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Context of '10:45 a.m. September 11, 2001: Coroner Surprised by Lack of Human Remains at Flight 93 Crash Site'

This is a scalable context timeline. It contains events related to the event 10:45 a.m. September 11, 2001: Coroner Surprised by Lack of Human Remains at Flight 93 Crash Site. 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.

Informant Emad Salem, pictured bent over in a green shirt, enables the FBI to take surveillance footage like this of the plotters making a bomb.Informant Emad Salem, pictured bent over in a green shirt, enables the FBI to take surveillance footage like this of the plotters making a bomb. [Source: National Geographic]Eight people are arrested, foiling a plot to bomb several New York City landmarks. The targets were the United Nations building, 26 Federal Plaza, and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels. This is known as the “Landmarks” or “Day of Terror” plot. The plotters are connected to Ramzi Yousef and the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. If the bombing, planned for later in the year, had been successful, thousands would have died. An FBI informant named Emad Salem had infiltrated the group, gathering information that leads to arrests of the plotters (see April 23, 1993). (US Congress 7/24/2003) Abdul-Rahman will eventually be sentenced to life in prison for a role in the plot. Nine others will be given long prison terms, including Ibrahim El-Gabrowny and Clement Rodney Hampton-El. (Fried 1/18/1996) Siddig Siddig Ali, who was possibly the main force behind the plot (see April 23, 1993), will eventually be sentenced to only 11 years in prison because he agreed to provide evidence on the other suspects (Weiser 10/16/1999)

The 9/11 hijackers have links to several people associated with “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdul-Rahman, the spiritual head of the group that bombed the World Trade Center in 1993. Abdul-Rahman has been in prison since the mid-1990s.
bullet 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi attend a mosque in San Diego that is visited by an unnamed associate of Abdul-Rahman who is under investigation by the Los Angeles FBI (see June 1999-March 2000);
bullet The mosque is also attended by Osama Basnan, who threw a party for Abdul-Rahman in 1992 (see Spring 2000);
bullet 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta is seen with Adnan Shukrijumah, son of Abdul-Rahman’s former translator (see May 2, 2001) and Atta and hijacker Marwan Alshehhi may attend a mosque run by his father (see 2000-2001);
bullet Hijacker Mohand Alshehri is seen near the Minnesota clinic where Abdul-Rahman is being held (see August 2001);
bullet Some hijackers have the same mailing address as Abdul-Rahman and at least one of his associates (see Before September 11, 2001);
bullet Khalid Almihdhar and other hijackers obtain false ID cards from Mohamed el-Atriss, an associate of an unindicted co-conspirator at Abdul-Rahman’s trial (see (July-August 2001)); (Lance 2006, pp. 373)
bullet In addition, people attending a Bronx mosque are warned to stay away from lower Manhattan on 9/11 (see Early September 2001).
In early 2000, the Able Danger data-mining program apparently identifies Atta, Alshehhi, Alhazmi, and Almihdhar as members of al-Qaeda through their associations with people linked to Abdul-Rahman (see January-February 2000).

Documents obtained by Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, and Salem Alhazmi indicate that they are in the New Jersey / New York area at this time, although the cards may be later fakes. All three hijackers obtain USA ID cards whose expiry date is December 30, 2006. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 191-2 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) USAID Systems, the Florida firm that manufactured the system through which the cards were issued, will later tell Time magazine that Almihdhar’s card was issued exactly six years before its expiration date. (Burger and Bennett 8/29/2005) However, according to the FBI and the 9/11 Commission, Nawaf Alhazmi is in Arizona (see December 12, 2000-March 2001), and Salem Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar are in the Middle East at this time (see June 10, 2000, Late October 2000-July 4, 2001, and April 23-June 29, 2001). Almihdhar’s card later proves to be a forgery, and may therefore not have been issued on this date. The Alhazmi brothers’ cards may also be forgeries (see (July-August 2001))

This Ahmed Al-Haznawi picture is a photocopy of his 2001 US visa application.This Ahmed Al-Haznawi picture is a photocopy of his 2001 US visa application. [Source: 9/11 Commission]The 13 hijackers commonly known as the “muscle” allegedly first arrive in the US. The muscle provides the brute force meant to control the hijacked passengers and protect the pilots. (Goldstein 9/30/2001) Yet, according to the 9/11 Commission, these men “were not physically imposing,” with the majority of them between 5 feet 5 and 5 feet 7 tall, “and slender in build.” (9/11 Commission 6/16/2004, pp. 8) According to FBI Director Mueller, they all pass through Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and their travel was probably coordinated from abroad by Khalid Almihdhar. (US Congress 9/26/2002) However, some information contradicts their official arrival dates:
bullet April 23: Waleed Alshehri and Satam Al Suqami arrive in Orlando, Florida. Suqami in fact arrived before February 2001. A man named Waleed Alshehri lived with a man named Ahmed Alghamdi in Virginia and Florida between 1997 and 2000. However, it is not clear whether they were the hijackers or just people with the same name (see 1999). (Telegraph 9/20/2001) Alshehri appears quite Americanized in the summer of 2001, frequently talking with an apartment mate about football and baseball, even identifying himself a fan of the Florida Marlins baseball team. (Associated Press 9/21/2001)
bullet May 2: Majed Moqed and Ahmed Alghamdi arrive in Washington. Both actually arrived by mid-March 2001. A man named Ahmed Alghamdi lived with a man named Waleed Alshehri in Florida and Virginia between 1997 and 2000. However, it is not clear whether they were the hijackers or just people with the same name (see 1999). (Telegraph 9/20/2001) Alghamdi apparently praises Osama bin Laden to Customs officials while entering the country and Moqed uses an alias (see May 2, 2001).
bullet May 28: Mohand Alshehri, Hamza Alghamdi, and Ahmed Alnami allegedly arrive in Miami, Florida. Alnami may have a suspicious indicator of terrorist affiliation in his passport (see April 21, 2001), but this is apparently not noticed by US authorities. The precise state of US knowledge about the indicator at this time is not known (see Around February 1993). The CIA will learn of it no later than 2003, but will still not inform immigration officials then (see February 14, 2003). According to other reports, however, both Mohand Alshehri and Hamza Alghamdi may have arrived by January 2001 (see January or July 28, 2001).
bullet June 8: Ahmed Alhaznawi and Wail Alshehri arrive in Miami, Florida. Alhaznawi may have a suspicious indicator of terrorist affiliation in his passport (see Before November 12, 2000), but this is apparently not noticed by US authorities.
bullet June 27: Fayez Banihammad and Saeed Alghamdi arrive in Orlando, Florida.
bullet June 29: Salem Alhazmi and Abdulaziz Alomari allegedly arrive in New York. According to other reports, however, Alhazmi arrived before February 2001. Alhazmi has a suspicious indicator of terrorist affiliation in his passport (see June 16, 2001), but this is apparently not noticed by US authorities.
After entering the US (or, perhaps, reentering), the hijackers arriving at Miami and Orlando airports settle in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, area along with Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and Ziad Jarrah. The hijackers, arriving in New York and Virginia, settle in the Paterson, New Jersey, area along with Nawaf Alhazmi and Hani Hanjour. (US Congress 9/26/2002) Note the FBI’s early conclusion that 11 of these muscle men “did not know they were on a suicide mission.” (Rose 10/14/2001) CIA Director Tenet’s later claim that they “probably were told little more than that they were headed for a suicide mission inside the United States” (US Congress 6/18/2002) and reports that they did not know the exact details of the 9/11 plot until shortly before the attack (CBS News 10/9/2002) are contradicted by video confessions made by all of them in March 2001 (see (December 2000-March 2001)).

Nawaf Alhazmi’s USA ID card, recovered from the Pentagon crash site.Nawaf Alhazmi’s USA ID card, recovered from the Pentagon crash site. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division] (click image to enlarge)Khalid Almihdhar obtains a fake USA ID card from forger Mohamed el-Atriss. Abdulaziz Alomari also obtains fake ID, an international driver’s license, from el-Atriss, and some of the other hijackers may do as well. (National Public Radio 8/20/2002; Hanley 6/25/2003; Lance 2006, pp. 372-3; Kelly 9/11/2006) USA ID cards are not issued by governmental organizations, as are passports and driver’s licenses, for example. They are marketed by the manufacturer as being suitable for frequent customers to small businesses, such as VIP diners at a restaurant, gym members, and visitors to a check cashing store. (Usaidsystems (.com) 7/1/2007) El-Atriss, who is called seven times by Hani Hanjour and also by another unknown hijacker, is an associate of Waleed al-Noor, a co-conspirator in the 1993 ‘Landmarks’ bomb plot (see June 24, 1993), and will be sentenced to six months in jail after 9/11 despite being of assistance to the FBI (see Before September 11, 2001, September 13, 2001-Mid 2002, and November 2002-June 2003). (Associated Press 7/3/2003; Lance 2006, pp. 372-3; Kelly 9/11/2006) An image of Almihdhar’s card, which gives his address as a hotel where he stayed for two nights after returning to the US a few days before, will be reproduced in the 9/11 Commission’s Terrorism Travel Monograph, but the Commission will fail to point out it was a fake. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 192 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 52 pdf file) Five other hijackers obtain USA ID cards around this time: Nawaf Alhazmi, Salem Alhazmi, Abdulaziz Alomari, Majed Moqed, and Ahmed Alghamdi. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 27-29, 31-32, 34-44 pdf file) Almihdhar’s card is similar to some of these hijackers’ USA ID cards, indicating they may also be fake, although this is not certain. Nawaf Alhazmi’s USA ID card contains the same hotel address and the same expiry date as Almihdhar’s card. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) Salem Alhazmi’s card contains the same expiry date, indicating it was issued at a time Salem Alhazmi was out of the country (see April 23-June 29, 2001). In addition, the serial numbers are similar: the number of Salem Alhazmi’s card, which was supposedly issued on July 1 or 2, is 3408826-A, whereas the number of Almihdhar’s card, which the 9/11 Commission says was issued eight or nine days later, is 3408825-A. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 192 pdf file; Burger and Bennett 8/29/2005) The fake document for Alomari is purchased from el-Atriss’ All Service Plus business in Paterson, New Jersey, by fellow hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi. (CBS News 7/31/2002; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 61 pdf file; Kelly 9/11/2006)

The Sphinx Trading sign.The Sphinx Trading sign. [Source: National Geographic]Some of the 9/11 hijackers rent mailboxes from a company called Sphinx Trading, which was also used by ‘Blind Sheikh’ Omar Abdul-Rahman and at least one of his associates. The mailboxes are located in Jersey City, New Jersey, four doors down from the mosque where Abdul-Rahman was imam in the early 1990s. El Sayyid Nosair, who assassinated Rabbi Meir Kahane and was linked to the Islamic militant cell Abdul-Rahman headed (see November 5, 1990 and December 7, 1991), also had a mailbox there before he was arrested in 1990. Sphinx Trading is owned by Waleed al-Noor, who was named an unindicted co-conspirator at the ‘Landmarks’ bomb plot trial (see June 24, 1993). The hijackers will later obtain fake IDs from al-Noor’s partner, Mohamed el-Atriss. The names of the hijackers who had mailboxes there are never given, but in the summer of 2001 el-Atriss interacts with hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi, Abdulaziz Alomari, Khalid Almihdhar, and Hani Hanjour (see (July-August 2001)), at least. (Hanley 6/25/2003; Schwanberg 10/20/2003; Lance 2006, pp. 372-4; Kelly 9/11/2006) An FBI agent will later comment: “The fact that this location was where Almihdhar, in particular, got his bogus credentials, is not only shocking, it makes me angry. The [Joint Terrorist Task Force] in the [New York Office] had this location back in 1991. In the mid-90s they listed al-Noor, the coowner, as a coconspirator, unindicted in the plot to blow up bridges and tunnels. And now we find out that this is the precise location where the most visible of all the hijackers in the US got his ID? Incredible. All the Bureau’s New York Office had to do was sit on that place over the years and they would have broken right into the 9/11 plot.” (Lance 2006, pp. 373)

An image from a Dulles Airport surveillance video.An image from a Dulles Airport surveillance video. [Source: FBI]Security cameras at Washington’s Dulles International Airport capture the alleged hijackers of Flight 77 checking in at the airport and passing through a security screening checkpoint. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/19/2001; 9/11 Commission 4/6/2004 pdf file) A surveillance camera located above the British Airways ticket counter points toward the American Airlines ticket counter, and therefore records alleged hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Salem Alhazmi when they check in at the airport (see 7:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/25/2001) Another surveillance camera located by the British Airways ticket counter also points toward the American Airlines ticket counter, and records alleged hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Majed Moqed when they check in (see 7:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/19/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/19/2001) All five of the alleged hijackers of Flight 77 are recorded on video as they go through a security checkpoint at the airport (see 7:18 a.m. September 11, 2001, (Shortly Before 7:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and 7:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 27) Dulles Airport is the only one of the three airports used by the hijackers this morning that has videotaping equipment in use at its security checkpoints. Consequently, William Johnstone, a member of the 9/11 Commission staff, will later note, “the most specific information that exists about the processing of the 9/11 hijackers is information about American Airlines Flight 77,” which will take off from Dulles Airport this morning (see (8:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 1/27/2004) In 2004, news organizations will receive a copy of a surveillance video apparently showing the alleged hijackers passing through a security checkpoint at Dulles Airport before boarding Flight 77. The Associated Press will describe the video as “grainy” and report that details are “difficult to distinguish.” It will note that “[n]o knives or other sharp objects are visible” on the video. (Associated Press 7/22/2004)

Khalid Almihdhar and Majed Moqed passing through a security checkpoint at Dulles Airport.Khalid Almihdhar and Majed Moqed passing through a security checkpoint at Dulles Airport. [Source: FBI]Khalid Almihdhar and Majed Moqed, two of the men who will allegedly hijack Flight 77, go through a security screening checkpoint at Washington’s Dulles International Airport. They are screened at the west checkpoint in the airport’s main terminal. Screening passengers is the responsibility of United Airlines, but it contracts the work to Argenbright Security.
Hijackers Set Off the Metal Detector Alarms - After entering the checkpoint, Almihdhar and Moqed place their carry-on bags on the X-ray machine belt and then pass through the first walk-through metal detector. Both men set off the alarm. They are therefore directed to go through a second metal detector. Almihdhar passes through this without any problems but Moqed again sets off the alarm. This leads to him being screened by a security officer with a handheld metal detector wand. No problems are found and so he is allowed to proceed on his way. None of the men’s carry-on bags are inspected by checkpoint personnel. As Moqed is leaving the checkpoint area, he appears to intentionally look down at the floor as he passes a security camera, thereby preventing the camera from capturing a close-up of his face. The other three Flight 77 hijackers will go through the west checkpoint 17 or 18 minutes later (see (Shortly Before 7:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 7:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/19/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 27)
Screeners Will Recall No Suspicious Activity - Immediately after today’s terrorist attacks, the FAA’s Washington Civil Aviation Security Field Office will investigate the security screening at Dulles Airport. It will interview 43 of the 44 screeners who were on duty today, and these employees will all report having encountered no suspicious activity and nothing out of the ordinary this morning. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 93) However, lawyer Ron Motley, whose firm will represent some families of victims of today’s attacks, will later criticize the screeners at Dulles Airport, commenting, “Even after setting off these alarms, the airlines and security screeners failed to examine the hijackers’ baggage, as required by federal regulations and industry-mandated standards, or discover the weapons [the hijackers] would use in their attack.” (Associated Press 7/22/2004)

Vaughn Allex.Vaughn Allex. [Source: USA Today]Brothers Nawaf Alhazmi and Salem Alhazmi, two of the men who will allegedly hijack Flight 77, check in at the American Airlines ticket counter at Washington’s Dulles International Airport. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 3, 452; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 27) They are running late. They “come running in the front door, looking around, and didn’t know which way to go,” Vaughn Allex, an employee at the ticket counter, will later describe. (CNN 9/8/2012; Hughes 9/10/2016) They are captured on security video pulling large, dark, roller-type suitcases as they approach the counter. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/19/2001) They are allowed to check in despite having missed the official deadline for doing so by a few minutes. (CNN 9/8/2012; Hughes 9/10/2016)
Trainee Checks in the Hijackers - Nawaf and Salem Alhazmi are checked in by Inga Hill, a trainee who is overseen by Allex. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/19/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/25/2001) Today is only her second day working at Dulles Airport. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001) Allex looks on while she confirms the brothers’ tickets. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/25/2001) The Alhazmis check in two dark-colored bags, one of them a hard plastic suitcase, the other a soft bag, Hill will recall. One of the brothers has a carry-on bag, she will say. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001) Allex will recall the brothers having only one bag, which he considers to be “totally inappropriate for a trip to Los Angeles.” The bag is “almost like a satchel” with straps across the top but which doesn’t seal, he will say. (CNN 9/8/2012)
Hijackers Have Difficulty Answering Questions - Nawaf and Salem Alhazmi show passports for their photo identification but are unable to recall the country from which these were issued. They also have trouble answering the security questions that all passengers must answer. Allex therefore has to get involved and take over the task of questioning them, Hill will recall. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001) However, Allex will say he takes on the task of checking them in from the outset because they are running late. (CNN 9/8/2012) Nawaf Alhazmi is the only one of the brothers who speaks during the check-in, but his English is poor. Salem Alhazmi, meanwhile, acts “very anxious or excited,” according to Allex. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/25/2001) “He was grinning, he was smiling, and he was dancing back and forth,” Allex will say. (CNN 9/8/2012)
Hijackers Are Selected for Extra Scrutiny - Allex selects the two brothers for extra security scrutiny. He does this because he finds them suspicious, and one of them—probably Salem Alhazmi, according to the 9/11 Commission—has no photo identification and cannot understand English. However, the only consequence of the extra scrutiny will be that their bags are held off Flight 77 until it is confirmed that they have boarded it.
Employee Is Suspicious and Follows the Hijackers - After being checked in, Nawaf and Salem Alhazmi proceed to a security screening checkpoint (see 7:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 27-28; Leshan 9/12/2016) They no longer have their suitcases with them when they leave the ticket counter. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/19/2001) Allex is still uncomfortable with the two men and follows them for a few steps. He stops himself, though, as he is concerned that his suspicion may be racially motivated. (CNN 9/8/2012) The name of Nawaf Alhazmi was recently added to a terrorism watch list (see August 23, 2001). (Associated Press 7/22/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 270) An employee at Dulles Airport will recall encountering him and four other Middle Eastern men as they tried to get to a secure area of the airport the previous evening (see (Between 8:00 p.m. and 8:45 p.m.) September 10, 2001). (9/11 Commission 1/19/2004 pdf file; Trento and Trento 2006, pp. 2-6, 43-44)

Hani Hanjour passing through a security checkpoint at Dulles Airport.Hani Hanjour passing through a security checkpoint at Dulles Airport. [Source: FBI]Hani Hanjour, one of the men who will allegedly hijack Flight 77, passes through a security screening checkpoint at Washington’s Dulles International Airport without incident. He is screened at the west checkpoint in the airport’s main terminal. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 27) He has two carry-on bags with him: a small black suitcase and a black bag with a shoulder strap. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/19/2001) After entering the checkpoint, he places them on the X-ray belt and walks through the metal detector. He sets off no alarms and so, after picking up his bags, proceeds on his way. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 27) His carry-on bags are not physically inspected at the checkpoint. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/19/2001) Two of the other Flight 77 hijackers passed through the west checkpoint 17 minutes ago (see 7:18 a.m. September 11, 2001) and two more will go through it a minute later (see 7:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 27) The FAA’s Washington Civil Aviation Security Field Office will investigate the security screening at Dulles Airport today, and the screeners who were on duty will report having encountered no suspicious activity and nothing out of the ordinary this morning. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 93)

Salem (white shirt) and Nawaf Alhazmi (dark shirt) passing through security at Dulles Airport.Salem (white shirt) and Nawaf Alhazmi (dark shirt) passing through security at Dulles Airport. [Source: FBI]Brothers Nawaf Alhazmi and Salem Alhazmi, two of the men who will allegedly hijack Flight 77, go through a security screening checkpoint at Washington’s Dulles International Airport. They are screened at the west checkpoint in the airport’s main terminal. Both men have one carry-on bag. After entering the checkpoint, Salem Alhazmi walks through a metal detector without setting off the alarm and so is allowed to continue on his way. However, Nawaf Alhazmi sets off the alarm when he passes through it and so he has to walk through a second metal detector. He again sets off the alarm. He is therefore hand-wanded by a member of staff and has his carry-on bag swiped by an explosive trace detector. These checks apparently find no problems and so he is allowed to proceed on his way. Salem Alhazmi’s bag is not physically inspected while the two men are at the checkpoint, nor are the contents of Nawaf Alhazmi’s bag. Security camera footage will later reveal that Nawaf Alhazmi has an unidentified item clipped to the rim of the back pocket of his pants. One of the other Flight 77 hijackers passed through the west checkpoint a minute ago (see 7:35 a.m. September 11, 2001) and two more passed through it 17 minutes before that (see 7:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). The FAA’s Washington Civil Aviation Security Field Office will investigate the security screening at Dulles Airport today and the screeners who were on duty will recall having encountered no suspicious activity and nothing out of the ordinary this morning. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/19/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 27-28)

The operations manager with the unit at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, that is involved in NORAD’s air defense mission is instructed to prepare to launch three F-16s from the base, even though the unit only keeps two such jets on “alert.” (Tyson 4/16/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 118)
NEADS Calls Langley - Captain Craig Borgstrom is the operations manager of a detachment at Langley from the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing. In the event of an order to scramble the unit’s two alert F-16s, he would serve as the supervisor of flying (SOF), responsible for informing the pilots about their mission. (Spencer 2008, pp. 114, 116) The unit has just received the signal to put its alert jets on “battle stations,” with the pilots in the cockpits but the engines turned off (see (9:09 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Longman 2002, pp. 64; Filson 2003, pp. 55; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 24) After briefing one of the two alert pilots, Borgstrom is called by the crew chief to answer a phone call from someone at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) who wants to speak to him. In an urgent voice, the caller asks Borgstrom, “How many airplanes can you get airborne?” Borgstrom answers, “I have two F-16s at battle stations right now,” but the caller snaps: “That’s not what I asked! How many total aircraft can you launch?” Although Borgstrom is not on alert duty, he is an F-16 pilot. He responds: “Well, the only other pilot here is me—I can fly. I can give you three!” The caller instructs him: “Suit up and go fly! We need all of you at battle stations!” (Longman 2002, pp. 65; Tyson 4/16/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 118)
Third Pilot Means No Supervisor - According to author Lynn Spencer, this order “is almost unthinkable. If [Borgstrom] goes up, there will be no supervisor of flying. During a scramble, it is the SOF’s responsibility to monitor the jets—to work with local controllers to ensure priority handling and to make sure that the pilots are receiving lawful launch orders. The SOF stays in close communication with NEADS to get any and all information about the mission to pass on to his pilots, and assesses weather, airfield status, and spare alert aircraft status in case of an abort by one of the primary fighters. If Borgy flies, there not only will be no SOF, there will be no officer left at the detachment!”
Borgstrom Notifies Others, Checks with Commander - Borgstrom heads out to inform others of the instruction. He speaks to one of the alert pilots, Major Dean Eckmann, telling him, “They want us to launch all planes and all pilots if we get scrambled!” According to Spencer, this request “doesn’t make any sense to Eckmann,” and his initial response is ”What?” But “he’s a military officer and he’ll follow orders,” and points Borgstrom to the unit’s third F-16, which is not kept on alert and is therefore unarmed. Borgstrom instructs the crew chief to arm the fighter’s gun; this will be the only ammunition he has when he takes off. After fetching his harness and helmet, he places a phone call to the commander of the 119th Fighter Wing, at the wing’s home in Fargo, North Dakota. Borgstrom is uncomfortable with the unprecedented situation he is in and feels compelled to notify his immediate higher-ups. He tells the commander: “Sir, they’re launching all three of us. I don’t know what’s going on, but there’s no ops supervision here at all!” The commander knows what has happened in New York from news reports, and so is aware of the situation. He tells Borgstrom: “Go! Our thoughts are with you. Godspeed.” Borgstrom then hangs up the phone and runs to his jet. (Spencer 2008, pp. 118-119) The three Langley jets will receive a scramble order at 9:24 a.m. (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001) and are airborne by 9:30 a.m. (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 16)

Captain Craig Borgstrom.Captain Craig Borgstrom. [Source: US Air Force / Austin Knox]The three F-16 fighter jets ordered to scramble from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001) take off and, radar data will show, are airborne by 9:30 a.m. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; Tyson 4/16/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27)
Delayed during Launch - Major Dean Eckmann will recall that, after receiving the scramble order, he and the two other pilots have “a pretty quick response time. I believe it was four to five minutes we were airborne from that point.” (BBC 9/1/2002) According to the 1st Air Force’s book about 9/11, the three fighters are “given highest priority over all other air traffic at Langley Air Force Base” as they are launching. (Filson 2003, pp. 63) But, according to author Lynn Spencer, in spite of this, the jets are delayed. As Eckmann is approaching the runway, he calls the control tower for clearance to take off, but the tower controller tells him, “Hold for an air traffic delay.” Air traffic controllers at the FAA’s Washington Center “have not had time to clear airliners out of the way for the northerly heading. Dozens of aircraft at various altitudes fill the jets’ route.” After having to wait two minutes, Eckmann complains: “We’re an active air scramble. We need to go now!” Finally, the tower controller tells him, “Roger, Quit flight is cleared for takeoff, 090 for 60,” meaning the fighters are to fly due east for 60 miles (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Taking Off - The three jets launch 15 seconds apart, with Eckmann in front and the two other jets following. (Spencer 2008, pp. 143-144) Pilot Craig Borgstrom will later recall, “[W]e took off, the three of us, and basically the formation we always brief on alert, we’ll stay in a two- to three-mile trail from the guy in front.” (Filson 2003, pp. 63) According to the BBC, the pilots get a signal over their planes’ transponders, indicating an emergency wartime situation. (BBC 9/1/2002)
Could Reach Washington before Pentagon Attack - F-16s have a maximum speed of 1,500 mph at high altitude, or 915 mph at sea level, so the three fighters could plausibly travel the 130 miles from Langley Air Force Base to Washington in just minutes. (Chant 1987, pp. 404; Associated Press 6/16/2000; Weisman 9/16/2001; Graham 9/16/2001 pdf file; US Air Force 10/2007) Major General Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental US Region, will tell the 9/11 Commission, “I think if those aircraft had gotten airborne immediately, if we were operating under something other than peacetime rules, where they could have turned immediately toward Washington, DC, and gone into burner, it is physically possible that they could have gotten over Washington” before 9:37, when the Pentagon is hit. (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003) Yet according to the 9/11 Commission, the jets are redirected east over the Atlantic Ocean and will be 150 miles from the Pentagon when it is hit (see 9:30 a.m.-9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27)
Conflicting Times - Some early news reports after 9/11 will say the Langley jets take off at the later time of 9:35 a.m. (Washington Post 9/12/2001; CNN 9/14/2001; Graham 9/15/2001; CNN 9/17/2001) But according to Colonel Alan Scott, the former vice commander of the Continental US NORAD Region, though the jets are airborne at 9:30, the report of this does not come down until 9:35, so this fact may account for the conflicting times. (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003)

Ricky Allen Souders, who is in Stahlstown, Pennsylvania, calls 9-1-1 after he notices Flight 93 flying low overhead and then describes his observations of the plane’s final minutes to the operator before it crashes. Souders is doing some building work, installing a foundation at a house in Stahlstown, when he notices Flight 93 overhead. He is unaware at the time that planes have crashed at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He hears a roar and when he looks up sees a large plane about 150 to 200 feet above the ground. It is so low that he can see the rivets, and also the colors and stripes, on it, he will later say. The plane, which is intact, is flying very fast and heading east. Souders sees it rolling to the right until its right wing is pointing toward the ground. It then returns to a level position before rolling to the left until its left wing is pointing toward the ground. Souders sees the plane continuously rolling back and forth in this manner as it heads east. He notices that the roar he can hear, which he will describe as being “abnormally loud,” is coming from the plane’s jet engines. He sees black smoke coming from these, “like when the engines are throttled up,” he will say. At some point, Souders calls 9-1-1 on his cell phone to report what he is seeing. He tells the operator the plane is in trouble, is going down, and is going to crash. He says that from where he is located, he can see into the distance for about 15 to 20 miles and so is still able to see the plane as it heads east. He continues reporting his observations and answering the operator’s questions until he eventually sees the plane disappear over the horizon. At the time, it is rolling hard to the right, with its right wing “going well past perpendicular to the ground,” he will recall. He then hears the sound of the plane crashing (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, he does not see a fireball or smoke rising up. Souders sees no other planes in the area around the time Flight 93 crashes, he will recall. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 6/18/2002) Paula Pluta, a resident of Stonycreek Township, also witnesses Flight 93 going down, and she will reportedly be the first person to call 9-1-1 and report the crash after it occurs (see (10:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 9/12/2001; East Bay Times 9/10/2005; McMillan 2014, pp. 106)

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. (Braun and Zitner 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). (Seelye 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. (Braun and Zitner 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. (Keller and Yates 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)

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.” (Silver et al. 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; Perl 5/12/2002)

Flight 93 apparently starts to break up before it crashes, because debris is found very far away from the crash site. (Bunch 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. (Carlin 8/13/2002) The FBI reportedly acknowledges that this piece was found “a considerable distance” from the crash site. (Bunch 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.” (Bunch 11/15/2001) Smaller debris fields are also found two, three, and eight miles away from the main crash site. (Carlin 8/13/2002; Wallace 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…” (Gibb, O'Toole, and Lash 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.” (Gazarik and Acton 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.” (Billington 9/16/2001) However, much of the wreckage is found sooner than that wind could have carried it, and not always southeast.

Flight 93 crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside. Resue vehicles arrive in the distance.Flight 93 crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside. Resue vehicles arrive in the distance. [Source: Keith Srakocic/ Associated Press]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. Presumably, hijackers Ziad Jarrah, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ahmed Alnami, Saeed Alghamdi, and all the plane’s passengers are killed instantly. (CNN 9/12/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; Ellison 10/17/2001; Hillston 10/28/2001; Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002; Associated Press 8/21/2002; MSNBC 9/3/2002) 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; Zapinski 9/12/2001; Frederick 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; Perlman 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.

Paper debris found in New Baltimore, six miles from the crash site.Paper debris found in New Baltimore, six miles from the crash site. [Source: Steve Mellon / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette] (click image to enlarge)Despite the apparent lack of plane wreckage and human remains at the Flight 93 crash site (see (After 10:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:45 a.m. September 11, 2001), 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; Masterson 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. (Perl 5/12/2002) Other paper debris rains down on the nearby Indian Lake Marina (see (Before 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to witness Tom Spinelli, this is “mainly mail,” and also includes “bits of in-flight magazine.” (Wallace 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. (MacVicar and Faraj 8/1/2002; Jackman 9/25/2002) A flight crew log book and an in-flight manual belonging to Lorraine Bay, a flight attendant on Flight 93, will also be recovered. (National Museum of American History 9/20/2003)

Wallace Miller.Wallace Miller. [Source: Steve Mellon / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]Wallace Miller, the coroner of Somerset County, who is one of the first people to arrive at the Flight 93 crash scene, is surprised by the absence of human remains at the site. He will later say: “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 Miller sees is a piece of spinal cord with five vertebrae attached. He will 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.” (Wright 9/9/2002) Dave Fox, a former firefighter, also arrives early at the crash scene, but sees just three chunks of human tissue. He will comment, “You knew there were people there, but you couldn’t see them.” (Frederick 9/11/2002) Yet, in the following weeks, hundreds of searchers will 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 will be found in a secluded cabin, several hundred yards from the crash site. (Perl 5/12/2002)

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.” (Dukcevich 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.” (Hoes 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)

Susan Trento.Susan Trento. [Source: DC Bureau]FBI agents are able to identify the alleged hijackers of Flight 77 surprisingly quickly on video recorded this morning by security cameras at Washington’s Dulles International Airport, from where Flight 77 took off. (Trento and Trento 2006, pp. 36-37; Priska Neely 10/21/2010) FBI agents arrived at Dulles Airport at around 12:40 p.m. (see (12:40 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 9/29/2003 pdf file) The first thing they did there was seize the security video of the west checkpoint in the airport’s main terminal. (Trento and Trento 2006, pp. 36) The five alleged hijackers passed through this checkpoint on their way to boarding Flight 77 (see 7:18 a.m. September 11, 2001, 7:35 a.m. September 11, 2001, and 7:36 a.m. September 11, 2001) and were captured on video as they did so (see 7:15 a.m.-7:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/19/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 3)
FBI 'Knew Who the Hijackers Were' - FBI agents now bring Ed Nelson, the supervisor in charge of the west checkpoint, the video recorded at the checkpoint this morning for him to examine. As he watches it with them, he is surprised that they already seem to know who the Flight 77 hijackers were and what they looked like. The agents “went right to the first hijacker on the tape and identified him,” Nelson will later recall. “They would go ‘roll’ and ‘stop it,’ and showed me each of the hijackers,” he will say. He will remark that both of the metal detectors at the checkpoint were open around the time the hijackers were screened and “lots of traffic was moving through.” In light of this, he will say, “picking people out [on a video recording] is hard.” And yet the agents “knew who the hijackers were out of hundreds of people going through the checkpoints.” When an interviewer asks him, “How would they know?” since the “FBI claimed they had no idea who these hijackers were,” Nelson will reply: “Oh, exactly. Yeah, it boggles my mind.” He will comment: “I wanted to know how they had that kind of information. So fast. It didn’t make sense to me.” (Trento and Trento 2006, pp. 36-37; Priska Neely 10/21/2010)
FBI Knew Who the Hijackers Were 'the Day Before,' Journalist Will Suggest - US Customs reportedly provided the FBI with the passenger lists and the names of the probable hijackers for the four hijacked flights within 45 minutes of the terrorist attacks this morning (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 1/26/2004) Whether this helped the FBI agents at Dulles Airport to identify the hijackers on the security video is unclear. Investigative journalist Susan Trento will comment on their ability to recognize the hijackers so quickly, stating, “What it says to me is… if they knew [the hijackers] that morning, they knew who they were the day before and they should have been able to catch them before they got to the airport.” (Priska Neely 10/21/2010)

The three F-16 fighter jets that launched from Langley Air Force Base to defend Washington, DC (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) land back at their base after flying a combat air patrol (CAP) over the capital. The flight lead, Major Dean Eckmann, was refueling on a tanker when the order came for the three fighters to return to base. The two other pilots, Captain Craig Borgstrom and Major Brad Derrig, immediately headed back to Langley and Eckmann joined them shortly after. (Borgstrom 2002; Longman 2002, pp. 222; Spencer 2008, pp. 277)
Fighters Kept Planes Away from Washington - During the four hours they were over Washington, the three F-16s, which belong to the 119th Fighter Wing of the North Dakota Air National Guard, kept aircraft away from the capital. According to Borgstrom, they only had to intercept a few planes. He will say: “It wasn’t intercept upon intercept. It was one here and, maybe 50 minutes later, one here. There was not a lot of it.” Borgstrom will recall that the three fighters were alone in flying a CAP over Washington for about the first hour, but were then joined by other aircraft “from all over the place.” By the time they headed back to Langley Air Force Base, Borgstrom will say that he “personally counted 17 other fighters in the CAP.” (Borgstrom 2002)
Pilots Learn Details of Attacks - The three pilots had been unaware of precisely why they were scrambled and did not realize the threat was from hijacked planes (see (9:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 45) They only learn the details of the terrorist attacks after landing back at Langley. Borgstrom is surprised to see over a dozen trailers carrying missiles lined up near the runway. He will recall, “I thought, ‘What the heck is going on?’” because, “At this point, I still didn’t know it was airliners” that were involved in the attacks. (Borgstrom 2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 277) According to Eckmann, it is only after they land that the three pilots learn about the World Trade Center towers collapsing. Eckmann learns of the collapses in a phone call with his wife. (Eckmann 12/6/2002) Borgstrom asks his crew chief, “What else did they get?” As Borgstrom will later recall, the crew chief says he isn’t sure, “but he thought there was some others,” presumably meaning more planes and targets involved. Borgstrom recalls, “So at that point I was like, oh no, a really terrible thing has happened.” (Borgstrom 2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 277) According to Eckmann, the three pilots only learn about Flight 93 on the following day, September 12. (Eckmann 12/6/2002)

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. (Tyson 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; Bunch 11/15/2001; Wallace 9/12/2002)

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. (Shepardson 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; Wright 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; Gibb 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)

Majed Moqed’s identification card found in the rubble.Majed Moqed’s identification card found in the rubble. [Source: FBI]Two or three documents belonging to the Flight 77 hijackers are found in the rubble at the Pentagon. One is a “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Student Identity Card” with Majed Moqed’s name on it. Forensic examination will later indicate that the card may have been fraudulent. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 44 pdf file) Another is Nawaf Alhazmi’s USA ID card. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 27, 42 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) The 9/11 Commission will say that Salem Alhazmi’s USA ID is also found, although this will not be mentioned at the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, where an otherwise exhaustive list of the hijackers’ ID found at the crash sites is submitted. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 27, 42 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) In addition, the Commission will say that Salem Alhazmi was unable to produce a photo ID when checking in for his flight on 9/11 (see 7:36 a.m. September 11, 2001), so it is unclear how the document could have come to be at the Pentagon. Based on report from the Secret Service, the 9/11 Commission will say these two documents appear genuine. However, they may actually be fakes (see (July-August 2001)). (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 27 pdf file) There are at least a couple of other reported instances of other similar paper-based objects surviving the same plane crash, as well as that of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania (see After 10:06 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Hatcher 9/10/2004)

A report suggests the crash site of Flight 93 is being searched and recorded in 60 square-foot grids. (Billington 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, (Bunch 11/15/2001; Carlin 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)

US attorney for New Jersey Christopher Christie opposed a raid on an associate of the 9/11 hijackers.US attorney for New Jersey Christopher Christie opposed a raid on an associate of the 9/11 hijackers. [Source: Public domain]Both the FBI and the US attorney’s office for New Jersey are highly critical of a raid by the Passaic County sheriff’s office on the business of Mohamed el-Atriss, who supplied the 9/11 hijackers with false IDs (see (July-August 2001) and July 31, 2002). El-Atriss is later arrested and will plead guilty to selling fake IDs (see November 2002-June 2003). According to the sheriff, when US attorney for New Jersey Christopher Christie learns the sheriff intends to hold a news conference about the raid, he tells the sheriff that “he [will] be arrested and the US attorney [will] come down and shut down the Sheriff’s Department.” However, a spokesman for Christie will deny this. (Schwanberg 10/20/2003) The FBI also hammers the sheriff in the media after the arrest, calling the raid, in which officers were accompanied by several press representatives, a “shameful media grab” and saying that the sheriff killed an FBI investigation. The Bergen County Record will point out that this is unusual, as “the feds don’t make a habit of lambasting other law enforcement officials publicly or of confirming the existence of secret investigations.” (Allee 8/7/2002) Federal officials then tell the sheriff’s department not to proceed with any investigations related to el-Atriss until they get clearance from the FBI. (Schwanberg 10/20/2003) El-Atriss cooperated with the FBI after 9/11 and promised to “keep his eyes and ears open” for other terrorists (see September 13, 2001-Mid 2002).

Judge Marilyn Clark heard the case of Mohamed el-Atriss.Judge Marilyn Clark heard the case of Mohamed el-Atriss. [Source: newjerseycourtsonline]The case of Mohamed el-Atriss, who was arrested for selling false ID cards to two of the 9/11 hijackers (see (July-August 2001)) and was an associate of an unindicted co-conspirator in the ‘Landmarks’ bomb plot trial (see Before September 11, 2001), becomes controversial when secret evidence is used against him at a series of hearings. The evidence is presented without el-Atriss or his attorney being present and such secrecy is said to be unusual even after 9/11. Based on the secret evidence, el-Atriss’ bond is set at $500,000, which the Washington Post calls “an amount consistent with a charge of capital murder—even though most of the charges against him [are] misdemeanors.” The secret evidence rule is invoked for national security reasons based on a request by the sheriff’s office, while el-Atriss is being held in prison for six months. However, the FBI, which has a relationship with el-Atriss (see September 13, 2001-Mid 2002) and does not back the use of the secret evidence, insists that el-Atriss is not connected to terrorism. An appeals judge rules that the secret evidence cannot be used on the say-so of local officials. According to the judge, the secret information is inaccurate and could have been rebutted by el-Atriss if he had seen it. Transcripts of the secret hearings are later released to the media (Russakoff 2/5/2003; Russakoff 6/25/2003) In January 2003 el-Atriss pleads guilty to a charge of selling false identification documents to two hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and Abdulaziz Alomari, and is sentenced to five years’ probation, with credit for the six months in jail he has already served, and a $15,000 fine. Although he admits selling the cards not just to the two hijackers, but also to hundreds of illegal immigrants, the other 26 charges against him are dropped by prosecutors. (Russakoff 2/5/2003; Schwanberg 10/20/2003)

The 9/11 Commission attempts to make a list of all identity documents obtained by the hijackers, but its account, contained mostly in its Terrorist Travel Monograph, may be incomplete:
bullet The Commission says several of the hijackers obtained USA ID cards in the summer of 2001 (see (July-August 2001)), although at least one, and possibly more of the cards is fake, and this is not mentioned by the Commission. According to it, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Abdulaziz Alomari obtained their cards on July 10. However, the Commission gives conflicting dates for Salem Alhazmi, Majed Moqed, and Ahmed Alghamdi. For example, in one place it says Alghamdi got his card in July and in another it says he got it in August. At least one card, that of Khalid Almihdhar, is fake and ID forger Mohamed el-Atriss will be arrested after 9/11 and sentenced to jail for forging IDs for the hijackers (see (July-August 2001) and November 2002-June 2003). The Commission further says that the Alhazmi brothers’ cards were “found in the rubble at the Pentagon,” citing a US Secret Service report. Although an image of a damaged USA ID card belonging to Nawaf Alhazmi will be produced as evidence at the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, according to the 9/11 Commission Salem Alhazmi was unable to produce any photo ID when checking in for his flight on 9/11 (see 7:36 a.m. September 11, 2001), so it is unclear how his card came to be at the Pentagon. In addition, in the Commission’s Terrorist Travel Monograph, the mention of Salem Alhazmi’s card in the list of hijackers’ ID will be followed by a reference to an endnote. However, this endnote is missing; (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 27-29, 31-32, 34-44 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006)
bullet FBI Director Robert Mueller will later say that the six hijackers who obtained USA ID cards plus Mohamed Atta obtained unspecified identification cards in Paterson, New Jersey (see July 2001). However, it is unclear whether this statement refers to the USA ID cards, or a different set of ID cards not mentioned by the 9/11 Commission;
bullet The Commission will say that Satam Al Suqami did not obtain any ID document in the US, which is why he had to take his passport on his final flight. The passport was found shortly after the plane he was traveling on hit the WTC (see After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 27-29, 31-32, 34-44 pdf file) However, Florida media reported a man named Satam Al Suqami obtained a Florida ID card on July 3, 2001, around the same time as several other hijackers obtained similar cards; (Bousquet and Ulferts 9/16/2001)
bullet Ahmed Alhaznawi had a Florida’s driver’s license and two duplicates. Although the Commission mentions the original license and second duplicate, it does not mention the first one, issued on July 24, 2004. (Ulferts 12/14/2001; 9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 28, 32, 33 pdf file)


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