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Context of '6:45 a.m. September 11, 2001: Connecting Flight for Two 9/11 Hijackers Arrives in Boston'

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Chris Lyons, a newspaper delivery driver, sees four or five Middle Eastern men near the entrance of Portland airport, from where alleged hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari will later take a plane to Boston (see (6:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The men are speaking Arabic among themselves and hauling about ten suitcases into the airport. Lyons later says they “stuck out because usually no one is around at that hour.” After 9/11, local police will say they don’t think the men are connected to the attacks. However, Lyons is concerned that they might have been “support people,” because, he says, “It’s just too much of a coincidence that this group of businessmen was leaving Portland the morning of the terrorist attacks.” (Portland Press Herald 9/22/2001; Walsh 10/21/2001)

Abdulaziz Alomari (a passport stamp overlaps part of his face).Abdulaziz Alomari (a passport stamp overlaps part of his face). [Source: FBI]Having spent the previous night at the Comfort Inn in Portland, Maine (see September 10, 2001), hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari check out at 5:33 a.m. and drive their rented Nissan to the nearby Portland International Jetport Airport, entering its parking lot at 5:40 a.m. The FBI will later seize their car there. (Vulliamy et al. 9/16/2001; Portland Press Herald 10/5/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/5/2001; Dorman 4/17/2006) Their flight is due to take off for Boston at 6:00 a.m. (see (6:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The Boston Globe points out, “Any significant delay would foil [Atta’s] big plans for the day.” (Zuckoff 9/16/2001) The 9/11 Commission later concludes: “The Portland detour almost prevented Atta and Omari from making Flight 11 out of Boston.” (9/11 Commission 6/16/2004)

9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari’s flight from Portland to Boston takes off. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/4/2001) Their plane, Colgan Air Flight 5930, is a 19-seat Beechcraft 1900. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 2001; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 3) Fellow passengers Vincent Meisner and Roger Quirion will later say Atta and Alomari board separately, keep quiet, and do not draw attention to themselves. (Chicago Sun-Times 9/16/2001; Gugliotta 9/16/2001) Quirion, says: “They struck me as business travelers. They were sitting down, talking, seems like they were going over some paperwork.” (CBS News 10/12/2001)

The Portland-to-Boston flight used by 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari arrives on time at Boston’s Logan Airport. (Der Spiegel 2002) Atta and Alomari then cross a parking lot on their way to the departure terminal for Flight 11, and are observed asking for directions. The other three Flight 11 hijackers arrive at Logan Airport in a rented car around this same time (see (6:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 5)

According to an article on the conservative news website WorldNetDaily, alleged lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta almost misses Flight 11 and has to rush to the departure gate at Boston’s Logan Airport. The article is based on the account of an unnamed American Airlines employee at Logan, and claims Atta is running late because his connecting flight from Portland was delayed (see (6:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the 9/11 Commission claims that this plane was “on time,” and says Atta is observed at Logan with Abdulaziz Alomari, asking for directions in a parking lot (see 6:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). The employee says that at the baggage check-in, when asked security questions, Atta claims he does not speak English. A supervisor is called for, who just sends him towards the departure gate, as it is close to his plane’s take-off time. Atta rushes through the security checkpoint, then down to the gate, where he shows up perspiring. The employee comments, “The nitwit. You know, they’d been planning it for five years, and he’s running late for the flight.” An American Airlines spokeswoman will refuse to comment on this account, saying all American employees have been ordered not to speak to the press. (Sperry 9/21/2001; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 3, 5)

An unnamed gate agent at Logan Airport in Boston calls Donald Bennett, the crew chief for Flight 11, and asks him if the two suitcases of a passenger who has just boarded the plane have arrived from US Airways. Bennett replies that the suitcases, which belong to lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, have arrived, but Flight 11’s baggage compartment has already been locked for departure, so they will not be loaded. Atta flew from Portland to Boston on a Colgan Air flight operated for US Airways (see (6:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). American Airlines baggage expediter Philip Depasquale will later claim that bags from US Airways are always late, and so this problem is a common occurrence. The luggage is turned over to Depasquale to have it sent to Los Angeles on another flight. According to Salvatore Misuraca, a ramp service manager for American Airlines at Logan Airport, gate agents do not usually call about a bag unless the passenger that owns it has specifically asked about it, to ensure that their bags have been put on their flight. Atta’s luggage will remain at Logan Airport and be found after the attacks, revealing important clues (see September 11-13, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/17/2001; 9/11 Commission 2/10/2004)


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