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Context of '(Between 9:10 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Wife Unable to Contact Flight 93 Passenger Tom Burnett on His Cell Phone'

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At her home in San Ramon, California, Deena Burnett has seen the television coverage of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Her husband, Tom Burnett, is due home from a business trip to New York later in the day. [Longman, 2002, pp. 106] However, he has switched from his original flight to the earlier Flight 93, and has not called ahead to notify her of this. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/17/2001] Deena is expecting Tom to head home some time later this morning, but, concerned in case he finished his business early and took an earlier flight, she tries calling his cell phone. He does not answer. She later recalls, “This was not cause for immediate concern, because if he was on a flight already, use of cell phones was forbidden.” [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 60-61] Minutes later, though, he makes the first in a series of calls to her from Flight 93, apparently using his cell phone (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Tom Burnett, Deena Burnett

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Tom Burnett.
Tom Burnett. [Source: Family photo]Tom Burnett, a passenger on Flight 93, calls his wife Deena Burnett at their home in San Ramon, California. [Longman, 2002, pp. 106-107] She looks at the caller ID and recognizes the number as being that of his cell phone. She asks him if he is OK, and he replies: “No, I’m not. I’m on an airplane that’s been hijacked.” He says, “They just knifed a guy,” and adds that this person was a passenger. [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 61] (According to journalist and author Jere Longman, this would likely have been Mark Rothenberg in seat 5B; Burnett was assigned seat 4B. Rothenberg is the only first class passenger who does not make a call from the flight. [Longman, 2002, pp. 107] ) Deena asks, “Are you in the air?” She later recalls, “I didn’t understand how he could be calling me on his cell phone from the air.” According to Deena Burnett, Tom continues: “Yes, yes, just listen. Our airplane has been hijacked. It’s United Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco. We are in the air. The hijackers have already knifed a guy. One of them has a gun. They’re telling us there’s a bomb on board. Please call the authorities.” [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 61] (However, the 9/11 Commission will later conclude that the hijackers did not possess a gun, as Tom Burnett apparently claims here (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 13] ) At the end of the call, which lasts just seconds, Tom says he will call back and then hangs up. [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 62] Deena does not have time to tell him about the planes crashing into the World Trade Center. [Sacramento Bee, 9/11/2002] But she writes down everything he tells her. [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 62] She notes the call having occurred at 9:27 a.m. [Longman, 2002, pp. 107] Yet, the 9/11 Commission will later conclude that the hijacker takeover of Flight 93 does not occur until a minute later, at 9:28 (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 38] Deena later wonders if her husband made this call before the hijackers took control of the cockpit, as he’d spoken quietly and quickly, as if he were being watched. He has an ear bud and a mouthpiece attached to a cord that hangs over his shoulder, which may have enabled him to use his phone surreptitiously. [Longman, 2002, pp. 107] According to Deena Burnett’s account, this is the first of four calls Tom makes to her from Flight 93, all or most of which he makes using his cell phone. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 pdf file; Associated Press, 9/13/2001; Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 75] However, a summary of passenger phone calls presented at the 2006 Zacarias Moussoui trial will state that Burnett makes only three calls from the plane; uses an Airfone, not his cell phone; and makes his frst call at 9:30, not 9:27 (see 9:30 a.m.-9:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 9-10 pdf file] This is the first of over 30 phone calls made by passengers from Flight 93. [MSNBC, 7/30/2002]

Entity Tags: Mark Rothenberg, Deena Burnett, Tom Burnett

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The 9/11 Commission will later conclude that the four hijackers take over Flight 93 at 9:28 a.m., one minute after the plane’s crew made their last communication with the FAA’s Cleveland Center (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to the Commission, the hijackers “wielded knives (reported by at least five callers); engaged in violence, including stabbing (reported by at least four callers and indicated by the sounds of the cockpit struggle transmitted over the radio); relocated the passengers to the back of the plane (reported by at least two callers); threatened use of a bomb, either real or fake (reported by at least three callers); and engaged in deception about their intentions (as indicated by the hijacker’s radio transmission received by FAA air traffic control).” Flight 93 suddenly drops 685 feet in the space of just 30 seconds, and the Cleveland Center hears two suspicious radio transmissions from its cockpit (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the 9/11 Commission will add, “While this appears to show the exact time that the hijackers invaded the cockpit, we have found no conclusive evidence to indicate precisely when the terrorists took over the main cabin or moved passengers seated in the first-class cabin back to coach.” The four hijackers waited about 46 minutes after takeoff before beginning their takeover of Flight 93. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 38-39] Yet, the Commission claims, when alleged hijacker ringleader Mohamed Atta met with fellow Hamburg cell member Ramzi bin al-Shibh in Spain about two months earlier (see July 8-19, 2001), he’d said that the “best time [for the hijackers] to storm the cockpit would be about 10-15 minutes after takeoff, when the cockpit doors typically were opened for the first time.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 245] The Commission will state, “We were unable to determine why [the Flight 93 hijackers] waited so long.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 39] The long wait is particularly notable, considering that Flight 93 had already been significantly delayed before taking off from Newark Airport (see 8:01 a.m. September 11, 2001). In fact, in an early timeline, Pentagon officials will state the hijacking occurred significantly earlier, at around 9:16, and in 2003, NORAD officials repeat this claim (see 9:16 a.m. September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/17/2001; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003]

Entity Tags: 9/11 Commission

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

According to evidence presented at the 2006 Zacarias Moussaoui trial, passenger Tom Burnett makes just three phone calls from Flight 93 to his wife, Deena Burnett. According to the trial evidence, his first call, lasting 28 seconds, is at 9:30. At just before 9:38, he makes a second call, which lasts 62 seconds, and at 9:44 he makes his final call, lasting 54 seconds. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] Although he was assigned a seat in row 4 near the front of the plane, records show he makes these calls using Airfones further back, in rows 24 and 25. [United States of America v. Zacarias Moussaoui, a/k/a Shaqil, a/k/a Abu Khalid al Sahrawi, Defendant., 4/11/2006 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 9-10 pdf file] This evidence, however, contradicts the account given by Burnett’s wife. According to an FBI record of the interview, in her initial meeting with investigators (see (12:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001), Deena Burnett will say she received “a series of three to five cellular phone calls from her husband.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 pdf file] But she will subsequently say consistently that she received four phone calls from him. And, rather than occurring between 9:30 and 9:44, she notes them as having occurred at 9:27, 9:34, 9:45, and 9:54. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/13/2001; New York Times, 9/13/2001; CNN, 9/11/2002; Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 61-67; Hour of Power, 9/10/2006; MSNBC, 9/11/2006] While the trial evidence states that Tom Burnett makes his calls from the plane using Airfones, other accounts will report that he makes all—or all but one—of them using his cell phone. [Associated Press, 9/13/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 107-111 and 118; Washington Post, 4/19/2002; San Francisco Chronicle, 4/21/2002; CBS News, 9/10/2003]

Entity Tags: Tom Burnett, Deena Burnett

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

After receiving a call from her husband Tom Burnett, who is on the hijacked Flight 93 (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001), Deena Burnett calls 911 to report the hijacking. She used to be a flight attendant, so knows what to say in an emergency. Her 911 call is recorded and she will later be provided with a tape of it. According to journalist and author Jere Longman, who is played this tape, Deena reports: “My husband just called me from United Flight 93. The plane has been hijacked. They just knifed a passenger and there are guns on the airplane.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 107-108 and 278] However, in her 2006 book, Deena Burnett will give a slightly different account according to which she makes no mention of guns on the plane, instead telling the dispatcher: “My husband is on an airplane that has been hijacked. He just called me from the airplane on his cellular telephone. He told me they have a bomb on board.” [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 62-63] (Note that the 9/11 Commission later concludes that the Flight 93 hijackers do not possess guns (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 13] ) Deena then tells the dispatcher the flight number and route. Her call is transferred to a man at the police department, who then switches her to the FBI. She repeats her story to a special agent, who initially misunderstands her, thinking she is saying her husband was on one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center. Once she has clarified that he is on another plane, the agent gives her a list of questions to ask her husband if she speaks with him again, such as how many hijackers are there and what weapons do they have? At that moment, her call waiting beeps, as Tom Burnett is calling a second time (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Sacramento Bee, 9/11/2002; Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 63] Deena will be unable to ask Tom the questions the agent has asked her to during his subsequent calls from Flight 93, because, she later recalls, “I didn’t want to take up any precious time talking any more than was necessary,” and “I had wanted to hear Tom’s voice.” Instead, she writes down everything he says and everything that is going on. [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 68] According to Longman, Deena will call the FBI back minutes later, following her husband’s second call (see (Between 9:36 a.m. and 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Longman, 2002, pp. 110] But according to Deena Burnett’s 2006 book, she will not speak to the FBI agent again until around 10:00 a.m., after her husband’s final call to her from Flight 93 (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 68-69]

Entity Tags: Deena Burnett, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Tom Burnett

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Flight 93 passenger Tom Burnett calls his wife Deena Burnett for the third time. She is able to determine that he is using his cell phone, as the caller identification shows his number. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 pdf file] She had just seen the television reports about the Pentagon being hit, and mistakenly thought Tom’s plane had crashed into it. [Longman, 2002, pp. 111] She asks, “Tom, you’re okay?” but he replies, “No, I’m not.” Deena tells him, “They just hit the Pentagon.” She hears him repeating this information to people around him. She continues: “They think five airplanes have been hijacked. One is still on the ground. They believe all of them are commercial planes. I haven’t heard them say which airline, but all of them have originated on the East Coast.” She doesn’t know who is involved in the attacks. [Sacramento Bee, 9/11/2002; Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 65-66] The hijackers had earlier told the passengers there was a bomb on Flight 93 (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 pdf file; Longman, 2002, pp. 107] But now Tom appears to doubt this. He asks Deena, “What is the probability of them having a bomb on board?” He then answers himself: “I don’t think they have one. I think they’re just telling us that for crowd control.” Based on her experience as a former flight attendant, Deena says, “A plane can survive a bomb if it’s in the right place.” Tom continues: “[The hijackers are] talking about crashing this plane into the ground. We have to do something. I’m putting a plan together.” He says “several people” are helping him. “There’s a group of us.” Deena is surprised, but reassured, at her husband’s calmness. She will recall that it is as if he were at work, “sitting at his desk, and we were having a regular conversation.” He tells her he will call back, and then hangs up. A policeman then arrives at Deena Burnett’s house, no doubt in response to her earlier 911 call (see 9:31 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001), and follows her inside. [Sacramento Bee, 9/11/2002; Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 66]

Entity Tags: Tom Burnett, Deena Burnett

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Cathal Flynn.Cathal Flynn. [Source: PBS]An Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) employee tells journalist Seymour Hersh that the 9/11 hijackings were accomplished with guns put on the planes by airport employees. Hersh then calls Rear Admiral Cathal Flynn, associate administrator of security at the Federal Aviation Administration, and tells him, “The guns were put onto the plane by the ramp workers.” When Flynn argues that there are no reports of this, Hersh replies, “Those ramp workers aren’t even checked,” and insists, “There were pistols and they were put onto the plane by the ramp workers.” [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 47-8] Although there are some reports of guns being used on the hijacked flights (see (8:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001), the 9/11 Commission, for example, will not say that guns were used by the hijackers. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004]

Entity Tags: Seymour Hersh, Cathal Flynn

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

It is reported that in the wake of 9/11, Attorney General John Ashcroft has prevented the FBI from investigating gun-purchase records to discover if any of the hundreds arrested or suspected since 9/11 had bought any guns. The White House supports him, saying they have no intention of changing the law to clarify the FBI’s ability to search gun-purchase records. [CNN, 12/6/2001; New York Times, 12/6/2001] A spokesman for The International Association of Chiefs of Police, the largest group of law enforcement executives in the US, says, “This is absurd and unconscionable. The decision has no rational basis in public safety. It sounds to me like it was made for narrow political reasons based on a right-to-bear-arms mentality.” [New York Times, 12/6/2001] There were reports that the 9/11 hijackers on at least Flight 11 and Flight 93 used guns in the hijacking (see (8:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: John Ashcroft, Federal Bureau of Investigation, International Association of Chiefs of Police

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Civil Liberties

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