!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News

Context of '(9:27 a.m.-10:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Passengers See Only Three Hijackers on Flight 93'

This is a scalable context timeline. It contains events related to the event (9:27 a.m.-10:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Passengers See Only Three Hijackers on Flight 93. You can narrow or broaden the context of this timeline by adjusting the zoom level. The lower the scale, the more relevant the items on average will be, while the higher the scale, the less relevant the items, on average, will be.

A NORAD training exercise that is taking place this morning, presumably Vigilant Guardian (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), is reportedly canceled shortly after 9:03, when the second World Trade Center tower is hit. [Airman, 3/2002] NORAD Commander Larry Arnold later says that after Flight 175 hits the South Tower, “I thought it might be prudent to pull out of the exercise, which we did.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 59] According to author Lynn Spencer: “The phone calls start flying between the various NORAD command centers. General Arnold calls Maj. Gen. Rick Findley” at NORAD’s operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, “to give him the latest information and have him withdraw all forces from the simulated exercise.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 86] Arnold will recall, “As we pulled out of the exercise we were getting calls about United Flight 93 and we were worried about that.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 59] Some early accounts say the military receives notification of the possible hijacking of Flight 93 at around 9:16 a.m. (see 9:16 a.m. September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/17/2001; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] However, the 9/11 Commission will later claim that NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) first receives a call about Flight 93 at 10:07 a.m. (see 10:05 a.m.-10:08 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Arnold will add, “Then we had another call from Boston Center about a possible hijacking, but that turned out to be the airplane that had already hit the South Tower but we didn’t know that at the time.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 59]

Entity Tags: Larry Arnold, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Vigilant Guardian, Eric A. “Rick” Findley

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

According to an early timeline laid out to CNN by unnamed but “informed defense officials,” the FAA informs NORAD at this time that Flight 93 may have been hijacked. [CNN, 9/17/2001] In public testimony before the 9/11 Commission in 2003, NORAD officials will similarly claim that the FAA first reports the possible hijacking of Flight 93 at this time. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] Yet this is 12 minutes before the hijacking is meant to have occurred (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 38] One explanation is put forward that could possibly help explain the discrepancy: There are media reports that “investigators had determined from the cockpit voice recorder from United Airlines Flight 93… that one of the four hijackers had been invited into the cockpit area before the flight took off from Newark, New Jersey.” Cockpit voice recordings indicate that the pilots believed their guest was a colleague “and was thereby extended the typical airline courtesy of allowing any pilot from any airline to join a flight by sitting in the jumpseat, the folded over extra seat located inside the cockpit.” [Fox News, 9/24/2001; Herald Sun (Melbourne), 9/25/2001] This would be consistent with passenger phone calls from the plane, describing only three hijackers on Flight 93 (see (9:27 a.m.-10:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Longman, 2002, pp. 120] However, the reports will not be confirmed. The 9/11 Commission Report will dismiss the claim that NORAD was alerted at 9:16, stating, “In public testimony before this Commission in May 2003, NORAD officials stated that at 9:16, NEADS received hijack notification of United 93 from the FAA. This statement was incorrect. There was no hijack to report at 9:16. United 93 was proceeding normally at that time.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 34] No further explanations will be offered for the incorrect timelines. NORAD’s own initial timeline, released on September 18, 2001, will not give a time for when the FAA alerted it to Flight 93. It will only say that the FAA and its Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) “established a line of open communication discussing AA Flt 77 and UA Flt 93.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001]

Entity Tags: Northeast Air Defense Sector, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

According to journalist and author Jere Longman, “On all phone calls made from [Flight 93], passengers reported seeing only three hijackers. Not a single caller reported four hijackers.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 120] (As an exception, one article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette claims that passenger Todd Beamer describes four hijackers; however, other reports say he describes only three (see 9:45 a.m.-9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001] ) Yet the official claim is that there are four hijackers on this plane. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/27/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 4] Some family members of the passengers and crew will later be suspicious that one of the hijackers was in the plane’s cockpit from takeoff (see 9:16 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, according to Longman, “Investigators, pilots, flight attendants and United officials tended to discount this theory.… Paperwork would have to be filled out in advance if an observer requested to sit in the cockpit. No request was made for Flight 93, United officials later reported.… Flight 93 was hijacked approximately forty-five minutes after it left Newark. Other pilots agreed that Captain Dahl likely would have requested that any observer return to his regular seat by that time.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 120] The 9/11 Commission’s explanation for the reports of three hijackers instead of four is that Ziad Jarrah, “the crucial pilot-trained member of [the hijacker’s] team, remained seated and inconspicuous until after the cockpit was seized; and once inside, he would not have been visible to the passengers.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 12]

Entity Tags: Jere Longman

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Jason Dahl.Jason Dahl. [Source: Publicity photo]According to the 9/11 Commission, less than a minute after Flight 93 acknowledged a routine radio transmission from the FAA’s Cleveland Center (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001), John Werth—the controller handling the flight—and pilots of other aircraft in the vicinity of Flight 93 hear “a radio transmission of unintelligible sounds of possible screaming or a struggle from an unknown origin.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; CBS News, 9/10/2006] Someone, presumably Flight 93’s pilot Jason Dahl, is overheard by controllers as he shouts, “Mayday!” [New York Times, 7/22/2004] Seconds later, the controller responds, “Somebody call Cleveland?” Then there are more sounds of screaming and someone yelling, “Get out of here, get out of here.” [Toronto Sun, 9/16/2001; Newsweek, 9/22/2001; Observer, 12/2/2001; MSNBC, 7/30/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Then the voices of the hijackers can be heard talking in Arabic. The words are later translated to show they are talking to each other, saying, “Everything is fine.” [Newsweek, 12/3/2001] Later, passenger phone calls will describe two dead or injured bodies just outside the cockpit; presumably these are the two pilots. [New York Times, 7/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center, John Werth, 9/11 Commission, Jason Dahl

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Lisa Jefferson.Lisa Jefferson. [Source: Lisa Jefferson]Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer reaches a GTE operator using one of the plane’s seatback phones. He had tried using his credit card on the phone, but been unable to get authorization, so his call is routed to a customer service center in the Chicago area. [Newsweek, 9/22/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 198-199; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 11 pdf file] Beamer initially reaches operator Phyllis Johnson, who calls customer service supervisor Lisa Jefferson over and informs her of the call. As Jefferson later recalls, “I asked [Johnson] information that I needed to report to our surveillance center. And by the time I came back, she appeared to be traumatized, and that’s when I told her I would take the call over… She was just dazed.” Having immediately contacted the FBI, airline security, and GTE operations personnel, Jefferson gets on the line and speaks to Beamer for the next 13 minutes (see 9:45 a.m.-9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/22/2001; Orlando Sentinel, 9/5/2002; Beliefnet (.com), 2006] She later informs Beamer’s wife Lisa, “[I]t was a miracle that Todd’s call hadn’t been disconnected. Because of the enormous number of calls that day, the GTE systems overloaded and lines were being disconnected all around her… She kept thinking, This call is going to get dropped! Yet Todd stayed connected… all the way to the end.” [Beamer and Abraham, 2002, pp. 217] According to journalist and author Jere Longman, “GTE-Verizon [does] not routinely tape its telephone calls. As a supervisor, [Jefferson] would have been the one to monitor the taping, but she did not want to risk losing the call.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 199] Yet an early article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette will claim that, “because it was to an operator,” Beamer’s call “was tape-recorded.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/19/2001] Lisa Beamer will only be informed of her husband’s call from Flight 93 three days later, and be read a summary of it written by Jefferson (see September 14, 2001). [Newsweek, 12/3/2001]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Phyllis Johnson, Lisa Jefferson, Todd Beamer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Todd Beamer.
Todd Beamer. [Source: Family photo]After having trouble getting authorization on an Airfone to call his family (see 9:43 a.m. September 11, 2001), Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer is able to speak to GTE customer service supervisor Lisa Jefferson. Jefferson, who quickly alerts the FBI about Beamer’s call, talks to him for 13 minutes. According to a report in the London Observer, she has the FBI simultaneously on another line, offering guidance. She immediately asks Beamer for details of the flight, like “What is your flight number? What is the situation? Where are the crew members?” With the help of a flight attendant sitting next to him, Beamer details the numbers of passengers and crew on the plane. He says the hijackers have divided the passengers into two groups, with ten of them in first class at the front of the plane, and 27 in the back. (Jefferson’s written summary of the conversation will say that the larger number of passengers was in the front. However, Beamer’s wife later says that Jefferson informed her it was in fact the other way around.) According to some reports, Beamer says three people have hijacked the plane. Two of them, armed with knives, are in the cockpit and have locked the door; the third is in first class with what appears to be a bomb strapped around his waist. A curtain has been closed separating first class from the coach section of the plane. Other accounts claim the hijacker with the bomb is in fact in the rear of the plane. According to one report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Beamer describes four hijackers in total: the two in the cockpit, the one with the bomb guarding the passengers in the back of the plane, and a fourth in first class. But the Orlando Sentinel says Beamer tells Jefferson he is free to talk because the hijacker in first class has closed the curtain, indicating there is no hijacker at the back of the plane. (Beamer himself is at the back of plane, calling from a phone in row 32.) According to an early article in Newsweek, he says that one passenger is dead and he doesn’t know about the pilots. However, journalist and author Jere Longman later writes that Beamer describes to Jefferson two people on the floor in fist class, possibly dead. The flight attendant next to him can be overheard saying these are the plane’s captain and co-pilot. The attendant does not mention their names or say they are wearing uniforms, but she sounds certain. Beamer then repeats what the attendant has told him. At some point in the call, Beamer asks, “Do you know what [the hijackers] want? Money or ransom or what?” He seems unaware of the other hijackings that have occurred. Jefferson informs him of the two planes crashing in New York. [Chicago Tribune, 9/16/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/19/2001; Newsweek, 9/22/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/22/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Observer, 12/2/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 198-200; Orlando Sentinel, 9/5/2002; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 11 pdf file] Beamer says of the hijackers, “It doesn’t seem like they know how to fly the plane.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/17/2001] He also tells Jefferson about himself, including where he is from, that he has two sons, and that his wife is expecting a third child in January. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/22/2001] He tells her, “I just want to talk to somebody and just let someone know that this is happening.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 204]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Lisa Jefferson, Todd Beamer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Marion Britton.Marion Britton. [Source: US Census Bureau]Flight 93 passenger Marion Britton calls her longtime friend Fred Fiumano at his auto repair shop in New York City, and talks to him for just under four minutes. According to the Chicago Tribune, she is using a cell phone. [Chicago Tribune, 9/30/2001; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] Journalist and author Jere Longman writes that, because her own cell phone is not working, Britton is using a borrowed phone (i.e. a cell phone). She gives Fiumano the phone number belonging to another passenger and tells him to write it down. [Longman, 2002, pp. 162 and 166] However, during the 2006 Zacarias Moussaoui trial, the prosecution claims that Britton, who had been assigned a seat in row 12 of the plane, makes her call from a phone in row 33, presumably meaning a seatback phone rather than a cell phone. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 12 pdf file] Britton is crying. She tells Fiumano her plane has been hijacked and has made a U-turn. When he tells her that the World Trade Center is on fire, she replies, “I know, and we’re going to go down.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/22/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001] Britton says, “They’re gonna kill us, you know, we’re gonna die.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2006] Fiumano tries to reassure her, but she responds, “Two passengers have had their throats cut.” [New York Times, 4/13/2006] (In passenger Todd Beamer’s call from Flight 93 (see 9:45 a.m.-9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001), a flight attendant is reportedly heard in the background saying that two men lying on the floor in first class, possibly dead, are the plane’s pilot and co-pilot. It is unclear if these are the two people that Britton refers to as having had their throats cut, and she’d simply mistaken them for passengers. [Longman, 2002, pp. 199] ) Fiumano hears a lot of yelling and screaming, and then the line goes dead. He tries calling Britton back but is unable to get through. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/22/2001]

Entity Tags: Marion Britton, Fred Fiumano

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Since 9:45 a.m., Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer has been talking by Airfone to Lisa Jefferson, a GTE customer service supervisor (see 9:45 a.m.-9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). Beamer is a devout Christian, and asks Jefferson to recite the Lord’s Prayer with him. He then recites the 23rd Psalm. He also gives her his home phone number and tells her to contact his wife if he does not survive, and let his family know how much he loves them. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/17/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/22/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 198-200] He tells Jefferson that some of the passengers are going to “jump” the hijacker who claims to have a bomb, and try to seize control of the plane. He says, “We’re going to do something. I know I’m not going to get out of this.” In the background, Jefferson can hear an “awful commotion” of people shouting, and women screaming, “Oh my God,” “God help us,” and “Help us Jesus.” Beamer lets go of the phone but leaves it connected. Jefferson can hear him speaking to someone else, saying the words that later become famous: “Are you ready guys? Let’s roll” (alternate version: “You ready? Okay. Let’s roll”). [Newsweek, 9/22/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 203-204] Beamer reportedly talks to Jefferson for 13 minutes, meaning his last words to her are at 9:58 a.m. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/16/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/19/2001] Jefferson then hears more screaming and other commotion. She remains on the phone until after the time Flight 93 crashes (see (9:59 a.m.-10:49 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Orlando Sentinel, 9/5/2002]

Entity Tags: Lisa Jefferson, Todd Beamer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

GTE customer service supervisor Lisa Jefferson had spoken with Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer for 13 minutes before his plane crashed (see 9:45 a.m.-9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). Before heading home from work at 1 p.m., she is questioned by phone by three FBI agents, who asked her scores of questions about her conversation with Beamer. Later in the afternoon, an FBI agent phones her at home. He provides her with several numbers to call, should she remember further details about her conversation with Beamer. He also tells her to maintain secrecy about the call. Jefferson later describes, “In fact, he stressed the importance of keeping the matter under wraps.” [Jefferson and Middlebrooks, 2006, pp. 61-62 and 69] It is not until three days later that the FBI first releases information on the call, and that Beamer’s wife learns of it (see September 14, 2001). [Beamer and Abraham, 2002, pp. 185-186] It is unclear why the FBI wants it kept secret until then. Phone calls made by several other passengers from Flight 93 will be reported within a day of the attacks. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; San Francisco Chronicle, 9/12/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001]

Entity Tags: Todd Beamer, Lisa Jefferson, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Larry Ellison.Larry Ellison. [Source: Mike Kepka / San Francisco Chronicle]The head of the company for which Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer worked appears to be aware of Beamer’s call from the plane before its existence has been made public, and before even Beamer’s wife has been informed of it. Larry Ellison is the CEO of software company Oracle Corporation. In a memo sent out to the company’s employees, he writes, “We know Todd Beamer is dead. We believe he died when he and other passengers aboard Flight 93 tried to recover the hijacked airplane from the terrorists.… Considering the devastation wrought by the other aircraft, it is unquestionable that Todd’s brave actions, and [those] of his fellow passengers, saved countless lives on the ground.” Beamer’s wife Lisa later writes, “Clearly Larry was convinced that Todd had been involved. How did Larry know that? The FBI hadn’t made any announcement to that effect. Todd’s name had not shown up in any reports indicating that he might have been involved in some way.” The explanation she proposes is that “Larry, like many of us, couldn’t imagine Todd Beamer sitting idly by while terrorists threatened to hurt others.” [InfoWorld, 9/13/2001; Associated Press, 9/14/2001; Beamer and Abraham, 2002, pp. 184-185] Todd Beamer had spoken for 13 minutes to GTE supervisor Lisa Jefferson before Flight 93 crashed (see 9:45 a.m.-9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). Yet the FBI has instructed Jefferson not to inform Beamer’s wife of the call, and only lifts this restriction on September 14. Lisa Beamer first learns of her husband’s call from Flight 93 on September 14, in a phone call from United Airlines (see September 14, 2001). [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/22/2001; Newsweek, 12/3/2001; Beliefnet (.com), 2006] Ellison and Oracle long have had close ties to US intelligence agencies, and in fact the company’s name originated from a CIA project code-named “Oracle.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 5/20/2002]

Entity Tags: Oracle Corp, Lisa Beamer, Central Intelligence Agency, Todd Beamer, Larry Ellison

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Lisa Beamer.Lisa Beamer. [Source: NBC]Since 9/11, Lisa Beamer—whose husband Todd Beamer died on Flight 93—has reportedly had one “nagging question.” According to Newsweek, she’d wondered, “Why had her husband, a man so attached to his cell phone that [she] had to confiscate it when they went on vacation, not called her from the plane? Other passengers had called home from Flight 93 to say goodbye and talk to their loved ones. Why not Todd?” [Newsweek, 12/3/2001] This evening, she receives a call from her family liaison with United Airlines, informing her that the FBI has released information that Todd made a call from the flight: Using a GTE Airfone, he’d spoken to an operator in the Chicago area. The FBI had been keeping the information private until it reviewed the material. The liaison reads her a summary of the call written by Lisa Jefferson, the GTE supervisor with whom Todd had spoken (see 9:45 a.m.-9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Beamer and Abraham, 2002, pp. 185-186] During the call, Jefferson had asked Todd if he’d wanted to be connected to his wife. However, as Jefferson later recalls, he’d “said no, that he did not want to upset her as they were expecting their third child in January.” [Orlando Sentinel, 9/5/2002] Instead, he’d asked Jefferson to contact his family if he didn’t “make it out of this.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 200] In her book, published in 2002, Lisa Beamer writes that she was “so glad he didn’t” contact her from the plane, because, “Had I learned about Todd’s circumstances by hearing his voice from the plane, I no doubt would have lost it.” While Lisa Beamer only learns of her husband’s call from Flight 93 on this day, the CEO of the company for which he’d worked appears to have been aware of its details a day earlier (see September 13, 2001). [Beamer and Abraham, 2002, pp. 184-185 and 201-202]

Entity Tags: Lisa Beamer, Todd Beamer, Lisa Jefferson, United Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


Time period

Email Updates

Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database


Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
Donate Now


If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.
Contact Us

Creative Commons License Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike