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

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

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