!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News

Context of '(10:00 a.m.) September 12, 2001: False Alarm over Inbound Plane Leads to Pentagon Evacuation'

This is a scalable context timeline. It contains events related to the event (10:00 a.m.) September 12, 2001: False Alarm over Inbound Plane Leads to Pentagon Evacuation. You can narrow or broaden the context of this timeline by adjusting the zoom level. The lower the scale, the more relevant the items on average will be, while the higher the scale, the less relevant the items, on average, will be.

People in the vicinity of the Pentagon, including the managers of the high USA Today building, phone the local emergency call center, with concerns about their own safety. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 48; McClatchy Washington Bureau, 2008] The Emergency Communications Center (ECC) is the focal point of all police and fire 911 calls for Arlington County, where the Pentagon is located. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 66] After events in New York make it clear the US is under attack, the phones there light up with calls from local people wanting to know what to do. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 48] According to Assistant Chief James Schwartz of the Arlington County Fire Department, the center is “receiving phone calls from buildings that are along the [Potomac] river and are also along the flight path for [Washington’s Reagan] National Airport,” which is about a mile from the Pentagon. [McClatchy Washington Bureau, 2008]
USA Today Building Managers Concerned - Among the callers to the ECC are the building managers at the USA Today building in Rosslyn, who are worried their complex could be a target and want to know if they should evacuate it. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 48] The USA Today complex is just a few miles down the road from the Pentagon. [USA Today, 9/13/2001] It includes the two tallest high-rise buildings in the county, one of which is 30-stories high. [Washington Business Journal, 9/11/2001; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 9] These two buildings are in fact known as the “Twin Towers.” [Washington Business Journal, 9/7/2001]
ECC Suggests Evacuation - The ECC has no specific guidance it can offer the building managers, but tells them that if it makes them feel better, based on what they are seeing on television, then they should evacuate their building. [McClatchy Washington Bureau, 2008] Some employees will begin evacuating from the USA Today building after the Pentagon is hit at 9:37. However, Westfield Realty, the company that owns the building, will not ask the tenants to evacuate until around 11:00 a.m. [Washington Business Journal, 9/11/2001; Washington Business Journal, 9/14/2001]
Firefighters Think USA Today Building Is a Possible Target - Around the time that the ECC is receiving calls from concerned people in the area, firefighters at a local fire station who have seen the television footage of the attacks in New York start speculating what landmarks terrorists might go for if they attacked northern Virginia. The firefighters in fact see the USA Today complex as the most obvious target, but they also consider the Pentagon, CIA headquarters, the White House, and the Capitol building to be potential targets. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 9-10] Just before the time of the Pentagon attack, a fire alarm will go off at the USA Today building, though it is unclear whether this is actually caused by a fire there (see (Shortly Before 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [McClatchy Washington Bureau, 2008]

Entity Tags: USA Today building, Arlington County Emergency Communications Center, Arlington County Fire Department, James Schwartz

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

James Schwartz.James Schwartz. [Source: Arlington County, Virginia]Firefighting and other operations are severely disrupted when the Pentagon site is evacuated due to a report of an unidentified aircraft heading toward the Pentagon. Firefighters have to abandon their equipment and run several hundred yards to protected areas. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A16 and A30 pdf file] Assistant Fire Chief James Schwartz orders the evacuation after the control tower at Washington’s Reagan National Airport notifies the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center (ECC) of an inbound aircraft that is not identifying itself and is heading up the Potomac River at a high rate of speed. It is not known if this is a hijacked plane, but no aircraft other than military jets are now supposed to be in the air. The ECC then notifies Schwartz at the Pentagon. By the time he orders the evacuation, the aircraft is reportedly just two minutes away. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A30 and A52 pdf file; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 187] At one point, the controllers at Reagan Airport are reporting that the plane has disappeared from radar, though they do not say why they think this is. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 191]
Approaching Aircraft Is 'Friendly' - The unidentified aircraft is soon determined to be “friendly.” [Fire Engineering, 11/2002; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 193] According to the Arlington County After-Action Report, it turns out to have been a government aircraft flying Attorney General John Ashcroft back to Washington. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A30 and C52 pdf file; Vogel, 2007, pp. 453] However, a 2002 FAA report will state that Ashcroft’s plane landed in Washington “just before noon” (see (12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002 pdf file] If that report is correct, then the identity of the approaching aircraft is unclear.
Emergency Operations Disrupted - The firefighters and other emergency responders return to the Pentagon and resume their activities, but the evacuation has significantly disrupted firefighting operations, giving fires in some areas 30 minutes to gain ground. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A16 pdf file; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 193-194] The FBI’s evidence recovery operation has also been disrupted. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 191]
Evacuation Avoidable, Caused by Loss of FBI Presence - This evacuation is later determined to have been avoidable, and only necessary because of the loss of a senior FBI presence at the incident command post (ICP) at the Pentagon, which means there is no way for the ICP to verify whether the approaching aircraft is “friendly” or not. This loss is due to the FBI having relocated to the Virginia State Police Barracks shortly after midday (see (12:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001). The Arlington County After-Action Report will later conclude, “Friendly aircraft, carrying US government executives and escorted by fighter aircraft, should not have been cause for evacuation.” A previous evacuation of the Pentagon site due to reports of an approaching unidentified aircraft occurred around 10:15 a.m. (see (10:15 a.m.-10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and a third similar evacuation will occur on the morning of September 12 (see (10:00 a.m.) September 12, 2001). [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A30-A31 pdf file; Fire Engineering, 11/2002]

Entity Tags: John Ashcroft, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, James Schwartz, Arlington County Emergency Communications Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Firefighting operations at the Pentagon are disrupted when the crash site there is evacuated in response to a report of an approaching unidentified plane. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A16 and A30 pdf file; Fire Engineering, 11/2002] Air traffic controllers at Washington’s Reagan National Airport have noticed an aircraft on their radar scopes that is not identifying itself and is flying fast up the Potomac River. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 333] They notify the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center, which passes the information on to Assistant Fire Chief James Schwartz, the incident commander at the Pentagon, and he orders the evacuation. Firefighters have to abandon their operations and run several hundred yards to protected areas. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A16 and C52 pdf file] The unidentified aircraft is soon determined to be “friendly,” and firefighters then return to work. [Fire Engineering, 11/2002; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 335] The plane was a government aircraft with FEMA Director Joseph Allbaugh on board. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A30 and C52 pdf file] The Pentagon was similarly evacuated two times on September 11, due to false alarms over reports of unidentified aircraft heading for Washington (see (10:15 a.m.-10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Fire Engineering, 11/2002]

Entity Tags: Arlington County Emergency Communications Center, Joseph M. Allbaugh, James Schwartz, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Ordering 

Time period


Email Updates

Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database

 
Donate

Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
Donate Now

Volunteer

If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.
Contact Us

Creative Commons License Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike