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Context of '(10:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Staff in White House Bunker Learns of Flight 93 Crash; Vice President Cheney Already Thinks an ‘Act of Heroism’ Occurred'

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Two F-15 fighter jets are scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which is 153 miles from New York City. The fighters are launched in response to the hijacked Flight 11, but this plane is already crashing into the World Trade Center at this time (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 9/15/2001; CNN, 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
Delay - The FAA’s Boston Center alerted NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) to the hijacking of Flight 11 and requested that fighter jets be scrambled at just before 8:38 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but the mission crew commander at NEADS only instructed the leader of his weapons team to launch the Otis fighters at 8:45 a.m. (see 8:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]
Otis Aircraft Head to Runway - As soon as the pilots at Otis Air Base are strapped into their aircraft, the green light directing them to launch goes on. They start their engines and taxi out of the hangar to the nearest runway. One of the pilots, Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy, radios his command post for guidance, asking, “Do you have words?” The response he gets is, “Possible hijack, American Flight 11, 737, flight level 290 [29,000 feet], over JFK [International Airport in New York City].” (This flight information is partly incorrect, since American 11 is a 767, not a 737.) According to the Cape Cod Times, the jets will be up in the air before their radar kicks in. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 42] The Otis pilots have already been preparing for the scramble order to come since learning of the hijacking from the FAA’s Cape Cod facility, some time shortly after 8:34 a.m. (see (8:36 a.m.-8:41) September 11, 2001). [BBC, 9/1/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 27-30] Their jets are reportedly not airborne until seven minutes after being scrambled, at 8:53 a.m. (see 8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001) and there will be conflicting accounts of what their original destination is (see (8:53 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]

Entity Tags: Timothy Duffy, Otis Air National Guard Base, Daniel Nash

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Vice President Cheney pointing a finger inside the Presidential Emergency Operations Center. Footage of the World Trade Center plays on the televisions in the background (exact time is unknown).Vice President Cheney pointing a finger inside the Presidential Emergency Operations Center. Footage of the World Trade Center plays on the televisions in the background (exact time is unknown). [Source: White House]Those inside the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House learn that an aircraft is down in Pennsylvania. (This turns out to be Flight 93.) Many of the people in the PEOC wonder whether military fighters shot it down. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 41] National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice later claims that, like her, Vice President Dick Cheney initially thinks, “it must have been shot down by the fighters.” [Hayes, 2007, pp. 339] However, Eric Edelman—Cheney’s national security adviser, who is also in the PEOC—will later recall: “The vice president was a little bit ahead of us.… He said, sort of softly, and to nobody in particular, ‘I think an act of heroism just took place on that plane.’” [CNN, 9/11/2002; CNN, 9/14/2002] Yet the Pentagon does not confirm that Flight 93 was not shot down until after midday (see (Shortly After 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Newsweek, 12/31/2001] And the phone calls from Flight 93 that indicated a passenger revolt took place are only reported later on. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Eric Edelman

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Several early news reports suggest that US military fighter jets may have shot down an aircraft, perhaps Flight 93. Ireland’s Thomas Crosbie Media reports, “A Boeing 767 has crashed near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.… US anti-aircraft fighters are in place—unconfirmed reports say this plane was shot out of the sky by US defense.” [TCM Breaking News, 9/11/2001] Forbes states, “There are reports of a fourth airliner [having] been brought down near Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, by US military fighters.” [Forbes, 9/11/2001] And the Northwestern Chronicle states, “Air Force officials say an airliner has been forced down by F-16 fighter jets near Camp David.” [Northwestern Chronicle, 9/11/2001] However, according to later reports, military officials say US aircraft did not shoot down any of the hijacked planes. [CNN, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: US Department of the Air Force

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Pentagon finally informs those inside the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House that Flight 93 was not shot down by the US military. When they’d first learned of a plane going down in Pennsylvania, many of the people in the PEOC thought the military might have shot it down (see (10:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Newsweek, 12/31/2001; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] However, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice later recalls, “We couldn’t get an answer from the Pentagon” as to what had happened. In one call to the Pentagon, she’d insisted, “You must know. I mean, you must know!” [Hayes, 2007, pp. 339] It takes until about two hours after Flight 93 crashed for the Pentagon to confirm there was no shoot down. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] Several early news reports suggested that military fighter jets might have shot down an aircraft, perhaps Flight 93 (see 11:28 a.m.-11:50 a.m. September 11, 2001). And when F-15 pilot Daniel Nash returns to his base later in the afternoon after flying a combat air patrol over New York, he will be told that a military F-16 had shot down an airliner in Pennsylvania (see (Shortly After 2:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Condoleezza Rice

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The driver of a refueling truck at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, mistakenly concludes that one of the three F-16 fighter jets that launched from the base to defend Washington, DC (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and that recently landed back there (see (2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001) shot down Flight 93. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 277]
One Fighter Launched without Missiles - One of the F-16s that took off from Langley Air Force Base was piloted by Captain Craig Borgstrom. However, Borgstrom was not one of the two pilots at the base on “alert” duty this morning. Consequently, he had taken off in a third, spare fighter in response to the call for help (see (Between 9:10 a.m. and 9:23 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Unlike the F-16s belonging to the two pilots on alert duty, Borgstrom’s plane carried no missiles. [Christian Science Monitor, 4/16/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 118-119]
Driver Thinks Borgstrom Shot Down Flight 93 - One of the alert pilots, Major Brad Derrig, will later recall, “Confusion arose because Borgstrom had no missiles when he took off and that was noticed when he landed.” [9/11 Commission, 12/1/2003] The driver of a refueling truck, who is unaware that Borgstrom had taken off without any missiles, now notices that Borgstrom’s plane has no missiles hanging from its wings. According to author Lynn Spencer, the driver “knows that United 93 has gone down and now he surmises who took it down.” The following day, the driver will voice his suspicion to Borgstrom, and Borgstrom will clarify to him what actually happened. But, according to Spencer, “in the interim, a rumor is started that makes its way onto the Internet and will haunt the pilots for years to come,” that Flight 93 was shot down. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 277]
Other Evidence Indicates Shootdown - However, there are other factors that lead to the suspicion that Flight 93 was shot down by the US military. For example, a number of early news reports—published hours before the three fighters landed back at Langley—stated the possibility of a plane having been shot down (see 11:28 a.m.-11:50 a.m. September 11, 2001), and what appears to be debris from a plane is discovered far away from the main Flight 93 crash site (see (Before 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and September 13, 2001). [TCM Breaking News, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/13/2001; Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001; Mirror, 9/12/2002]

Entity Tags: Brad Derrig, Craig Borgstrom

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The two F-15 fighter jets that launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in response to the hijacked Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) land back at their base after flying a combat air patrol (CAP) over New York City. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; Filson, 10/2/2002] The F-15s, which belong to the 102nd Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, are piloted by Major Daniel Nash and Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy. [Rosenfeld and Gross, 2007, pp. 35]
Fighters Intercepted about 100 Aircraft - Duffy and Nash’s job during the CAP was to identify and divert all aircraft from the Manhattan area. Duffy will later recall, “We would pull up next to them and tip our wings or fly across in front of them to get them to leave the area.” [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; 9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004 pdf file] He will say that during their time flying over Manhattan, “All of the sudden, you get contacts coming toward the city that are unidentified and aren’t talking to anybody, and we were getting real nervous.” [Filson, 10/22/2002] Duffy will estimate that the two fighters intercepted and escorted about 100 aircraft in total, including emergency, military, and news helicopters, plus dozens of small private planes whose pilots were unaware of the attacks on New York. Some of those pilots had seen the smoke over the city and decided to investigate. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002]
One Fighter over Manhattan at All Times - Duffy and Nash had alternated their responsibilities, so that one of them would remain over Manhattan at all times while the other would intercept aircraft or be refueled by a tanker plane over the ocean (see (Shortly After 9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). After flying the CAP for about two hours, they were joined by a couple more F-15s from Otis Air Base (see (11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). While those jets flew at around 18,000 feet, Nash and Duffy remained at around 10,000 feet. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002; Filson, 10/2/2002; Filson, 10/22/2002; 9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004 pdf file] Eventually, after several hours flying over Manhattan, Nash and Duffy were ordered to return to their base.
Base Hectic with Activity - Upon landing, they find that Otis Air Base is very different to how it was when they took off. Rows and rows of their unit’s fighters are lined up near the runway, surrounded by about 100 maintenance personnel who are frantically working to prepare the aircraft for battle. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 273-274] Armed security officers in flak jackets are guarding every entrance to the base; personnel are swarming in the buildings; and officers are trying to locate all the reserve pilots.
Pilot Learns of Pentagon Attack - The two fighter pilots had been poorly informed about what was going on regarding the terrorist attacks, and were only told in passing by an air traffic controller that there had been an attack in Washington (see (8:53 a.m.-10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). After he gets out of his plane, Nash is informed by a crew member that an aircraft crashed into the Pentagon. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002; Michael Bronner, 2006] Nash and Duffy subsequently go to their unit’s “intelligence shop” and describe what they have done since taking off from the base hours earlier. [Filson, 10/2/2002]

Entity Tags: Timothy Duffy, 102nd Fighter Wing, Otis Air National Guard Base, Daniel Nash

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

One of the pilots of the two F-15s from the 102nd Fighter Wing that took off in response to the hijacked Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) is told by a colleague that the military has shot down an aircraft over Pennsylvania. After the fighter pilots, Major Daniel Nash and Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, land at Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, having spent the past few hours flying a combat air patrol over New York (see (2:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001), a “bunch of people” at the base start telling them “what was going on,” Nash will later recall. A crew chief tells Nash that an F-16 fighter jet shot down a fourth airliner over Pennsylvania. Nash will comment, “Obviously that wasn’t true, so there were lots of rumors floating around.” [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002; Filson, 10/2/2002] Some early news reports suggested the possibility of a plane having been shot down by the US military (see 11:28 a.m.-11:50 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Forbes, 9/11/2001; TCM Breaking News, 9/11/2001] But the Pentagon has by now informed the White House that the military did not shoot down Flight 93 over Pennsylvania (see (Shortly After 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002]

Entity Tags: Daniel Nash, Timothy Duffy, 102nd Fighter Wing

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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