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Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Fort Worth, Texas, is told that the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina has lost contact with Betty Ong, a flight attendant on the hijacked Flight 11, and he then says he wants the reservations office employees to keep quiet about the hijacking. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 20-22; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 14] Marquis is on the phone with Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the reservations office who, for over 20 minutes, has been relaying to him information she was receiving in a simultaneous phone call with Ong (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8-9] Ong, however, has stopped responding to communications (see (8:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Gonzalez promptly informs Marquis of this. She tells him, “I think we might have lost her.” Marquis says, “Okay,” and then tells Gonzalez, “If in fact she calls back, you call me back.” Gonzalez agrees to do this.
Marquis Tells Gonzalez to Keep Quiet about Hijacking - Marquis then tells Gonzalez that he wants her and her colleagues to keep quiet about the hijacking of Flight 11. He says, “I don’t want this spread all over.” Gonzalez has already instructed the other reservations office employees who were on the phone with Ong to keep quiet about the hijacking (see 8:31 a.m. September 11, 2001), and agrees to Marquis’s request. She answers: “Right. I’ve already made that indication to our people here.” Marquis says, “Try to make sure that it’s followed through on, okay?” Gonzalez replies, “Okay.” Just before the call between Marquis and Gonzalez ends, Marquis tells Gonzalez, “I’ll be back in touch with you.” Gonzalez then says, “I’m gonna stay on the line with my agent just in case we get the line [with Ong] back, and I’ll call you back.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 20-22]
Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant on Flight 11, gives updates over the phone to Michael Woodward, an American Airlines flight services manager at Logan International Airport in Boston, as her plane approaches the World Trade Center, and then, after she reports that the plane is flying “very, very low,” the line goes dead. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/13/2001, pp. 1-2; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 6-7] Sweeney has been on the phone with the American Airlines flight services office at Logan Airport since 8:32 a.m., describing to Woodward the trouble on her plane (see (8:32 a.m.-8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 11]
Sweeney Says Plane Is 'in a Rapid Descent' - She now tells Woodward: “Something is wrong. We are in a rapid descent.” She says her plane is flying “all over the place.” [9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 14] Around this time, Woodward tells Nancy Wyatt, another employee in the flight services office, that Sweeney has “started screaming that there’s something wrong with the airplane.” He adds: “In other words… [the original pilot is] not flying the airplane. They’re not flying the airplane.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 34-41]
Sweeney Says Plane Is Flying 'Very Low' - Woodward asks Sweeney to look out of the window to see if she can determine where her plane is. [9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 14] In an interview with the FBI a couple of days later, Woodward will say that Sweeney tells him: “I see water. I see buildings. We’re very, very low. Oh my God.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/13/2001, pp. 1-2] In 2004, he will give a slightly different account, telling the 9/11 Commission that Sweeney says: “We are flying low. We are flying very, very low. We are flying way too low.” Seconds later she says, “Oh my God, we are way too low.” [9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 14] Sweeney says “Oh my God” after taking “a very slow, deep breath,” Woodward will tell ABC News. She says these final words “[v]ery slowly, very calmly, very quietly. It wasn’t in panic,” Woodward will say.
Call Suddenly Cut Off - Woodward then hears what he will describe as “very, very loud static on the other end” of the line. [ABC News, 7/18/2002] After a short time, the line goes dead. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/13/2001, pp. 1-2] Woodward looks up from the phone and tells everyone else in the office that the line has died. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/13/2001, pp. 3-4] Wyatt is on the phone with Ray Howland, an employee at the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Fort Worth, Texas, and has been passing on to him the information that Sweeney was providing to Woodward (see 8:40 a.m.-8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). She now informs Howland, “Okay, we just lost connection” with Sweeney. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 34-41; Rutgers Law Review, 9/7/2011, pp. 14 ]
Flight Services Office Personnel Learn of Crash at WTC - Shortly after Sweeney’s call is cut off, Woodward’s operational manager, Craig Kopetz, will enter the flight services office and say that a plane has just crashed into the WTC. Woodward will not initially connect this news with the crisis he has been dealing with. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/13/2001, pp. 1-2; ABC News, 7/18/2002] Those in the flight services office will then go to their command center. “Approximately 15 minutes later,” according to Elizabeth Williams, one of Woodward’s colleagues, the group will realize that “Flight 11 was the same flight which crashed into the WTC.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/13/2001, pp. 3-4] The call between Sweeney and Woodward lasts “approximately 12 minutes” and ends at around 8:44 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission. [9/11 Commission, 2004, pp. 4; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 11, 14] But according to a summary of phone calls from the hijacked flights presented at the 2006 trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the call began at 8:32 a.m. and 39 seconds, and lasts 13 minutes and 13 seconds, meaning it ends at 8:45 a.m. and 52 seconds. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] Flight 11 crashes into the WTC less than a minute later, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 7]
An emergency locator transmitter (ELT). [Source: ELTA]A special radio transmitter that is carried by aircraft and designed to go off automatically if a plane crashes is activated in the New York area, more than two minutes before Flight 11 hits the World Trade Center. [New York Times, 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 ; Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, 1/22/2009]
Pilots Inform Controller of Emergency Signal - At 8:44 a.m. and 5 seconds, David Bottiglia, an air traffic controller at the FAA’s New York Center, receives information from one of the aircraft he is monitoring. The pilot of US Airways Flight 583 tells him: “I just picked up an ELT [emergency locator transmitter] on 121.5. It was brief, but it went off.” [New York Times, 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 ] (121.5 megahertz is an emergency frequency that ELTs transmit their distress signals on. [Aircraft Electronics Association, 2009, pp. 36 ; Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, 1/22/2009] ) A minute later, at 8:45 a.m. and 8 seconds, Bottiglia hears the same thing from another of the aircraft he is monitoring. The pilot of Delta Airlines Flight 2433 tells him, “We picked up that ELT too, but it’s very faint.” [New York Times, 10/16/2001] However, Flight 11 has not yet crashed, and will hit the WTC over 90 seconds later, at 8:46 a.m. and 40 seconds (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 7]
ELTs Help Locate Crashed Aircraft - An emergency locator transmitter, or ELT, is a small electronic device, which is designed to automatically begin emitting a continuous and distinctive radio signal when subjected to crash-generated forces, so as to facilitate the locating of an aircraft if it crashes. ELTs are carried aboard most general aviation aircraft in the US and are usually located far back in the plane’s fuselage or in the tail surface, so that they will suffer only minimal damage in the event of a crash impact. [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/23/1990; US Department of the Army, 8/12/2008, pp. E-6 ; Aircraft Electronics Association, 2009, pp. 36 ; Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, 1/22/2009]
Location Signal Comes from Unclear - The precise location from where the ELT signal is being transmitted is unclear. Around the time Flight 11 crashes, a participant in an FAA teleconference will say the signal was coming from the area Flight 11’s track was in before it disappeared from primary radar, about 20 miles from New York’s JFK International Airport. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001] Peter McCloskey, a traffic management coordinator at the New York Center, will tell the 9/11 Commission that the ELT goes off “in the vicinity of Lower Manhattan.” [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 ]
Many Signals Are False Alarms - ELT signals not determined to be false alarms are reported to the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 ] Major Allan Knox, who works at the AFRCC, will tell the 9/11 Commission that he does not recall being informed of any ELT signals on September 11, but says the AFRCC will review its data to verify this statement. He will also say that at least 20 ELT signals go off each day, and that 97 percent of ELT signals are false alarms. [9/11 Commission, 10/6/2003 ]
ELT Signal Is 'Clearly Indicative of a Crash' - However, Paul Thumser, an operations supervisor at the FAA’s New York Center with 20 years’ experience as an air traffic controller, and who is also an experienced airline pilot, will tell the 9/11 Commission that the ELT in a Boeing 767 cannot be triggered by the pilot. (The two aircraft that hit the WTC are 767s.) He will also say that the sensitivity setting for the ELT in a 767 is not low, and so it should be impossible for a hard turn or a hard landing to accidentally cause the ELT to go off. Thumser will say that “he judged it would have to be a serious impact to set the ELT off.” [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 ] Terry Biggio, the operations manager at the FAA’s Boston Center, will similarly tell the 9/11 Commission that an ELT signal “is clearly indicative of a crash.” [9/11 Commission, 9/22/2003]
FAA Manager Believes Signal Unrelated to Flight 11 Crash - Noting that the ELT goes off prior to Flight 11 hitting the WTC, Mike McCormick, the manager of the FAA’s New York Center, will tell the 9/11 Commission that his “best hypothesis” is that the activation of an ELT at this time is “unrelated to the event” of Flight 11 crashing. [9/11 Commission, 12/15/2003 ] However, there are no reports of an ELT going off at the time when Flight 11 hits the WTC. Furthermore, another ELT will be activated in the New York area around five minutes before the second plane hits the WTC (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001, pp. 37 ] Despite the pilots’ reports of picking up an ELT signal just before Flight 11 crashes, the AFRCC will inform the 9/11 Commission that a “historical ELT data search” found “no ELT signal being heard by the satellites” for the area within a radius of 50 nautical miles (about 57.5 miles) of JFK International Airport between 8:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on this day. [9/11 Commission, 2003]
Larry Wansley. [Source: Publicity photo]At 8:45 a.m., Larry Wansley learns of the hijacking of Flight 11. Wansley is the managing director of corporate security for American Airlines, and is at the company’s headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. He is informed of the hijacking in an urgent phone call from the airline’s Command Center, located on the floor above its System Operations Control (SOC), about a mile away from headquarters (see (Between 8:40 a.m. and 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The SOC learned there was some kind of problem with Flight 11 at 8:20 a.m. (see 8:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). Since as early as 8:21, details of Flight 11 attendant Betty Ong’s emergency call have been constantly relayed to Craig Marquis, a manager at the SOC (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Yet the 8:45 call is apparently Wansley’s first notification of the hijacking. He calls Danny Defenbaugh, the special agent in charge of the Dallas FBI office. Wansley is himself a former undercover FBI agent, and Defenbaugh is a longtime friend of his. This call is “the first step in the well-researched, secret hijack-response plan all commercial airlines have in place.” As Wansley is relaying information, he hears screaming from an adjacent conference room, as several employees watch the aftermath of the first WTC crash on television. The TV in Defenbaugh’s office has been turned on, but reportedly neither of the two men connects the images of the burning tower with the hijacking they are trying to deal with. As they continue discussing their response plans, television shows the second plane hitting the South Tower. No doubt realizing this is a terrorist attack, Defenbaugh says, “The ball game just changed.” Around this time, Wansley learns that the first plane to hit the WTC was the hijacked American Airlines flight. He will subsequently make a hurried drive to the nearby Command Center, where the FBI will already be setting up its own command post (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Dallas Observer, 11/21/2002; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 14]
Soldier firing a Stinger missile. [Source: US Army]In New York, the Secret Service has a Stinger missile secretly stored in the World Trade Center, to be used to protect the president if the city were attacked when he visits it. Presumably it keeps this is in WTC Building 7, where its field office is. [Tech TV, 7/23/2002; Weiss, 2003, pp. 379] Stinger missiles provide short-range air defense against low-altitude airborne targets, such as fix-winged aircraft, helicopters, and cruise missiles. They have a range of between one and eight kilometers. [Federation of American Scientists, 8/9/2000; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/27/2005] Whether the Secret Service makes any attempt at defending New York from the two attacking planes with its Stinger missile is unknown. The agency is also known to have air surveillance capabilities. These include a system called Tigerwall, which provides “early warning of airborne threats” and “a geographic display of aircraft activity” (see (September 2000 and after)). And according to Barbara Riggs, who is in the Secret Service’s Washington, DC headquarters on this day, the agency is “able to receive real time information about other hijacked aircraft,” through “monitoring radar and activating an open line with the FAA.” [US Department of the Navy, 9/2000, pp. 28 ; PCCW Newsletter, 3/2006; Star-Gazette (Elmira), 6/5/2006] These capabilities would presumably be of use if the Secret Service wanted to defend the World Trade Center. Furthermore, according to the British defense publication Jane’s Land-Based Air Defence, “the American president’s residences in Washington and elsewhere are protected by specialist Stinger teams in case of an aerial attack by terrorist organizations.” [Jane's Land-Based Air Defence, 10/13/2000] Knight Ridder has previously reported “several sources” telling it, “Stinger missiles are in the Secret Service’s arsenal.” [Knight Ridder, 9/12/1994] And according to the London Telegraph, the Secret Service is “believed to have a battery of ground-to-air Stinger missiles” ready to defend the White House. [Daily Telegraph, 9/16/2001] Flight 77 reportedly comes within four miles of the White House before turning toward the Pentagon. [ABC News, 10/24/2001; USA Today, 8/13/2002] Whether the Secret Service makes any attempt at defending the place with its Stinger missiles is unknown. However, the Washington Post will later claim it is an “urban legend that Stinger missiles are mounted on the White House roof.” [Washington Post, 4/4/2002]
The US Strategic Command command center. [Source: US Strategic Command]At the time the attacks in New York occur, a small group of business leaders are having breakfast at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska, where the US Strategic Command (Stratcom) is headquartered. With them is Admiral Richard Mies, the commander in chief of Stratcom. They are in town for an annual charity fundraiser event due to take place later in the day, hosted by the multi-billionaire Warren Buffett. Along with other visitors who have come for the fundraiser, they are scheduled to tour the Stratcom underground command center, located 60 feet below Offutt, and receive an unclassified mission briefing. According to the Omaha World-Herald, staff members have left the command center in advance of their visit. It is only after the second attack occurs, at 9:03, that Admiral Mies excuses himself from the breakfast and the battle staff reconvenes in the center. [San Francisco Business Times, 2/1/2002; Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002] It is unclear what effect the absence of Mies and the members of the battle staff have upon the military’s ability to respond effectively to the first attacks. However, the command center does have significant capabilities that would, presumably, be of much use under such a crisis. Stratcom is the military command responsible for the readiness of America’s nuclear forces. [Arkin, 2005, pp. 59] The Lincoln Journal Star describes its underground command center as “a military nerve center that collects and assesses information from high-tech ‘eyes and ears’ across—and above—the globe.” [Journal Star (Lincoln), 10/25/2000] The cavernous room has eight giant video screens and complex communications systems. [Associated Press, 2/21/2002; Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002] Stratcom itself states that the senior controller in the command center “has a direct line to the National Military Command Center in Washington, DC, and to the other major command headquarters.” This system, called the Joint Chiefs of Staff Alerting Network, allows the commander in chief of Stratcom to make “prompt contact with the president, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other unified commanders.” Furthermore, “Through satellites and radio networks (VLF, LF, UHF and HF), the command center can communicate with aircraft in flight over any part of the world. A principal purpose of these networks is to pass National Command Authority [i.e. the president and secretary of defense] orders to the alert forces.” While only the president can order nuclear strikes, the commander in chief of Stratcom “can launch aircraft for survival.” [United States Strategic Command, 6/22/2001] With the command center’s sophisticated capabilities, after Mies returns to it from his breakfast, the eight video screens there are “loaded up with data,” providing him with “the latest information on the unfolding drama.” [Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002] And at the time President Bush arrives at Offutt, later in the day (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001), the battle staff in the center will reportedly be “watching the skies over the United States” and “tracking a commercial airliner on its way from Spain to the United States.” [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; CBS News, 9/11/2002]
On the operations floor at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), Major Kevin Nasypany, the facility’s mission crew commander, instructs Major James Fox, the leader of the weapons team, to launch fighter jets from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Nasypany has just received this order—to launch the jets—from Colonel Robert Marr, the NEADS battle commander. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 15 and 88] Marr issued it after seeking permission to do so from Major General Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental Region (CONR) (see (8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] Marr will later claim, “My intent was to scramble Otis to military airspace while we found out what was going on.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 56] Nasypany gives Fox a coordinate for just north of New York City, and tells him, “Head ‘em in that direction.” [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] The jets will be scrambled from Otis a minute later (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), but there will be conflicting accounts of what their initial destination is (see (8:53 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] Interestingly, the 9/11 Commission will later state that, “Because of a technical issue, there are no NEADS recordings available of the NEADS senior weapons director and weapons director technician position responsible for controlling the Otis scramble.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 459]
Master Sergeant Joe McCain, the mission crew commander technician at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), believes he has located Flight 11 on the radar screen and then watches it disappear over New York, but he does not realize it has crashed. McCain is on the phone with Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 40-41] NEADS personnel have been unable to locate Flight 11 on their radar screens (see Shortly After 8:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Utica Observer-Dispatch, 8/5/2004]
McCain Locates Fast-Moving Aircraft - Now McCain believes he has found Flight 11, flying about 20 miles north of Manhattan. According to author Lynn Spencer, he “knows that planes tend to fly very specific routes, like highways in the sky, and this particular target seems not to be on any of those regular routes. It’s also very fast moving.” McCain tells Scoggins, “I’ve got a search target that seems to be on an odd heading here,” and then describes its location. Scoggins notices the target, but this is not Flight 11. Scoggins then realizes that Flight 11 is right behind the target McCain has identified, and yells to him: “There’s a target four miles behind it, that’s the one! That’s American 11!” McCain responds, “I’ve got it!” The aircraft is 16 miles north of New York’s JFK International Airport, and heading down the Hudson River valley. NEADS has no altitude for it, but the aircraft is clearly traveling very fast. After hanging up the phone, McCain calls out its coordinates to everyone on the NEADS operations floor. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 40] McCain will later recall: “It’s very unusual to find a search target, which is a plane with its transponder turned off, in that area. This plane was headed toward New York going faster than the average Cessna and was no doubt a jet aircraft. We had many clues. The plane was fast and heading in an unusual direction with no beacon. We had raw data only. Everything just kind of fit.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 56-57] (The identity of the other fast-moving aircraft McCain had noticed, four miles ahead of Flight 11, is unstated.)
Flight 11 Disappears from Radar - Less than a minute after McCain locates the track for Flight 11, it disappears. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 41] McCain will recall, “We watched that track until it faded over New York City and right after that someone came out of the break room and said the World Trade Center had been hit.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 57] However, McCain supposedly does not realize that the plane he had spotted has crashed into the WTC. According to Spencer: “[H]e knows only that the blip he has struggled so mightily to locate has now vanished. He figures that the plane has descended below his radar coverage area to land at JFK. The fact that the plane was flying much too fast for landing does not hit him; the concept that the plane might have been intentionally crashed is simply too far outside his realm of experience.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 41]
CIA Director George Tenet is eating breakfast with his mentor, former Senator David Boren (D-OK), at the St. Regis Hotel, three blocks north of the White House. According to journalist Bob Woodward, Boren asks Tenet, “What are you worried about these days?” Tenet replies, “Bin Laden,” and says he is convinced the al-Qaeda leader is going to do something big. Boren asks him how could one person without the resources of a foreign government be such a threat? Tenet responds, “You don’t understand the capabilities and the reach of what they’re putting together.” [Woodward, 2002, pp. 1 and 3; Chicago Sun-Times, 12/6/2002] When, shortly afterwards, Tenet learns of the first attack on the World Trade Center, he will immediately say he thinks bin Laden is responsible (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
John Mica. [Source: Publicity photo]Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Representatives Christopher Cox (R-CA) and John Mica (R-FL), and numerous others are meeting in Rumsfeld’s private Pentagon dining room, discussing missile defense (see (8:00 a.m.-8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Rumsfeld later recalls, “I had said at an eight o’clock breakfast that sometime in the next two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve months there would be an event that would occur in the world that would be sufficiently shocking that it would remind people again how important it is to have a strong healthy Defense Department that contributes to—that underpins peace and stability in our world.” [US Department of Defense, 12/5/2001] Wolfowitz recalls, “And we commented to them that based on what Rumsfeld and I had both seen and worked on the Ballistic Missile Threat Commission, that we were probably in for some nasty surprises over the next ten years.” [Vanity Fair, 5/9/2003] According to Mica, “the subject of the conversation Donald Rumsfeld was interested in was, the military had been downsized during the ‘90s since the fall of the Berlin Wall. And what we were going to do about [the] situation if we had another—the word [Rumsfeld] used was ‘incident.‘… And he was trying to make certain that we were prepared for something that we might not expect.” [US Congress. House. Oversight and Government Reform Committee, 8/1/2007] There are confused accounts that Rumsfeld says, “I’ve been around the block a few times. There will be another event,” just before the Pentagon is hit by Flight 77 (see (Before 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but such comments may have been made around this time instead. Shortly afterwards, someone walks in with a note informing Rumsfeld that a plane has just hit the WTC (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US Department of Defense, 12/5/2001; 9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004] Mica later comments, “[L]ittle did we know that within a few minutes of the end of our conversation and actually at the end of our breakfast, that our world would change and that incident that we talked about would be happening.” [US Department of Defense, 9/10/2004]
An air traffic controller at the FAA’s Boston Center suggests that Flight 11 is going to crash into the World Trade Center. [The Learning Channel, 8/20/2006] Flight 11 is heading southbound toward New York, descending at about 3,200 feet per minute. [National Transportation Safety Board, 2/19/2002 ] John Hartling, a controller at the Boston Center who has been monitoring it (see (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001), will later recall, “One of my fellow controllers on the other side of the room, I heard him say, ‘That airplane’s gonna hit the World Trade Center.’” [The Learning Channel, 8/20/2006] Flight 11 will crash into the WTC at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [National Transportation Safety Board, 2/19/2002 ]
Joseph Bertapelle. [Source: Publicity photo]American Airlines managers are informed of what their airline has learned about the trouble on Flight 11 during a regular conference call. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 ] In their daily morning conference call, senior American Airlines personnel usually discuss what happened on the previous day at the airline and what they are expecting in the day ahead. [9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004 ] But shortly after today’s conference call begins, Joseph Bertapelle, a manager at the airline’s System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, announces, “Gentlemen, I have some information here I need to relay.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001] Bertapelle then passes on to the senior managers much of the information about the hijacking of Flight 11 that has been received by SOC employees Craig Marquis and Bill Halleck. Marquis, the manager on duty at the SOC, has been on the phone with a supervisor at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina, who has been relaying to him information she received in a simultaneous phone call with Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11 (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8-9] And Halleck, an air traffic control specialist at the SOC, has been in contact with the FAA’s Boston Center, which gave him details of the problems with Flight 11 (see 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/25/2004, pp. 15] The conference call apparently only lasts a short time. Craig Parfitt, American Airlines’ managing director of dispatch operations, will later recall that at around 8:55 a.m.—10 minutes after the conference call begins—senior managers are arriving at the System Operations Command Center, located on the floor above the SOC (see (Between 8:40 a.m. and 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Presumably, some of these managers will have previously been participating in the conference call. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 ]
CNN will report that, while Flight 11 is heading toward the World Trade Center, “[S]ources say there were bomb threats called in to air traffic control centers adding to the chaos.” One center receiving such threats is the FAA’s Boston Center, which handles air traffic over New England and monitors flights 11 and 175. The FAA’s Cleveland Center, which will monitor Flight 93, receives similar threats (see 10:07 a.m.-10:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Whether other centers are threatened is unstated. According to Newsweek, “Officials suspect that the bomb threats were intended to add to the chaos, distracting controllers from tracking the hijacked planes.” [Newsweek, 9/22/2001; CNN, 9/30/2001] Yet, just weeks after 9/11, the Washington Post will claim: “Federal aviation officials no longer believe that accomplices of the hijackers made phony bomb threats to confuse air traffic controllers on September 11. Sources said reports of multiple threats were apparently the result of confusion during the early hours of the investigation and miscommunication in the Federal Aviation Administration.” [Washington Post, 9/27/2001]
General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, learns that a plane has been hijacked and then drives to his office, where he sees the television reports showing an aircraft has crashed into the World Trade Center, but he does not initially realize a terrorist attack is taking place. Eberhart has just arrived back at his home in Colorado after going for a jog when, at around 8:45 a.m., he receives a call from Captain Michael Jellinek, command director at NORAD’s operations center in Cheyenne Mountain. Jellinek tells Eberhart that the FAA has reported a suspected hijacking on the East Coast. He says this is a “real-world” hijacking and not part of an exercise, and that NORAD has authorized the scrambling of fighter jets in response. Eberhart will later recall that he isn’t “too excited” about the incident at this time and is thinking it is a “traditional” hijacking. Shortly after receiving the call, he drives to his office, at NORAD’s headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. He arrives there at around 9:00 a.m. to 9:10 a.m., he will recall, and then sees CNN’s coverage of the burning WTC on television. He calls the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center and asks if the aircraft that crashed into the WTC was the plane that was suspected of being hijacked. The person he speaks to says reports on CNN indicated that a small aircraft, and not the hijacked commercial aircraft, hit the WTC. There is apparently “great confusion in the system” at this time, Eberhart will comment. He will say the information NORAD currently has is only as good as what the FAA has provided. Eberhart will see the second hijacked plane, Flight 175, crashing into the WTC live on television at 9:03 a.m. and then realize that a coordinated terrorist attack is taking place (see (9:03 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004; 9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004; 9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004]
Flight 11 hits the WTC North Tower at 8:46. This video still is the only well-known image of this crash (from the French documentary). [Source: Gamma Press]Two French documentary filmmakers are filming a documentary on New York City firefighters about ten blocks from the WTC. One of them hears a roar, looks up, and captures a distant image of the first WTC crash. They continue shooting footage nonstop for many hours, and their footage is first shown that evening on CNN. [New York Times, 1/12/2002] President Bush later claims that he sees the first attack live on television, but this is technically impossible, as there was no live news footage of the attack. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 ]
William Rodriguez [Source: Publicity photo]According to a WTC janitor, there is an explosion in the basement of the North Tower just before the plane hits up above. William Rodriguez has worked at the World Trade Center for 20 years, including the time of the 1993 bombing, and is responsible for cleaning three stairwells in the North Tower. He is talking to his supervisor in an office in the B-1 level in the basement when, he says, “I heard this massive explosion below, on level B-2 or 3.” He says, “The floor vibrated. We were all thrown upwards, then everyone in the office started screaming.” Then, “seconds later, there was another explosion way above, which made the building sway from side to side. And this, we later discovered, was the first plane hitting the North Tower on the 90th floor.” A man then runs into the office, shouting, “Explosion! Explosion!” The man, Felipe David, had been standing in front of a nearby lift when a fireball had burst from the lift shaft, severely burning him. Rodriguez will later question, “Now you tell me how an explosion from a jet liner could have burnt a man 90 floors down within seconds of impact?” The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will suggest that the basement explosion Rodriguez heard might have been caused by a fireball traveling from the aircraft down the central lift shaft. However, some time after hearing it, Rodriguez rescues two people trapped in a lift. He will therefore doubt NIST’s claim, saying that if it were true, “Why were the two people [I] rescued from the lift not burnt to death?” [New York Magazine, 3/20/2006; Western Morning News, 12/2/2006; Herald (Glasgow), 2/16/2007; Argus (Brighton), 2/26/2007] Rodriguez also claims to have witnessed alleged hijacker Mohand Alshehri in the World Trade Center in June 2001 (see June 2001).
Flight 175 stops transmitting its transponder signal. It is currently flying near the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border. [Guardian, 10/17/2001; Newsday, 9/10/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] However, the transponder is turned off for only about 30 seconds, and then comes back on as a signal that is not designated for any plane on this day. Then, within the space of a minute, it is changed to another new code. But New York Center air traffic computers do not correlate either of these new transponder codes with Flight 175. Consequently, according to an early FAA report, “the secondary radar return (transponder) indicating aircraft speed, altitude, and flight information began to coast and was no longer associated with the primary radar return.” Therefore, while controllers are able “to track the intruder easily… they couldn’t identify it.” However, Dave Bottiglia, the New York Center air traffic controller responsible for Flight 175, is currently trying to locate the already-crashed Flight 11, and therefore supposedly does not notice the transponder code changes on Flight 175 until 8:51 a.m. (see 8:51 a.m.-8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ; Washington Post, 9/17/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 21] According to a “Flight Path Study” by the National Transportation Safety Board, the change of Flight 175’s transponder code is the “first indication of deviation from normal routine.” [National Transportation Safety Board, 2/19/2002 ]
Flight 11 disappears from primary radar four seconds before it hits the North Tower of the World Trade Center (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), according to an FAA timeline. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ] At the FAA’s Boston Center, Colin Scoggins, the center’s military liaison, notices the loss of the plane’s primary radar track. As the center only monitors high-level air traffic, its radar information does not pick up aircraft below 1,500 feet. But Scoggins does not realize Flight 11 has crashed. The Boston Center’s last known position for the plane before it disappears is nine miles northeast of New York’s JFK International Airport. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 49]
At the time of the attacks on the World Trade Center, two F-16 fighter jets are performing a training mission just eight minutes flying time away from New York, but the pilots are unaware of the crisis taking place. The two jets belong to the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, which is based at Atlantic City International Airport. [Bergen Record, 12/5/2003; GlobalSecurity (.org), 8/21/2005] F-16s at Atlantic City are involved in scheduled training missions every day, and their first mission is usually between 8:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. [Griffin, 2007, pp. 62] The two fighter jets are unarmed and performing practice bombing runs over a section of the Pine Barrens in New Jersey that is designated for military drills. The pilots are unaware of the attacks in New York. They will not be called back to base until shortly after the second WTC tower is hit, and will then have their training munitions replaced with live air-to-air missiles. At the time of the second attack, another two jets from the 177th FW are preparing to take off for routine bombing training, but they too have their mission canceled (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). No jets will take off from Atlantic City in response to the attacks until after 9:37, when the Pentagon is hit. [Code One Magazine, 10/2002; Bergen Record, 12/5/2003]
NEADS and FAA Tried Contacting 177th Fighter Wing - Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, is aware that the 177th FW launches F-16s for training flights every morning around this time, and suggested to NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) that it contact Atlantic City to use these jets in response to the hijacked Flight 11. However, when NEADS tried phoning the unit, its call was not answered (see (Between 8:40 a.m. and 8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Griffin, 2007, pp. 62; Spencer, 2008, pp. 33-34] Apparently around 8:34 a.m., the Boston Center also attempted to contact the Atlantic City unit, but the outcome of that call is unclear (see (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20]
F-16s Might Have Prevented Attacks on WTC - Author Peter Lance will later point out that, had the two Atlantic City F-16s flying over the Pine Barrens “been notified by the FAA at 8:34… they could have reached the Twin Towers by 8:42 a.m.,” four minutes before Flight 11 hit the North Tower (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). “Even unarmed, and without a shootdown order, they might have been able to take defensive action to prevent the big 767 from crashing into the tower. In any case, the fighters would certainly have been on patrol and able to interdict UA 175, which didn’t hit the South Tower until 9:03 a.m.” [Lance, 2004, pp. 230-231] Yet despite the crucial role these two fighters could have played, the 9/11 Commission Report will make no mention of them. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004] Pointing out the irony of having the two F-16s so near to Manhattan yet with such an unrelated mission, 177th Fighter Wing public affairs officer Lt. Luz Aponte will later remark, “Isn’t that something?” [Bergen Record, 12/5/2003]
Two F-15 fighter jets are scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which is 153 miles from New York City. The fighters are launched in response to the hijacked Flight 11, but this plane is already crashing into the World Trade Center at this time (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 9/15/2001; CNN, 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
Delay - The FAA’s Boston Center alerted NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) to the hijacking of Flight 11 and requested that fighter jets be scrambled at just before 8:38 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but the mission crew commander at NEADS only instructed the leader of his weapons team to launch the Otis fighters at 8:45 a.m. (see 8:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]
Otis Aircraft Head to Runway - As soon as the pilots at Otis Air Base are strapped into their aircraft, the green light directing them to launch goes on. They start their engines and taxi out of the hangar to the nearest runway. One of the pilots, Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy, radios his command post for guidance, asking, “Do you have words?” The response he gets is, “Possible hijack, American Flight 11, 737, flight level 290 [29,000 feet], over JFK [International Airport in New York City].” (This flight information is partly incorrect, since American 11 is a 767, not a 737.) According to the Cape Cod Times, the jets will be up in the air before their radar kicks in. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 42] The Otis pilots have already been preparing for the scramble order to come since learning of the hijacking from the FAA’s Cape Cod facility, some time shortly after 8:34 a.m. (see (8:36 a.m.-8:41) September 11, 2001). [BBC, 9/1/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 27-30] Their jets are reportedly not airborne until seven minutes after being scrambled, at 8:53 a.m. (see 8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001) and there will be conflicting accounts of what their original destination is (see (8:53 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
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. [Army Center of Military History, 11/14/2001 ; Pentagram, 11/16/2001; Fort Belvoir News, 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.” [Pentagram, 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). [Army Center of Military History, 11/14/2001 ; Fort Belvoir News, 1/18/2002]
The hole caused by the Flight 11 crash. [Source: Reuters]Flight 11 slams into the WTC North Tower (Building 1). Hijackers Mohamed Atta Waleed Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, Abdulaziz Alomari, and Satam Al Suqami presumably are killed instantly, and many more in the tower will die over the next few hours. Seismic records pinpoint the crash at 26 seconds after 8:46 a.m. [CNN, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; USA Today, 12/20/2001; Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 1-10; New York Times, 5/26/2002; USA Today, 8/13/2002; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; Newsday, 9/10/2002] The NIST report states the crash time to be 8:46:30. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 19] The 9/11 Commission Report states the crash time to be 8:46:40. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 7] Investigators believe the plane still has about 10,000 gallons of fuel (see 8:57 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 5/26/2002] The plane strikes the 93rd through 99th floors in the 110-story building. No one above the crash line survives; approximately 1,360 people die. Below the crash line, approximately 72 die and more than 4,000 survive. Both towers are slightly less than half full at the time of the attack, with between 5,000 to 7,000 people in each tower. This number is lower than expected. Many office workers have not yet shown up to work, and tourists to the observation deck opening at 9:30 A.M. have yet to arrive. [USA Today, 12/20/2001; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 20-22] The impact severs some columns on the north side of the North Tower. Each tower 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 weighs 283,600 lb and is traveling at an estimated speed of around 430 mph (see October 2002-October 2005), severs 35 of the building’s 236 perimeter columns and damages another two. The damage to the South Tower’s perimeter will be similar (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 5-9, 20, 22] The perimeter columns bear about half of the tower’s weight, so this damage reduces its ability to bear gravity loads by about 7.5 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 have damaged the core even after crashing through the exterior wall. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): “Moving at 500 mph, an engine broke any exterior column it hit. If the engine missed the floor slab, the majority of the engine core remained intact and had enough residual momentum to sever a core column upon direct impact.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 107] According to NIST’s base case computer model, three of the core columns are severed and another ten suffer some damage. [National Institute of Standards & Technology, 9/2005, pp. 189 ] If this is accurate, it means that the impact damage to the core reduces the Tower’s strength by another approximately 7.5 percent, meaning that the building loses about 15 percent of its strength in total. This damage will be cited after 9/11 by NIST and others researchers as an event contributing to the building’s collapse (see October 23, 2002 and October 19, 2004). In addition, some of the fireproofing on the steel columns and trusses may be dislodged. The original fireproofing on the fire floors was mostly Blazeshield DC/F, but some of the fireproofing on the flooring has recently been upgraded to Blazeshield II, which is about 20 percent denser and 20 percent more adhesive. [National Institute of Standards & Technology, 9/2005, pp. xxxvi, 83 ] Photographs and videos of the towers will not show the state of fireproofing inside the buildings, but NIST will estimate the damage to it using a computer model. Its severe case model (see (October 2002-October 2005)) will predict that 43 of the 47 core columns are stripped of their fireproofing on one or more floors and that fireproofing is stripped from trusses covering 60,000 ft2 of floor area, the equivalent of about one and a half 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. 23] According to NIST, more fireproofing is stripped from the South Tower (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Michael Jellinek. [Source: Tom Kimmell]The NORAD operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, receives a call notifying it that the FAA has requested military assistance with a hijacking, and senior officers there agree with the decision that has been made to launch fighter jets in response to the hijacking, and say they will call the Pentagon to get the necessary clearance for this. [Filson, 2003, pp. 56; 9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004 ; Spencer, 2008, pp. 39] Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region, has just talked over the phone with Colonel Robert Marr at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), and Marr suggested to him that fighters be scrambled in response to the hijacked Flight 11. Arnold told Marr to go ahead with the scramble and said he would sort out getting authorization for it (see (8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Arnold therefore now calls the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC). The call is answered by Captain Michael Jellinek, the command director on duty there. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 38-39] Arnold says the FAA has requested assistance for an ongoing hijacking. [9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004 ]
NORAD Director Approves Decision to Launch Fighters - Jellinek passes on the details of the request to Major General Rick Findley, NORAD’s director of operations, who has just finished the night shift and is returning to the CMOC battle cab from breakfast. Jellinek will later recall: “I pick up the other phone because I know [Findley is] there. One button and I’m talking to him. It’s faster to do that than walk around the window, say the same thing.” [Calgary Herald, 10/1/2001; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 11/27/2001; Toronto Star, 12/9/2001] Findley “concurs with Arnold’s assessment and decision to scramble the fighters,” according to author Lynn Spencer, and quickly approves the fighters’ launch. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 39] He “immediately gives the thumbs up” through the window, according to Jellinek. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 11/27/2001] Arnold will say he is told (presumably by Jellinek): “Yeah, we’ll work this with the National Military Command Center [at the Pentagon]. Go ahead and scramble the aircraft.” [Filson, 2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 56] According to Findley: “At that point, all we thought was we’ve got an airplane hijacked and we were going to provide an escort as requested [by the FAA]. We certainly didn’t know it was going to play out as it did.” [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/2002]
NORAD Personnel Request Permission for Scramble - Findley will say that after the CMOC receives the call from Arnold, he “knew what to do, and so did everybody else on the battle staff.” He tells the members of the battle staff to “open up our checklist” and “follow our NORAD instruction,” which includes having “to ask in either Ottawa or Washington, ‘Is it okay if we use NORAD fighters to escort a potential hijacked aircraft?’” [CNN, 9/11/2006] Findley and the others in the CMOC will subsequently see the coverage on CNN, reporting that a plane has hit the World Trade Center, but do not initially realize the plane involved was the hijacked aircraft they have been called about (see (8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Calgary Herald, 10/1/2001; Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/2002; Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, 9/8/2011]
Dell Dailey. [Source: US Department of State]Members of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC)—the nation’s “top counterterrorism unit”—are away from America when it comes under terrorist attack, participating in a training exercise in Hungary. [Naylor, 2015, pp. ix-x; Newsweek, 9/11/2015] The highly classified exercise, called Jackal Cave, is one of several joint readiness exercises that JSOC conducts each year. It is part of a larger exercise, called Ellipse Bravo, run by the US military’s European Command (see (After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Arkin, 2005, pp. 358-359; Naylor, 2015, pp. ix] Jackal Cave involves participants tracking down a hypothetical hybrid force made up of terrorists and elements of international organized crime who are trafficking in weapons of mass destruction. “We were tracking ‘terrorists,’” a JSOC staff officer will later comment. “[A]nd then [we’d] bring an assault element in to take the target down.” Details of the mock terrorists in the exercise are unclear, but they are not Islamists, according to journalist and author Sean Naylor. [Naylor, 2015, pp. x, 441]
JSOC and Delta Force Are Participating in the Exercise - Jackal Cave involves over 500 personnel, 62 aircraft, and 420 tons of cargo. [Arkin, 2005, pp. 404] Hundreds of JSOC personnel are taking part. [Naylor, 2015, pp. 85] JSOC, based at Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina, is responsible for conducting the US military’s most sensitive counterterrorism missions. [New York Times, 9/3/2002; GlobalSecurity (.org), 6/24/2013] Its headquarters for the exercise is divided between Taszár Air Base, about 120 miles southwest of Budapest, Hungary, and Tuzla, Bosnia. A squadron from the US Army’s Delta Force is also participating in the exercise. [Fury, 2008, pp. 56; Saratogian, 9/10/2011; Naylor, 2015, pp. x] Delta Force is designed to be an overseas counterterrorist unit and specializes in hostage rescue, barricade operations, and reconnaissance. [GlobalSecurity (.org), 6/24/2013] Its personnel are trained in dealing with terrorist situations in buildings and hijacked aircraft, among other things. [Discovery Channel, 12/1/2001; Haney, 2002, pp. 213; Schading and Schading, 2006, pp. 156]
Mock Terrorists Are Played by US Military Personnel - Others taking part in Jackal Cave include members of the US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group, members of the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Emergency Search Team (see (September 10-15, 2001)), and some Hungarian military elements. [Richelson, 2009, pp. 178; Jeffrey T. Richelson, 1/23/2009; Naylor, 2015, pp. x] The terrorists in the exercise are being played by operatives from the Defense HUMINT Service—the US Defense Department’s clandestine spy network. Members of the US Navy’s SEAL Team Six are also taking part and are in the port of Dubrovnik, Croatia, from where the hypothetical enemy is trying to ship nuclear material out on a boat. The SEALs are going to be flown by helicopter to assault the boat in the Mediterranean Ocean.
JSOC Commander Learns of the Attacks in the US and Cancels the Exercise - At the time the attacks on the World Trade Center take place, Jackal Cave has barely started. One or two Delta Force staffers and some operatives with the Operational Support Troop—Delta Force’s in-house intelligence arm—are out tracking the mock terrorists through downtown Budapest. Meanwhile, Major General Dell Dailey, head of JSOC, is at the US embassy in Budapest, where he has been briefing senior officials on the exercise. He learns about the attacks on the WTC after leaving the briefing with his senior enlisted adviser, Army Command Sergeant Major Mike Hall. Major Jim Reese, a Delta Force officer, sees the coverage of the burning Twin Towers on television and then runs after the two men. He tells Dailey, “Hey sir, you need to see this.” Dailey quickly walks to his operations center at the embassy and sees the coverage of the attacks on TV. He then answers a phone call from his boss, Air Force General Charles Holland, head of US Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. Holland tells him to abandon the exercise and return to the US as quickly as possible. After hanging up, Dailey turns to Reese and Lieutenant Colonel Scott Miller, another Delta Force officer, and says he is canceling the exercise immediately and returning to the US, and they should get back to the US too. However, as America’s airspace is closed to international commercial flights for several days following today’s attacks, it will take almost a week for the JSOC personnel who are in Europe for the exercise to return to America. [Naylor, 2015, pp. ix-xiii, 85]
Entity Tags: 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment--Delta, Jackal Cave, Charles Holland, Dell L. Dailey, Scott Miller, 10th Special Forces Group, Navy Seals, Jim Reese, Nuclear Emergency Search Team, Joint Special Operations Command, Defense HUMINT Service, Mike Hall (US Army)
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Calvin Drayton. [Source: Regional Catastrophic Planning Team]The electrical power in World Trade Center Building 7, a 47-story office building located north of the Twin Towers, goes off around the time Flight 11 crashes into the North Tower but it comes on again after a few seconds. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109]
Lights Go Out When Flight 11 Crashes - Firefighter Timothy Brown, a supervisor at New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), which has offices in WTC 7, notices when the power goes off and immediately realizes something serious must have occurred. He is in the cafeteria on the third floor of WTC 7 eating his breakfast and does not feel any vibration or hear any explosion when Flight 11 hits the North Tower (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, he notices the lights in the cafeteria suddenly going out. After about three to five seconds, the power kicks back in and the lights come back on.
People by the Windows Report What Has Happened - It is “very unusual for lights to go out,” Brown will later comment. [City of New York, 1/15/2002; Project Rebirth, 6/30/2002 ; Firehouse, 1/31/2003] Because of his experience in “emergency stuff,” he knows immediately that “something big had just happened.” He is initially unaware of what it is but soon learns what has occurred. [Radio on the Real, 7/9/2013] The people in the cafeteria sitting by the windows facing the North Tower suddenly get up and start running, and when Brown asks them what is wrong, he is told a plane just crashed into the tower. [City of New York, 1/15/2002; Firehouse, 1/31/2003]
Elevator Stops When the Crash Occurs - Calvin Drayton, a deputy director with the OEM, also notices the loss of power. While he is going down in an elevator in WTC 7, he hears a noise that he thinks is a “transformer explosion.” The explosion “rocked the building and temporarily stopped the elevator,” he will recall. The elevator then continues down to the first floor and after Drayton gets off it he runs into a colleague who tells him there has been an explosion in the North Tower. [Greenville Tribune-Times, 9/25/2001]
Substation under WTC 7 Provides Power to the Complex - The reason the crash high up in the North Tower causes power to go off in WTC 7, which is located about 370 feet from the tower, is unclear. WTC 7 was built over an electrical substation owned by the utility company Con Edison and this substation now supplies power to the entire WTC complex. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 633] Before Flight 11 hit the North Tower, “all indications were that the power system was operating normally,” a report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will state. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 643]
Workers See No Damage in the Substation - Con Edison employees are at the substation around the time of the crash. These include two mechanics who are there to perform scheduled work and are at the site when the crash occurs or arrive shortly afterward. The Con Edison employees will be at the substation until around 10:20 a.m., when it is evacuated. They will notice “[n]o fire or significant physical damage” at the substation that could have caused the power to go out, according to NIST. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 357, 640]
Power Loss Is Reportedly due to 'Collateral Damage' Caused by the Crash - According to Con Edison, the loss of power occurs because two “open/auto” feeders go off. [9/11 Commission, 2/26/2004 ] (Feeders are sets of conductors that distribute power from a substation. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 637] ) According to NIST, “two of the circuits [i.e. the feeders] tripped automatically… as a result of collateral damage caused by the aircraft impact into [the North Tower].” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 643] The power comes back on quickly because “it was rerouted automatically by computers,” according to Brown. [Firehouse, 1/31/2003] “The backup system kicked in, another feeder kicked in,” he will explain. [Radio on the Real, 7/9/2013] The power in WTC 7 will go off again at around 9:03 a.m., when Flight 175 crashes into the South Tower (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 2/26/2004 ; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 643]
President Bush is traveling through Sarasota, Florida, in a motorcade when the first WTC attack occurs. According to the 9/11 Commission, “no one in the White House or traveling with the president knew that [Flight 11] had been hijacked [at this time]. Immediately afterward, duty officers at the White House and Pentagon began notifying senior officials what had happened.” However, according to reports, Bush is not notified about the crash until his motorcade reaches its destination, even though there is a secure phone in his vehicle for just this type of emergency, and even though others in the motorcade are notified. Reportedly, not even Jane Garvey, head of the FAA, nor her deputy have been told of a confirmed hijacking before they learn about the crash from the television. [Bamford, 2004, pp. 17; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
According to PR Week magazine, “immediately” after the attacks on this day, Tim Doke, the vice president for corporate communications for American Airlines, calls Ken Luce, who is the president of the Southwest offices of public relations firm Weber Shandwick Worldwide (WSW). In response, WSW sends more than 20 people to American Airlines’ headquarters in Fort Worth, and to airports around the US. Thus, “While American couldn’t answer many questions, spokespeople subtly steered reporters away from false rumors and leaked information. Employees from WSW and American’s other agency, Burson-Marsteller, served as the firm’s eyes and ears in the airports its staff couldn’t reach while planes were grounded.” [PR Week, 11/5/2001] The American Airlines operations center in Fort Worth was reportedly alerted to the emergency on Flight 11 around 8:21 a.m. (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 5] However, according to the 9/11 Commission, it is not until 9:30 a.m. that the airline confirms that this aircraft had crashed into the World Trade Center. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 16] So the exact time when Doke called Luce is unclear. The FBI has “essentially gagged” American Airlines from any meaningful communication with the media immediately following the attacks. According to Doke, though, in response to subsequent media demands about how the terrorists got through security, American will make use of a number of airline security people it had “intentionally cultivated relationships with over the years to help carry our messages and put some of the media hysteria into perspective.” [Jack O'Dwyer's Newsletter, 12/4/2002]
Shortly before 9/11, American Airlines revised its crisis plan for dealing with situations including “plane crashes and 1978-style hijackings” (see Late Summer 2001). However, on this day, “American abandoned its freshly minted crisis communications plan almost immediately, not because putting the CEO out front isn’t the best plan of action in a crisis, but because the FBI rushed to American’s Command Center and made it clear who was in charge.” [PR Week, 11/5/2001] Larry Wansley, the American Airlines director of security, is at the company’s headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. He had contacted the Dallas FBI about the hijacking of Flight 11 at around 8:45 a.m. (see (8:45 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). After learning of the two planes hitting the World Trade Center, he makes a hurried drive to the airline’s Command Center, about a mile from the headquarters, on the floor above its System Operations Control (SOC). Already, by the time he arrives, the FBI is setting up its own command post there, reviewing the Flight 11 passenger manifest, and replaying the recording of flight attendant Betty Ong’s emergency phone call. [Dallas Observer, 11/21/2002; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] Tim Doke, the American Airlines vice president for corporate communications, later recounts that the “FBI essentially gagged us from any meaningful media interaction immediately following the terrorist attacks.” [Jack O'Dwyer's Newsletter, 12/4/2002] American Airlines’ first press release, issued within a few hours of the attacks, will refer all questions to the FBI. [PR Week, 11/5/2001]
Within moments of the attack in New York, the US Navy’s Antiterrorist Alert Center (ATAC) goes to full alert. ATAC is located at the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) headquarters in southeast Washington, DC, across the Potomac River from the Pentagon. [US Department of the Navy, 2/2002 ; CNN, 8/27/2002; US Naval Criminal Investigative Service, 8/22/2006] Established in 1983, it was the first 24-hour terrorism watch center in the US intelligence community. [US Naval Criminal Investigative Service, n.d.] In it, top Navy officials are now monitoring the day’s events. According to CNN—which gains access to a video recording of the center during the attacks—just before the Pentagon is hit, these officials are “concerned attacks on Washington could be next.” After the attack on the Pentagon, the Navy’s top leaders will start arriving at the center (see After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [CNN, 8/27/2002]
A homemaker living near Liberty State Park, Jersey City, New Jersey sees three men behaving strangely on a nearby roof and alerts the authorities. This homemaker, who has given only her first name Maria, is called by a neighbor shortly after the first plane has hit the WTC and is told about the impact. She has a view of the WTC from her apartment building so she gets her binoculars and watches the disaster. However, she also notices three young men kneeling on the roof of a white van in the parking lot of her apartment building. Maria will later recall, “They seemed to be taking a movie.” They are taking video or photos of themselves with the WTC burning in the background. But what strikes Maria is their expressions: “They were like happy, you know… They didn’t look shocked to me. I thought it was very strange.” She writes down the license plate number of the van and calls the police. [ABC News, 6/21/2002] Apparently the men leave the area a few minutes after the first attack is over. [CounterPunch, 2/7/2007] An FBI lookout bulletin for the van will be issued later in the day (see 3:31 p.m. September 11, 2001) and the three men (plus two more discovered with them) will be detained (see 3:56 p.m. September 11, 2001). When the men detained, one of them will be found with pictures of the group standing with the burning wreckage of the WTC in the background. [Forward, 3/15/2002] At least some of the pictures were taken while standing on top of the van. [New York Times, 10/8/2001] The lawyer for the five men will later note that one photograph developed by the FBI shows one of the men, Sivan Kurzberg, holding a lighted lighter in the foreground, with the burning WTC in the background. [New York Times, 11/21/2001] It will apparently be determined at least two of the men are Israeli spies, but what they were doing and why will remain in dispute. One of these Israelis will later say, “our purpose was to document the event.” [ABC News, 6/21/2002]
Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Sivan Kurzberg, Urban Moving Systems, Scott DeCarlo, Maria, Omer Marmari, Paul Kurzberg, Israel Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks (Mossad), Oded Ellner, Yaron Shmuel
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
During the 9/11 catastrophe, around 200 people die in the WTC’s elevators without getting help from elevator mechanics, according to an in-depth study later performed by USA Today. Some of the victims are burned by the initial explosion, some die as the elevator cars plummet when their cables are severed, and some are stuck and perish in the collapse. USA Today will say it “could not locate any professional rescues of people stuck in elevators. The Fire Department of New York and the Port Authority also could not cite successful rescues.” After the North Tower is hit, most of the WTC’s 83 elevator mechanics gather in the lobby of the South Tower, but when the second plane hits, they evacuate. In contrast, a passing elevator mechanic from another company runs into the WTC and dies trying to free trapped passengers. USA Today will comment: “When the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993, Otis Elevator’s mechanics led the rescue of 500 people trapped in elevators. Some mechanics were dropped onto the roofs of the Twin Towers by helicopter. Others, carrying 50-pound oxygen tanks on their backs, climbed through smoke to machine rooms high in the towers. On Sept. 11, the elevator mechanics—many of the same men involved in the rescues in 1993—left the buildings after the second jet struck, nearly an hour before the first building collapsed.” Although ACE Elevator, the local company which won the WTC contract from Otis in 1994, will say it was acting in accordance with procedure, USA Today will note: “The departure of elevator mechanics from a disaster site is unusual. The industry takes pride in rescues. In the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, elevator mechanics worked closely with the firefighters making rescues.” Robert Caporale, editor of Elevator World will say, “Nobody knows the insides of a high-rise like an elevator mechanic. They act as guides for firefighters, in addition to working on elevators.” The Port Authority will also say that their departure was in conflict with the emergency plan. “There was no situation in which the mechanics were advised or instructed to leave on their own.” [USA Today, 12/19/2001; USA Today, 9/4/2002]
Naval Station Norfolk. [Source: US Navy]Rudy Washington, who is one of Rudolph Giuliani’s deputy mayors, sees the smoking North Tower as he is being driven into downtown Manhattan. He immediately calls Admiral Robert Natter, the commander of the US Atlantic Fleet at Norfolk Naval Station, Virginia, the world’s largest naval base. He requests air cover over New York. Norfolk Naval Station is in the region of Naval Air Station Oceana, which has F-14 Tomcats and F/A-18 Hornets. It is also near Langley Air Force Base. Natter says he will need to get in touch with the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), but will then call back. [Digital Journalist, 10/2001; CBS News, 4/3/2003; New York Daily News, 5/20/2004; Global Security (.org), 5/25/2006] Around this time, Washington also calls Patrick Burns at the base. Burns usually works in New York as the director of fleet support for the Navy, a civilian position that works closely with the mayor’s office and numerous other agencies. He is at Norfolk Naval Station for his two-week Naval Reserve obligation. Washington tells Burns, “I need you here.” No doubt anticipating there will be mass casualties, he adds, “I need that hospital ship.” He is referring to the hospital ship the USNS Comfort. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Notre Dame Magazine, 4/2007] However, the Comfort, which is based in Baltimore, will only set off for New York at 3 p.m. the following day, and arrive at Pier 92 in Manhattan late in the evening of September 14. [US Navy, n.d.; Military Sealift Command, 9/18/2001]
Bob Varcadipane. [Source: NBC News]At the air traffic control tower at Newark International Airport in New Jersey, controllers see the smoke coming from the World Trade Center in the distance and start calling other FAA facilities in the area about this. Controller Rick Tepper looks out the window of the tower across the Hudson River at New York City, and sees the huge cloud of smoke coming from the North Tower, which Flight 11 has crashed into it. He points this out to fellow controller Greg Callahan. In his office at the tower, Bob Varcadipane, the supervisor there, starts receiving a flood of phone calls reporting that a small aircraft has hit the WTC. According to author Lynn Spencer, “The assumption is that only a small plane could have gone so badly off course.” The Newark tower controllers start calling the towers at JFK, La Guardia, and Teterboro Airports, along with other air traffic control facilities in the area, to see if any of them has lost an aircraft. But none say they have; they have not yet been informed of the crash and are shocked at what they see when told to look out their windows at the burning WTC. Varcadipane calls the FAA’s New York Center to find out if they know whose plane hit the Twin Towers. He is told: “No, but Boston Center lost an airplane. They lost an American 767.” Varcadipane wonders if this 767 is the plane that hit the WTC, and says back: “I have a burning building and you have a missing airplane. This is very coincidental.” According to NBC: “a horrific realization dawns on controllers. American Flight 11, still missing from radar, finally has been found.” Word of the plane’s fate subsequently “quickly travels throughout the air traffic control world.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 41-42] However, the FAA’s Indianapolis Center, which handles Flight 77, will reportedly not learn of the first hijackings until around 9:20 a.m. (see (9:20 a.m.-9:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 32]
Curt Applegate sitting next to his air traffic control terminal. [Source: NBC News]After being focused on Flight 11, Dave Bottiglia, an air traffic controller at the FAA’s New York Center, first notices problems with Flight 175. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 21] Both Flight 11 and Flight 175 have been in the airspace that Bottiglia is responsible for monitoring (see 8:40 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (8:42 a.m.-8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Bottiglia has just watched Flight 11’s radar blip disappear, which means the plane has dipped below his radar’s coverage area, so is below 2,000 feet. But he does not yet realize it has crashed. He says aloud, “Well, we know he’s not high altitude anymore.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 37] Around this time, Flight 175’s transponder changes twice in the space of a minute (see 8:46 a.m.-8:47 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Conflicting Accounts - According to MSNBC, “within seconds” of losing Flight 11’s blip, “Bottiglia has another unexpected problem.” While looking for Flight 11, he realizes that Flight 175 is also missing, and “instinctively… knows the two [planes] are somehow related.” He asks another controller to take over all of his other planes. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] But according to the 9/11 Commission’s account, Bottiglia is still trying to locate Flight 11 after it crashes, and so it is not until 8:51 a.m. that he notices the problem with Flight 175 (see 8:51 a.m.-8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 21]
'An Intruder over Allentown' - Around the time Flight 175 changes its transponder code, air traffic controller Curt Applegate, who is sitting at the radar bank next to Bottiglia’s, sees a blip that might be the missing Flight 11. He shouts out: “Look. There’s an intruder over Allentown.” According to the Washington Post, “In air traffic jargon, an ‘intruder’ is a plane with an operating transponder that has entered restricted airspace without permission.” In fact, it is the missing Flight 175. [Washington Post, 9/17/2001; MSNBC, 9/11/2002] However, these accounts make no mention of NORAD being notified about the problems with Flight 175 at this time. But according to a NORAD timeline released shortly after 9/11, NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) was alerted about Flight 175 by the FAA several minutes earlier, at 8:43 a.m. (see 8:43 a.m. September 11, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001]
Logo of the 113th Wing of the DC Air National Guard. [Source: Air National Guard]Pilots and officers with the District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG) are notified of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center, but mistakenly assume this must have been an accident and continue with a meeting they are holding. [Rasmussen, 9/18/2003; 9/11 Commission, 3/11/2004 ; Spencer, 2008, pp. 122] The 113th Wing of the DC Air National Guard, which includes the 121st Fighter Squadron, is based at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, 10 miles southeast of Washington. [District of Columbia Air National Guard, 7/24/2001; GlobalSecurity (.org), 8/21/2005; GlobalSecurity (.org), 1/21/2006]
Pilots and Flight Managers in Meeting - Some DCANG officers are currently in a conference room at their unit at Andrews, conducting the weekly scheduling meeting, where plans for the upcoming week are discussed. According to Captain Brandon Rasmussen, a pilot who is also the chief of scheduling with the unit, about five or six people are in the meeting. [Rasmussen, 9/18/2003; 9/11 Commission, 3/11/2004 ] As well as Rasmussen, those present include Major David McNulty, the senior intelligence officer of the 113th Wing; pilots Marc Sasseville and Daniel Caine; and a new officer, Mark Valentine.
Officers Think Crash Is an Accident - An intelligence officer interrupts the meeting and says a plane has just flown into the WTC. However, the meeting participants assume the crash is an accident involving a small aircraft. [9/11 Commission, 3/8/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 3/11/2004 ; Spencer, 2008, pp. 122] Rasmussen will later recall: “[A]ll of us in the meeting kind of looked at each other and looked outside the window, it was clear blue skies. It doesn’t get any more flying weather than that. So we thought, ‘What kind of a moron can’t see those big buildings right in front of them?’ We all figured it was just some light civil aircraft… little Cessnas, Piper Cubs, or whatever, someone doing some sightseeing flying up and down the Hudson and just not paying attention where he was going.” Therefore, “we continued on with the meeting, thinking we’d catch the news clips later on in the day.” The scheduling meeting will continue until its participants learn of the second plane hitting the WTC and realize this is a terrorist attack (see (9:04 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Rasmussen, 9/18/2003; 9/11 Commission, 3/11/2004 ; Spencer, 2008, pp. 122-123]
Some at Base Suspicious about Crash - However, according to the Washington Post, at least some individuals with the DC Air National Guard are “immediately suspicious” upon hearing of the first crash. Pilot Heather Penney Garcia will recall having wondered, “How do you make a mistake like that?” (Penney Garcia is at the 121st Fighter Squadron headquarters at Andrews, though whether she is attending the scheduling meeting is unstated.)
Only Four DCANG Pilots Available - Members of the 121st Fighter Squadron have just returned from “Red Flag,” a major training exercise in Nevada (see Late August-September 8, 2001). Most of the squadron’s pilots, who fly commercial planes in their civilian lives and are involved with the unit on only a part-time basis, are consequently away from the base on this day, either back at their airline jobs or on leave, according to different accounts. [Washington Post, 4/8/2002; 9/11 Commission, 2/27/2004; Spencer, 2008, pp. 156] Of the seven pilots the squadron has available at the base today, three have just taken off for a training mission over North Carolina (see 8:36 a.m. September 11, 2001), meaning only four available pilots are left at the base. [9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 2/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 3/8/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 3/11/2004 ]
DCANG Not Part of NORAD Air Defense Force - The DC Air National Guard flies the F-16 Fighting Falcon jet fighter, and its mission includes providing “capable and ready response forces for the District of Columbia in the event of a natural disaster or civil emergency.” [DC Military (.com), 6/2001; GlobalSecurity (.org), 8/21/2005] Unlike other Air National Guard units, it reports to the president, instead of a state governor. It works closely with Secret Service agents who are across the runway at Andrews Air Force Base, in the Air Force One hangar. [Washington Post, 4/8/2002; Vogel, 2007, pp. 445] According to Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine, the 121st Fighter Squadron is “not standing alert on Sept. 11” because the DC Air National Guard is “not assigned to the North American Aerospace Defense Command air defense force.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002]
Judy Martz. [Source: Publicity photo]Emergency managers from around the US, including Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Joseph Allbaugh and representatives from the emergency management agencies of 47 states, are away from their home states at the time of the terrorist attacks, attending the annual conference of the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) at a resort in Big Sky, Montana. The main focuses of the event have included the issues of domestic terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. [New York Times, 9/12/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 ] The conference began on September 8, and was originally planned to continue until September 12 (see September 8-11, 2001). [Natural Hazards Observer, 3/2001; National Emergency Management Association, 8/15/2001]
Emergency Managers Learn of Attacks - At 9:00 a.m., conference attendees are scheduled to participate in a series of sessions on domestic preparedness, which has been a key topic for NEMA over the past three years. [National Emergency Management Association, 8/15/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 ] According to the New York Times, “One of the day’s main seminar topics was how to prepare for terrorist attacks.” [New York Times, 9/12/2001] However, numerous pagers go off as officials are notified of the events in New York. By the time officials gather around the television in the resort’s bar to see what is happening, the second plane has hit the World Trade Center (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001) and the nature of the emergency is obvious. [Stateline (.org), 9/10/2002]
Emergency Managers Respond to Attacks - After the emergency managers at the conference see the coverage of the attacks on television, they “automatically organized themselves into particular groups to focus on transportation issues or to capture information,” Trina Hembree, the executive director of NEMA, will later recall. [Stateline (.org), 10/11/2001] The emergency managers, along with federal personnel and private-sector members, go about coordinating their jurisdictions’ responses to the attacks from the resort. Hotel employees add phone lines and equipment so as to enable communication and the tracking of events. A 24-hour emergency operations center is set up, and teams are organized to address specific areas, such as transportation and medical needs. The emergency managers monitor events and stay in contact with their agencies by phone, and also attend briefings at the resort, where they are updated on the national situation. [State Government News, 10/2001 ]
State of Emergency Declared in Montana - Partly due to concerns over the safety of the emergency management officials at the conference, Montana Governor Judy Martz declares a state of emergency. [Stateline (.org), 9/13/2001] Furthermore, roads to the Big Sky resort are closed, and security for the resort is provided by the local sheriff’s department and volunteer fire department, the Montana Highway Patrol, the Montana National Guard, and the FBI.
Arrangements Made to Fly Key Officials Home - The conference’s organizers arrange for military aircraft to fly state emergency management leaders back to their capitals. [New York Times, 9/12/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 ] Allbaugh and officials from several states that are directly involved in the attacks are flown home throughout the day (see (After 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (After 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and (After 4:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001), but others at the conference have to drive long distances back to their states.
Emergency Managers 'Not Where They Wanted to Be' - As one news report will later describe, when the attacks occur, “emergency managers were not where they wanted to be.” FEMA spokesman Mark Wolfson will note the inconvenient timing of the attacks, saying that FEMA officials do not know whether they were timed to catch emergency officials off guard. “That would be speculation,” he says. “But it is something that law enforcement investigators might be looking at.” [Stateline (.org), 9/13/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 ] NEMA is the professional association of state emergency management directors. [Natural Hazards Observer, 3/2001] Hundreds of state emergency management officials, including almost all of the US’s state emergency management directors, and most of the senior FEMA staff are in Montana for its annual conference. [Stateline (.org), 9/13/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 ]
Ed Soliday. [Source: Ed Soliday]Those at United Airlines’ System Operations Control (SOC) center, near Chicago, have serious problems communicating with others outside their building, particularly using e-mail, for a period of about two hours. This is according to Ed Soliday, United Airlines’ vice president of safety and security, who is involved with the airline’s response to the terrorist attacks after arriving at the SOC at around 9:35 a.m. Soliday will tell the 9/11 Commission that, on this day, United Airlines “lost e-mail capability and some of their phone and cell service.” This, he will say, is “because everyone was on the phone trying to ‘call their best friend’ to talk about what was happening,” presumably meaning that the national telecommunications infrastructure has become overloaded due to increased traffic. Soliday will add, “For a couple of hours, trying to communicate out of the [SOC] building was impossible.” [9/11 Commission, 11/21/2003 ] Soliday apparently does not state the particular time period over which United Airlines experiences these communication problems. However, it appears they may begin around the time of the first attack, since, according to the 9/11 Commission, shortly before 9:00 a.m., a United dispatch manager is unable to reach top company officials because the airline’s pager system “was not working” (see (Shortly After 8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 21-22]
A number of key White House officials will later claim that, when they learn of the first crash at the World Trade Center, they initially think it is just an accident:
President Bush says that, when he learns of the crash while in Sarasota, Florida: “my first reaction was—as an old pilot—how could the guy have gotten so off course to hit the towers? What a terrible accident that is” (see (Shortly After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 42]
White House chief of staff Andrew Card, who is with the president, says: “It was first reported to me… that it looked like it was a, a twin-engine pro—prop plane, and so the natural reaction was: ‘What a horrible accident. The pilot must have had a heart attack.’” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002]
Adviser Karl Rove, who is also with the president in Florida, is later questioned about his feelings after the first crash. When it is suggested, “I guess at that point, everyone is still thinking it is an accident,” Rove concurs, “Yes, absolutely.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002]
White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, also traveling with the president on this day, says, “[W]hen only the first tower had been hit, it was all of our thoughts that this had been some type of terrible accident.” [CNN, 9/11/2006]
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who is in her White House office, is informed of the crash by her executive assistant (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). She later recalls, “I thought, what a strange accident.” [O, the Oprah Magazine, 2/1/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002]
White House counselor Karen Hughes receives a phone call informing her of the first crash as she is about to leave her Washington, DC, home. She later recalls, “they thought it was a small plane at the time… so, of course, my immediate thought was what a terrible accident.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; CNN, 4/6/2004] She adds, “We all assumed it was some kind of weird accident; at that point terrorism didn’t occur to us.” [Hughes, 2004, pp. 234]
The 9/11 Commission will later describe, “In the absence of information that the crash was anything other than an accident, the White House staff monitored the news as they went ahead with their regular schedules.” It will only be when they learn of the second tower being hit at 9:03 that “nearly everyone in the White House… immediately knew it was not an accident.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 35] However, when couterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is called some time after the first crash but before the second by Lisa Gordon-Hagerty—a member of his staff who is at the White House (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001)—she tells him, “Until we know what this is, Dick, we should assume the worst.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 1] And when CIA Director George Tenet learns of the first crash, reportedly he is told specifically, “The World Trade tower has been attacked,” and his initial reaction is, “This has bin Laden all over it” (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Woodward, 2002, pp. 4]
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice learns from her executive assistant that a plane has hit the World Trade Center, but assumes the crash was an accident. [BBC Radio 4, 8/1/2002 ] Rice is in her office at the White House (see 6:00 a.m. September 11, 2001) and, as she will later recall, “My day was shaping up as a fairly normal day.” She has been given her intelligence briefing and is standing at her desk, getting ready to go to her senior staff meeting. [White House, 8/6/2002] At “8:47 a.m. or so,” according to Rice’s later recollection, Rice’s executive assistant, Army Lieutenant Colonel Tony Crawford, comes into the office. [White House, 10/24/2001; BBC Radio 4, 8/1/2002 ] Crawford informs Rice of the crash in New York, saying, “Do you know a plane has hit the World Trade Center?” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] Rice will later recall, “I thought, ‘That’s odd, that’s a strange accident.’” She asks Crawford, “What kind of plane, Tony?” He replies, “Twin engine, they think.” [White House, 10/24/2001] According to journalist and author Elisabeth Bumiller, Rice “assumed that a small plane had veered out of control.” [Bumiller, 2007, pp. xi] Rice will later comment, “It just didn’t come to mind immediately that it might be terrorism.” [White House, 8/6/2002] She tells Crawford, “I better call the president.” [White House, 10/24/2001] She will then call President Bush, who is in Florida for an education event (see (Shortly Before 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [BBC Radio 4, 8/1/2002 ; White House, 8/2/2002] While Rice is talking over the phone with Bush, Crawford will inform her that the plane that hit the WTC was in fact a commercial aircraft, not a small twin-engine plane. [White House, 10/24/2001; White House, 11/1/2001]
Rudolph Giuliani. [Source: Publicity photo]New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is promptly informed of the first WTC crash while having breakfast at the Peninsula Hotel on 55th Street. He later claims that he goes outside and, noticing the clear sky, immediately concludes, “It could not have been an accident, that it had to have been an attack. But we weren’t sure whether it was a planned terrorist attack, or maybe some kind of act of individual anger or insanity.” Only after the second plane hits at 9:03 will he be convinced it is terrorism. After leaving the hotel, he quickly proceeds south. In his 2002 book, Leadership, he will claim that he heads for his emergency command center. This $13 million center is located on the 23rd floor of Building 7 of the WTC, and was opened by Giuliani in 1999, specifically for coordinating responses to emergencies, including terrorist attacks (see June 8, 1999). Referring to it, he writes, “As shocking as [the first] crash was, we had actually planned for just such a catastrophe.” At around 9:07 a.m., Giuliani meets Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik at Barclay Street, on the northern border of the WTC complex. [Giuliani, 2002, pp. 3-6; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 7] Yet they do not go to the command center. According to Kerik, “The Mayor and I… determined early on that the City’s pre-designated Command and Control Center… was unsafe because of its proximity to the attack.” [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ] Instead, they head to West Street, where the fire department has set up a command post, and arrive there at around 9:20 a.m. However, in his private testimony before the 9/11 Commission in 2004, Giuliani will apparently change his story, claiming he’d never even headed for his command center in the first place. He says, “Even if the Emergency Operations Center had been available, I would not have gone there for an hour or an hour and a half. I would want to spend some time at the actual incident, at operations command posts.” [9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 44-45 and 340-341] Other accounts indicate that the emergency command center is mostly abandoned from the outset, with emergency managers instead heading to the North Tower (see (Soon After 8:46 a.m.-9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Paul Montanus. [Source: United States Naval Academy]Major Paul Montanus and Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gould, two military aides who are accompanying President Bush on his visit to Florida, are notified that a plane has hit the World Trade Center, but they do not yet realize the crash was deliberate, as part of a terrorist attack. [Marist Magazine, 10/2002; Lompoc Record, 9/11/2011; CBS Sports, 8/31/2012] The president has five military aides, who are representatives of the Air Force, the Army, the Navy, the Marines, and the Coast Guard. A military aide will accompany the president wherever he goes. [Lompoc Record, 9/11/2011; Santa Barbara News-Press, 9/11/2011] Montanus, a Marine Corps officer, is currently the president’s “advance aide.” He inspected the locations for the president’s Florida visit beforehand and is accompanying Bush on his trip to the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota. [Marist Magazine, 10/2002; Lompoc Record, 9/11/2011] Gould, an Air Force officer, is the “courier military aide,” who is responsible for handling military emergency operations. He is currently off duty for a few hours, and is working out in the gym at the resort on Longboat Key where Bush spent the previous night (see September 10, 2001). [Lompoc Record, 9/11/2011; Santa Barbara News-Press, 9/11/2011]
Military Aides Alerted to Crash at WTC - Montanus is notified of the crash at the WTC while traveling to the Booker Elementary School in the president’s motorcade. He apparently does not realize it was part of a terrorist attack. [Marist Magazine, 10/2002] “We had heard that a plane had hit the building, but not much more,” he will later recall. [CBS Sports, 8/31/2012] Gould learns what happened in New York when his pager goes off, with a message from the Presidential Emergency Operations Center below the White House that informs him, “A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center.” Gould then sees the coverage of the crash on the television in the gym. He finishes his workout and then calls his wife, to discuss the incident with her. As a trained pilot, Gould wonders how such a crash could have occurred. Like Montanus, he thinks it was an accident. “Part of me doesn’t want to believe it’s anything else,” he will recall. Gould will still be on the phone with his wife when the second plane hits the WTC, and then realize that some kind of attack is taking place (see (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Military Aide Gives President 'Direct Access to His Military Commanders' - The job of the presidential military aide is, primarily, to be the emergency action officer for the president, but it also involves being the president’s military representative for official functions and his personal aide on weekends. Military aides carry what is called the “nuclear football,” which is a briefcase that holds critical codes that are necessary to initiate a nuclear attack, and other emergency operations details that the president might need when he is away from the White House. Gould will explain that, as the presidential military aide, his role is “to ensure that the commander in chief had direct access to his military commanders; specifically, in the realm of if we were under a nuclear attack, I would present the president with his options.” [Lompoc Record, 9/11/2011; Santa Barbara News-Press, 9/11/2011]
George Tabeek, a security manager with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, decides to have an announcement made in the South Tower of the World Trade Center, instructing workers to stay in, or return to, their offices, instead of evacuating. [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 9/6/2011; ABC News, 9/10/2011] After Flight 11 hits the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), many people in the South Tower, who are unclear about what has happened, decide to leave their building. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 287]
Security Manager Passes on Decision to Fire Command Desk - However, around the same time, Tabeek, the Port Authority’s security manager for the WTC, decides not to evacuate the South Tower and to issue instructions advising workers to go back to their offices. [ABC News, 9/10/2011] Tabeek will later recall that he contacts his “fire safety command” and tells the person he talks with “to evacuate the North Tower, but keep people inside the South Tower.” [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 9/6/2011] Presumably Tabeek means that he contacts the fire command desk in the lobby of the South Tower, which is currently manned by Philip Hayes, a deputy fire safety director. A button at the desk allows fire safety directors to deliver announcements over the tower’s public address system. [Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 26]
Security Manager's Instruction Leads to Announcement - Shortly after Tabeek gives his instruction to the fire command desk, an announcement, later believed to have been made by Hayes, will go out over the public address system, telling workers in the South Tower that their building is safe and advising them to stay in, or return to, their offices (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 287-288; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 72] That announcement “may have led to the deaths of hundreds of people,” USA Today will suggest. [USA Today, 9/2/2002] Some security officials in the South Tower will instruct workers, in person, to return upstairs, rather than evacuate (see (8:47 a.m.-9:02 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It is unclear if those officials are, like Hayes, acting on instructions issued by Tabeek. [Observer, 9/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 289]
Instruction Is Inconsistent with Protocol - Tabeek’s instruction reportedly goes against protocol. The 9/11 Commission Report will state: “When a notable event occurred [at the WTC], it was standard procedure for the on-duty deputy fire safety director to make an ‘advisory’ announcement to tenants who were affected by or might be aware of the incident, in order to acknowledge the incident and to direct tenants to stand by for further instructions. The purpose of advisory announcements, as opposed to ‘emergency’ announcements (such as to evacuate), was to reduce panic.” Therefore, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, “A statement from the deputy fire safety director informing tenants that the incident had occurred in the other building” would be “consistent with protocol.” However, “the expanded advice” that Tabeek asks to be given—for workers to stay in, or return to, their offices—“did not correspond to any existing written protocol.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 288, 544]
Security Manager Thinks Evacuation Would Put Workers in Danger - Tabeek will explain why he decided to instruct workers to stay in the South Tower, telling ABC News he was “worried about the debris raining down from the crippled North Tower onto the plaza below,” and he was therefore “afraid that if he evacuated people who he thought were safe in the South Tower… they’d be in grave danger from the falling debris.” He will tell the New Jersey Star-Ledger, “If these people’s lives in [the South Tower] are not in danger, if I put them outside, their life is in danger.” Tabeek will also explain his decision by saying, “We never took into consideration a dual attack.” In response to criticism of his decision, he will say, “I can’t go back on the orders I gave, because at the time it was the right thing to do.” [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 9/6/2011; ABC News, 9/10/2011]
Lloyd Thompson. [Source: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey]Lloyd Thompson, the deputy fire safety director in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, attempts to make an announcement instructing workers to evacuate the building, but the public address system was damaged by Flight 11 hitting the tower and so no one hears it. Thompson works for OCS Security, which holds the security contract for the WTC, and is on duty at the fire command desk in the ground-floor lobby of the North Tower. There, he is responsible for watching the building’s various security and fire safety computer systems. [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ; New York Times, 5/22/2004; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 45]
Announcements Attempted, but Public Address System Is Damaged - After Flight 11 hits the North Tower (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), following protocol, Thompson initially tries issuing instructions to just the floors of the building that have generated “computerized alarms,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. In an announcement, he advises workers on those floors “to descend to points of safety—at least two floors below the smoke or fire—and to wait there for further instructions.” He then tries ordering the full evacuation of the tower over the public address system. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 286] However, Thompson’s attempts at issuing instructions to people in the building are unsuccessful. The 9/11 Commission will state, “[T]he public address system was damaged [by the impact of the plane] and no one apparently heard the announcement.” [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ]
Time of Attempted Evacuation Order Unclear - It is unclear when Thompson first tries ordering the full evacuation of the North Tower. He will tell the 9/11 Commission that he does so “within about 10 minutes” of Flight 11 hitting the building, meaning before 8:56 a.m. The reason for the delay, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, is that, although he was “immediately aware that a major incident had occurred” after Flight 11 hit the tower, Thompson “did not know for approximately 10 minutes that a commercial jet had directly hit the building.” However, when he is contacted by the deputy fire safety director in the South Tower at 8:49 a.m., just three minutes after the crash, Thompson tells his colleague that there has been “a major explosion” at the WTC, which, he says, “might be an aircraft” (see 8:49 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 286-287; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 27] Furthermore, George Tabeek, the Port Authority’s security manager for the WTC, will later say that “he called in to his fire safety command”—presumably referring to the fire command desks in the Twin Towers—“right after the first plane struck” and gave instructions “to evacuate the North Tower” (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 9/6/2011] Additionally, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, when fire department chiefs arrive in the lobby of the North Tower, Michael Hurley, the Port Authority’s fire safety director, tells them “that the full building evacuation announcement had been made within one minute of the building being hit.”
Automated Announcement Tells Workers to Stay in Offices - Around the time that Thompson is attempting to instruct people to evacuate the North Tower, the deputy fire safety director in the South Tower makes an announcement over that building’s public address system, advising workers 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. 286-288] According to some security officers, an automated announcement was activated when Flight 11 crashed, which similarly instructs workers in the North Tower to stay in their offices, although it is unclear how many people hear that announcement (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Newsday, 9/10/2002]
An automated announcement is reportedly activated in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, advising workers to stay in their offices rather than evacuate, although a senior official will later dispute the accounts of security officers who describe hearing it. The announcement is heard by workers in the Port Authority’s Security Command Center (SCC) on the 22nd floor of the North Tower.
Automated Announcement Heard by 'a Lot of People' - The recorded female voice that makes the announcement usually comes on automatically in situations such as when a sprinkler is loose, telling people to return to their offices, according to Hermina Jones, a security guard in the SCC. Jones will recall that the automated recording now comes on, apparently after being activated by the impact of Flight 11 hitting the North Tower. She will say that “a lot of people listened to that and went back to their offices. When tenants called me on the intercom, I told them to ignore it and take Stairway A.” Jones will add, “You could hear [the recording] in the background, telling them over and over, ‘Please go back in your office.’” Nancy Joyner, a security supervisor, also notices the recorded announcement. “Whenever there is smoke, sometimes the alarm will trigger, and that’s when you heard [the recording],” she will say. She will add, “That day [i.e. September 11], the recording came on.”
Port Authority Official Says There Are 'No Automated Announcements' - However, Alan Reiss, the director of the World Trade Department of the Port Authority, will dispute the recollections of Jones and Joyner, and claim that no recording goes off. He will state, “There were no automated announcements used anywhere in the World Trade Center, as such recordings are not permitted by fire codes.” Furthermore, Reiss will state, “no messages of any kind—live or otherwise—could be heard over [the North Tower’s] public address system, which was severed by the impact of the first plane.” [Newsday, 9/10/2002; Newsday, 10/8/2002] The 9/11 Commission Report will indicate, however, that announcements might be heard in a few areas of the North Tower. “Because of damage to building systems caused by the impact of the plane,” the report will state, “public address announcements were not heard in many locations.” Around the time that the automated announcement is reportedly going off in the North Tower, an announcement is made in the South Tower, advising workers to stay in their offices, instead of evacuating (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). That announcement, though, is made by a deputy fire safety director, rather than being a recorded message. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 286-288]
Security officials in the South Tower of the World Trade Center instruct people who are evacuating the building to return to their offices. [Observer, 9/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 289] After Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), many people in the South Tower, who were unclear about what had happened, decided to leave their building. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 287] But on their way down, some of them encounter officials who are telling people to head back upstairs.
Official with Megaphone Says People Can Return to Their Floors - Arturo Domingo, who works for Morgan Stanley on the 60th floor of the South Tower, is among those trying to leave. When he reaches the 44th floor, he finds a man there with a megaphone who is telling people: “Our building is secure. You can go back to your floor. If you’re a little winded, you can get a drink of water or coffee in the cafeteria.” Domingo and some of his colleagues return to their office, but head down again after Flight 175 hits their building at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/13/2001]
Workers Told They Are Safest inside Tower - John Howard, also a Morgan Stanley employee, similarly encounters a man with a megaphone—perhaps the same person—as he is evacuating. The man is saying, “Don’t panic!” and telling people they are safer staying in the building than leaving it. But there is then a “huge explosion,” presumably the sound of Flight 175 hitting the tower. At that moment, Howard will later recall, “We all ran over the guy with the bullhorn to get out.” [Newsday, 9/12/2001] And another Morgan Stanley employee makes it to the staircase and has gone down more than 20 floors when she hears a voice on a megaphone instructing people to head back upstairs. [Observer, 9/16/2001]
Workers Sent Back from Ground Floor - On the 78th floor of the tower, people waiting for express elevators to take them down to the lower floors are told by security officials to return to their offices. And a group of 20 workers who have descended to the ground-floor lobby is told by security officials to go back upstairs. Nineteen of them do so, and 18 of these will subsequently die in the tower. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 289, 544] The Observer will comment that the instructions for workers to return to their offices, rather than evacuate, mean that “during the crucial 15 minutes of what should have been escape”—after the attack on the North Tower but before the attack on the South Tower—“there was confusion and a two-way rush along the panic-stricken arteries of life.” [Observer, 9/16/2001]
Security Officials Work for Port Authority - The security officials advising workers to return upstairs are “not part of the fire safety staff,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 289] According to The Observer, they are “officials of the Port Authority.” [Observer, 9/16/2001] Following the attack on the North Tower, an announcement goes out over the public address system in the South Tower that similarly tells workers their building is safe and they should 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] That announcement is made on the orders of George Tabeek, the Port Authority’s security manager for the WTC (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 9/6/2011; ABC News, 9/10/2011] It is unclear if the security officials who instruct workers to return upstairs in person are acting on orders from Tabeek, or if someone else has told them what to do.
Satam Al Suqami’s remarkably undamaged passport, marked and wrapped in plastic. It is shown as evidence in the 2006 Zacarias Moussaoui trial. [Source: FBI]The passport of 9/11 hijacker Satam Al Suqami is reportedly found a few blocks from the World Trade Center. [ABC News, 9/12/2001; Associated Press, 9/16/2001; ABC News, 9/16/2001] Barry Mawn, the director of the FBI’s New York office, will say that police and the FBI found it during a “grid search” of the area. [CNN, 9/18/2001] However, according to the 9/11 Commission, the passport is actually discovered by a male passer-by who is about 30 years old and wearing a business suit. The man gives it to New York City Police Department Detective Yuk H. Chin shortly before 9:59 a.m., when the South Tower of the WTC collapses. The man leaves before he is identified. Chin, according to the 9/11 Commission, will give the passport to the FBI later in the day. [9/11 Commission, 1/26/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 40 ] An FBI timeline concerned with the 9/11 hijackers will state that the passport is found by a civilian “on the street near [the] World Trade Center,” and is “soaked in jet fuel.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 291 ] According to FBI agent Dan Coleman, Al Suqami’s passport is handed to a New York City detective who is “down there, trying to talk to people as they were coming out of the buildings.” By the time the detective looks up again after receiving the passport, the man who handed it to him has run off, “which doesn’t make sense,” Coleman will say. The passport is then given to a detective on the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Coleman will say that by this evening, “we realized… that this was the passport of one of the people that headquarters had identified as one of the 19 probable hijackers.” [France 5, 3/14/2010] Investigative journalist Nick Davies will later write that he talked to “senior British sources who said they believed that the discovery of a terrorist’s passport in the rubble of the Twin Towers in September 2001 had been ‘a throwdown,’ i.e. it was placed there by somebody official.” [Davies, 2009, pp. 248] The Guardian will comment, “The idea that Mohamed Atta’s passport had escaped from that inferno unsinged [tests] the credulity of the staunchest supporter of the FBI’s crackdown on terrorism.” (Note that, as in this Guardian account, the passport will frequently be mistakenly referred to as belonging to Atta, not Al Suqami.) [Guardian, 3/19/2002]
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 ; US Air Force, 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 ; GlobalSecurity (.org), 7/24/2011; Effingham Daily News, 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. [Effingham Daily News, 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.” [US Air Force, 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 ] 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]
Mike Pecoraro. [Source: Chief Engineer]Mike Pecoraro, an engineer who is part of the crew that services the World Trade Center complex, is at work in the mechanical shop in the second subbasement of the north WTC tower when it is hit. When the room he is in starts filling with white smoke and he can smell kerosene (jet fuel), he heads upstairs with a co-worker toward a small machine shop on the C level. Yet, he will later recall: “There was nothing there but rubble. We’re talking about a 50 ton hydraulic press—gone!” He then heads for the parking garage, yet finds that “there were no walls, there was rubble on the floor, and you can’t see anything.” He ascends to the B level where he sees a 300-pound steel and concrete fire door, which is lying on the floor, wrinkled up “like a piece of aluminum foil.” Pecoraro recalls seeing similar things at the WTC when it was bombed in 1993 and is therefore convinced that a bomb has gone off this time. When he makes it into the main lobby, he sees massive damage. “The whole lobby was soot and black, elevator doors were missing,” he will describe. “The marble was missing off some of the walls. Twenty-foot section of marble, 20 by 10 foot sections of marble, gone from the walls.… Broken glass everywhere, the revolving doors were all broken and their glass was gone.” Pecoraro will say he only later hears that “jet fuel actually came down the elevator shaft, blew off all the [elevator] doors, and flames rolled through the lobby. That explained all the burnt people and why everything was sooted in the lobby.” He makes it out of the North Tower before it collapses. [Chief Engineer, 8/1/2002]
The conference room on Air Force One. [Source: George Bush Library]Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, the president’s plane, receives no contact from any US government agency, such as the CIA or the FBI, about the first plane crash at the World Trade Center, although numerous agencies call the plane immediately after the second crash. Air Force One is currently at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in Florida, where it has been since the previous evening (see September 10, 2001). Tillman boarded the plane at around 8:15 a.m. this morning, and he has been preparing to take off at 10:45 a.m. and take President Bush back to Washington, DC.
Pilot Sees the Coverage of the First Crash but Thinks It Is an Accident - While he is walking around the plane and checking all the rooms, Tillman is called upstairs by the plane’s radio operator. Upstairs, the radio operator shows him the coverage of the first crash at the WTC on television and says: “I don’t know what’s going on; neither does the media. But it doesn’t look like it’s anything important; it looks like it’s an aircraft accident.” Air Force One, according to Tillman, has 42 phone lines that specifically connect to government agencies such as the FBI, the CIA, and the National Security Agency. But, Tillman will later recall: “None of those phones were going off. Everybody thought this was just an aircraft accident.” He will say that the plane’s crew receives “no information from any command and control authority” at this time. Tillman believes that, in light of what has happened, Bush will want to visit New York. Everyone on the plane is therefore told to be ready to go. He tells the radio operator simply to keep monitoring what is happening in New York and then heads downstairs to continue checking the rooms on Air Force One.
All the Phones Start Ringing after the Second Attack - After the second plane hits the WTC at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), Tillman is again called upstairs. The radio operator alerts him to the television coverage of what has happened. “We now have an understanding that it’s a deliberate attack on the [Twin] Towers,” Tillman will say. “All the information we had was from the news media at this point,” he will comment. But whereas no government agencies previously called Air Force One, suddenly, Tillman will recall: “All the phone lines are coming alive. Every agency in the world wants to know what our status is [and] if we’re ready to go.” “We were hooked into the PEOC [the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, a bunker below the White House] and the JOC [Joint Operations Center] for the Secret Service,” he will say, adding, “They’re all in the link now.” In response to the second attack, security around Air Force One will be increased (see (9:04 a.m.-9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [United Services Automobile Association, 9/11/2011; US Air Force, 2/29/2012 ; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] The plane will take off from the Sarasota airport with Bush on board at 9:54 a.m. (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39]
John Odermatt. [Source: Queens Gazette]New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) activates its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7. The OEM is responsible for managing the city’s response to major incidents, including terrorist attacks. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 283-284, 293] Its personnel arrived at WTC 7, where it has offices, early this morning to prepare for Tripod, a major biological terrorism training exercise scheduled for September 12 (see September 12, 2001). [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 15 ]
Staffer Is Told to Open the Operations Center - OEM Commissioner John Odermatt and Richard Bylicki, a police sergeant assigned to the OEM, heard the explosion when Flight 11 crashed into the WTC, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). As they look out of the window at the burning North Tower, Odermatt debriefs Bylicki and instructs him to open the EOC for a fully staffed operation. Bylicki therefore sets about activating the operations center. [Bylicki, 6/19/2003]
Staffers Call Agencies and Tell Them to Send Their Representatives - EOC personnel start contacting agencies, including the New York Fire and Police Departments and the Department of Health, and instruct them to send their designated representatives to the center. They also call the State Emergency Management Office (SEMO) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which they ask to send at least five federal urban search and rescue teams. [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 293] Meanwhile, Bylicki helps the OEM’s Watch Command handle an “enormous influx” of phone calls, many of which are from senior city officials. [Bylicki, 6/19/2003]
Activation Proceeds without Any Problems - EOC personnel initially struggle to make sense of what has happened at the Twin Towers. [Wachtendorf, 2004, pp. 77] However, the activation apparently proceeds without any problems. Firefighter Timothy Brown, a supervisor at the OEM, is instructed by Calvin Drayton, a deputy director with the OEM, to go up to the 23rd floor of WTC 7 and make sure that personnel are getting the EOC up and running, and the Watch Command is being properly supervised. He goes up to the 23rd floor and first checks the Watch Command. He sees that its supervisor, Mike Lee, has things under control. Then, in the EOC, he sees Michael Berkowitz, a supervisor with the OEM, powering up all the computers and television screens necessary to handle the emergency, and beginning to notify the dozens of agencies that need to send representatives to the center. Berkowitz tells Brown he has the manpower he needs to get the center up and running. “I was very comfortable that OEM was beginning to do what we do in a major emergency,” Brown will later recall. Activating the EOC is something OEM personnel have “drilled for and drilled for and drilled for… and so we were very good at it,” he will comment. [City of New York, 1/15/2002; Project Rebirth, 6/30/2002 ; Firehouse, 1/31/2003]
Center Is Designed for Managing a Crisis - The EOC, which opened in 1999 (see June 8, 1999), is a state-of-the-art facility designed to operate as a stand-alone center from which the city government can operate during a crisis. [City of New York, 2/18/2001] It is one of the most sophisticated facilities of its type in the world. It includes a communications suite, a conference room, a press briefing room, and a large number of staff offices, and has numerous computer-equipped workstations. [Disasters, 3/2003 ] It has enough seating for 68 agencies to operate during an emergency. [City of New York, 2/18/2001] However, it will be evacuated at 9:30 a.m. due to reports of further unaccounted-for planes, according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305] Other accounts will indicate that it may be evacuated at an earlier time, possibly even before the second crash at the WTC occurs (see (Soon After 8:46 a.m.-9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly Before 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Entity Tags: Mike Lee, Federal Emergency Management Agency, John Odermatt, Michael Berkowitz, Calvin Drayton, US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Emergency Management, New York City Fire Department, New York State Emergency Management Office, Timothy Brown, Richard Bylicki, New York City Police Department
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
David Kelley. [Source: New York Law School]Barry Mawn, director of the FBI’s New York office, sends specialized teams to the World Trade Center site after hearing Flight 11 crashing into the North Tower, even though he initially thinks the crash is an accident. Mawn is in his office on the 28th floor of 26 Federal Plaza in Lower Manhattan and has just heard the explosion when Flight 11 hit the WTC, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Kathy MacGowan, his secretary, shouted: “The World Trade! The World Trade!” Mawn now goes to her window, from where he can see smoke billowing from the North Tower. MacGowan says a commercial jet has crashed into the building. However, it supposedly does not occur to Mawn that the incident was a terrorist attack. [Kessler, 2002, pp. 1-2; CNN, 2/18/2002; Wright, 2006, pp. 357] “At that point, I thought it was an accident,” he will later recall. [Washington Post, 10/20/2001] Mawn’s colleagues look to the director for guidance. “People were turning to me and asking, ‘What are we going to do next, boss?’” Mawn will recall. Mawn instructs MacGowan to call the FBI evidence response team. Despite thinking the crash is an accident, he adds, “Just in case, call the SWAT [the FBI special weapons and tactics team] and the Joint Terrorism Task Force,” which has exclusive jurisdiction over local terrorism investigations. He tells MacGowan to send the teams to Church and Vesey Streets, and says he will head that way himself. Before he leaves his office, though, he is called by David Kelley, chief of Manhattan US Attorney Mary Jo White’s terrorism unit. [Kessler, 2002, pp. 2; Wright, 2006, pp. 357; Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, 9/10/2016] White has instructed Kelley to go to the WTC site. [New York Metro Super Lawyers, 7/2006] Mawn agrees to meet him and then goes and joins him outside his building. The two men make their way toward the WTC, which is eight blocks away from the FBI office. They stop at the corner of Church and Vesey Streets, at the northeast corner of the WTC site. There, they join Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and other law enforcement officials. [Washington Post, 10/20/2001; Kessler, 2002, pp. 2] Mawn and Kelley will be at the WTC site when Flight 175 crashes into the South Tower, at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), and Mawn will then realize that the US is under attack (see After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New York Daily News, 10/1/2001; CNN, 2/18/2002; New York Metro Super Lawyers, 7/2006]
Gary Cohn. [Source: Evan Walker / White House]Gary Cohn, head of commodities at the investment bank Goldman Sachs, instructs employees at the bank’s offices in Lower Manhattan to continue trading after the planes crash into the World Trade Center, so the company can make money out of what is happening. This is according to Nomi Prins, a managing director at the bank who is working in the Lower Manhattan offices this morning. [HuffPost, 9/3/2012; Mic, 1/27/2017] Just after the first hijacked aircraft crashed into the WTC, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), Prins is on the fourth-floor trading floor, which is the commodities trading floor. [Jerome Fritel and Marc Roche, 9/4/2012] She and her colleagues have little idea what has happened, but they follow the coverage of events on the television screens dotted around the trading floor. [Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, 9/11/2006; Progressive, 5/5/2014] “We just knew that there was an airplane that had hit the building,” she will later recall. “It wasn’t like we necessarily knew at that particular moment about it being a terrorist attack or not, but that was the initial instinct,” she will say.
Traders on the Oil Desk Continue Working during the Attacks - However, Cohn, who is in charge of the commodities trading floor, apparently makes no effort to find out more about what is happening, nor does he tell employees to evacuate the building, even though it is located just a few blocks away from the WTC. Instead, he instructs his traders to keep working. This, according to Prins, is “because his gut instinct was there could be money made out of whatever was going on, because it had to do with planes; so, if it had to do with planes, it had to do with oil; if it had to do with oil, [Goldman Sachs] could make money.” [Jerome Fritel and Marc Roche, 9/4/2012; Mic, 1/27/2017] Some employees find it “really off-putting” that the traders on the oil desk are “making market” at such a perilous time, “because people were trying to figure out what was going on,” Prins will comment. “It was just really strange,” she will add. [Progressive, 5/5/2014]
Commodities Head Is Trying to 'Take Advantage of That Volatility' - Reflecting on what happened in 2017, Prins will say she doesn’t think Cohn was “trying to put anybody in danger” by telling them to keep trading at a time of such uncertainty. Instead, she thinks that “while there was a sort of questioning as to what was going on and [a] combination of, at that point, both panic and uncertainty, what he wanted to have continue was for Goldman and the traders [to] take advantage of that volatility or that chaos in the trading of oil, which would be the commodity most related to airplanes.” Prins will leave Goldman Sachs a few months after 9/11 and become a journalist. She will write extensively and critically about the bank she previously worked for. [Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, 9/11/2006; PBS, 3/19/2012; Mic, 1/27/2017]
A Fairfax, Virginia company that makes computer software that tracks and records the flight paths of planes helps media companies and airlines to reconstruct the paths of all four of the hijacked aircraft. [Washington Business Journal, 9/11/2001; Washington Post, 9/13/2001] Flight Explorer sells an Internet-accessible application that provides constantly updated information on the positions of aircraft in flight. It uses radar feeds that the FAA collects from control centers across the US. [Business Wire, 6/16/2000; St. Petersburg Times, 8/12/2001] All of Flight Explorer’s employees begin sorting through its data “after the first crash [of Flight 11] was reported,” so presumably this is at around 8:50 a.m. Whether any particular agency, such as the FAA, requests this or they do it of their own initiative is unknown. Although there are some 4,000 planes in the air above the US at the time of the attacks, the company is quickly able to pinpoint the paths of all four hijacked aircraft. It then creates charts and animated videos of the four flights’ actual and intended routes. About 12 news agencies, including all the major networks, request these animated illustrations. [Washington Business Journal, 9/11/2001; Washington Post, 9/13/2001] Flight Explorer is apparently unhindered by the fact that flights 11 and 93 have their transponders turned off during the hijackings. Its reconstruction of Flight 77’s path ends, however, at 8:57, around the time that aircraft’s transponder goes off and it disappears from controllers’ radar screens (see (8:56 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Yet the 9/11 Commission will later say that, despite this disappearance, “Radar reconstructions performed after 9/11 reveal that FAA radar equipment tracked the flight from the moment its transponder was turned off.” Why the Flight Explorer illustration does not therefore show the rest of Flight 77’s journey is not clear. [AVweb, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Until a few years back, Flight Explorer was the only company that recorded flight paths. Since the 1999 death of golfer Payne Stewart (see October 25, 1999) the FAA has also been recording these paths. [Washington Business Journal, 9/11/2001] The final report of the 9/11 Commission will make no mention of the Flight Explorer flight path recordings. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 222]
President Bush will say in a speech later that evening, “Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government’s emergency response plans.” [US President, 9/17/2001] However, the Wall Street Journal reports that lower level officials activate CONPLAN (Interagency Domestic Terrorism Concept of Operations Plan) in response to the emerging crisis. CONPLAN, created in response to a 1995 Presidential Decision Directive issued by President Clinton and published in January 2001, details the responsibility of seven federal agencies if a terrorist attack occurs. It gives the FBI the responsibility for activating the plan and alerting other agencies. Bush in fact later states that he doesn’t give any orders responding to the attack until after 9:55 a.m. [US Government, 1/2001; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 ]
Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden, the director of the National Security Agency (NSA), is in his office at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, meeting with his senior staff. His executive assistant, Cindy Farkus, comes in and informs him of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. He later says, “The immediate image I had was a light plane, off course, bad flying.” He is able to see the initial CNN reports showing the WTC on a muted television in his office. Nevertheless, he continues with his meeting. Immediately after the second attack occurs, Farkus again comes into Hayden’s office to inform him of it. Saying that “One plane’s an accident, two planes is an attack,” Hayden immediately adjourns his meeting and requests that the agency’s top security officials be summoned to his office. Author James Bamford, who is an expert on the NSA, later comments that this is “not the way it was supposed to be. NSA was not supposed to find out about an airborne attack on America from CNN, after millions of other Americans had already witnessed it. It was supposed to find out first, from its own ultrasecret warning center, and then pass the information on to the White House and the strategic military forces” (see (8:48 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bamford, 2004, pp. 18, 20 and 33]
Michael Allen Noeth. [Source: Associated Press / Army Times]Personnel in the Navy Command Center at the Pentagon, which is located on the first floor of the building’s southwest face, learn of the attack on the WTC from television reports. The center is tasked with constantly monitoring global current events and also monitoring the latest status of all US Naval assets around the world. Its employees have to keep Navy leaders in Washington up to date on what is happening in the world as it directly relates to Navy operations and other security or military issues. Admiral Timothy Keating, who is the Navy’s director of operations in the Pentagon, describes it as a “nerve center.” Forty to 50 people man it constantly, 24 hours every day. Located within the center is the Chief of Naval Operations Intelligence Plot (CNO-IP), a small, highly secretive intelligence unit that constantly monitors geopolitical developments and military movements that could threaten American forces. The Navy Command Center has just been renovated, and its dozens of employees have been moving in during the past month. According to the Washington Post, the first the Command Center knows of the unfolding crisis is when Petty Officer Michael Allen Noeth sees the scene from the World Trade Center on the TV sets bolted to the wall, and shouts, “My God! What’s happened?” Another employee Lt. Kevin Shaeffer later recalls, “We quickly knew what was going on in New York City after the first plane hit the first tower… and stood up a watch to start logging events and tracking things for the Navy.” [St. Petersburg Times, 9/14/2001; Washington Post, 9/16/2001; Washington Post, 1/20/2002; Chips, 3/2003] Despite the center supposedly being a “nerve center,” those in it supposedly are not initially aware that this is a terrorist attack. According to Timothy Keating, who is presently in the Navy Command Center receiving his daily briefing, “We were quite bewildered. We couldn’t understand how a pilot could make such a significant navigational error on a day when the skies were crystal clear blue.” [Washington Post, 9/16/2001; American Forces Press Service, 9/11/2006] All 30 people in the Command Center’s main room watch the footage of the WTC on the large televisions there, whispering to each other, “Think it’s an accident?” [Virginian-Pilot, 9/7/2002] However, according to the Washington Post, “A few old hands muttered to themselves that the Pentagon was probably next.” [Washington Post, 9/16/2001] According to one officer, it is only when the second plane hits the WTC that there will be an “almost instantaneous recognition” that this is a terrorist attack. [Daily Telegraph, 9/11/2002] By that time, Keating will have gone back to his office. He too supposedly only realizes this is an attack when he sees television showing the second crash. [American Forces Press Service, 9/11/2006] Much of the Navy Command Center will be destroyed when the Pentagon is hit at 9:37 a.m. Forty-two of the 50 people working in it will be killed. [Washington Post, 1/20/2002; National Defense Magazine, 6/2003]
In the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon, personnel apparently become aware of the first attack on the World Trade Center from watching the reports on television. According to Steve Hahn, an operations officer there, “We monitor the television networks in the center, and along with the rest of America we saw the smoke pouring from the tower.” Dan Mangino, who is also an operations officer at the NMCC, says, “At first, we thought it was a terrible accident.” [American Forces Press Service, 9/7/2006] The 9/11 Commission later says, “Most federal agencies learned about the crash in New York from CNN.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 35] Whether the NMCC was already aware that a hijacking was underway is unclear. According to military instructions, the NMCC is “the focal point within Department of Defense for providing assistance” in response to hijackings in US airspace, and is supposed to be “notified by the most expeditious means by the FAA.” [US Department of Defense, 6/1/2001 ] Boston Air Traffic Control Center started notifying the chain of command of the suspected hijacking of Flight 11 more than 20 minutes earlier (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). And at 8:32, the FAA’s Command Center in Herndon informed FAA headquarters of the possible hijacking (see 8:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). Yet, according to the 9/11 Commission, although the “FAA headquarters began to follow the hijack protocol,” it “did not contact the NMCC to request a fighter escort.” Supposedly, the first that the military learned of the hijacking was when Boston Air Traffic Control Center contacted NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) about it, at around 8:37 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The earliest time mentioned by the 9/11 Commission that the NMCC learns of the Flight 11 hijacking is 9 a.m. (see 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 19-20 and 35]
Richard Sheirer [Source: Publicity photo]Richard Sheirer is in a meeting at New York City Hall when he is informed by telephone of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. Sheirer is the director of the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), which was set up in 1996 to coordinate the city’s overall response to major incidents, including terrorism (see 1996). It has an emergency command center on the 23rd floor of WTC 7, specially intended for coordinating the response to catastrophes such as terrorist attacks (see June 8, 1999). Yet instead of going to this, Sheirer heads to the North Tower, and arrives at the fire command post set up in its lobby before the second crash at 9:03 a.m. [New York Magazine, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ] John Odermatt, Sheirer’s top deputy, also goes to the North Tower and says that, after the first plane hit, he leaves only two staffers at the command center. John Farmer, who heads the 9/11 Commission unit that assesses the city response to the attacks, will find it “strange that Sheirer, four OEM deputies, and a field responder went straight to the North Tower… rather than to the nearby emergency command center.” Journalists Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins will conclude, “[T]he command center was out of business from the outset.” [Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 31 and 34] Sheirer stays at the North Tower lobby until soon after 9:30 a.m., when Mayor Giuliani requests he joins him at the temporary command post at 75 Barclay Street (see (9:50 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ] John Farmer will later complain, “We [the 9/11 Commission] tried to get a sense of what Sheirer was really doing. We tried to figure it out from the videos. We couldn’t tell. Everybody from OEM was with him, virtually the whole chain of command. Some of them should have been at the command center.” Fire Captain Kevin Culley, who works as a field responder at OEM, is later asked why most of the OEM’s top brass were with him at the scene of the incident. He says, “I don’t know what they were doing. It was Sheirer’s decision to go there on his own. The command center would normally be the focus of a major event and that would be where I would expect the director to be.” When the 9/11 Commission later investigates OEM’s shortcomings on 9/11, “No rationale for Sheirer’s prolonged lobby stay, no information conveyed to commanders, and no steps to coordinate the response” will be discovered. [Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 31-32 and 34]
At Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, the operations manager with the unit that is involved in NORAD’s air defense mission first learns that a plane has hit the World Trade Center in a phone call from his fiancée. He then receives a call from the unit’s intelligence officer, who warns that the pilots at Langley need to “get ready.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 116-117]
Manager Learns of Attack - The alert unit at Langley Air Force Base is a small detachment from the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing, which is based in Fargo, ND. [New York Times, 11/15/2001; Associated Press, 12/27/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 114] Captain Craig Borgstrom is its operations manager. In the event of an order to scramble the unit’s two F-16s that are kept on “alert,” his job would be to man the battle cab and serve as the supervisor of flying (SOF), being responsible for getting any necessary information about the mission to the pilots. Borgstrom’s fiancée, Jen, calls him at the base and asks, “Did you hear that some airplane just ran into the World Trade Center?” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 116; Tampa Tribune, 6/8/2008] This is the first that Borgstrom has heard about the attack. [Longman, 2002, pp. 63] He replies, “Probably some idiot out sightseeing or someone trying to commit suicide in a Cessna 172,” but Jen tells him, “It’s a pretty big fire for a small airplane.”
Intelligence Officer Warns, 'Get Ready' - The chief enlisted manager then enters Borgstrom’s office and informs him that Darrin Anderson, the unit’s intelligence officer, is on the phone from the wing’s base in Fargo, “and needs to talk to you right away.” Borgstrom heads to the main reception desk and takes the call. After asking if Borgstrom is aware of what happened in New York, Anderson tells him, “[W]e think there might be more to this, so you guys get ready.” Borgstrom tells the chief enlisted manager about this call and then heads out toward the alert hangars.
Pilot Learns of Attack - Meanwhile, in one of the hangars, the crew chief goes upstairs with some information for Major Dean Eckmann, who is one of the pilots on alert duty. Eckmann is unaware of events in New York. When his crew chief informs him a plane has hit the WTC, he replies: “Poor, dumb sucker. I hope no one in the building got hurt.” Before Eckmann has a chance to switch on the television to check the news, a Klaxon horn sounds, indicating that the two alert pilots at Langley are to go to “battle stations.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 64; Spencer, 2008, pp. 116-117] According to the 9/11 Commission, this battle stations signal occurs at 9:09 a.m. (see (9:09 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 24] Eckmann, along with Borgstrom and another of the unit’s pilots, will take off in order to defend Washington, DC at 9:30 a.m. (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 16; Rip Chord, 12/31/2006]
Ben Sliney, the national operations manager at the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, learns that a plane has hit the World Trade Center, but it does not occur to him that this might have been the hijacked Flight 11 that he has been tracking. As national operations manager, Sliney is in charge of supervising all activities on the Command Center’s operations floor and overseeing the entire air traffic control system for the United States. He is currently on the operations floor, trying to gather and disseminate whatever information he can about Flight 11. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 2 and 45-46] At 8:48 a.m., a manager at the FAA’s New York Center provides a report on Flight 11 over a Command Center teleconference, saying: “We’re watching the airplane. I also had conversation with American Airlines, and they’ve told us that they believe that one of their stewardesses was stabbed and that there are people in the cockpit that have control of the aircraft, and that’s all the information they have right now.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 21] Although Flight 11 crashed two minutes earlier (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), this is all Sliney is currently hearing about the aircraft. The Command Center’s military liaison then approaches him. The liaison is a colonel who is responsible for handling military airspace reservations, but is not part of the NORAD chain of command. He tells Sliney to put CNN up on one of the center’s screens, because “They are reporting that a small plane has hit the World Trade Center.” Upon following this suggestion, Sliney and his colleagues see the television footage of the burning North Tower. Sliney is baffled, commenting aloud: “That’s a lot of smoke for a small plane. I’ve worked New York airspace. Why would you be right over the World Trade Center on a clear, bright day?” However, according to author Lynn Spencer, “The notion that it is actually American 11 that has hit the tower doesn’t cross his mind; the idea that the hijacking they’ve been tracking might have flown into that building, especially on such a clear day, is simply unfathomable.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 46]
A manager at the FAA’s New York Center speaks in a teleconference between air traffic control centers. The manager says: “Okay. This is New York [Center]. We’re watching the airplane [Flight 11]. I also had conversation with American Airlines, and they’ve told us that they believe that one of their stewardesses was stabbed and that there are people in the cockpit that have control of the aircraft, and that’s all the information they have right now.” The manager is unaware Flight 11 has already crashed. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] This appears to be a simplified version of flight attendant Betty Ong’s phone call, given to American Airlines leader Gerard Arpey and others minutes before (see (8:30 a.m.-8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
The FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, establishes a teleconference with FAA facilities in the New York area. These facilities are the New York Center, the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control, and the Eastern Regional Office. The participants in the teleconference jointly decide to divert all air traffic that would otherwise enter the New York area, either to land or to overfly. Linda Schuessler, the deputy director of system operations at the Command Center, will later describe, “They [New York area air traffic control personnel] would continue to work what they’d been working, but we wouldn’t give them any more.” The teleconference participants’ decision does not affect takeoffs from the New York area. After the second World Trade Center tower is hit at 9:03 a.m., the Command Center will expand this teleconference to include FAA headquarters and other agencies (see 9:06 a.m. and After September 11, 2001). [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 12/17/2001]
Logo of the National Communications System. [Source: National Communications System]The National Coordinating Center (NCC) in Arlington, Virginia, which is the operational arm of the National Communications System (NCS), is activated in response to the terrorist attacks and supports the recovery efforts. [9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004 ] The NCS is a relatively small government agency that works to ensure the availability of critical communications networks during times of crisis. [Verton, 2003, pp. 136]
Center Conducts Non-Stop Operations - An NCS publication will later describe, “Immediately,” in response to the attacks, “the NCC began non-stop operations to support NS/EP [national security and emergency preparedness] communications between federal, state, and local responders, to restore damaged communications lines in Arlington, Virginia, and New York City, and to provision new lines for the recovery and investigation activities.” The NCC operates at four sites: the NCC itself, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Defense Department’s Global Network Operations Support Center headquarters, and a remote “continuity of operations” location. Brenton Greene, the director of the NCS, goes to his “Continuity of Government” site, where personnel operate around the clock to monitor the status of the telecommunications network, and coordinate priorities and repairs. The NCS, which is part of the Department of Defense, also deploys military reservists to three FEMA regional operations centers.
Time Center Activated at Unclear - Greene will tell the 9/11 Commission that the NCC is activated at 8:48 a.m. [National Communications System, 2004, pp. 56 ; 9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004 ] However, other accounts will indicate that the center is not activated until later on. According to journalist and author Dan Verton, Greene—who is attending a briefing on the terrorist threat to the US’s telecommunications infrastructure, apparently at the NCC—initially believes the first plane hit the World Trade Center by accident, and therefore orders the briefing to continue (see 8:00 a.m.-9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). It is only when the second plane hits the WTC at 9:03 a.m. that he realizes “there was some threat,” and responds to the crisis. [Verton, 2003, pp. 139, 141] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will write that he himself gives the instruction to activate the NCS, at around 12:30 p.m. Then, according to Clarke, his colleague Paul Kurtz calls Greene and instructs him to tell all the major telephone companies that “they need to support Verizon.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 19-20]
Center Coordinates Emergency Communications during Crises - The NCS was established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, in order to provide better communications support to critical government functions during emergencies. An executive order signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 broadened the NCS’s capabilities, and listed its duties as “the planning for and provision of national security and emergency preparedness communications for the federal government under all circumstances, including crisis or emergency, attack, recovery, and reconstitution.” [US President, 4/3/1984; National Communications System, 10/21/2007; CNET News, 1/16/2009] The NCS consists of 22 federal agencies, 100 full-time civilian employees, and 10 military employees. [Computerworld, 11/7/2002] The mission of the NCC is to assist “in the initiation, coordination, restoration, and reconstitution of national security or emergency preparedness telecommunications services or facilities under all conditions of crisis or emergency.” The center is composed of members from the US government and the telecommunications industry. [US President, 4/3/1984; National Communications System, 3/2001, pp. 4, 6 ] There are 150 private sector contractors from 21 companies working at the NCC. [Computerworld, 11/7/2002]
Most days, at 8:30 a.m., CIA Director George Tenet holds a meeting in his conference room at CIA headquarters where 15 top agency officials contribute the news from their particular area. But on this day Tenet is away, having breakfast with former Senator David Boren (D-OK) (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). In his place, running the meeting is A. B. “Buzzy” Krongard, the CIA’s executive director. After the first attack occurs, the senior duty officer of the CIA’s Operations Center interrupts and announces, “Excuse me, Mr. Krongard, but I thought you would want to know that a plane just struck the World Trade Center.” The Operations Center, which is staffed, 24 hours a day by 15 officers, has three televisions that are usually tuned to CNN, MSNBC, and Fox. So presumably the duty officer has just seen the initial televised reports coming from New York. Krongard then adjourns his meeting and returns to his office. [Kessler, 2003, pp. 196-197 and 202]
William Toti. [Source: University of Texas-Pan American]Those working in the office of the vice chief of naval operations (VCNO) at the Pentagon realize that the first plane hitting the World Trade Center is a terrorist attack as soon as they learn of it from television reports, and soon conclude that if this is an organized attack, the Pentagon will be a likely target. Those currently in the office, which is on the fourth floor of the Pentagon’s E-ring, include Captain William Toti, special assistant to the VCNO; Rear Admiral William Douglas Crowder, executive assistant to the VCNO; Commander David Radi, deputy executive assistant to the VCNO; Dee Karnhan, the VCNO’s secretary; and the VCNO’s writer, whom Toti will later refer to only as “Chief LaFleur.” Admiral William Fallon, the VCNO, is currently down the hall in the office of Admiral Vern Clark, the chief of naval operations. [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001; Washington Post, 11/17/2006]
'Everyone' in Office Realizes First Crash Is Terrorism - Toti will later recall that the morning has, until now, been “very routine, very normal.” The first sign of anything unusual is when he hears LaFleur yelling from the VCNO’s outer office, “Holy sh_t, look at that!” LaFleur has noticed CNN showing the burning WTC on television. The television in the VCNO’s outer office is kept on all the time. According to Toti, TV reports will be “our first indication when major events are happening in the world.” Toti goes to the outer office and turns up the volume on the TV, to find out what is happening. He will recall that CNN is reporting that “a small plane had run into the World Trade Center. They were theorizing that it was probably because a navigational beacon had malfunctioned.” Toti will comment that he is “a private pilot, and I know there is no way in hell that any pilot is going to run into the World Trade Center on a clear day like that, navigational beacon or not. It was clear to me, as I think it was to everyone else in the room, that this was not an accident: somebody had collided with the World Trade Center on purpose.” Toti will add: “We began talking about that immediately… and we knew without a doubt that this was a terrorist attack. The question was, ‘Is this it, or is there more to it?’”
Officers Conclude Pentagon Is a Likely Target - Those in the office start discussing whether there could be more attacks. Toti will recall: “We started talking about options. If [the terrorists] are hitting New York, the only other place that makes sense to hit—New York is the capital of our economy, Washington is the capital of our government—okay, they’re going to hit Washington if this is an organized attack.” LaFleur says that if the terrorists are going to attack Washington, “Then they’re going to go after the White House,” but Toti disagrees, saying, “No, there’s only one building in DC that shares the characteristics of the World Trade Center.” Toti notes that the WTC is “symbolic, it houses a lot of people, and it’s easy to hit from the air.” He will later state, “If you go through the list of buildings in DC—remember, we are doing this before the second tower is hit—we’re saying symbolic: White House, Capitol building, the Pentagon; houses a lot of people: the Pentagon; easy to hit by air: Pentagon and the Capitol, too.” Toti therefore concludes: “The only building that makes sense is the Pentagon.… At this point, if [the terrorists] hit any place, they are going to hit this building.” While those in the VCNO’s office are discussing how the Pentagon is “a likely target,” they see the second plane hitting the WTC live on television, at 9:03 a.m. [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001] Despite their concerns, no steps will be taken to evacuate the Pentagon or alert workers there before the building is attacked (see Before 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Vogel, 2007, pp. 429]
Officer Astonished When Pentagon Hit, 'Exactly Like We Had Visualized' - Toti will later recall the unease he feels when the Pentagon is hit at 9:37 a.m., just as he and his colleagues predicted. After the Pentagon is hit, Toti will say, he is “out there saying, ‘Am I dreaming?’ I’m saying: ‘Is this really happening? Am I dreaming? How could we have predicted it like that? How could we have known it was coming? How could this be happening exactly like we had visualized just moments before?’ But it did.” He will say that “for us, this [attack] was unfolding as if we were writing a script. It was really bizarre. To this day, I’m shocked that we had got it so right so early.” [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001]
Larry Di Rita. [Source: US Department of Defense]Larry Di Rita, a special assistant to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, has sent a note to Rumsfeld to inform him of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. Although some initial reports suggest the WTC may have been hit by just a small plane, according to Victoria Clarke, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, “Even in the accidental crash scenario, the military might be involved in some way. Rumsfeld needed to know.” Rumsfeld, who is currently hosting a breakfast meeting with several members of Congress (see (8:00 a.m.-8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001), later acknowledges having received this note. Yet apparently he does nothing in response. He recalls, “Everyone assumed it was an accident, the way it was described.” He says only that “we adjourned the meeting, and I went in to get my CIA briefing.” [US Department of Defense, 12/5/2001; 9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004; Clarke, 2006, pp. 217-218; Vogel, 2007, pp. 428]
Vice President Dick Cheney later claims he learns of the first attack on the World Trade Center just before 9:00 a.m. He has just finished an impromptu discussion in his office at the White House with Sean O’Keefe, the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget (see (8:25 a.m.-8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). His chief speechwriter John McConnell has come in for a meeting, when his secretary, Debbie Heiden, calls in and tells him a plane hit the WTC. Cheney recalls, “So we turned on the television and watched for a few minutes.” However, journalist and author Stephen Hayes suggests Cheney learns of the attack earlier. He says that while McConnell is waiting for his meeting, O’Keefe comes out of the vice president’s office. McConnell gestures at a television showing the burning WTC, and “O’Keefe nodded; they had been watching the reports inside.” When McConnell enters Cheney’s office, “The small television on the other side of the desk was tuned to ABC News.” [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001; Hayes, 2007, pp. 328-330] According to his own recollection, Cheney is puzzled by the reports: “I was sitting there thinking about it. It was a clear day, there was no weather problem—how in hell could a plane hit the World Trade Center?” [Newsweek, 12/30/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 35] He claims it is only when he sees the second tower hit at 9:03 that he realizes this is a terrorist attack, saying, “as soon as that second plane showed up, that’s what triggered the thought: terrorism, that this was an attack.” [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001; CNN, 9/11/2002]
Major General Rick Findley. [Source: NORAD]Personnel in the NORAD operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, learn of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center from television coverage of the attack, but do not realize the crash involved the hijacked aircraft they have just been notified of. [Calgary Herald, 10/1/2001; Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/2002; Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, 9/8/2011] Jeff Ford, an Air Force lieutenant colonel working in the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC), will later recall, “[W]e started seeing the TV inputs from CNN on the aircraft, the first aircraft that had hit the Twin Towers.” [Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, 9/8/2011] Major General Rick Findley, NORAD’s director of operations, has just learned that the FAA has requested NORAD assistance with a hijacking (see (8.46 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004 ; Spencer, 2008, pp. 38-39] He now enters the battle cab at the operations center. Someone there tells him, “Sir, you might want to look at that.” Findley will later recall: “I looked up and there was the CNN image of the World Trade Center. There was a hole in the side of one of the buildings.”
CMOC Personnel Think Small Plane Hit WTC - Findley asks, “What’s that from?” and is told, “Well, they’re saying it’s a commuter aircraft.” Findley says, “That’s too big a hole for a commuter aircraft.” He asks if the crash was caused by the hijacked aircraft he has been informed of. “I was scratching my head, wondering if it was another aircraft altogether,” he will recall. [Calgary Herald, 10/1/2001; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/11/2002] Others in the CMOC are unaware that the crash was the result of a terrorist attack and involved a large commercial aircraft. Lieutenant Colonel Steven Armstrong, NORAD’s chief of plans and forces, will recall, “[W]e didn’t really know that it was anything other than perhaps a general aviation aircraft because those were the first indications that we had was it was just… reported like a small, maybe a general aviation aircraft that had hit one of the buildings.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/9/2011] According to Lieutenant Colonel William Glover, the commander of NORAD’s Air Warning Center: “[W]e weren’t sure whether it was a mistake… was this intentional? Was there a problem? The weather was good, you know, that type of thing. So we really didn’t know what the reason was that this aircraft struck the tower.” [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/8/2011] Ford will recall: “[W]e knew something was wrong because there really wasn’t any reason for any navigational problems for that aircraft. There might have been a malfunction or something on the aircraft that had taken place, but we really didn’t have any indications of what was going on yet.” [Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, 9/8/2011]
CMOC Personnel Unaware that Crash Was Deliberate - The CMOC is “the nerve centre of North America’s air defense,” according to the BBC. [BBC, 9/1/2002] Its role, according to the Toronto Star, is “to fuse every critical piece of information NORAD has into a concise and crystalline snapshot.” [Toronto Star, 12/9/2001] But it is only after personnel there see the television coverage of the second plane hitting the WTC at 9:03 a.m. that they realize “we had something much more sinister than just an accident, a really coordinated and deliberate action,” according to Findley. [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/2002] Armstrong will recall: “[W]hen we saw the video [of the second crash], we said: ‘Wait a second. Those are commercial-size airplanes. Those aren’t general aviation aircraft.’ That obviously changed the situation significantly.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/9/2011] According to Glover, after the second crash, “We knew then that the first one was not a mistake and we knew that this was intentional.” [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/8/2011]
Within the headquarters of the National Security Agency (NSA) in Fort Meade, Maryland is a little-known unit called the Defense Special Missile and Astronautics Center (DEFSMAC). According to author James Bamford, who is an expert on the NSA, the center’s purpose is “to serve as the nation’s chief warning bell for a planned attack on America. It serves as the focal point for ‘all-source’ intelligence—listening posts, early-warning satellites, human agents, and seismic detectors.” According to one former NSA official, DEFSMAC “has all the inputs from all the assets, and is a warning activity. They probably have a better feel for any worldwide threat to this country from missiles, aircraft, or overt military activities, better and more timely, at instant fingertip availability, than any group in the United States.” If they received indications that an attack was imminent, DEFSMAC officials could “immediately send out near-real-time and in-depth, all-source intelligence alerts to almost 200 ‘customers,’ including the White House Situation Room, the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon, the [Defense Intelligence Agency] Alert Center, and listening posts around the world.” Its analysts could be “closely monitoring all intercepts flooding in; examining the latest overhead photography; and analyzing data from early-warning satellites 22,300 miles above the equator. DEFSMAC would then flash the intelligence to the US Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, NORAD at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado, and other emergency command centers.” But on this morning, as Bamford will conclude, “DEFSMAC learned of the massive airborne attacks after the fact—not from America’s multibillion-dollar spy satellites or its worldwide network of advanced listening posts, or its army of human spies, but from a dusty, off-the-shelf TV set.” [Bamford, 2004, pp. 33-35] The NSA had in fact intercepted numerous calls between some of the hijackers in the US and an al-Qaeda communications hub in Yemen, beginning in early 2000 and ending just weeks before 9/11 (see Early 2000-Summer 2001). [MSNBC, 7/21/2004] It also intercepted two messages in Arabic on September 10, stating, “The match is about to begin,” and “Tomorrow is zero hour,” but these are supposedly not translated until September 12 (see September 10, 2001). [Washington Post, 6/20/2002] The NSA even intercepted a series of communications between 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta beginning in the summer of 2001 (see Summer 2001), continuing to a message where KSM gives Atta the final go-ahead for the attacks on September 10, 2001 (see September 10, 2001). Michael Hayden, the director of the NSA, will later claim that the “NSA had no [indications] that al-Qaeda was specifically targeting New York and Washington… or even that it was planning an attack on US soil” (see October 17, 2002). [National Journal, 6/19/2006]
Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stuart, an intelligence officer at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), calls the FBI’s Strategic Information and Operations Center (SIOC) to report the hijacking of Flight 11, but the SIOC can provide him with no additional information about the hijacking. [9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 ] The FAA’s Boston Center alerted NEADS to the hijacking of Flight 11 at 8:37 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] But Stuart will later recall that when he then calls the SIOC to report the incident, he finds that the center has “no information to pass that could shed light on the nature of the… hijacking.” Stuart is handed off to two or three individuals at the SIOC. He explains what is happening and asks for law enforcement information, but, he will say, the SIOC “had nothing.” One of the people that Stuart talks to says to him, “Oh sh_t, I have to go,” and then hangs up. Stuart will tell the 9/11 Commission that he calls the SIOC at around 8:48 a.m. using his personal credit card. [9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 ] The SIOC is located on the fifth floor of the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, DC. It functions as a 24-hour watch post and crisis management center, and is equipped with sophisticated computers and communications equipment. [CNN, 11/20/1998; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1/18/2004]
Michael Seremetis. [Source: FBI]Lynne Cheney, the wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, learns of the two plane crashes at the World Trade Center while she is at a hair salon just a short distance from the White House, but the Secret Service agents accompanying her do not evacuate her from there at this time. Cheney is at the Nantucket Hair Salon in Washington, DC, when the attacks in New York occur. She arrived there at 8:40 a.m., according to Secret Service Special Agent Michael Seremetis, who is accompanying her this morning. [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001] However, according to a Secret Service timeline, she arrived there at 8:25 a.m. [United States Secret Service, 11/17/2001 ]
Cheney Only Thinks Crashes Seem 'Odd' - A television is on in the hair salon, showing reports about the plane crashes at the WTC. Seremetis, or possibly another Secret Service agent with him, informs Cheney of the crashes as they are being reported on TV. [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001; White House, 11/9/2001] (The first crash occurred at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) and is reported on TV beginning at 8:48 a.m. (see 8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001), while the second crash is broadcast live at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Fox News, 9/11/2003; Bamford, 2004, pp. 16] ) Cheney will later say she does not initially realize the crashes are terrorist attacks. “I was so naive,” she will recall. “At the first one I thought, ‘Gee, that’s odd.’ And then the second one—now this is really naive—I thought, ‘That’s really odd.’” It is only “a few minutes” later, she will say, that “it just set in that this can’t happen.” [Associated Press, 11/29/2001]
Cheney Remains at Hair Salon - However, the Secret Service does not evacuate Cheney from the hair salon at this time. Cheney will only be evacuated after the Secret Service Joint Operations Center starts reporting that an aircraft is flying toward the White House, which would be at some time after 9:33 a.m. (see (Shortly After 9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001] Cheney will say the reason she remains at the hair salon, despite the crashes at the WTC, is that the crisis is not currently “a Washington event,” and “the Secret Service people who were with me had no knowledge of a plane headed toward Washington.” [White House, 11/9/2001]
Personnel and aircraft at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana are participating in the annual US Strategic Command (Stratcom) exercise Global Guardian (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001) when the first crash at the World Trade Center is reported on television. [US Department of Defense, 5/1997; Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002]
Nuclear Weapons Are Being Loaded onto Bombers - Global Guardian is based around the scenario of a rogue nation attacking the United States with nuclear weapons. At Barksdale, according to journalists Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, air crews taking part in the exercise have been “pulling nuclear bombs and missiles out of their heavily guarded storage sites and loading them aboard B-52s” this morning. Real, live nuclear weapons are being used, but “their triggers [are] not armed.” [Schmitt and Shanker, 2011, pp. 22] “We were in the midst of this big annual exercise called Global Guardian. They loaded all the bombers, put the submarines out to sea, put the [intercontinental ballistic missiles] at nearly 100 percent,” Lieutenant General Thomas Keck, commander of the 8th Air Force at Barksdale, will later recall. “It was routine, you did it every year,” he will add. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Officers Realize America's Security Is at Risk - Colonel Mike Reese, director of staff for the 8th Air Force, is monitoring several television screens at the base as part of the exercise when he sees CNN cut into coverage of the first crash at the WTC, two minutes after it happens (see 8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). He will see the second hijacked plane crashing into the WTC live on television at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). He will recall that at this point: “[W]e knew it wasn’t a mistake. Something grave was happening that put the nation’s security at risk.”
Exercise Participants Switch to Defending the Base - The New Orleans Times-Picayune will describe how awareness of the real attacks impacts those participating in the exercise, stating: “Immediately their focus turned to defense, securing Barksdale, Minot [North Dakota], and Whiteman [Missouri] air force bases, where dozens of aircraft and hundreds of personnel were involved in the readiness exercise ‘Global Guardian.’ The exercise abruptly ended as the United States appeared to be at war within its own borders.” [Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002]
Air Force Becomes Concerned about a Plane Being Crashed into the B-52s - The Air Force will be particularly concerned that terrorists might try to crash a hijacked plane into the B-52s with nuclear weapons on board that are on the tarmac at Barksdale. Although an attack of this kind would not set off a nuclear blast, it could cause a large explosion. “You would destroy half of Bossier City, Louisiana, with the explosions,” Al Buckles, Stratcom’s deputy director for operations, will comment. He will add: “That would have been a way to really cripple us. All these nuclear weapons were exposed.” [Omaha World-Herald, 9/9/2016] Four A-10s, aircraft not designed for air-to-air combat, from Barksdale’s 47th Fighter Squadron, will be placed on “cockpit alert,” the highest state of readiness for fighter pilots. “Within five minutes,” according to the Times-Picayune, “the A-10s, equipped only with high-intensity cannons, could have been launched to destroy unfriendly aircraft, even if it was a civilian passenger airliner.” Lieutenant Colonel Edmund Walker, commander of the 47th Fighter Squadron, and a novice pilot still in training will be sitting in their jets, ready to take off, when they are ordered back to the squadron office. They will be told they are no longer practicing. Walker will recall: “We had to defend the base against any aircraft, airliner, or civilian. We had no idea. Would it fly to the base and crash into the B-52s or A-10s on the flight line?” [Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002] When Air Force One with President Bush on board takes off from Sarasota, Florida, at around 9:55 a.m. (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), it will initially have no fixed destination. But after a short time, it will begin heading toward Barksdale Air Force Base and land there at 11:45 a.m. (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39, 325]
Bush’s travels in the Sarasota, Florida, region, with key locations marked. [Source: Yvonne Vermillion/ MagicGraphix.com]White House officials and reporters who are traveling with President Bush in Florida learn that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center while they are being driven to the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, but Bush is not notified about the crash at this time. [White House, 8/12/2002; St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004; Rochester Review, 9/2004] A number of senior officials who are together in a van learn about the crash as their vehicle is pulling into the school’s driveway. Those in the van include White House press secretary Ari Fleischer; White House communications director Dan Bartlett; Bush’s senior adviser, Karl Rove; Bush’s CIA briefer, Mike Morell; and White House photographer Eric Draper. [White House, 8/12/2002; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 138; Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 ]
Press Secretary Is Contacted by an Assistant - Fleischer is alerted to the crash by Brian Bravo, an assistant in the White House press office. Bravo learned what happened when he was called by a friend in New York who had seen Flight 11 hitting the WTC, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), and then saw the television coverage of the incident. In response, he sent a pager message to Fleischer, simply stating, “A plane has hit the World Trade Center.” [White House, 8/8/2002; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 138; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] After seeing the message, Fleischer exclaims: “Oh, my God! I don’t believe it! A plane just hit the World Trade Center.” [Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/2002; Bamford, 2004, pp. 17] He turns to Morell and asks the CIA officer if he knows anything about the incident. Morell says no and that he will make some calls to try and find out more. He will call the CIA’s operations center to see what people there know (see Shortly Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 ; Morell and Harlow, 2015, pp. 47-48]
Other Officials Receive Calls from the White House - Around the time Fleischer is alerted to the crash, Rove is called from the White House by his assistant, Susan Ralston, who tells him what happened at the WTC (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New Yorker, 9/25/2001; Filipinas, 2/2004] And Bartlett receives a call from his assistant at the White House, who tells him: “There’s just been an incredible accident or something. A plane has hit the World Trade Center.” [White House, 8/12/2002]
Military Officers Are Called about the Crash - In another vehicle in the motorcade, Navy Captain Deborah Loewer, the director of the White House Situation Room, receives a call from Rob Hargis, the senior duty officer in the Situation Room, alerting her to the crash. [Dayton Daily News, 8/17/2003; McClatchy Newspapers, 8/29/2011; Priess, 2016, pp. 239-240] Meanwhile, as his vehicle is arriving at the school, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Herman, a senior presidential communications officer assigned to the White House, is contacted by his operations center, and notified that a plane has struck one of the Twin Towers and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice wants to talk on the phone with the president. [Marist Magazine, 10/2002]
Members of the Press Are Alerted to the Crash - Members of the press traveling in the motorcade also learn about the crash during the journey to the school. Reporter Richard Keil is told what happened when he talks on the phone with a friend who has seen the coverage of the incident on television. Keil then passes on the news to the other reporters and photographers in the press van. And Kia Baskerville, a CBS News White House producer, receives a call on her cell phone from a producer who tells her about the crash. [CBS News, 8/19/2002; Rochester Review, 9/2004]
President Is Not Told about the Crash - And yet, while these people are alerted to the crash, Bush reportedly is not called about it at this time and he will only be told what has happened after he arrives at the school (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004; Rove, 2010, pp. 249-250; Priess, 2016, pp. 240] This is despite the fact that his limousine is “bristling with communications gear,” according to the Los Angeles Times. [Los Angeles Times, 1/24/2001] “In the presidential limo, the communications system is almost duplicative of the White House,” author Philip Melanson will note. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] “Yet despite having a secure STU-III phone next to him… and an entire national security staff at the White House,” author James Bamford will comment, “it appears that the president of the United States knew less than tens of millions of other people in every part of the country who were watching the attack as it unfolded.” [Bamford, 2004, pp. 17] “It mystifies me why they didn’t call the president,” Robert Plunket, a reporter who is waiting for the president at the school, will remark. “He’s totally surrounded by state-of-the-art communications equipment and nobody tells him.” [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004]
Entity Tags: Dan Bartlett, Eric Draper, Brian Bravo, Deborah Loewer, George W. Bush, Karl C. Rove, Kia Baskerville, Thomas Herman, Ari Fleischer, Susan Ralston, Michael J. Morell, Richard Keil, Rob Hargis
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta is in a breakfast meeting with the Belgian transportation minister, to discuss aviation issues. FAA Administrator Jane Garvey is also in the meeting, which is in the conference room next to Mineta’s office at the Department of Transportation (DOT) in Washington, DC. Soon after 8:45 a.m., Mineta’s Chief of Staff John Flaherty interrupts, and takes Mineta and Garvey aside to Mineta’s office to tell them that news agencies are reporting that some kind of aircraft has flown into the WTC. While Garvey immediately goes to a telephone and contacts the FAA Operations Center, Mineta continues with the meeting. But a few minutes later Flaherty again takes him aside to tell him the plane is confirmed to be a commercial aircraft, and that the FAA had received an unconfirmed report of a hijacking. The TV is on and Mineta sees the second plane hitting the WTC live. He terminates his meeting with the Belgian minister, and Garvey heads off to the FAA headquarters. The White House calls and requests that Mineta go and operate from there, so he quickly heads out too. He will soon arrive there, and enters its underground bunker at around 9:20 a.m. (see (Between 9:20 a.m. and 9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Congress, 9/20/2001; Freni, 2003, pp. 62-63; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] Before leaving the Department of Transportation, Mineta orders the activation of the DOT’s Crisis Management Center (see 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US Congress, 10/10/2001]
Officers in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon begin notifying senior Pentagon officials about the plane crashing into the World Trade Center after learning of this from television, but they are apparently unaware of the hijacking of Flight 11. [9/11 Commission, 7/21/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 4/29/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 35] The NMCC’s three main missions are monitoring worldwide events for the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), maintaining a strategic watch component, and maintaining a crisis response component. The NMCC has live feeds from numerous television stations, and the operations team on duty there learned from CNN that an aircraft had hit the WTC (see (8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
NMCC Directors Notify Senior Pentagon Officials of Crash - In response, members of the operations team monitor media reports and begin making notifications up the chain of command. [9/11 Commission, 7/21/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 4/29/2004 ] Captain Charles Leidig, who is currently standing in temporarily as deputy director for operations in the NMCC (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001), will later recall, “Initially… the National Military Command Center was primarily a means to notify senior leadership that, in fact, an event had occurred.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Leidig and Commander Patrick Gardner, the assistant deputy director for operations, start notifying those on the internal JCS notification list, including the office of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about the crash. They also notify the office of the secretary of defense. Based on incorrect information being reported on television, Leidig tells the senior Pentagon officials that a small airplane has crashed into one of the towers of the WTC. [9/11 Commission, 4/29/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 35]
NMCC Unaware of Flight 11 Hijacking - According to military instructions, “the NMCC is the focal point within [the] Department of Defense for providing assistance” in response to aircraft hijackings in US airspace, and, “In the event of a hijacking, the NMCC will be notified by the most expeditious means by the FAA” (see June 1, 2001). [US Department of Defense, 6/1/2001 ] However, while details of the hijacking of Flight 11 have been circulating within the FAA, the 9/11 Commission will say it “found no evidence that the hijacking was reported to any other agency in Washington before 8:46.” The NMCC apparently learns of the hijacking for the first time when one of its officers calls the FAA at 9:00 a.m. (see 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). Leidig will recall that, before the second plane hits the WTC at 9:03 a.m., he and Gardner think it is “something unusual… that a light plane had crashed into the WTC and that there was a report of a hijacking.” [9/11 Commission, 4/29/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 35, 462]
The National Military Joint Intelligence Center. [Source: Joseph M. Juarez / Defense Intelligence Agency]Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stuart, an intelligence officer at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), calls the National Military Joint Intelligence Center (NMJIC) at the Pentagon regarding the hijacking of Flight 11, but the center is unable to provide him with any more information than he already has. [9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 ] NEADS was alerted to the hijacking of Flight 11 at 8:37 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] Stuart now calls the Air Force desk at the NMJIC about it. [9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 ] The NMJIC, located in the Joint Staff area of the Pentagon, constantly monitors worldwide developments for any looming crises that might require US involvement. [Washington Times, 9/25/1997; Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2/6/2006] It “forms the heart of timely intelligence support to national-level contingency operations,” according to James Clapper, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. And during a crisis, it “serves as a clearinghouse for all requests for national-level intelligence information.” [Joint Forces Quarterly, 3/1994 ] However, Stuart will later recall that the NMJIC can provide him with “no additional relevant information” on the hijacking. Stuart then calls Robert Del Toro, an intelligence officer with the 1st Air Force at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. But, Stuart will say, the 1st Air Force also has “no further information” about the hijacking. [9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 ]
Bill Roy. [Source: Publicity photo]Apparently, managers at United Airlines’ System Operations Control (SOC) center, just outside Chicago, are unaware of any unfolding emergency until they see CNN reporting the burning World Trade Center (see 8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). “Within minutes,” the air traffic control coordinator at United Airlines’ headquarters, located next to the SOC, calls an official at the FAA’s Herndon Command Center to confirm that the plane that just hit the WTC was not one of United’s aircraft. The FAA official tells him the plane had been a hijacked American Airlines 757. Soon afterwards, the air traffic control coordinator briefs Bill Roy and Mike Barber—the director and the dispatch manager at United’s SOC—on this information from the FAA. Barber then tries notifying United’s top corporate officials about it. However, he is unable to because the airline’s pager system is not working. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 21-22]
American Airlines sends out a pager message to its top executives and operations personnel, informing them that Flight 11 is a “confirmed hijacking.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; American Airlines, 1/15/2002] At around 8:42 a.m., Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Fort Worth, Texas, told a colleague to send out an SOCC (System Operations Command Center) notification, by pager, to 50 or 60 key American Airlines officials. Marquis told his colleague, “You better send a SOCKS.” (“SOCKS” is presumably another term for an SOCC notification.) [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 20-22; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 ] The message is sent out seven minutes later, at 8:49 a.m., according to information recorded by senior American Airlines personnel. [American Airlines, 1/15/2002] It states, “Confirmed hijacking Flight 11.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001]
Philip Hayes. [Source: Newsday]Philip Hayes, the deputy fire safety director on duty in the South Tower of the World Trade Center, contacts Lloyd Thompson, his counterpart in the North Tower, and says he will wait to hear from “the boss from the fire department or somebody” before he orders an evacuation of the South Tower. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 287; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 27] Hayes is a retired New York City firefighter who now works for OCS Security, which holds the fire safety contract for the WTC. He is on duty at the fire command desk in the ground-floor lobby of the South Tower. [New York Times, 10/25/2001; USA Today, 9/2/2002; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 26]
Hayes Told about 'Major Explosion' at the WTC - Hayes, who currently has no information about what has happened or guidance that he can provide to tenants of the South Tower, phones Thompson, the deputy fire safety director at the fire command desk in the North Tower. After Hayes introduces himself, Thompson tells him: “We got, uh, a major explosion over at the Trade Center here. It might be an aircraft.” Hayes then says: “We just wanted to get some direction on evacuation. But I’m not going to do anything until we hear [from] the boss from the fire department or somebody… because we don’t know what it is yet.” Thompson responds, “Okay,” and the call then ends. [Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 9/11/2001 ; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 27]
Public Announcement Made after Call - Hayes’s intention, of waiting for instructions before taking any action, is “[c]onsistent with protocol,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. However, shortly after Hayes calls Thompson, an announcement, later believed to have been made by Hayes, will go out over the public address system in the South Tower, telling workers that their building is safe and instructing them to stay in, or return to, their offices (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 287-288; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 72] That announcement is made on the orders of George Tabeek, the New York Port Authority’s security manager for the WTC (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 9/6/2011; ABC News, 9/10/2011]
Deputy Fire Safety Directors Have Numerous Responsibilities - The deputy fire safety directors who work in the main lobby of each of the Twin Towers have responsibilities that include eliminating potential fire safety hazards, being available to address any concerns tenants might have relating to fire safety, and assisting with crowd control and evacuation, if required. [Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 1999, pp. 8 ; Averill et al., 9/2005, pp. 38-39] Equipment on their consoles allows them to monitor elevators and adjust ventilation systems, and they can press a button in order to deliver announcements over the public address system in their buildings. [Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 26]
Alan DeVona. [Source: Atlas Shrugs]An officer with the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) calls for the evacuation of the upper floors of the North Tower of the World Trade Center over a PAPD radio channel. Transcripts of PAPD radio transmissions will show that at 8:49 a.m., three minutes after Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), the PAPD officer talks to the PAPD desk, which is in Building 5 of the WTC, just northeast of the North Tower. He says: “Start doing the evac, the upper levels. Have the units put on the Scott air packs.” The officer at the PAPD desk then radios all PAPD units and tells them to “bring Scott air packs [to] One World Trade,” i.e. the North Tower. [Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 9/11/2001, pp. 2 ; Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 11/12/2001, pp. 16 ; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 195]
Patrol Sergeant Recalls Requesting Evacuation - It is unclear which PAPD officer requests the evacuation at this time. According to some accounts, Alan DeVona, the PAPD patrol sergeant at the WTC, makes the request. [Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 11/12/2001, pp. 16 ; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 78] DeVona will later recall that he had just walked out from the PAPD desk in WTC 5 when he heard the explosion as Flight 11 hit the North Tower. Along with his colleague, Anthony Basic, he radioed the PAPD desk and reported that the top floors of the North Tower were on fire, due to a “possible aircraft collision.” He headed into the North Tower to coordinate with emergency agencies as they arrived there. DeVona will recall that he then “radios to have all WTC police units get Scott air packs and begin evacuation of [the North Tower].” He will subsequently be “approached by numerous PAPD units as they entered the lobby” of the North Tower, and he “dispatches them through the concourse to evacuate the complex.” [Devona, 3/28/2002, pp. 24 ]
Police Commander Recalls Requesting Evacuation - However, Captain Anthony Whitaker, the PAPD commanding officer at the WTC, will also say that he calls for the evacuation of the WTC around this time. Whitaker was on duty in the shopping mall beneath the Twin Towers when Flight 11 hit the North Tower. [Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 78] He heard a “strange roar” and saw a “gigantic fireball” coming out of the lobby of the North Tower. He then contacts the PAPD desk in WTC 5. Whitaker will recall, “I had no idea what had just happened, but I knew it was bad.” Therefore, he will say, “I ordered the cop at the desk to begin a full-scale evacuation of the entire complex.” This will mean the evacuation of “both towers and the adjoining buildings.” Whitaker contacts one of his sergeants and then, he will recall, “we started placing Port Authority cops in strategic locations in the shopping mall to direct the evacuation.” Whitaker will say that after 9/11, he is repeatedly asked, “Why did you give that order to evacuate at that particular time?” following the first crash, but before the second plane hit the WTC. His explanation will be: “It just occurred to me that whatever was going on—and I still didn’t know what that was—was beyond my ability as a commanding officer of that facility to do anything about it. So it seemed to me that the only prudent thing to do was start a full-scale evacuation and get everybody out of there.” [Fink and Mathias, 2002, pp. 23-24; Murphy, 2002, pp. 179-181]
Evacuation Orders Cannot Be Heard by Fire Safety Directors - At 9:00 a.m., Whitaker will call for an evacuation of the entire WTC complex (see 8:59 a.m.-9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, both that instruction and the current one are given over PAPD radio channel W, which cannot be heard by the deputy fire safety directors in the Twin Towers, who are able to make announcements to the buildings’ occupants over the public address systems. [WTC News, 8/1995 ; Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 11/12/2001, pp. 19 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 293; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 195, 201] An announcement advising workers to evacuate will only go out over the public address system in the South Tower at 9:02 a.m. (see 9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). And attempts to order workers to evacuate the North Tower are unsuccessful because that building’s public address system was damaged by the plane crash (see (Between 8:47 a.m. and 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 5/18/2004]
PAPD Investigates All Reports of Fires at WTC - The WTC is a Port Authority property, which means it is patrolled by the PAPD—the Port Authority’s independent police agency. Members of the PAPD respond to “thefts, injuries, fires, all species of crisis large and small, almost always more quickly than the city emergency responders could get there,” according to New York Times reporters Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn. “By plan,” Dwyer and Flynn will write, “the PAPD checked out every report of fire” and “its officers were trained in at least rudimentary firefighting.” [Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 78]
Carl Truscott. [Source: ASERO Worldwide]Carl Truscott, the Secret Service special agent in charge of the presidential protective division (PPD), sees coverage of the plane crash at the World Trade Center on television, and calls several colleagues to his office for a meeting to discuss how to respond to the crisis. [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001] Truscott is responsible for the overall security of the president, the first family, and the White House. [United States Secret Service, 4/1/2004 ] He is in his office at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is located next to the West Wing of the White House and is where most of the president’s staff works. Truscott will later recall that he has “observed the CNN broadcast of the aircraft crashing into the World Trade Center.” [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001; WBKO, 12/19/2007; New York Times, 1/8/2009] It is unclear if he is referring to the first crash at the WTC, which occurred at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) but was first reported on CNN at 8:48 a.m. (see 8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001), or the second crash, which was broadcast live at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Fox News, 9/11/2003; Bamford, 2004, pp. 16] Truscott then telephones and pages three senior Secret Service agents, and asks them to come to his office for a meeting to discuss security enhancements at the White House. The names of the three agents are unstated, but they are a deputy special agent in charge of the PPD, an assistant to the special agent in charge of the PPD, and an assistant division chief of the Secret Service’s technical security division, which “evaluates and implements technology-based protective countermeasures to safeguard Secret Service protectees and protected facilities, including the White House and [the] vice president’s residence.” The meeting will begin at around 9:18 a.m., according to Truscott (see (9:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001; United States Secret Service, 9/20/2004 ]
James Scott, a Secret Service special agent assigned to the vice presidential protective division, sees the television coverage of the plane crash at the World Trade Center and alerts other Secret Service agents protecting Vice President Dick Cheney to the incident. Scott is the “on-duty shift whip” for Cheney’s Secret Service detail. [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001] His current location is unstated, but he is presumably at the Joint Operations Center (JOC) at the White House. The JOC monitors the White House complex and constantly tracks the location of every “protected person,” including the president and the vice president. [New York Daily News, 12/22/1997; National Geographic, 9/27/2004] After he sees “the aircraft crash on television network news,” Scott will later recall, he “alerted the working shift.” Presumably he does this in a phone call or over his radio. [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001] The “working shift” includes the “body men” around a Secret Service protectee, according to journalist and author Ronald Kessler. “The normal working shift,” Kessler will write, “consists of a shift leader or whip”—in this case, Scott—“and four shift agents.” [Kessler, 2009, pp. 80-81] However, although he contacts the members of the working shift at this time, Scott will only head to the West Wing of the White House and discuss the crisis with them in person at around 9:30 a.m. (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). And he will not evacuate Cheney from his office in the West Wing until around 9:36 a.m., according to some accounts, after he learns of an unidentified aircraft flying toward the White House (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001; United States Secret Service, 11/17/2001 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39-40; Gellman, 2008, pp. 115] Around the time that Scott alerts the members of the working shift to the crash in New York, a Secret Service agent posted at the door of Cheney’s office (who is presumably a member of the working shift) also receives a phone call from the Secret Service’s intelligence division, informing him that the aircraft that hit the WTC was a passenger jet, according to Cheney’s chief speechwriter, John McConnell, who is with the agent (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Hayes, 2007, pp. 329-330]
Kevin Kenney. [Source: Longboat Observer]Sergeant Kevin Kenney of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office contacts colleagues of his who are with President Bush’s Secret Service detail after he sees the television coverage of the plane crash at the World Trade Center, and is surprised to find they are unaware of the incident in New York. Kenney was scheduled to fly the Sheriff’s Office helicopter, taking a Secret Service agent with him, to cover Bush’s motorcade as it made the journey to the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, this morning (see (8:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, due to heavy fog over Sarasota, he had to cancel the motorcade cover. While waiting for the fog to clear, Kenney has been watching the news on a television in the hangar at Venice Municipal Airport. He therefore sees the coverage of the first plane crash at the WTC. [Sheriff, 9/2011; Longboat Observer, 9/8/2011] (The crash is reported on TV beginning at 8:48 a.m. (see 8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Bamford, 2004, pp. 16] ) Kenney immediately contacts colleagues of his from the Sheriff’s Office who are co-located with the president’s Secret Service detail and tells them about the news coverage he is watching. It is unclear if these colleagues are traveling in Bush’s motorcade or waiting at the Booker Elementary School for the motorcade to arrive. “Remarkably,” Kenney will later recall, the Sheriff’s Office personnel reply “that they were not aware of the incident [i.e. the crash at the WTC] at that point.” [Sheriff, 9/2011]
Philip Breedlove. [Source: US Air Force]James Roche, the secretary of the Air Force, learns about the attacks on the World Trade Center in the middle of a meeting with several members of Congress in his office, on the fourth floor of the Pentagon. Among the members of Congress attending the breakfast meeting is Representative Sam Johnson (R-TX). The identities of the other congressmen are unknown. The subject being discussed is, ironically, Islamic fundamentalism. [IIT Magazine, 12/2003; McKinney Courier-Gazette, 9/11/2009; Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 ]
Senior Assistant Alerts Roche to First Crash - Colonel Philip Breedlove, Roche’s senior military assistant who is in his own office, located near Roche’s office, learns about the first attack on the WTC when a member of his staff runs in and says, “Sir, you’ve got to look at the TV.” Breedlove looks up at the television in his office and sees the news coverage of the burning North Tower. “I decided I’ve got to go interrupt the breakfast and tell the secretary that we’ve had a horrible accident,” he will later recall. He therefore goes into Roche’s office, kneels beside Roche, and tells him what has happened. Roche excuses himself from the meeting and follows Breedlove to Breedlove’s office, to get a glimpse of the TV coverage and get a feeling of what is going on. As soon as they are in Breedlove’s office, the two men see the live coverage of Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Roche Realizes They Have a 'Big Problem' - Breedlove says to Roche, “Sir, this is not an accident.” Roche says, “My God, we’ve got a big problem here.” “It was real clear to us that our nation had been attacked,” Breedlove will comment. “It was real clear that this was deliberate. What was not clear immediately is the scope and scale. Were there other attacks under way?” The two men make arrangements for the members of Congress to return to their own offices, and then start planning what they and the Air Force headquarters at the Pentagon should do. What actions, if any, they take are unclear. At some point after the second crash at the WTC, General John Jumper, the Air Force chief of staff, will join Roche in his office, but the two men will only head to the Air Force Operations Center in the basement of the Pentagon after 9:37 a.m., when the building is attacked (see Shortly After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Air Force Print News, 9/11/2003; Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 ; Airman, 9/15/2011]
Clyde Vaughn. [Source: Scott Davis / US Army]General John Keane, vice chief of staff of the Army, learns that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center and consequently orders that the Army Operations Center (AOC) at the Pentagon be brought up to full manning. Keane is in his office at the Pentagon when one of his sergeants rushes into the room, tells him something terrible has happened in New York, and turns on the television. Keane sees the reports stating that a plane has hit the WTC and is immediately suspicious. “I noticed it was a blue-sky day and [thought] you could not hit the WTC by accident,” he will later recall. “I knew in 1993 terrorists had tried to bomb the WTC and bring it down from an underground parking garage,” he will say (see February 26, 1993). Therefore, he will recall, “I sensed it instinctively, what had happened, that this was a terrorist act.” He calls Major General Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s director of operations, readiness, and mobilization, who is in his office at the Pentagon, and tells him to bring the AOC up to full manning. [Fox News, 9/12/2011; Fordham News, 9/10/2016; Weekly Standard, 9/11/2016] The AOC, located in the basement of the Pentagon, is “the place that people will migrate” to during an emergency, according to Brigadier General Clyde Vaughn, the Army’s deputy director of operations, readiness, and mobilization. It is equipped with state-of-the-art communications equipment and television sets for monitoring news coverage. [Washington Post, 8/25/1995; US Army Center of Military History, 2/12/2002; Soldiers, 9/2004] Keane will subsequently see the second hijacked plane crashing into the WTC on television (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). Sometime after that, Chiarelli will call him to confirm that the AOC is fully manned (see Shortly Before 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Fordham News, 9/10/2016] The AOC will remain manned throughout today’s attacks and their aftermath. Keane will go to it after the Pentagon is attacked, to provide leadership and guidance (see (Shortly After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 135; Christopher N. Koontz, 2011, pp. 56 ; Fox News, 9/12/2011] The Army’s Crisis Action Team, whose members assemble in the AOC, will be activated sometime after Keane orders Chiarelli to bring the operations center up to full manning (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Army Center of Military History, 2/5/2002; Rossow, 2003, pp. 64-65]
Michael Rolince. [Source: US Army]FBI Director Robert Mueller is alerted to the crash at the World Trade Center during his daily briefing with his senior staff, but he does not initially realize the incident is a terrorist attack. Every morning since Mueller took over as FBI director, just one week ago (see September 4, 2001), the bureau’s leaders have gathered to bring him up to date on their most important investigations. [New Yorker, 9/24/2001; Graff, 2011, pp. 314-315] The briefing today is taking place in the Strategic Information and Operations Center (SIOC), on the fifth floor of the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, DC. [9/11 Commission, 1/21/2004 ] All of the bureau’s assistant directors are in attendance. [New Yorker, 9/24/2001] This morning, the counterterrorism team, headed by Michael Rolince, is giving a presentation on the investigation of the bombing of the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen, in October 2000 (see October 12, 2000). [Graff, 2011, pp. 314-315] Meanwhile, FBI Deputy Director Thomas Pickard, who is in his office at the headquarters, is alerted to what happened in New York by his secretary, who comes in and tells him a plane has just hit the WTC. He turns on the television and sees the coverage of the incident. He then calls Mueller’s secretary and instructs them to get the director out of the SIOC so Mueller can join him in his office. [9/11 Commission, 1/21/2004 ] Someone, presumably the secretary, therefore interrupts the briefing in the SIOC and tells its participants about the crash in New York. Mueller apparently does not initially realize a terrorist attack has occurred. “How could a plane not see the tower? It’s so clear out today,” he says. [Graff, 2011, pp. 315] He heads to Pickard’s office and enters it at around 9:00 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 1/21/2004 ] Some of the other officials at the briefing will subsequently also head to Pickard’s office and they will see the second crash on television there (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New Yorker, 9/24/2001; Graff, 2011, pp. 315]
The FBI arrives at the FAA’s Boston Center, in Nashua, New Hampshire, “minutes after Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center,” and seizes tape recordings of radio transmissions from the hijacked plane. Boston Center handled Flight 11, and recorded intermittent radio transmissions from its cockpit (see (After 8:14 a.m.-8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/2001] According to FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown, the FAA has to turn over all its records from 9/11 to the FBI immediately afterwards. She says it is not unusual for the FAA to turn over its records after a major disaster, but normally this is to the National Transportation Safety Board, not the FBI. [Griffin, 2004, pp. 185]
After firefighters arrive at the North Tower, janitor William Rodriguez leads some of them up its stairs. Being one of only five people possessing a master key, he opens emergency exit doors as he goes up, allowing people to escape from the building. But between the tower’s 20th and 30th floors he hears a series of explosions. The source of these is unknown. Then, when he reaches the 33rd floor he hears what sounds like heavy equipment being dragged across the floor of the level above. He finds this puzzling, he later says, because the 34th floor is supposed to be empty and has been off limits for weeks due to a construction project. After he reaches the 39th floor, Rodriguez is ordered to turn back by the firefighters with him. He then hears the sound of the second plane hitting the WTC, at 9:03 a.m. Rodriguez also claims he heard an explosion from the North Tower’s basement just seconds before it was hit at 8:46 a.m. (see (8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He will later be credited with saving many lives on 9/11, and be treated as a hero. [Christian Science Monitor, 3/25/2004; Western Morning News, 12/2/2006; Herald (Glasgow), 2/16/2007; Argus (Brighton), 2/26/2007]
According to a timeline provided to CNN by unnamed but “informed defense officials,” Flight 175 deviates from its assigned flight path at this time. [CNN, 9/17/2001] Other accounts give slightly different times. According to a National Transportation Safety Board report, which is based on various sources of recorded radar, Flight 175 deviates from its assigned altitude at 8:51 a.m., and then begins turning to the southeast at 8:52, climbing during the turn up to 33,500 feet. [National Transportation Safety Board, 2/19/2002 ] The 9/11 Commission Report is unspecific about when it goes off course. It says only that “Minutes later,” after its final 8:42 a.m. communication, “United 175 turned southwest without clearance from air traffic control.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 21] New York Center air traffic controller Curt Applegate later says that he follows Flight 175 on the radar screen as it turns to the left and descends. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002]
Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, had met briefly with Cheney earlier in the morning, but is now back in his own office in the Old Executive Office Building, located next door to the White House. According to journalist and author Stephen Hayes, Libby has just commenced a meeting with John Hannah, who serves on the vice president’s national security staff. [Hayes, 2007, pp. 328 and 330] However, Newsweek reports that he is with his top deputy, Eric Edelman. The meeting is reportedly to discuss the stalled peace process in the Middle East. [Newsweek, 12/31/2001] Before it started, Libby had given his assistant Jennifer Mayfield strict instructions not to interrupt. But as soon as she sees a plane has hit the World Trade Center, Mayfield goes in and tells Libby about it. [Hayes, 2007, pp. 330] Asked, “Do they think it’s terrorism?” she replies that no one is sure, and it appears that a small plane hit the building. [Newsweek, 12/31/2001] Libby tells her, “Unless it’s terrorism, don’t interrupt me again.” [Hayes, 2007, pp. 330] He turns on his television briefly, but then turns it off again as he does not want to be distracted from his conversation about the Middle East. [Newsweek, 12/31/2001] After the second tower is hit, Mayfield goes back in and tells Libby, “It’s terrorism.” [Hayes, 2007, pp. 331] She marches across the office and turns on the TV. Libby later comments, “That’s very unlike her, so I knew it was serious.” Edelman later recalls, “We looked at each other and said, ‘That’s no accident.’” [Newsweek, 12/31/2001] Libby receives a call from Dick Cheney, summoning him to the White House, and soon afterwards hurries across to rejoin the vice president. [Hayes, 2007, pp. 331]
At Boston’s Logan Airport, from which Flight 11 and Flight 175 took off, directors learn that a plane thought to be from there has hit the World Trade Center, and another from there is missing. John Duval, the airport’s deputy director of operations, is at his desk in the executive aviation office, when his son calls and informs him of the first plane hitting the WTC. A duty manager then calls, saying he has been on the phone with the FAA control tower at the airport. The manager tells Duval he has been informed that, as well as the plane that hit the WTC, “Another one is missing,” and, “They think the two planes came from here.” Duval immediately calls Ed Freni, who is Logan’s director of aviation operations. Duval passes on the news of the WTC crash and the other information from his duty manager. The two men arrange to meet in five minutes time at the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) aviation office on the 18th floor of the FAA control tower at the airport. [Murphy, 2006, pp. 30-33]
Scott Fry. [Source: NATO]Vice Admiral Scott Fry, a top official at the Pentagon with important responsibilities, goes to a dental appointment and only becomes involved with the response to the attacks after the second crash in New York. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 4-6] Fry is the director of operations of the Joint Staff, a post he has held since 1998. [US Department of Defense, 9/23/1998; Stars and Stripes, 10/4/2001] In this position, he is responsible for running the National Military Command Center (NMCC)—“the Pentagon’s highly secure nerve center”—and the Executive Support Center (ESC)—a suite of rooms at the Pentagon “where the secretary of defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other senior officials would meet to discuss urgent matters.” [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 5-6] He is due to leave shortly for Italy, where he is to take up an important Navy command. [Department of Defense, 9/4/2001; Stars and Stripes, 10/4/2001; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 4-5] Fry is anxious to go to the dentist before leaving for Italy. As he is about to leave his office for a 9:00 a.m. appointment, his executive assistant draws his attention to the television coverage of the first attack in New York. Reportedly believing the crash was “probably just a freak accident,” instead of heading to the NMCC or the ESC, Fry continues to the clinic (which is presumably within the Pentagon), and is in the dentist’s chair when the second attack occurs. His assistant then calls him on his cell phone to alert him to this. Fry reportedly concludes: “One airplane hitting a skyscraper, that was damned suspicious. But two… there was no doubt about it. It had to be a terrorist attack.” He promptly cancels his appointment and hurries to the NMCC. From there, he goes upstairs to the ESC, where a group is already assembling (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). In the ESC, a “video teleconference link could connect them to the White House, the State Department, the CIA, and military commanders throughout the world.” There, Fry discusses events in New York with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s aide Stephen Cambone. But, reportedly, what the men know is “not much, except what they could see on TV.” [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 4-6] Only a few months previously, on June 1, 2001, a new Defense Department directive on dealing with domestic hijackings was issued under Fry’s signature (see June 1, 2001). [US Department of Defense, 6/1/2001 ]
Employees at the FAA’s Boston Center learn that a plane has hit the World Trade Center, and Colin Scoggins, the center’s military liaison, starts to wonder if this plane was Flight 11, which disappeared from radar just before the time of the crash (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). After the center’s manager informs them that a plane has crashed into the WTC, personnel at the system engineer’s desk turn on CNN and see the footage of the burning North Tower. Scoggins hears yelling from the desk and walks over to see what is going on. He sees the news reports, which currently state that just a small aircraft hit the tower. As author Lynn Spencer will describe: “His initial thought is that some controller must have really screwed up. Yet the more he thinks about it, the less that makes sense. It’s a clear day with unlimited visibility, and planes don’t just fly into buildings.” Along with supervisor Daniel Bueno, Scoggins starts contacting other facilities, trying to find out more about what is going on. Several of these facilities are picking up an aircraft’s emergency locator transmitter—a device which begins transmitting a signal when a plane crashes. But Boston Center lacks the necessary equipment to pinpoint where the signal is coming from. Looking again at the TV footage showing the WTC, Scoggins wonders if Flight 11 crashed into the tower. He tells Bueno, “Call American [Airlines] and confirm if their aircraft is down!” Bueno complies, but soon reports back that American Airlines “can’t confirm that the plane that has hit the Trade Center is American 11. They’ve lost their radar track on the plane and cannot confirm where it is.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 49-50] Scoggins will later recall that American Airlines does not confirm that its plane has hit the North Tower for several hours. He says, “With American Airlines, we could never confirm if it was down or not, so that left doubt in our minds.” [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]
According to a statement by two high-level FAA officials, “Within minutes after the first aircraft hit the World Trade Center, the FAA immediately established several phone bridges [i.e., telephone conference calls] that included FAA field facilities, the FAA command center, FAA headquarters, [Defense Department], the Secret Service, and other government agencies.” The FAA shares “real-time information on the phone bridges about the unfolding events, including information about loss of communication with aircraft, loss of transponder signals, unauthorized changes in course, and other actions being taken by all the flights of interest, including Flight 77. Other parties on the phone bridges in turn shared information about actions they were taken.” The statement says, “The US Air Force liaison to the FAA immediately joined the FAA headquarters phone bridge and established contact with NORAD on a separate line.” [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] Another account says the phone bridges are “quickly established” by the Air Traffic Services Cell (ATSC). This is a small office at the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, which is staffed by three military officers at the time of the attacks (see (Between 9:04 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It serves as the center’s liaison with the military. According to Aviation Week and Space Technology, the phone bridges link “key players, such as NORAD’s command center, area defense sectors, key FAA personnel, airline operations, and the NMCC.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/10/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] According to an FAA transcript of employee conversations on 9/11, one of the phone bridges, between the FAA Command Center, the operations center at FAA headquarters, and air traffic control centers in Boston and New York, begins before Flight 11 hits the World Trade Center at 8:46 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 10/14/2003, pp. 3-10 ] If these accounts are correct, it means someone at NORAD should learn about Flight 77 when it deviates from its course (see (8:54 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the 9/11 Commission will later claim that the FAA teleconference is established about 30 minutes later (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The Air Force liaison to the FAA will claim she only joins it after the Pentagon is hit (see (Shortly After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
An intelligence officer at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) checks the SIPRNET—the Department of Defense’s classified version of the Internet—for information relating to the hijacking of Flight 11, but finds none. [Northeast Air Defense Sector, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 ] NEADS was alerted to the hijacking of Flight 11 at 8:37 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] Since then, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stuart, an intelligence officer at NEADS, has contacted various facilities, in search of further information about it. He called the FBI’s Strategic Information and Operations Center (see (8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001), the National Military Joint Intelligence Center at the Pentagon, and 1st Air Force headquarters in Florida (see (Shortly After 8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but none of them had any additional information on the crisis. Stuart now informs Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NEADS, of his efforts. He also directs a “Major Edick”—another intelligence officer at NEADS—to search the SIPRNET for information on the hijacking. However, Stuart will later say, Edick is unable to find any such information on the SIPRNET “that morning or afternoon.” [Northeast Air Defense Sector, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 ]
La Guardia Airport. [Source: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey]Employees at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, receive phone calls from American Airlines employees at La Guardia Airport and JFK International Airport in New York, alerting them to the plane crash at the World Trade Center, but the SOC employees do not know for sure whether the plane involved was Flight 11.
La Guardia Employee Reports Crash at WTC - Ray Howland, at the SOC, receives a call from Chuck Easton, an American Airlines employee at La Guardia Airport. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 49-51; 9/11 Commission, 4/26/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 15] Easton tells Howland, “I’m not sure what’s going on, but the World Trade Center building, as we looked out the window, and we can kind of see [the Twin Towers] in the distance, and we noticed the right World Trade Center [tower] had had a, it has a big plume of smoke.” He says, “The news reports that we’re getting now is that it was struck by an aircraft.” About a minute later, Howland asks, “Have you heard anything else?” Easton replies, “They have an eyewitness [on the news] that says he saw a plane strike it at about the eightieth or hundredth floor.” Howland asks Easton if he knows how big a plane was involved in the crash, but Easton says he does not. He says that watching the news on television is “how we’re getting the information” about the incident.
Operations Center Employee Suspects Flight 11 Hit the WTC - Howland tells Easton, “I think I have a feeling I know what’s happened.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 42-43] SOC personnel have been informed that air traffic controllers have declared Flight 11 a hijacking and that Flight 11 was descending toward New York (see 8:40 a.m. September 11, 2001), so presumably Howland means he suspects that Flight 11 hit the WTC. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 6] He will in fact tell the 9/11 Commission that when he receives the call from Easton, he is “confident the plane that hit the first tower” was Flight 11. He will say he “put one and one together.” [9/11 Commission, 4/26/2004 ] However, when two other people call the SOC a short time after Easton does and ask about the plane that hit the WTC, Howland will tell them that SOC personnel “don’t know” if it belonged to American Airlines. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 44; American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 45]
JFK Airport Employee Wonders if Airline Is 'Missing a Plane' - Around the time that Easton calls Howland, Ed Dooley, an American Airlines ramp manager at JFK International Airport, also calls the SOC to report the incident at the WTC. Dooley tells Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the SOC, that there is smoke coming from the WTC and asks if American Airlines is “missing a plane.” Marquis says he doesn’t think so, but he is checking. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 49-51; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 ]
Airline Tries to Determine whether Flight 11 Hit the WTC - After receiving these notifications of the crash, American Airlines personnel “furiously” try to find out if the plane involved was Flight 11, according to Gerard Arpey, the airline’s executive vice president of operations. Arpey will later recall, “[S]ome early media reports indicated that the plane that had struck the building may have been a smaller aircraft, but we nonetheless feared the worst.” [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] At 9:16 a.m., an SOC employee will tell the FAA’s Command Center that American Airlines thinks Flight 11 was the first plane that hit the WTC (see 9:16 a.m.-9:18 a.m. September 11, 2001), and by 9:30 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission, the airline will confirm that Flight 11 hit the WTC (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 15-16]
An announcement goes out over the public address system in the South Tower of the World Trade Center, telling workers that an incident has occurred in the other WTC tower and their building is safe, and advising them to stay in—or return to—their offices, rather than evacuate. [USA Today, 9/2/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 287-288] After Flight 11 hit the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), many people in the South Tower were unaware of what had happened. “Some believed an incident had occurred in their building; others were aware that a major explosion had occurred on the upper floors of the North Tower,” the 9/11 Commission Report will state. As a result, many workers decided to leave the South Tower. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 287] As they do so, an announcement is made over the public address system.
Announcement Says South Tower Is Secure - Brian Clark, an executive with Euro Brokers who also serves as a fire warden and is on the 84th floor of the South Tower, will later describe this announcement. “First, the strobe lights flashed, as they did during their normal fire drills,” he will say. “The alarm system gave a little bit of a whoop, whoop… to alert you to an announcement about to be made. Then the very familiar voice, the one we heard all the time, came over the system.” Clark will recall that the voice says: “Your attention, please, ladies and gentlemen. Building 2 [i.e. the South Tower] is secure. There is no need to evacuate Building 2. If you are in the midst of evacuation, you may use the re-entry doors and the elevators to return to your office. Repeat, Building 2 is secure.” [PBS, 4/30/2002; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 72] The announcement is made two or possibly three times, according to USA Today. [USA Today, 9/2/2002] Florence Engoran, a credit analyst working in the South Tower, will recall it being made “[o]ver and over and over again.” [DiMarco, 2007, pp. 50]
Announcement May Lead to Hundreds of Deaths - Many people in the South Tower remain on their floors after hearing the announcement, while others who were leaving the building turn around and head back upstairs. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 289] USA Today will suggest that the announcement therefore “may have led to the deaths of hundreds of people.” [USA Today, 9/2/2002] According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, of those who die in the South Tower, only 11 are below where the plane hits the tower at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), and 619 are in or above the point of impact. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 44]
Announcement Goes against Protocol - The announcement is later believed to have been made by Philip Hayes, a deputy fire safety director at the WTC, who is manning the fire command desk in the lobby of the South Tower. Fire safety directors are trained to read scripted announcements from a loose-leaf binder. But, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, the advice given in the announcement, for people to stay in, or return to, their offices, “did not correspond to any existing written protocol.”
Security Manager Decided to Instruct Workers Not to Evacuate - The 9/11 Commission Report will also state, “We do not know the reason for the announcement, as both [Hayes] and the director of fire safety for the WTC complex perished in the South Tower’s collapse.” [USA Today, 9/2/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 288; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 26, 72] However, George Tabeek, a security manager with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, will admit having made the decision to instruct South Tower workers to return to their offices (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/10/2011] Some security officials in the South Tower instruct workers, in person, to return upstairs, rather than evacuate (see (8:47 a.m.-9:02 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But finally, about a minute before Flight 175 hits the South Tower, an instruction will be broadcast over the public address system informing workers that they can begin an evacuation if conditions warrant it (see 9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Observer, 9/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 289]
John McConnell. [Source: University of Tennessee]While he is waiting outside Vice President Dick Cheney’s office for a scheduled meeting, Cheney’s chief speechwriter John McConnell has been chatting with Cheney’s secretary Debbie Heiden and the Secret Service agent posted at the door. They all see the news about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center on the television above Heiden’s desk. McConnell will later recall: “There wasn’t any kind of alarm. It was just kind of, ‘Oh man, look at that.’” The Secret Service agent then receives an urgent call from the agency’s intelligence division. According to McConnell: “He put the phone down and told me: passenger jet. And that’s when you go, Geez. And then you start getting a sick feeling. Because a passenger aircraft is not going to crash into the World Trade Center.” [Hayes, 2007, pp. 329-330] But, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, it is not until they learn of the second crash at 9:03 that nearly everyone in the White House realizes this is not an accident (see (Between 8:46 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 35]
Steve Ricchetti. [Source: C-SPAN]Josh Bolten, the deputy White House chief of staff, receives a phone call from Steve Ricchetti, who served as deputy White House chief of staff during the Clinton administration and who checks whether Bolten is aware of the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), a bunker below the White House where numerous government officials will later convene to respond to the terrorist attacks. With White House chief of staff Andrew Card traveling with President Bush in Florida, Bolten is the acting chief of staff at the White House this morning. He has run the senior staff meeting and, after the meeting ends, returns to his office and sees the coverage of the first crash at the World Trade Center on television. Also, when he gets back to his office, Bolten will later recall, “the phone was ringing on the inside line on a number that I don’t think I’d given out to anybody.” “I probably wasn’t even aware I had an inside line,” Bolten will add. He answers the phone and finds the caller is Ricchetti, who he will describe as “a very nice guy who I didn’t know well,” but who had been “very kind to me in the transition.” Ricchetti asks Bolten, “Are you watching TV?” Bolten says he is and Ricchetti asks, “Do you see what’s going on?” Bolten says, “Yes.” Ricchetti then asks, “Do you know about the bunker?” [C-SPAN, 10/6/2013] He is referring to the PEOC, a bunker under the East Wing of the White House that is protected by vault doors and was designed to withstand the effects of a nuclear blast. [New York Times, 9/16/2001; Associated Press, 10/5/2010; Daily Mail, 10/19/2011] Fortunately, Bolten visited the PEOC during a training exercise and so he knows what it is and where it is located (see (Between February and August 2001)). After the call ends, Bolton will head to the White House Situation Room to see if he can find out more about the crash at the WTC (see (9:03 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Apparently influenced by his conversation with Ricchetti, he will later head to the PEOC and then spend much of the rest of the day there with Vice President Dick Cheney and other government officials (see (Shortly After 9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Ricchetti “did a very graceful thing in calling me and trying to alert me to [the PEOC],” Bolten will comment. [C-SPAN, 10/6/2013]
Doug Lute. [Source: Joint Chiefs of Staff]General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, learns of the terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon while flying to Europe, but his plane is then initially denied permission to return to the US. Shelton’s plane took off from Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, DC, at 7:15 a.m. to transport the chairman to Hungary for a NATO conference (see 7:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002, pp. G-1 ; Giesemann, 2008, pp. 20, 22-23; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 430-432]
Shelton Learns of First Crash - About an hour and a half into the flight, while the plane is over the Atlantic Ocean, a member of the flight crew approaches Colonel Doug Lute, Shelton’s executive assistant, and tells him a small aircraft has crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. Lute says, “That doesn’t sound good.” He goes to the chairman’s cabin at the rear of the aircraft and tells Shelton, “Sir, just to advise you, the pilot has received word that a civilian aircraft has just struck the World Trade Center.” Shelton is reminded of a speech he recently gave, in which he warned of the possibility of a terrorist attack on US soil (see (Shortly Before September 11, 2001)), and says to his wife, Carolyn, who is with him in the cabin, “I sure hope that is not a terrorist attack.” He will later recall, “This had the potential to play out exactly as I had warned.”
Shelton Learns of Second Crash - About 10 minutes after Lute returns to his seat, the member of the flight crew comes out again and reports that a second plane has crashed into the WTC. Lieutenant Commander Suzanne Giesemann, one of Shelton’s aides, says to Lute, “That can’t be an accident.” Lute goes again to Shelton’s cabin and tells the chairman, “Sir, it’s a second plane and it’s hit the other tower of the World Trade Center.” Shelton exclaims: “Doug, that’s no coincidence. Have them turn us around, we’re going back. Then I want General Myers on the line.” (General Richard Myers is the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.) After Lute returns to his seat, he and Giesemann put on headsets and make calls to the Pentagon. Giesemann talks to Kris Cicio, Shelton’s personal assistant, who tells her that the WTC towers were hit not by small planes, but by jetliners full of innocent passengers. Giesemann then loses her connection with Cicio, and so listens instead to BBC news reports through her headset and passes on what she learns to the other members of Shelton’s staff on the flight. Lute talks with someone in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon. After the call, he heads to Shelton’s cabin. [Giesemann, 2008, pp. 22-23; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 431]
Controllers Deny Request to Enter US Airspace - Having learned of the attack on the Pentagon (which takes place at 9:37 a.m.), Lute tells Shelton that there has been “some type of big explosion at the Pentagon.” He also tells the chairman that air traffic controllers have refused their request to fly into Washington. Lute says: “[W]e’ve been denied permission to return. All US airspace has been shut down” (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But Shelton retorts: “Doug, tell the pilot we’ll ask for forgiveness instead of permission, so have him turn us around. We’re going home.” Shelton will later recall, “I knew there was no way they were going to shoot down a 707 with UNITED STATES AIR FORCE emblazoned along the side.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002, pp. G-1 ; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 432]
Shelton's Plane Supposedly Cleared to Fly into Washington - After Lute returns from Shelton’s cabin, he nods to Giesemann and says, “We’re going back.” Giesemann will recall that she then heads into the cockpit and orders the pilot, “Major, take us back to Andrews.” The pilot replies, “Yes, ma’am.” [Giesemann, 2008, pp. 23] According to an FAA report, “minutes” after the initial denial of permission to return to the US, Shelton’s plane is granted clearance. [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002, pp. G-1 ] The pilot turns the plane around and heads back toward Washington, according to Shelton. [Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 432] But according to Captain Rob Pedersen, the flight navigator on Shelton’s plane, it is several hours before the plane is cleared to enter the US airspace (see (After 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 ] The plane will consequently only land at Andrews Air Force Base at 4:40 p.m. (see 4:40 p.m. September 11, 2001) and Shelton will only arrive at the NMCC an hour after that (see 5:40 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001 ; Myers, 2009, pp. 159]
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