!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News

Context of '(Between 9:35 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001: NORAD Commander Spends 45 Minutes Driving to Operations Center'

This is a scalable context timeline. It contains events related to the event (Between 9:35 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001: NORAD Commander Spends 45 Minutes Driving to Operations Center. 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.

The NORAD headquarters building at Peterson Air Force Base.The NORAD headquarters building at Peterson Air Force Base. [Source: US Air Force]General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, realizes the US is under attack after he sees Flight 175 crashing into the World Trade Center on television and then considers whether he should go to NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC). Eberhart was at his home in Colorado when he learned about the hijacking of Flight 11 and then went to his office at NORAD’s headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs (see (8:45 a.m.-9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). In his office, he sees the second hijacked plane, Flight 175, crashing into the WTC live on television at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). He is unaware that a second aircraft has been hijacked, but realizes immediately that a coordinated terrorist attack is taking place. Right away, he tries to contact General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but is unable to do so, because Shelton is currently airborne, being flown to Hungary for a NATO conference (see 7:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). Eberhart then tries contacting General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and is able to reach him on Capitol Hill, where he has been meeting Senator Max Cleland (D-GA) (see (Before 9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Eberhart then focuses his attention on determining whether he should stay at NORAD headquarters or go to the CMOC, which is about 30 minutes’ drive away from Peterson Air Force Base. He initially decides to stay in his office. This, he will say, is because the CMOC is already well manned and also because there are “dead spots” in which he would be out of phone coverage for five to 10 minutes at a time during the drive to the operations center. However, Eberhart subsequently decides to go to the CMOC. He will tell the 9/11 Commission that he leaves his office to head there at approximately 9:30 a.m., during a lull in transmissions on a teleconference, which he is presumably listening to. [9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004; 9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004; 9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004] He will experience problems receiving phone calls while he is traveling to the CMOC (see (Between 9:35 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Colorado Springs Gazette, 6/16/2006; Denver Post, 7/28/2006]

Entity Tags: Henry Hugh Shelton, Ralph Eberhart, Richard B. Myers

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A sign at the entrance to Peterson Air Force Base.A sign at the entrance to Peterson Air Force Base. [Source: US National Archives]General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talks briefly over the phone with General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, who updates him on what is happening and the actions NORAD is taking in response to the terrorist attacks. [Armed Forces Radio And Television Service, 10/17/2001; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004 pdf file] Myers is on Capitol Hill, where he has been meeting with Senator Max Cleland (D-GA). He is aware of the two crashes at the World Trade Center and realizes they were terrorist attacks (see Shortly Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 7-9] Eberhart, meanwhile, is in his office at NORAD’s headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He, too, is aware of the crashes at the WTC and has determined that a coordinated terrorist attack is underway (see (9:03 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 465] He called Colonel Matthew Klimow, Myers’s executive assistant, who is at the Pentagon, and said he urgently wanted to speak to the vice chairman (see (Before 9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Klimow then called Myers and let him know that NORAD wanted to talk to him (see (Before 9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012]
Myers Has to Talk on an Unsecured Line - As Myers is coming out of Cleland’s office following his meeting with the senator, his military aide, Captain Chris Donahue, approaches him and says Eberhart is on his cell phone and wants to talk to him. “In this emergency, I had to forgo the luxury of a secure encrypted Red Switch phone and use Donahue’s cell,” Myers will later comment. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 9] Myers and Eberhart then have a “short conversation.”
Eberhart Describes the 'Confused' Situation in the Air - Eberhart updates Myers on the current situation. He says the two towers of the WTC have been hit and there are “several hijack codes in the system.” [9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004 pdf file] By this, he means that “the transponders in the aircraft are talking to the ground and they’re saying… ‘We’re being hijacked,’” Myers will explain. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] However, none of the pilots of the planes hijacked this morning punched the emergency four-digit code that would indicate a hijacking into their planes’ transponders (see (8:13 a.m.-9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/11/2001; Newsday, 9/13/2001] It is therefore unclear what “hijack codes” Eberhart is referring to. In one interview, Myers will recall Eberhart saying that the situation in the air is “confused.” He says there are “aircraft squawking that they had been hijacked” and he is “going to land them all at the nearest suitable base to sort it out.” [American Forces Press Service, 9/9/2011] On another occasion, Myers will recall him saying, “The decision I’m going to make is, we’re going to land everybody and we’ll sort it out when we get them on the ground.” [Council on Foreign Relations, 6/29/2006]
Eberhart and Myers Don't Discuss 'Rules of Engagement' - Eberhart says NORAD has scrambled fighter jets in response to the hijackings (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, the two men do not discuss the issue of “rules of engagement” for the fighter pilots during this conversation. Indeed, Myers makes no decisions and takes no action at this time. Instead, Eberhart does most of the talking. Myers will recall that he “mainly listened” during the call. He tells Eberhart he needs to get to the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon because he cannot communicate from a cell phone, presumably referring to the fact that it is an unsecured line. “I’m going to head back to the Pentagon. I’ll talk to you there,” he says. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004 pdf file] “Get back to the Pentagon,” Eberhart tells him. [9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004]
Call Occurs before 9:30 a.m. - The time when this call occurs is unclear. At some time after talking to Myers, Eberhart will head out to NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (see (Between 9:35 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He will estimate that he leaves Peterson Air Force Base at “approximately” 9:30 a.m. If correct, this would mean the call occurs before 9:30 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004] Myers, meanwhile, will be vague about when it occurs, telling the 9/11 Commission only that it takes place after the second crash at the WTC, sometime between 9:03 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Furthermore, while Klimow’s account of this morning’s events will imply that it occurs after Klimow called the vice chairman and let him know that NORAD wanted to talk to him, in his 2009 memoir, Myers will describe talking to Eberhart before he receives the call from Klimow. [9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004 pdf file; Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 9; George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] Myers will subsequently head back to the Pentagon. [Council on Foreign Relations, 6/29/2006] He does so “immediately” after talking to Eberhart, he will say. [Armed Forces Radio And Television Service, 10/17/2001] He will learn about the attack on the Pentagon, which occurs at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001), around the time he is leaving the building and getting into his car on Capitol Hill (see Shortly After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Chris Donahue, Ralph Eberhart, Richard B. Myers, North American Aerospace Defense Command

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

In the middle of the 9/11 attacks, General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, drives from his NORAD headquarters office at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado to the NORAD operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, about a dozen miles away. The journey reportedly takes him 45 minutes and en route he loses a cell phone call with Vice President Cheney. The reason he makes this journey is unknown, though it is reported that there are superior communications capabilities available at Cheyenne Mountain. [Colorado Springs Gazette, 6/16/2006; Denver Post, 7/28/2006; Washington Post, 7/29/2006] The exact times when Eberhart departs Peterson AFB and arrives at Cheyenne Mountain are unclear. General Richard Myers says that Eberhart phones him from Peterson either just before or just after the Pentagon is hit, which suggests that Eberhart heads out some time between 9:35 a.m. and 9:40 a.m. [Armed Forces Radio And Television Service, 10/17/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Eberhart tells the 9/11 Commission that when he arrives at the NORAD operations center, the order to shoot down hijacked aircraft has already been passed down NORAD’s chain of command. According to the commission’s timeline, this would indicate he arrives after 10:31 a.m. (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 42] Yet other reports state that the massive blast doors to Cheyenne Mountain are shut at around 10:15 a.m. (see (10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001), which suggests that Eberhart arrives earlier.

Entity Tags: Ralph Eberhart

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The NORAD representative on the air threat conference call reports that NORAD has yet to give an assessment for the crisis that is taking place and adds that General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, has not yet declared the situation an air defense emergency. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file] The National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon has just started an air threat conference call in response to the terrorist attacks (see 9:37 a.m.-9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 37] A NORAD representative, in their first communication over the conference call, states: “No assessment has been given for this event at this point. No assessment for the overall air situation has been given at this point.” The representative adds that “CINC NORAD”—meaning Eberhart, the commander in chief of NORAD—“is not declaring [an] air defense emergency at this point.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file] An “air defense emergency” is defined by the US government as an “emergency condition which exists when attack upon the continental United States, Alaska, Canada, or US installations in Greenland by hostile aircraft or missiles is considered probable, is imminent, or is taking place.” [US Government, 7/1/2003] British online publication The Register will later comment that this definition “sums up the tragic events of [September 11] fairly well.” The declaration of an air defense emergency, according to The Register, “invokes a regulatory scheme known as Security Control of Air Traffic and Air Navigation Aids (SCATANA).” [Register, 9/17/2001] SCATANA is a procedure, developed in the 1960s, that was originally intended to clear the airspace above the US in the event of a confirmed warning of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. [Schwartz, 1998; Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 11/2001] Eberhart will order a limited version of it later in the day, apparently around 11:00 a.m. (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Eberhart was at NORAD headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, when the attacks began, but at some point headed out to the NORAD operations center in Cheyenne Mountain (see (Between 9:35 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004 pdf file; Colorado Springs Gazette, 6/16/2006; Denver Post, 7/28/2006]

Entity Tags: Ralph Eberhart, North American Aerospace Defense Command

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Blast doors at NORAD’s operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado.Blast doors at NORAD’s operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado. [Source: Eugene Chavez]The massive doors leading to NORAD’s operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, designed to protect the center from a nuclear blast, are closed for the first time ever in a real-world, non-exercise event, though the reason for this is unclear. [Toronto Star, 12/9/2001; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; BBC, 9/1/2002; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/9/2011] The two steel blast doors, one third of a mile inside the mountain, guard the heart of NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC) and are intended to seal the complex to protect it from a nuclear strike. The doors are three feet thick, more than 10 feet high, and each weigh 25 tons. During an attack, they can swing shut in 30 to 40 seconds. [Airman, 1/1996; Nation, 5/5/2008; Colorado Springs Gazette, 5/10/2008]
Doors Are Shut for the First Time, except for Exercises - Air Force officer William Astore will later recall that when he worked inside Cheyenne Mountain between 1985 and 1988, the blast doors were kept open, “except, of course, during ‘exercises,’ when the mountain ‘buttoned up’ its self-contained world.” [Nation, 5/5/2008] Now is the first time since the CMOC opened in 1966 that the blast doors have been shut because of a real-world, non-exercise event. Lieutenant Colonel Steven Armstrong, NORAD’s chief of plans and forces, who is in the CMOC on this day, will later comment, “The fact that we closed the blast doors… was a significant event.” [Toronto Star, 12/9/2001; Colorado Springs Gazette, 6/14/2004; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/9/2011]
Accounts Conflict over Why the Doors Are Closed - The reason the blast doors are shut is unclear. According to the Toronto Star, they are closed because “no one yet knew who was behind the attack—or what else might be en route.” [Toronto Star, 12/9/2001] But Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine will report that “NORAD commanders ordered [the] massive steel doors be closed” after “someone—possibly President Bush—ordered the military to a Force Protection Condition Delta wartime posture” (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] Other reports will say the doors are shut due to a report the CMOC received about an aircraft that is incorrectly suspected of being hijacked and targeting Cheyenne Mountain (see (10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [BBC, 9/1/2002; Grant, 2004, pp. 26; Colorado Springs Gazette, 6/14/2004; Washington Post, 7/29/2006] A NORAD representative on the Pentagon’s air threat conference call will report over the conference call that the blast doors are in fact shut in response to information received at the CMOC about a number of suspicious trucks that are supposedly heading toward the CMOC (see (Shortly After 1:05 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file]
Doors Are Re-Opened Four Hours Later - The blast doors will be re-opened four hours after they are shut, “when officials learned the threat was bogus,” according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. [Colorado Springs Gazette, 6/14/2004]

Entity Tags: Steven Armstrong, William J. Astore, North American Aerospace Defense Command

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR) issues a message to its three air defense sectors—including the Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS)—stating that Vice President Dick Cheney has authorized it to shoot down suspicious aircraft.
Order Sent over Computer Chat System - About 15 minutes earlier, a military officer at the White House relayed to the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) that Cheney had confirmed that fighter jets were cleared to engage an inbound aircraft if they could verify that the aircraft was hijacked (see 10:14 a.m.-10:19 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to the 9/11 Commission, “It is not clear how [this] shootdown order was communicated within NORAD.” However, Major General Larry Arnold, the CONR commander, now instructs his staff to broadcast a message over a NORAD computer chat system, passing on Cheney’s authorization. The message states, “10:31 Vice president has cleared to us to intercept tracks of interest and shoot them down if they do not respond, per CONR CC [General Arnold].” The message is received at CONR’s three air defense sectors: the Western, Southeast, and Northeast. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 42; Spencer, 2008, pp. 240]
Arnold Could Issue Shootdown Order Himself - Arnold, who is at the CONR air operations center at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, will later comment, “I have the authority in case of an emergency to declare a target hostile and shoot it down under an emergency condition… but it was comforting to know we legally had the authority from the president of the United States.” [Filson, 2002; Code One Magazine, 1/2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 75-76] The 10:31 chat message is the first notification personnel on the NEADS operations floor receive of the shootdown order. These personnel are reportedly confused over the order and do not pass it on to fighter pilots under their command (see 10:32 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 42-43; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 47]

Entity Tags: Continental US NORAD Region, Southeast Air Defense Sector, Western Air Defense Sector, Larry Arnold, Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Ordering 

Time period


Email Updates

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

 
Donate

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

Volunteer

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