed it.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] However, the 9/11 Commission appears to believe that the pilots never get near New York City at this time. According to the commission’s account, from 8:46 a.m. until 8:52 a.m., NORAD personnel are unable to find Flight 11. Shortly after 8:50 a.m., and just before the fighters take off, NORAD is given word that a plane has hit the WTC (see (8:50 a.m.)). Lacking a clear target, the fighters take off toward a military controlled airspace over the ocean, off the coast of Long Island. A map released by the 9/11 Commission indicates that at 9:03 the fighters are about 100 miles away and heading southwest instead of west to New York City. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] The 9/11 Commission says that, at 9:10 a.m., Boston flight control tells the Otis fighters about the second WTC tower being struck. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 459]
The 9/11 Commission later concludes that New York flight control tells NEADS that Flight 175 has been hijacked at this time. The commission refers to this as “the first indication that the NORAD air defenders had of the second hijacked aircraft.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Colonel Robert Marr, head of NEADS, claims that he first learns a flight other than Flight 11 has been hijacked when he sees Flight 175 crash into the WTC on television. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] NEADS Mission Crew Commander Dawne Deskins claims that when she sees Flight 175 hitting the South Tower on television, “we didn’t even know there was a second hijack.” [Filson, 2004, pp. 59] However, these accounts contradict NORAD’s conclusion reached shortly after 9/11 that it was first notified about Flight 175 at 8:43 a.m. (see 8:43 a.m.). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001] Additionally, as Flight 175 crashes into the WTC, Canadian Captain Mike Jellinek (who is overseeing the Command Center in NORAD’s Colorado headquarters) is on the phone with NEADS. He sees the crash live on television and asks NEADS, “Was that the hijacked aircraft you were dealing with?” The reply is yes. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001] If the commission’s account is correct, several questions remain unanswered. Flight 175 lost radio contact at 8:42 a.m. (see 8:41 a.m.) and changed transponder signals at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m.); a flight controller declared it possibly hijacked sometime between 8:46 a.m. and 8:53 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m.); and a flight control manager called it hijacked at 8:55 a.m.(see (8:55 a.m.)) The commission has not explained why New York flight control would wait 10-17 minutes before warning NORAD that Flight 175 is possibly hijacked. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] It also would not explain why United Airlines headquarters would fail to notify NORAD National Guard after learning that the plane has been hijacked at about 8:50 a.m. (see (8:50 a.m.))
A fighter pilot flying from Otis Air Base toward New York City later notes that it wouldn’t have mattered if he caught up with Flight 175, because only President Bush could order a shootdown, and Bush is at a public event at the time. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002] “Only the president has the authority to order a civilian aircraft shot down,” according to a 1999 CNN report. [CNN, 10/26/1999] In fact, by 9/11, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld also has the authority to order a shootdown, but he is not responding to the crisis at this time. [New York Observer, 6/17/2004] Furthermore, NORAD Commander Larry Arnold later states that on 9/11, “I have the authority in case of an emergency to declare a target hostile and shoot it down under an emergency condition.” [Filson, 2004, pp. 75]
A manager at Boston flight control reports to the FAA’s New England regional headquarters the “We have some planes” comment made by a Flight 11 hijacker at 8:24 a.m. (see (8:24 a.m.)). The Boston controller says, “I’m gonna reconfirm with, with downstairs, but the, as far as the tape ... seemed to think the guy said that ‘we have planes.’ Now, I don’t know if it was because it was the accent, or if there’s more than one [hijacked plane], but I’m gonna, I’m gonna reconfirm that for you, and I’ll get back to you real quick. Okay?” Asked, “They have what?,” this person clarifies, “Planes, as in plural. ... It sounds like, We’re talking to New York, that there’s another one aimed at the World Trade Center. ... A second one just hit the Trade Center.” The person at New England headquarters replies, “Okay. Yeah, we gotta get—we gotta alert the military real quick on this.” At 9:05 a.m., Boston confirms for this headquarters and the FAA Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, that a hijacker said, “we have planes” (forgetting the “some”). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] It appears Boston replays the recording of the hijacker saying this from about 30 minutes earlier. Other people, such as American Airlines leader Gerard Arpey at that airline’s headquarters, apparently learned about this comment before the Flight 11 crash at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m.)
President Bush enters Sandra Kay Daniels’ second-grade class for a photo-op to promote Bush’s education policies. [Daily Mail, 9/8/2002] Numerous reporters who travel with the president, as well as members of the local media, watch from the back of the room. [Associated Press, 8/19/2002] Altogether, there are about 150 people in the room, 16 of whom are children in the class. He is introduced to the children and poses for a number of pictures. The teacher then leads the students through some reading exercises (video footage shows this lasts about three minutes). [Salon, 9/12/2001] Bush later claims that during this lesson, he is thinking what he will say about the WTC crash. “I was concentrating on the program at this point, thinking about what I was going to say. Obviously, I felt it was an accident. I was concerned about it, but there were no alarm bells.” [Washington Times, 10/7/2002] The children are just getting their books from under their seats to read a story together when Chief of Staff Andrew Card comes in to tell Bush of the second WTC crash. [Washington Times, 10/8/2002; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] According to the Washington Times, Card comes in at the conclusion of the first half of the planned lesson, and “[seizes] a pause in the reading drill to walk up to Mr. Bush’s seat.” [Washington Times, 10/7/2002; Washington Times, 10/8/2002]
In a series of stages, flight control managers ban aircraft from flying near the cities targeted by the hijackers. All takeoffs and landings in New York City are halted within a minute of the Flight 175 crash, without asking for permission from Washington. Boston and Newark flight control centers follow suit in the next few minutes. Around 9:08 a.m., departures nationwide heading to or through New York and Boston airspace are canceled. [Associated Press, 8/12/2002; Newsday, 9/10/2002; Associated Press, 8/19/2002; USA Today, 8/13/2002] Mike McCormick, head of a Long Island, New York, air traffic control center, makes the decision without consulting any superiors. [ABC News, 8/12/2002] In addition, “a few minutes” after 9:03 a.m., all takeoffs from Washington are stopped. [USA Today, 8/12/2002; USA Today, 8/13/2002]
After the second WTC tower is hit, NBC News correspondent Jim Miklaszewski is heading down a hall inside the Pentagon when he runs into a Defense Department official. The official says he doesn’t yet know anything specific about the attack. But, he says, it is so coordinated that “[i]f I were you I would stay off the E-ring [the outermost corridor of the Pentagon] today, because we’re next.” According to Miklaszewski, the official had no specific information, “that was just his gut instinct.” [Gilbert et al., 2002, pp. 43]
Soon after the second WTC tower is hit, a senior Secret Service agent who is responsible for coordinating the president’s movements establishes an open line with his counterpart at the FAA. This FAA official tells him of further planes, on top of the two that have already crashed, that are unaccounted for and possibly hijacked. Although the Secret Service agent asks someone to pass this information on to the Secret Service’s operations center, the 9/11 Commission says that either this does not happen or else the message is passed on but not disseminated. Therefore the information fails to reach agents assigned to the vice president and, consequently, “the Vice President was not evacuated at that time.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 464] However, some other accounts contradict this, saying the vice president is indeed evacuated from his White House office by Secret Service agents at around this time. [New York Times, 9/16/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; ABC News, 9/14/2002]
New York flight controllers are told by the FAA to watch for airplanes whose speed indicates that they are jets, but which either are not responding to commands or have disabled their transponders. “Controllers in Washington [get] a similar briefing, which [help] them pick out hijacked planes more quickly.” [New York Times, 9/13/2001] Other centers are apparently not told the same, and Indianapolis flight control apparently remains unaware of any crisis. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
National Security Adviser Rice has just started her daily national security staff meeting at 9:00 a.m. Shortly after 9:03 a.m., an aide hands her a note saying a second plane has hit the WTC. Rice later claims that she thinks, “This is a terrorist attack,” and then leaves the meeting, quickly walking to the White House Situation Room. [Newsweek, 12/31/2001] However, according to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, Rice leaves the meeting for Vice President Cheney’s office. Clarke meets her there a few minutes later and only then does she go down to the basement bunker. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 1-2]
“Within minutes of the second impact,” Boston flight control’s Operations Manager instructs all flight controllers in his center to inform all aircraft in the New England region to monitor the events unfolding in New York and to advise aircraft to heighten cockpit security. Boston asks the FAA Command Center to issue a similar cockpit security alert to all aircraft nationwide. The 9/11 Commission concludes, “We have found no evidence to suggest that Command Center managers instructed any centers to issue a cockpit security alert.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] United Airlines flight dispatchers give their pilots a cockpit warning about 20 minutes later.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz has recently left a meeting with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld around 8:46 a.m (see (Before 8:46 a.m.)). Wolfowitz later recalls, “We were having a meeting in my office. Someone said a plane had hit the World Trade Center. Then we turned on the television and we started seeing the shots of the second plane hitting, and this is the way I remember it. It’s a little fuzzy. ... There didn’t seem to be much to do about it immediately and we went on with whatever the meeting was.” [Vanity Fair, 5/9/2005] Rumsfeld recalls, “I was in my office with a CIA briefer and I was told that a second plane had hit the other tower.” [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004] Deputy Defense Secretary Torie Clarke recalls, “A couple of us had gone into ... Secretary Rumsfeld’s office, to alert him to that, tell him that the crisis management process was starting up. He wanted to make a few phone calls. So a few of us headed across the hallway to an area called the National Military Command Center [around 200 feet away]. He stayed in his office.” [WBZ Radio 1030 (Boston), 9/15/2001]
Shortly after the second WTC crash, calls from fighter units begin “pouring into NORAD and sector operations centers, asking, ‘What can we do to help?’” In Syracuse, New York, an Air National Guard commander tells NEADS commander Robert Marr, “Give me ten [minutes] and I can give you hot guns. Give me 30 [minutes] and I’ll have heat-seeker [missiles]. Give me an hour and I can give you slammers [Amraams].” Marr replies, “I want it all.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] Reportedly, Marr says, “Get to the phones. Call every Air National Guard unit in the land. Prepare to put jets in the air. The nation is under attack.” [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002] Canadian Major General Eric Findley, based in Colorado and in charge of NORAD that day, reportedly has his staff immediately order as many fighters in the air as possible. [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/2002] However, according to another account, NORAD does not accept the offers until about an hour later: “By 10:01 a.m., the Command Center began calling several bases across the country for help.” [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001] The 9/11 Commission later concludes that a command for other bases to prepare fighters to scramble is not given until 9:49 a.m. In fact, it appears the first fighters from other bases to take off are those from Syracuse at 10:42 a.m. (see 10:42 a.m.) This is over an hour and a half after Syracuse’s initial offer to help, and not long after a general ban on all flights, including military ones, is lifted at 10:31 a.m. (see 10:31 a.m.) These are apparently the fourth set of fighters scrambled from the ground. Previously, three fighters from Langley, two from Otis, and two from Toledo, Ohio, were scrambled at 10:01 a.m. (see 10:01 a.m.), but did not launch until fifteen minutes later. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001]
A few minutes after 9:03 a.m., a squadron pilot at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland (just ten miles from Washington), hears that two planes have crashed into the WTC. He calls a friend in the Secret Service to see what’s going on. The Secret Service calls back, and asks whether Andrews can scramble fighters. According to weapons officer, Major Dan Caine, who takes this call, the Secret Service agent then tells them “to stand by and that somebody else [will] call.” Apparently anticipating the need, one commander has already started preparing weapons for the fighters. However, the weapons are located in a bunker on the other side of The Base, and the process takes time. The fighters don’t take off for about another hour and a half (see (10:42 a.m.)). Apparently anticipating the need to launch fighters, one commander has already started preparing weapons for the fighters. However, the weapons are located in a bunker on the other side of the base, and the process takes time. Senior Master Sergeant David Bowman, 113th Wing munitions supervisor, says, “We were doing it as fast as we could, because for all we knew the terrorists were getting ready to hit us.” It normally takes three hours to get weapons from the storage sheds and load them onto the fighters. However, on this occasion, it is later claimed, it only takes 45 minutes. The fighters don’t take off though for about another hour and a half (10:42 a.m.). Whilst the crew at Andrews are unloading missiles onto a flatbed trailer, Dan Caine answers another phone call from someone in the White House, requesting armed fighters over Washington. Caine says: “I could hear plain as day the vice president talking in the background. That’s basically where we got the execute order. It was ‘VFR (Visual Flight Rules) direct.’” Meanwhile, there are also three unarmed F-16 fighters assigned to the Andrews base on a training mission 207 miles to the south in North Carolina. These are not recalled until much later, and don’t reach Washington until 10:45 a.m. [Filson, 2004, pp. 78,84; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002] NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold has said, “We [didn’t] have any aircraft on alert at Andrews.” [MSNBC, 9/23/2001] However, prior to 9/11, the District of Columbia Air National Guard [DCANG] based at Andrews had a publicly stated mission “to provide combat units in the highest possible state of readiness.” Prior to 9/11, the mission statement was posted on the D.C. National Guard’s public website. Shortly after 9/11, this mission statement is removed and replaced by a DCANG “vision” to “provide peacetime command and control and administrative mission oversight to support customers, DCANG units, and NGB in achieving the highest levels of readiness.” [District of Columbia Air National Guard, n.d.]
According to a soldier at the scene, WTC Building 7 is evacuated before the second tower is hit. [Fort Detrick Standard, 10/18/2001] However, a firefighter who arrived there after the second tower is hit is told that the building is being evacuated due to reports of a third plane, indicating that two planes have already crashed. [Jems And FireRescue Supplement, 3/2002 ]
NORAD Commander Larry Arnold later says that after Flight 175 hits the South Tower, “I thought it might be prudent to pull out of the exercise [presumably Vigilant Guardian (see (6:30 a.m.))], which we did.” He says: “As we pulled out of the exercise we were getting calls about United Flight 93 and we were worried about that.” Some early accounts say the military receives notification of the possible hijacking of Flight 93 at around 9:16 a.m. [CNN, 9/17/2001; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] However, the 9/11 Commission later claims that the military first receives a call about Flight 93 at 10:07 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Larry Arnold adds, “Then we had another call from Boston Center about a possible hijacking, but that turned out to be the airplane that had already hit the South Tower but we didn’t know that at the time.” [Filson, 2004, pp. 59]
Jim Pierce, a cousin of President Bush, sees the south tower of the WTC hit from the nearby Millennium Hotel. Pierce is the managing director of the AON Corporation, an insurance company with offices in WTC 2. He had arranged a business conference, to be held on the tower’s 105th floor this morning. However, the previous night, the conference was moved to the Millennium Hotel because the group was too large for the original room. According to a book by former First Lady Barbara Bush, Pierce later learns that 12 people are in the room where the meeting was originally planned to take place when the south tower is hit, and only one of them survives. [Ananova, 9/18/2001; Boston Globe, 2001; Newsweek, 10/27/2003] Another AON Corporation meeting is taking place on the 105th floor of the south tower, run by business executive Mary Wieman. Of about 50 participants in attendance, only six are able to escape. [New York Times, 12/17/2001; USA Today, 9/2/2002]Posted by jeff at 9:03 AM | TrackBack
President Bush later makes the following statement: “And I was sitting outside the classroom waiting to go in, and I saw an airplane hit the tower—the television was obviously on, and I use to fly myself, and I said, ‘There’s one terrible pilot.’ And I said, ‘It must have been a horrible accident.’ But I was whisked off there—I didn’t have much time to think about it.” [US President, 12/10/2001] He has repeated the story on other occasions. [US President, 1/14/2002; CBS News, 9/11/2002] Notably, the first WTC Crash was not shown live on television. Further, Bush does not have access to a television until 15 or so minutes later. [Washington Times, 10/7/2002] A Boston Herald article later notes, “Think about that. Bush’s remark implies he saw the first plane hit the tower. But we all know that video of the first plane hitting did not surface until the next day. Could Bush have meant he saw the second plane hit—which many Americans witnessed? No, because he said that he was in the classroom when Andrew Card whispered in his ear that a second plane hit.” The article, noting that Bush has repeated this story more than once, asks, “How could the commander in chief have seen the plane fly into the first building—as it happened?” [Boston Herald, 10/22/2002] A Bush spokesman later calls Bush’s repeated comments “just a mistaken recollection.” [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004]
An unidentified woman in the La Guardia control tower speaks to a Port Authority police officer. La Guardia is one of two major New York City airports. The Port Authority patrols both the WTC and the city’s airports. The woman asks the officer what has happened at the WTC, and the officer replies that he has learned from the news that a plane crashed into it. [New York Times, 12/30/2003] Around the same time, one flight controller in the tower says to another, “But you don’t know anything.” The other responds, “We don’t know. We’re looking at it on Channel 5 right now.” [Bergen Record, 1/4/2004] “Nothing on the [later released transcripts] shows that the La Guardia controllers knew that the planes flying into their airspace had been seized by terrorists, or that military aircraft were screaming in pursuit over the Hudson River.” Port Authority officials appear to be equally oblivious. [New York Times, 12/30/2003]
New York flight control contacts New York terminal approach control and asks for help in locating Flight 175. Different flight controllers scan different altitudes, and terminal approach controllers only deal with low-flying planes. These low altitude flight controllers have remained uninformed about the fate of Flight 11 until about now: “We had 90 to 120 seconds; it wasn’t any 18 minutes,” says one controller, referring to the actual elapsed time between the two crashes. Another such controller says of both planes: “They dove into the airspace. By the time anybody saw anything, it was over.” [New York Times, 9/13/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
A manager from New York flight control tells the FAA Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, “We have several situations going on here. It’s escalating big, big time. We need to get the military involved with us. ... We’re, We’re involved with something else, we have other aircraft that may have a similar situation going on here...” The 9/11 Commission calls this the first notification to FAA leadership of the second hijack, but NORAD is not yet notified. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] If this is true, then it means United Airlines headquarters has not yet contacted the FAA, despite knowing Flight 175 has been hijacked since about 8:50 a.m.
Flight 175 is an unmarked blip to flight controllers in New York City. One controller stands up in horror. “No, he’s not going to land. He’s going in!” Another controller shouts, “Oh, my God! He’s headed for the city. ... Oh, my God! He’s headed for Manhattan!” [Washington Post, 9/21/2001] Managers at American Airlines’ headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, also closely watch Flight 175 head into New York City on radar. [USA Today, 8/12/2002] Yet, according to the 9/11 Commission, no one has notified NORAD about the flight.Posted by jeff at 9:01 AM | TrackBack
Shortly before 9:00 a.m., fire department commanders at WTC Tower One advise Port Authority police and building personnel to evacuate Tower Two. However, there is no evidence that this advice is communicated effectively to the building personnel in Tower Two. When an announcement is made to evacuate at 9:02 a.m. (one minute before the building is hit), it does not direct everyone to evacuate, and advises only that everyone may wish to start an orderly evacuation if warranted by conditions on their floor. [9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004]
American Airlines headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, learns that Flight 77 is not responding to radio calls, is not emitting a transponder signal, and flight control has lost its location since 8:56 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] According to the Wall Street Journal, a call from the FAA roughly says that Flight 77 has “turned off its transponder and turned around. Controllers [have] lost radio communications with the plane. Without hearing from anyone on the plane, American [doesn’t] know its location.” American Airlines executive Gerard Arpey gives an order to stop all American flight take-offs in the Northeast. By 8:59 a.m., American Airlines begins attempts to contact the flight using ACARS (a digital communications system used primarily for aircraft-to-airline messages). Around this time, Within minutes, American gets word that United also has lost contact with a missing airliner (presumably Flight 175). When reports of the second WTC come through after 9:03 a.m., one manager recalls mistakenly shouting, “How did 77 get to New York and we didn’t know it?” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 454]
Flight 175 passenger Brian Sweeney calls his parents a second time, and says to his father, “It’s getting bad, Dad—A stewardess was stabbed—They seem to have knives and Mace—They said they have a bomb—It’s getting very bad on the plane—Passengers are throwing up and getting sick—The plane is making jerky movements—I don’t think the pilot is flying the plane—I think we are going down—I think they intend to go to Chicago or someplace and fly into a building—don’t worry, Dad—If it happens, it’ll be very fast—My God, my God.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 7/23/2004]
The Pentagon moves its alert status up one notch from normal to Alpha. After Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon, it increases the alert to Delta, the highest level. The alert level will be reduced to Charlie on September 12th. [MSNBC, 9/11/2001; Agence France-Presse, 9/12/2001]
National Security Adviser Rice later claims she is in her White House office when she hears about the first WTC crash just before 9:00 a.m. She recalls, “I thought to myself, what an odd accident.” She reportedly speaks to President Bush around 9:00 a.m. on the telephone, and tells him that a twin-engine plane has struck the WTC tower. She says, “That’s all we know right now, Mr. President.” [Newsweek, 12/31/2001] Rice later claims, “He said, what a terrible, it sounds like a terrible accident. Keep me informed.” [ABC News, 9/11/2002] Despite her title of National Security Adviser, she is apparently unaware that NORAD has scrambled planes after learning of two hijackings in progress at least 15 minutes ago. She goes ahead with her usual national security staff meeting. [Newsweek, 12/31/2001] Author James Bamford comments, “Neither Rice nor Bush was aware that the United States had gone to ‘battle stations’ alert and had scrambled fighter jets into the air to intercept and possibly take hostile action against multiple hijacked airliners, something that was then known by hundreds of others within NORAD, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Pentagon.” [Bamford, 2004, pp. 17] Congressman Dan Miller, who is waiting in a receiving line to meet Bush, says he waits a few minutes for the call to end. Bush appears unbothered when he greets Miller after the call. Miller recalls, “It was nothing different from the normal, brief greeting with the president.” [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004]
Sarasota elementary school principal Gwen Tose-Rigell is summoned to a room to talk with President Bush. She recalls, “He said a commercial plane has hit the World Trade Center, and we’re going to go ahead and go on, we’re going on to do the reading thing anyway.” [Associated Press, 8/19/2002] One local reporter notes that at this point, “He could and arguably should have left Emma E. Booker Elementary School immediately, gotten onto Air Force One and left Sarasota without a moment’s delay.” [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/12/2001]
A public announcement is broadcast inside the WTC Tower Two (the South Tower, which has yet to be hit), saying that the building is secure and people can return to their offices. [New York Times, 9/11/2002] Such announcements continue until a few minutes before the building is hit, and “may [lead] to the deaths of hundreds of people.” No one knows exactly what is said (though many later recall the phrase “the building is secure”), or who gives the authority to say it. [USA Today, 9/2/2002] Additionally, security agents inside the building repeat similar messages to individuals in the tower. For instance, one survivor recounts hearing, “Our building is secure. You can go back to your floor. If you’re a little winded, you can get a drink of water or coffee in the cafeteria.” [New York Times, 9/13/2001] Another survivor recalls an escaping crowd actually running over a man with a bullhorn encouraging them to return to their desks. [Newsday, 9/12/2001] Businessman Steve Miller recalls hearing a voice say over the building’s loudspeaker something similar to: “There’s a fire in Tower One. Tower Two in unaffected. If you want to leave, you can leave. If you want to return to your office, it’s okay.” [Washington Post, 9/16/2001] British visitor Mike Shillaker recalls, “As we got to around floor 50, a message came over the [loudspeaker], telling us that there was an isolated fire in Tower One, and we did not need to evacuate Tower Two. Again, thank god we continued down, others didn’t.” [BBC, 9/1/2002] Despite messages to the contrary, about two-thirds of the tower’s occupants evacuate during the 17 minutes between the attacks. [USA Today, 12/20/2001]
Deep below Cheyenne Mountain at NORAD headquarters in Colorado, NORAD is at “full battle staff” levels for a major annual exercise, Operation Northern Vigilance, which tests every facet of the organization. This military exercise, which began two days earlier, deploys fighters to Alaska and Northern Canada to monitor a Russian air force exercise in the Russian arctic. Canadian Captain Mike Jellinek is one hour into his shift, overseeing the Colorado Command Center, when he learns the FAA believes there is a hijacking in progress and is asking NORAD for support. Northern Vigilance is called off. As the Toronto Star reports, “Any simulated information, what’s known as an ‘inject,’ is purged from the [radar] screens.” [NORAD, 9/9/2001; Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001] Therefore, many minutes into the real 9/11 attack, there may have been false radar blips causing confusion. Additional details, such as whose radar screens had false blips, or from when to when, are unknown. According to Jellinek, the Northern Vigilance is canceled just a minute or two before the second WTC crash at 9:03 a.m. The Russians, having seen the second WTC crash on television, quickly communicate that they are canceling their Russian arctic exercise. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001; National Post, 10/19/2002]
Vice President Cheney later says he is in his White House office watching the television images of the first WTC crash wreckage. According to his recollection, he was puzzled. “I was sitting there thinking about it. It was a clear day, there was no weather problem—how in hell could a plane hit the World Trade Center?” His staff members elsewhere in the White House are apparently unaware of the emerging crisis. For instance, his chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, sees the television images briefly, but turns off the television so as not to be distracted from a conversation on another topic. [Newsweek, 12/31/2001]
Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is at a conference three blocks from the White House when a telephone call alerts him to the crisis. He runs to his car. He responds, “Activate the CSG on secure video. I’ll be there in less than five.” The CSG is the Counterterrorism and Security Group, comprising the leaders of the government’s counterterrorism and security agencies. Clarke hurriedly drives to the White House. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 1]
According to the 9/11 Commission, shortly after 9:00 a.m., Indianapolis flight control begins to notify other government agencies that American 77 is missing and has possibly crashed. For instance, at 9:08 a.m., Indianapolis contacts Air Force Search and Rescue at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, and tells them to look out for a downed aircraft. They also contact the West Virginia State Police, and ask whether they have any reports of a downed aircraft. However, they apparently do not notify the FAA or NORAD. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
Ed Ballinger, a flight dispatcher for United Airlines, is continuing to send messages one by one to the 16 transcontinental flights he is covering, warning them of the first WTC crash. He is handling both Flights 175 and 93, and 175 has failed to respond to his message. A few minutes after 9:00, he sends a message to Flight 93. The exact content of the message is not known, but apparently it doesn’t advise the pilots to bar the cockpit door. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; New York Observer, 6/17/2004] Another flight controller at the Cleveland tower in charge of Flight 93 at the time later recalls, “I saw controllers step up to the plate and start warning flight crews. This was totally by the seat of their pants. It’s not because they’re directed to by anybody. It’s just, OK, everybody’s on alert right now.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] Ballinger later says, “One of the things that upset me was that [the FAA and United Airlines headquarters] knew, 45 minutes before [Flight 93 crashed], that American Airlines had a problem. I put the story together myself [from news accounts]. Perhaps if I had the information sooner, I might have gotten the message to [Flight] 93 to bar the door.” [New York Observer, 6/17/2004] Ballinger will send Flight 93 a second, more detailed warning that does warn to bar the door. It will reach Flight 93 at 9:24 a.m., shortly before the flight is hijacked.
Shortly after 9:00 a.m., United Airlines Flight 23 receives a warning message from flight dispatcher Ed Ballinger. Flight 23 is still on a Newark, New Jersey, runway, about to take off for Los Angeles. Apparently in response to Ballinger’s message, the crew tells the passengers there has been a mechanical problem and returns to the departure gate. A number of Middle Eastern men (one account says three, others say six) argue with the flight crew and refuse to get off the plane. Security is called, but they flee before it arrives. [CBS News, 9/14/2001; Chicago Daily Herald, 4/14/2004] Later, authorities check their luggage and find copies of the Koran and al-Qaeda instruction sheets. Ballinger suspects they got away. “When all we have is a photo from a fake ID, the chances of finding [someone] in Afghanistan or Pakistan are rather slim.” [Chicago Daily Herald, 4/14/2004] A NORAD deputy commander later says, “From our perception, we think our reaction on that day was sufficiently quick that we may well have precluded at least one other hijacking. We may not have. We don’t know for sure.” [Globe and Mail, 6/13/2002]
Staff at Fort Monmouth, an Army base in New Jersey located about 50 miles south of New York City, is preparing to hold a “disaster drill” to test emergency response capabilities to a fake chemical attack. The exercise, called Timely Alert II, is to involve various law enforcement agencies and emergency personnel, including Fort Monmouth firefighters and members of the New Jersey State Police. Personnel are to be deployed and measures taken as in a real emergency. A notice has been sent out, warning that anyone not conducting official business will be turned away from Fort Monmouth during the exercise. Soon after 9 a.m., the exercise director tells a group of participating volunteers that a hijacked plane has crashed into the World Trade Center. The participants pretend to be upset, believing this is just part of the simulation. When they see the live televised footage of the WTC attacks, some people at the base think it is an elaborate training video to accompany the exercise. One worker tells a fire department training officer: “You really outdid yourself this time.” Interestingly, the follow-up exercise held in July 2002 (Timely Alert III) does incorporate simulated television news reports to give participants the impression that the emergency is real. And in the first Timely Alert exercise, held on the base in January 2001, a call had come through of a supposed “real” bomb situation, but this “fortunately turned out to be a report related to a training aid being used during the exercise.” On 9/11, Fort Monmouth is geared to go into high-alert status as part of Timely Alert II. The exercise is called off once the base is alerted to the real attacks. [Monmouth Message, 2/9/2001; Hub, 9/21/2001; Monmouth Message, 9/21/2001; Asbury Park Press, 7/24/2002; Monmouth Message, 8/23/2002; US Department of the Army, 7/26/2003; Monmouth Message, 9/12/2003] Fort Monmouth is home to various Army, Defense Department, and other government agencies. The largest of these is the US Army’s Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM). CECOM serves to “develop, acquire, field, and sustain superior information technologies and integrated systems for America’s warfighters.” It is tasked with the “critical role of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR).” [Communications-Electronics Command, 4/17/2002; GlobalSecurity (.org), 8/2/2004; Army, 1/2003 ] Fort Monmouth services also directly assist in the emergency response later in the day. Its fire department deploys to Atlantic Highlands to assist passengers coming from Manhattan by ferry, and members of its Patterson Army Health Clinic are also sent out to help. Teams of CECOM experts from the base are later deployed to ground zero in New York with equipment capable of locating cellular phone transmissions within the ruins of the collapsed World Trade Center. Its explosive ordnance company is also deployed to assist authorities should they come across anything they think might be explosives, while digging through the debris in search of victims. [Hub, 9/21/2001; Monmouth Message, 9/21/2001]
Offutt Air Force Base, near Omaha, Nebraska, appears to be the headquarters of the US Strategic Command (Stratcom) exercise Global Guardian that is “in full swing” when the 9/11 attacks begin. At least the director of the exercise, Admiral Richard Mies, commander in chief of Stratcom, is at Offutt this morning. [Omaha World-Herald, 9/10/2002] Because of Global Guardian, bombers, missile crews, and submarines around America are all being directed from Stratcom’s Command Center, a steel and concrete reinforced bunker below Offutt. [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 11/12/1997; Associated Press, 2/21/2002; Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002; BBC, 9/1/2002; Omaha World-Herald, 9/10/2002] This bunker is staffed with top personnel and they are at a heightened security mode because of the exercise. [Associated Press, 2/21/2002; Air Force Weather Observer, 7/2002] Because of Global Guardian, three special military command aircraft with sophisticated communications equipment, based at Offutt, are up in the air the morning of 9/11. These E-4B National Airborne Operations Center planes—nicknamed “Doomsday” planes during the Cold War—are intended to control nuclear forces from the air in times of crisis. They are capable of acting as alternative command posts for top government officials from where they can direct US forces, execute war orders and coordinate the actions of civil authorities in times of national emergency. The Federal Advisory Committee (whose chairman is retired Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft) is aboard one of these Doomsday planes, being brought to Offutt to observe the exercise. Media accounts indicate Global Guardian is cancelled at Offutt shortly after the second WTC tower is hit (at 9:03 a.m.), with staff switching to “real-world mode.” [US Department of Defense, 1/9/2002; Air Force Weather Observer, 7/2002; Omaha World-Herald, 9/8/2002] However, even after Global Guardian is called off, the three E-4Bs remain airborne. [Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002; BBC, 9/1/2002] Also, the morning of 9/11, a small group of business leaders are at Offutt Air Force Base for a charity fundraiser event due to take place there later in the day, hosted by the multi-billionaire Warren Buffett. When the attacks begin, these visitors are having breakfast with Admiral Mies, the director of Global Guardian. After the second WTC tower is hit, Mies excuses himself from the group, presumably to assist in canceling the exercise. [San Francisco Business Times, 2/1/2002; Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002; Omaha World-Herald, 9/10/2002]
A team in the 102nd Fighter Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, finishes loading dummy missiles onto two fighters that are going to fly a training mission over the Atlantic. They take off sometime before the second WTC tower is hit. Shortly after that hit, the fighters on the training mission are recalled. The implication is that the fighters are then refitted with actual weapons instead of dummy ones. [Cape Cod Times, 9/8/2002] Otis is the base from which the two F-15s launch in response to the first hijacking (Flight 11) at roughly the same time. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] One of the pilots of these F-15s—nicknamed “Nasty” —is reportedly standing in for the usual “alert” pilot, who is “scheduled for training” on 9/11. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002]
An “emergency response exercise” is scheduled to take place at 9 a.m. the morning of 9/11, involving the simulated crash of a small corporate jet plane into a government building. The exercise is to be conducted by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in Chantilly, Virginia—just four miles from Washington Dulles International Airport, from where Flight 77 took off, and 24 miles from the Pentagon. The NRO draws its personnel from the CIA and the military, and operates many of the nation’s spy satellites. John Fulton, chief of the NRO’s strategic war gaming office, and his team at the CIA, are in charge of the exercise. It is to involve the jet experiencing mechanical problems then crashing into one of the four towers at the NRO. In order to simulate the damage from the crash, some stairwells and exits are to be closed off, forcing NRO employees to find other ways to evacuate the building. However, according to an agency spokesman, “as soon as the real world events began, we cancelled the exercise.” After the attacks, most of the agency’s 3,000 staff are supposedly sent home. [National Law Enforcement and Security Institute, 8/4/2002; National Law Enforcement and Security Institute, 8/6/2002 ; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; United Press International, 8/22/2002]Posted by jeff at 9:00 AM | TrackBack
Brian Sweeney, a passenger on Flight 175, calls his wife, but can only leave a message. “We’ve been hijacked, and it doesn’t look too good.” Then he calls his mother and tells her what is happening onboard. [Hyannis News, 9/13/2001; Washington Post, 9/21/2001] She recalls him saying, “They might come back here. I might have to go. We are going to try to do something about this.” She also recalls him identifying the hijackers as Middle Eastern. Then he tells his mother he loves her and hangs up the phone. The mother turns on the television and soon sees Flight 175 crash into the WTC. The 9/11 Commission later concludes that the Flight 175 passengers planned to storm the cockpit but did not have time before the plane crashed. [CNN, 3/10/2004; New York Daily News, 3/9/2004]Posted by jeff at 8:58 AM | TrackBack
Flight 77’s transponder signal is turned off at this time. [Guardian, 10/17/2001; Boston Globe, 11/23/2001; Newsday, 9/23/2001] According to the 9/11 Commission, the Indianapolis flight controller in charge of the flight has watched it go off course and head southwest before the signal disappears. He looks for primary radar signals along its projected flight path as well as in the airspace where it has started to turn. He cannot find the plane. He tries contacting the plane but gets no answer. “‘American 77, Indy,’ the controller said, over and over. ‘American 77, Indy, radio check. How do you read?’ By 8:56 a.m., it was evident that Flight 77 was lost.” [New York Times, 10/16/2001] The controller has not been told about any other hijacked planes. (Other centers have been notified about the Flight 11 hijacking more than 20 minutes earlier at 8:25 a.m. [Guardian, 10/17/2001] ) He assumes Flight 77 has experienced electrical or mechanical failure. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Apparently, American Airlines headquarters and the Pentagon’s NMCC are notified that Flight 77 is off course with its radio and transponder not working, but NORAD is not notified at this time. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004]
According to the 9/11 Commission, “Radar reconstructions performed after 9/11 reveal that FAA radar equipment tracked [Flight 77] from the moment its transponder was turned off at 8:56 [am.].” However, for eight minutes and 13 seconds, this primary radar data is not displayed to Indianapolis flight controllers. “The reasons are technical, arising from the way the software processed radar information, as well as from poor primary radar coverage where American 77 was flying.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Apparently, a radar tower in West Virginia doesn’t have primary radar. [Washington Post, 11/3/2001] But the 9/11 Commission notes that other centers had primary radars that covered the missing areas, yet they weren’t asked to do a primary radar search. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] In its final report, the commission will add a rather elaborate further explanation for the loss of primary radar contact, saying it was because “the ‘preferred’ radar in this geographic area had no primary radar system, the ‘supplemental’ radar had poor primary coverage, and the FAA ATC [air traffic control] software did not allow the display of primary radar data from the ‘tertiary’ and ‘quadrary’ radars.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 460]
The New York Times reports, “During the hour or so that American Airlines Flight 77 [is] under the control of hijackers, up to the moment it struck the west side of the Pentagon, military officials in [the Pentagon’s NMCC] [are] urgently talking to law enforcement and air traffic control officials about what to do.” [New York Times, 9/15/2001] Yet, although the Pentagon’s NMCC reportedly knows of the hijacking, NORAD reportedly is not notified until 9:24 a.m. by some accounts, and not notified at all by others. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]Posted by jeff at 8:56 AM | TrackBack
Captain Deborah Loewer, director of the White House Situation Room, is traveling in President Bush’s motorcade toward Booker Elementary School, when she learns of the first WTC crash from her deputy in the Situation Room at the White House. According to some reports, as soon as the motorcade reaches the school, Loewer runs from her car to Bush’s car, and informs Bush. [Catholic Telegraph, 12/7/2001; Associated Press, 11/26/2001] Note that Bush maintains that he learns of the crash at a later time.
President Bush’s motorcade arrives at Booker Elementary School for a photo-op to promote his education policies. [ABC News, 9/11/2002; Washington Times, 10/7/2002; Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2002; New York Times, 9/16/2001; Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/2002] If he left the Colony Resort around 8:35 a.m. as reported, the timing of his arrival at 8:55 a.m. is consistent with the fact that the trip from the resort to the school is said to take 20 minutes. [New York Times, 9/16/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/2002; MSNBC, 10/29/2002]
The head New York flight controller notifies a manager at the facility that she believes Flight 175 has been hijacked. The manager tries to notify regional managers about this, but cannot reach them because they are discussing the hijacking of Flight 11 and refuse to be disturbed. However, even though the controller managing Flight 175 said, “we may have a hijack” at 8:53 a.m., the 9/11 Commission concluded that NORAD is not notified by this time. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] The commission’s account conflicts with previous accounts stating that NORAD is notified of the Flight 175 hijacking at 8:43 a.m. (see 8:43 a.m.) The head of the flight control center, Mike McCormick, has already decided at 8:52 a.m. that Flight 175 has been hijacked and is on a suicide run to New York City (see (8:52 a.m.)). [CNN, 8/12/2002]
President Bush’s motorcade has arrived at Booker Elementary School and Bush enters the school with his entourage. The beepers of politicians’ aides are going off with news of the first WTC crash as Bush arrives. According to one account, Bush learns of the crash when adviser Karl Rove takes Bush aside in a school corridor and tells him about the calamity. According to this account, Rove says the cause of the crash was unclear. Bush replies, “What a horrible accident!” Bush also suggests the pilot may have had a heart attack. This account is recalled by photographer Eric Draper, who was standing nearby at the time. [Daily Mail, 9/8/2002] Dan Bartlett, White House Communications Director, also says he is there when Bush is told: “[Bush] being a former pilot, had kind of the same reaction, going, was it bad weather? And I said no, apparently not.” [ABC News, 9/11/2002] One account states that Rove tells Bush the WTC has been hit by a large commercial airliner. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] However, Bush later remembers Rove saying it appeared to be an accident involving a small, twin-engine plane. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] In a third version of the story, Bush later recalls that he first learns of the crash from chief of Staff Andrew Card, who says, “‘Here’s what you’re going to be doing; you’re going to meet so-and-so, such-and-such.’ And Andy Card says, ‘By the way, an aircraft flew into the World Trade Center.’” [Washington Times, 10/7/2002] “From the demeanor of the president, grinning at the children, it appeared that the enormity of what he had been told was taking a while to sink in,” according to a reporter standing nearby at the time. [Daily Mail, 9/8/2002; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001]Posted by jeff at 8:55 AM | TrackBack
Flight 77 from Washington begins to go off course over southern Ohio, turning to the southwest. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Newsday, 9/23/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]Posted by jeff at 8:54 AM | TrackBack
Businessman Peter Hanson calls his father from Flight 175 and says, “Oh, my God! They just stabbed the airline hostess. I think the airline is being hijacked.” Despite being cut off twice, he manages to report how men armed with knives are stabbing flight attendants, apparently in an attempt to force crewmembers to unlock the doors to the cockpit. He calls again a couple of minutes before the plane crashes. [Daily Telegraph, 9/16/2001; Toronto Sun, 9/16/2001; BBC, 9/13/2001] Hanson’s father immediately calls the local police department and relays what he heard. [San Francisco Chronicle, 7/23/2004]
Two F-15s take off from Otis Air National Guard Base. This occurs six minutes after being ordered to go after Flight 11(which has already crashed); 26 minutes after flight controllers were certain Flight 11 was hijacked; and 39 minutes after flight controllers lost contact with Flight 11. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; CNN, 9/17/2001; Washington Post, 9/15/2001; ABC News, 9/11/2002; Washington Post, 9/12/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] The fighters inadvertently head toward Flight 175 instead. According to one of the pilots, as soon as they strap in, the green light to launch goes on, and they’re up in the air even before their fighters’ radar kicks in. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002]
Mike McCormick, head of New York flight control center, sees the first WTC attack on CNN. He assumes that Flight 175, which he is tracking on his radar screen, is also headed into the WTC. He says, “Probably one of the most difficult moments of my life was the 11 minutes from the point I watched that aircraft, when we first lost communications until the point that aircraft hit the World Trade Center. For those 11 minutes, I knew, we knew, what was going to happen, and that was difficult.” [CNN, 8/12/2002] Yet, according to the 9/11 Commission, this flight control center will not notify NORAD about Flight 175 until after it crashes at 9:03 a.m.
The F-15 fighters are scrambling to New York City. Later accounts concerning these fighters conflict significantly. According one account, pilot Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy later recalls that they are in a hurry at this time: “we’ve been over the flight a thousand times in our minds and I don’t know what we could have done to get there any quicker.” However, though Duffy says he’s been warned Flight 11 had been hijacked and appears headed toward New York City, he does not yet realize that his flight is anything other than a routine exercise: “It’s just peacetime. We’re not thinking anything real bad is going to happen out there.” [BBC, 9/1/2002; Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002] But, in another account, Duffy claims that fellow officer tells him before takeoff, “This looks like the real thing.” “It just seemed wrong. I just wanted to get there. I was in full-blower all the way.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] Full-blower means the fighters are traveling at or near full speed. An F-15 can travel over 1,875 mph. [Air Force News, 7/30/1997] A considerable amount of fuel is required to maintain such high speeds for long, but a NORAD commander notes that, coincidentally, these fighters are stocked with extra fuel. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] Duffy later says, “As we’re climbing out, we go supersonic on the way, which is kind of nonstandard for us.” He says his target destination is over Kennedy airport in New York City. [ABC News, 9/11/2002] Similarly, another account states that, as the F-15s are taking off, “Duffy told his wingman they would fly supersonic.” According to Duffy, “When we took off I left it in full afterburner the whole time.” [Filson, 2004, pp. 57] He says, “When we [take] off we [start] climbing a 280-heading, basically towards New York City. I [am] supersonic. ... We [are] to proceed to Manhattan directly and set up a combat air patrol.” [BBC, 9/1/2002] There are different accounts as to just how quickly they travel. According to Major General Paul Weaver, director of the Air National Guard, “The pilots [fly] ‘like a scalded ape,’ topping 500 mph but [are] unable to catch up to the airliner.” [Dallas Morning News, 9/16/2001 Sources: Paul Weaver] ABC News later says, “The fighters are hurtling toward New York at mach 1.2, nearly 900 miles per hour.” [ABC News, 9/11/2002] NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold later states that the fighters head straight for New York City at about 1,100 to 1,200 mph. [MSNBC, 9/23/2001; Slate, 1/16/2002 Sources: Larry Arnold] “An F-15 departing from Otis can reach New York City in ten to twelve minutes, according to an Otis spokeswoman.” [Cape Cod Times, 9/16/2001] At an average speed of 1,125 mph, the fighters would reach the city in ten minutes—9:02 a.m. If NORAD commander Arnold’s recollection is correct, these fighters should reach Flight 175 just before it crashes. Yet according to a NORAD timeline developed just after 9/11, the fighters take about 19 minutes to reach New York City (arriving at about 9:11 a.m.), traveling below supersonic speeds at less than 600 mph. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001] According to a later account though, these fighters weren’t even heading toward Manhattan. Contradicting his earlier recollection, pilot Timothy Duffy says, “we were supersonic going down to Long Island. ... [W]e have no idea what we are going toward. We are taking off to go help somebody and we needed to get there quickly to assess the situation.” NEADS Commander Robert Marr says that after they received word of the first plane hitting the WTC, “Our jets are heading down south toward Whiskey 105 and we don’t really have a mission for them at this point, because we don’t have any other problems in the air.” Whiskey 105 is military training airspace southeast of Long Island. [Filson, 2004, pp. 57-59] Consistent with this account but also contradicting the earlier recollections of pilots and others involved that day, the 9/11 Commission later concludes, in direct contradiction of the recollections of the pilots and others involved that day, that the fighters are never directed toward New York City at all, but rather are ordered to head out over the Atlantic Ocean. According to the 9/11 Commission’s conclusions, the fighters do not reach New York City until 9:25 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
William Wibel, principal of a school inside Otis Air National Guard Base, is inside the Otis base preparing for a meeting when he learns that the WTC has been attacked and his meeting is canceled. He says, “As I drove away, and was listening to the news on the radio, the 102nd was scrambling into duty.” [Cape Cod Times, 9/12/2001] The WTC crash does not break on local news and radio until about 8:52 a.m. Even if he hears CNN’s early reporting starting at 8:48 a.m., it still presumably takes time to learn the meeting is canceled, go back to his car and so forth. NORAD says the fighters took off from Otis at 8:52 a.m.Posted by jeff at 8:52 AM | TrackBack
According to the 9/11 Commission, the flight controller handling Flight 175 (presumably Dave Bottoglia [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] ) only notices now that the flight’s transponder signal has changed, although, according to other published reports, this happened around 8:46 a.m. The controller asks the plane to return to its proper transponder code. There is no response. Beginning at 8:52 a.m., the controller makes repeated attempts to contact the plane, but there is still no response. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Bottoglia contacts another controller at 8:53 a.m., and says, “We may have a hijack. We have some problems over here right now.” [Guardian, 10/17/2001; New York Times, 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] This account conflicts with earlier accounts that NORAD is notified at 8:43 a.m. that Flight 175 has been hijacked. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001] It also conflicts with Bottoglia’s own account of finding Flight 175 at 8:46 a.m. and realizing it is hijacked at that time. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002]Posted by jeff at 8:51 AM | TrackBack
According to one report, CIA Director Tenet is eating breakfast with his mentor, former Senator David Boren (D). “Before the planes hit the World Trade Center, CIA Director George Tenet warned [Boren] ... that he was worried about a possible attack by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network.” [Chicago Sun-Times, 12/6/2002]
CIA Director Tenet is told of the first WTC crash while he is eating breakfast with his mentor, former Senator David Boren (D). They are interrupted when CIA bodyguards converge on the table to hand Tenet the cell phone. Tenet is told that the WTC has been attacked by an airplane. Boren later says, “I was struck by the fact that [the messenger] used the word ‘attacked.’” Tenet then hands a cell phone back to an aide and says to Boren, “You know, this has bin Laden’s fingerprints all over it.” “‘He was very collected,’ Boren recalls. ‘He said he would be at the CIA in 15 minutes, what people he needed in the room and what he needed to talk about.’” [USA Today, 9/24/2001; ABC News, 9/14/2002] According to other accounts, Tenet responds to the caller, “They steered the plane directly into the building?” Tenet then says to Boren, “That looks like bin Laden.” Tenet muses aloud, “I wonder if this has something to do with the guy [Zacarias Moussaoui] who trained for a pilot’s license.” (Moussaoui had been arrested several weeks earlier.) [Stern, 8/13/2003; St. Paul Pioneer Press, 5/29/2002] According to another account, Tenet pauses while on the phone to tell Boren, “The World Trade Center has been hit. We’re pretty sure it wasn’t an accident. It looks like a terrorist act,” then returns to the phone to identify who should be summoned to the CIA situation room. [Time, 9/14/2001] (Note that according to two accounts, Tenet was not informed of the developing crisis until after the second WTC tower had been struck. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; Bamford, 2004, pp. 18-19] However, the majority of reports indicate that Tenet was informed of the crisis right after the first WTC tower was struck.)
The last radio contact with Flight 77 is made when a pilot asks for clearance to fly higher. However, six minutes later, the plane fails to respond to a routine instruction. Presumably, it is hijacked during that time. Indianapolis flight control center is handling the plane by this time. [Guardian, 10/17/2001; Boston Globe, 11/23/2001; New York Times, 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
Flight 175, already off course, makes a near complete U-turn and starts heading north toward New York City. [CNN, 9/17/2001]
Rich Miles, manager of United’s Chicago system operations center, receives a call from a mechanic at an airline maintenance center in San Francisco. (This center takes in-flight calls from flight attendants about broken items.) The mechanic informs Miles that a female flight attendant from Flight 175 has just called to report, “Oh my God. The crew has been killed, a flight attendant has been stabbed. we’ve been hijacked.” Then the line goes dead. A dispatcher monitoring the flight then sends messages to the plane’s cockpit computer but gets no response. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; Boston Globe, 11/23/2001; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] This information is quickly relayed to United’s headquarters. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] There is no published record identifying this female flight attendant. According to published accounts, a male flight attendant, Robert Fangman, calls from this flight at some unknown time. [CNN, 5/28/2004] It is unclear whether the mechanic (or Miles) confused the gender of the caller, or two different attendants call from this flight. [CNN, 5/28/2004]
As soon as Boston flight controllers hear news that a plane might have hit the WTC, they know it was Flight 11. They have been tracking it continually since it began behaving erratically. It takes “several minutes” for Boston to report to NORAD that Flight 11 is responsible. [New York Times, 9/13/2001; Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002]Posted by jeff at 8:50 AM | TrackBack
Apparently, managers at United Airlines’ headquarters in Chicago are unaware of any unfolding emergency until they watch CNN break the story at 8:48 a.m. (see 8:48 a.m.). “Within minutes,” United headquarters gets a call from the FAA, stating that the plane that crashed into the WTC was an American Airlines passenger plane. At about the same time and before a call about the flight that will take place at about 8:50 a.m., a manager says to Jim Goodwin (United’s chairman and chief executive), “Boss, we’ve lost contact with one of our airplanes [Flight 175].” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001] At around 9:00 a.m., a United dispatcher reports that Flight 175 has been lost (it is not clear whether this is a clarification of the earlier message or a change in the timing that one call occurred). [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] Ten days previously, Andy Studdert, the chief operating officer and executive vice president of United Airlines had surprised staff there with a crisis-training exercise, telling them a flight over the Pacific had broken radio contact and suffered a potentially disastrous engine failure. For 30 minutes, they had believed the story, before Studdert told them the truth. So, at around 9:00 a.m. on 9/11, after he arrives at the Operations Center within the United Airlines’ headquarters, he shouts at the staff, “This is not a drill!” [USA Today, 8/12/2002; Chicago Tribune, 7/16/2003; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004]Posted by jeff at 8:49 AM | TrackBack
CNN is the first major network to show the footage of the crash site. It breaks into a commercial and anchor Carol Lin says, “This just in. You are looking at ... obviously a very disturbing live shot there—that is the World Trade Center, and we have unconfirmed reports this morning that a plane has crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.” CNN then switches to Sean Murtagh, the network’s vice president of finance, who says in a live telephone interview, “I just witnessed a plane that appeared to be cruising at a slightly lower than normal altitude over New York City. And it appears to have crashed into—I don’t know which tower it is—but it hit directly in the middle of one of the World Trade Center towers. It was a jet, maybe a two-engine jet, maybe a 737 ... a large passenger commercial jet ... It was teetering back and forth, wing-tip to wing-tip, and it looks like it has crashed into—probably, twenty stories from the top of the World Trade Center—maybe the eightieth to eighty-fifth floor. There is smoke billowing out of the World Trade Center.” [CNN, 9/11/2001; Bamford, 2004, pp. 16-17] Many reports do not come until a few minutes later. For instance, ABC first breaks into regular programming with the story at 8:52 a.m. [ABC News, 9/14/2002] Incredibly, a NORAD timeline presented to the 9/11 Commission in 2003 claims that CNN doesn’t begin its coverage of the attacks until 8:57. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003]
A New York flight control center manager speaks in a teleconference between flight centers. The person says, “Okay. This is New York [flight control]. We’re watching the airplane [Flight 11]. I also had conversation with American Airlines, and they’ve told us that they believe that one of their stewardesses was stabbed and that there are people in the cockpit that have control of the aircraft, and that’s all the information they have right now.” The manager is unaware Flight 11 has already crashed. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] This appears to be a simplified version of flight attendant Betty Ong’s phone call, given to American Airlines leader Gerard Arpey and others around 8:30 a.m. (see 8:30 a.m.).
Canadian Air Force Major General Rick Findley is in charge of battle stations at NORAD’s Colorado Springs, Colorado, headquarters. According to Findley, “As the phones were beginning to ring, someone said, ‘Sir, you might want to look at that.’ I looked up and there was the CNN image of the World Trade Center. There was a hole in the side of one of the buildings.” CNN broadcasts this footage starting at 8:48 a.m. An as-yet unidentified person reportedly tells Findley that it was a small plane, who responded, “I said the hole’s too big for a small airplane. ... I asked if it was the hijacked aircraft. I was scratching my head, wondering if it was another aircraft altogether.” [Calgary Herald, 10/1/2001]
Air Force General Richard Myers, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sees reports of the first WTC crash on television. Myers is acting Chairman of the US military during the 9/11 crisis because Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Henry Shelton is flying in a plane across the Atlantic. [ABC News, 9/11/2002] Myers sees the television in an outer office of Senator Max Cleland (D), but he says, “They thought it was a small plane or something like that,” so he goes ahead and meets with Cleland. He says, “Nobody informed us” about the second WTC crash, and he remains oblivious to the emergency until the meeting with Cleland ends, and as the Pentagon explosion takes place at 9:37 a.m. Then Myers speaks to General Ralph Eberhart. [American Forces Press Service, 10/23/2001] Yet, in testimony on September 13, 2001, he states, “after the second tower was hit, I spoke to the commander of NORAD, General Eberhart. And at that point, I think the decision was at that point to start launching aircraft.” [US Congress, 9/13/2001] NORAD claims the first fighters are scrambled even before the first WTC hit. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001] In his 2004 testimony before the 9/11 Commission, Myers’ account changes again. He says that he gets a call from Eberhart, and then “shortly thereafter that the Pentagon was hit as we were on our way back to the Pentagon.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Myers’ claim that he is out of the loop contradicts not only his previous account but also counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke’s account of what Myers does that day. According to Clarke’s recollection, Myers takes part in a video conference from about 9:10 a.m. until after 10:00 a.m. (see (9:10 a.m.)). If Myers is not involved in this conference, then his whereabouts and actions remain unknown until he arrives at the NMCC around 10:30 a.m. (see (Before 10:30 a.m.)).
Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana is an important node in the US Strategic Command (Stratcom) exercise Global Guardian (see 8:30 a.m.) on 9/11. Colonel Mike Reese, director of staff for the 8th Air Force, is monitoring several television screens at the base as part of the exercise when he sees CNN cut into coverage of the first World Trade Center crash, two minutes after it happens. He watches live when the second plane hits the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m. Reese says that at this point, “we knew it wasn’t a mistake. Something grave was happening that put the nation’s security at risk.” An article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune later recounts how awareness of the real attacks impacts those participating in the exercise: “Immediately [the Barksdale staff’s] focus turned to defense, securing Barksdale, Minot [North Dakota], and Whiteman [Missouri] air force bases, where dozens of aircraft and hundreds of personnel were involved in the readiness exercise ‘Global Guardian.’ The exercise abruptly ended as the United States appeared to be at war within its own borders. Four A-10s, an aircraft not designed for air-to-air combat, from Barksdale’s 47th Fighter Squadron, were placed on ‘cockpit alert,’ the highest state of readiness for fighter pilots. Within five minutes, the A-10s, equipped only with high intensity cannons, could have been launched to destroy unfriendly aircraft, even if it was a civilian passenger airliner.” Lt. Col. Edmund Walker, commander of the 47th Fighter Squadron, a novice pilot still in training, is sitting in his fighter along with other pilots in other fighters, ready to take off, when they are ordered back to the squadron office. They are told they are no longer practicing. Walker recalls, “We had to defend the base against any aircraft, airliner or civilian. We had no idea. Would it fly to the base and crash into the B-52s or A-10s on the flight line?” [Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002] When President Bush’s Air Force One takes off from Sarasota, Florida, at approximately 9:55 a.m., it has no destination, and circles over Florida aimlessly. But around 10:35 (see (10:35 a.m.)), it begins heading towards Barksdale Air Force Base. [CBS News, 9/11/2002; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] It finally arrives at Barksdale around 11:45 a.m. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; CBS News, 9/11/2002] It’s never been explained exactly why Bush traveled from Florida to Barksdale. The Daily Telegraph has reported, “The official reason for landing at Barksdale was that President Bush felt it necessary to make a further statement, but it isn’t unreasonable to assume that—as there was no agreement as to what the President’s movements should be—it was felt he might as well be on the ground as in the air.” [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001]
New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is responsible for coordinating the city’s response to major incidents, including terrorist attacks. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 283-284] Its offices are in Building 7 of the World Trade Center. Today is reportedly “going to be a busy day at the OEM,” as staff members have come to work early to prepare for Tripod, a major biological-terrorism training exercise scheduled for September 12 (see September 12, 2001). Their building shakes when the north tower is hit at 8:46 a.m. OEM Commissioner John Odermatt initially believes a freak accident has occurred involving a ground-to-air missile, but soon after, OEM is informed that a plane hit the WTC. Immediately, OEM staff members begin to activate their emergency Command Center, located on the 23rd floor of WTC 7 (see June 8, 1999). [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 15] They call agencies such as the New York fire and police departments, and the Department of Health, and direct them to send their designated representatives to the OEM. They also call the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and request at least five federal Urban Search and Rescue Teams. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 293] OEM’s Command Center will be evacuated at 9:30 a.m. due to reports of further unaccounted for planes (see 9:30 a.m.). By this time, none of the outside agency liaisons will have arrived. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305]Posted by jeff at 8:48 AM | TrackBack
Mike Pecoraro, an engineer who is part of the crew that services the WTC complex, is at work in the mechanical shop in the second subbasement of the north WTC tower when it is hit. When the room he is in starts filling with white smoke and he can smell kerosene (jet fuel), he heads up stairs with a co-worker towards a small machine shop on the C level. Yet, he says, “There was nothing there but rubble. We’re talking about a 50 ton hydraulic press—gone!” He then heads for the parking garage, yet finds that “there were no walls, there was rubble on the floor, and you can’t see anything.” He ascends to the B level where he sees a 300-pound steel and concrete fire door, which is lying on the floor, wrinkled up “like a piece of aluminum foil.” Pecoraro recalls seeing similar things at the Center when it was bombed in 1993 and is therefore convinced that a bomb has gone off this time. When he makes it into the main lobby, he sees massive damage: “The whole lobby was soot and black, elevator doors were missing. The marble was missing off some of the walls. 20-foot section of marble, 20 by 10 foot sections of marble, gone from the walls. ... Broken glass everywhere, the revolving doors were all broken and their glass was gone.” Pecoraro says he only later hears that “jet fuel actually came down the elevator shaft, blew off all the (elevator) doors and flames rolled through the lobby. That explained all the burnt people and why everything was sooted in the lobby.” He makes it out of the north tower before it collapses. [Chief Engineer, 8/1/2002]Posted by jeff at 8:47 AM | TrackBack
Rick Tepper, a flight controller at the Newark, New Jersey, tower, looks across the Hudson River at New York City in time to see the explosion caused by Flight 11. Another flight controller there tries to find out what caused it. He recalls that in the next few minutes, “We contacted La Guardia, Kennedy Tower, and Teterboro Tower to find out if they lost an airplane. And they all said they didn’t know what it was. I got on the phone to the en route air traffic control’s facility out in New York on Long Island, and I asked them if they’d lost any airplanes, and they said, ‘No, but Boston [flight control] lost an airplane. They lost an American 767.’” New Jersey flight controller Bob Varcadapane says to the Long Island flight controller, “I have a burning building and you have a missing airplane. This is very coincidental.” The assumption is quickly made at New York and Boston flight control centers that Flight 11 has hit the WTC. NBC later reports, “Word of the fate of Flight 11 quickly travels throughout the air traffic control world.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] However, the Indianapolis flight control center that handles Flight 77 reportedly does not learn of Flight 11’s crash until around 9:20 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
When Flight 11 hits the WTC at 8:46 a.m., President Bush’s motorcade is crossing the John Ringling Causeway on the way to Booker Elementary from the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key. [Washington Times, 10/8/2002] Sarasota Magazine claims that Bush is on Highway 301, just north of Main Street when he is told that a plane has crashed in New York City. [Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/2001] Around the same time, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who riding in another car in the motorcade, is talking on his cell phone, when he blurts out: “Oh, my God, I don’t believe it. A plane just hit the World Trade Center.” (The person with whom Fleischer is speaking remains unknown.) Fleischer is told he will be needed on arrival to discuss reports of the crash. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/17/2001; Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/2002] This call takes place “just minutes” after the first news reports. [MSNBC, 10/29/2002] Congressman Dan Miller also says he is told about the crash just before meeting Bush at Booker elementary school at 8:55 a.m. [Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/2001] Some reporters waiting for him to arrive also learn of the crash just minutes after it happens. [CBS News, 9/11/2002] It would make sense that Bush is told about the crash immediately, at the same time that others hear about it. Yet the official story remains that Bush is not told about the crash until he arrives at the school. Author James Bamford comments, “Despite having a secure STU-III phone next to [Bush] in the presidential limousine and an entire national security staff at the White House, it appears that the president of the United States knew less than tens of millions of other people in every part of the country who were watching the attack as it unfolded.” [Bamford, 2004, pp. 17]
President Bush will say in a speech later that evening, “Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government’s emergency response plans.” [US President, 9/17/2001] However, the Wall Street Journal reports that lower level officials activate CONPLAN (Interagency Domestic Terrorism Concept of Operations Plan) in response to the emerging crisis. CONPLAN, created in response to a 1995 Presidential Decision Directive issued by President Clinton and published in January 2001, details the responsibility of seven federal agencies if a terrorist attack occurs. It gives the FBI the responsibility for activating the plan and alerting other agencies. Bush in fact later states that he doesn’t give any orders responding to the attack until after 9:55 a.m. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004; US Government, 1/2001]
Ed Ballinger, a United Airlines flight dispatcher, is handling 16 United transcontinental flights, including Flights 175 and 93. Shortly after hearing about the WTC crash, he contacts all of his flights to warn them. However, Flight 175 is “not acting appropriately,” and fails to respond. Ballinger concludes the flight has been hijacked. Whether he contacts anyone about his conclusions is unclear. [Chicago Daily Herald, 4/14/2004]
Shortly after the WTC is hit, the FAA opens a telephone line with the Secret Service to keep the White House informed of all events. [ [Sources: Richard ("Dick") Cheney] A few days later, Vice President Cheney will state, “The Secret Service has an arrangement with the FAA. They had open lines after the World Trade Center was ...” (He stopped himself before finishing the sentence.) [MSNBC, 9/16/2001]
At the time of the first WTC crash, three F-16s assigned to Andrews Air Force Base, ten miles from Washington, are flying an air-to-ground training mission to drop some bombs and hit a refueling tanker, on a range in North Carolina, 207 miles away from their base. However, it is only when they are halfway back to Andrews that lead pilot Major Billy Hutchison is able to talk to the acting supervisor of flying at Andrews, Lt. Col. Phil Thompson, who tells him to return to the base “buster” (as fast as his aircraft will fly). After landing back at Andrews, Hutchison is told to take off immediately, and does so at 10:33 a.m. The other two pilots, Marc Sasseville and Heather Penney, take off from Andrews at 10:42 a.m., after having their planes loaded with 20mm training rounds. These three pilots will therefore not be patrolling the skies above Washington until after about 10:45 a.m. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002; Filson, 2004, pp. 56] F-16s can travel at a maximum speed of 1,500 mph. [Associated Press, 6/16/2000] Traveling even at 1,100 mph (the speed NORAD Major General Larry Arnold says two fighters from Massachusetts travel toward Flight 175 [MSNBC, 9/23/2001; Slate, 1/16/2002] ), at least one of these F-16s could have returned from North Carolina to Washington within ten minutes and started patrolling the skies well before 9:00 a.m.Posted by jeff at 8:46 AM | TrackBack
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and Representative Christopher Cox (R) are meeting in Rumsfeld’s private Pentagon dining room, discussing missile defense. Rumsfeld later recalls, “I had said at an eight o’clock breakfast that sometime in the next two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve months there would be an event that would occur in the world that would be sufficiently shocking that it would remind people again how important it is to have a strong healthy Defense Department that contributes to—that underpins peace and stability in our world.” [Larry King Live, 12/5/2001] Wolfowitz recalls, “And we commented to them that based on what Rumsfeld and I had both seen and worked on the Ballistic Missile Threat Commission, that we were probably in for some nasty surprises over the next ten years.” [Vanity Fair, 5/9/2005] There are confused accounts that Rumsfeld says, “I’ve been around the block a few times. There will be another event,” just before the Pentagon is hit by Flight 77, but such comments may have been made around this time instead. Rumsfeld says, “And someone walked in and handed a note that said that a plane had just hit the World Trade Center. And we adjourned the meeting, and I went in to get my CIA briefing ... right next door here [in my office].” [Larry King Live, 12/5/2001]
Flight 11 slams into the WTC North Tower (Building 1). Seismic records pinpoint the crash at 26 seconds after 8:46 a.m. [CNN, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; Associated Press, 8/19/2002; USA Today, 8/13/2002; Newsday, 9/10/2002; New York Times, 9/11/2002; USA Today, 12/20/2001] Investigators believe the plane still has about 10,000 gallons of fuel and is traveling approximately 470 mph. [New York Times, 9/11/2002] The plane strikes the 93rd through 98th floors in the 110-story building. No one above the crash line survives; approximately 1,360 people die. Below the crash line, approximately 72 die and more than 4,000 survive. Both towers are slightly less than half full at the time of the attack, with between 5,000 to 7,000 people in each tower. This number is lower than expected. Many office workers have not yet shown up to work, and tourists to the observation deck opening at 9:30 A.M. have yet to arrive. [USA Today, 12/20/2001]
Two French documentary filmmakers are filming a documentary on New York City firefighters about ten blocks from the WTC. One of them hears a roar, looks up, and captures a distant image of the first WTC crash. They continue shooting footage nonstop for many hours, and their footage is first shown that evening on CNN. [New York Times, 1/12/2002] President Bush later claims that he sees the first attack live on television, but this is technically impossible, as there was no live news footage of the attack. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004]
Flight 175 stops transmitting its transponder signal. It is 50 miles north of New York City, headed toward Baltimore. [Guardian, 10/17/2001; Newsday, 9/10/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] However, the transponder is turned off for only about 30 seconds, and then changed to a signal that is not designated for any plane on that day. [Newsday, 9/10/2002] This “allow[s] controllers to track the intruder easily, though they couldn’t identify it.” [Washington Post, 9/17/2001]
New York flight controller Dave Bottoglia is in charge of monitoring both Flights 11 and 175. He has just watched Flight 11’s radar blip disappear over New York City, but does not yet realize the plane has crashed. “Within seconds” of losing Flight 11’s blip, he realizes that Flight 175 is also missing. He has another controller take over all his other planes so he can focus on finding Flight 175. He tries contacting the planes several times unsuccessfully. Curt Applegate, sitting at the radar screen next to Bottoglia, sees a blip that might be the missing Flight 11. In fact, it is the missing Flight 175. Just as Bottoglia notices it, its transponder signal turns back on, but at a different signal than before. “There is no longer any question in Bottoglia’s mind that he’s looking at a second hijacked airliner,” according to later MSNBC reports. Bottoglia then notices Flight 175 turn east and start descending. He keeps an eye on it and sees it head right toward Delta Flight 2315. He recalls saying to the Delta Flight, “Traffic, 2:00, ten miles. I think he’s been hijacked. I don’t know his intentions. Take any evasive action necessary.” Flight 2315 takes evasive action, missing Flight 175 by less than 200 feet. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] However, there is no claim that NORAD is notified about the hijacking at this time. On the other hand, according to a NORAD timeline from shortly after 9/11, NORAD is notified by Boston flight control three minutes earlier at 8:43 a.m. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001] The 9/11 Commission seems to ignore this account from Bottoglia completely, asserting that he notices the transponder change at 8:51 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
Two F-15 fighters are ordered to scramble from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts to find Flight 11, approximately 190 miles from the known location of the plane and 188 miles from New York City. [Channel 4 News (London), 9/13/2001; CNN, 9/17/2001; Washington Post, 9/15/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] According to the 9/11 Commission, NORAD makes the decision to scramble after only one phone call, as the decision is made to act first and get clearances later. Yet there is a nine-minute gap between when the 9/11 Commission says NORAD is notified about the hijacking at 8:37 a.m., and when the fighters are ordered scrambled. This delay has not been explained. The pilots had already received several unofficial warnings before this order—possibly as early as 8:34 a.m., 12 minutes earlier. One of the pilots recalls sitting in the cockpit, ready and waiting for the scramble order to come. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; BBC, 9/1/2002] Yet, according to some reports, they do not take off for another six minutes, at 8:52 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001] The fighters’ initial target, Flight 11, is already crashing into the WTC at this time. NEADS Commander Robert Marr later claims, “My intent was to scramble Otis to military airspace while we found out what was going on.” [Filson, 2004, pp. 56]
President Bush is traveling through Sarasota, Florida, in a motorcade when the first WTC attack occurs. According to the 9/11 Commission, “no one in the White House or traveling with the president knew that [Flight 11] had been hijacked [at this time]. Immediately afterward, duty officers at the White House and Pentagon began notifying senior officials what had happened.” However, according to reports, Bush is not notified about the crash until his motorcade reaches its destination, even though there is a secure phone in his vehicle for just this type of emergency, and even though others in the motorcade are notified. Reportedly, not even Jane Garvey, head of the FAA, nor her deputy have been told of a confirmed hijacking before they learn about the crash from the television. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Bamford, 2004, pp. 17]
NEADS staff have been desperately trying to track the missing Flight 11 on their radar screens. Despite having great difficulty locating it, Master Sergeant Joe McCain believes they see Flight 11 when it disappears over New York. He says: “We picked up a search track going down the Hudson Valley, straight in from the north toward New York. It’s very unusual to find a search target, which is a plane with its transponder turned off, in that area. This plane was headed toward New York going faster than the average Cessna and was no doubt a jet aircraft. We had many clues. The plane was fast and heading in an unusual direction with no beacon. We had raw data only. Everything just kind of fit. We watched that track until it faded over New York City and right after that someone came out of the break room and said the World Trade Center had been hit.” [Filson, 2004]Posted by jeff at 8:46 AM | TrackBack
At American Airlines’ headquarters in Fort Worth, their crisis Command Center used in emergencies, is activated. A page is sent to American’s top executives and operations personnel: “Confirmed hijacking Flight 11.” However, pilots on other American flights apparently are not notified. Top managers gather at the Command Center and watch the radar blip of Flight 11 until it disappears over New York City. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001]
Flight attendant Amy Sweeney is still on the phone with Michael Woodward, describing conditions on Flight 11. The plane is nearing New York City, but the coach section passengers are still quiet, apparently unaware a hijacking is in progress. Woodward asks Sweeney to look out of the window and see if she can tell where they are. She replies, “I see the water. I see the building. I see buildings.” She tells him the plane is flying very low. Then she takes a slow, deep breath and slowly, calmly says, “Oh my God!” Woodward hears a loud click, and then silence. [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/2001; ABC News, 7/18/2002] Flight attendant Betty Ong, on another phone, apparently does not realize what is about to happen. She is repeatedly saying, “Pray for us. Pray for us,” before her phone call comes to a halt. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]Posted by jeff at 8:45 AM | TrackBack
The pilot of US Airlines Flight 583 tells an unidentified flight controller, regarding Flight 175, “I just picked up an ELT [emergency locator transmitter] on 121.5. It was brief but it went off.” The controller responds, “O.K. they said it’s confirmed believe it or not as a thing, We’re not sure yet...” One minute later, another pilot says, “We picked up that ELT, too, but it’s very faint.” [New York Times, 10/16/2001] Flight 175 appears to have been the only trigger of any emergency signal on 9/11. It is possible the ELT came from Flight 11 instead.Posted by jeff at 8:44 AM | TrackBack
After 9/11, NORAD and other sources claim that NORAD is notified at this time Flight 175 has been hijacked. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; CNN, 9/17/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Associated Press, 8/19/2002; Newsday, 9/10/2002] The 9/11 Commission, however, later concludes that New York flight control gives NEADS its first notification that Flight 175 has been hijacked at 9:03 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] If this earlier account is the accurate one, NEADS technicians learn of the hijacking at the exact same time the flight controllers do. They already have their headsets linked to Boston flight control to track Flight 11 at this time,and so they learn instantly about Flight 175. [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002]Posted by jeff at 8:43 AM | TrackBack
Flight 93 is delayed for 41 minutes on the runway in Newark, New Jersey. It will take off at 8:42 a.m. The Boston Globe credits this delay as a major reason why this was the only one of the four flights not to succeed in its mission. [Boston Globe, 11/23/2001; Newsweek, 9/22/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001] Apparently, Flight 93 has to wait in a line of about a dozen planes before it can take off. [USA Today, 8/12/2002]
Flight 93 takes off from Newark International Airport, bound for San Francisco, California. It leaves 41 minutes late because of heavy runway traffic. [MSNBC, 9/3/2002; Newsweek, 9/22/2001; Associated Press, 8/19/2002; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]Posted by jeff at 8:42 AM | TrackBack
The pilots of Flight 175 tell ground control about Flight 11, “We figured we’d wait to go to your center. We heard a suspicious transmission on our departure out of Boston. Someone keyed the mic and said, ‘Everyone stay in your seats.’ It cut out.” [Guardian, 10/17/2001; Newsday, 9/10/2002; New York Times, 10/16/2001] An alternate version: “We heard a suspicious transmission on our departure from B-O-S [Boston’s airport code]. Sounds like someone keyed the mic and said, ‘Everyone, stay in your seats.’” [Boston Globe, 11/23/2001] The last transmission from Flight 175, still discussing this message, comes a few seconds before 8:42 a.m. [New York Times, 10/16/2001] Presumably Flight 175 is hijacked within the next minute.
Flight 175 flies into New York flight control airspace. Dave Bottoglia takes over monitoring the flight. Bottoglia has just been told by the pilot of Flight 175 that he has heard threatening communications from Flight 11. Seconds later, a controller sitting next to Bottoglia gets up and points to a radar blip. He says, “You see this target here? This is American 11. Boston [flight control] thinks it’s a hijack.” John Hartling has been watching the hijacked Flight 11 since 8:37 a.m. Bottoglia joins Hartling in watching Flight 11’s blip until it disappears over New York City. He does not pay attention to Flight 175 for several minutes. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] The New York flight control center was notified of Flight 11’s hijacking around 8:25 a.m.Posted by jeff at 8:41 AM | TrackBack
t NEADS, a huddle of people is gathered around one of their radar scopes. NEADS Commander Robert Marr initially thinks this hubbub is part of the NORAD training exercise (presumably Vigilant Guardian). He says, “I’ve seen many exercises ... and as I saw that huddle I said, ‘There’s got to be something wrong, something is happening here.’ You usually see that whenever they find a track on the scope that looks unusual; it’s usually an indicator that something is getting ready to kick off.” He sends Lt. Colonel Dawne Deskins, the regional mission crew commander for the exercise, to check it out. According to Marr, she comes running back with urgency in her voice: The FAA needs help with a possibly hijacked civilian airliner that has just disappeared from the radar scope and was heading toward New York. [Filson, 2004, pp. 55] Presumably it is while she is checking out this ’hubbub’ that Deskins speaks over the phone with FAA’s Boston Control Center about the first hijacking (see (8:37 a.m.)). According to the 9/11 Commission, this call to NEADS begins at 8:37:52 a.m. However, Deskins has given the time for the call at 8:31 a.m.(see (8:37 a.m.)). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
Major Daniel Nash (codenamed Nasty) and Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy (codenamed Duff ) are the two F-15 pilots who would scramble after Flight 11 and then Flight 175. Apparently, they get several informal calls warning to get ready. According to Nash, at this time, a colleague at the Otis Air National Guard Base tells him that a flight out of Boston has been hijacked, and that he should be on alert. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002] NEADS senior technician Jeremy Powell (informed about the hijacking at 8:37 a.m.), says that he telephones Otis Air National Guard Base soon thereafter to tell it to upgrade its “readiness posture.” [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002] Colonel Robert Marr, head of NEADS, also says that after being told of the hijacking at 8:37 a.m., he says, “I’ll call First Air Force [at Otis] and let them know we’ve got a potential incident.” [BBC, 9/1/2002] Boston flight control had tried calling the Otis base directly at 8:34 a.m., although the result of that call remains unclear. Duffy recalls being warned: “I was just standing up by the ops desk and I was told I had a phone call. I asked who it was and they said the [Boston] tower calling and something about a hijacking. It was Flight American 11, a 767, out of Boston going to California. At the time we ran in and got suited up.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; BBC, 9/1/2002; Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002] Duffy says, “Halfway to the jets, we got ‘battle stations’ ... which means to get ready for action.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] The actual scramble order does not come until the pilots are already waiting in the fighters: “We went out, we hopped in the jets and we were ready to go—standby for a scramble order if we were going to get one.” [BBC, 9/1/2002] Duffy continues, “I briefed Nasty on the information I had about the American Airlines Flight. About four-five minutes later, we got the scramble order and took off.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] However, the official notification to scramble these fighters does not come until 8:46 a.m. The six-minute (or more) delay between unofficial and official notification has not been explained.Posted by jeff at 8:40 AM | TrackBack
While flying south along the Hudson River, Flight 11 passes almost directly over the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, NY, about 30 miles north of New York City. [Bergen Record, 4/7/2002; New York Times, 4/4/2002] The New Yorker will later comment, “An attack on a nuclear power plant would seem to fulfill, almost perfectly, Al Qaeda’s objective of using America’s technology against it,” and the New York Times will report, “Everyone within at least a 50-mile radius would be in danger if something terrible happened at Indian Point. That 50-mile radius contains more than 7 percent of the entire population of the United States—20 million people.” [New Yorker, 2/24/2003; New York Times, 4/4/2002] Mohamed Atta supposedly earlier considered targeting a nuclear facility on 9/11, but the other suicide pilots did not like the idea (see Between July 9 and July 16, 2001).Posted by jeff at 8:39 AM | TrackBack
The talkback button on Flight 11, which has been periodically activated since around 8:14 a.m., stops around this time. Some have suggested that this indicates that the hijackers replace pilot John Ogonowski at this time. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/2001; MSNBC, 9/15/2001]Posted by jeff at 8:38 AM | TrackBack
Flight 11 passes from Boston flight control airspace into New York flight control airspace. Flight controller John Hartling takes over monitoring the plane. However, when a colleague tells him the flight is hijacked, he is incredulous: “I didn’t believe him. Because I didn’t think that that stuff would happen anymore, especially in this country.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002]
Flight controllers ask the United Airlines Flight 175 pilots to look for a lost American Airlines plane 10 miles to the south—a reference to Flight 11. They respond that they can see it. They are told to keep away from it. [Guardian, 10/17/2001; Boston Globe, 11/23/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Apparently, Flight 175 is not told Flight 11 has been hijacked. Flight 175 itself is hijacked a few minutes later (see 8:41 a.m.).
According to the 9/11 Commission, Boston flight control contacts NEADS at this time. This is apparently the first successful notification to the military about the crisis. Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Powell, a member of the Air National Guard at NEADS, initially takes the call from Boston flight control. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002] Boston flight control says, “Hi. Boston [flight control], we have a problem here. We have a hijacked aircraft headed toward New York, and we need you guys to, we need someone to scramble some F-16s or something up there, help us out.” Powell replies, “Is this real-world or exercise?” Boston answers, “No, this is not an exercise, not a test.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; BBC, 9/1/2002] Powell gives the phone to Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins, regional Mission Crew Chief for the Vigilant Guardian exercise. Deskins later says that initially she and “everybody” else at NEADS thinks the call is part of Vigilant Guardian. After the phone call, she has to clarify to everyone that it is not a drill. [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002] NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold in Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, also says that when he hears of the hijacking at this time, “The first thing that went through my mind was, is this part of the exercise? Is this some kind of a screw-up?” [ABC News, 9/11/2002] Deskins recalls, “I picked up the line and I identified myself to the Boston [flight] controller, and he said, we have a hijacked aircraft and I need to get you some sort of fighters out here to help us out.” However, the timing of this vital notification is in some dispute. Deskins herself claimed the call occurred at 8:31 a.m. [ABC News, 9/11/2002] Another report later states, “Shortly after 8:30 a.m., behind the scenes, word of a possible hijacking [reaches] various stations of NORAD.” [ABC News, 9/14/2002] FAA Administrator Jane Garvey later testifies that the FAA notified NORAD at 8:34 a.m. [New York Times, 12/30/2003] NORAD on the other hand, originally claimed they were first notified at 8:40 a.m., and this was widely reported in the media prior to the 9/11 Commission’s 2004 report. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; Associated Press, 8/19/2002; BBC, 9/1/2002; Newsday, 9/10/2002] If the 8:37 a.m. time is accurate, then flight controllers failed to notify NORAD until approximately 13 minutes after the hijackers in the cockpit clearly stated that the plane had been hijacked at 8:24 a.m.; 17 minutes after the transponder signal was lost and the flight goes far off course; and 24 minutes after radio contact was lost at 8:13 a.m.
Lt. Col. Dawne Deskins of NEADS says that when the FAA first calls and reports the first hijacking, “He [FAA] gave me the latitude and longitude of that track ... [but] there was nothing there.” [Fox News, 9/8/2002] Master Sergeant Kevin Foster and Staff Sergeant Mark Rose, also working at NEADS this morning, later complain about their inability to locate the hijacked planes on their radar screens. After being informed of the first hijacking, reportedly, “As they had practiced countless times before, the NEADS team quickly began searching their screens for the plane. Because they had been informed its transponder was off, they knew to look for a tiny dash instead of the usual dot. But radar systems also use such lines to indicate weather patterns, so NEADS personnel began urgently clicking their computer cursors on each stray line to see if information indicating an aircraft would appear.” Yet, after receiving further calls indicating more hijackings, “the inability to find the hijacked planes on the radar, despite their best efforts, was difficult.” According to Kevin Foster, “We were trying to find the tracks, and not being able to was very frustrating.” [Utica Observer-Dispatch, 8/5/2004] NEADS Staff Sergeant Larry Thornton says, “Once we were called by the FAA, we could find split-second hits on what we thought we were looking for. But the area was so congested and it was incredibly difficult to find. We were looking for little dash marks in a pile of clutter and a pile of aircraft on a two-dimensional scope.” Each fluorescent green pulsating dot on their radar scopes represents an airplane, and there are thousands currently airborne, especially over the busy northeast US. [Filson, 2004, pp. 56]
Following a call from an FAA controller at Boston to the control tower at Otis Air National Guard Base reporting the possible hijacking of Flight 11 (see 8:34 a.m.), Lt. Col. Jon Treacy, commander of the 101st Fighter Squadron at Otis, phones NEADS to report the FAA’s request for help, and get authorization to launch fighters. By now though, the FAA has already gotten through to NEADS themselves, and reported the hijacking (see (8:37 a.m.)). [Filson, 2004, pp. 50]
NORAD gives the command to scramble fighters after Flight 11 after receiving Boston’s call. Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins at NEADS tells Colonel Robert Marr, head of NEADS, “I have FAA on the phone, the shout line, Boston [flight control]. They said they have a hijacked aircraft.” Marr then calls Major General Larry Arnold at NORAD’s Command Center in Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, and says, “Boss, I need to scramble [fighters at] Otis [Air National Guard Base].” Arnold recalls, “I said go ahead and scramble them, and we’ll get the authorities later.” Arnold then calls the operations deputy at NORAD’s Colorado headquarters to report. The operations deputy tells him, “Yeah, we’ll work this with the National Military Command Center. Go ahead and scramble the aircraft.” [ABC News, 9/11/2002; Filson, 2004, pp. 56; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Then, upon receiving this authorization from Larry Arnold, NEADS calls Canadian Captain Mike Jellinek at NORAD’s Colorado headquarters. Jellinek is sitting near Canadian Air Force Major General Rick Findley, director of combat operations there. Findley’s staff is “already on high alert” because of Vigilant Guardian and Operation Northern Vigilance, a training exercise and a NORAD operation that are currently in progress. Jellinek gets the thumbs up authorization from Findley to send fighters after Flight 11. Yet, according to the 1st Air Force’s own book about 9/11, the “sector commander [at NEADS] would have authority to scramble the airplanes.” Military controllers at NEADS are only a hot line call away from the pilots on immediate alert. Why NEADS calls NORAD’s Command Center at Tyndall, then NORAD’s Colorado headquarters, to get authorization to launch fighters after Flight 11, is unclear. Rick Findley later states, “At that point all we thought was we’ve got an airplane hijacked and we were going to provide an escort as requested. We certainly didn’t know it was going to play out as it did.” Findley remains in charge of NORAD headquarters while his staff feeds information to NORAD Commander in Chief Ralph Eberhart, who is stationed in Florida. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 11/27/2001; Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001; Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/2002; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; Filson, 2004]Posted by jeff at 8:37 AM | TrackBack
On Flight 11, flight attendant Betty Ong reports that the plane tilts all the way on one side and then becomes horizontal again. Flight attendant Amy Sweeney reports that the plane has begun a rapid descent. [ABC News, 7/18/2002] Sweeney also says that the hijackers are Middle Easterners. [San Francisco Chronicle, 7/23/2004]Posted by jeff at 8:36 AM | TrackBack
Flight attendant Amy Sweeney continues to describe what is happening onboard Flight 11 to Michael Woodward at Logan Airport. At some point prior to this, she explains that flight attendants are giving injured people oxygen. They have made an announcement over the PA system asking if there is a doctor or nurse on board. Sweeney is calling from the rear of the coach section. She explains that the passengers in coach, separated by curtains from the violence in first class, are calm, believing that there is some type of medical emergency at the front of the plane. Then, at this time, the plane suddenly lurches, tilting all the way to one side, then becomes horizontal again. Then she says it begins a rapid descent. She tries to contact the cockpit again, but still gets no response. [ABC News, 7/18/2002; New York Observer, 2/11/2004]
President Bush’s motorcade leaves for Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; BBC, 9/1/2002; Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/2001; Washington Times, 10/7/2002] His official schedule had him leaving at 8:30. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] He said farewell to the management at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort at 8:20 a.m. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001]Posted by jeff at 8:35 AM | TrackBack
Boston flight controllers attempt to contact the military through the FAA’s Cape Cod, Massachusetts, facility. Two fighters are on twenty-four hour alert at the Otis Air National Guard Base, at Cape Cod. Boston tries reaching this base so the fighters there can scramble after Flight 11. Apparently, they do this before going through the usual NORAD channels. The 9/11 Commission is vague about the outcome of this call. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] According to another account, this call occurs “around 8:30 a.m.,” when the Boston controller tells Otis control tower that Flight 11 has lost its identification signal and appears to be headed toward Manhattan; it looks like a possible hijacking, and fighters are needed fast. The lead pilot at Otis, Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, says, “It didn’t happen the way it was supposed to ... We were the ones who were contacted right away and knew about it before the air defense sector.” Duffy says that at “[a]bout 8:30, 8:35” he receives a phone call from one of the sergeants, informing him of the hijacking. He says: “As soon as we heard there was something about a hijacking we got moving. ... I called for ‘Nasty’ (Maj. Dan Nash) and I to suit up right away.” According to Duffy, “Halfway to the jets, we got ‘battle stations,’ and I briefed Nasty on the information I had about the American Airlines flight. About 4-5 min. later, we got the scramble order and took off.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; Filson, 2004]
Around this time, Boston flight control attempts to contact an Atlantic City, New Jersey, air base, to send fighters after Flight 11. For decades, the air base had two fighters on 24-hour alert status, but this changed in 1998 due to budget cutbacks. The flight controllers do not realize this, and apparently try in vain to reach someone. Two F-16s from this base are practicing bombing runs over an empty stretch of the Pine Barrens near Atlantic City. Only eight minutes away from New York City, they are not alerted to the emerging crisis. Shortly after the second WTC crash at 9:03 a.m., the two F-16s are ordered to land and are refitted with air-to-air missiles, then sent aloft. However, the pilots re-launch more than an hour after the second crash. They are apparently sent to Washington, but do not reach there until almost 11:00 a.m. After 9/11, one newspaper questions why NORAD “left what seems to be a yawning gap in the midsection of its air defenses on the East Coast—a gap with New York City at the center.” [Bergen Record, 12/5/2003; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Had these two fighters been notified at 8:37 a.m. or before, they could have reached New York City before Flight 11.
Flight controllers hear a hijacker on Flight 11 say to the passengers: “Nobody move, please, we are going back to the airport. Don’t try to make any stupid moves.” [Boston Globe, 11/23/2001; Guardian, 10/17/2001; New York Times, 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Apparently, shortly after this, the transmission tapes that are automatically recorded are played back to hear the words that were spoken by the hijackers a few minutes before. Everyone in the Boston flight control center hears the hijackers say, “We have some planes.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] Ben Sliney, the FAA’s National Operations Manager, soon gets word of the “We have some planes” message and later says the phrase haunts him all morning. [USA Today, 8/13/2002]Posted by jeff at 8:34 AM | TrackBack
The FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, begins its usual daily senior staff meeting. National Operations Manager Ben Sliney interrupts the meeting to report a possible hijacking in progress, as the Center had been told about the Flight 11 hijacking two minutes earlier. Later, a supervisor interrupts the meeting to report that a flight attendant on the hijacked aircraft may have been stabbed. The meeting breaks up before the first WTC crash at 8:46 a.m. Apparently, no one in the meeting contacts NORAD. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 12/17/2001]
Gerard Arpey (American Airlines’ executive vice president for operations) learns from manager Joe Burdepelly that Flight 11 may have been hijacked. Burdepelly tells Arpey that he has been told that another manager, Craig Marquis, is in contact with flight attendant Betty Ong on the hijacked flight. Arpey learns that Ong has said two other attendants have been stabbed, that two or three passengers are in the cockpit, and more. Arpey is the effective head of American Airlines during the early phase of the crisis, because the company’s president is still at home and out of contact. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] At some point before Flight 11 crashes, Arpey is told about the “We have some planes” comment made by the hijackers. [USA Today, 8/13/2002]
Protocols in place on 9/11 state that if the FAA requests the military to go after an airplane, “the escort service will be requested by the FAA hijack coordinator by direct contact with the National Military Command Center (NMCC).” [Federal Aviation Administration, 11/3/1998] Acting FAA Deputy Administrator Monty Belger states essentially the same thing to the 9/11 Commission, “The official protocol on that day was for the FAA headquarters, primarily through the hijack coordinator ... to request assistance from the NMCC if there was a need for DOD assistance.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004 Sources: Monty Belger] However, the hijack coordinator, FAA Office of Civil Aviation Security Director Mike Canavan, is in Puerto Rico and claims to have missed out on “everything that transpired that day.” The 9/11 Commission fails to ask him if he had delegated that task to anyone else while he was gone. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 17; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003]
Captain Charles Leidig, the deputy for Command Center operations at the NMCC, takes over temporarily from Brigadier General Montague Winfield and is effectively in charge of NMCC during the 9/11 crisis. Winfield had requested the previous day that Leidig stand in for him on September 11. Leidig had started his role as Deputy for Command Center Operations two months earlier and had qualified to stand in for Winfield just the previous month. Leidig remains in charge from a few minutes before the 9/11 crisis begins until about 10:30 a.m., after the last hijacked plane crashes. He presides over an important crisis response teleconference that has a very slow start, not even beginning until 9:39 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
Just prior to learning about the 9/11 attacks, top US leaders are scattered across the country and overseas:
Meanwhile, New Yorker magazine will later report that on the other side of the world, bin Laden, al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri, and some of their followers their followers evacuated their residences in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and fled into the nearby mountains. By the time the attacks start, they are listening to an Arabic radio station reporting about the 9/11 attacks as they happen. [New Yorker, 9/9/2002]
At Fort Belvoir, an army base 10 miles south of the Pentagon, Lt. Col. Mark R. Lindon is conducting a “garrison control exercise” when the 9/11 attacks begin. The object of this exercise is to “test the security at the base in case of a terrorist attack.” Lindon later says, “I was out checking on the exercise and heard about the World Trade Center on my car radio. As soon as it was established that this was no accident, we went to a complete security mode.” Staff Sgt. Mark Williams of the Military District of Washington Engineer Company at Fort Belvoir also later says: “Ironically, we were conducting classes about rescue techniques when we were told of the planes hitting the World Trade Center.” Williams’ team is one of the first response groups to arrive at the site of the Pentagon crash and one of the first to enter the building following the attack. [Connection Newspapers, 9/5/2002] A previous MASCAL (mass casualty) training exercise was held at Fort Belvoir a little over two months earlier (see June 29, 2001). It was “designed to enhance the first ready response in dealing with the effects of a terrorist incident involving an explosion.” [MDW News Service, 7/5/2001] Located at Fort Belvoir is Davison Army Airfield, from where UH-1 “Huey” and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters fly. Davison’s mission includes maintaining “a readiness posture in support of contingency plans,” and providing “aviation support for the White House, US government officials, Department of Defense, Department of the Army, and other government agencies.” [Pentagram, 5/7/1999; Military District of Washington, 8/2000]
USA Today reports that at this time, “a joint FBI/CIA anti-terrorist task force that specifically prepared for this type of disaster” is on a “training exercise in Monterey, Calif.” Consequently, “as of late Tuesday, with airports closed around the country, the task force still [hasn]’t found a way to fly back to Washington.” [USA Today, 9/11/2001] The US politics website evote.com adds that the FBI has deployed “all of its anti-terrorist and top special operations agents at a training exercise (complete with all associated helicopters and light aircraft) in Monterey, California.” So at the time of the attacks, “the chief federal agency responsible for preventing such crimes [is] being AWOL.” [Evote [.com], 9/11/2001]
As the 9/11 attacks are taking place, a large military training exercise called Global Guardian is said to be “in full swing.” It has been going on since the previous week. [Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002; Omaha World-Herald, 9/10/2002] Global Guardian is an annual exercise sponsored by US Strategic Command (Stratcom) in cooperation with US Space Command and NORAD. One military author defines Stratcom as “the single US military command responsible for the day-to-day readiness of America’s nuclear forces.” [Arkin, 2005, pp. 59] Global Guardian is a global readiness exercise involving all Stratcom forces and aims to test Stratcom’s ability to fight a nuclear war. It is one of many “practice Armageddons” that the US military routinely stages. [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 11/12/1997; Associated Press, 2/21/2002; Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002; Omaha World-Herald, 9/10/2002] It links with a number of other military exercises, including Crown Vigilance (an Air Combat Command exercise), Apollo Guardian (a US Space Command exercise), and NORAD exercises Vigilant Guardian and Amalgam Warrior [US Department of Defense, 5/1997; GlobalSecurity (.org), 10/10/2002] Global Guardian is both a command post and field training exercise, and is based around a fictitious scenario designed to test the ability of Stratcom and its component forces to deter a military attack against the US. Hundreds of military personnel are involved. [Collins Center Update, 12/1999 ; Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002; US Congress, n.d.] According to a 1998 Internet article by the British American Security Information Council—an independent research organization—Global Guardian is held in October or November each year. [Kristensen, 10/1998] In his book Code Names, NBC News military analyst William Arkin dates this exercise for October 22-31, 2001. [Arkin, 2005, pp. 379] And a military newspaper reported in March 2001 that Global Guardian was scheduled for October 2001. [Space Observer, 3/23/2001, pp. 2 ] If this is correct, then some time after March, the exercise must have been rescheduled for early September. Furthermore, there may be another important facet to Global Guardian. A 1998 Defense Department newsletter reported that for several years Stratcom had been incorporating a computer network attack (CNA) into Global Guardian. The attack involved Stratcom “red team” members and other organizations acting as enemy agents, and included attempts to penetrate the Command using the Internet and a “bad” insider who had access to a key command and control system. The attackers “war dialed” the phones to tie them up and sent faxes to numerous fax machines throughout the Command. They also claimed they were able to shut down Stratcom’s systems. Reportedly, Stratcom planned to increase the level of computer network attack in future Global Guardian exercises. [IAnewsletter, 6/1998 ] It is not currently known if a computer attack was incorporated into Global Guardian in 2001 or what its possible effects on the country’s air defense system would have been if such an attack was part of the exercise.
Preparations are already underway for the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, which are scheduled to take place in Washington, DC on September 29-30, 2001. Many of the agencies that will be involved in the emergency response to the Pentagon attack, including the Arlington County Fire Department, are engaged in preparations for the IMF/World Bank event. [United Press International, 9/6/2001; Arlington County, 7/2002, pp. A-4; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305] The meetings have been designated as a National Special Security Event (NSSE). [New York Times, 8/18/2001; Euromoney, 9/1/2001] The Secret Service is in charge of security for NSSEs. [United States Secret Service, n.d.] The FBI and FEMA also have key roles. [CSO Magazine, 9/2004; Scripps Howard News Service, 1/11/2005] There are questions about how preparations for an NSSE might have affected security around Washington. When preparing for such an event, the Secret Service carries out “a tremendous amount of advance planning and coordination in the areas of venue and motorcade route security, communications, credentialing, and training.” It conducts a “variety of training initiatives,” including “simulated attacks and medical emergencies, inter-agency tabletop exercises, and field exercises.” [United States Secret Service, n.d.] According to former FBI Director Louis Freeh, in 2000 and 2001 the use of airplanes by terrorists in suicide missions is “part of the planning” for NSSEs. [9/11 Commission, 4/13/2004] Also, the Secret Service is mandated to create capabilities for achieving “airspace security” over NSSEs. [US Congress, 3/30/2000] But whether it has such capabilities already in place around Washington is unknown. Though there are only about four or five NSSEs each year, preparations also happen to be underway in New York for another possible NSSE (see 8:30 a.m.). [US Department of Homeland Security, 7/9/2003; US Department of Homeland Security, 11/8/2004] The IMF/World Bank event will be cancelled due to the 9/11 attacks. [CBS News, 9/17/2001]
Preparations are underway in New York City for the upcoming meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. [US Congress, 4/23/2002] The Secret Service has an additional 100 employees in the city for this event. [PCCW Newsletter, 3/2006] Four communications soldiers from the 1108th Signal Brigade are also temporarily assigned to New York to support the Secret Service. [Fort Detrick Standard, 10/18/2001] Presumably, the specific event being prepared for is the General Assembly’s annual gathering of world leaders, scheduled for September 24 to October 5, which President Bush is due to address on September 24. [Reuters, 9/12/2001; Associated Press, 10/29/2001] For example, one report says Secret Service Officer Craig Miller is in New York today “to do advance security work for President Bush’s then upcoming visit to the United Nations General Assembly.” [American Rifleman, 2/2002; United States Secret Service, 4/29/2002 ] The General Assembly is designated as a National Special Security Event (NSSE). [New York Times, 11/10/2001; US Congress, 7/9/2002; US Department of Homeland Security, 7/9/2003] Since 1998, the National Security Council has been authorized to designate important upcoming events as NSSEs (see May 22, 1998), which puts the Secret Service in charge of the planning and implementation of security. [United States Secret Service, n.d.] It is unclear whether the UN General Assembly received NSSE status prior to 9/11, or is later designated as an NSSE due to the attacks. However, the UN’s previous ‘Millennium Summit’ in New York in September 2000 was an NSSE. [US Congress, 6/29/2000; White House, 1/10/2002; US Department of the Treasury, 2000, pp. 177 ] And in 2003, Secret Service Director Ralph Basham states: “Each year, the UNGA [United Nations General Assembly] is a manpower and resource intensive effort for the Secret Service.” [US Congress, 5/1/2003] So it seems likely that it was designated as an NSSE before 9/11. There are questions about how preparations for an NSSE could have affected security in New York. The Secret Service says it conducts a “tremendous amount of advance planning and coordination” for NSSEs, involving a “variety of training initiatives,” which include, “simulated attacks and medical emergencies.” [United States Secret Service, n.d.] Furthermore, former FBI Director Louis Freeh will later tell the 9/11 Commission that in 2000 and 2001, the use of airplanes by terrorists in suicide missions “was part of the planning” for NSSEs. [9/11 Commission, 4/13/2004] Whether any such preparations are taking place in New York on or around 9/11 is unknown. The Secret Service is also mandated to create capabilities for achieving “airspace security” over NSSEs, which include “air interdiction teams” used to detect and identify aircraft that violate the restricted airspace above the event. [US Congress, 3/30/2000; Security Management, 2/2002] Again, whether such capabilities are already available in New York in advance of the UN General Assembly is unknown. Even though only four or five events per year are designated as NSSEs, preparations are also underway in the Washington, DC area for a separate NSSE (see 8:30 a.m.). [US Department of Homeland Security, 7/9/2003; US Department of Homeland Security, 11/8/2004] The UN General Assembly’s gathering of world leaders will be cancelled due to the 9/11 attacks but is rescheduled for November. [CBS News, 9/19/2001; BBC, 11/10/2001; Guardian, 11/10/2001]Posted by jeff at 8:30 AM | TrackBack
Boston flight control calls the FAA Command Center and tells them that they believe Flight 11 has been hijacked and it is heading toward New York airspace. At 8:32 a.m., the Command Center shares this with the Operations Center at FAA headquarters. Headquarters replies that they have just begun discussing the hijack situation with the main FAA New England office. The Command Center immediately establishes a teleconference between the Boston, New York, and Cleveland flight control centers so that Boston can help the others understand what is happening. Even though by 8:24 a.m. Boston is fairly certain that Flight 11 has been hijacked, they do not contact NORAD. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
American Airlines manager Craig Marquis is talking to Nydia Gonzalez, who in turn is talking to flight attendant Betty Ong on Flight 11. Marquis says, “We contacted air traffic control, they are going to handle this as a confirmed hijacking. So they’re moving all the traffic out of this aircraft’s way. ... He turned his transponder off, so we don’t have a definitive altitude for him. We’re just going by ... They seem to think that they have him on a primary radar. They seem to think that he is descending.” This transmission further indicates that Boston flight control believes that Flight 11 has been hijacked by this time. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004]Posted by jeff at 8:28 AM | TrackBack
Craig Marquis, listening to information coming from flight attendant Betty Ong on Flight 11, calls American Airlines’ system operations control center in Fort Worth. He says, “She said two flight attendants had been stabbed, one was on oxygen. A passenger had his throat slashed and looked dead and they had gotten into the cockpit.” He relays that Ong said the four hijackers had come from first-class seats: 2A, 2B, 9A, and 9B. She said the wounded passenger was in seat 10B. [Boston Globe, 11/23/2001] Note that this conflicts with the seats flight attendant Amy Sweeney gives for the hijackers at about the same time (see (Before 8:26 a.m.)): 9D, 9G, and 10B. By 8:27 a.m., this information is passed to Gerard Arpey, the effective head of American Airlines that morning. By 9:59 a.m., counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke and other top officials receive the information. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 13-14]Posted by jeff at 8:27 AM | TrackBack
Having been told by flight attendant Amy Sweeney the seat locations of three hijackers (see (8:22 a.m.)), American Airlines Flight service manager Michael Woodward orders a colleague at Boston’s Logan Airport to look up those seat locations on the reservations computer. The names, addresses, phone numbers, and credit cards of these hijackers are quickly identified: Abdulaziz Alomari is in 9G, Mohamed Atta is in 9D, and Satam Al Suqami is in 10B. 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey notes that from this information, American Airlines officials monitoring the call would probably have known or assumed right away that the hijacking was connected to al-Qaeda. [ABC News, 7/18/2002; New York Observer, 2/11/2004]Posted by jeff at 8:26 AM | TrackBack
The Guardian reports that Boston flight control “notifies several air traffic control centers that a hijack is taking place.” But it does not notify NORAD for another 6-15 minutes, depending on the account. [Guardian, 10/17/2001] However, the Indianapolis flight controller monitoring Flight 77 claims to not know about this or Flight 175’s hijacking twenty minutes later at 8:56 a.m. Additionally, the flight controllers at New York City’s La Guardia airport are never told about the hijacked planes and learn about them from watching the news. [Bergen Record, 1/4/2004]Posted by jeff at 8:25 AM | TrackBack
Boston flight control radar sees Flight 11 making an unplanned 100-degree turn to the south (the plane is already way off course). Flight controllers never lose sight of the flight, though they can no longer determine altitude once the transponder is turned off. [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/2001] Before this turn, the FAA had tagged Flight 11’s radar dot for easy visibility and, at American Airlines headquarters at least, “All eyes watched as the plane headed south. On the screen, the plane showed a squiggly line after its turn near Albany, then it straightened.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001] Boston flight controller Mark Hodgkins later says, “I watched the target of American 11 the whole way down.” [ABC News, 9/6/2002] However, apparently, NEADS has different radar. When they are finally told about the flight, they cannot find it. Boston has to update NEADS on Flight 11’s position periodically by telephone until NEADS finally finds it a few minutes before it crashes into the WTC. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002; Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002]
Because the talkback button on Flight 11 has been activated, Boston flight controllers can hear a hijacker on Flight 11 say to the passengers: “We have some planes. Just stay quiet and you will be OK. We are returning to the airport.” Flight controller Pete Zalewski responds, “Who’s trying to call me?” The hijacker continues, “Everything will be OK. If you try to make any moves you’ll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet.” [Guardian, 10/17/2001; New York Times, 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Boston Globe, 11/23/2001; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; New York Times, 9/12/2001; Channel 4 News (London), 9/13/2001] Immediately after hearing this voice, Zalewski “knew right then that he was working a hijack” and calls for his supervisor. The frequency of Flight 11 is played on speakers so everyone in Boston flight control can hear. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; Village Voice, 9/13/2001]Posted by jeff at 8:24 AM | TrackBack
Nydia Gonzalez, an American Airlines supervisor with expertise on security matters, is patched in to a call with flight attendant Betty Ong on Flight 11. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] At 8:27 a.m., Gonzalez calls Craig Marquis, a manager at American Airlines’ headquarters. Gonzalez holds the phone to Ong to one ear, and the phone to Marquis to the other. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; New York Observer, 2/11/2004] Gonzalez talks to Marquis continuously until Flight 11 crashes. The first four minutes of this call are later played before the 9/11 Commission. Marquis quickly says, “I’m assuming they’ve declared an emergency. Let me get ATC [air traffic control] on here. Stand by. ... Okay, We’re contacting the flight crew now and We’re ... We’re also contacting ATC.” In the four recorded minutes, Gonzalez relays that Ong is saying the hijackers from seats 2A and 2B are in the cockpit with the pilots. There are no doctors on board. All the first class passengers have been moved to the coach section. The airplane is flying very erratically. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004]Posted by jeff at 8:23 AM | TrackBack
Flight 11 attendant Amy (Madeline) Sweeney borrows a calling card from flight attendant Sara Low and uses an Airfone to try to call the American Airlines flight services office at Boston’s Logan Airport. She makes her first attempt at 8:22 a.m., but this quickly disconnects, as does a second attempt at 8:24. Further attempts at 8:25 and 8:29 are cut off after she reports someone hurt on the flight. The respondent to the call mistakenly thinks Sweeney’s flight number that she reports is 12. Hearing there is a problem with an American Airlines plane, Michael Woodward, an American Airlines flight service manager, goes to American’s gate area at the airport with a colleague, and realizes Flight 12 has not yet departed. He returns to the office to try to clarify the situation, then takes the phone and speaks to Sweeney himself. Because Woodward and Sweeney are friends, he does not have to verify the call is not a hoax. The call is not recorded, but Woodward takes detailed notes. According to the 9/11 Commission, the call between them lasts about 12 minutes, from 8:32 a.m. to 8:44 a.m. Accounts prior to the 9/11 Commission report spoke of one continuous call from around 8:20. [New York Observer, 2/11/2004; ABC News, 7/18/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004] Sweeney calmly tells Woodward, “Listen, and listen to me very carefully. I’m on Flight 11. The airplane has been hijacked.” [ABC News, 7/18/2002] According to one account, she gives him the seat locations of three hijackers: 9D, 9G, and 10B. She says they are all of Middle Eastern descent, and one speaks English very well. [New York Observer, 2/11/2004] Another account states that she identifies four hijackers (but still not the five said to be on the plane), and notes that not all the seats she gave matched up with the seats assigned to the hijackers on their tickets. [ABC News, 7/18/2002; Los Angeles Times, 9/20/2001] She says she cannot contact the cockpit, and does not believe the pilots are flying the plane any longer. [New York Observer, 2/11/2004] According to a later Los Angeles Times report, “Even as she was relating details about the hijackers, the men were storming the front of the plane and ‘had just gained access to the cockpit,’” (Note that Sweeney witnesses the storming of the cockpit at least seven minutes after radio contact from Flight 11 stops and at least one of the hijackers begins taking control of the cockpit.) [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/2001] She says the hijackers have stabbed the two first-class flight attendants, Barbara Arestegui and Karen Martin. She adds, “A hijacker cut the throat of a business-class passenger [later identified as Daniel Lewin], and he appears to be dead (see (Before 8:20 a.m.)).” She also says the hijackers have brought a bomb into the cockpit. Woodward asks Sweeney, “How do you know it’s a bomb?” She answers, “Because the hijackers showed me a bomb.” She describes its yellow and red wires. Sweeney continues talking with Woodward until Flight 11 crashes. [Boston Globe, 11/23/2001; New York Observer, 2/11/2004]Posted by jeff at 8:22 AM | TrackBack
American Airlines Flight service manager Michael Woodward is listening to Flight 11 attendant Amy Sweeney on the telephone, and he wants to pass on the information he is hearing from her. Since there is no tape recorder, he calls Nancy Wyatt, the supervisor of pursers at Logan Airport. Holding telephones in both hands, he repeats to Wyatt everything that Sweeney is saying to him. Wyatt in turn simultaneously transmits his account to the airline’s Fort Worth, Texas, headquarters. The conversation between Wyatt and managers at headquarters is recorded. All vital details from Sweeney’s call reach American Airlines’ top management almost instantly. However, according to victims’ relatives who later hear this recording, the two managers at headquarters immediately begin discussing a cover-up of the hijacking details. They say, “don’t spread this around. Keep it close,” “Keep it quiet,” and “Let’s keep this among ourselves. What else can we find out from our own sources about what’s going on?” One former American Airlines employee who has also heard this recording recalls, “In Fort Worth, two managers in SOC [Systems Operations Control] were sitting beside each other and hearing it. They were both saying, ‘Do not pass this along. Let’s keep it right here. Keep it among the five of us.’” Apparently, this decision prevents early and clear evidence of a hijacking from being shared during the crisis. Gerard Arpey, American Airlines’ executive vice president for operations, soon hears details of the hijacking from flight attendant Betty Ong’s phone call (see (8:21 a.m.)) at 8:30 a.m. (see 8:30 a.m.), but apparently, he does not learn of Sweeney’s call until much later. Victims’ relatives will later question whether lives could have been saved if only this information had been quickly shared with other airplanes. [New York Observer, 6/17/2004]
Flight 11 attendant Betty Ong calls Vanessa Minter, an American Airlines reservations agent in North Carolina, using a seatback Airfone from the back of the plane. Ong speaks to Minter and an unidentified man for about two minutes. Then supervisor Nydia Gonzalez is patched in to the conference call as well. Ong says, “The cockpit’s not answering. Somebody’s stabbed in business class and ... I think there’s mace ... that we can’t breathe. I don’t know, I think We’re getting hijacked.” A minute later, she continues, “And the cockpit is not answering their phone. And there’s somebody stabbed in business class. And there’s ... we can’t breathe in business class. Somebody’s got mace or something ... I’m sitting in the back. Somebody’s coming back from business. If you can hold on for one second, they’re coming back.” As this quote shows, other flight attendants relay information from the front of the airplane to Ong sitting in the back, and she periodically waits for updates. She goes on, “I think the guys are up there [in the cockpit]. They might have gone there—jammed the way up there, or something. Nobody can call the cockpit. We can’t even get inside.” The first four and a half minutes of the call is later played in a public 9/11 Commission hearing. Ong apparently continues speaking to Gonzalez and Minter until the plane crashes. [New York Observer, 2/11/2004; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey, who has heard more recordings than have been made public, says that some officials on the ground greet her account skeptically: “They did not believe her. They said, ‘Are you sure?’ They asked her to confirm that it wasn’t air-rage. Our people on the ground were not prepared for a hijacking.” [New York Times, 4/18/2004 Sources: Bob Kerrey]
Boston flight controller Pete Zalewski, handling Flight 11, sees that the flight is off course and that the plane has turned off both transponder and radio. Zalewski later claims he turns to his supervisor and says, “Would you please come over here? I think something is seriously wrong with this plane. I don’t know what. It’s either mechanical, electrical, I think, but I’m not sure.” When asked if he suspected a hijacking at this point, he replies, “Absolutely not. No way.” According to the 9/11 Commission, “the supervisor instructed the controller [presumably Zalewski] to follow standard operating procedures for handling a ‘no radio’ aircraft once the controller told the supervisor the transponder had been turned off.” Another flight controller, Tom Roberts, has another nearby American Airlines Flight try to contact Flight 11. There is still no response. The flight is now “drastically off course” but NORAD is still not notified. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Note that this response contradicts flight control manager Glenn Michael’s assertion that Flight 11 was considered a possible hijacking as soon as the transponder was discovered turned off.Posted by jeff at 8:21 AM | TrackBack
Four hijackers get up from their seats and stab or shoot passenger Daniel Lewin, a multimillionaire who once belonged to the Israel Defense Force’s Sayeret Matkal, a top-secret counterterrorist unit. Lewin is sitting in front of one of the three hijackers in business class. An initial FAA memo regarding the flight states that Satam Al Suqami shoots Lewin at 9:20 a.m. The time is certainly a typo; perhaps 8:20 a.m. is meant? The killing is mentioned in a phone call from the flight that starts at 8:20 a.m. [ABC News, 7/18/2002; United Press International, 3/6/2002; Washington Post, 3/2/2002]
Flight 11 stops transmitting its IFF (identify friend or foe) beacon signal. [CNN, 9/17/2001]
Flight 11 starts to veer dramatically off course. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002]
According to some reports, Boston flight control decides that Flight 11 has probably been hijacked, but apparently, it does not notify other flight control centers for another five minutes, and does not notify NORAD for approximately 20 minutes. [Newsday, 9/23/2001; New York Times, 9/15/2001] ABC News will later say, “There doesn’t seem to have been alarm bells going off, [flight] controllers getting on with law enforcement or the military. There’s a gap there that will have to be investigated.” [ABC News, 9/14/2001] (Note the conflicting account at 8:21 a.m. (see (8:21 a.m.)))
Flight 77 departs Dulles International Airport near Washington, ten minutes after its 8:10 scheduled departure time. [CNN, 9/17/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Guardian, 10/17/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Associated Press, 8/19/2002]Posted by jeff at 8:20 AM | TrackBack
Two Boston flight controllers, Pete Zalewski and Lino Martins, discuss the fact that Flight 11 cannot be contacted. Zalewski says to Martins, “He won’t answer you. He’s nordo [no radio] roger thanks.” [CNN, 9/17/2001; Guardian, 10/17/2001; New York Times, 10/16/2001; MSNBC, 9/11/2002]Posted by jeff at 8:15 AM | TrackBack
Flight 175 takes off from Boston’s Logan Airport, 16 minutes after its scheduled 7:58 departure time. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/17/2001; Guardian, 10/17/2001; Associated Press, 8/19/2002; Newsday, 9/10/2002]
At some unknown point after the hijacking begins, the talkback button is activated, which enables Boston flight controllers to hear what is being said in the cockpit. It is unclear whether John Ogonowski, the pilot of Flight 11, activates the talkback button, or whether a hijacker accidentally does so when he takes over the cockpit. A controller later says, “The button [is] being pushed intermittently most of the way to New York.” An article later notes that “his ability to do so also indicates that he [is] in the driver’s seat much of the way” to the WTC. Such transmissions continue until about 8:38 a.m. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/2001; MSNBC, 9/15/2001]Posted by jeff at 8:14 AM | TrackBack
The last routine communication takes place between ground control and the pilots of Flight 11 around this time. Flight controller Pete Zalewski is handling the flight. Pilot John Ogonowski responds when told to turn right, but immediately afterwards fails to respond to a command to climb. Zalewski repeatedly tries to reach the pilot, even using the emergency frequency, but gets no response. [Boston Globe, 11/23/2001; New York Times, 10/16/2001; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Flight 11 is apparently hijacked around this time. One flight controller says the plane is hijacked over Gardner, Massachusetts, less than 50 miles west of Boston. [Telegraph (Nashua), 9/13/2001] The Boston Globe notes, “It appears that the hijackers’ entry was surprising enough that the pilots did not have a chance to broadcast a traditional distress call.” It would only have taken a few seconds to press the right buttons. [Boston Globe, 11/23/2001] Yet flight attendant Amy Sweeney appears to witness three of the hijackers storming the cockpit around 8:20 a.m. [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/2001] This would imply that, at most, one or two hijackers enter the cockpit at this time, before the others do.
Shortly after flight controllers ask Flight 11 to climb to 35,000 feet, the transponder stops transmitting. A transponder is an electronic device that identifies a plane on a controller’s screen and gives its exact location and altitude. Among other vital functions, it is also used to transmit a four-digit emergency hijack code. Flight control manager Glenn Michael later says, “We considered it at that time to be a possible hijacking.” [Associated Press, 8/12/2002; Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/2001; MSNBC, 9/15/2001] Initial stories after 9/11 suggest the transponder is turned off around 8:13 a.m., but Pete Zalewski, the flight controller handling the flight, later says the transponder is turned off at 8:20 a.m. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] The 9/11 Commission places it at 8:21 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Colonel Robert Marr, head of NEADS, claims the transponder is turned off some time after 8:30 a.m. where the Flight 11 hijack was first detected a.m. [ABC News, 9/11/2002]Posted by jeff at 8:13 AM | TrackBack
President Bush sits down for his daily intelligence briefing. “The president’s briefing appears to have included some reference to the heightened terrorist risk reported throughout the summer,” but it contained nothing serious enough to cause Bush to call National Security Adviser Rice. The briefing ends around 8:20 a.m. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001]Posted by jeff at 8:00 AM | TrackBack
Hijacker Mohamed Atta on Flight 11 calls hijacker Marwan Alshehhi in Flight 175 as both planes sit on the runway. They presumably confirm the plot is on. [Time, 8/4/2002]
Flight 11 takes off from Boston’s Logan Airport, 14 minutes after its scheduled 7:45 departure time. [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/2001; ABC News, 7/18/2002; CNN, 9/17/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Guardian, 10/17/2001; Associated Press, 8/19/2002; Newsday, 9/10/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]Posted by jeff at 7:59 AM | TrackBack
Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari board Flight 11. Atta’s bags are not loaded onto the plane in time and are later found by investigators. Investigators later find airline uniforms and many other remarkable items. [Boston Globe, 9/18/2001] It is later reported that at least two other hijackers on Flight 11 use stolen uniforms and IDs to board the plane. [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 9/16/2001]Posted by jeff at 7:45 AM | TrackBack
The 9/11 Commission estimates that Flight 77 hijacker Hani Hanjour checks in at the American Airlines ticket counter at Washington’s Dulles International Airport some time between 7:25 a.m. and 7:35 a.m. (American Airlines will be unable to locate information confirming his check-in time.) [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 93 ] He is selected for additional scrutiny by airport security under the FAA’s CAPPS program (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.)), but this has no consequences. The final two Flight 77 hijackers, brothers Nawaf and Salem Alhazmi, check in at approximately 7:29 a.m. The customer service representative makes both of them CAPPS selectees, because one of them provides identification without a photo and seems unable to understand English, and he finds both of them suspicious. However, the only consequence is that Salem Alhazmi’s luggage is not loaded onto the plane until it is confirmed that he has boarded. Surveillance cameras monitor the security checkpoints at Dulles Airport. According to the 9/11 Commission’s review of security footage, Hani Hanjour passes through the Main Terminal’s west security screening checkpoint at 7:35 a.m. He proceeds through the metal detector without setting off the alarm, and his two carry-on bags set off no alarms when placed on the X-ray belt. The Alhazmis arrive at the same checkpoint a minute later. Salem Alhazmi successfully clears the metal detector, and is permitted through the checkpoint. Nawaf Alhazmi sets off the alarms for both the first and second metal detectors and is subsequently subjected to a personal screening with a metal detection hand wand before being passed. His shoulder bag is swiped by an explosive trace detector and returned without further inspection. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 27-28 ] Immediately after the attacks, when the FAA’s local civil aviation security office investigates the security screening at Dulles on 9/11, it finds the airport’s screeners recall nothing out of the ordinary, and cannot recall any of the passengers they screened having been CAPPS selectees. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 93 ] The 9/11 Commission later concludes that the Alhazmi brothers’ passports are “suspicious” and could have been linked to al-Qaeda, but it does not explain why or how. [Baltimore Sun, 1/27/2004]Posted by jeff at 7:25 AM | TrackBack
Around 7:15 a.m., Flight 77 hijackers Majed Moqed and Khalid Almihdhar check in at the American Airlines ticket counter at Washington’s Dulles International Airport. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 2-3; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 27 ] The FAA has a computer system in place, called CAPPS, which identifies those passengers most likely requiring additional scrutiny by airport security (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.)). CAPPS selects both men, but the only consequence is that Moqed’s luggage is not loaded onto Flight 77 until after his boarding is confirmed. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 27-28 ] Dulles Airport has surveillance cameras monitoring its security checkpoints, and video later viewed by the 9/11 Commission shows the two passing through the Main Terminal’s west security screening checkpoint at 7:18 a.m. When they go through, their carry-on bags fail to set off any alarms, but both men set off the alarm when they pass through the first metal detector. They are directed to a second metal detector, where Almihdhar passes, but Moqed fails again. He is subjected to a personal screening with a metal detection hand wand. This time he is cleared and permitted to pass through the checkpoint. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 3] The other three Flight 77 hijackers pass through the security checkpoint about 20 minutes later (see (7:25 a.m.-7:36 a.m.)). The 9/11 Commission later concludes that Almihdhar’s passport was “suspicious” and could have been linked to al-Qaeda, but it does not explain why or how. [Baltimore Sun, 1/27/2004]Posted by jeff at 7:15 AM | TrackBack
According to later reports, the alarm system in WTC 7 is placed on “TEST” status for a period due to last eight hours. This ordinarily happens during maintenance or other testing, and any alarms received from the building are generally ignored. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/2004, pp. 28 ]Posted by jeff at 6:47 AM | TrackBack
Flight 11 hijackers Waleed Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, and Satam Al Suqami arrive at Boston’s Logan Airport in a rental car, which they park in the airport’s central parking lot. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 5 ] According to the News of the World, a man who arrives at Logan at “about 6:30 a.m.” for an early flight, has an argument with several Middle Eastern men over a parking space, before moving on. Some early press reports say his confrontation is with five men. [Daily Telegraph, 9/13/2001; ABC News, 9/14/2001; News of the World, 9/16/2001] However, the 9/11 Commission will later describe the incident differently. It says there are just three Middle Eastern men, and the man ends up parked next to them. One of them opens his car door to get out then spends time “fiddling with his things,” thus trapping the man in his car. Eventually he has to force his way out, but the Middle Eastern men are completely unresponsive to him, saying nothing. The man will report the incident to authorities after hearing of the attacks. However, whether he identifies the men as Flight 11 hijackers is unstated. The hijackers’ car, which is associated with either Wail or Waleed Alshehri, will be found in the lot later in the day of 9/11. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 85 ] Inside the car, a Mitsubishi sedan rented from National Rental Car, are found Arabic-language flight training manuals. [Associated Press, 9/12/2001; Boston Herald, 9/12/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/13/2001]
“Approximately two hours prior to the first attack,” at least two workers at Odigo, an Israeli-owned instant messaging company, receive messages warning of the attack. Odigo’s US headquarters are located two blocks from the WTC. The source of the warning is unknown. [Washington Post, 9/28/2001; Ha'aretz, 9/26/2001]
Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari’s Portland-Boston flight arrives on time at Boston’s Logan Airport. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 2002] They cross a parking lot on their way to the departure terminal for Flight 11, and are observed asking for directions. The other three Flight 11 hijackers arrive at Logan in a rented car around this same time (see (6:45 a.m.)). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 5 ]Posted by jeff at 6:45 AM | TrackBack
President Bush goes for a four-mile jog around the golf course at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; MSNBC, 10/27/2002; Washington Times, 10/7/2002]Posted by jeff at 6:31 AM | TrackBack
Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins and other day shift employees at NEADS start their workday. NORAD is conducting a week-long, large-scale exercise called Vigilant Guardian. [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002] Deskins is regional mission crew chief for the Vigilant Guardian exercise. [ABC News, 9/11/2002] Vigilant Guardian is described as “an exercise that would pose an imaginary crisis to North American Air Defense outposts nationwide”; as a “simulated air war”; and as “an air defense exercise simulating an attack on the United States.” According to the 9/11 Commission, it “postulated a bomber attack from the former Soviet Union.” [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002; Filson, 2004, pp. 55 and 122; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 458] Vigilant Guardian is described as being held annually, and is one of NORAD’s four major annual exercises. [GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/14/2002; Filson, 2004, pp. 41; Arkin, 2005, pp. 545] However, another report says it takes place semi-annually. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] Accounts by participants vary on whether 9/11 was the second, third, or fourth day of the exercise. [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002; Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/2002; Code One Magazine, 1/2002] Vigilant Guardian is a command post exercise (CPX), and in at least some previous years was conducted in conjunction with Stratcom’s Global Guardian exercise and a US Space Command exercise called Apollo Guardian. [US Congress, n.d.; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/14/2002; Arkin, 2005, pp. 545] All of NORAD is participating in Vigilant Guardian on 9/11. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] At NEADS, most of the dozen or so staff on the operations floor have no idea what the exercise is going to entail and are ready for anything. [Utica Observer-Dispatch, 8/5/2004] NORAD is also running a real-world operation named Operation Northern Vigilance. NORAD is thus fully staffed and alert, and senior officers are manning stations throughout the US. The entire chain of command is in place and ready when the first hijacking is reported. An article later says, “In retrospect, the exercise would prove to be a serendipitous enabler of a rapid military response to terrorist attacks on September 11.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; Bergen Record, 12/5/2003] Colonel Robert Marr, in charge of NEADS, says, “We had the fighters with a little more gas on board. A few more weapons on board.” [ABC News, 9/11/2002] However, Deskins and other NORAD officials later are initially confused about whether the 9/11 attacks are real or part of the exercise. There is a National Reconnaissance Office exercise planned to occur as well (see 9:00 a.m.), involving a scenario of an airplane as a flying weapon. [Associated Press, 8/21/2002; United Press International, 8/22/2002]Posted by jeff at 6:30 AM | TrackBack
Newsweek later reports that on the night before 9/11, Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar “stayed in a motel near a fundamentalist storefront mosque in heavily Pakistani Laurel, Md. The morning of 9-11 ... they dropped a duffel bag at the mosque’s door. Taped to the baggage was a note: FOR THE BROTHERS.” Newsweek asks rhetorically, “Who are these mysterious brothers the hijackers left behind when they immolated themselves on September 11? Was that just the usual endearing term that fellow Muslims use for each other? Or is there a deeper connection?” No answers are given and the contents of the duffle bag are unknown. [Newsweek, 9/30/2002]
Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari’s flight from Portland to Boston takes off. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/4/2001] Their plane, Colgan Air Flight 5930, is a 19-seat Beechcraft 1900. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 3 ] Fellow passengers Vincent Meisner and Roger Quirion later say Atta and Alomari board separately, keep quiet, and do not draw attention to themselves. [Chicago Sun-Times, 9/16/2001; Washington Post, 9/16/2001] Quirion, says, “They struck me as business travelers. They were sitting down, talking, seems like they were going over some paperwork.” [CBS News, 10/12/2001]
President Bush has just spent the night at Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key, Florida. Surface-to-air missiles have been placed on the roof of the resort (it is not known if this was typical of presidential security before 9/11, or if this was related to increased terror warnings). [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2002] Bush wakes up around 6:00 a.m. and is preparing for his morning jog. [New York Times, 9/16/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; MSNBC, 10/27/2002] A van occupied by men of Middle Eastern descent arrives at the Colony Beach Resort, stating they have a “poolside” interview with the president. They do not have an appointment and they are turned away. [Longboat Observer, 9/26/2001] Some question whether this was an assassination attempt modeled on the one used on Afghan leader Ahmed Massoud two days earlier (see September 9, 2001). [Time, 8/4/2002] Longboat Key Fire Marshal Carroll Mooneyhan was reported to have overheard the conversation between the men and the Secret Service, but he later denies the report. The newspaper that reported this, the Longboat Observer stands by its story. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] Witnesses recall seeing Mohamed Atta in the Longboat Key Holiday Inn a short distance from where Bush was staying as recently as September 7, the day Bush’s Sarasota appearance was publicly announced. [Longboat Observer, 11/21/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004]Posted by jeff at 6:00 AM | TrackBack
Minutes after arriving at the Portland airport, hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari pass through the airport’s single security checkpoint, on the way to boarding their 6 a.m. flight to Boston. The checkpoint has a surveillance camera pointing at it, which captures them as they go through. [Time, 9/24/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 2-3 ] Some reports say the pair passes through at 5:53 a.m. [Associated Press, 9/14/2001; New York Times, 9/14/2001; Washington Post, 9/14/2001] Other reports put it earlier, at 5:45 a.m. [Portland Press Herald, 10/5/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/14/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 3 ] Strangely, when stills from the surveillance camera are later publicly released, they show two time stamps, one of 5:45 and another of 5:53. [Guardian, 9/21/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/14/2001] When they’d checked in just minutes earlier, Atta and Alomari were observed wearing ties and jackets (see 5:33 a.m.-5:43 a.m.). But in the security video footage, they have just open-necked shirts, with no jackets or ties. [Philadelphia Daily News, 2/24/2005; Portland Press Herald, 3/6/2005; CNN, 3/3/2006]Posted by jeff at 5:45 AM | TrackBack
Having spent the previous night at the Comfort Inn in Portland, Maine (see September 10, 2001), hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari check out at 5:33 a.m. and drive their rented Nissan to the nearby Portland International Jetport Airport, entering its parking lot at 5:40 a.m. The FBI will later seize their car there. [Observer, 9/16/2001; Portland Press Herald, 10/5/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/14/2001; Newsday, 4/17/2006] Their flight is due to take off for Boston at 6:00 a.m. (see (6:00 a.m.)). The Boston Globe points out, “Any significant delay would foil [Atta’s] big plans for the day.” [Boston Globe, 9/16/2001] The 9/11 Commission later concludes: “The Portland detour almost prevented Atta and Omari from making Flight 11 out of Boston.” [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004] At 5:43 a.m., they check in at the US Airways counter. [Portland Press Herald, 10/5/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/14/2001] They are wearing ties and jackets. Atta checks in two bags, Alomari none. Atta is randomly selected for additional security scrutiny by the FAA’s Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS) (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.)). However, the only consequence is that his checked bags will be held off the plane until it is confirmed that he has boarded. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 1; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 2 ; CNN, 3/3/2006] Noting that their flight is soon due to leave, the ticket agent who checks them in, Michael Tuohey, says, “You’re cutting it close.” [Portland Press Herald, 3/6/2005] Atta becomes angry when Tuohey informs him he will have to check in again in Boston. He complains that he was assured he would have a “one-step check-in.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 2 ; Associated Press, 3/7/2005] Tuohey will be recalled to work later in the day to speak to an FBI agent about his encounter with Atta and Alomari. He is shown video footage of them passing through the airport’s security checkpoint upstairs (see (Between 5:45 a.m. and 5:53 a.m.)). Although recognizing the two men, he notices that in the video they are no longer wearing the jackets and ties they’d had on when checking in just minutes before. He assumes they must have taken these off and tucked them into their carry-on baggage. He is also informed that the security camera behind his own desk, which should have captured the two hijackers, has in fact been out of order for some time. [Portland Press Herald, 3/6/2005; CNN, 3/3/2006]Posted by jeff at 5:33 AM | TrackBack
- Kelly Knowles says that seconds after seeing Flight 77 pass, she sees a “second plane that seemed to be chasing the first [pass] over at a slightly different angle.” [Daily Press (Newport News), 9/15/2001]