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Context of '5:25 p.m. September 11, 2001: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld Announces that the Pentagon Will Open as Normal on September 12'

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Doug Lute.Doug Lute. [Source: Joint Chiefs of Staff]General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, learns of the terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon while flying to Europe, but his plane is then initially denied permission to return to the US. Shelton’s plane took off from Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, DC, at 7:15 a.m. to transport the chairman to Hungary for a NATO conference (see 7:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002, pp. G-1; Giesemann, 2008, pp. 20, 22-23; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 430-432]
Shelton Learns of First Crash - About an hour and a half into the flight, while the plane is over the Atlantic Ocean, a member of the flight crew approaches Colonel Doug Lute, Shelton’s executive assistant, and tells him a small aircraft has crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. Lute says, “That doesn’t sound good.” He goes to the chairman’s cabin at the rear of the aircraft and tells Shelton, “Sir, just to advise you, the pilot has received word that a civilian aircraft has just struck the World Trade Center.” Shelton is reminded of a speech he recently gave, in which he warned of the possibility of a terrorist attack on US soil (see (Shortly Before September 11, 2001)), and says to his wife, Carolyn, who is with him in the cabin, “I sure hope that is not a terrorist attack.” He will later recall, “This had the potential to play out exactly as I had warned.”
Shelton Learns of Second Crash - About 10 minutes after Lute returns to his seat, the member of the flight crew comes out again and reports that a second plane has crashed into the WTC. Lieutenant Commander Suzanne Giesemann, one of Shelton’s aides, says to Lute, “That can’t be an accident.” Lute goes again to Shelton’s cabin and tells the chairman, “Sir, it’s a second plane and it’s hit the other tower of the World Trade Center.” Shelton exclaims: “Doug, that’s no coincidence. Have them turn us around, we’re going back. Then I want General Myers on the line.” (General Richard Myers is the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.) After Lute returns to his seat, he and Giesemann put on headsets and make calls to the Pentagon. Giesemann talks to Kris Cicio, Shelton’s personal assistant, who tells her that the WTC towers were hit not by small planes, but by jetliners full of innocent passengers. Giesemann then loses her connection with Cicio, and so listens instead to BBC news reports through her headset and passes on what she learns to the other members of Shelton’s staff on the flight. Lute talks with someone in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon. After the call, he heads to Shelton’s cabin. [Giesemann, 2008, pp. 22-23; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 431]
Controllers Deny Request to Enter US Airspace - Having learned of the attack on the Pentagon (which takes place at 9:37 a.m.), Lute tells Shelton that there has been “some type of big explosion at the Pentagon.” He also tells the chairman that air traffic controllers have refused their request to fly into Washington. Lute says: “[W]e’ve been denied permission to return. All US airspace has been shut down” (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But Shelton retorts: “Doug, tell the pilot we’ll ask for forgiveness instead of permission, so have him turn us around. We’re going home.” Shelton will later recall, “I knew there was no way they were going to shoot down a 707 with UNITED STATES AIR FORCE emblazoned along the side.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002, pp. G-1; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 432]
Shelton's Plane Supposedly Cleared to Fly into Washington - After Lute returns from Shelton’s cabin, he nods to Giesemann and says, “We’re going back.” Giesemann will recall that she then heads into the cockpit and orders the pilot, “Major, take us back to Andrews.” The pilot replies, “Yes, ma’am.” [Giesemann, 2008, pp. 23] According to an FAA report, “minutes” after the initial denial of permission to return to the US, Shelton’s plane is granted clearance. [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002, pp. G-1] The pilot turns the plane around and heads back toward Washington, according to Shelton. [Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 432] But according to Captain Rob Pedersen, the flight navigator on Shelton’s plane, it is several hours before the plane is cleared to enter the US airspace (see (After 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 pdf file] The plane will consequently only land at Andrews Air Force Base at 4:40 p.m. (see 4:40 p.m. September 11, 2001) and Shelton will only arrive at the NMCC an hour after that (see 5:40 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001 pdf file; Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 159]

Entity Tags: Douglas E. Lute, Carolyn Shelton, Kris Cicio, Suzanne Giesemann, Henry Hugh Shelton, Rob Pedersen

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Pentagon explodes. 
The Pentagon explodes. [Source: Donley/ Sipa]Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon. All 64 people on the plane are killed. A hundred-and-twenty-four people working in the building are killed, and a further victim will die in hospital several days later. Hijackers Hani Hanjour, Khalid Almihdhar, Majed Moqed, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salem Alhazmi presumably are killed instantly. (Typically, they are not included in the death counts.) [CNN, 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; Guardian, 10/17/2001; Washington Post, 11/21/2001; USA Today, 8/12/2002; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; MSNBC, 9/3/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002; CBS, 9/11/2002] Flight 77 hits the first floor of the Pentagon’s west wall. The impact and the resulting explosion heavily damage the building’s three outer rings. The path of destruction cuts through Army accounting offices on the outer E Ring, the Navy Command Center on the D Ring, and the Defense Intelligence Agency’s comptroller’s office on the C Ring. [Vogel, 2007, pp. 431 and 449] Flight 77 strikes the only side of the Pentagon that had recently been renovated—it was “within days of being totally [renovated].” [US Department of Defense, 9/15/2001] “It was the only area of the Pentagon with a sprinkler system, and it had been reconstructed with a web of steel columns and bars to withstand bomb blasts. The area struck by the plane also had blast-resistant windows—two inches thick and 2,500 pounds each—that stayed intact during the crash and fire. While perhaps, 4,500 people normally would have been working in the hardest-hit areas, because of the renovation work only about 800 were there.” More than 25,000 people work at the Pentagon. [Los Angeles Times, 9/16/2001] Furthermore, the plane hits an area that has no basement. As journalist Steve Vogel later points out, “If there had been one under the first floor, its occupants could easily have been trapped by fire and killed when the upper floors collapsed.” [Vogel, 2007, pp. 450]

Entity Tags: Hani Hanjour, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, US Department of Defense, Salem Alhazmi, Majed Moqed, Pentagon

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Rumsfeld show on a video broadcast on CNN helping carry a stretcher shortly after the Pentagon attack. He is in the center of the picture, wearing a dark jacket.Rumsfeld show on a video broadcast on CNN helping carry a stretcher shortly after the Pentagon attack. He is in the center of the picture, wearing a dark jacket. [Source: CNN]Within seconds of the Pentagon being hit, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld rushed out of his office and headed toward the crash scene (see 9:38 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to Officer Aubrey Davis, who is currently accompanying Rumsfeld as his bodyguard, when they reach the site, “There were the flames, and bits of metal all around. The secretary picked up one of the pieces of metal. I was telling him he shouldn’t be interfering with a crime scene when he looked at some inscription on it and said, ‘American Airlines.’” According to Rumsfeld, a person who’d seen the attack on the Pentagon informs him a plane had flown into it. Rumsfeld later recalls: “I saw people on the grass, and we just, we tried to put them in stretchers and then move them out across the grass towards the road and lifted them over a jersey wall so the people on that side could stick them into the ambulances. I was out there for a while, and then people started gathering, and we were able to get other people to do that, to hold IVs for people. There were people lying on the grass with clothes blown off and burns all over them.” [Parade, 10/12/2001; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 1-2] Versions of this story will appear elsewhere. [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/12/2001; US Department of Defense, 12/5/2001; ABC News, 9/11/2002; Vanity Fair, 5/9/2003] Video footage confirms that Rumsfeld helps carry a stretcher at the crash scene. [CNN, 8/17/2002] One report will even describe him pulling budget analyst Paul Gonzales to safety from the burning wreckage. [Daily Telegraph, 9/16/2001] However, Gonzales later offers his own detailed recollections of pulling other people to safety, which fail to involve Rumsfeld in any way. [Washington Post, 3/11/2002] Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke will say Rumsfeld is gone from the building for “about half an hour.” [WBZ Radio 1030 (Boston), 9/15/2001] A Pentagon spokesperson has Rumsfeld helping at the crash site for “15 minutes or so.” [Reuters, 9/11/2001] Another account will claim he loads the wounded onto stretchers for 15 minutes. [Scripps Howard News Service, 9/11/2001] However, considering the time it would have taken to walk to the crash site—each side of the enormous Pentagon is the length of three football fields—journalist Andrew Cockburn later concludes that Rumsfeld could only have been at the crash scene for a brief period. [Cockburn, 2007, pp. 3] Rumsfeld reportedly heads back into the Pentagon at the urging of a security agent, though in an interview soon after 9/11 he will claim the decision to go back inside was his own, saying, “I decided I should be in [the building] figuring out what to do, because your brain begins to connect things, and there were enough people there to worry about that.” [Parade, 10/12/2001; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] He tells the 9/11 Commission, “I was back in the Pentagon with a crisis action team shortly before or after 10:00 a.m.” (see (10:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004] While Rumsfeld is at the crash scene, others are frantically trying to get in touch with him but are unable to do so (see (9:38 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Pentagon, Victoria (“Torie”) Clarke, Aubrey Davis, Paul Gonzales, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Edward Plaugher.Edward Plaugher. [Source: C-SPAN]Chief Edward Plaugher of the Arlington County Fire Department (ACFD) believes the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon should be evacuated but a senior Department of Defense official refuses when Plaugher advises him to evacuate it. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 132; Varley, 2009, pp. 255] Plaugher was in Fairfax, Virginia, when the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon occurred, but he quickly went to the Pentagon when he learned what had happened. He arrived there at around 10:00 a.m. and assumed the role of senior adviser, responsible for coordinating with the various responding local, state, and federal agencies. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A39 pdf file; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 76-77; Journal of Emergency Medical Services, 9/2011 pdf file]
Fire Chief Is Concerned that the NMCC Is Still in Operation - At some point after arriving, he becomes concerned that the NMCC has not been evacuated along with most other areas of the Pentagon. [Varley, 2009, pp. 255] The command center, located in the Joint Staff area of the Pentagon, has over 300 people working in it. [Federation of American Scientists, 4/29/1998] Additionally, senior officials including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, go there this morning to respond to the terrorist attacks (see (9:58 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 43-44] Although it was not damaged in the Pentagon attack, the NMCC is uncomfortably close to the fire, and the ACFD considers it unsafe to keep the facility up and running.
Staffers May Be at Risk of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - Plaugher therefore meets “a high-ranking official from the Office of the Secretary of Defense” to discuss his concerns. The identity of this person will be unstated. Plaugher says to the official, “Your building is on fire” and tells them to evacuate the NMCC. The official, however, refuses to do so. “We do not want to leave the national command post because our nation is under attack and we’re not sure how complex it is,” they say. Plaugher puts forward several arguments to try to persuade them to evacuate the NMCC. He explains the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and points out that “the first thing carbon monoxide does is to make you do wacky things.” Surely, he suggests, it is a bad idea to risk having NMCC staffers carrying out their sensitive work in an unreliable state of mind. The Defense Department official, though, refuses to back down and Plaugher, accepting that he is unable to win the argument, gives in. “I’m doing this negotiation with a guy who’s wearing a .45 on his arm and he’s got F-15s flying overhead—what am I supposed to do?” he will later comment.
NMCC Is Provided with Air Monitoring Equipment - Eventually, the ACFD and the Department of Defense come up with a compromise. The fire department provides the NMCC with a carbon monoxide detector and 25 sets of breathing apparatus, along with instructions for their use. Beyond this, Plaugher accepts that NMCC staffers will need to take responsibility for their own safety. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 132; Varley, 2009, pp. 255-256; Journal of Emergency Medical Services, 9/2011 pdf file] All the same, at 12:19 p.m., Rumsfeld, Myers, and several other senior officials will leave the command center due to the poor air quality there and relocate to another area of the Pentagon (see 12:19 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 7/18/2002 pdf file; Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 156-157]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Arlington County Fire Department, Edward Plaugher, National Military Command Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The Joint Chiefs of Staff conference room.The Joint Chiefs of Staff conference room. [Source: Federation of American Scientists]Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and several more senior officials at the Pentagon participate in a secure video teleconference with other government agencies in which the rules of engagement for fighter jets responding to the terrorist attacks are discussed. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 155; George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] Myers has been in the office of the deputy director for operations (DDO) within the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon since around 9:58 a.m. (see (9:58 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and Rumsfeld has been with him there since around 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 43-44; George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] Vice Admiral Edmund Giambastiani Jr., Rumsfeld’s senior military assistant, announced earlier on that a secure video teleconference with the White House was going to take place at 11:00 a.m. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 4/9/2003 pdf file] Rumsfeld, Myers, and Colonel Matthew Klimow, Myers’s executive assistant, now leave the DDO’s office to participate in this. [George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] The teleconference takes place in the Joint Chiefs of Staff conference room, which is more commonly known as “the tank.” [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 4/9/2003 pdf file] This is the “NMCC facility for secure teleconferences” and is “a tiny room with a thick, airtight door” that is “severely cramped,” according to Myers. Klimow will later describe it as “a small soundproof room just big enough for six or seven people.” Along with Myers, Rumsfeld, and Klimow, other officials in the room for the teleconference include Giambastiani; Stephen Cambone, Rumsfeld’s closest aide; William Haynes, the general counsel of the Department of Defense; and Victoria Clarke, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz participates in the teleconference after arriving at the alternate military command center inside Raven Rock Mountain on the Pennsylvania-Maryland border (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and can be seen by his colleagues at the Pentagon in a small box in the top right corner of their screen. The identities of the other participants will be unstated. The purpose of the teleconference is to link the Department of Defense’s civilian and military leadership with the rest of the government, and the main issue discussed is the rules of engagement for NORAD to follow should more hijackings occur, according to Myers. Further details of what the participants talk about will be unstated. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 155; George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] It is unclear how long the teleconference lasts. Joseph Wassel, assistant to the secretary of defense for communications, who waits outside the room while it is taking place, will recall only that it “went on for quite a while.” [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 4/9/2003 pdf file] As the teleconference progresses, its participants in the Joint Chiefs of Staff conference room will start feeling sick due to the deteriorating air quality. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 155; George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, Edmund Giambastiani, Joseph M. Wassel, William J. Haynes, Paul Wolfowitz, Stephen A. Cambone, Richard B. Myers, White House, Matthew S. Klimow, Victoria (“Torie”) Clarke

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Officers in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon are concerned about the air quality in the center and an air quality expert subsequently informs them that the oxygen level there is dangerously low. [George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012; Graff, 2019, pp. 277-278] From around 11:00 a.m., a small number of Pentagon officials, including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have been in the Joint Chiefs of Staff conference room within the NMCC, participating in a secure video teleconference with other government agencies (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 4/9/2003 pdf file; Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 155]
Officials Start Feeling Unwell - During this teleconference, Colonel Matthew Klimow, Myers’s executive assistant, starts feeling sick and becomes unable to concentrate. [George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012; Graff, 2019, pp. 277] Others in the room also feel unwell. “Our eyes became red and our throats itchy,” Rumsfeld will later recall. [Rumsfeld, 2011, pp. 340] Meanwhile, Vice Admiral Edmund Giambastiani Jr., Rumsfeld’s senior military assistant, is concerned about the conditions in the small conference room. “It started to get really hot and the air got bad,” he will describe. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 8/1/2002 pdf file; Graff, 2019, pp. 277-278] Realizing what the problem is, he shakes Klimow and then tells him what is wrong. “I’m a submariner; I know what’s going on,” he says and then explains: “There’s no oxygen in this room. It’s filling up with carbon dioxide.”
Officers Consider Moving to Another Area - “Let’s get everybody out of here,” he says. He suggests they all go to the Navy Command Center. Although Klimow is unaware that the Navy Command Center was destroyed when the Pentagon was hit (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001), he rejects the proposal. “I’ve been trying to get hold of the [Navy Command Center]; I can’t raise him,” he says. He suggests they go to the Army Operations Center in the Pentagon basement instead. Giambastiani says he will do a reconnaissance to the Army Operations Center, and advises Klimow to “go find an air monitor and see how bad it is in here.” Klimow therefore calls Captain Chris Donahue, Myers’s military aide, and instructs him to find an air monitor.
Air Quality Expert Warns of Low Oxygen - Giambastiani subsequently returns from his reconnaissance, shaking his head. He tells Klimow they will be unable to go to the Army Operations Center since the passageways in the outer areas of the Pentagon are impassible due to thick smoke. Donahue then comes in with the Arlington County Fire Department’s air quality specialist. The air quality specialist has taken readings and explains to Klimow that he and the others in the conference room are in a precarious situation. “In some of the corridors in the Pentagon, the air is filled with about 88 percent carbon dioxide—that’s lethal,” he says. “In the outer office here in the NMCC you’re at 33 percent oxygen,” he continues. He says that in the conference room, “you’re at 16 percent oxygen.” If the oxygen level gets down to 13 percent, he says, “you cannot survive.” Therefore, he concludes, “You need to leave.” [George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012; Graff, 2019, pp. 278] Fortunately, Giambastiani subsequently finds a smoke-free area for the group in the conference room to relocate to: the Executive Support Center (ESC) on the third floor of the Pentagon. Rumsfeld, Myers, and their entourage will therefore move to the ESC (see 12:19 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 8/1/2002 pdf file; Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 156-157]
Air Handling Units Have Been Shut Down - The lack of oxygen in the NMCC is apparently the result of a misunderstanding. According to Klimow, the “incident commander”—presumably meaning Assistant Chief James Schwartz of the Arlington County Fire Department—was incorrectly told that the entire Pentagon had been evacuated and, “with the fires raging out of control,” shut down the building’s air handling units. [George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] Rumsfeld, though, will suggest a different explanation. “The air-conditioning [in the Pentagon] was supposed to have been disabled to avoid circulating the hazardous smoke, but apparently it took some time for it to be shut down,” he will write. [Rumsfeld, 2011, pp. 340]

Entity Tags: Chris Donahue, Arlington County Fire Department, Edmund Giambastiani, Donald Rumsfeld, National Military Command Center, Richard B. Myers, Matthew S. Klimow

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The Executive Support Center.The Executive Support Center. [Source: US Department of Defense]Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and several other senior Pentagon officials move from the National Military Command Center (NMCC) to the Executive Support Center (ESC) due to the poor air quality in the NMCC. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 132; Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 156-157] Since around 11:00 a.m., Rumsfeld, Myers, and a small number of their colleagues had been in the Joint Chiefs of Staff conference room within the NMCC, participating in a secure video teleconference (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 4/9/2003 pdf file; Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 155] As the teleconference progressed, they started feeling unwell, and an air quality specialist with the Arlington County Fire Department subsequently came and told them that the oxygen level in the conference room was dangerously low (see (After 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Rumsfeld, 2011, pp. 340; George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012; Graff, 2019, pp. 277-278] Fortunately, Vice Admiral Edmund Giambastiani Jr., Rumsfeld’s senior military assistant, who had been participating in the teleconference, found that the ESC was smoke-free. Those in the conference room consequently relocate there. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 156-157] The ESC, on the third floor of the Pentagon, is a secure communications hub with a video teleconference facility. [Vogel, 2007, pp. 440] It also has its own air-conditioning system. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 8/1/2002 pdf file] Once he has settled there, Myers passes on Rumsfeld’s authorization for a partial Reserve call-up. Those activated include fighter pilots, air tanker crews, and communications specialists. “With the country suddenly at war, we would need all the help we could muster, and much of that help was in the Reserve and National Guard,” Myers will later comment. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 157]

Entity Tags: Richard B. Myers, Executive Support Center, Edmund Giambastiani, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Steven Bucci.Steven Bucci. [Source: Zeno Gamble / US Department of Defense]Army Captain Lincoln Leibner, who witnessed the attack on the Pentagon, speaks to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his entourage, and is the first person to confirm to them that the building was hit by an American Airlines plane. [Marble and Milhiser, 9/2004, pp. 5; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 61-62; Lofgren, 2011, pp. 62] Leibner works in the Executive Support Center (ESC)—a secure communications hub on the third floor of the Pentagon. He was scheduled to come into work at 10:00 p.m. this evening for a night shift and was therefore at home when the crashes at the World Trade Center took place. But after seeing the second crash live on television, at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), he called the ESC and said he was going to come in right away to help out, since “any crisis or any development requiring the attention of the secretary [of defense] causes our activity to go up most dramatically,” he will later comment. When he got to the Pentagon, he found his usual parking space was taken and so he had to park in lane one of the south parking lot, which is the lane furthest from the building. After leaving his car, he started jogging toward the building.
Witness Saw 'the Entire Terminal Descent' of Flight 77 - While he was approaching one of the entrances, he witnessed Flight 77 crashing into the building, at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). He initially heard the very loud sound of jet engines. He turned his head toward where the noise was coming from, expecting to see a fighter jet there, but instead saw a passenger aircraft descending toward the Pentagon. [Boston Globe, 9/8/2002; Marble and Milhiser, 9/2004, pp. 3] “I saw the jetliner clear the ridge right by the Navy Annex, coming down Columbia Pike,” he will describe. [Lofgren, 2011, pp. 56] “I watched the entire terminal descent,” he will recall. [Marble and Milhiser, 9/2004, pp. 3] The plane was so close to him that he noticed the American Airlines markings on it. “I could see actually through the windows of the airplane as it came past; it was that close,” he will say. [Boston Globe, 9/8/2002; Lofgren, 2011, pp. 57] He saw the last three or four seconds of the plane’s flight and then watched “the entire airplane go into the building.”
Witness Was Probably the First Person to Reach the Crash Site - He was about 100 yards from the point of impact and immediately ran toward the building. [Boston Globe, 9/8/2002; Marble and Milhiser, 9/2004, pp. 3] “I was probably the first person on the scene,” he will comment. [US Medicine, 5/2002] He was able to enter the building through a door that had been blown off its hinges. [Boston Globe, 9/8/2002; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 61] He then went in and out several times, helping rescue people from there. [US Medicine, 5/2002] Firefighters told people to get away from the building just before the wall that was impacted collapsed (see 10:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). Then, even though he had only minor injuries, he was put in an ambulance and taken to the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington. [Boston Globe, 9/8/2002; Marble and Milhiser, 9/2004, pp. 4-5; Lofgren, 2011, pp. 61] He was able to return to the Pentagon early in the afternoon. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 62]
Witness Was Advised to Talk to Rumsfeld - Once there, he went to the ESC, where he told his immediate supervisor what he had experienced. He then talked to Colonel Steven Bucci, military assistant to the secretary of defense, and Bucci recommended that he talk to Rumsfeld. [Marble and Milhiser, 9/2004, pp. 5] Rumsfeld moved to the ESC earlier this afternoon after smoke from the crash site started seeping into the National Military Command Center, where he had been located (see 12:19 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 132; Rumsfeld, 2011, pp. 340-341]
Rumsfeld Seems to Doubt the Witness's Account - Leibner goes into the conference room where Rumsfeld and a few of his colleagues, including General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are sitting, and describes to them what he saw when the Pentagon was attacked. “I told them the plane came in full throttle, level, flaps up, wheels up; wasn’t crashed into the building, was flown into the building,” he will recall. He says the aircraft he saw was an American Airlines plane. This is “the first personal account” that Rumsfeld has heard of the attack, Leibner will comment. The secretary of defense, however, appears incredulous. “Even at this point, I don’t believe the secretary was confident that, in fact, a civilian airliner had hit the building,” Leibner will say, adding, “I think they still speculated about a bomb, a cruise missile, a small aircraft.” Rumsfeld asks Leibner if he is positive about what hit the Pentagon. “Was I sure? Was I certain?” Leibner will recall being asked. However, “I was close enough to look into the windows of the airplane as it flew past,” he will comment, and so there is “no doubt in my mind what I had seen.” [Marble and Milhiser, 9/2004, pp. 5-6; Lofgren, 2011, pp. 62]
Rumsfeld Earlier Determined that an American Airlines Plane Hit the Pentagon - Although Rumsfeld now appears dubious of Leibner’s account of what hit the Pentagon, he in fact determined himself that the building was likely hit by a large plane after examining the crash site this morning. He immediately headed to the site after the Pentagon was hit (see 9:38 a.m. September 11, 2001) and had seen “[h]undreds of pieces of metal… scattered across the grass in front of the building.” He had picked up what he will describe as “a small, twisted piece of metal from whatever had hit the Pentagon.” [Rumsfeld, 2011, pp. 335-336] He “looked at some inscription on it” and then said aloud, “American Airlines,” according to Officer Aubrey Davis, one of his security guards (see Between 9:38 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 7/20/2006 pdf file; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 2] When he returned to the building and went to the ESC, he told the people there, “I’m quite sure it was a plane and I’m pretty sure it’s a large plane” (see (10:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [WBZ Radio 1030 (Boston), 9/15/2001; Clarke, 2006, pp. 221] After telling Rumsfeld what he witnessed, Leibner is advised to go home, but he decides to stay at the ESC and continues working there for the rest of the day. [Marble and Milhiser, 9/2004, pp. 6; Lofgren, 2011, pp. 62-63]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, Richard B. Myers, Steven Bucci, Lincoln Leibner

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gives Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld an update on what he knows about the crisis and the military’s response to it, which includes details of the rules of engagement for fighter jets. Since 12:19 p.m., the two men have been in the Executive Support Center on the third floor of the Pentagon (see 12:19 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 132; Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 156-157]
Myers Says Planes Are Inbound from the Far East - Myers now informs Rumsfeld that the FAA has reported that five airliners inbound to the United States from the Far East have come too far on their journeys to head back due to low fuel. One of these, Korean Airlines Flight 85, is squawking the hijack code on its transponder, although this may be the result of pilot error rather than evidence of another hijacking, Myers will later recall telling Rumsfeld. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 157] (However, according to USA Today, while the FAA has been alerted to this suspicious flight (see (Shortly Before 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001), the plane will only start squawking the hijack code over 40 minutes later, at 1:24 p.m. (see 1:24 p.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/12/2002] ) Fighters have been scrambled to escort all five airliners, Myers says (see (12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001).
NORAD Wants More Air Defense Units - He tells Rumsfeld that NORAD has contacted the Pentagon requesting an additional Reserve call-up of air defense units and this request will be routed through the secretary of defense’s office to the president. To avoid any confusion, he reminds Rumsfeld that air defense and air sovereignty are primarily Air National Guard missions. He also says the US Coast Guard is completing its own Reserve call-up and Admiral James Loy, commandant of the Coast Guard, has given his commanders authority to challenge any inbound vessels. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 157]
Rumsfeld Wants to Settle the Issue of Rules of Engagement - Rumsfeld brings up the subject of “rules of engagement” for fighters defending US airspace. [Clarke, 2006, pp. 225] Since they arrived at the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center, at around 9:58 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. respectively, Myers and Rumsfeld have worked on these rules, which include guidelines for when fighter pilots should shoot down a suspicious aircraft (see (Between 10:15 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004 pdf file; George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] “I want to tie up the rules of engagement,” Rumsfeld says. He adds: “We need granularity here. This is not simple for a pilot, especially if he knows he’s shooting down a plane over a civilian area like Washington.” [Clarke, 2006, pp. 225]
Rumsfeld Approves NORAD's Rules of Engagement - “I’ve got the final recommended [rules of engagement] from General [Ralph] Eberhart at NORAD,” Myers tells Rumsfeld. He describes what these are. “If our fighters intercept an aircraft obviously heading for a runway, they will let it land, but if a plane is on a glide path toward a possible government target or civilian installation, they will shoot it down,” he says. “Clearly, shooting down a civilian airliner with innocent men, women, and children on board was not a good option, but given the circumstances, it was really the only course of action to minimize the death and destruction planned by the hijackers,” he will reflect. “Our pilots will have to exercise great discipline and judgment,” he tells Rumsfeld, since, “If that aircraft veers off, it will be too late.” Rumsfeld approves these rules. “This was not a time to be indecisive,” Myers will comment, since rules of engagement are “a deadly serious matter.” [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 157-158] However, the Department of Defense will only circulate written rules of engagement sometime after 1:00 p.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see (1:45 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 465]

Entity Tags: James Loy, Donald Rumsfeld, Ralph Eberhart, Federal Aviation Administration, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Richard B. Myers, US Coast Guard

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The Pentagon crash site.The Pentagon crash site. [Source: US Department of Defense]Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visit the site of the Pentagon attack. [American Forces Press Service, 9/9/2011; George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] Since 12:19 p.m., the two men have been in the Executive Support Center, on the third floor of the Pentagon (see 12:19 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 132; Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 156-157] Rumsfeld visited the crash site this morning, immediately after the Pentagon was attacked (see Between 9:38 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Cockburn, 2007, pp. 1-3; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 130] But this is the first time Myers has been there. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] Colonel Matthew Klimow, Myers’s executive assistant, accompanies them. [George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012]
Myers Notices Plane Parts - When they arrive at the crash site, the men inspect it. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 158] Klimow will later describe what he sees. “The first thing I saw was a huge debris field—bits and pieces of Flight 77”—the plane that hit the Pentagon (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001)—“scattered on the ground, glittering in the sun like confetti,” he will say. [George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] Myers will recall that some of the heavier parts of the airliner—the landing gear and the engines—are recognizable. [American Forces Press Service, 9/9/2011] Klimow also notices the “huge V-shaped gash in the building” and “smoke still billowing up.” [George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] “The walls and roof on a wide section of this western Pentagon sector had collapsed into a heap of still-smoldering rubble,” Myers will describe. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 158] However, he will comment, he is “impressed that more of the building hadn’t collapsed.” [American Forces Press Service, 9/9/2011] Myers also notices the many workers, including firefighters, medical personnel, and police officers, who are trying to help in any way they can. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002]
Rumsfeld and Myers Talk to Rumsfeld's Flight Surgeon - While Rumsfeld and Myers are at the crash site, Colonel John Baxter comes over and talks to them. [George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] Baxter is the commander of the Pentagon’s Air Force Flight Medicine Clinic and also Rumsfeld’s flight surgeon, who accompanies the secretary of defense on trips. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 58; Condon-Rall, 2011, pp. 15] He describes to Rumsfeld, Myers, and Klimow the triage and treatment of patients he has conducted. It is unclear when Rumsfeld and Myers visit the crash site. They go there at 4:00 p.m., according to Klimow. [George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] But Myers will recall that they go there “[j]ust before 5:00 p.m.” [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 158] Rumsfeld will visit the site again later this afternoon with a larger group (see (Between 5:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2006, pp. 228]

Entity Tags: Richard B. Myers, Matthew S. Klimow, John Baxter, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Sergei Ivanov.Sergei Ivanov. [Source: Russian government]Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld calls Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and requests that the Russians call off an exercise their military has been conducting. Since 12:19 p.m., Rumsfeld has been based in the Executive Support Center, on the third floor of the Pentagon (see 12:19 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 131-132] He calls Ivanov, who is in Moscow, sometime after the meeting of the National Security Council convened by President Bush from Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska—which he participated in—ends (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001). Ivanov “sounded sad” as the two men discuss the casualties of today’s terrorist attacks, Rumsfeld will later recall. Rumsfeld requests that the Russian military stand down an exercise near Alaska. [Rumsfeld, 2011, pp. 343-344] The Russian Air Force began this major exercise over the North Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans yesterday and it was scheduled to last all week (see September 10, 2001). [BBC, 2001, pp. 161; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/9/2001; Washington Times, 9/11/2001] “[O]ur forces were understandably sensitive now about any intrusions into American airspace,” Rumsfeld will comment, and, he will add, “I didn’t want problems to arise inadvertently between our two countries.” [Rumsfeld, 2011, pp. 344] Ivanov says the Russian military is immediately canceling the exercise. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 160] The exercise was in fact canceled this morning, according to some accounts (see (After 10:03 a.m.) September11, 2001), and Russian President Vladimir Putin promptly informed the US government of this when he spoke to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice over the phone (see Between 10:32 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; Baker and Glasser, 2005, pp. 122; Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, 9/8/2011] Ivanov also promises “solidarity” and Russian cooperation with the US during the call with Rumsfeld, and recommends a G-8 summit on terrorism. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 160; Rumsfeld, 2011, pp. 344]

Entity Tags: Russian Air Force, Donald Rumsfeld, Sergei Ivanov

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Joseph Wassel.Joseph Wassel. [Source: Defense Information Systems Agency]Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visits the scene of the Pentagon attack for the third time today. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 7/2/2002 pdf file; Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 12/23/2002 pdf file] He went to the crash site this morning, immediately after the attack occurred (see Between 9:38 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. September 11, 2001), and visited it again earlier this afternoon with General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (see (Between 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 130; American Forces Press Service, 9/9/2011] Rumsfeld is accompanied by Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John Warner (R-VA), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, when he visits the crash site for the third time. The two senators called him earlier on to promise their wholehearted support, and he had suggested they come and visit the Pentagon. He is also accompanied by a number of aides. These include Vice Admiral Edmund Giambastiani Jr., his senior military assistant; Joseph Wassel, assistant to the secretary of defense for communications; and Victoria Clarke, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. Clarke will later describe what they see when they arrive at the scene. “Thousands of metal shards covered everything—the wreck of the building, the grass, what was left of the Pentagon’s helicopter pad,” she will write, adding that “[t]he massive wall—recently reinforced as part of a long-planned renovation—had collapsed in on itself.” Fires are still burning as the group quietly walks around the site. As Rumsfeld and his entourage head back into the building, they pass uniformed personnel standing over dead bodies covered in white sheets. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 4/9/2003 pdf file; Clarke, 2006, pp. 228-229]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, Carl Levin, Edmund Giambastiani, Joseph M. Wassel, Victoria (“Torie”) Clarke, John W. Warner

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announces that, despite the unprecedented attack there this morning, September 12 will be a normal day at the Pentagon and he wants all employees to report for work. [Vogel, 2007, pp. 455; Graff, 2019, pp. 362] Rumsfeld has, since 12:19 p.m., been based in the Executive Support Center, on the third floor of the Pentagon (see 12:19 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 132] Earlier in the afternoon, he went outside to inspect the crash site and saw the extent of the damage there (see (Between 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 158; George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] He saw that while the west wall is breached and on fire, the building’s other four sides are undamaged and at least 60 percent of the building is unaffected by the attack. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 247-248]
Rumsfeld Has Not Consulted the Incident Commander - He now tells those around him: “I want the chain of command to notify everybody that tomorrow, 12 September, is a normal workday at the Pentagon. I want everybody here reporting for work.” This is “a pretty startling announcement,” Colonel Matthew Klimow, executive assistant to General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will later comment. [Graff, 2019, pp. 362] Rumsfeld did not consult Assistant Chief James Schwartz of the Arlington County Fire Department (ACFD), who is the incident commander at the Pentagon, or building supervisors before making the decision to reopen the Pentagon. [Vogel, 2007, pp. 455] “I hadn’t talked to anybody when I said that [the Pentagon should open the next day],” he will recall. His decision was based on his impression “that the smoke and problems had declined, and that there were undoubtedly significant portions of the building that could be occupied safely,” he will say. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 12/23/2002 pdf file] “Having it open for business the next day seemed to me to be important,” he will comment.
Firefighters Will Be Alarmed at Rumsfeld's Decision - Rumsfeld’s announcement, however, will cause concern among senior fire officials. Schwartz will be “astonished at the news,” according to journalist and author Steve Vogel, since firefighters are “battling a big and dangerous fire, an unknown number of dead [are] in the rubble, and there [is] danger of further collapse.” [Vogel, 2007, pp. 455] Chief Edward Plaugher of the ACFD will also be concerned, for a number of reasons. Pamela Varley, a senior case writer at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, will describe these, writing: “From a fire safety perspective, it was not considered wise to have the utilities turned back on in parts of the building while the roof was on fire and a large volume of water was being sprayed there. In addition, the crash and fire were emitting potentially dangerous toxins into the building’s air supply. Finally, to have thousands of workers coming and going from the Pentagon complicated the task of controlling and securing the site, and threatened to impede the emergency response.” [Varley, 2009, pp. 256] FBI representatives, meanwhile, will be concerned because the Pentagon is a crime scene. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 144] And Steve Carter, the assistant building manager, will be “flabbergasted,” according to Vogel, although he will understand the rationale behind Rumsfeld’s decision, since the Pentagon has never closed its doors in its history. [Vogel, 2007, pp. 455]
Special Measures Will Be Arranged So the Pentagon Can Reopen - Rumsfeld’s decision will place additional burdens on the ACFD response force and the FBI’s evidence recovery team. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A65 pdf file] Plaugher and John Jester, chief of the Defense Protective Service—the law enforcement agency that guards the Pentagon—will begin an informal negotiation over what will be necessary for large numbers of people to return to the Pentagon. Plaugher will insist that plywood barriers be erected to cordon off the whole area between Corridors 3 and 6. He will also want armed guards with the authority to turn back even the most senior officers placed at every juncture, to prevent military personnel returning to their wrecked offices. And, in light of the smoke and fumes from the fires, he will want plans in place to evacuate the building at a moment’s notice, if necessary. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 248-249] Due to FBI concerns, yellow crime scene tape and guards will signify that sections of the building between Corridors 2 and 7 are off limits, and wooden wall barriers will later be built to further restrict access to the crash site. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 144] Rumsfeld will publicly announce his decision to reopen the Pentagon on September 12 during a news briefing at 6:42 p.m. (see 6:42 p.m. September 11, 2001). [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001; Government Executive, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Arlington County Fire Department, Edward Plaugher, Steve Carter, Donald Rumsfeld, Matthew S. Klimow, James Schwartz, Pentagon, John Jester

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, finally arrives at the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon after returning to the US when his flight to Europe was aborted.
Vice Chairman Updates Shelton - After Shelton enters the NMCC, General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, briefs him. Myers says that Air National Guard and regular Air Force combat air patrols are flying above major US cities under AWACS control, the entire US military is on Threatcon level Delta, and the Joint Forces Command is sending headquarters units to New York and Washington, DC.
Intelligence Director Says Only One 'Hint' Indicated Possible Attack - Shelton then turns to Vice Admiral Tom Wilson, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Rear Admiral Lowell Jacoby, the director of intelligence for the Joint Staff, and asks them, “Have we had any intel ‘squeaks’ on an attack like this—anything at all?” Wilson replies: “The only possible hint of this coming was several months ago when we got a single intercept requesting jumbo jet training. Since then, there’s been nothing.” Myers will later comment that Wilson is “referring to the vast electronic signals data-mining operations of our intelligence community that targeted known terrorist networks, such as al-Qaeda and their allies.” [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 159]
Shelton Flying to Europe at Time of Attacks - Shelton was flying across the Atlantic Ocean to Hungary for a NATO conference when he learned of the terrorist attacks in the US, and had ordered that his plane return to Washington (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the plane was repeatedly denied permission to enter US airspace (see (After 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and only landed at Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, at 4:40 p.m. (see 4:40 p.m. September 11, 2001). From there, three patrol cars and about a dozen motorcycle cops escorted the chairman and his accompanying staff members as they were driven to the Pentagon. Once at the Pentagon, Shelton initially went to his office and then visited the site of the attack, to see the wreckage there. After returning to the building, he headed to the NMCC. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001 pdf file; Giesemann, 2008, pp. 22-32; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 430-436; Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 pdf file]
Chairman in Office for Much of Evening - Shelton will spend much of the evening in his office with staff, preparing for meetings of the National Security Council later this evening and the following day (see (9:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and September 12, 2001). At 6:42 p.m., he will join Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John Warner (R-VA) to give a news briefing (see 6:42 p.m. September 11, 2001), and at around 9:00 p.m. he will head to the White House for the National Security Council meeting there. [CNN, 9/12/2001; Priest, 2003, pp. 37; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 436]

Entity Tags: National Military Command Center, Richard B. Myers, Tom Wilson, Henry Hugh Shelton, Lowell E. Jacoby

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Donald Rumsfeld speaking at his 6:42 p.m. news briefing. Behind the secretary of defense, left to right, are Thomas White, Henry Shelton, John Warner, and Carl Levin.Donald Rumsfeld speaking at his 6:42 p.m. news briefing. Behind the secretary of defense, left to right, are Thomas White, Henry Shelton, John Warner, and Carl Levin. [Source: Bob Houlihan/US Navy]Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and four other senior officials give a news briefing at the Pentagon, which is broadcast live around the world, to reassure the public that the US government is still functioning and the nation is strong, and during the briefing Rumsfeld says that, despite the devastating attack there, the Pentagon will reopen the following day. [Government Executive, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; Giesemann, 2008, pp. 34; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 436] Joining Rumsfeld in the Pentagon press room to give the briefing are Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John Warner (R-VA), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the committee’s ranking minority member, respectively; General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has returned to the US after his flight to Europe was aborted (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001); and Secretary of the Army Thomas White, who has come to the Pentagon from the alternate command location. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 145] Levin and Warner called Rumsfeld earlier in the day, promising him their wholehearted support, and he had suggested they come over to the Pentagon. [Clarke, 2006, pp. 228]
Officials Addressing Millions of Americans - As Rumsfeld and the four other men stood outside the press room before the briefing, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke informed them, “Gentlemen, you are about to address 320 million Americans who have witnessed an unspeakable tragedy today.” [Giesemann, 2008, pp. 34]
Pentagon 'Will Be in Business Tomorrow' - Rumsfeld begins the briefing, reading out a statement he has written by hand. He says, “This is a tragic day for our country,” and adds, “We have taken a series of measures to prevent further attacks and to determine who is responsible.” After summarizing some of the Defense Department’s actions throughout the day, Rumsfeld gives reassurance that the Pentagon is still up and running, pointing out that “the briefing here is taking place in the Pentagon. The Pentagon’s functioning,” and, he adds, “It will be in business tomorrow.” Shelton calls the day’s terrorist attacks “an outrageous act of barbaric terrorism carried out by fanatics,” and states, “I have no intentions of discussing today what comes next, but make no mistake about it, your armed forces are ready.”
'No Information' that Military Shot Down Any Aircraft - Rumsfeld takes a number of questions from reporters, but refuses to speculate about any uncertain information. When asked: “What about Osama bin Laden? Do you suspect him as the prime suspect in this?” Rumsfeld answers, “It’s not the time for discussions like that.” One reporter says, “[T]here were rumors earlier in the day that the plane which crashed in Pennsylvania had been brought down by the United States, either shot down or in some other manner,” to which Rumsfeld responds, “We have absolutely no information that any US aircraft shot down any other aircraft today.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001; Clarke, 2006, pp. 230-231]
Briefing Would Be a 'Powerful Statement' - The briefing has come about because Clarke felt earlier on that Rumsfeld should do a media briefing today and that, despite the objections of others, it should be conducted at the Pentagon, as this would be “the most powerful statement we could deliver that we were open for business.” Rumsfeld agreed with Clarke’s suggestion to hold such a briefing. [Clarke, 2006, pp. 229-230] Shelton will later recall that the feedback the briefing generates “by far surpassed any other I have ever received. The nation was obviously shaken and looking for reassurance that their government was still functioning.” [Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 436]

Entity Tags: Carl Levin, Henry Hugh Shelton, Donald Rumsfeld, Thomas E. White, John W. Warner, Victoria (“Torie”) Clarke

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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