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Context of '(10:06 a.m.-10:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001: FBI Informed of Plane Crash; Agents Head to Flight 93 Crash Scene'

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Edward Felt.
Edward Felt. [Source: Family photo]An emergency call is received at the 911 center in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, from Edward Felt, a passenger on Flight 93. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/8/2002] Felt makes the 911 call using his cell phone. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 45; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] It is answered by dispatcher John Shaw, on a line at the center specifically for incoming cell phone calls. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001 pdf file; Longman, 2002, pp. 193] Glenn Cramer, a supervisor at the 911 center, hears Shaw responding to the caller, “You are what hijacked?” and consequently picks up a phone that allows him to listen in on the rest of Felt’s call. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001 pdf file; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/7/2001]
Call Center Workers Mishear Name - Felt identifies himself. Shaw and Cramer apparently mishear, and both will recall that he says his name is “Ed Wart.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 pdf file; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001 pdf file] (The FBI will initially refuse to disclose the caller’s name to the press, but he is later revealed to have been Edward Felt, a 41-year-old engineer from New Jersey. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 194; New York Times, 3/27/2002] ) Felt says, “We are being hijacked, we are being hijacked!” He repeatedly states that his call is not a hoax. [ABC News, 9/11/2001; Associated Press, 9/11/2001] He says the passengers need help immediately. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 pdf file]
Felt Answers Questions about His Flight, but Does Not Describe Hijackers - Shaw asks Felt standard questions, such as where is he? What type of plane is he on? And what has happened? [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/11/2002] Felt tells Shaw his cell phone number and says he is on United Airlines Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco. [Longman, 2002, pp. 193-194; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/11/2002; United States of America v. Zacarias Moussaoui, a/k/a Shaqil, a/k/a Abu Khalid al Sahrawi, Defendant., 4/11/2006 pdf file] He says he is locked in the bathroom of the plane, but does not say if this is its front or rear bathroom. He does not say anything about how many hijackers are on board, nor make any statements about any weapons the hijackers may possess. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001 pdf file] Nor does he mention any attempt by the passengers to regain control of the plane. [Longman, 2002, pp. 196]
Felt Describes 'Lots of Passengers,' though Plane Is Mostly Empty - Shaw will recall to the FBI that Felt tells him the plane is loaded with numerous passengers. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 pdf file] Glenn Cramer will similarly tell the FBI that Felt describes “lots of passengers” on board. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001 pdf file] Yet there are only 37 passengers (including the four hijackers) on Flight 93, constituting just 20 percent of its passenger capacity of 182. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 36] Felt says: “We’re going down. We’re going down.” [New York Times, 3/27/2002; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/11/2002] Cramer will say that Felt describes an explosion on the aircraft and smoke coming from it, but others—including Shaw—will deny this (see (Between 9:58 a.m. and 9:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001 pdf file; Longman, 2002, pp. 264; Valley News Dispatch, 9/11/2002]
Call Ends after One Minute - Shaw will tell the FBI the call lasts “less than five minutes” before the line disconnects. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 pdf file] According to other accounts, it lasts just over one minute. [Dayton Daily News, 9/12/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 197; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/8/2002; Valley News Dispatch, 9/11/2002] After the call ends, other employees at the Westmoreland County 911 center are instructed to notify the FBI and the FAA about it. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001 pdf file] When the FBI arrives at the center, it will immediately take possession of the tape of Felt’s call. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001]

Entity Tags: Glenn Cramer, Edward Felt, John Shaw

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Paula Pluta, a resident of Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania, sees Flight 93 crashing behind some trees about 1,500 yards from her home and then calls 9-1-1, becoming the first person to call the emergency services to report the crash. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/12/2001; East Bay Times, 9/10/2005] Pluta is at her home, watching television, unaware of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon. Everything has been quiet and normal. Suddenly, though, her house starts to vibrate, and things in it start rattling and shaking. She hears a roar coming from the skies above her that gets louder and louder. “I heard this noise like a dive bomber; you know, one of those planes they use in war,” she will later recall. When she looks out the living room window, though, she sees nothing unusual outside. She then goes out onto the front porch. From there, she sees a “silver streak” plummeting toward the ground at an angle of about 45 degrees. “It looked like a silver bullet,” she will describe. [Los Angeles Times, 9/12/2001; McMillan, 2014, pp. 106; Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial, 3/17/2016] Flight 93 crashes into the ground at 10:03 a.m. (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/9/2011; National Park Service, 5/2013, pp. 13 pdf file] Pluta is unable to see the impact, since the plane disappears behind a line of trees before hitting the ground, but she feels the ground shaking when the plane crashes. “It hit so hard that it almost took my feet out from underneath me,” she will recall. [Los Angeles Times, 9/12/2001; McMillan, 2014, pp. 106; Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial, 3/17/2016] She also sees a huge fireball about 150 feet up in the air and a plume of smoke coming from behind the trees. [Chicago Tribune, 9/12/2001; National Park Service, 3/2017, pp. 15 pdf file] The explosion damages the outside of her home. Pluta notices that a garage door has buckled and a latched window has been sucked open. She immediately calls 9-1-1 to report the incident. “Oh my God!” she tells the operator. “There was an airplane crash here!” She is the first of about 20 local residents to report the crash of Flight 93 to the authorities. She will promptly head to the site where the crash occurred and be surprised at the lack of wreckage there (see (After 10:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/12/2001; McMillan, 2014, pp. 106-107; Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial, 3/17/2016]

Entity Tags: Paula Pluta

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Flight 93 crash site.The Flight 93 crash site. [Source: Associated Press]Numerous individuals who see the Flight 93 crash site notice a lack of plane wreckage there:
bullet Jon Meyer, a reporter with WJAC-TV, will later describe: “I was able to get right up to the edge of the crater.… All I saw was a crater filled with small, charred plane parts. Nothing that would even tell you that it was the plane.… There were no suitcases, no recognizable plane parts, no body parts. The crater was about 30 to 35 feet deep.” [Newseum et al., 2002, pp. 148]
bullet According to Mark Stahl, who goes to the crash scene: “There’s a crater gouged in the earth, the plane is pretty much disintegrated. There’s nothing left but scorched trees.” [Associated Press, 9/11/2001]
bullet Frank Monaco of the Pennsylvania State Police will comment: “If you would go down there, it would look like a trash heap. There’s nothing but tiny pieces of debris. It’s just littered with small pieces.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/12/2001]
bullet Scott Spangler, a photographer with a local newspaper, will recall: “I didn’t think I was in the right place. I was looking for a wing or a tail. There was nothing, just this pit.… I was looking for anything that said tail, wing, plane, metal. There was nothing.” [Newseum et al., 2002, pp. 149]
bullet Paula Pluta, a local resident who headed to the site promptly after the crash occurred, will describe seeing “[j]ust a big crater that looked… like something had gone into it, and it rolled the dirt up around and buried itself.” “I’m looking around for plane wreckage and there’s nothing,” she will recall, adding: “I just stood there in amazement. Where did this thing go?” [McMillan, 2014, pp. 107]
bullet Dave Berkebile, another local resident, arrives at the site shortly after Pluta does. However, he cannot see any large airplane parts there. “The biggest chunk of debris he identified,” according to journalist and author Tom McMillan, “was a cooling unit that was maybe eight inches by 12 inches.” [McMillan, 2014, pp. 107]
bullet According to Ron Delano, a local who rushes to the scene after hearing about the crash: “If they hadn’t told us a plane had wrecked, you wouldn’t have known. It looked like it hit and disintegrated.” [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/12/2001]
bullet Gabrielle DeRose, a news anchor with KDKA-TV, views the crash site from a hill overlooking it. She will comment: “It was very disturbing to think all the remains just disintegrated…. There were no large pieces of airplane, no human remains, no baggage.” [Sylvester and Huffman, 2002, pp. 160-161]
bullet Local assistant volunteer fire chief Rick King, who sees the crater at the crash site, will say, “Never in my wildest dreams did I think half the plane was down there.” King sends his men into the woods to search for the plane’s fuselage, but they keep coming back and telling him: “Rick. There’s nothing.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 216]
Bob Craig of the FBI’s evidence-gathering team will explain what is supposed to have happened when Flight 93 hit the ground. “Turn the picture of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center on its side, and, for all intents and purposes, the face of the building is the strip mine in Shanksville [where Flight 93 crashed],” he will say. [Longman, 2002, pp. 260] When the plane’s two black boxes are later discovered (see September 13-14, 2001), they are reportedly found 15 and 25 feet inside the crater. [Longman, 2002, pp. 217; Washington Post, 5/12/2002]

Entity Tags: Mark Stahl, Paula Pluta, Ron Delano, Jon Meyer, William Robert Craig, Rick King, Gabrielle DeRose, Scott Spangler, Dave Berkebile, Frank Monaco

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Wells Morrison is the supervisory special agent in charge of the FBI’s Mon Valley Resident Agency, a satellite of the bureau’s Pittsburgh field office. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 4/13/2003] He receives a call informing him that a plane has crashed in Somerset County. Another phone call informs him that Westmoreland County 911 received a call saying a plane had been hijacked. (This is the call believed to have been from Flight 93 passenger Edward Felt (see 9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001).) He sends an agent out, who quickly seizes the tape of the call from the emergency dispatchers. Morrison also has agents sent to the Flight 93 crash site and subsequently goes there himself, being one of the first FBI agents to arrive at the scene. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Kashurba, 2002, pp. 109-110] Patrick Madigan of the Pennsylvania State Police, who arrives at the crash site around 10:20 a.m., says the first FBI agent gets there soon after him. Initially, four or five FBI agents will be there. [Department of the Army and the Air Force National Guard Bureau, 2002 pdf file; Kashurba, 2002, pp. 60 and 110] In the subsequent days, about 150 agents will be involved in the recovery effort (see (September 11-27, 2001)). [Longman, 2002, pp. 259] As it is a crime scene, the FBI is in charge of the Flight 93 crash site and the subsequent investigation. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11/4/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2/17/2002]

Entity Tags: Patrick Madigan, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Wells Morrison

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Airphone from Flight 93 wreckage.Airphone from Flight 93 wreckage. [Source: National Museum of American History]The first FBI agents arrive at the Flight 93 crash scene soon after it goes down. [Kashurba, 2002, pp. 60] Due to the criminal nature of the crash, the FBI becomes lead authority for the investigation of the site. Attempts are made to have the area declared a federal disaster, but these are unsuccessful. [DMORT National News, 1/2002] For about two weeks, the FBI’s evidence recovery team of about 150 agents goes over the site with sifters, filtering evidence from the soil. It recovers about 510 pounds of human remains. [Longman, 2002, pp. 259; Age (Melbourne), 9/9/2002] Despite the lack of wreckage reported by those first at the crash scene (see (After 10:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), the FBI claims that it recovers 95 percent of the plane. The largest piece found, it says, is a seven-foot-long piece of the fuselage skin, including four windows. With the exception of the two black boxes, all wreckage is passed on to United Airlines. Asked what United will do with this, a spokeswoman says, “I don’t think a decision has been made… but we’re not commenting.” [CNN, 9/24/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/25/2001] While conducting its investigation of the crash site, the FBI overrules a plan to carefully map the area and mark the positions of debris so as to determine exactly how Flight 93 crashed, claiming this would be too time-consuming (see September 16, 2001). [Longman, 2002, pp. 262] After it completes its work, the site becomes the responsibility of the county coroner, who continues the search for remains. [Longman, 2002, pp. 258-259]

Entity Tags: United Airlines, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Flight 93’s flight data recorder, found at the crash site in Shanksville.Flight 93’s flight data recorder, found at the crash site in Shanksville. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]Around 4:50 p.m. on September 13, investigators discover the flight data recorder from Flight 93, one of the plane’s two “black boxes.” It is buried about 15 feet down in the main crater at the crash site, near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Around 8:25 p.m. the following evening, the other ‘black box’—the plane’s cockpit voice recorder—is found about 25 feet below ground in roughly the same spot. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/13/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/15/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 217] The flight data recorder monitors airplane functions like its speed and altitude, while the cockpit voice recorder picks up conversations in the plane’s cockpit. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/14/2001] Both are mounted in a plane’s tail. They are encased in very strong materials, like titanium, and insulated so as to withstand a crash impact. [BBC, 9/15/2001] Wells Morrison, the FBI’s second in command at the Flight 93 crash scene, later comments, “It was strange. The black boxes are right next to each other on the aircraft, but one was found thirteen feet deeper into the crater than the other.… We were surprised, quite honestly, that we didn’t find them sooner.” [Kashurba, 2002, pp. 109 and 115] The cockpit voice recorder is sent to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in Washington, and then on to its manufacturer, Honeywell, to try to extract information from it. [CBS News, 9/16/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11/4/2001] It is supposedly the only one from the four hijacked flights to have survived the crash impact and ensuing fire. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 456] In April 2002, the 31-minute recording from it is played in private to victims’ relatives (see April 18, 2002). It will be played in public for the first time in April 2006, during the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui (see April 12, 2006). [CNN, 4/13/2006]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Wells Morrison, Honeywell, RobertMoomo

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Officials deny that Flight 93 was shot down, but propose the theory that the hijackers had a bomb on board and blew up the plane. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/14/2001] Later in the month, it is reported that the “FBI has determined from the on site investigation that no explosive was involved.” [Associated Press, 9/25/2001]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, North American Aerospace Defense Command, RobertMoomo, Richard B. Myers

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A report suggests the crash site of Flight 93 is being searched and recorded in 60 square-foot grids. [News Journal (Wilmington, DE), 9/16/2001] This approach is preferred by Wallace Miller, the local coroner, and Dennis Dirkmaat, a forensic anthropologist involved in searching the crash site. According to journalist and author Jere Longman, “The distribution patterns developed from such precise marking of airplane parts, remains and personal effects might have told them such things as exactly how the airplane struck the ground. Theoretically, by associating the location of particular remains with the location of parts of the airplane, they may have also gained some clues about which passengers had rushed the cockpit.” However, almost a year later Longman reports that this approach was not followed: “The FBI overruled them, instead dividing the site into five large sectors. It would be too time-consuming to mark tight grids, and would serve no real investigative purpose, the bureau decided. There was no mystery to solve about the crash. Everybody knew what happened to the plane.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 262] While the FBI claims there is no mystery, some news articles suggest the plane was shot down. (For example, [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001; Independent, 8/13/2002] ) In addition, at the time of this decision, investigators are still considering the possibility that a bomb might have destroyed the plane (see September 14, 2001). Unlike every other major airplane crash in modern history, no National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation is being conducted into the crash of Flight 93 (see After September 11, 2001). [Lappe and Marshall, 2004, pp. 40-41]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Wallace Miller, Dennis Dirkmaat

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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