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Context of '9:45 a.m.-9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001: Passenger Todd Beamer Describes Situation on Flight 93, Though Accounts Are Contradictory'

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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

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

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