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Context of 'Shortly After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001: Officer in Pentagon Command Center Only Learns from TV that Pentagon Has Been Hit'

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According to a statement by two high-level FAA officials, “Within minutes after the first aircraft hit the World Trade Center, the FAA immediately established several phone bridges [i.e., telephone conference calls] that included FAA field facilities, the FAA command center, FAA headquarters, [Defense Department], the Secret Service, and other government agencies.” The FAA shares “real-time information on the phone bridges about the unfolding events, including information about loss of communication with aircraft, loss of transponder signals, unauthorized changes in course, and other actions being taken by all the flights of interest, including Flight 77. Other parties on the phone bridges in turn shared information about actions they were taken.” The statement says, “The US Air Force liaison to the FAA immediately joined the FAA headquarters phone bridge and established contact with NORAD on a separate line.” [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] Another account says the phone bridges are “quickly established” by the Air Traffic Services Cell (ATSC). This is a small office at the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, which is staffed by three military officers at the time of the attacks (see (Between 9:04 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It serves as the center’s liaison with the military. According to Aviation Week and Space Technology, the phone bridges link “key players, such as NORAD’s command center, area defense sectors, key FAA personnel, airline operations, and the NMCC.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/10/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] According to an FAA transcript of employee conversations on 9/11, one of the phone bridges, between the FAA Command Center, the operations center at FAA headquarters, and air traffic control centers in Boston and New York, begins before Flight 11 hits the World Trade Center at 8:46 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 10/14/2003, pp. 3-10 pdf file] If these accounts are correct, it means someone at NORAD should learn about Flight 77 when it deviates from its course (see (8:54 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the 9/11 Commission will later claim that the FAA teleconference is established about 30 minutes later (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The Air Force liaison to the FAA will claim she only joins it after the Pentagon is hit (see (Shortly After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: US Secret Service, Federal Aviation Administration, Air Traffic Services Cell, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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.” [New York Times, 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]

Entity Tags: Northeast Air Defense Sector, National Military Command Center, Monte Belger

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Those in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) within the Pentagon see the second plane hitting the World Trade Center live on television. According to Dan Mangino, an operations officer at the center, the staff there had thought the first WTC crash was a “terrible accident,” but after seeing the second one, “we knew immediately that it was a terrorist attack.” The American Forces Press Service later reports, “Personnel in the center shifted into hyperdrive.… Phones in the center began ringing off the hook.” Mangino says he initiates “the process to stand up a working group in advance of the direction that would come down later.” One of his deputies is responsible for this process. Yet, despite this supposed urgency, Mangino later recalls that he “knew he would have little time in the days ahead, so he quickly ran to the concourse to get some money out of an automated teller machine.” He will not arrive back at the NMCC until after the Pentagon is hit. [American Forces Press Service, 9/7/2006] Brigadier General Montague Winfield had earlier on allowed a colleague to temporarily take over from him as the NMCC’s deputy director for operations (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). Yet, despite the obvious emergency now taking place, he does not retake charge of the center until more than an hour later, at around 10:15-10:30 a.m. (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Furthermore, according to the 9/11 Commission, the NMCC does not begin a “significant event” conference call in response to the attacks until 9:29 a.m., which is 26 minutes after the South Tower is hit (see 9:29 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 37]

Entity Tags: National Military Command Center, Dan Mangino, Montague Winfield

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The FAA sets up a hijacking teleconference with several agencies, including the Defense Department. This is almost one hour after the FAA’s Boston flight control began notifying the chain of command (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001) and notified other flight control centers about the first hijacking at 8:25 a.m. (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to the Acting FAA Deputy Administrator Monte Belger, this teleconference (called the “hijack net”) is “the fundamental primary source of information between the FAA, [Defense Department], FBI, Secret Service, and… other agencies.” Yet even after the delay in setting it up, FAA and Defense Department participants later claim it plays no role in coordinating the response to the hijackings. The 9/11 Commission says, “The NMCC [National Military Command Center inside the Pentagon] officer who participated told us that the call was monitored only periodically because the information was sporadic, it was of little value, and there were other important tasks. The FAA manager of the teleconference also remembered that the military participated only briefly before the Pentagon was hit.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 36] According to a statement provided by the FAA to the 9/11 Commission in 2003, this teleconference began significantly earlier—“[w]ithin minutes after the first aircraft hit the World Trade Center” (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Monte Belger, US Department of Defense, 9/11 Commission

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Those inside the Pentagon’s Executive Support Center (ESC) feel and hear the impact when the building is hit, yet supposedly do not realize what has happened. Victoria Clarke, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, who is in the ESC at this time, calls the center “the Pentagon’s war room, with instant access to satellite images and intelligence sources peering into every corner of the globe.” She describes it as “the place where the building’s top leadership goes to coordinate military operations during national emergencies.” In it with her are Stephen Cambone, Donald Rumsfeld’s closest aide, and Larry Di Rita, Rumsfeld’s personal chief of staff. They’d been discussing how to go about getting every plane currently in the air back on the ground when, according to Clarke, “we felt a jarring thump and heard a loud but still muffled explosion. The building seemed to have shifted.” Yet, despite all the ESC’s resources, they supposedly do not initially realize exactly what has happened. Clarke says to the others, “It must have been a car bomb.” Di Rita replies, “A bomb of some kind.” But one unnamed staffer who frequently uses the ESC for meetings points to the ceiling and says, “No, it’s just the heating and cooling system. It makes that noise all the time.” Clarke later claims, “The notion of a jetliner attacking the Pentagon was exactly that unfathomable back then. Our eyes were glued to television screens showing two hijacked planes destroying the World Trade Center and it still didn’t occur to any of us, certainly not me, that one might have just hit our own building.” Clarke guesses aloud that the noise was something other than the heating and cooling system. In the ensuing minutes, she and the others with her will scramble “for information about what exactly had happened, how many were hurt or killed, and [analyze] what we could do to prevent further attacks.” Yet, she will later claim, it is only when Donald Rumsfeld comes into the ESC at 10:15 a.m., after having gone to the crash scene, that they receive their first confirmation that a plane has hit the Pentagon (see (10:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2006, pp. 219-221] Those inside the National Military Command Center (NMCC), located next door to the ESC, supposedly do not feel the impact when the Pentagon is hit, and one officer there claims he only learns of the attack from television reports (see Shortly After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/4/2002; American Forces Press Service, 9/7/2006; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 5] But Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, who is in his office about 200 feet away from the ESC, feels the building shake due to the explosion. After seeing nothing out of his window, he immediately dashes outside to determine what has happened (see 9:38 a.m. September 11, 2001). [WBZ Radio 1030 (Boston), 9/15/2001; Parade Magazine, 10/12/2001; Washington Post, 1/9/2002; 9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004]

Entity Tags: Stephen A. Cambone, Larry DiRita, Victoria (“Torie”) Clarke

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) is located on the other side of the building to where it is hit. Therefore, when the attack on the Pentagon occurs, those inside it supposedly do not feel the impact. [CNN, 9/4/2002] According to Newsweek, the NMCC has been called “the primary nerve system” of the Pentagon, from where “commanders can monitor and communicate with American forces around the world.” [Newsweek, 9/28/2001] A military instruction for dealing with hijacked aircraft describes it as “the focal point within Department of Defense for providing assistance” in response to hijackings. [US Department of Defense, 6/1/2001 pdf file] But supposedly NMCC personnel do not initially realize the Pentagon has been attacked. Steve Hahn, an operations officer at the center, later says, “I didn’t know [the Pentagon had been hit] until I heard the news report on television.” [American Forces Press Service, 9/7/2006] Yet an article in the New York Times later claims, “During the hour or so that American Airlines Flight 77 was under the control of hijackers, up to the moment it struck the west side of the Pentagon, military officials in [the NMCC] were urgently talking to law enforcement and air traffic control officials about what to do” (see (Shortly After 8:51 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/15/2001] Furthermore, at about 8:50 a.m. according to the FAA, or 9:20 a.m. according to the 9/11 Commission, the FAA had established several phone bridges linking key players, including the NMCC (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001) (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The FAA states that it shares “real-time information on the phone bridges,” which includes “actions being taken by all the flights of interest, including Flight 77.” [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 36] Why NMCC personnel do not therefore know immediately that the Pentagon has been hit is unclear. Also around this time, Officer Aubrey Davis of the Pentagon police is outside Donald Rumsfeld’s office. He hears what he later describes as “an incredibly loud ‘boom,’” when the Pentagon is struck (see 9:38 a.m. September 11, 2001). Yet no mention is made of anyone in the NMCC hearing this “boom,” even though the center is located only around 200 feet from where Davis is standing. [WBZ Radio 1030 (Boston), 9/15/2001; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 1] Dan Mangino, an operations officer in the NMCC, went out earlier to withdraw some money from a cash machine (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), and rushes back to the center after the Pentagon is hit. He finds the people in it are very calm. He says, “There was no panic, no raised voices. We train for emergencies all the time, and that training took over.” [American Forces Press Service, 9/7/2006]

Entity Tags: Steve Hahn, National Military Command Center, Dan Mangino

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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