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Context of '(9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Members of an Elite Police Unit Are Ordered to Leave the Twin Towers before They Collapse'

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Douglas Karpiloff.Douglas Karpiloff. [Source: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey]A command center for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, located in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, is upgraded to make it more secure, and the improvements will reportedly save the lives of people in the command center when the nearby South Tower collapses on September 11. (Taylor and Gardiner 9/12/2001; Guarnera 1/2002; Nash 1/23/2002) The Port Authority’s Security Command Center (SCC) is on the 22nd floor of the North Tower. (9/11 Commission 5/18/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 294) Newsday will report, on the day after 9/11, that officials had “recently” increased security at the WTC “by installing bulletproof windows and fireproof doors in the 22nd-floor computer command center.” (Taylor and Gardiner 9/12/2001) According to George Tabeek, the Port Authority’s security manager for the WTC, by September 11, the WTC in fact has “bulletproof window glass in most areas.” (Nugent 6/2008) The installation of the bulletproof windows—and presumably, also, the fireproof doors—in the SCC is made at the request of Douglas Karpiloff, the Port Authority’s director of security and life safety for the WTC. (Nash 1/23/2002)
Upgrades Intended to Protect against 'Aerial Attacks' - According to Hermina Jones, a security guard at the WTC, the upgrades to the SCC are intended “to secure the towers against aerial attacks.” (Taylor and Gardiner 9/12/2001) Tabeek will later recall, “We had planned for the possibility of a small airplane—a corporate jet, maybe—crashing into one of the [WTC] buildings by accident,” although it is unclear if this comment is made in reference to the installation of bulletproof windows at the WTC. (Nugent 6/2008)
Security Improvements Save Lives on September 11 - Some people will credit the upgrades to the SCC with saving their lives on September 11. Tabeek will be in the SCC that day when the first of the Twin Towers—the South Tower—collapses (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). When that happens, according to Tabeek, the “impact of the explosion peeled off the outer skin of [the North Tower], shattering the thick double-paned windows [of the SCC] in the process.” Tabeek will say, however, that the “inner layer of laminated bulletproof glass put in months earlier… withstood the blast and undoubtedly saved his life and those of the others with him.” Victor Guarnera, the chief technical adviser and manager of security systems for the World Trade Department, who is also in the SCC at that time, will describe what happens when the collapse occurs, saying, “The outer windows [of the SCC] exploded, either from impact [of debris from the South Tower] or differential pressure, but the inner window wall of high-tempered bomb and bullet-resistant glass we had installed a few months before held fast.” Guarnera will comment that the bulletproof windows “were responsible for our survival up to that point.” (Guarnera 1/2002; Nash 1/23/2002)

Fort AP Hill.Fort AP Hill. [Source: United States Army]At the time of the attacks on the World Trade Center, members of the Army’s aviation support unit for the Washington, DC, area are away for weapons training, and do not set out to return to their base until after the time the Pentagon is hit. (Exempt 11/14/2001 pdf file; Lilly 11/16/2001; Hipps 1/18/2002) The 12th Aviation Battalion is the Military District of Washington’s aviation support unit, and includes three helicopter companies. It operates UH-1 “Huey” and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. The battalion is stationed at Davison Army Airfield, which is at Fort Belvoir, 12 miles south of the Pentagon. (Military District of Washington 8/2000) Davison Airfield’s missions include maintaining “a readiness posture in support of contingency plans,” exercising “operational control” of the Washington area airspace, and providing “aviation support for the White House, US government officials, Department of Defense, Department of the Army, and other government agencies.” (Fahrig 5/7/1999) A chief warrant officer with the 12th Aviation Battalion will later recall that members of the battalion are away this morning, at the shooting range at another Virginia Army base, Fort AP Hill, for their annual weapons training. They had set off early and driven there—a journey of one and a half to two hours. They are at the range when the attacks on the WTC take place, and only learn of them when the sister of one of their captains calls her brother with news of the attacks, presumably after seeing the coverage on television. The chief warrant officer will recall that, after hearing of the second attack on the WTC, “[W]e were all pretty much thinking we probably need to go—you know, probably need to come to work.” The range officer calls Davison Airfield and is told that the members of the battalion should “pack it in and come on back” to base. He is also told during the call that an aircraft has crashed into the Pentagon (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001), meaning this call does not occur until after 9:37 a.m. According to the chief warrant officer, the Pentagon “is basically one of our missions. So we just pretty much packed up and came back up here and came into work.” Exactly how many of the 12th Aviation Battalion’s members are away from base for the weapons training is unstated, as is the exact time they arrive back at Davison Airfield. But considering it is one and a half to two hours drive between there and the range, they presumably do not get there until some time after about 11:15 a.m. When they do eventually get back to base, the battalion members will prepare to launch helicopters in response to the Pentagon attack (see (After 11:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Exempt 11/14/2001 pdf file; Hipps 1/18/2002)

Lyndon Willms.Lyndon Willms. [Source: Effingham Daily News]The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) activates its Crisis Action Team (CAT) at the Pentagon to respond to the terrorist attacks, although the time this occurs at is unclear. (US Congress 9/13/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file; Foley 9/9/2003) General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the JCS, will later tell a congressional hearing that in response to the attacks on the World Trade Center: “We stood up our Crisis Action Team.… And we started talking to the federal agencies.” (US Congress 9/13/2001) The JCS’s CAT apparently assembles in the National Military Command Center (NMCC), which is located in the JCS area of the Pentagon and is responsible for monitoring worldwide events for the JCS. (9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file; GlobalSecurity (.org) 7/24/2011; Willms 9/12/2011) Myers will state that the CAT is activated just after 8:46 a.m., when the first hijacked plane crashed into the WTC (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). He will say it is activated “[a]t the time of the first impact on the World Trade Center.” “That was done immediately,” he will add. (US Congress 9/13/2001) However, other accounts will indicate that the CAT is activated after 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon attack occurs (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). Lieutenant Colonel Lyndon Willms is an Air Force officer currently assigned to the Pentagon, working as a joint strategic planner for the JCS. After he and his colleagues in the Joint Vision and Transformation Division of the JCS learn from television reports of the second hijacked plane hitting the WTC, at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), they “knew a decision would be made to either send us to augment one of the crisis action teams forming in the National Military Command Center across the hall or be evacuated to another site,” Willms will recall. It appears from Willms’s account, however, that the CAT is only activated later on. By around 9:51 a.m., Willms will state, the CAT is forming in the NMCC, but he and his colleagues are “a bit confused because we thought we would be going in to augment” it. Instead, they are evacuated from the Pentagon. (Willms 9/12/2011) Lieutenant Colonel James Foley, the NMCC operations officer, will also indicate that the CAT is only activated after the Pentagon is hit. He will state that “a Joint Staff Crisis Action Team assembled… within the first two hours, while the situation was entirely uncertain and the Pentagon was burning.” (Foley 9/9/2003) And when they visit the NMCC in 2003, members of the 9/11 Commission staff will be told that a CAT “was stood up” in the NMCC “sometime in the afternoon on 9/11.” (9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file) It is apparently standard procedure for the JCS to activate its CAT during a terrorist attack. A Department of Defense memorandum sent in March 2001, about how the US military responds to terrorism, will state that in a crisis, the operations directorate of the JCS “establishes a Crisis Action Team (CAT) to prepare and coordinate deployment, and execute orders.” (US Department of Defense 3/15/2001)

Matt Swanson.Matt Swanson. [Source: Iowa State University]The Air Force’s Crisis Action Team (CAT) at the Pentagon is activated and will go on to play a key role in the Air Force’s response to the terrorist attacks. (Brown 9/19/2001; Prospectus 9/2006, pp. 3-6 pdf file) The CAT, which is under the command of the Air Force chief of staff, is a “disaster response group,” which, according to the Dover Post, “coordinates Air Force reaction to anything that might be a threat to the United States.” (Brown 9/19/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2011) It carries out its activities in the Air Force Operations Center, in the basement of the Pentagon’s C Ring. (Yackel 12/2001; Sharp 9/11/2003) Its usual first in charge is away today and so Lieutenant Colonel Matt Swanson, its second in command, has to take their place supervising emergency operations for the Air Force. (Prospectus 9/2006, pp. 3-6 pdf file)
Crisis Team Becomes 'Eyes and Ears' of the Air Force - Prior to the Pentagon being hit at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001), according to the Defense Department’s book about the Pentagon attack, “Members of the Air Force Crisis Action Team [have] already begun to assemble [in the Operations Center] for a 10:00 a.m. briefing.” This is because “one of their responsibilities [is] to work with the Army to provide assistance to civil authorities in New York.” (Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 136) Major Donna Nicholas arrives in the Operations Center to assist the CAT at some time after 9:03 a.m., when the second hijacked plane crashes into the World Trade Center (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). When she gets there, someone tells her, “Just so you know, we’re considering that we’re under attack.” After arriving at her station and pulling out emergency checklists, she will later recall, Nicholas finds the area around her is “a flurry of activity as Air Force officials worked to gather information, both from the media and from their own intelligence sources.” (Brown 9/19/2001) The CAT becomes “the eyes and ears of the Air Force” as it responds to the terrorist attacks, according to Major Harry Brosofsky, who will go to the Operations Center to assist the CAT after the Pentagon is attacked. (Yackel 12/2001)
Air Force Leaders Only Join Crisis Team after Pentagon Attack - It is unclear when exactly the CAT is activated. Nicholas is told it has been activated at “about 9 a.m.,” according to the Dover Post. (Brown 9/19/2001) Tim Green, assistant executive to the Air Force chief of staff, will say that after senior Air Force officials who are together in a staff meeting (see (9:00 a.m.-9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001) see the second crash at the WTC at 9:03 a.m., they “set up a Crisis Action Team down in our Operations Center and they began working immediately.” (Condon 4/2/2002) However, senior officials such as General John Jumper, the Air Force chief of staff, and James Roche, the secretary of the Air Force, will only head to the Operations Center to assist the response from there after 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon is hit (see Shortly After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Sharp 9/11/2003; Hebert 9/2011 pdf file) Swanson—the man in charge of the CAT today—will say he receives a phone call in his office at the Pentagon at some time after the second WTC tower is hit, in which he is told he has to go and join the CAT. However, he will apparently only reach the Operations Center to do so after the Pentagon is attacked: He will say that when he arrives, he is greeted by Jumper and Roche, and these two men only get there after the Pentagon is hit (see After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Prospectus 9/2006, pp. 3-6 pdf file)

An announcement is made over the public address system in the South Tower of the World Trade Center, advising workers that they can begin an orderly evacuation of the building if conditions warrant it. (Dwyer 5/17/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 289) A previous announcement over the public address system instructed people in the South Tower to stay in, or return to, their offices, rather than evacuate (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 287-288; Dwyer and Flynn 2005, pp. 72) The new announcement begins: “May I have your attention, please. Repeating this message: the situation occurred in Building 1 [i.e. the North Tower].” The announcer then says, “If the conditions warrant on your floor, you may wish to start an orderly evacuation.” (Dwyer 5/17/2004) The announcement is presumably made by Philip Hayes, the deputy fire safety director on duty at the fire command desk in the lobby of the South Tower. A button at the desk enables fire safety directors to deliver announcements over the public address system. (Dwyer and Flynn 2005, pp. 26)
Identity of Person Who Ordered Evacuation Unclear - The new advice, for tenants to evacuate, does “not correspond to any prewritten emergency instruction,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 289) It is unclear who told Hayes to make the announcement giving this advice. George Tabeek, the Port Authority’s security manager for the WTC, contacted the fire command desks in the Twin Towers immediately after Flight 11 hit the North Tower, with instructions about what to do. His orders for Hayes, however, were to “keep people inside the South Tower” (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Grant 9/6/2011)
Police Commander Called for Evacuation of WTC - Captain Anthony Whitaker, the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) commanding officer at the WTC, called for the evacuation of the WTC at 9:00 a.m. (see 8:59 a.m.-9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, his instruction was given over PAPD radio channel W, “which could not be heard by the deputy fire safety director in the South Tower,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. (Murphy 2002, pp. 184-185; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 293; National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 201) Furthermore, according to the Port Authority, deputy fire safety directors do not generally take direct orders from the PAPD under the regular chain of command. Therefore, the 9/11 Commission Report will state, it is “not known if [Hayes] received the order by the PAPD to evacuate the complex.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 544)
Fire Department Responsible for Ordering Evacuations - According to New York Times reporters Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn, “The authority to order an evacuation during a fire normally rests with the fire department.” (Dwyer and Flynn 2005, pp. 79) In a phone call with his counterpart in the North Tower, at 8:49 a.m., Hayes in fact said he would wait to hear from “the boss from the fire department or somebody” before ordering an evacuation of the South Tower (see 8:49 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Port Authority of New York and New Jersey 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 287; Dwyer and Flynn 2005, pp. 27) But whether someone from the fire department told Hayes to order an evacuation is unknown. It is also unclear how long announcements, advising an evacuation, continue for. Hayes and his counterpart in the North Tower are “making announcements that the situation was serious and that occupants should evacuate immediately” for “[a]s long as the [fire alarm system] was still operational,” according to Fire Engineering magazine. (Murphy 11/1/2002) However, the 9/11 Commission Report will state, “Evidence suggests that the public address system [in the South Tower] did not continue to function after the building was hit.” This would mean no announcements go out after 9:03 a.m., when Flight 175 hits the tower (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 295) By the time the South Tower collapses (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001), out of around 8,540 people who were originally in the building, 7,940 (93 percent) have made it out and will survive, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005)

Flight 175 hits the WTC South Tower. The picture was taken from a traffic helicopter.Flight 175 hits the WTC South Tower. The picture was taken from a traffic helicopter. [Source: WABC 7/ Salient Stills]Flight 175 hits the South Tower of the World Trade Center (Tower Two). Seismic records pinpoint the time at six seconds before 9:03 a.m. (rounded to 9:03 a.m.). Hijackers Marwan Alshehhi, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Mohand Alshehri, Hamza Alghamdi, and Ahmed Alghamdi presumably are killed instantly, and many more in the tower will die over the next few hours. (New York Times 9/12/2001; CNN 9/12/2001; CNN 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; Cauchon 12/20/2001; Federal Emergency Management Agency 5/1/2002, pp. 1-10; Dwyer et al. 5/26/2002; Associated Press 8/21/2002; Moore and Cauchon 9/2/2002) According to the NIST report, the crash time is 9:02:59. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 38) According to the 9/11 Commission Report, the crash time is 9:03:11. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 8) Millions watch the crash live on television. The plane strikes the 77th through 85th floors in the 110-story building. Approximately 100 people are killed or injured in the initial impact; 600 people in the tower eventually die. The death toll is far lower than in the North Tower because about two-thirds of the South Tower’s occupants have evacuated the building in the 17 minutes since the first tower was struck. (Cauchon 12/20/2001; National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 5-9, 41) The combined death toll from the two towers is estimated at 2,819, not including the hijackers. (Associated Press 8/21/2002) The impact severs some columns on the south side of the South Tower. Each of the Twin Towers is designed as a “tube-in-tube” structure and the steel columns which support its weight are arranged around the perimeter and in the core. The plane, which is traveling at an estimated speed of around 500 mph (see October 2002-October 2005), severs 33 of the building’s 236 perimeter columns and damages another one. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 39) The perimeter columns bear about half of the tower’s weight, so the damage to them reduces the tower’s ability to bear gravity loads by about 7.1 percent. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 6) The actual damage to the 47 core columns is not known, as there are no photographs or videos of it, but there will be much speculation about this after 9/11. It will be suggested that some parts of the aircraft may be able to damage the core even after crashing through the exterior wall (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 107) According to NIST’s base case model, five of the core columns are severed and another five suffer some damage. (National Institute of Standards & Technology 9/2005, pp. 235 pdf file) This may reduce the tower’s ability to bear loads by a further approximately 8 percent, meaning that the aircraft impact accounted for a loss of about 15 percent of the building’s strength. This damage will be cited as an event contributing to the building’s collapse after 9/11 (see October 23, 2002 and October 19, 2004). NIST’s base case estimate of damage to the North Tower’s core will be similar, even though the aircraft impact there was dissimilar (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Flight 11 hit the North Tower’s core head on, whereas Flight 175 only hits the corner of the South Tower’s core. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 20-23, 38-41) In addition, some of the fireproofing on the steel columns and trusses may be dislodged (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (National Institute of Standards & Technology 9/2005, pp. xxxvi, 83 pdf file) Photographs and videos of the towers will not show the state of fireproofing inside the buildings, but the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will try to estimate the damage to fireproofing using a series of computer models. Its severe case model (see (October 2002-October 2005)) will predict that 39 of the 47 core columns are stripped of their fireproofing on one or more floors and that fireproofing is stripped from trusses covering 80,000 ft2 of floor area, the equivalent of about two floors. NIST will say that the loss of fireproofing is a major cause of the collapse (see April 5, 2005), but only performs 15 tests on fireproofing samples (see October 26, 2005). (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 41) According to NIST, less fireproofing is stripped from the North Tower (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001).

In the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) comptroller’s office, on the first floor of the Pentagon’s C-ring, workers are reportedly uneasy at the news of the plane crashes in New York. However, Paul Gonzales, a retired Navy commander who is now a supervisor there, confidently declares that the Pentagon is probably the safest building in the world. So by 9:30 a.m., most of the workers in his section will be settling back to their usual business. The DIA comptroller’s office is one of the areas impacted when the Pentagon is hit at 9:37 (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). Of the 18 workers there, seven will die and five others will be hospitalized. (Vogel 3/11/2002; Vogel 2007, pp. 429; Cirillo 9/11/2007)

At the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, Michael Hayden, the agency’s director, orders the evacuation of all nonessential personnel from the NSA complex. His two reasons for this, he later says, are “just pure safety,” and to protect the people who work at the agency by sending “them home on the dispersal plan.” In a 2007 speech, he will state that he gave this order at 9:30 a.m. But in the account of author James Bamford, around the time Hayden gives the order he hears “some early reports about the explosion at the Pentagon.” Yet the attack on the Pentagon does not occur until 9:37 (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). The reason for this discrepancy is unclear. Hayden’s evacuation order is announced over loudspeakers throughout the NSA, and many of the 16,000 employees there leave. After hearing for sure that the Pentagon has been struck and that one or more hijacked aircraft is heading toward Washington, Hayden orders the three to four thousand remaining essential personnel to immediately evacuate the agency’s three tall towers and relocate to the low-rise Ops 1 Building. However, as Hayden later says, “[W]e really couldn’t afford to move the counterterrorism shop” where experts and linguists who track terrorists’ foreign communications work, even though it is located near the top of one of the NSA’s high-rise buildings. Maureen Baginski, the NSA’s director of signals intelligence, goes up there shortly after the time of the Pentagon attack to calm down the workers who, according to Hayden, are “emotionally shattered.” (US Congress 10/17/2002; Bamford 2004, pp. 52-54; Harris 6/19/2006; Hayden 5/4/2007) At 9:53, analysts in the counterterrorism office will pick up and quickly translate a phone call from a bin Laden operative in Afghanistan, apparently referring to the attacks (see 9:53 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Two unidentified military aircraft fly in the vicinity of the Pentagon at an altitude of over 20,000 feet, and are in the area during the minutes before the Pentagon is hit. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/20/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/28/2003 pdf file) Between at least 9:31 a.m. and 9:40 a.m., the two aircraft communicate with the air traffic control tower at Washington’s Reagan National Airport, which is less than a mile from the Pentagon. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/20/2001 pdf file; Adair and Garza 10/3/2001) Radar data will show that they fly “in trail” (in single file, with one aircraft directly behind the other) at 21,000 feet, and are overhead during the last few minutes that Flight 77 is airborne, before it hits the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/28/2003 pdf file)
Launched from Delaware Base - The identities of the two aircraft are unclear. They have the call signs “Bobcat 14” and “Bobcat 17.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/20/2001 pdf file) A 9/11 Commission memorandum will state that “flight strips and other information indicate that Bobcat 14 and Bobcat 17 originated out of Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.… It is possible, but not confirmed, that they were Air Force corporate passenger jets.”
Airport Managers Do Not Recall Planes - Two key officials will later be unable to specifically recall the aircraft when questioned by the 9/11 Commission. Bob Lazar, the acting operations manager at Reagan National Airport, will say he “did not remember any aircraft with the call sign ‘Bobcat’ that hung out over the National airspace” on this day. However, as well as two of the fighter jets that are inbound from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he will recall two aircraft “coming from the north, but he did not think that they entered National’s airspace.” Donny Simons, the airport manager at Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Linthicum, Maryland, will stress “that he did not remember the Bobcats specifically,” but he speculates that controllers at his airport “were working the two ‘Bobcats’ and needed vectors from National controllers.” (9/11 Commission 7/28/2003 pdf file)

A group from FAA headquarters, who are apparently oblivious to the morning’s crisis, request and are given a tour of the air traffic control tower at Washington’s Reagan National Airport, until they are forced to leave there just before the time of the Pentagon attack. (Spencer 2008, pp. 157-158) Reagan Airport is located less than a mile from the Pentagon. (Adair and Garza 10/3/2001)
Tour Group Wants to See Tower - At 9:32, the tower supervisor, Chris Stephenson, receives a phone call from one of the airport’s maintenance workers. The maintenance worker says he has a group there from the FAA’s Washington headquarters that is visiting the airport to go over some maintenance issues, but they are also curious to see what goes on in the control tower. It appears the FAA personnel are unaware of the attacks in New York, and Stephenson is asked if it is okay to bring them up. Though he is busy dealing with the chaos resulting from the ground stop recently ordered by the FAA’s Command Center (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Stephenson reluctantly agrees. The group arrives moments later, but Stephenson tries to ignore them. According to author Lynn Spencer, Stephenson is as yet unaware that an errant aircraft has been spotted heading toward Washington (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 157) But according to USA Today, the Secret Service warned him about this aircraft at around 9:30 a.m. (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Levin 8/11/2002)
Group Ordered to Leave - Shortly after the group arrives, Stephenson is called by a controller at the TRACON and notified of the unidentified aircraft (presumably Flight 77), which is five miles west of the tower (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). When he looks out the window, he sees it, now less than a mile away and approaching fast. Stephenson yells at the tour group: “Out! Get out!” The FAA group heads off down the stairs, but the last in the line looks out the window at the descending aircraft and asks, “What’s that guy doing?” ”Get out!” Stephenson repeats, and pushes the man into the stairwell. Soon afterwards, the Pentagon is hit (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 158)

The Nantucket Hair Salon.The Nantucket Hair Salon. [Source: Nantucket Hair Salon]Lynne Cheney, the wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, is evacuated from a hair salon in Washington, DC, by her Secret Service agents, but, after initially heading toward the vice president’s residence, her car changes direction and heads to the White House after the Pentagon is hit. (United States Secret Service 10/1/2001; Cheney 11/9/2001) Cheney was at the Nantucket Hair Salon, near the White House, at the time of the plane crashes at the World Trade Center, but the Secret Service agents accompanying her did not evacuate her in response to those attacks (see (8:48 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (United States Secret Service 10/1/2001) At around 9:33 a.m., however, air traffic controllers informed the Secret Service that an unidentified aircraft was heading toward the White House (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39)
Cheney Driven at 'High Speed' Away from Hair Salon - Presumably just a short time later, the Secret Service Joint Operations Center alerts the agents accompanying Cheney to the suspicious aircraft. One of the agents therefore decides to evacuate Cheney to the vice president’s residence, which is on the grounds of the US Naval Observatory in northwest Washington. (United States Secret Service 10/1/2001; King 10/26/2001; Koncius 11/27/2008) Cheney will later recall that her agents move her “rather briskly into a car” and then drive “at rather high speed” toward the vice president’s mansion. (Cheney 11/9/2001; Thomas 12/30/2001)
Car Makes 'Dramatic U-turn' and Heads to White House - During the journey, one of Cheney’s Secret Service agents phones a colleague who tells them that “the suspect airplane had crashed into the Pentagon,” according to Michael Seremetis, who is one of the agents accompanying Cheney this morning. (United States Secret Service 10/1/2001) (The Pentagon is hit at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 10) ) The colleague says that since Cheney’s motorcade is “on 15th Street and near the White House,” it should change destination and take Cheney to “the White House shelter” where she can join her husband. (United States Secret Service 10/1/2001) Cheney will recall that after her car has been heading toward the vice president’s residence for about five minutes, “we made a rather dramatic U-turn in the middle of the street and headed toward the White House.” (Cheney 11/9/2001) She will comment that after the Pentagon has been hit, the Secret Service “decided that maybe it would be safer for me to be underneath the White House. The immediate threat was gone, so they took me there.” (Skiba 7/2/2002; NPR 7/2/2002) Cheney will arrive at the White House as it is being evacuated (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Thomas 12/30/2001)

The Marriott Residence Inn in Arlington, Virginia.The Marriott Residence Inn in Arlington, Virginia. [Source: Marriott International]An American Airlines plane takes off from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, flying toward the Pentagon, just before the Pentagon attack occurs, according to a witness who says he sees the plane out the window of his hotel room.
Plane Takes Off toward Pentagon - Jeffrey Mark Parsons, an assistant chief patrol agent with the United States Border Patrol, is staying on the 17th floor of the Marriott Residence Inn in Arlington, Virginia. When later interviewed by Navy historian John Darrell Sherwood about his experiences of the 9/11 attacks, Parsons will recall: “I was looking out my window. I have a perfect view of Reagan National Airport. An American Airlines plane had just taken off, I mean, not 30 seconds before this plane [Flight 77] hit the Pentagon.” Parsons will add that the American Airlines plane is “taking off to the north, to the, different than the normal way. In other words, they were taking off toward the Pentagon.” (Parsons 12/13/2001; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 258) Reagan National Airport is less than a mile from the Pentagon. (Adair and Garza 10/3/2001) Parsons will continue, “Well, this American Airlines plane had just taken off, I mean it couldn’t have been a minute, 30 seconds before this plane [Flight 77] hit the Pentagon.” (Parsons 12/13/2001) Flight 77 hits the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001) and, like the plane Parsons sees, is an American Airlines aircraft. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 10)
American Airlines and Reagan Airport Planes Supposedly Grounded - And yet Chris Stephenson, the supervisor in the Reagan National Airport control tower, reportedly stopped takeoffs from Reagan Airport in the minutes after 9:03 a.m., when Flight 175 hit the World Trade Center (see (9:04 a.m.-9:11 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Levin 8/11/2002) And at 9:00 a.m., American Airlines ordered all its aircraft in the Northeast United States that had not yet taken off to remain on the ground (see Between 9:00 a.m. and 9:10 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 30) Furthermore, the FAA ordered a nationwide ground stop at around 9:26 a.m., which was supposed to prevent any aircraft taking off across the US (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure 9/21/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 25) Parsons will ask Sherwood if anyone has interviewed the pilot of the American Airlines plane he saw taking off, since that pilot must have witnessed the attack on the Pentagon. Sherwood will answer no, but add, “[T]hat’s another good lead for either myself or one of the other people to follow up on.” Whether the pilot is ever identified or interviewed is unknown. (Parsons 12/13/2001)

The Pentagon explodes. 
The Pentagon explodes. [Source: Donley/ Sipa]Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon. All 64 people on the plane are killed. A hundred-and-twenty-four people working in the building are killed, and a further victim will die in hospital several days later. Hijackers Hani Hanjour, Khalid Almihdhar, Majed Moqed, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salem Alhazmi presumably are killed instantly. (Typically, they are not included in the death counts.) (CNN 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; Ellison 10/17/2001; Vogel 11/21/2001; Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/13/2002; Associated Press 8/21/2002; MSNBC 9/3/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002; CBS 9/11/2002) Flight 77 hits the first floor of the Pentagon’s west wall. The impact and the resulting explosion heavily damage the building’s three outer rings. The path of destruction cuts through Army accounting offices on the outer E Ring, the Navy Command Center on the D Ring, and the Defense Intelligence Agency’s comptroller’s office on the C Ring. (Vogel 2007, pp. 431 and 449) Flight 77 strikes the only side of the Pentagon that had recently been renovated—it was “within days of being totally [renovated].” (US Department of Defense 9/15/2001) “It was the only area of the Pentagon with a sprinkler system, and it had been reconstructed with a web of steel columns and bars to withstand bomb blasts. The area struck by the plane also had blast-resistant windows—two inches thick and 2,500 pounds each—that stayed intact during the crash and fire. While perhaps, 4,500 people normally would have been working in the hardest-hit areas, because of the renovation work only about 800 were there.” More than 25,000 people work at the Pentagon. (Schrader 9/16/2001) Furthermore, the plane hits an area that has no basement. As journalist Steve Vogel later points out, “If there had been one under the first floor, its occupants could easily have been trapped by fire and killed when the upper floors collapsed.” (Vogel 2007, pp. 450)

James Roche.James Roche. [Source: United States Air Force]General John Jumper, the Air Force chief of staff, and James Roche, the secretary of the Air Force, head to the Air Force Operations Center in the basement of the Pentagon, where they will assist the Air Force’s response to the terrorist attacks. (CNN 10/10/2001; Sharp 9/11/2003; Hebert 9/2011 pdf file) Roche learned about the attacks on the World Trade Center while he was holding a breakfast meeting with several members of Congress in his office on the fourth floor of the Pentagon. He then arranged for the members of Congress to return to their offices, but stayed in his own office (see (Shortly After 8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Hebert 9/2011 pdf file) Jumper learned about the attacks during a staff meeting he was chairing, but initially continued the meeting (see (9:00 a.m.-9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 136) He adjourned it at 9:20 a.m., according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal. (Osborne 9/7/2004 pdf file) He then headed up to Roche’s office. (Roughton 9/15/2011)
Roche and Jumper Possibly Unaware of Plane Approaching Washington - In the office now with Roche and Jumper are Colonel Philip Breedlove, Roche’s senior military assistant, and Colonel Jack Egginton, executive officer to the Air Force chief of staff. (Hebert 9/2011 pdf file) It is unclear whether the men in Roche’s office realized a suspicious aircraft was approaching Washington, DC, before the Pentagon was hit, at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). Lieutenant General Lance Lord, assistant vice chief of staff of the Air Force, will later say that those who attended Jumper’s staff meeting “heard there was another plane inbound to Washington” as they were heading to their offices after the meeting. (Lord 9/5/2002) And Egginton will say that a few minutes before the Pentagon was hit, “We received word that another aircraft was headed toward Washington.” (Sharp 9/11/2003) But according to the Midland Reporter-Telegram, Jumper’s staff had “no idea that they [i.e. the Pentagon] would be the next target for terrorists.” (Condon 4/2/2002)
Roche and Jumper Possibly Initially Unaware that the Pentagon Had Been Attacked - Breedlove will recall that shortly before the Pentagon was hit, while Roche and Jumper had their backs to the window, he and Egginton “saw an airplane go by really close to the building.” People who work at the Pentagon or visit it regularly are used to seeing planes flying by, near the building. “But that one seemed closer than any other,” Breedlove will comment. (Hebert 9/2011 pdf file) However, it is unclear whether the men in Roche’s office immediately realized the Pentagon had been attacked when it was hit. The office is on the opposite side of the building to where the attack occurred and so, according to some accounts, Roche and Jumper did not feel the impact. They only realized something was wrong when they saw “people running down the halls and trying to evacuate the premises,” according to the Midland Reporter-Telegram. Roche will say that all he initially knew was that “the building was putting out the alert that something had gone wrong.” “It was amazing, from inside the building, how little we knew about what actually went on,” Tim Green, assistant executive to the Air Force chief of staff, who is with Jumper, will comment. “People outside of the building… probably knew more about what happened from the news than I did.” (CNN 10/10/2001; Condon 4/2/2002) Egginton and Breedlove, however, will contradict these accounts. “I felt the building shake upon impact,” Egginton will say. Breedlove will recall, “We felt a tremor in the building and then alarms start flashing.”
Roche and Jumper Taken to Operations Center - Breedlove will say that, in response to the attack on the Pentagon, he promptly arranges for Jumper and Roche to be escorted to the Air Force Operations Center, in the basement of the Pentagon’s C Ring. He will recall that he hits the “duress button” and then security officers enter Roche’s office almost immediately. “We said, ‘We need to get to the bunker; we need to get down to our operations area,’” he will say. (Sharp 9/11/2003; Hebert 9/2011 pdf file) Roche, though, will give a different account. He will say that his office had been “on the phone to our Operations Center” and then “we were called down,” presumably by whoever they were talking to in the Operations Center. (CNN 10/10/2001) Roche and Jumper are escorted to the Operations Center through “smoke, alarms, and throngs of people heading for the exits,” Egginton will recall. (Sharp 9/11/2003)
Roche and Jumper Learn a Plane Hit the Pentagon - In the Operations Center, members of the Air Force Crisis Action Team have already begun to assemble so as to help provide assistance to civil authorities in New York (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 136) When Roche and Jumper reach the center, they will learn that the Pentagon has been hit by an aircraft (see After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (CNN 10/10/2001) Other Air Force officials, including Lord, also head to the Operations Center after the Pentagon is hit. (Scully 9/11/2003)

Marc Sasseville.Marc Sasseville. [Source: CBC]Four pilots with the District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG) at Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, finally receive authorization to get airborne in their fighter jets, and are given instructions on their mission. The pilots are Lieutenant Colonel Marc Sasseville, Lieutenant Heather Penney Garcia, Captain Brandon Rasmussen, and Major Daniel Caine.
Pilot Waiting 'for Somebody to Task Me with Something' - Rasmussen will later recall that, although he and his colleagues at the unit had been aware of the attacks in New York, it is only after the Pentagon is hit (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001) that “we knew that we were going to be sticking around home and being quite busy.” And until the pilots are authorized to take off, he is “just kind of standing back, waiting for somebody to task me with something.” He will recall, “I was just waiting at the ops desk for someone to say, ‘Okay, we’ve been cleared to take off and go.’”
Sasseville Briefs Other Pilots - Rasmussen says that, after Sasseville and Caine receive authorization from their wing commander to get airborne and to use missiles, Sasseville, who is the acting operations group commander, looks at Penney Garcia and says, “You’re flying with me, and [Caine] you’re flying with [Rasmussen], do suit up and get out there as quick as possible.” According to another account, Sasseville gives his three fellow pilots a short briefing, telling them: “I have no idea what’s going on, but we’re flying. Here’s our frequency. We’ll split up the area as we have to. Just defend as required. We’ll talk about the rest in the air.” (Scott 9/9/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 82-84; Rasmussen 9/18/2003) Sasseville will recall, “There wasn’t a whole hell of a lot to talk about, because we didn’t know what was going on.” (Vogel 2007, pp. 446)
Pilots Prepare to Fly - According to Rasmussen: “We were relieved to actually be given permission to go up and do something instead of feeling totally helpless. I mean we are fighter pilots, just like guard dogs chomping at the bit ready to go.” The four pilots run down the hallway and throw on their gear, grabbing their helmets, g-suits, and parachute harnesses, before heading to the operations desk to get their aircraft assignments. (Scott 9/9/2002; Rasmussen 9/18/2003)
Commander Gives Instructions - According to author Leslie Filson, before Sasseville and Penney Garcia head to their jets, Brigadier General David Wherley, the commander of the DC Air National Guard, gives them instructions, regarding their mission. As Wherley will later recall, “My translation of the rules [of engagement] to [Sasseville] was, ‘You have weapons free flight-lead control.’” (Filson 2003, pp. 82) “Weapons free” means the decision whether to shoot at a hostile aircraft rests with the lead pilot. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 44) Wherley says, “Do you understand what I’m asking you to do?” and both pilots respond, “Yes.” Wherley then tells them to be careful. “It was important for them to understand that this was weapons free,” he will recall. (Filson 2003, pp. 82) However, Sasseville will tell the 9/11 Commission that he does not remember receiving the rules of engagement he is supposed to follow until later on, after he has taken off. (9/11 Commission 3/8/2004 pdf file)
Jets Don't Launch until 10:42 and After - The exact times when the four pilots are authorized to get airborne and receive their mission instructions are unclear. But Sasseville and Penney Garcia will take off from Andrews at 10:42 a.m., with their planes armed only with guns, and no missiles (see 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001). Rasmussen and Caine take off at 11:11 a.m., by which time their jets have been armed with missiles (see 11:11 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 82-84; 9/11 Commission 2004)

John Keane.John Keane. [Source: US Army]The Army’s Crisis Action Team (CAT) at the Pentagon is “formally stood up” and its members respond to the terrorist attacks. (Rossow 2003, pp. 66; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 135; Cohn 9/8/2011) Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Stramara activated the CAT after the second hijacked aircraft crashed into the World Trade Center, at 9:03 a.m., on the orders of Major General Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s director of operations, readiness, and mobilization (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Chiarelli 2/5/2002; Lofgren 2011, pp. 96-97) Chiarelli’s intention was, he said, “to respond to the contingency in New York if requested by state and local officials.” (Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 134) The CAT is now “formally stood up,” according to author Robert Rossow, although exactly what this means is unstated.
Senior Officials Come to Operations Center - When the CAT is activated, its members assemble in the Army Operations Center (AOC) in the basement of the Pentagon. (Rossow 2003, pp. 64, 66) Numerous senior officials now start arriving in the AOC. These include General John Keane, vice chief of staff of the Army; Brigadier General Clyde Vaughn, deputy director of operations, readiness, and mobilization; Major General Philip Kensinger, assistant deputy chief of staff for operations and plans; and Thomas White, the secretary of the Army. More senior officers come to the AOC than would usually be the case in a crisis, according to Chiarelli, “because a large portion of the Army section of the building had been destroyed” in the attack on the Pentagon. “People had been forced out of their space,” he will later say, and “were looking for some place to go.” (Chiarelli 2/5/2002; Vaughn 2/12/2002; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 135; Lofgren 2011, pp. 98-101; Baier 9/12/2011)
Operations Center Personnel Unaware that a Plane Hit the Pentagon - Chiarelli arrived at the AOC shortly before the Pentagon was hit (see (Shortly Before 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and, he will recall, heard a “muffled noise” when the attack occurred, at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Chiarelli 2/5/2002; Lofgren 2011, pp. 98-99) Colonel Henry Huntley, who also arrived at the AOC around the time of the Pentagon attack, will recall, “Alarms started going off and there was an announcement that an explosion had gone off in the building.” (Ellich 7/8/2008) However, those in the AOC are apparently initially unaware that a plane has hit their building. Vaughn, who witnessed the attack from the road outside the Pentagon, calls Major George Sterling, the AOC commandant, and says to him, “You know that you’ve been hit by an airplane?” Sterling responds, “Is that what happened?” Vaughn will comment that “many people… didn’t find out for some time” that the Pentagon had been hit by an airplane. (Vaughn 2/12/2002; Rossow 2003, pp. 15-16; Lofgren 2011, pp. 3-4)
Support Agency Commander Unaware that the US Is under Attack - Colonel Bruce Bachus, commander of the Command and Control Support Agency, who is responsible for keeping the AOC operating, arrived at the Pentagon around the time the attack there occurred and yet he is unaware of the crisis taking place in the US when he gets to the AOC. In the AOC, Dick Mansfield, deputy director of the Command and Control Support Agency, says to him: “We’ve been hit! The CAT has been stood up!” But Bachus appears to be puzzled. Mansfield therefore asks him, “Sir, do you know what’s going on?” Bachus says no and that he had not been listening to the radio—like he usually does—while he drove to work. He says he heard a loud sound while he was in the Pentagon’s A-E Drive, and saw people shouting and running down the corridors, but he’d had no idea what was going on. Mansfield therefore has to quickly brief him on the catastrophic events of the past hour. (Rossow 2003, pp. 9, 68)
Crisis Team Assesses How Many Army Staffers Are Missing - The “first big task” for the CAT, according to Vaughn, is “to get a count on how many people were missing on the Army staff.” Chiarelli instructs Vaughn to focus on this assignment. Vaughn then announces on the CAT floor that he wants each section “to start that process of figuring out who was missing and who was not.” “For a long time, our number one priority was locating and identifying and taking care of… our soldiers and civilians,” Vaughn will say. (Vaughn 2/12/2002) Lieutenant Colonel Richard Kotch, who is working in the AOC this morning, will recall that those in the operations center also “assured continuity of operations after the impact [i.e. the attack on the Pentagon].” (Cohn 9/8/2011)
Intelligence Officers Give Inaccurate Reports of Hijackings - Meanwhile, after he arrives at the AOC, Chiarelli receives reports from his intelligence officers informing him, inaccurately, about additional hijacked aircraft. He is told there are “a minimum of four aircraft that were hijacked and a possibility, at one time, [of] as high as seven.” (Chiarelli 2/5/2002; Lofgren 2011, pp. 99)
Operations Center Has Sophisticated Equipment - The CAT, according to Soldiers magazine, “consists of a dedicated ‘hot’ desk with classified and unclassified computers, and secure telephones for 24 separate Army staff sections.” (Schwab and Jewell 9/2004) The AOC, where its members assemble, is equipped with state-of-the-art communications equipment and has television sets for monitoring news coverage. (Vogel 8/25/1995) A glassed-in balcony overlooks the main floor and four giant screens are on the wall above the computer workstations. (Chiarelli 2/5/2002; Lofgren 2011, pp. 99-100)
Watch Team Regularly Communicates with Government Agencies - AOC personnel usually work around the clock to keep senior Army leaders aware of issues and events around the world. A watch team monitors the world constantly and is ready to sound the alarm if a crisis erupts somewhere. The watch team also “directs hundreds of communications daily to the FBI, the State Department, the White House command center, local law enforcement agencies, and others,” according to Soldiers magazine. The AOC is equipped with an “emergency action console,” which is a switchboard with a sophisticated communications system that allows watch team members to contact, at the touch of a button, the White House, the secretary of defense’s office, and Army commands around the world. (Vogel 8/25/1995; Schwab and Jewell 9/2004) The CAT will become “a focal point for all Pentagon activities” in response to the terrorist attacks, according to Kotch. (Cohn 9/8/2011) It will continue working around the clock in the aftermath of the attacks. (Chiarelli 2/5/2002)

The White House mess.The White House mess. [Source: Unknown]People at the White House are ordered to go to the “mess,” the senior staff dining room. David Kuo, a special assistant to the president, and John Bridgeland, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, will later recall being ordered to go downstairs to the mess by armed Secret Service agents. Meanwhile, Anita McBride, the acting director of White House personnel, is instructed by members of the Secret Service to “go through West Wing offices and tell everyone to ‘get out’ and stay put” in the mess. (Kuo 2006, pp. 185; McBride 9/9/2011; Bridgeland 2012, pp. 3) Mary Matalin, a counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney, will recall, “Everyone still remaining in the West Wing was shepherded to the White House mess, where we were to await further instructions.” (Carville and Matalin 2014, pp. 138)
Mess Is a 'Tiny, Unsecure' Facility - The White House mess is an exclusive dining facility run by the US Navy, located in the basement of the West Wing, just under the Oval Office. (Ingle 12/1/2001; Geraghty 10/8/2013) Bridgeland will recall thinking “how odd it was” for White House staffers to all be evacuated to this “tiny, unsecure” facility. (Bridgeland 2012, pp. 4) People in the mess are watching television or just waiting. (Estes 8/29/2002) Kuo will describe: “All the tables had been tossed onto their sides to make room for as many people as possible. Fifty people stood there, shocked, quiet, confused.” (Kuo 2006, pp. 185)
People Ordered to the Mess after the Pentagon Attack - The exact time at which staffers are ordered to go to the mess is unclear. Matalin will recall being told to go there “moments” after she sees Cheney being evacuated from his office, which would be some time shortly after 9:36 a.m. (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (National Review 9/8/2011; Carville and Matalin 2014, pp. 137-138) Bridgeland and Kuo will recall being ordered to go there shortly after they learn the Pentagon has been hit, which would be some time after 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon attack occurred (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Kuo 2006, pp. 184-185; Bridgeland 2012, pp. 3)
People in the Mess Ordered to Leave the Building - People will only spend a short time in the mess before they are told to get out of the building. The Secret Service will reportedly order them to evacuate the White House at 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Associated Press 2001 pdf file; Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002) Bridgeland will describe: “[A]n alarmed police officer came into the White House mess and instructed us to leave. Another officer outside was receiving the latest communications by wire (apparently alerted that United Airlines Flight 93 was headed toward the White House or US Capitol building) and commanded us, ‘Take off your shoes and run as fast as you can.’” (Bridgeland 2012, pp. 4) Matalin will recall that the order she hears, which is delivered “in a weirdly calm manner,” is: “Run for your lives. A plane is going to hit the White House.” (Carville and Matalin 2014, pp. 138)

The Eisenhower Executive Office Building.The Eisenhower Executive Office Building. [Source: White House]The Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB), a government building located next to the West Wing of the White House, is evacuated. (CNN 9/11/2001; Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002) The EEOB is where most of the president’s staff works. (Baker 1/8/2009) It is evacuated on the orders of the Secret Service. (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002) Carl Truscott, the Secret Service special agent in charge of the presidential protective division, recently learned that a suspicious aircraft was flying toward the White House, and as a result said he would initiate the evacuations of the White House and the EEOB (see (Shortly After 9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He then instructed a “White House security representative” to evacuate the White House. (United States Secret Service 10/1/2001; United States Secret Service 10/1/2001)
Guards Scream at People to Leave Building - Lloyd Blanchard, who works for the Office of Management and Budget in the EEOB, will later describe the evacuation. He will recall seeing “security personnel… moving frantically through the building, telling everyone to evacuate.” Blanchard and his colleagues are unaware of why, specifically, they are being ordered to leave the building. (Blanchard 9/11/2011) Cesar Conda, a domestic policy adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, whose office is in the EEOB, will recall seeing guards “screaming to everyone to ‘move’ and ‘run’ out of the White House complex.” (Politico 4/23/2009) The New York Times will describe bomb squads “racing through the upper floors of the [EEOB], screaming, ‘Get out, get out, this is real!’” (Sanger and van Natta 9/16/2001) And Ron Christie, the deputy assistant to the vice president for domestic policy, will describe the scene on the second floor of the EEOB, writing: “[T]he offices containing the vice president’s Secret Service detail were flung open. Men and women I’d never seen before ran out with automatic weapons. They began to shout: ‘Everybody evacuate the building. Get out now!’” (Christie 2006, pp. 129)
Some People Hear Recorded Evacuation Order - Apparently, some people in the EEOB hear an announcement instructing them to evacuate, but others do not. Time magazine will describe a recorded announcement going off. It will report: “Staff members in the [EEOB]… were huddled in front of their TV screens when they heard from TV reporters that they were being evacuated. Then the tape loop began. ‘The building is being evacuated. Please walk to the nearest exit.’” (Gibbs 9/14/2001) According to White House spokesman Scott Stanzel, who is in the EEOB, “[A]larms sounded, a steady, electronic beep, followed by a recorded male voice [saying,] ‘Evacuate the White House.’” (Dorschner 9/16/2001) And Major Robert Darling, who is in the White House Airlift Operations office on the fourth floor of the EEOB, will recall, “The building’s intercom suddenly came to life and ordered all personnel to evacuate the White House and the adjoining Eisenhower Executive Office Building.” The announcement states: “Evacuate the White House complex! All personnel are to evacuate the White House complex immediately!” (Darling 2010, pp. 46)
Some People Hear 'No Alarm Bells' - However, Yvonne Boulding, who works for the Office of Management and Budget, hears no announcement. “There was no announcement to evacuate,” she will recall. “Everybody just started yelling, ‘Get out, get out.’” (Shribman 9/11/2001) And according to Mitch Daniels, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, “There was some confusion” but “no alarm bells went off.” Daniels will say that people instead decide to leave the building based on “word of mouth.” (Dowd 9/12/2001)
Commotion, but No Evacuation Order Earlier On - Apparently no order was given to evacuate the EEOB earlier on, even when the nearby Pentagon was hit at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). Conda will recall that at the time he heard the boom in the distance from the Pentagon attack, the EEOB had not yet been evacuated. He had, however, already noticed “a lot of commotion, with the Secret Service agents scurrying up and down the marbled hallway” outside his office. (Politico 4/23/2009) Just before the evacuation begins, Christie saw a Secret Service officer he is friends with outside the office of Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, on the second floor of the EEOB. The agent waved frantically when he noticed Christie and then told him: “Ron, you need to get out of here. I’ve heard there’s another plane inbound to the White House and it could get here in less than two minutes. You need to get your staff, get out, and stay away from the windows.” (Christie 2006, pp. 128-129) The EEOB will be mostly empty by 10:05 a.m., according to a Secret Service timeline. (United States Secret Service 9/12/2001) The White House is evacuated around the same time as the EEOB is (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Associated Press 2001 pdf file; CNN 9/12/2001)

A man who is on the 105th floor of the South Tower calls emergency 9-1-1 to report that floors below his location, “in the 90-something floor,” have collapsed. The 9-1-1 operator types a record of this call into the Special Police Radio Inquiry Network (SPRINT) data link, which will be passed on to the New York fire department’s Emergency Medical Service (EMS). It isn’t known when the call is made exactly, but the EMS Dispatch computer apparently receives the call record at this time. However, because it is classified as a “supplement message,” it is not yet read by anyone. The police dispatcher dealing with the area around the WTC also receives the call record, but misinterprets it as meaning that the floor the person is on has collapsed. EMS dispatchers are dealing with an enormous volume of calls as well as performing many other tasks under extreme pressure during the crisis, so a report later concludes that the EMS operators didn’t have the time to review the information before the collapse of the South Tower at 9:59 (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001), and the fire chiefs never received the information. (New York City Fire Department 8/19/2002)

Joseph Morris.Joseph Morris. [Source: Publicity photo]Inspector Joseph Morris, a commanding officer with the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD), tells numerous PAPD officers to initially stay away from the Twin Towers after they arrive near the World Trade Center, thereby likely preventing many of them from being killed when the South Tower collapses. (Domash 9/1/2002; Law Officer 8/16/2011) Morris was in his office at New York’s La Guardia Airport when he heard someone yell out that an aircraft had crashed into the WTC. After turning on the television and seeing the images of the burning North Tower, he gave the order for all his available officers to go to the WTC. “I initiated a mobilization of personnel following long-held department plans and procedures for response to the World Trade Center for aircraft disasters and high-rise fires,” he will later describe. Morris and 17 colleagues head out and arrive in the vicinity of the WTC “maybe six to seven minutes” before the South Tower collapses, Morris will estimate, which would be at around 9:52 a.m. to 9:53 a.m. About 40 to 50 PAPD officers are at the location at this time and Morris is the highest-ranking commander among them. (Morris 1/2002 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 11/10/2003; 9/11 Commission 5/18/2004 pdf file)
Officers Are Told to Stay Away from the WTC - The PAPD officers with Morris are keen to rush into the Twin Towers and get involved with the rescue operation. Normally, they would go to the lobby of the North Tower in an emergency like the current one. Morris, though, tells them to stay back while he assesses the situation. The decision is made for the officers to “break up into groups of three or four, with a supervisor,” and “get [their] bunker gear on,” Morris will say. He instructs them “not to go anywhere until I came up with a plan.” (Morris 1/2002 pdf file; Domash 9/1/2002; Law Officer 8/16/2011)
Commander Thinks There May Be Few People Left to Rescue - Morris will say his caution about allowing PAPD officers into the Twin Towers at the current time is partly because he sees very few civilians coming his way up West Street and this leads him to question how many people are left at the WTC to be rescued. (9/11 Commission 11/10/2003) Some other Port Authority employees, in addition to the PAPD officers, are at the same location as Morris and Morris tells them, too, to stay away from the WTC. “I informed them they should stay at that location until more information was gathered for responses,” he will say. (9/11 Commission 5/18/2004 pdf file)
Commander's Decision Likely Saves Lives - Morris’s decision to keep PAPD officers away from the WTC will be credited with saving the lives of people who may have been killed when the South Tower collapsed, at 9:59 a.m. (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001), if they had headed to the Twin Towers. Alan Reiss, director of the Port Authority’s World Trade Department, will say that in retrospect, he believes it “most certainly saved lives of at least some of those officers held back.” (9/11 Commission 11/3/2003) Law Officer magazine will describe it as a decision “that proved to be a lifesaver for many.” (Law Officer 8/16/2011) Police magazine will call it one of “a couple of key decisions” Morris makes “that saved his department even greater tragedy” today. (Domash 9/1/2002) A few minutes after arriving near the WTC, Morris will decide to head to the incident command post in the North Tower to meet with other professionals who are assembled there. He will be going toward it with Lieutenant Emiliano Sepulveda, a colleague of his, when the South Tower starts to come down. He will run north up West Street and then find protection inside the PAPD’s command bus. (9/11 Commission 11/10/2003; 9/11 Commission 5/18/2004 pdf file; Law Officer 8/16/2011)

Members of New York Police Department’s elite Emergency Service Unit (ESU) are given an order that means they have to get out of the World Trade Center or delay entering it and consequently many of them will avoid being killed when the South Tower collapses, at 9:59 a.m. (Keegan and Davis 2006, pp. 101-102; Appel 2009, pp. 112-113) The ESU is a highly trained organization comprised of first response rescuers. (City of New York 6/29/2002) Its members respond to situations that require the most specialized training, such as hostage taking and water rescue, and use the most advanced equipment. (Keegan and Davis 2006, pp. 101)
Officers Are Ordered to Come Down from the WTC - Inspector Ronald Wasson, commanding officer of the ESU, earlier on divided his officers into four teams of five or six men and then sent two teams into each of the Twin Towers to assist the rescue operation. (McPhee and O'Shaughnessy 11/11/2001) But now, ESU commanders give the order for the unit’s members to “go tactical.” This means the officers in the towers have to come out of the buildings and go to the unit’s SWAT (special weapons and tactics) vans; put on their BDU (battle dress uniform) suits, flak jackets, and Kevlar helmets; and arm themselves with heavy weapons and assault rifles.
Commander Thinks Terrorists Might Attack the First Responders - The decision to order ESU officers to go tactical is made by Wasson, according to a book by Lieutenant William Keegan of the Port Authority Police Department. (Keegan and Davis 2006, pp. 101-102) Wasson is currently assembled with a number of other ESU officers outside the Twin Towers, at the corner of West and Vesey Streets. (Appel 2009, pp. 68) He decides that ESU officers should go tactical due to his concern that armed terrorists might attack the first responders at the WTC. He is “worried that with all his personnel inside the buildings, he [has] no way to protect the cops, firefighters, or civilians from the kind of low-intensity warfare—snipers, automatic weapons, car bombs, hostage situations—he [is] sure [will] follow the attack,” Keegan will write. He believes it is the responsibility of the New York Fire Department to deal with the fires in the Twin Towers, while the Police Department should be preparing for what might happen next. Many ESU members will come out of the towers after receiving the order to go tactical, according to Keegan. (Keegan and Davis 2006, pp. 101-102)
Order Is Given after an Officer Hears of the Pentagon Attack - However, according to author Anthea Appel, the order to go tactical is made by Sergeant Tom Sullivan, another ESU officer. Sullivan is currently at the corner of West and Vesey Streets along with Wasson, getting ready to take two teams into the WTC. At 9:56 a.m., after hearing over his radio about the attack on the Pentagon, which occurred at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001), he exclaims, “Screw rescue!” He then pulls his men back and announces that all ESU teams will be “going in tactical,” according to Appel. “I want heavy vests, helmets, rifles, and machine guns,” he says. In response to his announcement, ESU officers start taking off their rescue gear and putting on combat gear. They take off their safety helmets and replace them with ballistic helmets. They take off their air tanks, unbuckle their Roco harnesses, and put on more body armor over their bulletproof vests. They also unlock their gun bins and take out shotguns, submachine guns, and assault rifles. Some officers grumble under their breath, annoyed at being held back. “They didn’t like wasting time fiddling around with equipment,” Appel will comment, “and this sudden switch interrupted their adrenaline momentum.” They will be in the middle of changing into their combat gear when the South Tower collapses (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Appel 2009, pp. 112-113)
Order Is Wrong but Saves Lives - The order to go tactical will turn out to be mistaken as there are no attacks by armed terrorists on the first responders at the WTC. However, as a result of it being issued, numerous ESU members will be outside the Twin Towers instead of inside the buildings when the South Tower comes down and many of them will therefore avoid being killed in the collapse. While 14 ESU members will die in the WTC collapses, a far greater number will survive, Keegan will write, “because Wasson’s order pulled them out of the towers and saved their lives.” (Keegan and Davis 2006, pp. 102) One ESU member, Detective Frank DeMasi, will conclude that Sullivan “definitely saved his life when he made that last-minute decision to switch from rescue to tactical mode,” according to Appel, since the delay while they changed into their combat gear “kept DeMasi and his teammates from walking into the South Tower before it collapsed.” (Appel 2009, pp. 265-266)

James Nieckarz.James Nieckarz. [Source: Maryknoll Mission Archives]Police officers order members of the public to get away from the World Trade Center, telling them the Twin Towers are in danger of collapsing. Shanthy Nambiar, a reporter for BridgeNews in New York, is standing on Vesey Street, beneath Building 7 of the WTC. She hears someone shout, “You guys shouldn’t be in this area.” She will later recall, “Police officers ordered people to start fleeing the area, saying the towers were in danger of collapse.” She runs north one block and then sees the South Tower coming down (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Casey 2001, pp. 156) Priest Father James Nieckarz is also standing outside Building 7 around this time. He will recall that a couple of police officers come along, shouting out to everyone on the street: “Everyone run to the north. The tower is shaking and may come down.” Nieckarz goes around Building 7 and then, as he is walking north, hears “a loud rumbling roar” behind him as the South Tower collapses. (Milisic 9/12/2001; United States Conference of Catholic Bishops 9/2003, pp. 15) Why the police officers encountered by Nambiar and Nieckarz believe the Twin Towers are in danger of collapsing is unclear. Although a New York City Police Department (NYPD) helicopter has reported “large pieces” falling from the South Tower (see (9:49 a.m.) September 11, 2001), the 9/11 Commission Report will state, “Prior to 9:59, no NYPD helicopter pilot predicted that either tower would collapse.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 304)

The South Tower of the World Trade Center collapses.The South Tower of the World Trade Center collapses. [Source: Associated Press]The South Tower of the World Trade Center tilts to the southeast and then collapses. It was hit by Flight 175 at 9:03 a.m., 56 minutes earlier (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Washington Post 9/12/2001; New York Times 9/12/2001; MSNBC 9/22/2001; Cauchon 12/20/2001; Associated Press 8/21/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002; National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 44) The first sign of the collapse is visible on floor 82. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 87) The angle of the tilt will be disputed after 9/11 (see September-November 2005), as will the time it takes the towers to fall to the ground (see September 12, 2001-September 2005). (Ashley 10/9/2001; Eagar and Musso 12/2001; PBS Nova 5/2002; National Institute of Standards and Technology 8/30/2006)

Twenty minutes after the 9/11 attacks in New York (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001) and Washington (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001), a bomb truck is stationed in downtown Oklahoma City, in preparation for any potential bombing related to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Additionally, an Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Department command post is activated where convicted bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see September 5, 2001) is being held. (The Oklahoman 4/2009)

Damage to the southwest corner of WTC 7.Damage to the southwest corner of WTC 7. [Source: Arquelio Galarza]World Trade Center Building 7 (WTC 7) suffers some damage, caused by debris from the collapse of the north WTC tower, according to later official reports. (Federal Emergency Management Agency 5/1/2002, pp. 5-16; National Institute of Standards and Technology 11/2008, pp. 16)
WTC 7 Undamaged by South Tower Collapse - WTC 7 is a 47-story office building located 370 feet north of the North Tower (WTC 1). In the final report of its investigation into WTC 7’s collapse, published in November 2008 (see November 20, 2008), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will state that although a few windows on the lower floors of WTC 7’s south face were broken when the South Tower (WTC 2) collapsed at 9:59 a.m. (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001), “None of the large pieces of debris from WTC 2 hit WTC 7, because of the large distance between the two buildings,” and there is “no evidence of structural damage to WTC 7” as a result of the South Tower’s collapse.
Debris Reportedly Damages Exterior Columns - However, when the North Tower collapses (see 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001), some fragments of debris are “forcibly ejected” from it, and travel “distances up to hundreds of meters.” According to NIST, pieces of this debris “hit WTC 7, severing six columns on floors 7 through 17 on the south face and one column on the west face near the southwest corner.” NIST will add that the debris also causes “structural damage between floor 44 and the roof,” and breaks a large number of windows on WTC 7’s south face.
Building Core Undamaged - However, NIST will state, based on “photographic evidence, witness accounts, and engineering judgment, it is likely that the structural damage (steel and floor slabs) did not penetrate beyond the perimeter of the building core. At the southwest corner, the structural damage extended only about one-third of the distance from the exterior wall to the building core.” NIST will comment, “Compared to the airplane impact damage to the WTC towers, there was relatively little damage to the interior of WTC 7.” There is also “no superficial or structural damage” to WTC 7’s north and east faces. And the sprayed fire resistive material that has been applied to the building’s steel columns, girders, and beams is only damaged in the “immediate vicinity of the WTC 1 debris impact.” NIST will admit, however, that there are “uncertainties” in its accounting of the events leading up to the collapse of WTC 7, because “the remains of all the WTC buildings were disposed of before Congressional action and funding was available for [its] investigation [of the WTC collapses] to begin” (see Shortly After September 11, 2001 and September 12-October 2001). (National Institute of Standards and Technology 8/21/2008; National Institute of Standards and Technology 11/2008, pp. 15-16)
FEMA Describes WTC 7 Damage - According to an earlier report on the collapse of WTC 7, published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in May 2002 (see May 1, 2002), at that time, the “extent and severity of the resulting damage to WTC 7” when the North Tower collapses “are currently unknown.” But based on “photographic evidence and eyewitness accounts,” it is “assumed that the south side of the building was damaged to some degree.” FEMA’s report will state: “It does not appear that the collapse of WTC 1 affected the roof, or the east, west, and north elevations of WTC 7 in any significant way. However, there was damage to the southwest corner of WTC 7 at approximately floors 8 to 20, 24, 25, and 39 to 46.” The report will add: “According to firefighters’ eyewitness accounts from outside of the building, approximately floors 8-18 were damaged to some degree. Other eyewitness accounts relate that there was additional damage to the south elevation.” (Federal Emergency Management Agency 5/1/2002, pp. 5-16, 5-20)
Structural Damage Not Responsible for Collapse - WTC 7 will collapse at 5:20 p.m. this afternoon (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (National Institute of Standards and Technology 8/21/2008) However, NIST will conclude that the structural damage the building suffers plays no role in causing it to come down. NIST will state, “Other than initiating the fires in WTC 7, the damage from the debris from WTC 1 had little effect on initiating the collapse of WTC 7.” (National Institute of Standards and Technology 11/2008, pp. xxxvii) WTC 7 suffers fires on some floors, which are reportedly initiated by debris from the collapse of the North Tower (see (10:28 a.m.-5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). According to NIST, it is these fires, “rather than the structural damage that resulted from the impacts” of debris, which “initiated the building’s collapse.” (National Institute of Standards and Technology 8/21/2008)

Brigadier General Montague Winfield finally returns to his post as the deputy director for operations (DDO) in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon, after leaving a colleague, who only recently qualified to take over the position, to stand in for him throughout the terrorist attacks. (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) At 8:30 a.m. Winfield left his post to attend a pre-scheduled meeting that was unrelated to the morning’s attacks and had been convened by the Air Force. Since that time, Captain Charles Leidig has replaced him as the DDO (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). Leidig, the deputy for Command Center operations, only qualified to stand in as the DDO in the NMCC about a month ago. Even though officers in the NMCC realized the US was under terrorist attack when the second plane hit the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m., Winfield did not return to his post at that time (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004 pdf file)
Winfield Returns to His Post, but Timing Unclear - Now Winfield finally relieves Leidig and resumes his duties as DDO. This happens after Flight 93 has crashed in Pennsylvania (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001), although the exact time is unclear. In a private interview with the 9/11 Commission, Leidig will say he is “certain that Winfield returned [from the meeting] after the Pentagon was hit” at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001), but he “is not certain of Winfield’s arrival in relationship with the vice chairman” of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers. (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file) (According to the 9/11 Commission Report, Myers arrived at the NMCC shortly before 10:00 a.m. (see (Between 9:55 a.m. and 10:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 38) ) Winfield then takes over as DDO “at some point in relation to the report of the Pennsylvania crash,” according to Leidig. As the 9/11 Commission will point out, since the crash of Flight 93 happened around 10:03 a.m., “any reporting would be after that time.” (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file) During a public hearing of the 9/11 Commission, Leidig will similarly say that Winfield takes over from him “[r]ight after we resolved what was going on with United 93.” He will also say that a report over the NMCC’s air threat conference at 10:37 a.m., about an anonymous threat against Air Force One (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001), occurs “right after I was relieved on the watch by General Winfield.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) This would indicate that Winfield takes over from Leidig at around 10:30 a.m.
Unclear If Winfield Returns to Post Immediately after Meeting - It is also unclear whether Winfield returns to his position as DDO immediately after leaving the Air Force-convened meeting, or he allowed Leidig to continue in his place even while he was available to resume his duties. A 9/11 Commission memorandum will state, “Winfield transitioned into the position [of DDO] upon his return to the NMCC,” following the meeting. (9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file) Leidig will recall that he “looked up at one point and General Winfield was standing next to him.” He will also recall that Myers “looked at him at one time and realized the coordinator [i.e. the DDO] was not a general as the position called for, and asked who the general or admiral was that had duty that day.” The guidance that was subsequently given was “to get General Winfield briefed up and in the chair.”
Leidig Listens to Conference before Returning to Post - After Winfield returns to his position as DDO, Leidig initially “stands next to him and listens to the [NMCC’s air threat] conference.” Leidig will then transition into his regular job, which involves making sure the NMCC operates properly, and start dealing with the smoke coming into the center and other issues effecting operations there. (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file)

American Airlines issues a statement confirming that it has lost two of its aircraft in “tragic incidents this morning.” The statement identifies the aircraft as “Flight 11, a Boeing 767 en route from Boston to Los Angeles,” and “Flight 77, a Boeing 757 operating from Washington Dulles to Los Angeles.” The statement adds, “Because of the heightened security due to the nature of today’s events, American said it is working closely with US government authorities and will not release more information at this time.” (Associated Press 2001 pdf file; Associated Press 9/11/2001; CNN 9/12/2001) Flight 11 hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) and Flight 77 hit the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004)

At around 8:00 p.m., Afghanistan time (11:30 a.m., New York time), Taliban leader Mullah Omar allegedly says, “Things have gone much further than expected.” This is according to what the New Yorker will describe as “Afghan intelligence sources” who monitor the call. (It is unclear what “Afghan intelligence sources” means, since the Taliban control nearly all of Afghanistan at this time, but it could be a reference to Northern Alliance forces; the CIA gave them equipment to monitor the Taliban (see Winter 1999-March 2000).) Omar’s comment takes place over an hour after one of the World Trade Center towers collapsed, which means thousands have been killed in the attacks, not hundreds (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). An Afghan intelligence official will later say: “They were expecting a reaction. But they thought it would be a Clinton-type reaction. They didn’t anticipate the kind of revenge that occurred.” (Anderson 6/10/2002) The “Clinton-type reaction” presumably is a reference to the August 1998 missile strikes on Sudan and Afghanistan during the Clinton administration (see August 20, 1998).

James L. Jones.James L. Jones. [Source: US Marine Corps]The Navy establishes a new command center at the Navy Annex in Arlington, Virginia, after its original command center was destroyed in the attack on the Pentagon. The original Navy Command Center, located on the first floor of the Pentagon, provided Navy leaders with timely information and intelligence about operations around the world. But it was destroyed, and many of its personnel died, when the Pentagon was hit (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Leiby 1/20/2002; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 133) Reportedly, 70 percent of the Navy’s spaces in the Pentagon were damaged or destroyed in the Pentagon attack. (Brown 10/1/2001)
Navy Invited to Join Marines at Navy Annex - General James Jones, the commandant of the Marine Corps, therefore invited several of his Navy counterparts and their staffs to co-locate with the Marine Corps at the Navy Annex. (Brill 1/2002) The Navy Annex is a huge building located a few hundred yards uphill from the Pentagon. It has enough room for 6,000 employees. Currently, about 100 Navy personnel work in it, and most of the space is used by the Marine Corps. (Garamone 9/24/2001; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 14; GlobalSecurity (.org) 5/7/2011) It is the location of the Marine Corps Command Center. (Brill 1/2002) Admiral William Fallon, the vice chief of naval operations, has consequently made arrangements for the Navy’s leadership and support personnel to move to the Navy Annex. (Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 133)
Building Manager Unhappy about Moving People to Navy Annex - At around 3:00 p.m., Coneleous Alexander, a building manager at the Navy Annex, learns from one of the Marine Corps administrative managers of the plan to relocate the Navy Command Center to his building. The new command center will be set up in an area on the fourth floor that, Alexander will later say, “had been demolished for use by the build out for ballistic missiles.” (Alexander 12/21/2001) It is unclear from Alexander’s account whether he means that missiles are being stored at the Navy Annex, or is referring to the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, which has been housed at the Navy Annex since February this year. (US Department of Defense 11/30/2001; Kadish 5/2/2002) Alexander is unsure whether it is a good idea to move personnel to the Navy Annex. One reason for his uncertainty, he will say, is “the ballistic missiles” being there. He thinks a better choice would be to move people to Henderson Hall, the Marine Corps headquarters, which is located next to the Navy Annex.
Only Mission-Essential Personnel Allowed into Building - All the same, Marines start moving equipment into the Navy Annex, and maintenance crews set up portable air conditioners and exhaust fans for the Navy’s new command center there. It is decided that, due to the fear of another attack, only mission-essential personnel may enter the building. (Alexander 12/21/2001; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 133) While some Navy staffs will be able to promptly return to their spaces at the Pentagon, others have to temporarily move to offices at locations that, as well as the Navy Annex, include the Washington Navy Yard and Northern Virginia’s Crystal City office complex. (Brown 10/1/2001)

Following the attacks, there is no agreement on the speed with which the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center collapsed on 9/11 (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). The 9/11 Commission says that the South Tower collapsed in “ten seconds” and the National Institute of Standards and Technology says that tops of the buildings came down “essentially in free fall.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 305; National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 146) In the dispute over the reason for the WTC’s collapse after 9/11, it is claimed that, if the towers fell in ten seconds, then this is evidence they were destroyed by explosives. For example, David Ray Griffin, a theologian and outspoken critic of commission’s report, writes, “For a 1,300-foot building, however, ten seconds is almost free-fall speed. But if each floor produced just a little resistance, so that breaking through each one took half a second, the collapse of all those floors—80 or 95 of them—would have taken 40 to 47 seconds. Can we really believe that the upper part of the buildings encountered virtually no resistance from the lower part?” (Griffin 2004, pp. 16) But according to Canadian scientist Frank Greening, who studies the Twin Towers’ collapse, the freefall time would be about 9.6 seconds, and he calculates that it takes longer for the buildings to fall—twelve to thirteen and a half seconds—and states this does not indicate that explosives were used. (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 8/25/2005)

Carl Levin.Carl Levin. [Source: Publicity photo]Air Force General Richard Myers is questioned about the US military’s response to the 9/11 attacks when he appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee for his confirmation hearing as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but his answers are vague and confused, and he claims, incorrectly, that no fighter jets were scrambled in response to the hijackings until after the Pentagon was hit. (Shenon 2008, pp. 119; Farmer 2009, pp. 241-243) Myers has been the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff since March 2000. (US Air Force 9/2005) With General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flying toward Europe on the morning of September 11 (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he served as the acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the 9/11 attacks. (Myers 2009, pp. 10; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell 2010, pp. 431-433)
Myers Says Fighters Were Only Scrambled after the Pentagon Attack - During the hearing, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) asks if the Department of Defense was contacted by “the FAA or the FBI or any other agency” after the first two hijacked aircraft crashed into the World Trade Center, at 8:46 a.m. and 9:03 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), but before 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon was hit (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). Myers replies, “I don’t know the answer to that question.” Levin then asks if the military was “asked to take action against any specific aircraft” during the attacks. Myers answers, “When it became clear what the threat was, we did scramble fighter aircraft, AWACS, radar aircraft, and tanker aircraft to begin to establish orbits in case other aircraft showed up in the FAA system that were hijacked.” Myers elaborates later in the hearing, telling Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL): “[A]fter the second tower was hit, I spoke to the commander of NORAD, General [Ralph] Eberhart (see (9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). And at that point, I think the decision was at that point to start launching aircraft.” But he tells Levin that “to the best of my knowledge,” the order to scramble fighters was only given “after the Pentagon was struck.”
Flight 93 Was Not Shot Down, Myers Says - Myers addresses the military’s response to Flight 93, the fourth hijacked plane, which crashed in a field in Pennsylvania (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He says: “[I]f my memory serves me… we had launched on the one that eventually crashed in Pennsylvania. I mean, we had gotten somebody close to it, as I recall.” However, he adds, “I’ll have to check that out.” When Levin mentions that there have been “statements that the aircraft that crashed in Pennsylvania was shot down,” Myers responds, “[T]he armed forces did not shoot down any aircraft.” He says, “[W]e never actually had to use force.” Although Myers appears unclear about when the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) launched fighters in response to the hijackings, he is more confident when he states: “At the time of the first impact on the World Trade Center, we stood up our Crisis Action Team. That was done immediately. So we stood it up. And we started talking to the federal agencies.” (US Congress 9/13/2001)
NORAD and the 9/11 Commission Contradict Myers's Account - Myers’s claim that fighters were only launched in response to the hijackings after the Pentagon was hit will later be contradicted by the accounts of NORAD and the 9/11 Commission, which state that fighters were ordered to take off from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) and from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia at 9:24 a.m. (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20, 27) The 9/11 Commission will also contradict Myers’s claim that the military launched fighters in response to Flight 93 and “had gotten somebody close to it.” “By the time the military learned about the flight,” the 9/11 Commission Report will state, “it had crashed.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 34)
Myers's Testimony Prompts Criticism in the Media - Journalist and author Philip Shenon will question why Myers, a veteran Air Force fighter pilot, would give such an inaccurate account of the military’s response to the 9/11 attacks during the hearing. “It seemed obvious that Myers, of all people at the Pentagon, would want to know—would demand to know—how jet fighters under NORAD’s control had responded on the morning of September 11 to the threat in the skies,” he will write. (US Congress 9/13/2001; Shenon 2008, pp. 119) John Farmer, the senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, will comment that “Myers’s evident confusion about precisely what had occurred prompted criticism in the media and a quick, if contradictory, response from the administration.” (Farmer 2009, pp. 243) Major General Paul Weaver, director of the Air National Guard, will provide a more detailed account of the military’s response to the hijackings in an “impromptu hallway interview” at the Pentagon on September 14 (see September 14, 2001). (Whittle 9/14/2001) And four days later, NORAD will release a timeline of its response to the hijackings (see September 18, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001)

Major General Paul Weaver, director of the Air National Guard, provides reporters with details of the 9/11 attacks and the US military’s response to the hijackings. Speaking at the Pentagon, Weaver gives reporters a detailed account of what happened on September 11. He says Air National Guard planes responded to the hijackings on orders from NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), which was alerted to the hijackings by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Fighters Took Off Too Late to Catch Flight 175 - Weaver says that at 8:53 a.m., seven minutes after Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), two F-15 fighter jets took off from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in pursuit of Flight 175, the second plane to be hijacked (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, Weaver says, the FAA had only told NEADS that “there was an airplane that had a problem,” and at that time it was unclear if Flight 175 had been hijacked. He says that although the fighters flew at over 500 miles per hour, they were unable to catch up with Flight 175 before it hit the South Tower of the WTC at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001).
More Fighters Were Launched Just before Pentagon Was Hit - Weaver says Flight 77, the third aircraft to be hijacked, flew west for 45 minutes and then turned east, and its transponder was turned off. He does not claim that the military received notice that it had been hijacked, but says NEADS scrambled F-16 fighters that were on alert at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia at 9:35 a.m. (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Two minutes later, at 9:37 a.m., the Pentagon was hit (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). The F-16s, he says, subsequently remained on patrol over the Pentagon.
No Fighters Took Off to Intercept Flight 93 - Weaver says no fighters were scrambled to chase after Flight 93, the fourth hijacked plane, which crashed in a field in Pennsylvania (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). “There was no notification for us to launch airplanes,” he tells the reporters. “We weren’t even close.” (Whittle 9/14/2001; Farmer 2009, pp. 244) (However, also on this day, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz contradicts Weaver’s claim. He tells PBS’s NewsHour, “[W]e were already tracking in on that plane that crashed in Pennsylvania,” and adds, “[T]he Air Force was in a position to do so [i.e. shoot Flight 93 down] if we had had to.” (Wolfowitz 9/14/2001; Farmer 2009, pp. 245) ) Weaver says that even if fighters had caught up with the hijacked planes, they may have been unable to stop them reaching their targets. “You’re not going to get an American pilot shooting down an American airliner,” he says. “We don’t have permission to do that.” According to Weaver, only the president can issue an order to shoot down an American airliner. (Whittle 9/14/2001)
Weaver's Account Is the 'Most Accurate' Prior to the 9/11 Commission's Investigation - The account he gives to reporters today, according to John Farmer, the senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, will be “the last public statement uttered by General Weaver on the subject and proved to be the most accurate account of events issued until the 9/11 Commission’s investigation.” (Farmer 2009, pp. 245) Apparently after Weaver issues his statement to the reporters, an Air Force spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, adds that no regular Air Force planes were scrambled during the 9/11 attacks, “because continental air defense is the mission of the Air National Guard.” He says regular Air Force fighters “have air superiority as their mission,” which means they train “to deploy somewhere where we are engaged in hostile action and secure the skies.” These fighters, according to the spokesman, “ordinarily are not ready to fly on short notice and their pilots are not on standby to defend the United States.” (Whittle 9/14/2001)
Pentagon Has Been Slow to Answer Questions about Response to Hijackings - The Washington Post will comment, “Questions about the time it took US military planes to respond to the threat of several hijacked aircraft speeding toward the nation’s financial and military centers have dogged the Pentagon since the attacks.” It will add, “Top Pentagon officials have been slow to respond to press inquiries for a timeline that would establish the exact times that civil aviation authorities became aware of the hijackings, when US military commanders were notified, and when US fighter jets took to the air.” (Graham 9/15/2001) The previous day, Air Force General Richard Myers was questioned about the military’s response to the attacks before the Senate Armed Services Committee, but his answers were vague and confused (see September 13, 2001). (US Congress 9/13/2001; Farmer 2009, pp. 241-242) NORAD will release its own timeline of the events of September 11 and its response to the hijackings on September 18 (see September 18, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/29/2004)

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) releases a chronology of the events of September 11 and its response to the terrorist attacks that day, but the accuracy of this account will later be challenged by the 9/11 Commission. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 34; 9/11 Commission 7/29/2004)
NORAD Learned of First Hijackings Too Late to Defend the WTC - The chronology provides the times at which NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) was alerted to the hijackings and when fighter jets were scrambled in response to the hijackings. It states that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) notified NEADS about Flight 11, the first hijacked aircraft, at 8:40 a.m. In response, the order was given to scramble two F-15 fighters from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), the same time that Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), and the fighters were airborne at 8:52 a.m. (see 8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). The FAA notified NEADS about Flight 175, the second hijacked aircraft, at 8:43 a.m., according to the chronology. When Flight 175 crashed into the WTC at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), the chronology states, the Otis fighters were 71 miles away from New York.
Fighters Were Scrambled in Response to Flight 77 Hijacking - NEADS was alerted to Flight 77, the third hijacked aircraft, at 9:24 a.m., according to the chronology. In response, the order was given to scramble two F-16 fighters from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001) and these were airborne at 9:30 a.m. (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But the F-16s were 105 miles from the Pentagon when it was hit at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). Regarding the fourth hijacked aircraft, Flight 93, the chronology gives “N/A” as the time the FAA alerted NEADS, but it also states that the FAA and NEADS discussed the flight on “a line of open communication.” At 10:03 a.m., when Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001), the chronology states, the F-16s launched from Langley Air Force Base in response to the hijacking of Flight 77 were “in place to protect DC.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001)
9/11 Commission Disputes NORAD's Account - The 9/11 Commission Report, released in 2004, will highlight what it says are inaccuracies in NORAD’s timeline of the events of September 11. It will state that NORAD’s claim that NEADS was alerted to Flight 77 at 9:24 a.m. was incorrect. The notice NEADS received at that time, according to the report, was the incorrect claim that Flight 11 “had not hit the World Trade Center and was heading for Washington, DC” (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). “NEADS never received notice that American 77 was hijacked,” the report will state. “It was notified at 9:34 that American 77 was lost (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). Then, minutes later, NEADS was told that an unknown plane was six miles southwest of the White House” (see 9:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). The report will state that NORAD’s claim that the Langley fighters were scrambled in response to the notification about Flight 77 is also incorrect. Instead, it will state, the fighters were scrambled in response to the incorrect report that Flight 11 was still airborne and heading south. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 34)
9/11 Commission Disputes NORAD's Account regarding Flights 175 and 93 - Furthermore, whereas NORAD’s chronology claims that NEADS discussed Flight 93 with the FAA on “a line of open communication,” the 9/11 Commission Report will state that NEADS “first received a call about United 93 from the military liaison at [the FAA’s] Cleveland Center at 10:07,” by which time the plane “had already crashed” (see 10:05 a.m.-10:08 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 30) And while NORAD states that the FAA notified NEADS about Flight 175 at 8:43 a.m., according to the report, the first notification came “in a phone call from [the FAA’s] New York Center to NEADS at 9:03” (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 23)
Military Has Been Slow to Provide Details of Its Response on September 11 - US military officials, according to the Washington Post, “have been slow to respond to press inquiries for a timeline that would establish the exact times that civil aviation authorities became aware of the hijackings, when US military commanders were notified, and when US fighter jets took to the air.” (Graham 9/15/2001) On September 13, Air Force General Richard Myers was questioned about the military’s response to the 9/11 attacks before the Senate Armed Services Committee, but his answers were vague and confused (see September 13, 2001). (US Congress 9/13/2001; Farmer 2009, pp. 241-242) A day later, Major General Paul Weaver, director of the Air National Guard, provided reporters with details of the military’s response to the hijackings in an “impromptu hallway interview” at the Pentagon (see September 14, 2001). (Whittle 9/14/2001)

Both towers of the World Trade Center tilted to one side before beginning to fall on 9/11 (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). The National Institute of Standards and Technology, which investigated the collapses (see August 21, 2002), states that the South Tower, which was hit on its south side, tilted about 7-8 degrees to the east and 3-4 degrees to the south, and the North Tower, which was hit on its north side, tilted about 8 degrees to the south, before starting to fall. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 300, 308 pdf file) However, these findings are criticized by Canadian scientist Frank Greening. After examining photo and video evidence, Greening says that the South Tower tilted by no more than two degrees and the North Tower by no more than three degrees before collapse initiation. Greening also says that the tilt angles NIST gives cannot correspond to the downward movement of the towers’ walls NIST claims before they started to fall, and points out that the tilt angles NIST uses are inconsistent throughout its reports. Though Greening agrees with NIST that the towers were destroyed by the plane impacts and fire damage, he concludes that its computer model is “highly inaccurate and therefore of no value in explaining the demise of the Twin Towers.” (Greening 11/2005 pdf file) Greening is a leading figure in the post-9/11 dispute over why the WTC collapsed and publishes a series of papers dealing with various aspects of the Twin Towers’ collapse. For example, a CBC documentary uses Greening for analysis of the WTC’s fall. (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 8/25/2005)


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