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Context of '(9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001: American Airlines Orders Its Flights to Land Immediately'

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Brehon B. Somervell.Brehon B. Somervell. [Source: Public domain]Construction begins on the Pentagon. The structure was conceived at the request of Brigadier General Brehon B. Somervell in 1941, in order to provide a temporary solution to the growing US War Department’s critical shortage of space. The groundbreaking ceremony takes place on September 11, 1941. (Fine 1972, pp. 265-266, 348-351, 431-432, 434; Harte and Pruitt 1/16/2018) Exactly 60 years later, Flight 77 will crash into the Pentagon as part of the 9/11 attacks (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001).

On several occasion between 1996 and 1999, future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour attends flight schools in Arizona (see October 1996-December 1997 and 1998). The 9/11 Commission will later note, “It is clear that when Hanjour lived in Arizona in the 1990s, he associated with several individuals who have been the subject of counterterrorism investigations.” Some of the time, he is accompanied by two friends, Bandar Al Hazmi and Rayed Abdullah. Al Hazmi and Abdullah have been friends with each other in high school in Saudi Arabia, but it is not known if either knew Hanjour before moving to the US. Al Hazmi and Hanjour are roommates for a time. Al Hazmi will finish his training and leave the US for the last time in January 2000 (he apparently will be interviewed overseas in 2004). Abdullah becomes a leader of a Phoenix mosque where he reportedly gives extremist speeches. He will continue to train with Hanjour occasionally through the summer of 2001. The FBI apparently will investigate him in May 2001. He will repeatedly be questioned by authorities after 9/11, then move to Qatar. In 2004, the 9/11 Commission will report that the FBI remains suspicious of Al Hazmi and Abdullah, but neither man is charged with any crime. The 9/11 Commission will also imply that another of Hanjour’s Arizona associates is al-Qaeda operative Ghassan al Sharbi. Al Sharbi will be arrested in Pakistan in March 2002 with al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida (see March 28, 2002). He apparently is a target of Ken Williams’s “Phoenix memo”(see July 10, 2001). Another associate of Hanjour’s, Hamed al Sulami, is in telephone contact with a radical Saudi imam who is said to be the spiritual advisor to al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida. This imam may have a role in recruiting some of the 9/11 hijackers. Abdulaziz Alomari, for instance, was a student of this imam. It seems that al Sulami is also a target of Williams’s memo. (Fainaru and Ibrahim 9/10/2002; US Congress 9/26/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 233, 520-521, 529)

Future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour begins associating with an unnamed individual who is later mentioned in FBI agent Ken Williams’s famous “Phoenix memo” (see July 10, 2001). Hanjour and this individual train at flight schools in Arizona (see October 1996-December 1997 and 1998). Several flight instructors will later note that the two were associates and may have carpooled together. They are known to share the same airplane on one occasion in 1999, and are at the school together on other occasions. The unnamed individual leaves the US in April 2000. In May 2001, the FBI attempts to investigate this person, but after finding out that he has left the US, it declines to open a formal investigation. The person’s name is not placed on a watch list, so the FBI is unaware that he returns in June and stays in the US for another month. By this time, he is an experienced flight instructor who is certified to fly Boeing 737s. The FBI speculates he may return to evaluate Hanjour’s flying skills or provide final training before 9/11. There is considerable circumstantial evidence placing this person near Hanjour in July 2001. (US Congress 7/24/2003 pdf file) This unnamed individual may be Lofti Raissi, as several details match him perfectly. For instance, Raissi is a flight instructor who left the US in April 2000, is later accused of having shared an airplane with Hanjour in 1999, and is accused of being with Hanjour in July 2001. (Gillan 1/31/2002) In addition, according to FBI investigators, Raissi engages in a number of suspicious activities during this period that will justify scrutiny after 9/11. For example, in June 2000, while training at a British flight school, he reportedly asks, “if a plane flies into a building, whether it is the responsibility of the airline or the pilot,” and warns that “America will get theirs.” (9/11 Commission 1/5/2004) Raissi will be arrested in Britain after 9/11 and accused of training Hanjour and other hijackers how to fly, but the case against him will collapse in April 2002. He will be released, and many of the allegations against him will be withdrawn (see September 21, 2001). No media accounts will report that Raissi was mentioned in the Phoenix memo or wanted for an FBI investigation before 9/11.

Sawyer Aviation logo.Sawyer Aviation logo. [Source: Sawyer Aviation]In January 1998, future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour and his friend Bandar Al Hazmi, who are now renting an apartment together in Phoenix, Arizona, train together at Arizona Aviation flight school. Hanjour supposedly receives his commercial pilot rating while there. (US Congress 9/26/2002) Later in 1998, Hanjour joins the simulator club at Sawyer School of Aviation in Phoenix. According to the Washington Post, Sawyer is “known locally as a flight school of last resort.” Wes Fults, the manager of the flight simulator, says Hanjour has “only the barest understanding what the instruments were there to do.” After using the simulator four or five times, Hanjour disappears from the school. (Goldstein, Sun, and Lardner 10/15/2001)

A photocopy of Hani Hanjour’s 1999 pilot license.A photocopy of Hani Hanjour’s 1999 pilot license. [Source: FBI] (click image to enlarge)When Hani Hanjour attended flight schools between 1996 and 1998 he was found to be a “weak student” who “was wasting our resources” (see October 1996-December 1997), and when he tried using a flight simulator, “He had only the barest understanding what the instruments were there to do.” (see 1998) Yet, on this day, he is certified as a multi-engine commercial pilot by Daryl Strong in Tempe, Arizona. Strong is one of many private examiners independently contracted with the FAA. A spokesperson for the FAA’s workers union will later complain that contractors like Strong “receive between $200 and $300 for each flight check. If they get a reputation for being tough, they won’t get any business.” Hanjour’s new license allows him to begin passenger jet training at other flight schools, despite having limited flying skills and an extremely poor grasp of English. (Federal Aviation Administration 4/25/2002; Lunney 6/13/2002; Associated Press 6/13/2002) At the next flight school Hanjour will attend in early 2001, the staff will be so appalled at his lack of skills that they will repeatedly contact the FAA and ask them to investigate how he got a pilot’s license (see January-February 2001). After 9/11, the FBI will appear to investigate how Hanjour got his license and question and polygraph the instructor who signed off on his flying skills. The Washington Post will note that, since Hanjour’s pilot skills were so bad, the issue of how he was able to get a license “remains a lingering question that FAA officials refuse to discuss.” (Goldstein, Sun, and Lardner 10/15/2001; CBS News 5/10/2002) After gaining the license, Hanjour apparently returns to the Middle East. He will arrive back in the US in December 2000 (see (Early 2000-November 2000) and December 8, 2000).

Hani Hanjour’s September 10 US visa application, which was rejected. The fact he requested permission to stay in the US for three years is highlighted on the right.Hani Hanjour’s September 10 US visa application, which was rejected. The fact he requested permission to stay in the US for three years is highlighted on the right. [Source: National Review] (click image to enlarge)Future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour applies for a US tourist/business visa at the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Hanjour, who has already spent a good deal of time in the US (see October 3, 1991-February 1992, Spring 1996, October 1996-December 1997, and 1998), uses a passport issued on July 24, 2000. His application is incomplete, as he says he is a student, but fails to give his school’s name and address. After his application is screened, he is referred to a consular officer for an interview. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 13, 174-5 pdf file) This consular officer is Shayna Steinger, who issues a total of 12 visas to the 9/11 hijackers (see July 1, 2000). (9/11 Commission 12/30/2002, pp. 2; Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State) 1/30/2003) Hanjour’s application is denied as he says he wants to stay in the US for three years, raising concerns he might become an immigrant. Hanjour also says he wants to attend flight school in the US, changing his status to “student” from “tourist” after arrival. However, this is another reason Steinger denies the visa application, “because he has been in the States long enough to decide what he wanted.” Hanjour will return to the consulate two weeks later and successfully obtain a visa from Steinger using a different application (see September 25, 2000). (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 13, 174-5 pdf file) Steinger will later give a series of conflicting explanations about why she reversed her decision and issued the visa (see August 1, 2002, January 20, 2003, and December 30, 2003). After 9/11, a former consular official named Michael Springmann will say that while serving in Jeddah during the Soviet-Afghan War he was sometimes pressured to reverse denials of visa applications by the CIA for apparent mujaheddin (see September 1987-March 1989).

9/11 hijackers Hani Hanjour and Nawaf Alhazmi move together from San Diego to Mesa, Arizona, just outside Phoenix. (US News and World Report 6/20/2004) While there, Hanjour spends time training at Arizona Aviation flight school, which he previously attended in January 1998 (see 1998). According to the 9/11 Commission, “He wanted to train on multi-engine planes, but had difficulties because his English was not good enough. The instructor advised him to discontinue but Hanjour said he could not go home without completing the training.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 226) He also attends the JetTech flight school in Phoenix (see January-February 2001). In March 2001, Hanjour moves to Paterson, New Jersey, where he rents an apartment with Salem Alhazmi (see March 2001-September 1, 2001).

Hani Hanjour.Hani Hanjour. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]While most evidence places future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour on the East Coast in the summer of 2001, Hanjour may undergo some flight training in Phoenix, Arizona, as well. Hanjour trained at the Sawyer School of Aviation previously (see 1998), and there is some evidence he returns there. One school document records Hanjour’s name for use of a flight simulator on June 23, 2001, though his name does not appear on payment records. Faisal al-Salmi, Rayed Abdullah, and Lotfi Raissi also use the flight simulator this day. Al-Salmi will later be convicted of lying about his associations with Hanjour (see February 15, 2002). Abdullah had moved with Hanjour from Florida in 1997, and is known for giving extremist speeches at a Phoenix mosque (see October 1996-Late April 1999). Raissi will later be suspected of involvement in the 9/11 plot, then cleared (see September 21, 2001). There are also indications that Hanjour signs up to use a flight simulator in August with three other Muslim men, including al-Salmi. One Sawyer employee is fairly certain she sees Hanjour during the summer. Another witness sees Hanjour with al-Salmi elsewhere in Phoenix. The 9/11 Commission will note that the evidence of Hanjour training in Phoenix during the summer is not definitive, but “the FBI’s Phoenix office believes it is plausible that Hanjour return[s] to Arizona for additional training.” (Thomas 5/24/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 529) On July 10, 2001, Phoenix FBI agent Ken Williams sends a memorandum to FBI headquarters urging a nationwide check on Middle Eastern students at flight schools (see July 10, 2001), but apparently neither Williams nor anyone else actually conducts any kind of check on Phoenix flight schools at this time (see July 10-September 11, 2001).

FBI agent Ken Williams.FBI agent Ken Williams. [Source: FBI]Phoenix, Arizona, FBI agent Ken Williams sends a memorandum warning about suspicious activities involving a group of Middle Eastern men taking flight training lessons in Arizona. The memo is titled: “Zakaria Mustapha Soubra; IT-OTHER (Islamic Army of the Caucasus),” because it focuses on Zakaria Soubra, a Lebanese flight student in Prescott, Arizona, and his connection with a terror group in Chechnya that has ties to al-Qaeda. It is subtitled: “Osama bin Laden and Al-Muhjiroun supporters attending civil aviation universities/colleges in Arizona.” (Behar 5/22/2002; House 7/24/2003) Williams’ memo is based on an investigation of Sorba that Williams had begun in 2000 (see April 2000), but he had trouble pursuing because of the low priority the Arizona FBI office gave terror investigations (see April 2000-June 2001). Additionally, Williams had been alerted to suspicions about radical militants and aircraft at least three other times (see October 1996; 1998; November 1999-August 2001). In the memo, Williams does the following:
bullet Names nine other suspect students from Pakistan, India, Kenya, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. (Schrom 10/1/2002) Hijacker Hani Hanjour, attending flight school in Arizona in early 2001 and probably continuing into the summer of 2001 (see Summer 2001), is not one of the students, but, as explained below, it seems two of the students know him. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 135 pdf file; Smith 7/25/2003)
bullet Notes that he interviewed some of these students, and heard some of them make hostile comments about the US. Additionally, he noticed that they were suspiciously well informed about security measures at US airports. (Schrom 10/1/2002)
bullet Notes an increasing, “inordinate number of individuals of investigative interest” taking flight lessons in Arizona. (Schrom 10/1/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 135 pdf file)
bullet Suspects that some of the ten people he has investigated are connected to al-Qaeda. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 135 pdf file) One person on the list, Ghassan al Sharbi, will be arrested in Pakistan in March 2002 with al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida (see March 28, 2002). Al Sharbi attended a flight school in Prescott, Arizona. He also apparently attended the training camps in Afghanistan and swore loyalty to bin Laden in the summer of 2001. He apparently knows Hani Hanjour in Arizona (see October 1996-Late April 1999). He also is the roommate of Soubra, the main target of the memo. (Krikorian 1/24/2003; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 521)
bullet Discovers that one of them was communicating through an intermediary with Abu Zubaida. This apparently is a reference to Hamed al Sulami, who had been telephoning a Saudi imam known to be Zubaida’s spiritual advisor. Al Sulami is an acquaintance of Hanjour in Arizona (see October 1996-Late April 1999). (Mercury News (San Jose) 5/23/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 520-521, 529)
bullet Discusses connections between several of the students and a radical group called Al-Muhajiroun. (Mercury News (San Jose) 5/23/2002) This group supported bin Laden, and issued a fatwa, or call to arms, that included airports on a list of acceptable terror targets. (Solomon 5/22/2002) Soubra, the main focus of the memo, is a member of Al-Muhajiroun and an outspoken radical. He met with Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, the leader of Al-Muhajiroun in Britain, and started an Arizona chapter of the organization. After 9/11, some US officials will suspect that Soubra has ties to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. He will be held two years, then deported to Lebanon in 2004. (Connell 10/28/2001; Krikorian 1/24/2003; Wagner 5/2/2004; Sherman 11/2004) Though Williams doesn’t include it in his memo, in the summer of 1998, Bakri publicized a fax sent by bin Laden to him that listed al-Qaeda’s four objectives in fighting the US. The first objective was “bring down their airliners.” (see Summer 1998). (Connell 10/28/2001)
bullet Warns of a possible “effort by Osama bin Laden to send students to the US to attend civil aviation universities and colleges” (Behar 5/22/2002) , so they can later hijack aircraft. (Schrom 10/1/2002)
bullet Recommends that the “FBI should accumulate a listing of civil aviation universities and colleges around the country. FBI field offices with these types of schools in their area should establish appropriate liaison. FBI [headquarters] should discuss this matter with other elements of the US intelligence community and task the community for any information that supports Phoenix’s suspicions.” (House 7/24/2003) (The FBI has already done this, but because of poor FBI communications, Williams is not aware of the report.)
bullet Recommends that the FBI ask the State Department to provide visa data on flight school students from Middle Eastern countries, which will facilitate FBI tracking efforts. (Risen 5/4/2002)
The memo is addressed to the following FBI Agents:
bullet Dave Frasca, chief of the Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU) at FBI headquarters;
bullet Elizabeth Harvey Matson, Mark Connor and Fred Stremmel, Intelligence Operations Specialists in the RFU;
bullet Rod Middleton, acting chief of the Usama bin Laden Unit (UBLU);
bullet Jennifer Maitner, an Intelligence Operations Specialist in the UBLU;
bullet Jack Cloonan, an agent on the New York FBI’s bin Laden unit, the I-49 squad; (see January 1996 and Spring 2000).
bullet Michael S. Butsch, an agent on another New York FBI squad dealing with other Sunni terrorists. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 7/10/2001 pdf file; US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 135 pdf file)
However, the memo is not uploaded into the FBI’s information system until the end of the month and is apparently not received by all these people (see July 27, 2001 and after). Williams also shares some concerns with the CIA (see (July 27, 2001)). (Mercury News (San Jose) 5/23/2002) One anonymous government official who has seen the memo says, “This was as actionable a memo as could have been written by anyone.” (Insight 5/27/2002) However, the memo is merely marked “routine,” rather than “urgent.” It is generally ignored, not shared with other FBI offices, and the recommendations are not taken. One colleague in New York replies at the time that the memo is “speculative and not very significant.” (Schrom 10/1/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 135 pdf file) Williams is unaware of many FBI investigations and leads that could have given weight to his memo. Authorities later claim that Williams was only pursuing a hunch, but one familiar with classified information says, “This was not a vague hunch. He was doing a case on these guys.” (Mercury News (San Jose) 5/23/2002)

Douglas Karpiloff.Douglas Karpiloff. [Source: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey]A command center for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, located in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, is upgraded to make it more secure, and the improvements will reportedly save the lives of people in the command center when the nearby South Tower collapses on September 11. (Taylor and Gardiner 9/12/2001; Guarnera 1/2002; Nash 1/23/2002) The Port Authority’s Security Command Center (SCC) is on the 22nd floor of the North Tower. (9/11 Commission 5/18/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 294) Newsday will report, on the day after 9/11, that officials had “recently” increased security at the WTC “by installing bulletproof windows and fireproof doors in the 22nd-floor computer command center.” (Taylor and Gardiner 9/12/2001) According to George Tabeek, the Port Authority’s security manager for the WTC, by September 11, the WTC in fact has “bulletproof window glass in most areas.” (Nugent 6/2008) The installation of the bulletproof windows—and presumably, also, the fireproof doors—in the SCC is made at the request of Douglas Karpiloff, the Port Authority’s director of security and life safety for the WTC. (Nash 1/23/2002)
Upgrades Intended to Protect against 'Aerial Attacks' - According to Hermina Jones, a security guard at the WTC, the upgrades to the SCC are intended “to secure the towers against aerial attacks.” (Taylor and Gardiner 9/12/2001) Tabeek will later recall, “We had planned for the possibility of a small airplane—a corporate jet, maybe—crashing into one of the [WTC] buildings by accident,” although it is unclear if this comment is made in reference to the installation of bulletproof windows at the WTC. (Nugent 6/2008)
Security Improvements Save Lives on September 11 - Some people will credit the upgrades to the SCC with saving their lives on September 11. Tabeek will be in the SCC that day when the first of the Twin Towers—the South Tower—collapses (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). When that happens, according to Tabeek, the “impact of the explosion peeled off the outer skin of [the North Tower], shattering the thick double-paned windows [of the SCC] in the process.” Tabeek will say, however, that the “inner layer of laminated bulletproof glass put in months earlier… withstood the blast and undoubtedly saved his life and those of the others with him.” Victor Guarnera, the chief technical adviser and manager of security systems for the World Trade Department, who is also in the SCC at that time, will describe what happens when the collapse occurs, saying, “The outer windows [of the SCC] exploded, either from impact [of debris from the South Tower] or differential pressure, but the inner window wall of high-tempered bomb and bullet-resistant glass we had installed a few months before held fast.” Guarnera will comment that the bulletproof windows “were responsible for our survival up to that point.” (Guarnera 1/2002; Nash 1/23/2002)

A helicopter and its crew that are always on standby for “contingency” missions in the Washington area are away from base early this morning conducting a traffic survey, but apparently return at some point before the Pentagon is hit. The crew belongs to the 12th Aviation Battalion. (Exempt 11/14/2001 pdf file; Exempt 11/14/2001 pdf file) The 12th Aviation Battalion is stationed at Davison Army Airfield at Fort Belvoir, located 12 miles south of the Pentagon. It is the aviation support unit for the Military District of Washington, and operates UH-1 “Huey” and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. (Military District of Washington 8/2000) According to a chief warrant officer with the unit, the 12th Aviation Battalion has “two crews that are always on standby for any kind of contingency mission.” It is one of these crews that is “out flying around doing a traffic survey.” (Exempt 11/14/2001 pdf file) The exact time period during which the crew and their helicopter are away from base is unstated, but they apparently return to Davison Airfield before 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon is hit (see Shortly Before 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Exempt 11/14/2001 pdf file) They will be the first crew with the battalion to take off in support of the rescue operations at the Pentagon once the unit’s aircraft are permitted to launch again following the attack. Others members of the 12th Aviation Battalion are also away from base this morning, for weapons training (see 8:46 a.m.-9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Exempt 11/14/2001 pdf file)

The last routine communication takes place between air traffic control and the pilots of Flight 11 at 8:13 and 29 seconds. Boston Center air traffic controller Pete Zalewski is handling the flight, and instructs it to turn 20 degrees to the right. Pilot John Ogonowski immediately acknowledges the instruction, but seconds later he fails to respond to a command to climb to 35,000 feet. Zalewski repeatedly tries to reach the pilot over the next ten minutes, even using the emergency frequency, but gets no response (see 8:14 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). The 9/11 Commission concludes that Flight 11 is hijacked at 8:14, or shortly afterwards (see 8:14 a.m. September 11, 2001). (New York Times 10/16/2001; MSNBC 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 4)

After Flight 11 fails to respond to an instruction from air traffic control to climb to 35,000 feet (see 8:13 a.m. September 11, 2001), the controller handling it, Pete Zalewski, tries to regain contact with the aircraft. Over the following ten minutes, he makes numerous attempts but without success. (Zalewski says he makes 12 attempts; the 9/11 Commission says nine.) He tries reaching the pilot on the emergency frequency. Zalewski later recalls that initially, “I was just thinking that it was, you know, maybe they—pilots weren’t paying attention, or there’s something wrong with the frequency.… And at first it was pretty much, you know, ‘American 11,’ you know, ‘are you paying attention? Are you listening?’ And there was still no response.” He says, “I went back to the previous sector to see if the pilot had accidentally flipped the switch back over on the—on the radio.” But as Zalewski is repeatedly unable to get any response from Flight 11, he recalls, “I even began to get more concerned.” However, Zalewski claims, it is not until he sees the plane’s transponder go off at around 8:21 that he suspects something is “seriously wrong,” and calls his supervisor for assistance (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). And it is not until about 8:25 that he realizes for sure that he is dealing with a hijacking (see (8:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It is only then that Boston Center starts notifying its chain of command that Flight 11 has been hijacked (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). (New York Times 10/16/2001; MSNBC 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 18; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 7 and 10-11)

Vanessa Minter.Vanessa Minter. [Source: Capitol Broadcasting Company]Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, calls the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, to report the emergency on her plane. Ong makes the call using an Airfone. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 5; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) Flight attendants know the reservations 800 number that she calls because they often call it to help passengers with reservations questions. Calls made to the number are routed to the first available phone station at one of several facilities, including the office in Cary. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 72-74; 9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 8)
Ong Tells Agent, 'We're Being Hijacked' - The call is answered by Vanessa Minter, a reservation agent. The first thing Ong says is, “I think we’re being hijacked.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 453) Minter will later reflect: “There was something in her voice that said: ‘Okay, this isn’t funny. This isn’t a joke. This is real.’” (WRAL 9/9/2011)
Resolution Agent Joins Call - Minter asks Ong to hold for a moment. She then phones the American Airlines international resolution desk, which is on the other side of the building. Winston Sadler, the resolution agent, answers, and Minter tells him she has a woman on the phone who is calling from an American Airlines flight that is being hijacked. Minter says she cannot find the “emergency button” on her phone, and Sadler notices that she seems panicked. He offers to take over the call, and so Minter transfers it to him. The phone system allows Sadler to be connected to Minter’s line while Minter remains on it.
Alarm Sent Out to Notify Supervisor - Realizing the seriousness of the situation, Sadler pushes the emergency button on his phone, which initiates a tape recording of Ong’s call and also sends out an alarm that notifies Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the reservations office, to pick up the call. Gonzalez will join the call from Ong a short time later (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Sadler will tell the FBI that as soon as he joins Ong’s call, he is convinced it is a genuine phone call from an airplane, because he is used to hearing the background noise that occurs in calls from airplane telephones, and he can hear such noise during Ong’s call. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 42-44; 9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 453)
Only First Four Minutes of Call Recorded - Ong’s call will last over 25 minutes, ending at around 8:44 a.m. or 8:45 a.m. (see (8:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and in it Ong will relay crucial information about what is happening on her plane. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 8; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) However, only the first four minutes of the call are recorded. This is because the recently installed recording system at the reservations office has a default time limit. The recording system it replaced did not have such a time limit. (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 8)

Betty Ong.Betty Ong. [Source: The Eagle-Tribune]Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, begins relaying information about the trouble on her plane to employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 5) Ong has just called the reservations office to report the hijacking of Flight 11, and is on the line with two employees there: Vanessa Minter and Winston Sadler (see 8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 453)
Ong Describes Hijacking but Gives Wrong Flight Number - Ong tells Minter and Sadler: “The cockpit’s not answering, somebody’s stabbed in business class, and I think there’s Mace, that we can’t breathe.… I think we’re getting hijacked.” Sadler asks Ong what flight she is on and Ong replies, incorrectly, “Flight 12.” She says her plane just left Boston and is supposed to go to Los Angeles, and the pilots are not answering the phone in the cockpit. She says she is in the jump seat, 3R, which is at the back of the plane, behind the coach section. (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 6, 8) However, Amy Sweeney, another flight attendant who makes a call from Flight 11, is in the next-to-last row of passenger seats in the coach section of the plane, and she will say that Ong is sitting next to her (see (8:32 a.m.-8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sheehy 2/15/2004; Sheehy 6/20/2004; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 11)
Ong Says Two Flight Attendants Stabbed - Sadler asks Ong her name and she replies: “My name is Betty Ong. I’m number three [flight attendant] on Flight 11.” She says the number one flight attendant and the number five flight attendant have been stabbed. (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6) These two attendants are Barbara Arestegui and Karen Martin. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 6) Ong says, “Nobody knows who stabbed who and we can’t even get up to business class right now, ‘cause nobody can breathe.” She also says: “We can’t get into the cockpit. The door won’t open.” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6) Sadler takes notes of the call, using his computer “scratch pad.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 42-44) He notifies Ong of this, saying, “I’m taking it down, all the information.” He tells Ong, “We’re also, you know, of course, recording this.” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6)
Ong Receiving Details of Hijacking from Colleague - During the entire conversation, Sadler will later recall, Ong seems to be talking to someone in the background and receiving information from them. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 42-44) This person is presumably Sara Low, another of the flight attendants, who was assigned to the front of the plane and so would have witnessed the hijacking when it happened. (Associated Press 3/5/2009; Zambito 3/6/2009; Keith 9/11/2011) Ong will keep repeating herself during the call, Minter will recall, such as repeatedly mentioning the stabbings on her plane. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41) Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the reservations office, has been alerted to the call and will soon join it (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 453)

Peggy Houck, a flight dispatcher at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, is contacted by an American Airlines flight and told that air traffic control has asked the aircraft to try to contact Flight 11. Houck is working at the desk for American Airlines’ transcontinental flights and is therefore the dispatcher responsible for Flight 11. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 5-7; 9/11 Commission 1/8/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 9) Under FAA rules, dispatchers licensed by the agency are responsible for following aircraft in flight. Once a plane is in the air, a dispatcher must monitor its progress, relay safety information to the captain, and handle any problems. American Airlines assigns a dispatcher to each of its flights. (Morris 6/13/2002; Wald 6/14/2002; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 86) Houck will later tell the FBI that the flight that calls her has sent a message to Flight 11 stating something along the lines of, “Good morning, ATC [air traffic control] wants you on [a certain radio frequency] and requests an acknowledgment,” but received no reply. Houck has, until now, had no direct contact with Flight 11 and the communication she receives from this other aircraft is the first indication she has of any problem on Flight 11. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 5-7; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 9) Details of the aircraft that calls Houck are unclear. Houck will tell the 9/11 Commission, in 2004, that it is a “Seattle-Boston” flight. (9/11 Commission 1/8/2004 pdf file) However, interviewed by the FBI later today, she will refer to it as “another Boston flight,” suggesting that—like Flight 11—it had taken off from Logan International Airport in Boston. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 5-7) Houck, or another dispatcher at the SOC, will subsequently send an ACARS text message to Flight 11, but receive no response to it (see 8:23 a.m.-8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 9)

Nydia Gonzalez.Nydia Gonzalez. [Source: 9/11 Commission]Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, joins a phone call between two employees at her office and Betty Ong, a flight attendant on the hijacked Flight 11. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 8-9) Ong called the reservations office at 8:18 a.m. to report the hijacking (see 8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001), and has since then been talking to two employees there: Vanessa Minter and Winston Sadler. Sadler pushed the emergency button on his phone to alert personnel in the operations area of the reservations office, so that one of them could pick up the call from Ong. A colleague of Gonzalez’s initially picked up the call, but Gonzalez quickly takes over from them. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 453; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) Gonzalez, Minter, and Sadler are in different areas of the reservations office, but all three of them are able to monitor Ong’s call. (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file)
Supervisor Told of Stabbings on Flight 11 - The first thing Gonzalez says when she joins the call is: “This is operations. What flight number are we talking about?” Ong earlier told Minter and Sadler, incorrectly, that she was on “Flight 12,” not Flight 11 (see 8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001). Sadler therefore tells Gonzalez, “Flight 12.” Ong quickly corrects him, saying: “We’re on Flight 11 right now. This is Flight 11.… Boston to Los Angeles.” She also repeats information she previously gave to Minter and Sadler, saying, “Our number one [flight attendant] has been stabbed and our [number] five [flight attendant] has been stabbed.” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6)
Supervisor Notifies Airline's Operations Center - Gonzalez is an operations specialist, and her responsibilities include monitoring any emergency situations with American Airlines flights and forwarding information to the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas. (9/11 Commission 1/27/2004 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 17) She immediately realizes the seriousness of the situation on Flight 11 and therefore, while remaining connected to Ong’s call, phones the SOC on a separate line to notify it of the problem (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 9) Gonzalez will later recall that she finds Ong to be “calm, professional, and in control throughout the call.” (9/11 Commission 1/27/2004 pdf file) She will also say that during the time she is monitoring Ong’s call, she does not hear much commotion in the background. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71)

American Airlines has problems contacting the FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, about the problems with its aircraft, according to four managers working at the airline’s System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, on this day. Craig Marquis, Craig Parfitt, Joe Bertapelle, and Mike Mulcahy will later tell the 9/11 Commission that American Airlines has “a hard time on 9/11 in getting in touch with Herndon.” They will say that “[p]recious minutes were lost in building the communications bridge” between the SOC and the Command Center. The cause of these communication problems is unknown. (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file) The SOC has known that there are problems on Flight 11 since 8:21 a.m., when Marquis received a call from a supervisor at the airline’s Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina, alerting him to a call that had been received from one of the plane’s flight attendants about the emergency taking place (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Presumably the SOC starts trying to contact the FAA Command Center soon after receiving this call. It is known that the SOC will make contact with the Command Center at 9:16 a.m., if not earlier (see 9:16 a.m.-9:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 9, 15) Bill Halleck, an air traffic control specialist at the SOC, is at least able to reach the FAA’s Boston Center regarding Flight 11 at 8:29 a.m. (see 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 5, 453) The four American Airlines managers will also tell the 9/11 Commission, “In the event that the [American Airlines] SOC was aware that it was the first to know about an incident [with an aircraft], the protocol would have been for the SOC manager on duty [i.e. Marquis] to have immediately autodialed to the Herndon manager on duty [i.e. Ben Sliney] with the information.” However, the FAA “knew what was going on because of the intercepted communications from the cockpit.” (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file) (FAA air traffic controllers have been aware of problems with Flight 11 since around 8:14 a.m., when they lost communication with the plane (see 8:14 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), and they subsequently hear communications made by the hijackers on the plane, beginning at 8:24 a.m. (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 18-19) )

Pete Zalewski.Pete Zalewski. [Source: NBC]Because the talkback button on Flight 11 has been activated, Boston Center air traffic controllers can hear a hijacker on board say to the passengers: “We have some planes. Just stay quiet and you’ll be OK. We are returning to the airport.” (Johnson 11/23/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 19) Air traffic controller Pete Zalewski recognizes this as a foreign, Middle Eastern-sounding voice, but does not make out the specific words “we have some planes.” He responds, “Who’s trying to call me?” Seconds later, in the next transmission, the hijacker continues: “Nobody move. Everything will be OK. If you try to make any moves you’ll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet.” (Wald and Sack 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; MSNBC 9/9/2006) Bill Peacock, the FAA director of air traffic services, later claims, “We didn’t know where the transmission came from, what was said and who said it.” David Canoles, the FAA’s manager of air traffic evaluations and investigations, adds: “The broadcast wasn’t attributed to a flight. Nobody gave a flight number.” (Murray 9/11/2002) Similarly, an early FAA report will state that both these transmissions came from “an unknown origin.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file) Zalewski asks for an assistant to help listen to the transmissions coming from the plane, and puts its frequency on speakers so others at Boston Center can hear. Because Zalewski didn’t understand the initial hijacker communication from Flight 11, the manager of Boston Center instructs the center’s quality assurance specialist to “pull the tape” of the transmission, listen to it carefully, and then report back. They do this, and by about 9:03 a.m. a Boston manager will report having deciphered what was said in the first hijacker transmission (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; MSNBC 9/9/2006) Fellow Boston controller Don Jeffroy also hears the tape of the hijacker transmissions, though he doesn’t state at what time. He says: “I heard exactly what Pete [Zalewski] heard. And we had to actually listen to it a couple of times just to make sure that we were hearing what we heard.” (MSNBC 9/11/2002) At some point, Ben Sliney, the national operations manager at the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, gets word of the “We have some planes” message, and later says the phrase haunts him all morning. American Airlines Executive Vice President for Operations Gerard Arpey is also informed of the “strange transmissions from Flight 11” at some point prior to when it crashes at 8:46 a.m. (Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002) Boston Center will receive a third transmission from Flight 11 about ten minutes later (see (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Boston flight control reportedly “notifies several air traffic control centers that a hijack is taking place.” (Ellison 10/17/2001) This is immediately after Boston controllers heard a transmission from Flight 11, declaring, “We have some planes” (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), and would be consistent with a claim later made to the 9/11 Commission by Mike Canavan, the FAA’s associate administrator for civil aviation security. He says, “[M]y experience as soon as you know you had a hijacked aircraft, you notify everyone.… [W]hen you finally find out, yes, we do have a problem, then… the standard notification is it kind of gets broadcast out to all the regions.” (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003) An early FAA report will say only that Boston controllers begin “inter-facility coordination” with New York air traffic control at this time (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file) , but the New York Times reports that controllers at Washington Center also know “about the hijacking of the first plane to crash, even before it hit the World Trade Center.” (Wald 9/13/2001) However, the Indianapolis flight controller monitoring Flight 77 claims to not know about this or Flight 175’s hijacking twenty minutes later at 8:56 a.m. (see 8:56 a.m. September 11, 2001). Additionally, the flight controllers at New York City’s La Guardia airport are never told about the hijacked planes and learn about them from watching the news. (Kelly 1/4/2004) Boston Center also begins notifying the FAA chain of command of the suspected Flight 11 hijacking at this time (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001), but it does not notify NORAD for another 6-15 minutes, depending on the account (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Michael Woodward, an American Airlines flight services manager at Logan International Airport in Boston, goes with a colleague to the American Airlines gate area at Logan Airport in response to a call from a flight attendant on Flight 11, but finds the area quiet and sees that all of his airline’s morning flights, including Flight 11, have already left the airport. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 5-6; 9/11 Commission 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 10)
Manager and Colleague Head to Departure Gate - Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant on Flight 11, called the American Airlines flight services office at Logan Airport at 8:25 a.m. and told Evelyn Nunez, a passenger service agent, about the trouble on her plane (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). Nunez passed on the details of the call to Woodward. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 57-58; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 10) She told Woodward that the plane on which the trouble occurred was at Gate 32 at the airport. Woodward therefore heads to the departure gate with Elizabeth Williams, a colleague of his, to see if the plane is still there. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 5-6) Williams will later recall that Woodward tells her that “they needed to go to Gate 32 because two flight attendants had been stabbed.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/13/2001, pp. 3-4) Sweeney incorrectly told Nunez that she was on Flight 12, not Flight 11. However, Flight 11 did indeed depart from Gate 32 at Logan Airport (see 7:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 57-58; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 7)
Manager and Colleague Realize They Have Been Given Incorrect Information - Woodward will say that when he and Williams reach Gate 32, they find that all of American Airlines’ morning flights have already left Logan Airport. (9/11 Commission 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 10) However, Williams will contradict this, telling the FBI that when she and Woodward reach the departure gate, they find “an empty airplane” there. Williams uses the gate-side computer to search for information on the flight time of the plane at Gate 32, while Woodward phones Nunez. Williams and Woodward then conclude that they must have received incorrect information. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/13/2001, pp. 3-4)
Manager Realizes Flight 12 Is a Plane from Los Angeles - Woodward realizes that Flight 12—the plane Sweeney said she was on—is a flight from the West Coast that has not yet left for Boston. He says to Williams: “Wait a minute: Flight 12 comes in at night. It hasn’t even left Los Angeles yet.” Woodward will tell the 9/11 Commission that he is currently thinking about how “sometimes the [American Airlines] operations center will call when there is a problem on a flight, and tell them to meet it when the aircraft lands.” Presumably he means that he is wondering if the call Nunez received from Sweeney was actually made by someone at the airline’s operations center, who was referring to a flight that is heading to Boston. Woodward and Williams check out the gate area and then, finding nothing wrong there, walk back to their office, which takes them about two minutes. Woodward will talk to Sweeney when she calls the flight services office again at 8:32 a.m. (see (8:32 a.m.-8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 10-11)

Bill Halleck, an air traffic control specialist at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, calls the FAA’s Boston Center to ask about the status of Flight 11 and is told that the plane has deviated from its flight path, air traffic controllers have lost communication with it and have lost its transponder signal, and they have heard a possible threat being made in the background over the radio. This call is American Airlines’ first contact with FAA controllers regarding Flight 11. (9/11 Commission 3/25/2004, pp. 15; 9/11 Commission 4/26/2004; 9/11 Commission 4/26/2004 pdf file)
Manager Told Halleck to Call FAA - At 8:21 a.m., Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the SOC, received a call from a supervisor at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina, alerting him to a call the office had received from Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, reporting the emergency on her plane (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Marquis had replied that he would get in touch with air traffic control about this. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 9) He asked Halleck to contact the FAA’s Boston Center and find out what is happening with Flight 11. Immediately after receiving this request, Halleck calls the traffic management unit (TMU) at the Boston Center. (9/11 Commission 1/8/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 4/26/2004 pdf file)
Boston Center Tells Halleck Details of Crisis - When the call is answered, Halleck introduces himself and then says, “[W]e’re trying to find out the status to what you know about our Flight 11.” The Boston Center controller replies that Flight 11’s last reported altitude was below 29,000 feet. He reports that the flight has altered course, saying, “He was heading west, but right now he’s pointed southwest of Albany.” Furthermore, he says, “we lost frequency with him,” meaning communication has been lost with the plane, and adds that the plane’s transponder has been turned off.
Controller Heard a 'Threat in the Background' on Flight 11 - The controller at the TMU also tells Halleck that the Boston Center controller dealing with Flight 11 “heard on the frequency a threat in the background, but that’s unconfirmed and we’re trying to pull the tape [recording of the radio communication] at this time.” Halleck asks for clarification that the controller handling Flight 11 “heard a background noise in the cockpit,” and is told: “Like a threat. Yes, sir.” The controller at the TMU adds that he has been told that it is believed the pilot’s microphone on Flight 11 was keyed, and so the controller handling the flight “heard in the background, like, yeah, ‘Return to an airport… or I’ll kill you,’ or something to that effect.” He also says the plane is not squawking any emergency transponder codes. Halleck says he is tracking Flight 11 on the aircraft situation display, and the controller replies that the Boston Center is currently tracking the plane with primary radar only. The controller ends by telling Halleck, “That is all we have.” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 56-57; American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 58; 9/11 Commission 1/8/2004 pdf file)
Halleck Does Not Pass On Information from Flight Attendant - With this call, Halleck is the first person at American Airlines to speak to FAA air traffic control personnel about Flight 11. (9/11 Commission 4/26/2004; 9/11 Commission 4/26/2004 pdf file) During the call, he does not tell the Boston Center controller about the ongoing conversation between American Airlines and Ong, or what Marquis has learned from this conversation. (United States District Court for the Southern District of New York 1/16/2009 pdf file) Halleck will promptly pass on the information from the Boston Center to Marquis, and this will lead American Airlines to suspect that Flight 11 has been hijacked (see 8:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 12)

Gerard Arpey.Gerard Arpey. [Source: American Airlines]Gerard Arpey, American Airlines’ executive vice president of operations, learns of the trouble on Flight 11 and then heads to the airline’s System Operations Control (SOC) center, but he is unable to contact the airline’s president to alert him to the crisis at this time. (9/11 Commission 1/8/2004 pdf file)
Arpey Told about Call from Flight Attendant - At around 8:30 a.m., Arpey, who is in his office at American Airlines’ headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, makes a routine phone call to the nearby SOC. (9/11 Commission 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 12) The call is answered by Joseph Bertapelle, the manager of SOC operations coordination/air traffic systems. (9/11 Commission 1/8/2004 pdf file) Bertapelle tells Arpey about a phone call the airline has received from Betty Ong, a flight attendant on the hijacked Flight 11. (9/11 Commission 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 12) Since 8:18 a.m., Ong has been on the phone with employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina (see 8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001), and one of those employees has been relaying the information Ong provides to Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the SOC (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 8-9)
Arpey Wonders if Ong's Call Is Genuine - Bertapelle tells Arpey that Marquis has learned that Ong said there were “bad guys” on her plane and a flight attendant had been stabbed. Arpey wonders if the call from Ong is genuine. Considering the number of “crank” calls the airline receives, he will later comment, he is “conditioned to be somewhat skeptical.” However, when Bertapelle says Ong has reported a cockpit intrusion (see 8:22 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), this information makes Arpey think “that the incident could be the real thing.”
Arpey Unable to Reach Airline's President - Immediately after the call with Bertapelle ends, Arpey tries calling Don Carty, the president of American Airlines, to let him know what is happening. (9/11 Commission 1/8/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 12) But Carty is at home answering e-mails and so has not yet arrived at his office. Arpey therefore leaves a message, requesting that Carty call him as soon as possible.
Arpey Heads to Operations Center, Learns Details of Hijacking - Arpey briefs his executive assistant on what he has learned about the trouble on Flight 11. (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission 1/27/2004) He then heads to the SOC, along with Dan Huffman, American Airlines’ senior vice president of maintenance and engineering. (9/11 Commission 1/8/2004 pdf file) The SOC is about a mile away from the airline’s headquarters, and Arpey will recall that he arrives there at between 8:35 a.m. and 8:40 a.m. After he reaches the SOC, managers there tell him they are now treating Flight 11 as a confirmed hijacking. Arpey is told that the plane’s pilots are still not responding to calls from the flight attendants and that Ong said a passenger in first class had been stabbed, possibly fatally (see 8:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). He learns that the FAA has notified the airline that, instead of heading west on its intended flight path, Flight 11 is heading south; the plane’s transponder has been turned off; and the pilots are not responding to radio calls (see 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 1/27/2004) Arpey also learns that airline managers are setting up the System Operations Command Center in order to deal with the emergency (see (Between 8:40 a.m. and 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and because they are doing this, he will say, he “knew that they had concluded the incident was real.” (9/11 Commission 1/8/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 12) As executive vice president of operations, Arpey is responsible for American Airlines’ worldwide flight operations, and he will therefore be directly involved in the airline’s subsequent emergency response efforts and other operational decisions throughout the day. (9/11 Commission 1/27/2004)

Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, tells colleagues of hers to keep the information they have received about the hijacking of Flight 11 to themselves. (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19) Gonzalez and two of her colleagues—Vanessa Minter and Winston Sadler—are on the phone with Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11 who called the reservations office to report the hijacking of her plane (see 8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001, 8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001, and 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 5, 453) Gonzalez reassures Ong, telling her, “Okay, sweetie… we’ve got security working on [dealing with the hijacking] right now.” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19) (Gonzalez is referring to the fact that she has contacted the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Texas and alerted it to the trouble on Flight 11 (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 9) ) Gonzalez adds, “We’re gonna maintain this line open as much as we can.” Presumably addressing all of the other participants in the call—Ong, Minter, and Sadler—she then says: “We don’t want to spread anything around. Okay?” The others apparently agree to keep quiet about the hijacking, as Gonzalez responds to them, “Excellent.” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19)

Michael Woodward.Michael Woodward. [Source: Discovery Channel]Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant on Flight 11, reaches the American Airlines flight services office at Logan International Airport in Boston for the third time, and, in a phone call lasting 12 or 13 minutes, gives details of the trouble on her plane to a manager there. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 11; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) Sweeney has already called the flight services office two times and provided employees there with details of the hijacking of Flight 11, but both calls were cut off after a short time (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Manager Takes Over Answering Call - At 8:32 a.m., Sweeney reaches the office for the third time. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 6; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) The call is answered by James Sayer, a staff assistant. But Sayer tells Michael Woodward, an American Airlines flight services manager at Logan Airport, that the caller is Sweeney, and Woodward then takes over the call. Woodward is friends with Sweeney and has known her personally for 10 years. Furthermore, Woodward will tell the 9/11 Commission, Sayer is not trained to handle emergency calls. Woodward asks Sweeney, “Amy, sweetie, what’s going on?” She replies, “Listen to me very, very carefully.” Realizing that Sweeney is going to give him important information, Woodward immediately begins taking notes.
Sweeney Provides Details of Hijacking - Woodward will tell the 9/11 Commission that, in a matter-of-fact and official manner, Sweeney then describes to him the trouble on her plane. She says she is sitting in the back of the aircraft next to Betty Ong, another flight attendant, and the two of them are trying to relay as much information as they can to people on the ground. She says her plane has been hijacked, a man in first class had his throat slashed, and two flight attendants—Karen Martin and Barbara Arestegui—have been stabbed. Sweeney says that Martin isn’t doing very well and is on oxygen, but Arestegui is less seriously injured and seems to be alright. She says the hijackers have gained entry into the cockpit, though she doesn’t say how they did this, and there is a bomb in the cockpit. She makes no comments about the condition of the pilots, but says the flight attendants are unable to contact the cockpit. Later in the conversation, she says she doesn’t think the original pilot is in control of the plane, because they are flying “all over the place.” (9/11 Commission 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 11-12)
Sweeney Gives Seat Numbers of Hijackers - Sweeney apparently believes there are only three hijackers on Flight 11. She tells Woodward that the people who hijacked her plane were in seats 9D, 9G, and 10B. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 5-6; 9/11 Commission 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 14) However, apart from seat 10B, these are different seats to those assigned to the hijackers on the tickets they purchased. (Lichtblau 9/20/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 2) Sweeney tells Woodward that the hijackers are of Middle Eastern descent. She says one of them spoke excellent English and another spoke very little English. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/13/2001, pp. 1-2; 9/11 Commission 1/25/2004 pdf file)
Doctor or Nurse Requested - Woodward will say, when he is first questioned by the FBI about Sweeney’s call, that Sweeney tells him that a doctor and nurse are caring for the passenger who had his throat slashed. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 5-6) But Ong, who is on the phone with employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina (see 8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001), says there are no doctors on Flight 11 (see 8:36 a.m.-8:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission 1/27/2004 pdf file) However, in a second interview with the FBI and in his interview with the 9/11 Commission, Woodward will say only that a doctor or nurse has been paged.
Woodward Gives Contradictory Accounts of Type of Phone Used - Woodward hears no noise in the background during his conversation with Sweeney. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/13/2001, pp. 1-2; 9/11 Commission 1/25/2004 pdf file) The information Sweeney provides about the hijacking has been given to her by Sara Low, a flight attendant who was assigned to the front of Flight 11 and so would have witnessed the hijacking when it happened. (Dwinell 12/15/2008; Associated Press 3/5/2009) In interviews with the FBI, Woodward will say that Sweeney makes the call using an Airfone, or that he is unsure whether she uses an Airfone or a cell phone. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 5-6; Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/13/2001, pp. 1-2) But he will tell the 9/11 Commission that she makes the call on a cell phone. (9/11 Commission 1/25/2004 pdf file) However, the FBI will state that Sweeney is using an Airfone. (9/11 Commission 2004, pp. 4; Sheehy 6/20/2004; Keith 9/11/2011) There is no tape machine in the flight services office, and so her call is not recorded. (9/11 Commission 1/25/2004 pdf file; Sheehy 6/20/2004)
Airline Contacted about Call - At 8:40 a.m., one of Woodward’s colleagues in the flight services office calls the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Fort Worth, Texas, and passes on to it the information that Sweeney is providing to Woodward (see 8:40 a.m.-8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). Sweeney’s call ends after 12 or 13 minutes (see (8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 11, 14; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006)

Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, is told details of the crisis with Flight 11 that have just been received from the FAA’s Boston Center, and this information leads American Airlines to suspect that Flight 11 has been hijacked. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 12) Minutes earlier, Marquis instructed Bill Halleck, an air traffic control specialist at the SOC, to contact the Boston Center to find out what was happening with Flight 11, and Halleck has just done so (see 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 1/8/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 4/26/2004 pdf file) Halleck now calls Marquis and tells him what he learned about Flight 11 from his call with the Boston Center. He says the aircraft is at “29,000 feet. They’ve lost comm [communications] with ‘em. Turned off his transponder. Tracking his primary [radar track] only. Was westbound. Turned southbound. Said the controller heard on the [radio] frequency, the pilot apparently adjust his mike… lot of loud voices… that sounded threatening.” Halleck then tells Marquis the details of this possible threat in the cockpit of Flight 11 that the Boston Center heard over radio. He says, “Something about ‘return or I’ll kill ya,’ or something to that effect… or threatening dialogue.” Halleck adds that he asked the Boston Center to pass on to the SOC “any information or updates” it subsequently receives. After Marquis hears this information from Halleck, he asks Halleck to “pull” Flight 11 up on his aircraft situation display. Following Halleck’s report to Marquis, American Airlines “now suspected that Flight 11 had been hijacked,” according to the 9/11 Commission. (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 12)

Flight controllers hear a hijacker on Flight 11 say to the passengers: “Nobody move, please, we are going back to the airport. Don’t try to make any stupid moves.” (Wald and Sack 10/16/2001; Ellison 10/17/2001; Johnson 11/23/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) This is the third hijacker transmission from Flight 11 heard by Boston Center. Following the previous two transmissions, controller Pete Zalewski had put the plane’s frequency on speakers so that others at the center could hear (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). This is therefore the first time some of them hear the hijacker’s voice. One controller says out loud, “That is really scary.” (MSNBC 9/11/2002)

Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, tells American Airlines employees on the ground the name and seat number of a hijacker who is in the cockpit of her plane and is likely responsible for stabbing a passenger. (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 12) Ong has, since 8:18 a.m., been on the phone with employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, and has been describing to them the trouble on her plane (see 8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 5) She previously provided the seat numbers of two hijackers who, she said, were in the cockpit (see 8:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). She now gives details of a third hijacker who she also says is in the cockpit.
Ong Says Hijacker 'Tom Sukani' Is in the Cockpit - Nydia Gonzalez, one of the reservations office employees talking with Ong, asks about this hijacker. She says to Ong, “He’s the one that’s in the, he’s in the cockpit,” and then asks: “You said ‘Tom Sukani?‘… And he was in [seat] 10B.” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 12) “Tom Sukani” is presumably Satam Al Suqami, and either Ong has mispronounced his name or Gonzalez has misheard it. Al Suqami was assigned to seat 10B. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 6) Gonzalez continues, saying, “Okay, so he’s one of the persons that are in the cockpit.” She then asks Ong, “And as far as weapons, all they have are just knives?” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 12)
Gonzalez Relays Hijacker's Details to Operations Center - Gonzalez has been relaying the information Ong provides to Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Texas, on another phone line (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 17-18) She now passes on Ong’s latest information. She tells Marquis, “Apparently, one of the passengers that’s in the cockpit: the name that they got was Tom Al Zukani and he was in [seat] 10B, not 9A and B as they previously stated.”
Ong Gives Details of Stabbed Passenger - Gonzalez then asks Ong about the details of a passenger who was stabbed. Ong previously mentioned that Daniel Lewin had been stabbed and may have died (see 8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 8:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6; American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71) Lewin had been seated directly in front of Al Suqami, and so, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, Al Suqami was “probably” the hijacker who stabbed him (see (8:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 5) After checking Lewin’s details, Gonzalez passes on the information to Marquis, albeit stating Lewin’s first name incorrectly. She tells Marquis, “Okay, and the passenger that got hurt was [in seat] 9B, David Lewin.” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19)
Marquis Thinks Hijacker Has a Swiss Army Knife - Presumably referring to this latest information from Ong, Marquis will later tell the FBI that when he learns that Al Suqami is armed with a knife, he thinks “that the knife might have been a Swiss Army knife of some sort, because it was not that uncommon for passengers to have these.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 49-51) After receiving the information about Al Suqami being in the cockpit, Marquis initiates procedures to “lockout” Flight 11 (see 8:36 a.m.-8:38 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 12)

Craig Marquis, a manager at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) in Fort Worth, Texas, initiates actions to “lockout” Flight 11. This procedure, as the 9/11 Commission later describes, “acknowledges an emergency on the flight and isolates information so that the case can be managed by top leadership at the airlines in a way that protects information from being altered or released, and also protects the identities of the passengers and crew.” Within two minutes, American Airlines has completed the lockout. Marquis realized Flight 11 was an emergency situation almost immediately after 8:21 a.m., when he began receiving details of flight attendant Betty Ong’s phone call from it (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Since “lockout” is a standard procedure for airlines in safety and security incidents, it is unclear why he did not initiate it sooner. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 5; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 12-13)

Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Powell.Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Powell. [Source: Scott A. Gwilt/ Rome Sentinel]The FAA’s Boston Center calls NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, NY, to alert it to the suspected hijacking of Flight 11. According to the 9/11 Commission, this is “the first notification received by the military—at any level—that American 11 had been hijacked.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 13) The call is made by Joseph Cooper, an air traffic controller at the Boston Center, and answered by Jeremy Powell, a technical sergeant on the NEADS operations floor. (Bronner 8/1/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 25) Beginning the call, Cooper says: “Hi. Boston Center TMU [traffic management unit], we have a problem here. We have a hijacked aircraft headed towards New York, and we need you guys to, we need someone to scramble some F-16s or something up there, help us out.” Powell replies, “Is this real-world or exercise?” Cooper answers, “No, this is not an exercise, not a test.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) Shortly into the call, Powell passes the phone on to Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins (see (8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Deskins identifies herself to Cooper, and he tells her, “We have a hijacked aircraft and I need you to get some sort of fighters out here to help us out.” (Seely 1/25/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002; Bamford 2004, pp. 8; Spencer 2008, pp. 26)
Military Claims Call Goes against Procedure - The 1st Air Force’s official history of the response to the 9/11 attacks will later suggest that Boston Center is not following normal procedures when it makes this call to NEADS. It states: “If normal procedures had taken place… Powell probably wouldn’t have taken that phone call. Normally, the FAA would have contacted officials at the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center who would have contacted the North American Aerospace Defense Command. The secretary of defense would have had to approve the use of military assets to assist in a hijacking, always considered a law enforcement issue.” The only explanation it gives for this departure from protocol is that “nothing was normal on Sept. 11, 2001, and many say the traditional chain of command went by the wayside to get the job done.” (Filson 2003, pp. 51)
Accounts Conflict over Time of Call - There will be some conflict between different accounts, as to when this vital call from Boston Center to NEADS occurs. An ABC News documentary will indicate it is made as early as 8:31 a.m. (ABC News 9/11/2002) Another ABC News report will state, “Shortly after 8:30 a.m., behind the scenes, word of a possible hijacking [reaches] various stations of NORAD.” (ABC News 9/14/2002) NEADS logs indicate the call occurs at 8:40 a.m., and NORAD will report this as the time of the call in a press release on September 18, 2001. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001) The 8:40 time will be widely reported in the media prior to the 9/11 Commission’s 2004 report. (Associated Press 8/21/2002; BBC 9/1/2002; Adcock 9/10/2002; CNN 9/11/2002) But tape recordings of the NEADS operations floor that are referred to in the 9/11 Commission Report place the call at 8:37 and 52 seconds. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Bronner 8/1/2006) If the 8:37 a.m. time is correct, this would mean that air traffic controllers have failed to successfully notify the military until approximately 12 minutes after they became certain that Flight 11 had been hijacked (see (8:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001), 16 minutes after Flight 11’s transponder signal was lost (see (Between 8:13 a.m. and 8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and 24 minutes after the plane’s pilots made their last radio contact (see 8:13 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) At 8:34, the Boston Center tried contacting the military through the FAA’s Cape Cod facility, which is located on Otis Air National Guard Base, but was told that it needed to call NEADS (see 8:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Spencer 2008, pp. 22)

National Guard troops stationed at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, New York.National Guard troops stationed at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, New York. [Source: Rome Sentinel]At NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), a huddle of people is gathered around one of the radar scopes. NEADS Commander Robert Marr initially thinks this hubbub is due to the NORAD training exercise (presumably Vigilant Guardian) that is taking place on this day (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He will later recall: “I’ve seen many exercises… and as I saw that huddle I said, ‘There’s got to be something wrong, something is happening here.’ You usually see that whenever they find a track on the scope that looks unusual; it’s usually an indicator that something is getting ready to kick off.” (Filson 2003, pp. 55) According to author Lynn Spencer, Marr thinks the day’s exercise “is kicking off with a lively, unexpected twist.… His bet is that his simulations team has started off the exercise by throwing out a ‘heart attack card’ to see how the troops respond to a first-aid call from a fellow soldier, testing their first responder training.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 26) He sends Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins, the regional mission crew commander for the exercise, to check out what is going on. (Filson 2003, pp. 55) Deskins speaks briefly over the phone with the FAA’s Boston Center about the Flight 11 hijacking (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 26) She then runs back to the “battle cab”—the glass-walled room that overlooks the NEADS operations floor—and speaks to Marr with urgency in her voice. (Filson 2003, pp. 55) She tells him: “It’s a hijacking, and this is real life, not part of the exercise. And it appears that the plane is heading toward New York City.” Although Deskins has specifically stated, “not part of the exercise,” Marr reportedly thinks, “This is an interesting start to the exercise.” According to Spencer, he thinks “This ‘real-world’ mixed in with today’s simex [simulated exercise] will keep [his staff members] on their toes.” Regardless of whether the crisis is real or not, Marr decides to instruct that the two alert F-15s at Otis Air National Guard Base be ordered to battle stations (see (8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 26-27)

Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, instructs Bill Halleck, an air traffic control specialist at the SOC, to tell FAA air traffic controllers to treat Flight 11 as an emergency. (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 14) Halleck contacted the FAA’s Boston Center at 8:29 a.m. to inquire about Flight 11 (see 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001), and at 8:33 a.m. he called Marquis and passed on what he had just learned from the Boston Center about the crisis with the aircraft (see 8:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). That information, according to the 9/11 Commission, led American Airlines to suspect that Flight 11 had been hijacked. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 11-12) Marquis now instructs Halleck, “Tell [air traffic control] to handle this as an emergency.” According to a 9/11 Commission memorandum, “At this point, Marquis was just confirming it was a hijack and he wanted to make sure Halleck was communicating the emergency to the [air traffic control] system.” Halleck answers that FAA controllers are treating Flight 11 as a hijacking, saying, “They have in there, it’s been hijacked.” Marquis replies: “It is. Okay.” Halleck adds that FAA controllers “don’t know what his altitude is… they think he’s descending. They think he’s headed toward Kennedy [JFK International Airport in New York]… they’re moving everybody out of the way.” Referring to Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, Marquis tells Halleck, “I’m talking to the flight attendant in the back of the plane and she says the plane is descending.” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; American Airlines 1/15/2002; 9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file)

Dianne Snyder.Dianne Snyder. [Source: Family photo]Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant on Flight 11, tells an American Airlines manager at Logan International Airport in Boston that the passengers in the coach section of her plane believe there is simply a routine medical emergency at the front of their plane. (ABC News 7/18/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 6) Sweeney, who is sitting at the back of the coach section of Flight 11, phoned the American Airlines flight services office at Logan Airport at 8:32 a.m. Since then, she has been describing the trouble on her plane to Michael Woodward, an American Airlines flight services manager (see (8:32 a.m.-8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sheehy 2/15/2004; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 11) Sweeney now tells Woodward that the passengers in the coach section are calm, and under the impression that there is a routine medical emergency in the first class section of the plane. Presumably this means they are unaware that their plane has been hijacked. Sweeney says three flight attendants—Jeffrey Collman, Sara Low, and Dianne Snyder—are attending to duties, such as getting medical supplies, while she and Betty Ong are reporting events over the phone. (ABC News 7/18/2002; 9/11 Commission 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 14) (Ong is another flight attendant, who is sitting next to Sweeney and is talking on the phone with the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina (see 8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 8, 11) )

Dave Bottiglia.Dave Bottiglia. [Source: ABC News]After Flight 11 appears on his radar screen, Dave Bottiglia, an air traffic controller at the FAA’s New York Center, is informed that this aircraft is suspected of having been hijacked. Flight 175 entered Bottiglia’s airspace not long before this (see 8:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). (MSNBC 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 20) Its pilot has just told Bottiglia about the “suspicious transmission” (presumably from Flight 11) he heard while departing Boston airport (see 8:41 a.m.-8:42 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Gregor 12/21/2001 pdf file) Seconds later, Flight 11 also enters the area Bottiglia is monitoring and its target appears on his radar screen. The controller sitting next to Bottiglia gets up and points to the radar blip. He says: “You see this target here? This is American 11. Boston Center thinks it’s a hijack.” Bottiglia will later recall that his initial thought about Flight 11, based on this information, is that the hijackers “were probably going to Cuba.” As its transponder has been turned off (see (Between 8:13 a.m. and 8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he has no altitude information for Flight 11, but can tell from the radar scope that it appears to be descending. According to author Lynn Spencer: “Even without a transponder, controller radars calculate ground speed for all radar targets, and when a plane is descending, the ground speed decreases. The flight had been ‘grounding’ 600 knots, and now it has decreased to 320.” Bottiglia follows Flight 11’s target on his radar screen until it disappears over New York City. (MSNBC 9/11/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 37) Because he is focused on Flight 11, Bottiglia will not notice when Flight 175’s transponder code changes at 8:47 (see 8:46 a.m.-8:47 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 21; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 21) The New York Center was first notified of Flight 11’s hijacking at 8:25 a.m. (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001), though this information was not passed on to Bottiglia. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 36-37)

Employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, lose communication with Betty Ong, a flight attendant on the hijacked Flight 11. (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 20-22; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 5-6)
Ong Stops Responding to Questions - For about the last 25 minutes, Ong has been on the phone with a number of employees at the reservations office, and has been providing them with information about the trouble on her plane. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 8) But now she stops responding to their communications. Nydia Gonzalez, one of the reservations office employees, continues questioning Ong. She says: “What’s going on Betty? Betty, talk to me. Betty, are you there? Betty?” Receiving no response, she asks her colleague Winston Sadler, who is also participating in the call, “Do you think we lost her?” On another phone line, Gonzalez immediately notifies a manager at the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Texas that contact with Ong has been lost (see 8:44 a.m. September 11, 2001). (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 20-22; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 14)
Ong Asked Airline Employees to 'Pray for Us' - Toward the end of the call, Ong said repeatedly to the reservations office employees: “Pray for us. Pray for us.” (ABC News 7/18/2002) Gonzalez will say in an interview later today that Ong’s final words, before the call ends, were, “Oh my God, the flight, it’s going down, it’s going down.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 1-8) But in a subsequent interview, she will say that before the call ends, Ong “started to cry” and then her final words were, “Oh God, oh God, what is going on?” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71) The reservations office employees have lost communication with Ong by 8:44 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 6) But according to a summary of phone calls from the hijacked flights presented at the 2006 trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the call from Ong began at 8:18 a.m. and 47 seconds, and lasts exactly 27 minutes, meaning it ends at 8:45 a.m. and 47 seconds. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) Flight 11 will crash into the World Trade Center less than a minute after that, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7)

Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Fort Worth, Texas, is told that the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina has lost contact with Betty Ong, a flight attendant on the hijacked Flight 11, and he then says he wants the reservations office employees to keep quiet about the hijacking. (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 20-22; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 14) Marquis is on the phone with Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the reservations office who, for over 20 minutes, has been relaying to him information she was receiving in a simultaneous phone call with Ong (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 8-9) Ong, however, has stopped responding to communications (see (8:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Gonzalez promptly informs Marquis of this. She tells him, “I think we might have lost her.” Marquis says, “Okay,” and then tells Gonzalez, “If in fact she calls back, you call me back.” Gonzalez agrees to do this.
Marquis Tells Gonzalez to Keep Quiet about Hijacking - Marquis then tells Gonzalez that he wants her and her colleagues to keep quiet about the hijacking of Flight 11. He says, “I don’t want this spread all over.” Gonzalez has already instructed the other reservations office employees who were on the phone with Ong to keep quiet about the hijacking (see 8:31 a.m. September 11, 2001), and agrees to Marquis’s request. She answers: “Right. I’ve already made that indication to our people here.” Marquis says, “Try to make sure that it’s followed through on, okay?” Gonzalez replies, “Okay.” Just before the call between Marquis and Gonzalez ends, Marquis tells Gonzalez, “I’ll be back in touch with you.” Gonzalez then says, “I’m gonna stay on the line with my agent just in case we get the line [with Ong] back, and I’ll call you back.” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 20-22)

Larry Wansley.Larry Wansley. [Source: Publicity photo]At 8:45 a.m., Larry Wansley learns of the hijacking of Flight 11. Wansley is the managing director of corporate security for American Airlines, and is at the company’s headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. He is informed of the hijacking in an urgent phone call from the airline’s Command Center, located on the floor above its System Operations Control (SOC), about a mile away from headquarters (see (Between 8:40 a.m. and 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The SOC learned there was some kind of problem with Flight 11 at 8:20 a.m. (see 8:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). Since as early as 8:21, details of Flight 11 attendant Betty Ong’s emergency call have been constantly relayed to Craig Marquis, a manager at the SOC (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Yet the 8:45 call is apparently Wansley’s first notification of the hijacking. He calls Danny Defenbaugh, the special agent in charge of the Dallas FBI office. Wansley is himself a former undercover FBI agent, and Defenbaugh is a longtime friend of his. This call is “the first step in the well-researched, secret hijack-response plan all commercial airlines have in place.” As Wansley is relaying information, he hears screaming from an adjacent conference room, as several employees watch the aftermath of the first WTC crash on television. The TV in Defenbaugh’s office has been turned on, but reportedly neither of the two men connects the images of the burning tower with the hijacking they are trying to deal with. As they continue discussing their response plans, television shows the second plane hitting the South Tower. No doubt realizing this is a terrorist attack, Defenbaugh says, “The ball game just changed.” Around this time, Wansley learns that the first plane to hit the WTC was the hijacked American Airlines flight. He will subsequently make a hurried drive to the nearby Command Center, where the FBI will already be setting up its own command post (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Stowers 11/21/2002; 9/11 Commission 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 14)

Fort AP Hill.Fort AP Hill. [Source: United States Army]At the time of the attacks on the World Trade Center, members of the Army’s aviation support unit for the Washington, DC, area are away for weapons training, and do not set out to return to their base until after the time the Pentagon is hit. (Exempt 11/14/2001 pdf file; Lilly 11/16/2001; Hipps 1/18/2002) The 12th Aviation Battalion is the Military District of Washington’s aviation support unit, and includes three helicopter companies. It operates UH-1 “Huey” and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. The battalion is stationed at Davison Army Airfield, which is at Fort Belvoir, 12 miles south of the Pentagon. (Military District of Washington 8/2000) Davison Airfield’s missions include maintaining “a readiness posture in support of contingency plans,” exercising “operational control” of the Washington area airspace, and providing “aviation support for the White House, US government officials, Department of Defense, Department of the Army, and other government agencies.” (Fahrig 5/7/1999) A chief warrant officer with the 12th Aviation Battalion will later recall that members of the battalion are away this morning, at the shooting range at another Virginia Army base, Fort AP Hill, for their annual weapons training. They had set off early and driven there—a journey of one and a half to two hours. They are at the range when the attacks on the WTC take place, and only learn of them when the sister of one of their captains calls her brother with news of the attacks, presumably after seeing the coverage on television. The chief warrant officer will recall that, after hearing of the second attack on the WTC, “[W]e were all pretty much thinking we probably need to go—you know, probably need to come to work.” The range officer calls Davison Airfield and is told that the members of the battalion should “pack it in and come on back” to base. He is also told during the call that an aircraft has crashed into the Pentagon (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001), meaning this call does not occur until after 9:37 a.m. According to the chief warrant officer, the Pentagon “is basically one of our missions. So we just pretty much packed up and came back up here and came into work.” Exactly how many of the 12th Aviation Battalion’s members are away from base for the weapons training is unstated, as is the exact time they arrive back at Davison Airfield. But considering it is one and a half to two hours drive between there and the range, they presumably do not get there until some time after about 11:15 a.m. When they do eventually get back to base, the battalion members will prepare to launch helicopters in response to the Pentagon attack (see (After 11:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Exempt 11/14/2001 pdf file; Hipps 1/18/2002)

Lyndon Willms.Lyndon Willms. [Source: Effingham Daily News]The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) activates its Crisis Action Team (CAT) at the Pentagon to respond to the terrorist attacks, although the time this occurs at is unclear. (US Congress 9/13/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file; Foley 9/9/2003) General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the JCS, will later tell a congressional hearing that in response to the attacks on the World Trade Center: “We stood up our Crisis Action Team.… And we started talking to the federal agencies.” (US Congress 9/13/2001) The JCS’s CAT apparently assembles in the National Military Command Center (NMCC), which is located in the JCS area of the Pentagon and is responsible for monitoring worldwide events for the JCS. (9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file; GlobalSecurity (.org) 7/24/2011; Willms 9/12/2011) Myers will state that the CAT is activated just after 8:46 a.m., when the first hijacked plane crashed into the WTC (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). He will say it is activated “[a]t the time of the first impact on the World Trade Center.” “That was done immediately,” he will add. (US Congress 9/13/2001) However, other accounts will indicate that the CAT is activated after 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon attack occurs (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). Lieutenant Colonel Lyndon Willms is an Air Force officer currently assigned to the Pentagon, working as a joint strategic planner for the JCS. After he and his colleagues in the Joint Vision and Transformation Division of the JCS learn from television reports of the second hijacked plane hitting the WTC, at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), they “knew a decision would be made to either send us to augment one of the crisis action teams forming in the National Military Command Center across the hall or be evacuated to another site,” Willms will recall. It appears from Willms’s account, however, that the CAT is only activated later on. By around 9:51 a.m., Willms will state, the CAT is forming in the NMCC, but he and his colleagues are “a bit confused because we thought we would be going in to augment” it. Instead, they are evacuated from the Pentagon. (Willms 9/12/2011) Lieutenant Colonel James Foley, the NMCC operations officer, will also indicate that the CAT is only activated after the Pentagon is hit. He will state that “a Joint Staff Crisis Action Team assembled… within the first two hours, while the situation was entirely uncertain and the Pentagon was burning.” (Foley 9/9/2003) And when they visit the NMCC in 2003, members of the 9/11 Commission staff will be told that a CAT “was stood up” in the NMCC “sometime in the afternoon on 9/11.” (9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file) It is apparently standard procedure for the JCS to activate its CAT during a terrorist attack. A Department of Defense memorandum sent in March 2001, about how the US military responds to terrorism, will state that in a crisis, the operations directorate of the JCS “establishes a Crisis Action Team (CAT) to prepare and coordinate deployment, and execute orders.” (US Department of Defense 3/15/2001)

Personnel and aircraft at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana are participating in the annual US Strategic Command (Stratcom) exercise Global Guardian (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001) when the first crash at the World Trade Center is reported on television. (US Department of Defense 5/1997; Villafuerte 9/8/2002)
Nuclear Weapons Are Being Loaded onto Bombers - Global Guardian is based around the scenario of a rogue nation attacking the United States with nuclear weapons. At Barksdale, according to journalists Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, air crews taking part in the exercise have been “pulling nuclear bombs and missiles out of their heavily guarded storage sites and loading them aboard B-52s” this morning. Real, live nuclear weapons are being used, but “their triggers [are] not armed.” (Schmitt and Shanker 2011, pp. 22) “We were in the midst of this big annual exercise called Global Guardian. They loaded all the bombers, put the submarines out to sea, put the [intercontinental ballistic missiles] at nearly 100 percent,” Lieutenant General Thomas Keck, commander of the 8th Air Force at Barksdale, will later recall. “It was routine, you did it every year,” he will add. (Graff 9/9/2016)
Officers Realize America's Security Is at Risk - Colonel Mike Reese, director of staff for the 8th Air Force, is monitoring several television screens at the base as part of the exercise when he sees CNN cut into coverage of the first crash at the WTC, two minutes after it happens (see 8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). He will see the second hijacked plane crashing into the WTC live on television at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). He will recall that at this point: “[W]e knew it wasn’t a mistake. Something grave was happening that put the nation’s security at risk.”
Exercise Participants Switch to Defending the Base - The New Orleans Times-Picayune will describe how awareness of the real attacks impacts those participating in the exercise, stating: “Immediately their focus turned to defense, securing Barksdale, Minot [North Dakota], and Whiteman [Missouri] air force bases, where dozens of aircraft and hundreds of personnel were involved in the readiness exercise ‘Global Guardian.’ The exercise abruptly ended as the United States appeared to be at war within its own borders.” (Villafuerte 9/8/2002)
Air Force Becomes Concerned about a Plane Being Crashed into the B-52s - The Air Force will be particularly concerned that terrorists might try to crash a hijacked plane into the B-52s with nuclear weapons on board that are on the tarmac at Barksdale. Although an attack of this kind would not set off a nuclear blast, it could cause a large explosion. “You would destroy half of Bossier City, Louisiana, with the explosions,” Al Buckles, Stratcom’s deputy director for operations, will comment. He will add: “That would have been a way to really cripple us. All these nuclear weapons were exposed.” (Liewer 9/9/2016) Four A-10s, aircraft not designed for air-to-air combat, from Barksdale’s 47th Fighter Squadron, will be placed on “cockpit alert,” the highest state of readiness for fighter pilots. “Within five minutes,” according to the Times-Picayune, “the A-10s, equipped only with high-intensity cannons, could have been launched to destroy unfriendly aircraft, even if it was a civilian passenger airliner.” Lieutenant Colonel Edmund Walker, commander of the 47th Fighter Squadron, and a novice pilot still in training will be sitting in their jets, ready to take off, when they are ordered back to the squadron office. They will be told they are no longer practicing. Walker will recall: “We had to defend the base against any aircraft, airliner, or civilian. We had no idea. Would it fly to the base and crash into the B-52s or A-10s on the flight line?” (Villafuerte 9/8/2002) When Air Force One with President Bush on board takes off from Sarasota, Florida, at around 9:55 a.m. (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), it will initially have no fixed destination. But after a short time, it will begin heading toward Barksdale Air Force Base and land there at 11:45 a.m. (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39, 325)

Carl Truscott.Carl Truscott. [Source: ASERO Worldwide]Carl Truscott, the Secret Service special agent in charge of the presidential protective division (PPD), sees coverage of the plane crash at the World Trade Center on television, and calls several colleagues to his office for a meeting to discuss how to respond to the crisis. (United States Secret Service 10/1/2001) Truscott is responsible for the overall security of the president, the first family, and the White House. (United States Secret Service 4/1/2004 pdf file) He is in his office at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is located next to the West Wing of the White House and is where most of the president’s staff works. Truscott will later recall that he has “observed the CNN broadcast of the aircraft crashing into the World Trade Center.” (United States Secret Service 10/1/2001; WBKO 12/19/2007; Baker 1/8/2009) It is unclear if he is referring to the first crash at the WTC, which occurred at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) but was first reported on CNN at 8:48 a.m. (see 8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001), or the second crash, which was broadcast live at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Fox News 9/11/2003; Bamford 2004, pp. 16) Truscott then telephones and pages three senior Secret Service agents, and asks them to come to his office for a meeting to discuss security enhancements at the White House. The names of the three agents are unstated, but they are a deputy special agent in charge of the PPD, an assistant to the special agent in charge of the PPD, and an assistant division chief of the Secret Service’s technical security division, which “evaluates and implements technology-based protective countermeasures to safeguard Secret Service protectees and protected facilities, including the White House and [the] vice president’s residence.” The meeting will begin at around 9:18 a.m., according to Truscott (see (9:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (United States Secret Service 10/1/2001; United States Secret Service 9/20/2004 pdf file)

La Guardia Airport.La Guardia Airport. [Source: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey]Employees at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, receive phone calls from American Airlines employees at La Guardia Airport and JFK International Airport in New York, alerting them to the plane crash at the World Trade Center, but the SOC employees do not know for sure whether the plane involved was Flight 11.
La Guardia Employee Reports Crash at WTC - Ray Howland, at the SOC, receives a call from Chuck Easton, an American Airlines employee at La Guardia Airport. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 49-51; 9/11 Commission 4/26/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 15) Easton tells Howland, “I’m not sure what’s going on, but the World Trade Center building, as we looked out the window, and we can kind of see [the Twin Towers] in the distance, and we noticed the right World Trade Center [tower] had had a, it has a big plume of smoke.” He says, “The news reports that we’re getting now is that it was struck by an aircraft.” About a minute later, Howland asks, “Have you heard anything else?” Easton replies, “They have an eyewitness [on the news] that says he saw a plane strike it at about the eightieth or hundredth floor.” Howland asks Easton if he knows how big a plane was involved in the crash, but Easton says he does not. He says that watching the news on television is “how we’re getting the information” about the incident.
Operations Center Employee Suspects Flight 11 Hit the WTC - Howland tells Easton, “I think I have a feeling I know what’s happened.” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 42-43) SOC personnel have been informed that air traffic controllers have declared Flight 11 a hijacking and that Flight 11 was descending toward New York (see 8:40 a.m. September 11, 2001), so presumably Howland means he suspects that Flight 11 hit the WTC. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 6) He will in fact tell the 9/11 Commission that when he receives the call from Easton, he is “confident the plane that hit the first tower” was Flight 11. He will say he “put one and one together.” (9/11 Commission 4/26/2004 pdf file) However, when two other people call the SOC a short time after Easton does and ask about the plane that hit the WTC, Howland will tell them that SOC personnel “don’t know” if it belonged to American Airlines. (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 44; American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 45)
JFK Airport Employee Wonders if Airline Is 'Missing a Plane' - Around the time that Easton calls Howland, Ed Dooley, an American Airlines ramp manager at JFK International Airport, also calls the SOC to report the incident at the WTC. Dooley tells Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the SOC, that there is smoke coming from the WTC and asks if American Airlines is “missing a plane.” Marquis says he doesn’t think so, but he is checking. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 49-51; 9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file)
Airline Tries to Determine whether Flight 11 Hit the WTC - After receiving these notifications of the crash, American Airlines personnel “furiously” try to find out if the plane involved was Flight 11, according to Gerard Arpey, the airline’s executive vice president of operations. Arpey will later recall, “[S]ome early media reports indicated that the plane that had struck the building may have been a smaller aircraft, but we nonetheless feared the worst.” (9/11 Commission 1/27/2004) At 9:16 a.m., an SOC employee will tell the FAA’s Command Center that American Airlines thinks Flight 11 was the first plane that hit the WTC (see 9:16 a.m.-9:18 a.m. September 11, 2001), and by 9:30 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission, the airline will confirm that Flight 11 hit the WTC (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 15-16)

The last radio contact with Flight 77 is made when a pilot asks for clearance to fly higher. However, six minutes later, the plane fails to respond to a routine instruction. Presumably, it is hijacked during that time. Indianapolis flight control center is handling the plane by this time. (Wald and Sack 10/16/2001; Ellison 10/17/2001; Johnson 11/23/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 8)

An article in the New York Times will later suggest that officials in the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) promptly become aware of the problems with Flight 77, long before NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) is alerted to the flight. The article will state, “During the hour or so that American Airlines Flight 77 [is] under the control of hijackers, up to the moment it struck the west side of the Pentagon, military officials in [the NMCC are] urgently talking to law enforcement and air traffic control officials about what to do.” (Wald 9/15/2001) This appears consistent with what would be expected under normal procedures. According to the FAA’s acting Deputy Administrator Monte Belger: “Prior to 9/11, FAA’s traditional communication channel with the military during a crisis had been through the National Military Command Center (NMCC). They were always included in the communication net that was used to manage a hijack incident.” He will say that, since the FAA does not have direct dedicated communication links with NORAD, in a hijack scenario the NMCC has “the responsibility to coordinate [the Defense Department]‘s response to requests from the FAA or the FBI.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) NEADS reportedly is not alerted to Flight 77 until significantly later: at 9:24 a.m. by some accounts (see (9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001), or, according to other accounts, at 9:34 a.m., when it only learns that Flight 77 is missing (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004)

A typical F-15.A typical F-15. [Source: US Air Force]Radar data will show that the two F-15s scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, are airborne by this time. (Graham 9/15/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) It is now eight minutes since the mission crew commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) ordered that the jets be launched (see 8:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Bronner 8/1/2006) It is 40 minutes since air traffic controllers had their last communication with Flight 11 (see 8:13 a.m. September 11, 2001), and 28 minutes since they became certain that the aircraft was hijacked (see (8:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center seven minutes ago (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7, 19 and 459)
Commander Wants Fighters Sent to New York - In Rome, New York, NEADS has just received news of the plane hitting the WTC (see 8:51 a.m. September 11, 2001). Major Kevin Nasypany, the facility’s mission crew commander, is asked what to do with the Otis fighters. He responds: “Send ‘em to New York City still. Continue! Go! This is what I got. Possible news that a 737 just hit the World Trade Center. This is a real-world.… Continue taking the fighters down to the New York City area, JFK [International Airport] area, if you can. Make sure that the FAA clears it—your route all the way through.… Let’s press with this.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) Yet there will be conflicting reports of the fighters’ destination (see (8:53 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001), with some accounts saying they are directed toward military-controlled airspace off the Long Island coast. (Filson 2003, pp. 56-59; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004)

Flight 77 from Washington begins to go off course over southern Ohio, turning to the southwest. (Washington Post 9/12/2001; Adcock, Donovan, and Gordon 9/23/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004)

CIA Director George Tenet has just learned of the first attack on the WTC while having breakfast with former Senator David Boren (D-OK) at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, DC. He later says, “It was obvious to us both that I had to leave immediately.” Along with Tim Ward, the head of his security detail, he gets into his car and, with lights flashing, hurries back to the CIA headquarters in Langley. Tenet later recalls that in these first minutes after the attack, “All the random dots we had been looking at started to fit into a pattern.… [M]y head was exploding with connections. I immediately thought about the ‘Bojinka’ plot to blow up twelve US airliners over the Pacific and a subsequent plan to fly a small airplane into CIA headquarters, which was broken up in 1994.” During his journey, he calls John Moseman, his chief of staff, and instructs him to assemble the senior CIA staff and key people from the Counterterrorist Center in the conference room next to his office. However, Tenet claims, it is difficult for him to get calls through on the secure phone, meaning he is “Essentially… in a communications blackout between the St. Regis and Langley, the longest twelve minutes of my life.” He only learns that a second plane hit the World Trade Center when he arrives at CIA headquarters. Tenet enters the conference room at around 9:15 a.m. By that time, he says, “I don’t think there was a person in the room who had the least doubt that we were in the middle of a full-scale assault orchestrated by al-Qaeda.” (Tenet 2007, pp. 161-163)

Flight 77’s transponder is turned off, meaning that the aircraft’s speed, altitude, and flight information are no longer visible on radar displays at the FAA’s Indianapolis Center. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; National Transportation Safety Board 2/19/2002 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 9) The Indianapolis Center air traffic controller in charge of Flight 77 watched the plane go off course and head southwest before its data disappeared from his radar screen. He looks for primary radar signals along the aircraft’s projected flight path as well as in the airspace where it had started to turn, but cannot find it. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) He tries contacting the plane repeatedly, saying “American 77, Indy,” and: “American 77, Indy, radio check. How do you read?” But there is no response. (Wald and Sack 10/16/2001; New York Times 10/16/2001)
NEADS Not Contacted - US News and World Report will later comment, “[E]xperts say that an airliner making a 180-degree turn followed by a transponder turnoff should have been a red flag to controllers.” It will quote Robert Cauble, a 20-year veteran of Navy air traffic control, who says: “The fact that the transponder went off, they should have picked up on that immediately. Everyone should have been on alert about what was going on.” (Schultz 10/8/2001) Yet the Indianapolis Center supposedly does not notify NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS). According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS will only learn that Flight 77 is missing at 9:34 a.m. (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 26-27)
Controller Thinks Plane Suffered Mechanical Failure - While several air traffic control centers were reportedly informed of the Flight 11 hijacking as early as 8:25 a.m. (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001), according to the 9/11 Commission, the controller handling Flight 77 does not realize other aircraft have been hijacked, and he is unaware of the situation in New York. He mistakenly assumes Flight 77 has experienced an electrical or mechanical failure. (Ellison 10/17/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) After he informs other Indianapolis Center personnel of the developing situation, they will clear all other aircraft from the plane’s westerly route so their safety will not be affected if Flight 77 is still flying along its original path but unable to be heard. (Freni 2003, pp. 29; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 460; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 30)
Airline and Possibly Pentagon Learn of Flight 77 Problems - While NEADS is not alerted about the errant aircraft, a controller at the Indianapolis Center will contact American Airlines at 8:58 to inform it that contact has been lost with Flight 77 (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 30) And an article in the New York Times will indicate that the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) promptly becomes aware of the problems with Flight 77 (see (Shortly After 8:51 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Wald 9/15/2001)

The jet fuel that spilled from Flight 11 when it hit the North Tower (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) has mostly burned up by this time. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which investigates the collapses, will say “The initial jet fuel fires themselves lasted at most a few minutes.” (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 183) Engineering professor Forman Williams will say the jet fuel “burned for maybe 10 minutes.” (Chertoff et al. 3/2005) Flight 11, a Boeing 767, had a fuel capacity of 23,980 gallons, but was only carrying about 10,000 gallons when it hit the WTC. NIST will estimate that less than 1,500 gallons were consumed in a fireball inside the tower and a comparable amount was consumed in the fireballs outside the building. Therefore, approximately 7,000 gallons splashed onto the office furnishings and started fires on various floors. However, after the jet fuel is used up, office fires burn until the building collapses. NIST will calculate that there were about four pounds per square foot of combustibles in the office space, or about 60 tons per floor. Offices in the WTC actually have fewer combustibles than some other similar spaces due to the small number of interior walls and limited bookshelf space. NIST will later find that only three of sixteen perimeter columns it recovers reached a temperature of 250°C and neither of the two core columns it retrieves reached this temperature. NIST will also find that none of the samples it acquires reaches a temperature above 600°C (see August 27, 2003). Although steel does not melt until its temperature is about 1,600°C, it may begin to lose significant strength at over 500°C. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 20, 29, 24, 77) The jet fuel will also burn up in the South Tower about 10 minutes after it is hit (see 9:13 a.m. September 11, 2001).

An air traffic controller at the FAA’s Indianapolis Center contacts the American Airlines dispatch office in Texas, and informs it that contact has been lost with Flight 77. The controller is a sector radar associate, whose job is to help with hand-offs and to coordinate with other sectors and facilities. He speaks to American Airlines dispatcher Jim McDonnell. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 30; Spencer 2008, pp. 63) The controller begins, “This is Indianapolis Center trying to get a hold of American 77.” McDonnell asks for clarification, “Who you trying to get a hold of?” and the controller replies: “American 77.… On frequency 120.27.… We were talking to him and all of a sudden it just, uh…” McDonnell interjects: “Okay, all right. We’ll get a hold of him for you.” The call comes to an abrupt end and the controller then continues trying to contact Flight 77. (New York Times 10/16/2001; Spencer 2008, pp. 63-64) Soon after this call, American Airlines’ executive vice president of operations, Gerard Arpey, will give an order to stop all American flight takeoffs in the Northeast US (see Between 9:00 a.m. and 9:10 a.m. September 11, 2001). By 8:59 a.m., American Airlines begins attempts to contact Flight 77 using ACARS (a digital communications system used primarily for aircraft-to-airline messages). Within minutes, some time between 9:00 a.m. and 9:10 a.m., American will get word that United Airlines also has lost contact with a missing airliner (presumably Flight 175). When reports of the second WTC crash come through after 9:03 a.m., one manager will mistakenly shout, “How did 77 get to New York and we didn’t know it?” (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 454; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 31) The sector radar associate at the Indianapolis Center will call American Airlines again about Flight 77 at 9:02, and again speak with McDonnell (see 9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). (New York Times 10/16/2001)

Jim Goodwin.Jim Goodwin. [Source: Chicago Tribune]Rich Miles, the manager at the United Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center just outside Chicago, receives a call from a supervisor at United’s maintenance office in San Francisco, informing him that Flight 175 has been reported as hijacked. (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 22) The maintenance office received a call minutes earlier from a flight attendant on United 175, who said their plane had been hijacked (see 8:52 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7-8) When the supervisor tells Miles about this, he initially responds, “No, the information we’re getting is that it was an American 757.” (The FAA has just informed United Airlines that the plane that hit the World Trade Center was a hijacked American Airlines 757 (see (Shortly After 8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001).) But the supervisor insists, “No, we got a call from a flight attendant on 175.” (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001) Miles notifies his boss Bill Roy, the SOC director, about this information. Roy then contacts United’s CEO Jim Goodwin and its chief operating officer Andy Studdert, who are in a meeting at the airline’s headquarters, located next to the SOC. Roy then begins the process of activating the crisis center at the United headquarters, which will take about 30 minutes to complete. (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 22)

American Airlines orders all its aircraft in the Northeast United States that have not yet taken off to remain on the ground, and then, minutes later, extends this order nationwide. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 30-31) At the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, managers have learned that communications have been lost with a second one of their aircraft, Flight 77 (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). Therefore, at around 9:00, Gerard Arpey, the airline’s executive vice president for operations, orders a “ground stop” of all American Airlines and American Eagle flights in the Northeast US. This means aircraft that have not yet taken off must remain on the ground. Minutes later, American learns that United Airlines has lost contact with one of its flights. So, some time between 9:05 and 9:10, it extends its ground stop order to apply to all American Airlines and American Eagle aircraft across the entire US. (9/11 Commission 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 9-10) United Airlines will also prevent any further takeoffs of its flights at 9:20 (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001) And the FAA will give out a similar order to all its facilities, initiating a “national ground stop,” at around 9:25 a.m. (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Donnelly 9/14/2001) At around 9:15, American Airlines will order all its airborne flights to land (see (9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 31)

Ed Ballinger.Ed Ballinger. [Source: CNN]At the United Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center outside Chicago, flight dispatcher Ed Ballinger learns that Flight 175 is suspected as being hijacked, and then sends text messages to try and make contact with it. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 23-24) The SOC center has just been contacted by the United Airlines maintenance office in San Francisco, about a call it received from an attendant on Flight 175, who had reported that their plane had been hijacked (see Shortly Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001) Subsequently, around 9:01 or 9:02, a dispatch manager at the SOC goes to Ballinger’s desk and informs him of the details of this call. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 23) Ballinger is the flight dispatcher responsible for United’s aircraft flying from the East Coast to the West Coast, which include Flight 175 (and also Flight 93). (Davis 4/14/2004) At 9:03, he sends an ACARS message to Flight 175: “How is the ride. Anything dispatch can do for you.” (ACARS is an e-mail system that enables personnel on the ground to rapidly communicate with those in the cockpit of an aircraft.) At the same time, the United Airlines air traffic control coordinator also sends an ACARS message to the flight: “NY approach lookin for ya on [frequency] 127.4.” Just after 9:03, unaware it has now crashed into the World Trade Center, Ballinger and the air traffic control coordinator re-send these ACARS messages to Flight 175. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 9 and 23-24) Twenty minutes later, Ballinger will remain unaware that Flight 175 has crashed and still be trying to contact it by ACARS (see 9:23 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 26) All airlines have a staff of dispatchers like Ballinger who, under FAA rules, are responsible for monitoring aircraft in flight. They follow each flight’s progress, relay safety information, and handle any problems that arise. (Spencer 2008, pp. 14 and 35) United Airlines dispatchers typically monitor up to two dozen flights at once. (Longman 2002, pp. 68) Ballinger has 16 transcontinental flights taking off early this morning that he is responsible for. (Sheehy 6/20/2004)

An air traffic controller at the FAA’s Indianapolis Center contacts the American Airlines dispatch office in Texas, and informs dispatcher Jim McDonnell that the center is unable to make contact with Flight 77 and does not know the location of this aircraft. The same controller called American Airlines and spoke with McDonnell four minutes earlier, reporting that radio contact had been lost with Flight 77 (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). McDonnell now says he has tried contacting Flight 77 but did not get a reply back. The controller then tells him: “We, uh, we lost track control of the guy. He’s in coast track but we haven’t, we don’t [know] where his target is and we can’t get a hold of him. Um, you guys tried him and no response?” McDonnell confirms, “No response.” The controller continues: “Yeah, we have no radar contact and, uh, no communications with him. So if you guys could try again.” McDonnell replies, “We’re doing it.” (New York Times 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 30) Flight 77 made its last radio communication with controllers at 8:51 (see 8:51 a.m. September 11, 2001), and deviated from its assigned course at 8:54 (see (8:54 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 8-9)

Flight 175 hits the WTC South Tower. The picture was taken from a traffic helicopter.Flight 175 hits the WTC South Tower. The picture was taken from a traffic helicopter. [Source: WABC 7/ Salient Stills]Flight 175 hits the South Tower of the World Trade Center (Tower Two). Seismic records pinpoint the time at six seconds before 9:03 a.m. (rounded to 9:03 a.m.). Hijackers Marwan Alshehhi, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Mohand Alshehri, Hamza Alghamdi, and Ahmed Alghamdi presumably are killed instantly, and many more in the tower will die over the next few hours. (New York Times 9/12/2001; CNN 9/12/2001; CNN 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; Cauchon 12/20/2001; Federal Emergency Management Agency 5/1/2002, pp. 1-10; Dwyer et al. 5/26/2002; Associated Press 8/21/2002; Moore and Cauchon 9/2/2002) According to the NIST report, the crash time is 9:02:59. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 38) According to the 9/11 Commission Report, the crash time is 9:03:11. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 8) Millions watch the crash live on television. The plane strikes the 77th through 85th floors in the 110-story building. Approximately 100 people are killed or injured in the initial impact; 600 people in the tower eventually die. The death toll is far lower than in the North Tower because about two-thirds of the South Tower’s occupants have evacuated the building in the 17 minutes since the first tower was struck. (Cauchon 12/20/2001; National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 5-9, 41) The combined death toll from the two towers is estimated at 2,819, not including the hijackers. (Associated Press 8/21/2002) The impact severs some columns on the south side of the South Tower. Each of the Twin Towers is designed as a “tube-in-tube” structure and the steel columns which support its weight are arranged around the perimeter and in the core. The plane, which is traveling at an estimated speed of around 500 mph (see October 2002-October 2005), severs 33 of the building’s 236 perimeter columns and damages another one. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 39) The perimeter columns bear about half of the tower’s weight, so the damage to them reduces the tower’s ability to bear gravity loads by about 7.1 percent. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 6) The actual damage to the 47 core columns is not known, as there are no photographs or videos of it, but there will be much speculation about this after 9/11. It will be suggested that some parts of the aircraft may be able to damage the core even after crashing through the exterior wall (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 107) According to NIST’s base case model, five of the core columns are severed and another five suffer some damage. (National Institute of Standards & Technology 9/2005, pp. 235 pdf file) This may reduce the tower’s ability to bear loads by a further approximately 8 percent, meaning that the aircraft impact accounted for a loss of about 15 percent of the building’s strength. This damage will be cited as an event contributing to the building’s collapse after 9/11 (see October 23, 2002 and October 19, 2004). NIST’s base case estimate of damage to the North Tower’s core will be similar, even though the aircraft impact there was dissimilar (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Flight 11 hit the North Tower’s core head on, whereas Flight 175 only hits the corner of the South Tower’s core. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 20-23, 38-41) In addition, some of the fireproofing on the steel columns and trusses may be dislodged (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (National Institute of Standards & Technology 9/2005, pp. xxxvi, 83 pdf file) Photographs and videos of the towers will not show the state of fireproofing inside the buildings, but the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will try to estimate the damage to fireproofing using a series of computer models. Its severe case model (see (October 2002-October 2005)) will predict that 39 of the 47 core columns are stripped of their fireproofing on one or more floors and that fireproofing is stripped from trusses covering 80,000 ft2 of floor area, the equivalent of about two floors. NIST will say that the loss of fireproofing is a major cause of the collapse (see April 5, 2005), but only performs 15 tests on fireproofing samples (see October 26, 2005). (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 41) According to NIST, less fireproofing is stripped from the North Tower (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001).

American Airlines and the FAA Command Center discuss the hijacking of Flight 77 again, apparently at some point between when Flight 175 hits the World Trade Center at 9:03 (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001) and Flight 77 hits the Pentagon at 9:37 (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). Although American Airlines was initially informed of the hijacking by the FAA (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001), at this point an American Airlines employee calls an FAA employee and tells him that Flight 77 has been hijacked. The FAA employee appears to be unaware of this hijacking, as, when he is told that American Airlines is missing a second plane (in addition to Flight 11, which has hit the World Trade Center) he asks for the flight number and inquires when the company last knew something about the flight. The American Airlines employee responds by saying, “we were talking to them according to Indianapolis Center about 45 minutes ago.” As the last recorded communication with Flight 77 was as at 8:51 (see 8:51 a.m. September 11, 2001), this would put this conversation at around 9:36. However, this conversation is part of a transcript of discussions by FAA employees and others, and in the transcript it appears shortly after the first mention of Flight 175’s crash at 9:03, indicating it may have occurred earlier than 9:36. (Federal Aviation Administration 10/14/2003, pp. 19-21 pdf file)

American Airlines initiates the “lockout” procedure to protect information about Flight 77. This standard procedure acknowledges an emergency on the flight and isolates information about it, so the airline’s top leadership can manage the case. A lockout safeguards information against being altered or released, and protects the identities of the plane’s passengers and crew. FAA air traffic controllers first alerted American Airlines about their loss of contact with Flight 77 at 8:58 (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001), and called the airline again about the flight at 9:02 (see 9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 12-13 and 30)

Within minutes of the second World Trade Center tower being hit, United Airlines tells the FAA’s Boston Center that Flight 175 is down. This is according to Colin Scoggins, a civilian manager who is the military liaison at the Boston Center. Scoggins will later recall, “When we phoned United [after the second tower was hit], they confirmed that United 175 was down, and I think they confirmed that within two or three minutes.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) However, according to the 9/11 Commission, even though by 9:20 United Airlines suspects that the second plane to hit the WTC was Flight 175 (see Between 9:10 a.m. and 9:20 a.m. September 11, 2001), at that time the identity of the crashed aircraft is “still unconfirmed.” It is not until 9:22 that United issues an advisory to its facilities, stating that Flight 175 has been in an accident in New York (see 9:22 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 26)

Laura Bush, the president’s wife, leaves the White House in her limousine, on her way to Capitol Hill where she is scheduled to testify before a Congressional committee, but she is unaware that a second plane has crashed into the World Trade Center. (Burleigh 10/15/2001; National Journal 8/31/2002; Bush 2010, pp. 198) Bush is set to appear before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, where she will talk about early childhood education. (McCaleb 9/12/2001; CNN 9/11/2002) She was informed of the first crash at the WTC by her lead Secret Service agent as she was getting into her limousine (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
First Lady Unaware of Second Crash - The limousine leaves the White House at 9:07 a.m., according to Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady’s press secretary. (National Journal 8/31/2002) The second aircraft, Flight 175, hit the WTC four minutes earlier (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 8) However, Bush and those with her in the limousine are unaware of this. (Bush 2010, pp. 197-198)
First Lady Thinks about Canceling Hearing - Nevertheless, Bush already thinks the Senate hearing she is on her way to should perhaps be canceled, because New York Senator Hillary Clinton is on the education committee and is therefore supposed to attend. Bush will comment, “Even after the first [crash], when I thought it was just an accident, I thought we probably should cancel, because Mrs. Clinton was on the committee and she’s from New York, and she’d probably want to rush home at that time.” (McQuillan 9/10/2001; Gerhart 2004, pp. 162) All the same, Bush continues with the two-mile journey from the White House to Capitol Hill. She will learn of the second crash, and realize this is a terrorist attack, shortly before arriving at the Russell Senate Office Building, where the hearing is set to take place (see (9:14 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Secret Service Allows Bush to Head to Event - Members of Bush’s Secret Service detail apparently raise no objection to Bush going ahead with her trip to Capitol Hill. (CNN 9/11/2002; Gerhart 2004, pp. 162; Bush 2010, pp. 198) The Secret Service is responsible for protecting the first lady, and she is considered to be one of the nation’s “most visible targets.” (US Department of the Treasury 5/8/2001; Office of Management and Budget 7/2001, pp. 82 pdf file) The agency’s mission includes keeping her “in sight and out of harm’s way,” according to a book about the Secret Service by author Philip Melanson. (Melanson 2002, pp. 273) And, as one of the Secret Service’s “permanent protectees,” the first lady, like the president, has a detail of special agents assigned to her. (United States Secret Service 2002) Bush currently travels with four Secret Service agents and two Secret Service cars. (Kessler 2006, pp. 136; Kessler 2009, pp. 181) However, the Secret Service will only take her away from Capitol Hill to a “secure location”—actually the agency’s headquarters—after the terrorist attacks have ended (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Associated Press 9/11/2001; National Journal 8/31/2002; Kessler 2006, pp. 136)

By this time, officials at American Airlines’ System Operations Control in Fort Worth, Texas have mistakenly concluded that the second aircraft to hit the World Trade Center might have been Flight 77. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 9; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 30) American Airlines learned that communications had been lost with Flight 77 just before 9 a.m. (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Indianapolis flight control reports the loss of contact with Flight 77 to the FAA’s Great Lakes Regional Operations Center. They describe it as a possible crash. The center waits 15 minutes before passing the information to FAA headquarters at 9:24 a.m. (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; Phillips 11/3/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) However, American Airlines headquarters has been notified of the same information before 9:00 a.m. (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Craig Parfitt.Craig Parfitt. [Source: Publicity photo]The United Airlines dispatch operations manager speaks with the American Airlines dispatch operations manager, and they discuss the two plane crashes in New York. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 25) Mike Barber, the United dispatch manager, is at the airline’s System Operations Control (SOC) center, just outside Chicago, while Craig Parfitt, the American dispatch manager, is at that airline’s SOC center in Fort Worth, Texas. (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001) At 9:10, United Airlines is aware a second aircraft has hit the World Trade Center, but it does not realize this is one of its own flights. During their call, Parfitt says to Barber he believes both the aircraft that hit the WTC belonged to American Airlines. (At 9:08 a.m., officials at American Airlines’ SOC mistakenly concluded the second aircraft to hit the WTC might have been Flight 77 (see 9:08 a.m. September 11, 2001).) But Barber says he is increasingly “confident” that the second plane was United Airlines Flight 175. “In slow motion and enlarged images of the second impact on CNN, he could see that the airplane did not have the shiny metallic color of American jets.” By 9:20, according to the 9/11 Commission, although Barber believes the second crashed plane was Flight 175, the identity of this aircraft is “still unconfirmed.” (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 25-26)

The US Strategic Command (Stratcom) orders that its Global Guardian exercise be put on pause at this time, according to a 2006 article in The Bombardier, the newspaper for Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. (Bombardier 9/8/2006 pdf file) Global Guardian is an annual exercise sponsored by Stratcom, which has its headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. The exercise tests Stratcom’s ability to fight a nuclear war (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Dejka 2/27/2002; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/27/2005) Many aircraft and personnel at Barksdale, as well as other military bases, are involved in it (see 8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Villafuerte 9/8/2002) Global Guardian will be formally terminated at 10:44 a.m., according to The Bombardier (see (10:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001), although other reports will say it is canceled earlier on, possibly after the second World Trade Center tower is hit at 9:03 a.m. (Dejka 2/27/2002; Dejka 9/8/2002; Bombardier 9/8/2006 pdf file)

The jet fuel that spilled from Flight 175 when it hit the South Tower (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001) has mostly burned up by this time. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which later investigates the collapses, will say the “initial jet fuel fires themselves lasted at most a few minutes.” (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 183) Engineering professor Forman Williams will say the jet fuel “burned for maybe 10 minutes.” (Chertoff et al. 3/2005) Flight 175, a Boeing 767, had a capacity of 23,980 gallons, but was only carrying about 9,100 gallons of fuel when it hit the WTC. NIST will estimate that less than 1,500 gallons were consumed in a fireball inside the tower and 910 to 2,275 gallons were consumed in the fireballs outside the building. Approximately 6,100 gallons therefore splashed onto the office furnishings and started fires on various floors. However, after the jet fuel is used up, office fires burn until the building collapses. NIST will calculate that there were about four pounds per square foot of combustibles in the office space, or about 60 tons per floor. Offices in the WTC actually had fewer combustibles than other similar spaces due to the small number of interior walls and limited bookshelf space. NIST will later find that only three of sixteen perimeter columns it recovers reached a temperature of 250°C and neither of the two core columns it retrieves reached this temperature. NIST will also find that none of the samples it acquires reached a temperature above 600°C (see August 27, 2003). While steel does not melt until its temperature is about 1,600°C, it may begin to lose significant strength at over 500°C. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 29, 38, 42, 77) The jet fuel also burned up in the North Tower about 10 minutes after it was hit (see 8:57 a.m. September 11, 2001). When a group of firefighters reach the bottom impact floor in the South Tower just before collapse, they only find two isolated fires (see 9:52 a.m. September 11, 2001).

An air traffic controller at the FAA’s Indianapolis Center, which was monitoring Flight 77 when it disappeared from radar (see 8:56 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (8:56 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001), receives confirmation from American Airlines that Flight 11 was hijacked, but apparently still does not suspect that the missing Flight 77 may also have been hijacked. (New York Times 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 24) The controller, a sector radar associate at the Indianapolis Center, called the American Airlines dispatch office in Texas five minutes earlier, and was informed by dispatcher Jim McDonnell that Flight 11 had been hijacked and that two planes had hit the World Trade Center (see 9:09 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 106) He now calls the dispatch office and again speaks with McDonnell. After introducing himself, he asks, “American 11, you guys said he departed off of, uh, New York?” McDonnell replies, “Boston.” The controller continues, “Boston, he was going to LA, and it was a hijacked airplane?” McDonnell confirms, “Yes.” The controller asks, “And you, have you heard anything from American 77?” McDonnell replies, “No,” and then adds, “I talked to a winder in the center up there, and I gave them the information I got.” (What McDonnell is referring to here is unclear.) The controller thanks McDonnell, and the call ends. (New York Times 10/16/2001) Despite receiving this information from American Airlines, according to the 9/11 Commission it is not until about 9:20 that the Indianapolis Center begins to doubt its initial assumption that Flight 77 has crashed, and discusses this concern with the FAA’s Herndon Command Center (see (9:20 a.m.-9:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 32)

American Airlines orders all of its airborne flights to land at the nearest airport. (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 31) Managers at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas have learned of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center. Initially, they mistakenly believed this second plane was American Airlines Flight 77 (see 9:08 a.m. September 11, 2001). Gerard Arpey, the airline’s executive vice president for operations, conferred with other operational managers, and they all agreed that the airline needed to land its aircraft immediately. American Airlines’ president Don Carty then arrives at the SOC and also agrees, telling Arpey, “Do it.” So, at about 9:15, the airline orders all its planes to land at the nearest suitable airport. (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission 1/27/2004) This is the first time an airline has ever ordered all its planes to land. (Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002) The FAA will give out a similar order to all its facilities about 30 minutes later (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 29) Around that time, United Airlines will also order its aircraft to land (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 1/27/2004) American Airlines ordered a ground stop earlier on that prevented any new takeoffs of its aircraft (see Between 9:00 a.m. and 9:10 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 30-31) Most of its domestic flights will have landed by about 11:50 a.m., though it will take longer to ground its international and trans-Pacific flights. (9/11 Commission 1/27/2004)

Bill Halleck, an American Airlines air traffic control specialist at the airline’s System Operations Control (SOC) in Fort Worth, Texas, phones an official at the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, to ask about the status of New York City air traffic. During their two-and-a-half minute conversation, Halleck says American thinks Flight 11 crashed into the WTC, and says that Flight 77 is “missing.” Presently, he receives an update from someone else at SOC, indicating that Flight 77 may also have crashed into the WTC (see 9:08 a.m. September 11, 2001). He wonders how it could have gotten to New York, but updates the FAA official on this news. The FAA official replies that the second WTC crash may not have been Flight 77 because “we have another call sign” for that incident. The FAA Command Center is currently uncertain of the identity of either of the planes that hit the Twin Towers, and provides no further information. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 31 and 94)

Brian Wilson.Brian Wilson. [Source: Publicity photo]There is apparently no increase in the level of security at the Capitol building in Washington, DC, even though First Lady Laura Bush has arrived at the nearby Russell Senate Office Building and more than 10 minutes have passed since a second plane hit the World Trade Center. (Gilbert et al. 2002, pp. 64; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 8; Bush 2010, pp. 198) At 9:16 a.m., Bush arrived at the Russell Senate Office Building, located just north of the Capitol building, where she was scheduled to testify before a Senate committee at 10:00 a.m. (McQuillan 9/10/2001; McCaleb 9/12/2001; Bush 2010, pp. 198)
Reporter Sees No Signs of Increased Security - The first lady is considered one of the nation’s “most visible targets,” and, as one of the Secret Service’s “permanent protectees,” like the president, she has a detail of special agents assigned to her. (US Department of the Treasury 5/8/2001; Office of Management and Budget 7/2001, pp. 82 pdf file; United States Secret Service 2002) And yet, even though Bush has arrived on Capitol Hill, and over 10 minutes have passed since the second aircraft hit the WTC (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), there is apparently no increase in the level of security at the Capitol building. Fox News correspondent Brian Wilson will later recall that when reporting from the Capitol building around this time, he is “talking about the first lady being in the Capitol and saying that I had not seen any signs of tighter security in the building.”
Reporter Surprised at Plan to Hold a Photo Op - Wilson is also surprised that, although the Senate hearing Bush was scheduled to attend has been canceled, the first lady is still going to make a public appearance. He will comment that “they were (incredibly) trying to set up a brief photo opportunity.” (Gilbert et al. 2002, pp. 64; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 8) (Wilson is presumably referring to Laura Bush’s appearance before reporters and cameras alongside Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Judd Gregg (R-NH), which takes place at 9:41 a.m. (see 9:41 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Associated Press 9/11/2001; CNN 9/11/2001; Bush 2010, pp. 199) )
Capitol Evacuated Later On - The Capitol building will only be evacuated at 9:48 a.m., apparently in response to reports of a plane heading toward it (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Associated Press 9/11/2001; Associated Press 8/21/2002; CNN 9/11/2006) The first lady will only be taken away from the Russell Office Building to a “secure location” by members of the Secret Service at 10:10 a.m. (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Associated Press 9/11/2001; National Journal 8/31/2002; Bush 2010, pp. 200)

A meeting is held in the office of Carl Truscott, the Secret Service special agent in charge of the presidential protective division (PPD), during which Truscott and three other senior Secret Service agents discuss security enhancements at the White House. Truscott, who is responsible for the overall security of the White House, will later say that he contacted the three other agents after watching “the CNN broadcast of the aircraft crashing into the World Trade Center,” and asked them to come to his office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House (see (After 8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The names of these agents are unstated, but they are a deputy special agent in charge of the PPD, an assistant to the special agent in charge of the PPD, and an assistant division chief of the Secret Service’s technical security division. Their meeting begins at “approximately 9:18 a.m.,” according to Truscott. (United States Secret Service 10/1/2001)
Agents Discuss Measures to Increase Security - Truscott and the other agents briefly discuss the Secret Service assets that have so far been deployed in response to the crisis. (United States Secret Service 9/12/2001) Issues that are addressed during the meeting, according to Truscott, include placing counter-sniper support on the White House; placing counter-surveillance units near the White House; opening the Emergency Operations Center; increasing the number of emergency response teams; increasing technical security division support; providing counter-assault team support to First Lady Laura Bush’s Secret Service detail at the US Capitol building; providing protection for National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice; and alerting the Army Corps of Engineers structural collapse team.
Agent Learns of Aircraft Approaching Washington - While the meeting is taking place, Truscott receives a call from Danny Spriggs, an agent at the Secret Service’s headquarters in Washington, DC, informing him that a suspicious aircraft is flying toward the capital (see (Shortly After 9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). And while he is on the phone with Spriggs, Truscott receives a call from a “White House security representative.” During that call, Truscott instructs the security representative to evacuate the White House. (United States Secret Service 10/1/2001) (The White House will begin evacuating at around 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Associated Press 2001 pdf file; CNN 9/12/2001) )
Agent Suggests Going to White House Bunker - At some point, Truscott suggests that those at the meeting go to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), a bunker below the White House. Truscott will subsequently head to the PEOC. Apparently at least one other person at the meeting—the assistant division chief of the technical security division—will head there with him. (United States Secret Service 9/12/2001) On his way to the PEOC, Truscott will meet Rice in the White House Situation Room and accompany her down to the PEOC (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (United States Secret Service 10/1/2001) Presumably as a result of the meeting in Truscott’s office, the Secret Service will implement “a number of security enhancements around the White House complex,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see (After 9:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 35-36)

Shortly after he learns a second plane has hit the World Trade Center, United Airlines flight dispatcher Ed Ballinger takes the initiative to begin sending a warning message to the flights he is monitoring, including Flight 93 and Flight 175 (although this aircraft has already crashed). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 11; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 26 and 37) Ballinger is responsible for monitoring United’s aircraft flying from the East Coast to the West Coast. He has 16 such flights he is in charge of. (Davis 4/14/2004) He sends out a text message to his airborne flights: “Beware any cockpit intrusion… Two aircraft in NY hit [World] Trade Center builds.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 11; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 26) Although United Airlines has suspected Flight 175 as being hijacked since around 9:00 a.m. (see Shortly Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001), Ballinger is still responsible for multiple flights. (In contrast to United, American Airlines has a policy that flight dispatchers should only manage the hijacked flight, and be relieved of responsibility for their other flights.) (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 455-456) Ballinger’s warning is therefore sent out to his aircraft in groups, and will not be sent to Flight 93 until 9:23 a.m. (see 9:23 a.m.-9:26 a.m. September 11, 2001). Unaware that it was the second plane that hit the WTC, Ballinger will also send the message to Flight 175 (see 9:23 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 26 and 37) Ballinger begins sending out these warnings two minutes before United Airlines instructs its dispatchers to warn their flights to secure their cockpit doors (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 455) According to the 9/11 Commission, his text message represents “the first occasion on 9/11 when either American or United sent out such a warning to their airborne aircraft.” (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 37) Ballinger will later recall: “As soon as I had a grasp of what was going on… I sent [the warning] out immediately. It was before [Transportation Secretary Norman] Mineta, and even before the airlines told us to alert the crews.” (Davis 4/14/2004)

United Airlines orders its aircraft that have not yet taken off to remain on the ground. However, the exact time and details of this order are unclear. According to the 9/11 Commission, United orders the “ground stop” at an unstated time after about 9:10, when American Airlines had ordered a nationwide ground stop of its aircraft (see Between 9:00 a.m. and 9:10 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 10) The Wall Street Journal reports that Andy Studdert, United Airlines’ chief operating officer, gives the order for United aircraft to remain “frozen on the ground” at 9:20. However, it only describes this order applying to “all international flights,” so whether it also applies to United’s domestic flights is unclear. (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001) The FAA will issue an order to all its facilities, initiating a “national ground stop,” at around 9:25 a.m. (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Donnelly 9/14/2001) At around 9:45, United Airlines will order all its airborne flights to land (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 1/27/2004)

United Airlines issues a companywide order for its flight dispatchers to warn their flights to secure their cockpit doors. (9/11 Commission 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 455) The airline’s air traffic control coordinator sends a message to all of the airline’s dispatchers, telling them: “There may be addnl [additional] hijackings in progress. You may want to advise your flts [flights] to stay on alert and shut down all cockpit access inflt [in flight]. Sandy per Mgmt.” United Airlines dispatchers began notifying their aircraft that planes had crashed into the World Trade Center at 9:03 (see 9:03 a.m. and After September 11, 2001). However, with the exception of one dispatcher (see 9:19 a.m. September 11, 2001), the airline has so far not sent any warnings to its aircraft. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 36-37) United Airlines did not initially realize the second plane to hit the WTC was one of its own (see Between 9:10 a.m. and 9:20 a.m. September 11, 2001), and it is not until 9:22 that it notifies its dispatchers that UAL Flight 175 has been involved in “an accident” in New York (see 9:22 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Rich Miles, the manager of United Airlines’ System Operations Control center, located outside Chicago, issues an advisory to all United Airlines facilities, including the flight dispatchers. This advisory, which is issued under the name of UAL Chief Operating Officer Andy Studdert, states that Flight 175 has been involved in an accident in New York City, and that the airline’s crisis center has been activated. (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 26) This appears to be United Airlines’ first proper confirmation that Flight 175 has crashed. However, it will not issue a press release confirming the crash until 11:53 a.m. (see 11:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). (United Airlines 9/11/2001)

Unaware that this aircraft has crashed, United Airlines flight dispatcher Ed Ballinger sends a warning message to Flight 175. The text message reads: “Beware any cockpit intrusion… Two aircraft in NY hit [World] Trade Center builds.” Ballinger began sending this text message to the 16 transcontinental flights he is monitoring at 9:19 a.m. (see 9:19 a.m. September 11, 2001). He is already aware that United Airlines suspects Flight 175 has been hijacked (see (9:01 a.m.-9:04 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and recently learned that a second plane has hit the World Trade Center, but does not yet know this was Flight 175. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 26 and 37) United Airlines did not initially realize the second plane to hit the WTC was one of its own (see Between 9:10 a.m. and 9:20 a.m. September 11, 2001), and it was not until 9:22 that it sent out an advisory to its dispatchers stating that Flight 175 had been involved in “an accident” in New York (see 9:22 a.m. September 11, 2001).

The FAA’s Great Lakes Regional Operations Center notifies the Operations Center at FAA’s Washington headquarters of the simultaneous loss of radar identification and radar communications with Flight 77. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 32) This is almost 30 minutes after this loss of contact occurred (see 8:56 a.m. September 11, 2001), and 15 minutes after the Great Lakes regional center was informed of it (see 9:09 a.m. September 11, 2001).

According to the 9/11 Commission, the FAA Command Center advises FAA headquarters that American 77 is lost in Indianapolis flight control’s airspace, that Indianapolis has no primary radar track, and is looking for the aircraft. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) When exactly the Command Center first learned that Flight 77 was lost is unclear. The earliest time reported by the 9/11 Commission is when an American Airlines employee mentioned it when calling the center at 9:16 a.m. (see 9:16 a.m.-9:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 24) American Airlines headquarters was notified of the loss of contact with Flight 77 before 9:00 a.m. (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001), but had mistakenly thought this was the aircraft that hit the second WTC tower minutes later (see 9:08 a.m. September 11, 2001).


FAA Administrator Jane Garvey.
FAA Administrator Jane Garvey. [Source: FAA]Time magazine later reports that Jane Garvey, head of the FAA, “almost certainly after getting an okay from the White House, initiate[s] a national ground stop, which forbids takeoffs and requires planes in the air to get down as soon as is reasonable. The order, which has never been implemented since flying was invented in 1903, applie[s] to virtually every single kind of machine that can takeoff—civilian, military, or law enforcement.” Military and law enforcement flights are allowed to resume at 10:31 a.m. (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001) A limited number of military flights—the FAA will not reveal details—are allowed to fly during this ban. (Donnelly 9/14/2001) Garvey later calls it “a national ground stop… that prevented any aircraft from taking off.” (US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure 9/21/2001) Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta later says he was the one to give the order: “As soon as I was aware of the nature and scale of the attack, I called from the White House to order the air traffic system to land all aircraft, immediately and without exception.” (US Congress. Senate. Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation 9/20/2001) According to Mineta, “At approximately 9:45… I gave the FAA the final order for all civil aircraft to land at the nearest airport as soon as possible.” (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003) At the time, 4,452 planes are flying in the continental US. A later account states that Ben Sliney, the FAA’s National Operations Manager, makes the decision without consulting his superiors, like Jane Garvey, first. It would be remarkable if Sliney was the one to make the decision, because 9/11 is Sliney’s first day on the job as National Operations Manager, “the chess master of the air traffic system.” (Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002) When he accepted the job a couple of months earlier, he had asked, “What is the limit of my authority?” The man who had promoted him replied, “Unlimited.” (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002) Yet another account, by Linda Schuessler, manager of tactical operations at the FAA Command Center where Sliney was located, says, “… it was done collaboratively… All these decisions were corporate decisions. It wasn’t one person who said, ‘Yes, this has got to get done.’” (Bond 12/17/2001) About 500 planes land in the next 20 minutes, and then much more urgent orders to land are issued at 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Donnelly 9/14/2001; US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure 9/21/2001; Adcock, Donovan, and Gordon 9/23/2001; Scott 6/3/2002; Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002; Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002; Associated Press 8/21/2002; Adcock 9/10/2002)

Gordon England.Gordon England. [Source: US Department of Defense]Secretary of the Navy Gordon England is unable to communicate with colleagues on the ground while he is being flown from Texas to Washington, DC. England, the Navy’s top civilian official, traveled to Fort Worth, Texas, the previous evening to give a speech to the Navy League. When the terrorist attacks began this morning, he was getting ready to fly back to Washington. Initially, however, the Navy plane he was going to travel on was grounded. (CNN 10/16/2001; Miles 9/7/2006) (The FAA ordered a ground stop to prevent any aircraft taking off across the US at around 9:26 a.m. (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure 9/21/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 25) ) But after a “short period,” England will later recall, the Navy secretary and his companions “got clearance to come back to Washington.” While they are flying to the capital, however, they are unable to communicate with their colleagues on the ground. When he is asked about the flight, England will recall, “Well, of course, we didn’t have any communications.” England and his companions consequently have little knowledge of what the attacks involved. “We didn’t know what was happening,” England will say. “Literally just knew some of the things that happened, knew that something had been hit in Washington, but didn’t know until we were airborne that it had been the Pentagon.” England only learns more about what has happened when his plane lands. “I really didn’t hear much until we got on the ground,” he will say. Why England and those with him have these communication problems is unknown. After arriving in Washington, England joins colleagues of his at the Naval Criminal Investigative Service headquarters, where the Navy has set up a temporary headquarters (see After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (CNN 10/16/2001; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 133) Other senior US government officials also have trouble making and receiving communications while the attacks are taking place this morning, and in the following hours (see (After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). These officials include President Bush (see (9:34 a.m.-9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Secretary of State Colin Powell (see (12:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001), CIA Director George Tenet (see (8:55 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (see (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Barrett 2002 pdf file; Hastert 2004, pp. 6; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006; Tenet 2007, pp. 162)

A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767, the same kind of aircraft as Delta 1989.A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767, the same kind of aircraft as Delta 1989. [Source: Public domain]The FAA’s Cleveland Center incorrectly concludes that Delta Air Lines Flight 1989 has been hijacked, but accounts will conflict over how it comes to this conclusion. (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 167) Delta 1989, a Boeing 767, is currently in the sector of airspace being monitored by Cleveland Center air traffic controller John Werth. (9/11 Commission 10/2/2003 pdf file; Levin 9/11/2008) It is flying west over Pennsylvania, approaching the Ohio border, and is about 25 miles behind Flight 93. FBI agents suspected Delta 1989 might be the next plane to be hijacked and called the Cleveland Center after the second attack on the World Trade Center, with the warning to watch this flight (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002) A supervisor at the center told Werth to keep an eye on the flight because, as Werth will later recall, “he was a suspected hijacking because he had taken off from Boston at approximately the same time as” the first two hijacked aircraft, Flights 11 and 175. (9/11 Commission 10/1/2003 pdf file; Levin 9/11/2008)
Controllers Hear Suspicious Communications - When, at 9:28, Werth hears the sound of screaming (subsequently determined to have come from Flight 93) over the radio (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he is unsure which of seven or eight possible aircraft it is coming from. The radio frequency is put on the speaker so other controllers can hear it, and they subsequently make out the words, “get out of here.” (9/11 Commission 10/1/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 11, 28)
Controllers Think Delta 1989 Is Hijacked - According to USA Today, when Cleveland Center controllers then hear a voice with a heavy accent over the radio, saying “Ladies and gentlemen: Here the captain.… We have a bomb on board” (see (9:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001), they mistakenly think it is coming from Delta 1989, not Flight 93. They suspect the flight has been hijacked, and start informing their chain of command. “Officials at Cleveland Center rush word to Washington: Hijackers have another flight. At the Federal Aviation Administration’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, Delta Flight 1989 joins a growing list of suspicious jets.” (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 12)
Werth Decides Hijacked Aircraft Is Flight 93 - Werth then calls all of the aircraft in his sector, and Flight 93 is the only one that does not respond. He also sees Flight 93 go into a quick descent and then come back up again. Werth therefore concludes that it is Flight 93, not Delta 1989, that has been hijacked, and instructs his supervisor to “tell Washington” of this. (9/11 Commission 10/1/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 10/2/2003 pdf file) However, events in the following minutes will cause Cleveland Center controllers to remain suspicious of Delta 1989 (see (Shortly After 9:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission 10/2/2003 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 168; Levin 9/11/2008)
Book Gives Alternative Account - In a book published in 2008, author Lynn Spencer will give a different explanation for why Cleveland Center becomes suspicious of Delta 1989. According to her account, after hearing a later radio transmission where a hijacker again says “There is a bomb on board” (see (9:39 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Werth begins to hand off his flights to other controllers so he can devote his full attention to Flight 93. “In the distraction of the emergency, the crew of Delta 1989 misses the hand-off to the new frequency. The new sector controller for Delta 1989 calls out to the plane several times and gets no response.” As a result, “News travels fast,” and “Soon, word on the FAA’s open teleconference call is that a fifth aircraft is out of radio contact: Delta 1989… is added to the list of suspect aircraft.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 167) At 9:39 a.m., even though it is not responsible for handling Delta 1989, the FAA’s Boston Center will call NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and incorrectly tell it that Delta 1989 is another possible hijack (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; Bronner 8/1/2006)

A small jet plane—ExecuJet 956—tracks Flight 93 for what is described as “a substantial period of time” before it crashes, and picks up some of the radio transmissions from it, as both planes are operating on the same frequency. (Government's motion for protective order regarding cockpit voice recorder pursuant to 49 USC 1154. United States v. Zacarias Moussaoui 8/8/2002 pdf file; Jackman 8/9/2002) The exact period over which ExecuJet 956 follows Flight 93 is unclear. But as early as 9:31 it calls the FAA’s Cleveland Center and, referring to Flight 93, reports: “[W]e’re just answering your call. We did hear that, uh, yelling too.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 461) At 9:40, after being asked, “did you understand that transmission [from Flight 93]?” ExecuJet 956 tells Cleveland Center: “Affirmative. He said that there was a bomb on board.” (Associated Press 4/12/2006) Cleveland Center then asks the ExecuJet pilot if he can change course and try to spot Flight 93. He sees it, loses it, and then sees it again. He then has to make an evasive turn, as Flight 93 is heading directly for him. (Longman 2002, pp. 104) ExecuJet 956 is one of a fleet of small jets available for hire from a company based in Woodbridge, New Jersey called NetJets, which sells shares in private business aircraft. (Margasak 8/8/2002; Jackman 8/9/2002) NetJets’ owner is the multi-billionaire Warren Buffet. (Cooper 11/6/2001; Arlidge 1/12/2003) Another small business jet is reportedly within 20 miles of Flight 93 when it crashes, but this is apparently a different one, belonging to a North Carolina clothing firm (see 10:07 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Pittsburgh Channel 9/15/2001; Heltzel and Gibb 9/16/2001)

According to the 9/11 Commission, by 9:30 a.m. American Airlines confirms that Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center. This is almost 45 minutes after the attack occurred. Earlier, at around 9:16, an American air traffic control specialist had only told the FAA that the airline “thought” the first plane to hit the WTC had been Flight 11 (see 9:16 a.m.-9:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 15-16) However, Colin Scoggins, a civilian manager at the FAA’s Boston Center, will later claim that American Airlines refused to confirm that its plane had hit the WTC for several hours afterwards. He will claim this lack of confirmation was a factor in his mistakenly reporting that Flight 11 was still airborne at 9:21 (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). He says, “When we phoned United [after the second tower was hit], they confirmed that United 175 was down, and I think they confirmed that within two or three minutes. With American Airlines, we could never confirm if it was down or not, so that left doubt in our minds.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) Yet American Airlines had the advantage over United that two of its flight attendants on Flight 11 had been in extensive contact by phone, up until a couple of minutes before their plane crashed. Amy Sweeney had been talking to Michael Woodward, a manager at the American Airlines flight services office at Boston’s Logan Airport (see 8:22 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). And Betty Ong had been in contact with the airline’s Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina, with details of this call being continuously relayed to its System Operations Control (SOC) in Fort Worth, Texas (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 8-14)

Two unidentified military aircraft fly in the vicinity of the Pentagon at an altitude of over 20,000 feet, and are in the area during the minutes before the Pentagon is hit. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/20/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/28/2003 pdf file) Between at least 9:31 a.m. and 9:40 a.m., the two aircraft communicate with the air traffic control tower at Washington’s Reagan National Airport, which is less than a mile from the Pentagon. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/20/2001 pdf file; Adair and Garza 10/3/2001) Radar data will show that they fly “in trail” (in single file, with one aircraft directly behind the other) at 21,000 feet, and are overhead during the last few minutes that Flight 77 is airborne, before it hits the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/28/2003 pdf file)
Launched from Delaware Base - The identities of the two aircraft are unclear. They have the call signs “Bobcat 14” and “Bobcat 17.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/20/2001 pdf file) A 9/11 Commission memorandum will state that “flight strips and other information indicate that Bobcat 14 and Bobcat 17 originated out of Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.… It is possible, but not confirmed, that they were Air Force corporate passenger jets.”
Airport Managers Do Not Recall Planes - Two key officials will later be unable to specifically recall the aircraft when questioned by the 9/11 Commission. Bob Lazar, the acting operations manager at Reagan National Airport, will say he “did not remember any aircraft with the call sign ‘Bobcat’ that hung out over the National airspace” on this day. However, as well as two of the fighter jets that are inbound from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he will recall two aircraft “coming from the north, but he did not think that they entered National’s airspace.” Donny Simons, the airport manager at Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Linthicum, Maryland, will stress “that he did not remember the Bobcats specifically,” but he speculates that controllers at his airport “were working the two ‘Bobcats’ and needed vectors from National controllers.” (9/11 Commission 7/28/2003 pdf file)

A group from FAA headquarters, who are apparently oblivious to the morning’s crisis, request and are given a tour of the air traffic control tower at Washington’s Reagan National Airport, until they are forced to leave there just before the time of the Pentagon attack. (Spencer 2008, pp. 157-158) Reagan Airport is located less than a mile from the Pentagon. (Adair and Garza 10/3/2001)
Tour Group Wants to See Tower - At 9:32, the tower supervisor, Chris Stephenson, receives a phone call from one of the airport’s maintenance workers. The maintenance worker says he has a group there from the FAA’s Washington headquarters that is visiting the airport to go over some maintenance issues, but they are also curious to see what goes on in the control tower. It appears the FAA personnel are unaware of the attacks in New York, and Stephenson is asked if it is okay to bring them up. Though he is busy dealing with the chaos resulting from the ground stop recently ordered by the FAA’s Command Center (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Stephenson reluctantly agrees. The group arrives moments later, but Stephenson tries to ignore them. According to author Lynn Spencer, Stephenson is as yet unaware that an errant aircraft has been spotted heading toward Washington (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 157) But according to USA Today, the Secret Service warned him about this aircraft at around 9:30 a.m. (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Levin 8/11/2002)
Group Ordered to Leave - Shortly after the group arrives, Stephenson is called by a controller at the TRACON and notified of the unidentified aircraft (presumably Flight 77), which is five miles west of the tower (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). When he looks out the window, he sees it, now less than a mile away and approaching fast. Stephenson yells at the tour group: “Out! Get out!” The FAA group heads off down the stairs, but the last in the line looks out the window at the descending aircraft and asks, “What’s that guy doing?” ”Get out!” Stephenson repeats, and pushes the man into the stairwell. Soon afterwards, the Pentagon is hit (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 158)

Reagan National Airport.Reagan National Airport. [Source: Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority]Air traffic controllers at Washington’s Reagan National Airport are contacted by controllers at Washington Dulles International Airport, and informed of a fast-moving unidentified aircraft, later determined to be Flight 77, which is approaching the restricted airspace around the White House. (Phillips 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 6/4/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 33) Reagan Airport is less than a mile from the Pentagon and only a few miles from the White House. (Adair, Huettel, and Heller 9/19/2001) During a shift, it has 10 or 11 controllers working in its Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) and seven or eight controllers working in its air traffic control tower. (9/11 Commission 7/28/2003 pdf file) Controllers at the Dulles TRACON have recently noticed the unidentified aircraft on their radar screens (see (Between 9:25 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:32 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 9)
TRACON Told of Aircraft - A Dulles Airport controller now calls the TRACON at Reagan Airport, and says: “Hey! Untracked target 15 [miles] west of you. Primary target eastbound! Heading toward P-56!” (Spencer 2008, pp. 145-146) (P-56, or Prohibited Area 56, is the restricted airspace above and near the White House. (Department of Transportation 8/4/2005) ) Reagan Airport controller Dan Creedon checks his radar screen and sees the aircraft’s target about 10 miles west of the White House. The radar track is untagged, so he attaches a data box to it with the word “LOOK” in it. This will allow other controllers to quickly spot the aircraft. It also causes its ground speed to appear on the screen. According to author Lynn Spencer, the aircraft is shown to be flying at 290 miles per hour. (Spencer 2008, pp. 146) But other accounts will claim it is flying at between 400 and 500 mph as it approaches Washington. (CBS News 9/21/2001; News 10/24/2001; Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/28/2003 pdf file) Creedon then calls out to Victor Padgett, the operations supervisor in the TRACON, and tells him about the aircraft heading their way. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/14/2001; Spencer 2008, pp. 146)
Controllers Notify Others - After the Reagan Airport controllers learn of the approaching aircraft, they promptly contact other agencies about it. Padgett calls the Secret Service (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/14/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file) And another controller will issue traffic advisories on the aircraft to a C-130 military cargo plane that is flying in the area, and then instruct the C-130 to identify and follow the aircraft (see 9.36 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; Wald and Sack 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 33; Spencer 2008, pp. 146-147) A controller in the TRACON will also call the Reagan Airport control tower, and alert it to the approaching aircraft (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 158)

According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS contacts Washington flight control to ask about Flight 11. A manager there happens to mention, “We’re looking—we also lost American 77.” The commission claims, “This was the first notice to the military that American 77 was missing, and it had come by chance.… No one at FAA Command Center or headquarters ever asked for military assistance with American 77.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Yet, 38 minutes earlier, flight controllers determined Flight 77 was off course, out of radio contact, and had no transponder signal (see 8:56 a.m. September 11, 2001). They’d warned American Airlines headquarters within minutes. By some accounts, this is the first time NORAD is told about Flight 77, but other accounts have them warned around 9:25 a.m.

An unknown flight attendant on Flight 93, later determined to be Sandy Bradshaw, calls the United Airlines maintenance facility in San Francisco, and reports that her plane has been hijacked. The San Francisco number is one that flight crews know to call if they need to report mechanical problems, obtain advice on troubleshooting, or request maintenance while in flight. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 40; United States of America v. Zacarias Moussaoui, a/k/a Shaqil, a/k/a Abu Khalid al Sahrawi, Defendant. 4/11/2006 pdf file) Bradshaw makes her call from the rear of Flight 93, using an Airfone. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file) A United Airlines maintenance employee initially answers the call. Shortly thereafter, it is taken over by a manager at the facility. Bradshaw reports that hijackers are in the cabin of her plane behind the first-class curtain, and also in the cockpit. They have pulled a knife, have killed a flight attendant, and have announced they have a bomb on board. The manager will later describe Bradshaw as being “shockingly calm” during the conversation. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 40; United States of America v. Zacarias Moussaoui, a/k/a Shaqil, a/k/a Abu Khalid al Sahrawi, Defendant. 4/11/2006 pdf file) Bradshaw’s call lasts just under six minutes. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) The manager reports the emergency to his supervisor, who passes the information to the crisis center at United Airlines’ headquarters, outside Chicago. (Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 40) After about 9:45-9:50, “everyone” in the crisis center will know “that a flight attendant on board” Flight 93 has “called the mechanics desk to report that one hijacker had a bomb strapped on and another was holding a knife on the crew.” (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 43) The manager at the San Francisco maintenance facility instructs the Airfone operator to try and reestablish contact with the plane, but the effort is unsuccessful. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 40) At 9:50, Bradshaw will make another call from Flight 93, this time to her husband (see 9:50 a.m. September 11, 2001). (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 12 pdf file)

The Marriott Residence Inn in Arlington, Virginia.The Marriott Residence Inn in Arlington, Virginia. [Source: Marriott International]An American Airlines plane takes off from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, flying toward the Pentagon, just before the Pentagon attack occurs, according to a witness who says he sees the plane out the window of his hotel room.
Plane Takes Off toward Pentagon - Jeffrey Mark Parsons, an assistant chief patrol agent with the United States Border Patrol, is staying on the 17th floor of the Marriott Residence Inn in Arlington, Virginia. When later interviewed by Navy historian John Darrell Sherwood about his experiences of the 9/11 attacks, Parsons will recall: “I was looking out my window. I have a perfect view of Reagan National Airport. An American Airlines plane had just taken off, I mean, not 30 seconds before this plane [Flight 77] hit the Pentagon.” Parsons will add that the American Airlines plane is “taking off to the north, to the, different than the normal way. In other words, they were taking off toward the Pentagon.” (Parsons 12/13/2001; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 258) Reagan National Airport is less than a mile from the Pentagon. (Adair and Garza 10/3/2001) Parsons will continue, “Well, this American Airlines plane had just taken off, I mean it couldn’t have been a minute, 30 seconds before this plane [Flight 77] hit the Pentagon.” (Parsons 12/13/2001) Flight 77 hits the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001) and, like the plane Parsons sees, is an American Airlines aircraft. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 10)
American Airlines and Reagan Airport Planes Supposedly Grounded - And yet Chris Stephenson, the supervisor in the Reagan National Airport control tower, reportedly stopped takeoffs from Reagan Airport in the minutes after 9:03 a.m., when Flight 175 hit the World Trade Center (see (9:04 a.m.-9:11 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Levin 8/11/2002) And at 9:00 a.m., American Airlines ordered all its aircraft in the Northeast United States that had not yet taken off to remain on the ground (see Between 9:00 a.m. and 9:10 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 30) Furthermore, the FAA ordered a nationwide ground stop at around 9:26 a.m., which was supposed to prevent any aircraft taking off across the US (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure 9/21/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 25) Parsons will ask Sherwood if anyone has interviewed the pilot of the American Airlines plane he saw taking off, since that pilot must have witnessed the attack on the Pentagon. Sherwood will answer no, but add, “[T]hat’s another good lead for either myself or one of the other people to follow up on.” Whether the pilot is ever identified or interviewed is unknown. (Parsons 12/13/2001)

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; Ellison 10/17/2001; Vogel 11/21/2001; Levin, Adams, and Morrison 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. (Schrader 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)

General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. [Source: VisitingDC.com]Attorney General John Ashcroft insists that the plane he is traveling on take off from Milwaukee and head to Washington, DC, even though he has been discouraged from getting airborne due to the possibility of further attacks, and his pilot has been told by air traffic control that he will not be allowed to take off. (Ashcroft 2006, pp. 117; Spencer 2008, pp. 257-258) Ashcroft was flying from Washington to Milwaukee in a Cessna Citation V jet when he learned of the attacks in New York in a phone call with the Justice Department command center. He’d wanted to immediately head back to Washington, but his pilot, David Clemmer, said they would first need to land in Milwaukee to refuel (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). Their aircraft then landed, presumably at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport.
SWAT Team Surrounds Plane - After the plane touched down, Ashcroft and the others on board were met by a SWAT team, brandishing weapons, which surrounded the plane. Then, while Clemmer took care of refueling, Ashcroft and his fellow passengers—some colleagues of his from the Justice Department—went into the airport’s evacuated terminal and found a television on which they could watch the news coverage from New York. Soon after, they learned that the Pentagon had been hit.
Ashcroft Discouraged from Taking Off - While at the airport, Ashcroft spends much of his time speaking over the phone to the Justice Department command center in Washington. He will later recall, “Some people were discouraging us from getting back on the plane until we knew whether there was going to be another attack.” But Ashcroft “didn’t want to wait that long,” so as soon as Clemmer has finished refueling the plane, Ashcroft gives him the order to take off. (Eggen 9/28/2001; Ashcroft 2006, pp. 115-117)
Ashcroft Overrules Order Not to Take Off - However, the FAA has ordered a nationwide ground stop to prevent aircraft from taking off (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and air traffic control has informed Clemmer that his plane will not be allowed to leave Milwaukee for Washington. (US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure 9/21/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 25; Spencer 2008, pp. 257-258) Clemmer therefore tells Ashcroft: “I’m sorry, sir. We can’t take off. I just received orders that we are not supposed to be flying.” But Ashcroft responds: “No, we’re going. Let’s get back in the air.” Ashcroft and his fellow passengers then board the plane. (Ashcroft 2006, pp. 117) They are joined by another Justice Department aide and another FBI agent in addition to the one who’d been on the plane when it landed in Milwaukee. (Eggen 9/28/2001)
Pilot Convinces Controller to Let Him Take Off - Clemmer is eventually able to convince air traffic control to allow him to leave Milwaukee. He then takes off and heads toward Washington. However, when Ben Sliney, the national operations manager at the FAA’s Command Center, hears about this, he will reportedly be “livid,” and Ashcroft’s plane will be ordered to land (see 10:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Ashcroft 2006, pp. 117; Spencer 2008, pp. 258)

Stacia Rountree.Stacia Rountree. [Source: Vanity Fair]Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, contacts NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and incorrectly notifies it that another aircraft, Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, is a possible hijacking. (9/11 Commission 2004; Bronner 8/1/2006) Boston Center previously called NEADS at 9:27 and said that Delta 1989 was missing (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 5/23/2003)
NEADS Technicians Respond - At NEADS, Stacia Rountree, the ID technician who takes Scoggins’s call, announces to her colleagues: “Delta ‘89, that’s the hijack. They think it’s possible hijack.… South of Cleveland.” The plane’s transponder is still on, and she adds, “We have a code on him now.” Rountree’s team leader, Master Sergeant Maureen Dooley, instructs: “Pick it up! Find it!” The NEADS technicians quickly locate Delta 1989 on their radar screens, just south of Toledo, Ohio, and start alerting other FAA centers to it. (Bronner 8/1/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 177) NEADS mission crew commander Major Kevin Nasypany will be notified by his staff of the suspected hijacking at about 9:41 or 9:42 a.m. (9/11 Commission 1/22/2004 pdf file) NEADS never loses track of Delta 1989. It will follow it on radar as it reverses course over Toledo, heads east, and then lands in Cleveland (see (10:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28) It will order Air National Guard fighter jets from Selfridge and Toledo to intercept the flight (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:01 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 178-179) But it will soon learn that Delta 1989 is not in fact hijacked. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28)
Cleveland Center, Not Boston, Handling Delta 1989 - Although Boston Center notifies NEADS of the suspected hijacking, Delta 1989 is in fact being handled by the FAA’s Cleveland Center. (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 10-12) Cleveland Center air traffic controllers suspected that Delta 1989 had been hijacked at around 9:30 a.m. (see (9:28 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but apparently only informed the FAA’s Command Center, and not NEADS, of this. (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002) To explain why Boston Center alerts NEADS to the flight, the 9/11 Commission will later comment that, “Remembering the ‘we have some planes’ remark” (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), the Boston Center simply “guessed that Delta 1989 might also be hijacked.”
Similar to First Two Hijacked Planes - Like Flights 11 and 175, the two aircraft that have crashed into the World Trade Center (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), Delta 1989 took off from Boston’s Logan Airport. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27-28) According to the New York Times, it left there at about the same time as Flights 11 and 175 did, meaning around 8:00 to 8:15 a.m. (Wald and van Natta 10/18/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 32) Like those two aircraft, it is a Boeing 767. (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27-28) But, unlike those flights, its transponder has not been turned off, and so it is still transmitting a beacon code. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Bronner 8/1/2006) It is unclear what Delta 1989’s intended destination is. According to some accounts, like Flights 11 and 175 were, it is bound for Los Angeles. (Singer 9/11/2001; Wald and van Natta 10/18/2001; Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; Velez 9/24/2007; Spencer 2008, pp. 167) Other accounts will say that its destination is Las Vegas. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Bronner 8/1/2006) Personnel at NEADS are apparently informed that Las Vegas is the intended destination. Around this time, one member of staff there tells her colleagues that the flight is “supposed to go to Vegas.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)
One of Numerous Incorrect Reports - The 9/11 Commission will comment: “During the course of the morning, there were multiple erroneous reports of hijacked aircraft (see (9:09 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001). The report of American 11 heading south was the first (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001); Delta 1989 was the second.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28)

Marc Sasseville.Marc Sasseville. [Source: CBC]Four pilots with the District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG) at Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, finally receive authorization to get airborne in their fighter jets, and are given instructions on their mission. The pilots are Lieutenant Colonel Marc Sasseville, Lieutenant Heather Penney Garcia, Captain Brandon Rasmussen, and Major Daniel Caine.
Pilot Waiting 'for Somebody to Task Me with Something' - Rasmussen will later recall that, although he and his colleagues at the unit had been aware of the attacks in New York, it is only after the Pentagon is hit (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001) that “we knew that we were going to be sticking around home and being quite busy.” And until the pilots are authorized to take off, he is “just kind of standing back, waiting for somebody to task me with something.” He will recall, “I was just waiting at the ops desk for someone to say, ‘Okay, we’ve been cleared to take off and go.’”
Sasseville Briefs Other Pilots - Rasmussen says that, after Sasseville and Caine receive authorization from their wing commander to get airborne and to use missiles, Sasseville, who is the acting operations group commander, looks at Penney Garcia and says, “You’re flying with me, and [Caine] you’re flying with [Rasmussen], do suit up and get out there as quick as possible.” According to another account, Sasseville gives his three fellow pilots a short briefing, telling them: “I have no idea what’s going on, but we’re flying. Here’s our frequency. We’ll split up the area as we have to. Just defend as required. We’ll talk about the rest in the air.” (Scott 9/9/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 82-84; Rasmussen 9/18/2003) Sasseville will recall, “There wasn’t a whole hell of a lot to talk about, because we didn’t know what was going on.” (Vogel 2007, pp. 446)
Pilots Prepare to Fly - According to Rasmussen: “We were relieved to actually be given permission to go up and do something instead of feeling totally helpless. I mean we are fighter pilots, just like guard dogs chomping at the bit ready to go.” The four pilots run down the hallway and throw on their gear, grabbing their helmets, g-suits, and parachute harnesses, before heading to the operations desk to get their aircraft assignments. (Scott 9/9/2002; Rasmussen 9/18/2003)
Commander Gives Instructions - According to author Leslie Filson, before Sasseville and Penney Garcia head to their jets, Brigadier General David Wherley, the commander of the DC Air National Guard, gives them instructions, regarding their mission. As Wherley will later recall, “My translation of the rules [of engagement] to [Sasseville] was, ‘You have weapons free flight-lead control.’” (Filson 2003, pp. 82) “Weapons free” means the decision whether to shoot at a hostile aircraft rests with the lead pilot. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 44) Wherley says, “Do you understand what I’m asking you to do?” and both pilots respond, “Yes.” Wherley then tells them to be careful. “It was important for them to understand that this was weapons free,” he will recall. (Filson 2003, pp. 82) However, Sasseville will tell the 9/11 Commission that he does not remember receiving the rules of engagement he is supposed to follow until later on, after he has taken off. (9/11 Commission 3/8/2004 pdf file)
Jets Don't Launch until 10:42 and After - The exact times when the four pilots are authorized to get airborne and receive their mission instructions are unclear. But Sasseville and Penney Garcia will take off from Andrews at 10:42 a.m., with their planes armed only with guns, and no missiles (see 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001). Rasmussen and Caine take off at 11:11 a.m., by which time their jets have been armed with missiles (see 11:11 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 82-84; 9/11 Commission 2004)

Alice Hoglan, the mother of Mark Bingham, a passenger on Flight 93, informs the FBI that her son has just phoned her from the plane, and then calls Bingham’s cell phone and leaves two voicemail messages. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/17/2001; Barrett 2002, pp. 157-158) Alice Hoglan is currently staying at the home of her brother, Vaughn Hoglan, and his wife in Saratoga, California. (Longman 2002, pp. 129; Ganahl 9/10/2003) Bingham has just called her and told her his flight was taken over by three men who said they had a bomb, but the call got broken off after less than three minutes (see (9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 5/13/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 41, 99)
Bingham's Mother Realizes Flight 93 Will Likely Crash - No one in the Hoglan household was aware of the terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon. But after the call from Bingham ends, Vaughn Hoglan switches on the television to see if there is any news about Flight 93 and the family sees, for the first time, the recorded footage of Flight 175 crashing into the World Trade Center (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (BBC 12/2001; Barrett 2002, pp. 157) Alice Hoglan then realizes the hijacking of Flight 93 is part of a “grand and ugly scheme,” and that her son’s plane will likely crash, too. (Yun 1/28/2005; Sulek 9/10/2011)
Bingham's Mother Tells the FBI about the Hijacking - Being a flight attendant with United Airlines, she calls her airline to ask about her son’s plane. (Sanchez 8/25/2011) However, she will later recall, all she gets is a recorded message, which states, “United Flight 93 left Newark at 8:01 a.m. and will arrive San Francisco, Gate 82, at 11:19 a.m.” (BBC 12/2001) She also calls 9-1-1 to report what has happened. She is put through to the San Francisco division of the FBI and speaks to an agent there. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/17/2001) The agent asks her a series of questions about the hijackers on Flight 93, but she is unable to answer them.
Bingham's Mother Leaves Messages for Her Son - Alice Hoglan then tries calling her son twice on his cell phone, intending to let him know the full scale of the attack that his plane’s hijacking is part of. On both occasions, she has to leave messages on his voicemail. She makes the first call at 9:54 a.m. (Because she is flustered, she miscalculates the East Coast time by an hour during the call and also mistakenly says Flight 93 might be used as a “target” rather than as a “weapon.”) She says: “Mark, this is your mom. It’s 10:54 a.m. [Eastern Time]. The news is that it’s been hijacked by terrorists. They are planning to probably use the plane as a target to hit some site on the ground. So, if you possibly can, try to overpower these guys if you can, ‘cause they will probably use the plane as a target. I would say go ahead and do everything you can to overpower them, because they’re hellbent. Try to call me back if you can. You know the number here. Okay, I love you sweetie. Bye.” A minute or so later she calls Bingham’s cell phone again and leaves a second, similar message. Among other things, she urges her son to “group some people and perhaps do the best you can to get control of [the plane].” (Barrett 2002, pp. 157-158; Sulek 9/10/2011; McMillan 2014, pp. 122) Bingham will never receive these messages. (ABC News 3/30/2002) His plane will crash in a field in Pennsylvania 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). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 14, 30)

An F-16C Fighting Falcon of the 148th Fighter Wing.An F-16C Fighting Falcon of the 148th Fighter Wing. [Source: Brett R. Ewald / US Air Force]NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) tries to get fighter jets from a military unit in Duluth, Minnesota, sent after Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, but the unit is unable to respond. (9/11 Commission 1/22/2004 pdf file) NEADS has been contacted by the FAA’s Boston Center and incorrectly told that Delta 1989 is a possible hijacking (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). The aircraft is just south of Toledo, Ohio, and Colonel Robert Marr and Major Kevin Nasypany order the troops at NEADS to call Air National Guard bases in that area to see if any of them can launch fighters. (9/11 Commission 2004; Bronner 8/1/2006)
NEADS Calls Duluth - The staff attempts to get a unit in Duluth to send jets toward the Delta flight. (9/11 Commission 1/22/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 1/23/2004 pdf file) Presumably the unit they call is the 148th Fighter Wing of the Minnesota Air National Guard, which is located at the Duluth International Airport and flies the F-16 Fighting Falcon. (GlobalSecurity (.org) 8/21/2005) Unlike Otis Air National Guard Base and Langley Air Force Base, the 148th FW at Duluth is not one of NORAD’s seven “alert” sites around the US. However, its mission does include “air superiority and air defense functions.” (McKenna 12/1999; US Air Force 2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17)
Duluth Has 'Nobody Available' - The Duluth unit is unable to respond to NEADS’s request for help. (9/11 Commission 1/22/2004 pdf file) The reason for this is unclear. At 9:46 a.m., a member of staff on the NEADS operations floor will report that “Duluth has night flying, so there’s nobody available.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; Donaldson and Johnson 6/2008, pp. 47 pdf file) Marr will subsequently instruct NEADS personnel to contact every Air National Guard unit in the Northeast US with instructions to get their fighters airborne (see (Between 9:50 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). NEADS will also order Air National Guard jets from Selfridge and Toledo to intercept Delta 1989 (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:01 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Spencer 2008, pp. 178-180)

John Keane.John Keane. [Source: US Army]The Army’s Crisis Action Team (CAT) at the Pentagon is “formally stood up” and its members respond to the terrorist attacks. (Rossow 2003, pp. 66; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 135; Cohn 9/8/2011) Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Stramara activated the CAT after the second hijacked aircraft crashed into the World Trade Center, at 9:03 a.m., on the orders of Major General Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s director of operations, readiness, and mobilization (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Chiarelli 2/5/2002; Lofgren 2011, pp. 96-97) Chiarelli’s intention was, he said, “to respond to the contingency in New York if requested by state and local officials.” (Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 134) The CAT is now “formally stood up,” according to author Robert Rossow, although exactly what this means is unstated.
Senior Officials Come to Operations Center - When the CAT is activated, its members assemble in the Army Operations Center (AOC) in the basement of the Pentagon. (Rossow 2003, pp. 64, 66) Numerous senior officials now start arriving in the AOC. These include General John Keane, vice chief of staff of the Army; Brigadier General Clyde Vaughn, deputy director of operations, readiness, and mobilization; Major General Philip Kensinger, assistant deputy chief of staff for operations and plans; and Thomas White, the secretary of the Army. More senior officers come to the AOC than would usually be the case in a crisis, according to Chiarelli, “because a large portion of the Army section of the building had been destroyed” in the attack on the Pentagon. “People had been forced out of their space,” he will later say, and “were looking for some place to go.” (Chiarelli 2/5/2002; Vaughn 2/12/2002; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 135; Lofgren 2011, pp. 98-101; Baier 9/12/2011)
Operations Center Personnel Unaware that a Plane Hit the Pentagon - Chiarelli arrived at the AOC shortly before the Pentagon was hit (see (Shortly Before 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and, he will recall, heard a “muffled noise” when the attack occurred, at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Chiarelli 2/5/2002; Lofgren 2011, pp. 98-99) Colonel Henry Huntley, who also arrived at the AOC around the time of the Pentagon attack, will recall, “Alarms started going off and there was an announcement that an explosion had gone off in the building.” (Ellich 7/8/2008) However, those in the AOC are apparently initially unaware that a plane has hit their building. Vaughn, who witnessed the attack from the road outside the Pentagon, calls Major George Sterling, the AOC commandant, and says to him, “You know that you’ve been hit by an airplane?” Sterling responds, “Is that what happened?” Vaughn will comment that “many people… didn’t find out for some time” that the Pentagon had been hit by an airplane. (Vaughn 2/12/2002; Rossow 2003, pp. 15-16; Lofgren 2011, pp. 3-4)
Support Agency Commander Unaware that the US Is under Attack - Colonel Bruce Bachus, commander of the Command and Control Support Agency, who is responsible for keeping the AOC operating, arrived at the Pentagon around the time the attack there occurred and yet he is unaware of the crisis taking place in the US when he gets to the AOC. In the AOC, Dick Mansfield, deputy director of the Command and Control Support Agency, says to him: “We’ve been hit! The CAT has been stood up!” But Bachus appears to be puzzled. Mansfield therefore asks him, “Sir, do you know what’s going on?” Bachus says no and that he had not been listening to the radio—like he usually does—while he drove to work. He says he heard a loud sound while he was in the Pentagon’s A-E Drive, and saw people shouting and running down the corridors, but he’d had no idea what was going on. Mansfield therefore has to quickly brief him on the catastrophic events of the past hour. (Rossow 2003, pp. 9, 68)
Crisis Team Assesses How Many Army Staffers Are Missing - The “first big task” for the CAT, according to Vaughn, is “to get a count on how many people were missing on the Army staff.” Chiarelli instructs Vaughn to focus on this assignment. Vaughn then announces on the CAT floor that he wants each section “to start that process of figuring out who was missing and who was not.” “For a long time, our number one priority was locating and identifying and taking care of… our soldiers and civilians,” Vaughn will say. (Vaughn 2/12/2002) Lieutenant Colonel Richard Kotch, who is working in the AOC this morning, will recall that those in the operations center also “assured continuity of operations after the impact [i.e. the attack on the Pentagon].” (Cohn 9/8/2011)
Intelligence Officers Give Inaccurate Reports of Hijackings - Meanwhile, after he arrives at the AOC, Chiarelli receives reports from his intelligence officers informing him, inaccurately, about additional hijacked aircraft. He is told there are “a minimum of four aircraft that were hijacked and a possibility, at one time, [of] as high as seven.” (Chiarelli 2/5/2002; Lofgren 2011, pp. 99)
Operations Center Has Sophisticated Equipment - The CAT, according to Soldiers magazine, “consists of a dedicated ‘hot’ desk with classified and unclassified computers, and secure telephones for 24 separate Army staff sections.” (Schwab and Jewell 9/2004) The AOC, where its members assemble, is equipped with state-of-the-art communications equipment and has television sets for monitoring news coverage. (Vogel 8/25/1995) A glassed-in balcony overlooks the main floor and four giant screens are on the wall above the computer workstations. (Chiarelli 2/5/2002; Lofgren 2011, pp. 99-100)
Watch Team Regularly Communicates with Government Agencies - AOC personnel usually work around the clock to keep senior Army leaders aware of issues and events around the world. A watch team monitors the world constantly and is ready to sound the alarm if a crisis erupts somewhere. The watch team also “directs hundreds of communications daily to the FBI, the State Department, the White House command center, local law enforcement agencies, and others,” according to Soldiers magazine. The AOC is equipped with an “emergency action console,” which is a switchboard with a sophisticated communications system that allows watch team members to contact, at the touch of a button, the White House, the secretary of defense’s office, and Army commands around the world. (Vogel 8/25/1995; Schwab and Jewell 9/2004) The CAT will become “a focal point for all Pentagon activities” in response to the terrorist attacks, according to Kotch. (Cohn 9/8/2011) It will continue working around the clock in the aftermath of the attacks. (Chiarelli 2/5/2002)

The White House mess.The White House mess. [Source: Unknown]People at the White House are ordered to go to the “mess,” the senior staff dining room. David Kuo, a special assistant to the president, and John Bridgeland, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, will later recall being ordered to go downstairs to the mess by armed Secret Service agents. Meanwhile, Anita McBride, the acting director of White House personnel, is instructed by members of the Secret Service to “go through West Wing offices and tell everyone to ‘get out’ and stay put” in the mess. (Kuo 2006, pp. 185; McBride 9/9/2011; Bridgeland 2012, pp. 3) Mary Matalin, a counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney, will recall, “Everyone still remaining in the West Wing was shepherded to the White House mess, where we were to await further instructions.” (Carville and Matalin 2014, pp. 138)
Mess Is a 'Tiny, Unsecure' Facility - The White House mess is an exclusive dining facility run by the US Navy, located in the basement of the West Wing, just under the Oval Office. (Ingle 12/1/2001; Geraghty 10/8/2013) Bridgeland will recall thinking “how odd it was” for White House staffers to all be evacuated to this “tiny, unsecure” facility. (Bridgeland 2012, pp. 4) People in the mess are watching television or just waiting. (Estes 8/29/2002) Kuo will describe: “All the tables had been tossed onto their sides to make room for as many people as possible. Fifty people stood there, shocked, quiet, confused.” (Kuo 2006, pp. 185)
People Ordered to the Mess after the Pentagon Attack - The exact time at which staffers are ordered to go to the mess is unclear. Matalin will recall being told to go there “moments” after she sees Cheney being evacuated from his office, which would be some time shortly after 9:36 a.m. (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (National Review 9/8/2011; Carville and Matalin 2014, pp. 137-138) Bridgeland and Kuo will recall being ordered to go there shortly after they learn the Pentagon has been hit, which would be some time after 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon attack occurred (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Kuo 2006, pp. 184-185; Bridgeland 2012, pp. 3)
People in the Mess Ordered to Leave the Building - People will only spend a short time in the mess before they are told to get out of the building. The Secret Service will reportedly order them to evacuate the White House at 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Associated Press 2001 pdf file; Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002) Bridgeland will describe: “[A]n alarmed police officer came into the White House mess and instructed us to leave. Another officer outside was receiving the latest communications by wire (apparently alerted that United Airlines Flight 93 was headed toward the White House or US Capitol building) and commanded us, ‘Take off your shoes and run as fast as you can.’” (Bridgeland 2012, pp. 4) Matalin will recall that the order she hears, which is delivered “in a weirdly calm manner,” is: “Run for your lives. A plane is going to hit the White House.” (Carville and Matalin 2014, pp. 138)

United Airlines orders all its flights to land at the nearest airport. Andy Studdert, the airline’s chief operating officer, will tell the 9/11 Commission, “At approximately 9:45 I order the entire United fleet grounded, for the first time in United history.” He will add, “Even before this, some individual dispatchers were already grounding their flights.” (9/11 Commission 1/27/2004) Studdert gives the instruction, “Tell them to get to the nearest airport they can.” (Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002) The FAA gives out a similar order to all its facilities around this time (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 29) American Airlines ordered its aircraft to land earlier on, at around 9:15 (see (9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 31) United Airlines has already ordered a ground stop, preventing any new takeoffs of its aircraft (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 10)

Engine Company 16.Engine Company 16. [Source: District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department]The District of Columbia Fire Department (DCFD) sends engines to the White House after the Secret Service incorrectly reports that a plane has crashed into the presidential residence and the building is on fire. As well as reporting the supposed plane crash and fire, the Secret Service says the White House, or at least part of it (the specific details are unclear), has collapsed. In response to the report, the fire communications center dispatches a “box alarm” from Engine Company 16, the station that serves the White House. (Witt 9/21/2001; Ward 4/2002 pdf file; Smith 10/31/2002) A box alarm consists of four engines, two trucks, a rescue company, and a battalion chief. (Ward 4/2002 pdf file) Since the alleged incident is at the White House—the home of the US president—the response is increased by sending an additional battalion chief and the deputy fire chief, Rogers Massey, to deal with it. And because a building collapse has been reported, the DCFD’s cave-in task force, which comprises Rescue 3, Battalion Chief 3, Engine 15, and the hazmat (hazardous materials) task force, is also sent. However, when the crews arrive at the White House, they are promptly told to leave. A uniformed Secret Service officer waves them away and says: “Get the f_ck outta here! There’s a plane coming in!” Lieutenant Jeff Wright, one of the firefighters involved in the response, will later recall the turn of events, saying: “It was mass confusion. We go down to the White House and no one knows what’s going on. We could see smoke coming from Virginia [where the Pentagon is located].” The report of the incident at the White House is investigated and determined to be unfounded. However, after he receives intelligence reports from the FBI, Special Operations Battalion Chief Michael Sellitto decides he will keep his units near the White House in case attacks should subsequently occur there or at the Capitol building. (Witt 9/21/2001; Ward 4/2002 pdf file; Smith 10/31/2002) The DCFD will also respond to the attack on the Pentagon, which occurred at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). It will dispatch a box alarm to the Department of Defense’s headquarters at around 9:48 a.m. (DCFD (.com) 9/12/2001; Witt 9/21/2001; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 72)

A man who is on the 105th floor of the South Tower calls emergency 9-1-1 to report that floors below his location, “in the 90-something floor,” have collapsed. The 9-1-1 operator types a record of this call into the Special Police Radio Inquiry Network (SPRINT) data link, which will be passed on to the New York fire department’s Emergency Medical Service (EMS). It isn’t known when the call is made exactly, but the EMS Dispatch computer apparently receives the call record at this time. However, because it is classified as a “supplement message,” it is not yet read by anyone. The police dispatcher dealing with the area around the WTC also receives the call record, but misinterprets it as meaning that the floor the person is on has collapsed. EMS dispatchers are dealing with an enormous volume of calls as well as performing many other tasks under extreme pressure during the crisis, so a report later concludes that the EMS operators didn’t have the time to review the information before the collapse of the South Tower at 9:59 (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001), and the fire chiefs never received the information. (New York City Fire Department 8/19/2002)

Senator John Kerry looks up to the sky as he and others evacuate.Senator John Kerry looks up to the sky as he and others evacuate. [Source: CBC]The Capitol building in Washington, DC is evacuated. (Associated Press 8/21/2002) It is the first time in US history this has ever happened. (Zuckman 9/12/2001; Mitchell and Seelye 9/12/2001) Both the Senate and the House are in session at the time. (CNN 8/17/2002) Capitol Police officers go through the building and order people to leave at once. (Lancaster and Dewar 9/12/2001; CNN 9/11/2002)
Reports of Plane Approaching the Capitol - The evacuation appears to be in response to reports of a plane heading toward the Capitol. (Associated Press 9/11/2001; CNN 8/17/2002; Bamford 2004, pp. 80-81) According to CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash, “the Capitol Police were hearing, in their radio, that there was a plane—another plane in the air, likely headed for the Capitol.” (CNN 9/11/2006) When a Capitol Police officer instructs Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) to leave the building, he says: “We have word that an airplane is heading this way and could hit the building anytime. You need to evacuate.”
'Nothing Orderly' about Evacuation - However, there are problems with the evacuation. According to Daschle, “The fire alarm system, which was working in the nearby Senate office buildings, was never activated in the Capitol, so there were people who weren’t aware that an evacuation was taking place.” Also, some individuals are reluctant to leave. (Daschle and D'Orso 2003, pp. 109-110) Rep. Bob Stump (R-AZ) will recall: “They tried to throw me out three times, but they didn’t succeed. I figured I was safer in the building than out on the street.” (Associated Press 9/11/2001) Daschle will recall that there is “nothing orderly” about the evacuation. Outside the building “No one knew what to do or where to go. People congregated on the grass and in the parking lot. Senators and staff were mixed in with tourists, all staring up at the sky, wondering what might be headed our way.” (Daschle and D'Orso 2003, pp. 110) CNN will report, “[S]ome of the most high ranking officials in the United States government were just kind of scattered around this area without a gathering point.” (CNN 9/11/2006)
Sergeant at Arms Concerned over Poor Security - Al Lenhardt, the Senate’s sergeant at arms, will later say how alarmed he was “to see members of Congress and their staffs mixed in with visitors and passersby wandering in the open around the Capitol grounds. One of the tactics that terrorists have been known to employ is to create a diversion to move their intended target to the area where the actual attack will take place. Al imagined a bomb or gunfire erupting right there on the lawn outside the Capitol.” (Daschle and D'Orso 2003, pp. 111) Eventually, many of the members of Congress go to the Capitol Police headquarters, which then serves as their command center for the day (see (9:55 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001 and (10:00 a.m.-6:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (CNN 9/11/2002; Daschle and D'Orso 2003, pp. 112)

A fighter and helicopter both fly directly above the Pentagon on 9/11 on the morning of 9/11. Exact time is unknown.A fighter and helicopter both fly directly above the Pentagon on 9/11 on the morning of 9/11. Exact time is unknown. [Source: Agence France-Presse]The three F-16s scrambled from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, at 9:30 a.m. finally reach Washington and the burning Pentagon. The 129 mile distance could theoretically have been covered by the fighters in six minutes, but they’ve taken a wide detour over the ocean (see 9:30 a.m.-9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). The exact time they arrive is unclear. An early timeline laid out to CNN by senior Defense Department officials will claim they arrive as early as 9:49 a.m., but the 9/11 Commission later claims they only establish “a combat air patrol (CAP) over Washington” at “approximately 10:00 a.m.” (CBS News 9/14/2001; CNN 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 34)
Conflicting Press Accounts - Press accounts of when the first fighters reach Washington are highly contradictory. Early news accounts describe fighters arriving from Andrews Air Force Base, not Langley, “within minutes,” “a few moments,” or “just moments” after the Pentagon crash. (McAllister 9/11/2001; Wastell and Jacobson 9/16/2001; ABC News 9/11/2002) Other newspaper accounts inaccurately deny that fighters from Andrews are deployed (Weisman 9/16/2001) , and some deny Andrews even has fighters available. (Stone 9/16/2001) Defense officials will initially claim, “There were no military planes in the skies over Washington until 15 to 20 minutes after the Pentagon was hit”—in other words, 9:53 a.m. to 9:58 a.m. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 9/14/2001) But an ABC News report will suggest that by around 10:00 a.m., “Dozens of fighters are buzzing in the sky” over Washington. (ABC News 9/11/2002)
Fighter Jets Don't Arrive until Later? - In contrast, the New York Times reports: “In the White House Situation Room and at the Pentagon, the response seemed agonizingly slow. One military official recalls hearing words to the effect of, ‘Where are the planes?’” The Pentagon will insist it had air cover over its own building by 10 a.m. However, numerous witnesses on the ground, including a reporter for the New York Times who is headed toward the building, will say they did not see any fighters until around 10:40 a.m., or “closer to 11” (see (10:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sanger and van Natta 9/16/2001; Creed and Newman 2008, pp. 130-131) According to some accounts, the plane that flies over the Pentagon at that time is Major Billy Hutchison’s F-16, launched from Andrews Air Force Base. (Filson 2003, pp. 81-82; Spencer 2008, pp. 235-236) NORAD will initially claim the Langley fighters were about 105 miles from the Pentagon when it was hit at 9:37, and the 9/11 Commission will later claim they were 150 miles away (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27)

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