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Deena Burnett, whose husband Tom Burnett was on Flight 93, is told by United Airlines it isn’t aware this plane has crashed. Deena had earlier on learned of an aircraft crashing in Pennsylvania, and a police officer with her informed her that this was her husband’s flight. Yet in her own book, published in 2006, Deena Burnett will describe that she now calls “United Airlines and asked about Flight 93. ‘Were there any survivors?’” She will recall: “They said they didn’t know the plane had even crashed. They suggested I call back or they would contact me when they knew something.” According to her own description, Deena appears to make this call shortly before 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time, meaning close to 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time. [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 71-72 and 79] Yet by 10:15 a.m. ET, United Airlines’ headquarters had confirmed that an aircraft had crashed in Pennsylvania, and believed this was Flight 93 (see (10:07 a.m.-10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 47 ] And at 11:17 a.m. ET, the airline had issued a press release confirming the crash of Flight 93 (see 11:17 a.m. September 11, 2001). [United Airlines, 9/11/2001] At what time Deena Burnett hears back from United Airlines after making this call is unstated.
President Bush and Laura Bush with their dogs, Barney and Spot. [Source: White House]Laura Bush, the president’s wife, is told by her Secret Service agents to be prepared to leave Washington, DC, for several days, and members of her staff then go to the White House to fetch some of her belongings. [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 203] Bush is at the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, where she was brought for her own safety (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136] At the headquarters, there is “a debate over what to do with [President Bush] and what to do with me,” the first lady will later recall. Her Secret Service agents tell her “to be prepared to leave Washington for several days at least.” To help her prepare, several members of her staff briefly return to the White House and collect some of her belongings. They are escorted there at about 1:30 p.m., according to Noelia Rodriguez, Bush’s press secretary. Sarah Moss, Bush’s assistant, collects some of the first lady’s clothes. John Meyers, Bush’s advance man, collects the Bush family dogs, Spot and Barney, and the family cat, India. While they are at the White House, the first lady’s staffers also collect their own purses and keys. The Secret Service agent with them instructs them: “Be fast. Run. Get your things.” The staffers then return to the Secret Service headquarters. However, Bush and those with her at the headquarters subsequently learn that the president will be returning to Washington today (see (4:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and (4:33 p.m.) September 11, 2001). It will therefore be decided that the first lady can stay in the capital. She will be taken to the White House at 6:30 p.m. (see 6:30 p.m. September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 203]
After taking off from Barksdale Air Force Base (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001), President Bush calls Mike Morell, his CIA briefer, to his cabin near the front of the plane. He asks Morell who he thinks is responsible for the attack. Morell replies, “I would bet everything on bin Laden.” He lists some of bin Laden’s previous attacks: the 1998 attacks on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. Bush asks about the Palestinian extremist group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Morell says it is unlikely this group could be responsible for the day’s attack, as PFLP simply doesn’t have the capability for something like this. Bush asks how long it will take to know if bin Laden is to blame. Based on previous attacks, Morell says, it will probably be a matter of days. Bush says that if anything definitive is learned about the attack, he wants to be the first to know. [Kessler, 2003, pp. 195; Tenet, 2007, pp. 165-166]
Air Force One departs Barksdale Air Force Base. [Source: Reuters]Air Force One takes off from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana to fly President Bush to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. While Bush has been at Barksdale, base personnel have refueled Air Force One and restocked it with provisions for its continuing journey, on the basis that it may have to serve as the president’s flying command center for the foreseeable future. [Associated Press, 10/2/2001; 2d Bomb Wing, 6/30/2002 ; BBC, 9/1/2002]
Reduced Number of Passengers on Board - For security reasons, the number of people traveling on Air Force One has been reduced (see (1:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 145-146] Those continuing with the president include Bush’s chief of staff Andrew Card, his senior adviser Karl Rove, his communications director Dan Bartlett, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, and assistant press secretary Gordon Johndroe. The number of Secret Service agents accompanying the president has been reduced, as has the number of reporters. The five remaining journalists are Ann Compton of ABC Radio, Sonya Ross of the Associated Press, Associated Press photographer Doug Mills, and a CBS cameraman and sound technician. [Salon, 9/11/2001; Associated Press, 9/12/2001]
President Given Thumbs-up by Airmen - Lieutenant General Thomas Keck, the commander of the 8th Air Force, has been at Bush’s side for most of his time at Barksdale, and accompanies the president as he is being driven across the base to Air Force One. The president passes a row of B-52 bombers and is given a thumbs-up by the planes’ crew members. Keck explains to Bush that this means the troops “are trained, they’re ready, and they’ll do whatever you want them to.” Military police salute and other Air Force crew members cheer the president as he passes them. [American History, 10/2006 ]
Fighter Escort Rejoins Air Force One - Air Force One is being guarded by soldiers with their guns drawn when Bush reaches it, and a pack of military dogs is patrolling the tarmac. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 117-118] After the plane takes off, two F-16 fighter jets pull up alongside it to provide an escort. [American History, 10/2006 ] These are presumably the same fighters, belonging to the 147th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard, that escorted Air Force One as it came in to land at Barksdale (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 87; Bombardier, 9/8/2006 ]
Destination Chosen Due to 'Continuity of Government' Plan - Bush’s destination, Offutt Air Force Base, is home to the US Strategic Command (Stratcom), which controls the nation’s nuclear weapons. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Woodward, 2002, pp. 19] Bush will later say the decision to head there was based on Offutt’s “secure housing space and reliable communications.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 133] The base’s secure teleconferencing equipment will allow the president to conduct a meeting of his National Security Council later in the afternoon (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 119; Woodward, 2002, pp. 19, 26] According to the 9/11 Commission Report, Offutt has been chosen as the president’s next destination “because of its elaborate command and control facilities, and because it could accommodate overnight lodging for 50 persons. The Secret Service wanted a place where the president could spend several days, if necessary.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] But according to White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, the decision to head to Offutt instead of back to Washington, DC, was due to a plan called “Continuity of Government.” This program, which dates back to the Reagan administration, originally planned to set up a new leadership for the US in the event of a nuclear war. It was activated for the first time shortly before 10:00 a.m. this morning (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 4/7/2004; ABC News, 4/25/2004]
Entity Tags: Dan Bartlett, Barksdale Air Force Base, Thomas Keck, Ann Compton, Ari Fleischer, Doug Mills, George W. Bush, Gordon Johndroe, US Secret Service, 147th Fighter Wing, Sonya Ross, Karl C. Rove, Andrew Card, Richard A. Clarke
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
An F-15 from the 159th Fighter Wing. [Source: Louisiana National Guard]Fighter jets belonging to the Louisiana Air National Guard’s 159th Fighter Wing are launched in order to accompany Air Force One after it takes off from Barksdale Air Force Base. [Filson, 2003, pp. 87; Associated Press, 12/30/2007] The 159th Fighter Wing is located at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, in Belle Chasse, Louisiana. [GlobalSecurity (.org), 1/21/2006]
SEADS Scrambles Fighters - Although the wing is not one of NORAD’s alert units around the US, NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS) scrambles four of its fighters around the time President Bush is leaving Barksdale Air Base on board Air Force One (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001). The fighters had already been loaded with live missiles by the time Air Force One landed at the base (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to weapons officer Major Jeff Woelbling, “As we were all watching the news, the wing leadership decided to configure our jets and get ready.”
Military Unaware of Air Force One's Route - At the time Air Force One leaves Barksdale, SEADS is unaware of its next destination. Lieutenant Colonel Randy Riccardi, the commander of the 122nd Fighter Squadron, which is part of the 159th Fighter Wing, will later recall, “When Air Force One took off out of Barksdale, we were scrambled because SEADS didn’t know his route of flight.” Riccardi will add: “We were in a four-ship and turned north toward Barksdale and the president was already airborne. We were 300 miles behind him since SEADS didn’t know where he was going.” The 159th Fighter Wing jets will accompany Air Force One until it is near Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001). They then turn around and return to base. [Filson, 2003, pp. 87] When Air Force One landed at Barksdale, it was already being escorted by jets from the 147th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard (see (After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Those jets will continue escorting the president’s plane until it reaches Washington, DC. [Galveston County Daily News, 7/9/2005; Bombardier, 9/8/2006 ]
The chief fire officer who has been assigned to take charge of operations at WTC Building 7 meets with his command officer, to discuss the condition of this building and the fire department’s capabilities for controlling the fires in it. A deputy fire chief who has just been in WTC 7, inspecting up to its 7th or 8th floor, reports that there was a lot of fire inside and the stairway was filling with smoke. The fire chiefs discuss the situation and identify the following conditions:
WTC 7 has suffered damage caused by falling debris from the Twin Towers, and they are uncertain about its structural stability.
There are large fires on at least six floors.
They do not have enough equipment available for conducting operations in the building, such as hoses, standpipe kits, and handie-talkies.
There is no water immediately available for fighting the fires. (However, this concern is apparently contradicted by reports that two or three fireboats are moored nearby, specifically to provide water-pumping capacity for the WTC site.)
Therefore, at around 2:30 p.m., fire officers decide to completely abandon WTC 7 and a final order is given to evacuate the site. Firefighters and other emergency workers will be withdrawn from the surrounding area (see (4:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001), and Building 7 collapses later in the afternoon (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Firehouse (.com), 9/17/2001; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 110-111]
The FBI’s Minneapolis office asks for permission to interview Zacarias Moussaoui a few hours after the end of the 9/11 attacks, but permission is denied, apparently on the grounds that there is no emergency. On 9/11, the office’s counsel, Coleen Rowley, seeks permission from the Acting US Attorney to question Moussaoui about whether al-Qaeda has any further plans to hijack airliners or otherwise attack the US. The next day she asks again; this time the request is sent to the Justice Department. Such questioning would not usually be permitted, but Rowley argues that it should be allowed under a public safety exception. However, permission is denied and Rowley is told that the emergency is over so the public safety exception does not apply. Rowley will later comment: “We were so flabbergasted about the fact we were told no public safety emergency existed just hours after the attacks that my boss advised me to document it in a memo which became the first document in the legal subfile of the FBI’s ‘Penttbom’ case.” [Huffington Post, 5/2/2007] Some sources will suggest that Moussaoui was to be part of a second wave of attacks (see September 5, 2002). He is also an associate of shoe bomber Richard Reid, who will attempt to blow up an airliner later this year (see Mid-2000-December 9, 2000 and December 22, 2001).
The emergency operations facility in Mount Weather, Bluemont, Virginia (the entrance is shown on the left and the interior blast door is shown on the right). This is one of the Continuity of Government bunkers used on 9/11. [Source: ABC News] (click image to enlarge)It is later revealed that only hours after the 9/11 attacks, a US “shadow government” is formed. Initially deployed “on the fly,” executive directives on Continuity of Government in the face of a crisis that date back to the Reagan administration are put into effect. Approximately 100 midlevel officials are moved to underground bunkers and stay there 24 hours a day. Presumably among them are a number of FAA managers, members of a designated group of “shadow” managers, who slip away from their usual activities around midday. Officials rotate in and out of the shadow government on a 90-day cycle. While the measure is initially intended only as a temporary precaution, due to further assessment of the risk of terrorism, the White House will decide to make it a permanent feature of “the new reality.” A senior official tells CNN that major factors are the concern that al-Qaeda could have gained access to a crude nuclear device, and the “threat of some form of catastrophic event.” However, this same official will admit that the US has no confirmation, and “no solid evidence,” that al-Qaeda has such a nuclear device, and says that the consensus among top US officials is that the likelihood of this is “quite low.” When the existence of the shadow government is later revealed, some controversy will arise because it includes no Democrats. In fact, top congressional Democrats will remain unaware of it until journalists break the story months later. [CNN, 3/1/2002; Washington Post, 3/1/2002; CBS News, 3/2/2002; Freni, 2003, pp. 75]
On September 11—after the 9/11 attacks are over—the New York FBI office learns that one of the hijackers was Khalid Almihdhar. One of the FBI agents at the office, Steve Bongardt, had attempted to get permission to search for Almihdhar in late August, but was not allowed to do so. He wrote an e-mail on August 29 (see August 29, 2001) predicting that “someday someone will die… the public will not understand why we were not more effective and throwing every resource we had at certain ‘problems.’” He will later testify that upon seeing Almihdhar’s name on one of the passenger flight manifests, he angrily yells, “This is the same Almihdhar we’ve been talking about for three months!” In an attempt to console him, his boss replies, “We did everything by the book.” Now that Bongardt is allowed to conduct a basic Internet search for Almihdhar that he had been denied permission to conduct before 9/11, he finds the hijacker’s address “within hours.” [Washington Post, 9/21/2002; US Congress, 12/11/2002] The FBI field office in San Diego also was not notified before 9/11 that Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi had been put on a no-fly watch list on August 24, 2001 (see September 4-5, 2001). Bill Gore, the FBI agent running the San Diego office on this day, will later make reference to the fact that Alhazmi’s correct phone number and address were listed in the San Diego phone book, and say: “How could [we] have found these people when we didn’t know we were looking for them? The first place we would have looked is the phone book.… I submit to you we would have found them.” [US Congress, 12/11/2002]
James Schwartz. [Source: Arlington County, Virginia]Firefighting and other operations are severely disrupted when the Pentagon site is evacuated due to a report of an unidentified aircraft heading toward the Pentagon. Firefighters have to abandon their equipment and run several hundred yards to protected areas. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A16 and A30] Assistant Fire Chief James Schwartz orders the evacuation after the control tower at Washington’s Reagan National Airport notifies the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center (ECC) of an inbound aircraft that is not identifying itself and is heading up the Potomac River at a high rate of speed. It is not known if this is a hijacked plane, but no aircraft other than military jets are now supposed to be in the air. The ECC then notifies Schwartz at the Pentagon. By the time he orders the evacuation, the aircraft is reportedly just two minutes away. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A30 and A52; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 187] At one point, the controllers at Reagan Airport are reporting that the plane has disappeared from radar, though they do not say why they think this is. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 191]
Approaching Aircraft Is 'Friendly' - The unidentified aircraft is soon determined to be “friendly.” [Fire Engineering, 11/2002; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 193] According to the Arlington County After-Action Report, it turns out to have been a government aircraft flying Attorney General John Ashcroft back to Washington. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A30 and C52; Vogel, 2007, pp. 453] However, a 2002 FAA report will state that Ashcroft’s plane landed in Washington “just before noon” (see (12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002 ] If that report is correct, then the identity of the approaching aircraft is unclear.
Emergency Operations Disrupted - The firefighters and other emergency responders return to the Pentagon and resume their activities, but the evacuation has significantly disrupted firefighting operations, giving fires in some areas 30 minutes to gain ground. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A16; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 193-194] The FBI’s evidence recovery operation has also been disrupted. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 191]
Evacuation Avoidable, Caused by Loss of FBI Presence - This evacuation is later determined to have been avoidable, and only necessary because of the loss of a senior FBI presence at the incident command post (ICP) at the Pentagon, which means there is no way for the ICP to verify whether the approaching aircraft is “friendly” or not. This loss is due to the FBI having relocated to the Virginia State Police Barracks shortly after midday (see (12:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001). The Arlington County After-Action Report will later conclude, “Friendly aircraft, carrying US government executives and escorted by fighter aircraft, should not have been cause for evacuation.” A previous evacuation of the Pentagon site due to reports of an approaching unidentified aircraft occurred around 10:15 a.m. (see (10:15 a.m.-10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and a third similar evacuation will occur on the morning of September 12 (see (10:00 a.m.) September 12, 2001). [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A30-A31; Fire Engineering, 11/2002]
The three F-16 fighter jets that launched from Langley Air Force Base to defend Washington, DC (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) land back at their base after flying a combat air patrol (CAP) over the capital. The flight lead, Major Dean Eckmann, was refueling on a tanker when the order came for the three fighters to return to base. The two other pilots, Captain Craig Borgstrom and Major Brad Derrig, immediately headed back to Langley and Eckmann joined them shortly after. [Leslie Filson, 2002; Longman, 2002, pp. 222; Spencer, 2008, pp. 277]
Fighters Kept Planes Away from Washington - During the four hours they were over Washington, the three F-16s, which belong to the 119th Fighter Wing of the North Dakota Air National Guard, kept aircraft away from the capital. According to Borgstrom, they only had to intercept a few planes. He will say: “It wasn’t intercept upon intercept. It was one here and, maybe 50 minutes later, one here. There was not a lot of it.” Borgstrom will recall that the three fighters were alone in flying a CAP over Washington for about the first hour, but were then joined by other aircraft “from all over the place.” By the time they headed back to Langley Air Force Base, Borgstrom will say that he “personally counted 17 other fighters in the CAP.” [Leslie Filson, 2002]
Pilots Learn Details of Attacks - The three pilots had been unaware of precisely why they were scrambled and did not realize the threat was from hijacked planes (see (9:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 45] They only learn the details of the terrorist attacks after landing back at Langley. Borgstrom is surprised to see over a dozen trailers carrying missiles lined up near the runway. He will recall, “I thought, ‘What the heck is going on?’” because, “At this point, I still didn’t know it was airliners” that were involved in the attacks. [Leslie Filson, 2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 277] According to Eckmann, it is only after they land that the three pilots learn about the World Trade Center towers collapsing. Eckmann learns of the collapses in a phone call with his wife. [Leslie Filson, 12/6/2002] Borgstrom asks his crew chief, “What else did they get?” As Borgstrom will later recall, the crew chief says he isn’t sure, “but he thought there was some others,” presumably meaning more planes and targets involved. Borgstrom recalls, “So at that point I was like, oh no, a really terrible thing has happened.” [Leslie Filson, 2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 277] According to Eckmann, the three pilots only learn about Flight 93 on the following day, September 12. [Leslie Filson, 12/6/2002]
The FBI’s Strategic Information and Operations Center. [Source: FBI]Attorney General John Ashcroft spends most of the rest of the day at the FBI’s Strategic Information and Operations Center (SIOC), after arriving there in the early afternoon (see (Between 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 12/17/2003 ; Ashcroft, 2006, pp. 129] The SIOC, which is located on the fifth floor of the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, DC, functions as a 24-hour watch post and crisis management center. The huge, windowless center can seat 380 people, and is equipped with sophisticated computers and communications equipment. [CNN, 11/20/1998; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1/18/2004]
FBI Director Briefs Ashcroft - Ashcroft will later recall that when he arrives at the SIOC, the place is “teeming with people, abuzz with activity, voices and papers everywhere, with dozens of people coming in and out with bits and pieces of new information moment by moment.” Numerous rows of computer screens are “filled with data, and eight large video display screens were being monitored constantly.” Ashcroft is met by FBI Director Robert Mueller, who briefs him on what is so far known regarding the terrorist attacks.
Priority Is to Clear the Skies - During his initial period at the SIOC, Ashcroft will recall, the “overriding priority” is to make sure all commercial aircraft are on the ground. There are also concerns about some planes that have landed and individuals on them who might have been hijackers, and concerns about securing airports so that flights can get up and running again as soon as possible. [9/11 Commission, 12/17/2003 ; Ashcroft, 2006, pp. 120-121]
SIOC Is 'the Place to Be to Get Information' - Most of the leading Justice Department and FBI officials remain at the SIOC throughout the day. Other officials in the center along with Ashcroft and Mueller include Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff, and Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner James Ziglar. [Los Angeles Times, 9/12/2001; US Department of Justice, 9/12/2001] According to Ashcroft, the SIOC is “the place to be to get information, and so everyone wanted to be there.” [9/11 Commission, 12/17/2003 ] Ashcroft will later recall, “I spent the hours, days, and most of the first weeks, months, after the attack on the United States in the [SIOC].” He will add, “That day, in those early hours, the prevention of terrorist attacks became the central goal of the law enforcement and national security mission of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” [CNN, 5/30/2002]
The driver of a refueling truck at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, mistakenly concludes that one of the three F-16 fighter jets that launched from the base to defend Washington, DC (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and that recently landed back there (see (2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001) shot down Flight 93. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 277]
One Fighter Launched without Missiles - One of the F-16s that took off from Langley Air Force Base was piloted by Captain Craig Borgstrom. However, Borgstrom was not one of the two pilots at the base on “alert” duty this morning. Consequently, he had taken off in a third, spare fighter in response to the call for help (see (Between 9:10 a.m. and 9:23 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Unlike the F-16s belonging to the two pilots on alert duty, Borgstrom’s plane carried no missiles. [Christian Science Monitor, 4/16/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 118-119]
Driver Thinks Borgstrom Shot Down Flight 93 - One of the alert pilots, Major Brad Derrig, will later recall, “Confusion arose because Borgstrom had no missiles when he took off and that was noticed when he landed.” [9/11 Commission, 12/1/2003] The driver of a refueling truck, who is unaware that Borgstrom had taken off without any missiles, now notices that Borgstrom’s plane has no missiles hanging from its wings. According to author Lynn Spencer, the driver “knows that United 93 has gone down and now he surmises who took it down.” The following day, the driver will voice his suspicion to Borgstrom, and Borgstrom will clarify to him what actually happened. But, according to Spencer, “in the interim, a rumor is started that makes its way onto the Internet and will haunt the pilots for years to come,” that Flight 93 was shot down. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 277]
Other Evidence Indicates Shootdown - However, there are other factors that lead to the suspicion that Flight 93 was shot down by the US military. For example, a number of early news reports—published hours before the three fighters landed back at Langley—stated the possibility of a plane having been shot down (see 11:28 a.m.-11:50 a.m. September 11, 2001), and what appears to be debris from a plane is discovered far away from the main Flight 93 crash site (see (Before 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and September 13, 2001). [TCM Breaking News, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/13/2001; Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001; Mirror, 9/12/2002]
The three fighter pilots that launched from Langley Air Force Base to defend Washington, DC (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) sign a letter in which they confirm that they did not shoot down any aircraft on 9/11. At some point after the pilots, who belong to the 119th Fighter Wing of the North Dakota Air National Guard, land their fighter jets back at base (see (2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001), one of them, Captain Craig Borgstrom, speaks over the phone with Major General Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental US Region (CONR). According to Borgstrom, who will later recall that Arnold phones him either on September 11 “or in [the] next day or two,” the CONR commander requests “a detailed, in writing, accounting of what happened that day.” Consequently, as another of the three pilots—Major Brad Derrig—will recall, “all three pilots signed a letter to 1st Air Force certifying that they had not shot down an aircraft.” Borgstrom will say he believes that “ammunition records were checked” as a part of the response to the 1st Air Force. [9/11 Commission, 12/1/2003; 9/11 Commission, 12/1/2003] Some early news reports suggested the possibility of a plane having been shot down by the US military (see 11:28 a.m.-11:50 a.m. September 11, 2001), and what appears to be debris from a plane is discovered far away from the main Flight 93 crash site (see (Before 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and September 13, 2001). [TCM Breaking News, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/13/2001; Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001; Mirror, 9/12/2002] But in later interviews with the media and the 9/11 Commission, the three 119th Fighter Wing pilots will state that they received no orders to shoot down a commercial airliner, and did not shoot down any planes on 9/11. [New York Times, 11/15/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 222; 9/11 Commission, 12/1/2003; 9/11 Commission, 12/1/2003; 9/11 Commission, 12/1/2003]
The two F-15 fighter jets that launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in response to the hijacked Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) land back at their base after flying a combat air patrol (CAP) over New York City. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; Filson, 10/2/2002] The F-15s, which belong to the 102nd Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, are piloted by Major Daniel Nash and Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy. [Rosenfeld and Gross, 2007, pp. 35]
Fighters Intercepted about 100 Aircraft - Duffy and Nash’s job during the CAP was to identify and divert all aircraft from the Manhattan area. Duffy will later recall, “We would pull up next to them and tip our wings or fly across in front of them to get them to leave the area.” [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; 9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004 ] He will say that during their time flying over Manhattan, “All of the sudden, you get contacts coming toward the city that are unidentified and aren’t talking to anybody, and we were getting real nervous.” [Filson, 10/22/2002] Duffy will estimate that the two fighters intercepted and escorted about 100 aircraft in total, including emergency, military, and news helicopters, plus dozens of small private planes whose pilots were unaware of the attacks on New York. Some of those pilots had seen the smoke over the city and decided to investigate. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002]
One Fighter over Manhattan at All Times - Duffy and Nash had alternated their responsibilities, so that one of them would remain over Manhattan at all times while the other would intercept aircraft or be refueled by a tanker plane over the ocean (see (Shortly After 9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). After flying the CAP for about two hours, they were joined by a couple more F-15s from Otis Air Base (see (11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). While those jets flew at around 18,000 feet, Nash and Duffy remained at around 10,000 feet. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002; Filson, 10/2/2002; Filson, 10/22/2002; 9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004 ] Eventually, after several hours flying over Manhattan, Nash and Duffy were ordered to return to their base.
Base Hectic with Activity - Upon landing, they find that Otis Air Base is very different to how it was when they took off. Rows and rows of their unit’s fighters are lined up near the runway, surrounded by about 100 maintenance personnel who are frantically working to prepare the aircraft for battle. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 273-274] Armed security officers in flak jackets are guarding every entrance to the base; personnel are swarming in the buildings; and officers are trying to locate all the reserve pilots.
Pilot Learns of Pentagon Attack - The two fighter pilots had been poorly informed about what was going on regarding the terrorist attacks, and were only told in passing by an air traffic controller that there had been an attack in Washington (see (8:53 a.m.-10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). After he gets out of his plane, Nash is informed by a crew member that an aircraft crashed into the Pentagon. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002; Michael Bronner, 2006] Nash and Duffy subsequently go to their unit’s “intelligence shop” and describe what they have done since taking off from the base hours earlier. [Filson, 10/2/2002]
No relatives of the Flight 93 passengers are waiting at San Francisco International Airport at the time when the plane is scheduled to have arrived there. A counseling center has been set up at the airport for any relatives that might show up, and dozens of clergy members gave gathered at United Airlines’ VIP lounge to await the families. San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown has arranged to come and meet them. But at 11:15 a.m. Pacific Time (2:15 p.m. Eastern Time), when Flight 93 was scheduled to arrive, no family members have shown up, nor have any arrived by midday (3:00 p.m. ET). Willie Brown cancels his trip to meet the families when it appears none will show up. Knight Ridder will suggest the reason no relatives have come is that United Airlines employees contacted many of them before they left home. [Associated Press, 9/12/2001; Knight Ridder, 9/12/2001] Also, United Airlines publicly confirmed that Flight 93 had crashed several hours earlier (see 11:17 a.m. September 11, 2001), so passengers’ relatives may have realized for themselves what has happened by now. [United Airlines, 9/11/2001] Another possible factor could be that many of the passengers—at least 16 out of a mere 33—were not originally scheduled to be on Flight 93, and only arranged to be on it at the last minute or switched from another flight (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001-Early Morning September 11, 2001), so their relatives may not initially realize they had been on the plane. [New York Times, 9/11/2002] In contrast, some relatives of passengers on the other three hijacked planes have gone to Los Angeles International Airport, the destination of those planes: The New York Times will describe “a few grieving relatives” there, and the Associated Press describes, “In Los Angeles, several dozen relatives met grief counselors at an airport hotel.” [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001]
One of the pilots of the two F-15s from the 102nd Fighter Wing that took off in response to the hijacked Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) is told by a colleague that the military has shot down an aircraft over Pennsylvania. After the fighter pilots, Major Daniel Nash and Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, land at Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, having spent the past few hours flying a combat air patrol over New York (see (2:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001), a “bunch of people” at the base start telling them “what was going on,” Nash will later recall. A crew chief tells Nash that an F-16 fighter jet shot down a fourth airliner over Pennsylvania. Nash will comment, “Obviously that wasn’t true, so there were lots of rumors floating around.” [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002; Filson, 10/2/2002] Some early news reports suggested the possibility of a plane having been shot down by the US military (see 11:28 a.m.-11:50 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Forbes, 9/11/2001; TCM Breaking News, 9/11/2001] But the Pentagon has by now informed the White House that the military did not shoot down Flight 93 over Pennsylvania (see (Shortly After 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002]
The FAA announces that there will be no commercial air traffic in the United States for at least a day. According to CNN, the FAA says this operating status will remain until noon on September 12, “at the earliest.” [CNN, 9/12/2001; CBS News, 2002, pp. 15]
Two sections from RumsfeldÃ¢Â€Â™s notes, dictated to Stephen Cambone. [Source: Defense Department]Defense Secretary Rumsfeld aide Stephen Cambone is taking notes on behalf of Rumsfeld in the National Military Command Center. These notes will be leaked to the media nearly a year later. According to the notes, although Rumsfeld has already been given information indicating the 9/11 attacks were done by al-Qaeda (see 12:05 p.m. September 11, 2001) and he has been given no evidence so far indicating any Iraqi involvement, he is more interested in blaming the attacks on Iraq. According to his aide’s notes, Rumsfeld wants the “best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time. Not only UBL [Osama bin Laden].… Need to move swiftly.… Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.” [CBS News, 9/4/2002; Bamford, 2004, pp. 285] In a 2004 book, author James Moore will write, “Unless Rumsfeld had an inspired moment while the rest of the nation was in shock, the notes are irrefutable proof that the Bush administration had designs on Iraq and Hussein well before the president raised his hand to take the oath of office.” [Moore, 3/15/2004, pp. 18]
New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani announces that the New York City subway and bus service has been partially restored. [CNN, 9/12/2001]
The entrance to the Offutt Air Force Base’s bunker, very far underground. Bush officials are seen here entering it on 9/11. [Source: CBC]Having left Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana at around 1:30 p.m. (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001), Air Force One lands at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska. President Bush stays on the plane for about ten minutes before entering the United States Strategic Command bunker at 3:06 p.m. [Salon, 9/11/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] Offutt Air Force Base appears to be the headquarters of the US Strategic Command (Stratcom) exercise Global Guardian that was “in full swing” at the time the attacks began (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). While there, the president spends time in the underground Command Center from where Global Guardian was earlier being directed, being brought up to date on the attacks and their aftermath. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002; Washington Times, 10/8/2002]
Don Nickles. [Source: Publicity photo]Vice President Dick Cheney talks with Congressional leaders who have been taken to a secure bunker outside Washington, and tells them they cannot return to the capital. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; Lott, 2005, pp. 221-222] A number of top members of the House and Senate leaderships were evacuated to the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Facility in Bluemont, Virginia, during the morning and early afternoon (see (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between Late Morning and Early Afternoon) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/15/2002]
Cheney Controls Information - In the middle of the afternoon, the vice president makes a conference call from the White House to a number of groups, including these Congressional leaders. As Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) will recall, Cheney “told us what he knew: that it was a terrorist attack; that it was carried out by al-Qaeda and directed by Osama bin Laden; that thousands were dead in New York, and hundreds more at the Pentagon. Though some concerns still existed, the immediate danger had abated.” [Lott, 2005, pp. 221] Cheney also says the president has been moving around since the time of the attacks, and is now at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 115-116]
'We Control the Helicopters' - When the leaders say they want to leave the bunker and return to Washington, Cheney refuses. According to the Washington Post, his reason is that there are still terrorist threats and there is no way to guarantee their security. Senator Don Nickles (R-OK) complains, “We’re a separate branch of government—why do we need the approval of the White House?” Cheney replies, “Don, we control the helicopters.” [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
Cheney Initially Does Not Allow Congressional Leaders to Return - Cheney then initiates three or four private conversations, one of which is with Trent Lott. Lott says: “I want to go back to the Capitol. That’s where we belong.” But again Cheney replies, “No.” However, later in the afternoon, the Congressional leaders decide to return to Washington, and permission is arranged for this (see (Between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Hastert, 2004, pp. 10; Lott, 2005, pp. 221-222] It is unclear exactly when Cheney holds this conference call. If it takes place while Bush is at Offutt, as Cheney indicates, this would place it between 2:50 p.m. and around 4:30 p.m. But from around 3:15 until 4:00, Cheney participates in the president’s video conference call with his principal advisers (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001), so it is unclear if Cheney talks to the Congressional leaders before or after this. [CNN, 9/12/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326]
James L. Jones. [Source: US Marine Corps]The Navy establishes a new command center at the Navy Annex in Arlington, Virginia, after its original command center was destroyed in the attack on the Pentagon. The original Navy Command Center, located on the first floor of the Pentagon, provided Navy leaders with timely information and intelligence about operations around the world. But it was destroyed, and many of its personnel died, when the Pentagon was hit (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/20/2002; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 133] Reportedly, 70 percent of the Navy’s spaces in the Pentagon were damaged or destroyed in the Pentagon attack. [Navy Times, 10/1/2001]
Navy Invited to Join Marines at Navy Annex - General James Jones, the commandant of the Marine Corps, therefore invited several of his Navy counterparts and their staffs to co-locate with the Marine Corps at the Navy Annex. [Sea Power, 1/2002] The Navy Annex is a huge building located a few hundred yards uphill from the Pentagon. It has enough room for 6,000 employees. Currently, about 100 Navy personnel work in it, and most of the space is used by the Marine Corps. [American Forces Press Service, 9/24/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 14; GlobalSecurity (.org), 5/7/2011] It is the location of the Marine Corps Command Center. [Sea Power, 1/2002] Admiral William Fallon, the vice chief of naval operations, has consequently made arrangements for the Navy’s leadership and support personnel to move to the Navy Annex. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 133]
Building Manager Unhappy about Moving People to Navy Annex - At around 3:00 p.m., Coneleous Alexander, a building manager at the Navy Annex, learns from one of the Marine Corps administrative managers of the plan to relocate the Navy Command Center to his building. The new command center will be set up in an area on the fourth floor that, Alexander will later say, “had been demolished for use by the build out for ballistic missiles.” [Naval Historical Center, 12/21/2001] It is unclear from Alexander’s account whether he means that missiles are being stored at the Navy Annex, or is referring to the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, which has been housed at the Navy Annex since February this year. [US Department of Defense, 11/30/2001; US Air Force Academy, 5/2/2002] Alexander is unsure whether it is a good idea to move personnel to the Navy Annex. One reason for his uncertainty, he will say, is “the ballistic missiles” being there. He thinks a better choice would be to move people to Henderson Hall, the Marine Corps headquarters, which is located next to the Navy Annex.
Only Mission-Essential Personnel Allowed into Building - All the same, Marines start moving equipment into the Navy Annex, and maintenance crews set up portable air conditioners and exhaust fans for the Navy’s new command center there. It is decided that, due to the fear of another attack, only mission-essential personnel may enter the building. [Naval Historical Center, 12/21/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 133] While some Navy staffs will be able to promptly return to their spaces at the Pentagon, others have to temporarily move to offices at locations that, as well as the Navy Annex, include the Washington Navy Yard and Northern Virginia’s Crystal City office complex. [Navy Times, 10/1/2001]
President Bush takes part in a video teleconference at Offutt Air Force Base. Chief of Staff Andrew Card sits on his left, and Admiral Richard Mies sits on his left.
[Source: White House]At Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, President Bush convenes the first meeting of the National Security Council since the attacks occurred. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 26] He begins the video conference call from a bunker beneath the base. He and Chief of Staff Andrew Card visually communicate directly with Vice President Cheney, National Security Adviser Rice, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, CIA Director Tenet, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, and others. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; ABC News, 9/11/2002; Washington Times, 10/8/2002] According to Clarke, Bush begins the meeting by saying, “I’m coming back to the White House as soon as the plane is fueled. No discussion.” But according to Condoleezza Rice, he begins with the words, “We’re at war.” Clarke leads a quick review of what has already occurred, and issues that need to be quickly addressed. Bush asks CIA Director Tenet who he thinks is responsible for the day’s attacks. Tenet later recalls, “I told him the same thing I had told the vice president several hours earlier: al-Qaeda. The whole operation looked, smelled, and tasted like bin Laden.” Tenet tells Bush that passenger manifests show that three known al-Qaeda operatives had been on Flight 77. According to Tenet, when he tells the president in particular about Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar (two of the alleged Flight 77 hijackers), Bush gives Mike Morell, his CIA briefer, “one of those ‘I thought I was supposed to be the first to know’ looks.” (Other evidence indicates the third al-Qaeda operative whose name is on the passenger manifest would be Salem Alhazmi (see 9:53 p.m. September 11, 2001).) Tenet tells the meeting that al-Qaeda is “the only terrorist organization capable of such spectacular, well-coordinated attacks,” and that “Intelligence monitoring had overheard a number of known bin Laden operatives congratulating each other after the attacks. Information collected days earlier but only now being translated indicated that various known operatives around the world anticipated a big event. None specified the day, time, place or method of attack.” Richard Clarke later corroborates that Tenet had at this time told the president he was certain that al-Qaeda was to blame. Yet only six weeks later, in an October 24, 2001 interview, Rice will claim differently. She will say, “In the first video conference, the assumption that everybody kind of shared was that it was global terrorists.… I don’t believe anybody said this is likely al-Qaeda. I don’t think so.” Tenet also relays a warning the CIA has received from French intelligence, saying another group of terrorists is within US borders and is preparing a second wave of attacks. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld briefs on the status of US forces, and states that about 120 fighters are now above US cities. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 26-27; Clarke, 2004, pp. 21-22; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326 and 554; Tenet, 2007, pp. 169] The meeting reportedly ends around 4:00-4:15 p.m. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Washington Times, 10/8/2002]
Entity Tags: Norman Mineta, Osama bin Laden, Richard Armitage, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Richard A. Clarke, National Security Council, George W. Bush, George J. Tenet, Donald Rumsfeld, Andrew Card, Al-Qaeda, Condoleezza Rice
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
A US Airways plane that is flying to the United States from Madrid, Spain, is incorrectly suspected of being hijacked. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; White House, 10/24/2001] It is stated over an FAA teleconference that the White House has reported this suspicious aircraft, which is heading to Philadelphia International Airport, and the military is scrambling fighter jets in response to it. Accounts conflict over whether the plane is US Airways Flight 930 or Flight 937. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 1/2/2002 ]
Plane Reportedly Transmitting Hijack Signal - Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, who is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, will later recall that when those in the PEOC learn of the suspect flight, “we got word that it was only 30 minutes or so outside of US airspace.” According to Libby, the plane’s transponder is transmitting the code for a hijacking: He will say it is reported that the flight has been “showing hijacking through some electronic signal.” [White House, 11/14/2001]
Plane on the Ground in Spain - After a time, it is found that the plane is not a threat and is on the ground in Spain. Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR) will be called by Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), and told, “We just talked to the airline, and that aircraft is back on the ground in Madrid.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 88] According to Libby, “It turned out that, I think, it was only 35 minutes out of Spanish airspace, not out of our airspace.” [White House, 11/14/2001]
President Decides to Leave Offutt after Concerns Resolved - President Bush discusses the suspicious US Airways flight with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld over the air threat conference call (see 9:37 a.m.-9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001) after landing at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001), and Arnold listens in. After he learns that the plane is back in Spain, Arnold will pick up the hot line and tell Bush: “Mr. President, this is the CONR commander.… No problem with Madrid.” According to Arnold, Bush replies, “Okay, then I’m getting airborne.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 87-88] Bush will take off from Offutt aboard Air Force One at around 4:30 p.m. (see (4:33 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/12/2001] Numerous aircraft are incorrectly suspected of being hijacked on this day (see (9:09 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Newhouse News Service, 3/31/2005] The US Airways flight from Madrid is the last of these, according to Arnold. [Code One Magazine, 1/2002]
Ben Sliney, the national operations manager at the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, announces that the last of the aircraft inbound to the United States has landed. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 279] At 10:21 a.m., the FAA ordered the diversion of all international flights inbound to the US (see 10:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Most flights that were close to US shores then headed for Canada, while other flights headed back to the airports they had come from. [Time, 9/14/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002 ] In total, 239 diverted aircraft have landed at Canadian airports. Most of them had been heading to the US from Europe. [NAV Canada, 7/22/2005]
A Boeing 757 takes off from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, to fly a group of reporters, congressmen, White House staffers, and Secret Service agents to Washington, DC. [Salon, 9/11/2001; Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/2001; Rove, 2010, pp. 259; National Journal, 5/3/2011] The group consists of individuals considered nonessential passengers that had been traveling on Air Force One, whom members of President Bush’s staff decided to leave behind when the president’s plane departed from Barksdale (see (1:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). It includes eight reporters, two congressmen, numerous White House staffers, and several Secret Service agents. After Air Force One took off from the base earlier in the afternoon to fly the president to his next destination (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001), these individuals were escorted to a building, where they remained until the plane arrived for them. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/2001; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 145] Blake Gottesman, Bush’s personal assistant, who was among those left behind at Barksdale, was given the task of getting the group back to Washington. He has been able to commandeer a Boeing 757 from the Air Force’s Special Missions Fleet. [Rove, 2010, pp. 259] This plane was sent from Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, to Barksdale. [Rochester Review, 9/2004] It is painted with the “United States of America” label, and has an office, a private cabin, and all-first class seats. It has in fact been used previously as Air Force One. [USA Today, 9/11/2001] About two hours after the president and his entourage left Barksdale, the plane takes off from the base with the group of former Air Force One passengers on board. [Newseum et al., 2002, pp. 165] It lands at Andrews Air Force Base around 5:00 p.m. [Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/2001; National Journal, 5/3/2011] Reuters correspondent Arshad Mohammed, who is on the plane, will later comment, “It’s sort of amazing that they got us back to DC that same day when planes were locked down all over the country.” [Newseum et al., 2002, pp. 165]
Yaron Shmuel, one of the five Israelis found in the van. [Source: Public domain via Israeli television]The FBI issues a BOLO (be on lookout) bulletin for three suspicious men who were seen leaving the New Jersey waterfront minutes after the first hijacked plane hit the WTC (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Law enforcement officers in the greater New York City area are warned in a radio dispatch to watch for a “vehicle possibly related to New York terrorist attack.” The bulletin reads, in part: “White, 2000 Chevrolet van…with ‘Urban Moving Systems’ sign on back seen at Liberty State Park, Jersey City, NJ, at the time of first impact of jetliner into World Trade Center…. Three individuals with van were seen celebrating after initial impact and subsequent explosion. FBI Newark Field Office requests that, if the van is located, hold for prints and detain individuals.” The van is located a short time later and five men inside it are arrested (see 3:56 p.m. September 11, 2001). [CounterPunch, 2/7/2007]
Robert J. Darling. [Source: Robert J. Darling]Government and military officials in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House learn that the FBI’s crisis response team wants to be flown from California back to Washington, DC, and, because of the team’s crucial role in responding to terrorism, they arrange a flight for it as a matter of priority. [Darling, 2010, pp. 73-75] The FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG) arrived in California the previous day for a week of field training (see September 10, 2001) and was therefore stranded away from Washington when the terrorist attacks occurred this morning (see 10:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [NBC 4, 9/11/2001; Darling, 2010, pp. 75]
FBI San Francisco Office Arranges to Get Team to Washington - Two agents belonging to the CIRG learned of the attacks when the FBI’s San Francisco field office phoned them just before 9:00 a.m. (Eastern time) and alerted them to the events in New York. The agents quickly went to the field office, where Bruce Gebhardt, the special agent in charge, gave them the details of what had happened, and told them to get their team together and head to the San Francisco airport. Gebhardt said that although US airspace was closed to all commercial air traffic (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he would do what he could to get the CIRG transported back to Washington as soon as possible. The team members therefore packed their gear and went to the airport. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 8/18/2004; Darling, 2010, pp. 75-76]
Transporting Unit Home Becomes 'Priority' at White House - In the PEOC, Colonel Michael Irwin, the director of operations for the White House Military Office, is called by a senior member of the FBI, who requests airlift support for the CIRG. The request is quickly passed to Joe Hagin, the White House deputy chief of staff. Hagin hands it back to Irwin and says: “I want you to get these folks back to DC immediately! Let the military know this is a White House priority.” The task of getting the CIRG back to Washington is then passed to Major Robert Darling, the White House Military Office airlift operations liaison officer, who is also in the PEOC. It becomes his “number-one mission priority.” The CIRG is the unit that coordinates the FBI’s rapid response to crisis incidents, including terrorist attacks. Therefore, “It made perfect sense,” Darling will later comment, “that the president would want them home and at the ready, given the day’s events.”
United Airlines Offers to Provide Aircraft - After learning that the FBI has essential personnel trying to return to Washington, United Airlines quickly offers its services. If the White House can authorize an aircraft to fly under the Special Assignment Air Mission designator, the airline says, it will provide the required aircraft and crew immediately. With the approval of Hagin and a phone call to NORAD, United Airlines Flight 8811 is authorized to transport the CIRG back to Washington. “Within the hour” of this authorization being given, according to Darling, the CIRG members will take off from San Francisco and head back to Washington (see Late Afternoon September 11, 2001). [Darling, 2010, pp. 73-76]
White House adviser Karen Hughes briefly speaks to the media and says President Bush is at an undisclosed location, taking part in a video conference. This is possibly the only in-person media appearance by any Bush administration official since the attacks and until a news conference by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld at 6:40 p.m. [CNN, 9/12/2001]
The white van used by five Israeli agents as they were leaving New York on 9/11.Five Israelis are arrested for “puzzling behavior” related to the WTC attacks. Shortly after an FBI lookout bulletin was issued for a van with the words “Urban Moving Systems” written on the side, officers with the East Rutherford Police Department in New Jersey stop the van after matching the license plate number with the one given in the bulletin. According to the police report, Officer Scott DeCarlo and Sgt. Dennis Rivelli approach the van and demand the driver exit the vehicle. The driver, Sivan Kurzberg, does not obey after being asked several more times, so the police physically remove Kurzberg and four other men from the van and handcuff them. They have not been told the reasons for their arrest, but Kurzberg tells them, “We are Israeli. We are not your problem. Your problems are our problems. The Palestinians are the problem.” Again before the police have made any mention of the 9/11 attacks, another one of the arrested men says, “[W]e were on the West Side Highway in New York City during the incident.” In fact, it will later be determined they were on the roof of a building at Liberty State Park, watching and videotaping the first crash into the WTC (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Bergen Record, 9/12/2001; Ha'aretz, 9/17/2001; CounterPunch, 2/7/2007] The FBI and additional police quickly arrive. They shut down the section of Route 3 in East Rutherford where the van was stopped and evacuate a nearby hotel as a security precaution. [Bergen Record, 9/12/2001] One man is found with $4,700 in cash hidden in his sock, another has two foreign passports on him, and a box cutter is found in the van. [ABC News, 6/21/2002] Another has pictures of the men standing with the burning wreckage of the WTC in the background. [Forward, 3/15/2002] All five identify themselves as Israeli citizens and claim to be working for the New Jersey-based Urban Moving Systems company. In addition to the driver Sivan Kurzberg, the others are identified as Paul Kurzberg (Sivan’s brother), Oded Ellner, Omer Marmari, and Yaron Shmuel. The men are detained but not charged. [Forward, 3/15/2002; ABC News, 6/21/2002] The next day it will be reported that “bomb-sniffing dogs reacted as if they had detected explosives.” An investigator high up in the Bergen County law enforcement hierarchy will say in 2006, “There are maps of the city in the car with certain places highlighted…. It looked like they’re hooked in with this [referring to the 9/11 attacks]. It looked like they knew what was going to happen.…It looked like they knew what was going to happen when they were at Liberty State Park.” [Bergen Record, 9/12/2001] The FBI will later conclude at least two of the five are Mossad agents and that all were on a Mossad surveillance mission. The FBI interrogates them for weeks. [Forward, 3/15/2002] They are held on immigration violation charges, but will be released 71 days later (see November 20, 2001). [ABC News, 6/21/2002]
Entity Tags: Yaron Shmuel, Sivan Kurzberg, Urban Moving Systems, World Trade Center, Paul Kurzberg, Scott DeCarlo, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Dennis Rivelli, Omer Marmari, Oded Ellner, Israel Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks (Mossad)
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
While President Bush is conducting a video conference with his principal advisers from a bunker beneath Offutt Air Force Base (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001), most of the people accompanying him are waiting in a conference room across the hallway. Among this group is Bush’s senior adviser Karl Rove. Rove later claims that, around this time, there are rumors that more planes remain unaccounted for. He says that, while “they’ve accounted for all four [hijacked] planes,” there are still concerns that “they’ve got another, I think, three or four or five planes still outstanding.” [New Yorker, 9/25/2001] However, according to the FAA, there are no such reports, and the White House and Pentagon had been quickly informed when US skies were completely cleared at 12:16 p.m. White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett later says he does not know from where Rove got the information about the additional unaccounted-for planes. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 ] But according to tapes of the operations floor at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector later obtained by Vanity Fair, “False reports of hijackings, and real responses, continue well into the afternoon, though civilian air-traffic controllers had managed to clear the skies of all commercial and private aircraft by just after 12 p.m.” (See 10:15 a.m. and After September 11, 2001). [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Despite the Secret Service’s advice that he should remain at Offutt, the president announces around this time that he is returning to Washington (see (4:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001).
Within hours of the 9/11 attacks, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, Alec Station, is tasked to come up with actions that can be taken immediately to strike back at al-Qaeda. According to Michael Scheuer, the first head of Alec Station, one of the most promising ideas considered is to ask other countries to raid Islamist charity fronts and seize computers and documents. Scheuer will later assert that the “suggested raids would have netted far more relevant data on how the [charity front-al-Qaeda link] worked than we ever had before.” However, he claims the White House rejects the idea because of concerns that it would offend Muslim popular opinion. [Scheuer, 2008, pp. 306]
Later in the day of 9/11, weapons are found planted on board three US airplanes. A US official will say, “These look like inside jobs.” Time magazine will later report, “Sources tell Time that US officials are investigating whether the hijackers had accomplices deep inside the airports’ ‘secure’ areas.” [Time, 9/22/2001] Penetrating airport security does not appear to have been that difficult: Argenbright, the company in charge of security at all the airports used by the hijackers, had virtually no security check on any of its employees, and even hired criminals and illegal immigrants. Security appears to be particularly abysmal at Boston’s Logan Airport, even after 9/11. [Boston Globe, 10/1/2001; CNN, 10/12/2001] An FAA official had similar concerns about two other security contractors at Logan Airport: Huntleigh USA, a subsidiary of ICTS International NV, a large Israeli security company, and Globe Aviation. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Christian Science Monitor, 1/8/2002; 9/11 Commission, 3/11/2004, pp. 6 ]
Van Harp. [Source: US Department of Defense]Van Harp, the head of the FBI’s Washington, DC, field office, is away from the capital in South Carolina for his summer vacation, and has to be flown back to Washington in an FBI plane to help respond to the terrorist attacks. [Washington Post, 3/4/2002; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C45, C47; 9/11 Commission, 12/15/2003 ] Harp took command of the Washington field office (WFO) as its new assistant director in charge in July this year. [Washington Post, 4/18/2003; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2010] But on this day he is in Hilton Head, South Carolina, on vacation with his wife, children, and grandchildren. He learned of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center when his secretary, Donna Cummings, paged him shortly after the attack occurred. Harp then called Cummings and she told him what had happened. He switched on the television in time to see the second plane crashing into the WTC, and had known then that he needed to return to Washington.
FBI Granted Permission to Send Plane to Collect Harp - Because all planes have been grounded across the US (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001), the FBI initially arranged for state troopers in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia to drive Harp back to Washington. But the bureau was then able to get special permission from the FAA to send an aircraft to fly Harp home. [Kessler, 2002, pp. 424; Washington Post, 3/4/2002; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C47] The FBI therefore sent one of its aircraft to collect Harp from Hilton Head Airport. The small, single-engine plane received clearance to take off from Manassas Regional Airport, 30 miles west of Washington, at around 2:30 p.m. The time when it lands in Hilton Head is unstated, as is the time when it lands back at the Manassas airport. From the Manassas airport, Harp drives to an FBI command post at Washington Dulles International Airport and then arrives at the WFO sometime later in the afternoon. He will stay at the field office until 2:20 a.m. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; Kessler, 2002, pp. 424; Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002, pp. G-2, S-41 ]
Three of Office's Four Leaders Absent - The WFO is the second largest of the FBI’s 56 field offices in terms of staffing. It comprises 657 agents and 650 professional support staff. Serving under Harp, three special agents in charge (SACs) direct the office’s administrative and technical, criminal investigations, and national security divisions. However, of the WFO’s four senior leaders, only SAC Arthur Eberhart, the head of the administrative and technical division, was present at the office when the terrorist attacks took place. SAC Ellen Knowlton, who headed the criminal investigative division, was recently reassigned to FBI headquarters, and so her position is currently vacant. SAC Timothy Bereznay was only recently appointed to head the national security division, and so he has not yet reported to the WFO. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C3, C45; 9/11 Commission, 12/15/2003 ; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/6/2006] The WFO will be one of the key FBI offices involved in the fight against terrorism following the 9/11 attacks. [Washington Post, 4/18/2003]
CNN reports US officials say there are “good indications” that Osama bin Laden is involved in the attacks, based on “new and specific” information developed since the attacks. [CNN, 9/12/2001]
Brian Stafford. [Source: Publicity photo]President Bush reportedly had begun his video conference call with the National Security Council (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001) by announcing, “I’m coming back to the White House as soon as the plane is fueled. No discussion.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 21] Toward the end of this meeting, around 4 p.m., Secret Service Director Brian Stafford tells Bush, “Our position is stay where you are. It’s not safe.” The Secret Service reportedly wants to keep the president where he is, at Offutt Air Force Base, overnight, and—according to some later accounts—indefinitely. To Stafford’s surprise, Bush ignores his advice and tells him, “I’m coming back.” Leaving the meeting, Bush tells his staff, “We’re going home.” [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 123; Woodward, 2002, pp. 28] Bush adviser Karl Rove later claims that, around this time, there are concerns that several planes still remain unaccounted for (see (4:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001).
Building 7 of the World Trade Center, located across the street from the Twin Towers, caught fire after the initial attacks on the WTC. [CNN, 9/12/2001] By 4:10 in the afternoon, CNN had reported it being on fire (see 4:10 p.m. September 11, 2001). Subsequently it is reported that WTC 7 is in danger of collapsing or may have already collapsed. At around 4:15 p.m., CNN reports, “We’re getting information that one of the other buildings… Building 7… is on fire and has either collapsed or is collapsing… now we’re told there is a fire there and that the building may collapse as well.” About 12 minutes later, BBC reporter Greg Barrow, who is in New York, appears on the BBC radio channel Five Live and says, “We are hearing reports from local media that another building may have caught light and is in danger of collapse.” He adds, “I’m not sure if it has yet collapsed but the report we have is talking about Building 7.” Around this time, the area around Building 7 is being evacuated, apparently because senior firefighters have determined it is in danger of collapsing (see (4:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). At 4:53, based on the earlier reports, the Radio Five Live show’s presenter will incorrectly claim that Building 7 has already collapsed, saying, “Twenty-five minutes ago we had reports from Greg Barrow that another large building has collapsed just over an hour ago.” [BBC, 3/2/2007] Starting at 4:54, BBC television will also begin reporting that Building 7 has already collapsed (see 4:54 p.m.-5:10 p.m. September 11, 2001). In fact, it does not do so until 5:20 (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001).
Fred Simms. [Source: Con Edison]After the fire department informs it that Building 7 of the World Trade Center could collapse, New York power company Con Edison shuts off power to this building. [9/11 Commission, 2/26/2004 ] Con Edison has a major electrical substation on the first and second floors of WTC 7. [New York Times, 9/11/2002; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 5 ] Its representatives who had been in WTC 7 did not think that the building would come down. But, at 4:15 p.m., Con Edison emergency field manager Fred Simms speaks to the New York Fire Department and then tells his company’s headquarters that the fire department thinks WTC 7 will collapse. The fire department then asks Con Edison to shut down the power to WTC 7, which it does. [City of New York, 6/13/2002; 9/11 Commission, 2/26/2004 ] Electric power to Con Edison’s lower Manhattan substation at WTC 7 is shut off at 4:33 p.m. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 303 ] Also around this time, people are evacuated from the area around WTC 7, due to concerns that the building could collapse (see (4:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Kansas City Star, 3/28/2004] WTC 7, a 47-story tower located just to the north of the main WTC complex, will come down at 5:20 p.m. (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. xxxv ] The Con Edison electrical substation below it will be destroyed in this collapse. [New York Times, 9/11/2002]
After President Bush leaves his video conference, other top leaders continue to discuss what steps to take. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke asks what to do about al-Qaeda, assuming they are behind the attacks. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage states, “Look, we told the Taliban in no uncertain terms that if this happened, it’s their ass. No difference between the Taliban and al-Qaeda now. They both go down.” Regarding Pakistan, the Taliban’s patrons, Armitage says, “Tell them to get out of the way. We have to eliminate the sanctuary.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 22-23]
According to numerous rescue and recovery workers, the area around WTC Building 7 is evacuated at this time. [Kansas City Star, 3/28/2004] For example:
Emergency medical technician Joseph Fortis says, “They pulled us all back at the time, almost about an hour before it, because they were sure—they knew it was going to come down, but they weren’t sure.” [City of New York, 11/9/2001]
Firefighter Edward Kennedy says, ” I remember [Chief Visconti] screaming about 7, No. 7, that they wanted everybody away from 7 because 7 was definitely going to collapse.” [City of New York, 1/17/2002]
Firefighter Vincent Massa: “They were concerned about seven coming down, and they kept changing us, establishing a collapse zone and backing us up.” [City of New York, 12/4/2001]
Firefighter Tiernach Cassidy: “[B]uilding seven was in eminent collapse. They blew the horns. They said everyone clear the area until we got that last civilian out.” [City of New York, 12/30/2001]
Battalion Fire Chief John Norman: “I was detailed to make sure the collapse zone for 7 WTC had been set up and was being maintained.” [Fire Engineering, 10/2002]
Several New York Fire Department chief officers, who have surveyed Building 7, have apparently determined it is in danger of collapsing. [Fire Engineering, 9/2002] For example, Fire Chief Daniel Nigro explains their decision-making process, saying, “A number of fire officers and companies assessed the damage to the building. The appraisals indicated that the building’s integrity was in serious doubt. I issued the orders to pull back the firefighters and define the collapse zone.” [Fire Engineering, 9/2002] Fire Chief Frank Fellini says, “We were concerned that the fires on several floors and the missing steel would result in the building collapsing.” [City of New York, 12/3/2001] And Fire Captain Ray Goldbach says, “[W]e made a decision to take all of our units out of 7 World Trade Center because there was a potential for collapse.” [City of New York, 10/24/2001] However, some firefighters seem surprised at this decision. When Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen is making his way through hundreds of firefighters who are being held away from the WTC site, he hears complaints like, “It could take days for that building to come down,” and, “Why don’t they let us in there?” [Essen, 2002, pp. 45] When Deputy Fire Chief Nick Visconti is instructing firefighters to evacuate the area, one comment he receives is, “[O]h, that building is never coming down, that didn’t get hit by a plane, why isn’t somebody in there putting the fire out?” [Firehouse Magazine, 9/9/2002]
Entity Tags: Nick Visconti, Daniel Nigro, Joseph Fortis, John Norman, World Trade Center, Ray Goldbach, Thomas Von Essen, Edward M. (“Ted”) Kennedy, Vincent Massa, Tiernach Cassidy, Frank Fellini
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Members of Laura Bush’s staff who are with the first lady at the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC, go to the White House and then head home. [National Journal, 8/31/2002] Most of Bush’s staffers are with the first lady at the Secret Service headquarters, having been with Bush for her scheduled appearance on Capitol Hill this morning. (Bush’s other staffers stayed behind at the White House.) [ABC, 9/18/2001 ] They were brought to the headquarters for their own safety (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Kessler, 2006, pp. 136] Some of them briefly returned to the White House earlier in the afternoon, to collect some of Bush’s belongings (see (1:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). Members of Bush’s staff now leave the Secret Service headquarters and go to the White House a final time. There, they have to show a Secret Service agent their IDs. “Then,” according to Noelia Rodriguez, the first lady’s press secretary, “it was time to go home.” The first lady will head back to the White House at 6:30 p.m. (see 6:30 p.m. September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 203]
Gallatin Field Airport in Bozeman, Montana. [Source: Gallatin Field Airport]Several dozen emergency management officials and federal staff from Eastern US states, including Virginia and Washington, DC, are flown back to their home states from Montana. They are among hundreds of emergency management personnel who have been attending the annual conference of the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) in Big Sky, Montana, which began on September 8 (see September 8-11, 2001). [Natural Hazards Observer, 3/2001; State Government News, 10/2001 ] The emergency managers learned of the attacks in New York while waiting to participate in a series of conference sessions on domestic preparedness (see After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [State Government News, 10/2001 ; Stateline (.org), 9/10/2002] The conference’s organizers then began arranging for military aircraft to fly state emergency management leaders back to their capitals. [New York Times, 9/12/2001]
Seven Hours before Plane Cleared to Fly Managers Home - An Air Force C-17 cargo plane now flies more than 40 emergency managers and federal staff from the airport in Bozeman, Montana, back to their home states. They have had to wait at the airport for more than seven hours while others at the conference site arranged clearance from the FAA for the aircraft to take them home. [State Government News, 10/2001 ] Military aircraft reportedly fly about 23 emergency management directors back to their home states on this day. [Stateline (.org), 10/11/2001] Ed Jacoby, the director of the New York State Emergency Management Office, was flown back to New York State earlier on (see (After 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [119th Fighter Wing, 10/25/2001; Stateline (.org), 9/10/2002] Many of those attending the NEMA conference who are unable to get on emergency military flights to take them home have to instead drive hundreds, or in some cases thousands, of miles to get back to their states. [State Government News, 10/2001 ]
Fighter pilots who have been escorting Air Force One as it transports President Bush across the US are not informed that the president’s plane is departing Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, and have to try and catch up with it after they hear it taking off. The pilots belong to the 147th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard. Four F-16s from the wing have been escorting Air Force One since before it landed at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Pilots Told They Would Be Called When Air Force One Is Leaving - After Air Force One landed at Offutt Air Force Base (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001), the F-16s landed there as well. The fighter pilots then met with Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One. Tillman asked them about the capabilities of the F-16. He also took down their cell phone numbers and said he would call them when Air Force One would be leaving the base. However, he was unable to tell them where Air Force One would be going next, so the fighter pilots could not file a flight plan. The fighter pilots then headed off to get a snack and a drink.
Air Force One Takes Off, Pilots Not Informed - However, they are not informed when Air Force One, with Bush on board, takes off from Offutt (see (4:33 p.m.) September 11, 2001). One of the fighter pilots, Major Shane Brotherton, will later recall: “We were eating our snacks and heard jet noise. It was Air Force One and they’d never called us. We got to the jets and he’s taxiing fast and never stopped. Now we’re taxiing fast and we blast off.” By the time the fighters are airborne, Air Force One is 100 miles ahead of them. Some Iowa Air National Guard fighters from Sioux City are also now airborne to protect the president’s plane, but the 147th Fighter Wing jets continue to follow it. Brotherton will recall: “All across the country we were playing catch up, because [Air Force One] was moving. And we didn’t catch up until we were nearing Washington.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 87-88]
This photo of Bush speaking to Cheney shortly after leaving Offutt will later be used for Republican fundraising purposes.
[Source: White House]President Bush leaves Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska for Washington. [CNN, 9/12/2001; MSNBC, 9/22/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Washington Times, 10/8/2002] He calls his wife Laura on the phone and tells her, “I’m coming home. See you at the White House. Love you, go on home.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 123; Woodward, 2002, pp. 28]
The plane with General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on board lands at Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, DC, after repeatedly being denied permission to enter US airspace. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001 ; Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 ] At the time of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Shelton was flying toward Europe to attend a NATO conference. After he learned of the second attack, he ordered that his plane turn around and head back to the US (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 430-431] However, for a number of hours, the plane, nicknamed “Speckled Trout,” was refused clearance to return because the nation’s airspace had been shut down (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). After flying in a “holding pattern” near Greenland and later flying in another holding pattern over Canada, the plane was finally cleared to fly back into the United States (see (After 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 ] It was escorted by F-16 fighter jets as it flew into the US airspace. [Sanger Herald, 10/17/2013] After flying over New York, Speckled Trout lands at Andrews Air Force Base. [Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 ] It is recorded as having landed at 4:40 p.m. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001 ] “We landed to find the normally bustling Air Force base like a ghost town,” Shelton will later recall. “Like so many government institutions, parts of the base bad been evacuated.” At the base, Shelton is “met by an entourage of three District of Columbia patrol cars and about a dozen motorcycle cops,” which will escort his car, “lights flashing and sirens blaring,” to the Pentagon. [Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 433-434; UNC-TV, 1/27/2013] He will join other senior officials in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon at 5:40 p.m. (see 5:40 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Myers, 2009, pp. 159]
The BBC’s Jane Standley, reporting the collapse of WTC 7 while it is visible still standing behind her. [Source: BBC]Several times, the BBC reports that Building 7 of the World Trade Center has collapsed, when it is in fact still standing. At 4:54 p.m., its domestic television news channel, BBC News 24, reports, “We’re now being told that yet another enormous building has collapsed… it is the 47-story Salomon Brothers building [i.e. WTC 7].” Three minutes later, its international channel, BBC World, reports, “We’ve got some news just coming in actually that the Salomon brothers building in New York right in the heart of Manhattan has also collapsed.” Then, at about 5:10 p.m., BBC World repeats the claim: “I was talking a few moments ago about the Salomon building collapsing and indeed it has… it seems this wasn’t the result of a new attack but because the building had been weakened during this morning’s attack.” Yet WTC 7 does not collapse until 5:20 p.m., over 25 minutes after the BBC first reported it (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). The BBC’s live shot even shows the building still standing in the background, while its collapse is being reported. When these reports come to light early in 2007, Richard Porter, the head of news for BBC World, will suggest the error was due to the “confusing and chaotic situation on the ground” on 9/11. [BBC, 3/2/2007] Starting around 4:15 p.m., CNN and other news outlets had been reporting that WTC 7 was in danger of collapsing or may already have collapsed (see (4:15 p.m.-4:27 p.m.) September 11, 2001).
Congressional leaders who have been evacuated to a secure bunker in Virginia speak with other members of Congress back in Washington, and decide Congress will reconvene the following morning. [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 116; Lott, 2005, pp. 221] Members of the House and Senate leaderships were evacuated to the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Facility in Bluemont, Virginia, during the morning and early afternoon (see (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between Late Morning and Early Afternoon) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/15/2002] Other senators and representatives have spent the day at the Capitol Police headquarters back in Washington. [Los Angeles Times, 9/12/2001] About 50 of them are now assembled in a first-floor conference room and speak by telephone with the leaders at Mount Weather. They all discuss when Congress should reconvene, with some wanting to do so this evening. It is decided that Congress will not reconvene until the following morning, but the leaders will return to Washington this evening, and then leaders and members will appear together to announce to the press that they will be back in session the next day. [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 116; Lott, 2005, pp. 221] The Congressional leaders will return to Washington around 6:00 p.m. (see (Between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001) and their press conference is held around 7:25 (see 7:24 p.m. September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/11/2001; Hastert, 2004, pp. 10]
Tom Clancy. [Source: UPI]CNN’s Judy Woodruff remarks, “People in our newsroom have been saying today that what is happening is like right out of a Tom Clancy novel.” [CNN, 9/11/2001] James Lindsay, a former member of the Clinton administration’s national security team, subsequently comments on the attacks, “People both inside and outside the government would think this is more the stuff of a Tom Clancy novel than reality.” [Washington Post, 9/12/2001] Clancy had in fact written a book called Debt of Honor, released in 1994, that included a plotline of a suicide pilot deliberately crashing a Boeing 747 into the US Capitol building (see August 17, 1994). Presumably influenced by this book, Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA) had outlined a similar scenario the following year, which he’d said was “not far-fetched” (see April 3, 1995). Some commentators will later refer to Clancy’s book when criticizing official claims of surprise at the nature of the 9/11 attacks. Air Force Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, who was in the Pentagon when it was struck, will write, “I thought most people in the military read Tom Clancy novels in the 1990s. And yet, military leaders and spokespersons consistently expressed shock and surprise at such a possibility.… Was Tom Clancy really more savvy than the entire Pentagon?” [Griffin and Scott, 2006, pp. 27] Newsday columnist James Pinkerton later comments, “insofar as Clancy is one of the best-selling authors in the country with a particularly large following among military types, it’s a depressing commentary on military intelligence that Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, could say, a month [after 9/11], to the American Forces Radio and Television Service, ‘You hate to admit it, but we hadn’t thought about this.’” [Newsday, 5/20/2002]
Trent Lott. [Source: Publicity photo]Despite having been instructed by Vice President Dick Cheney to remain where they are, Congressional leaders who have been evacuated to a secure bunker outside Washington decide to return to the capital and are then flown back there. [Hastert, 2004, pp. 10; Lott, 2005, pp. 222] A number of members of the House and Senate leaderships were evacuated to the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Facility in Bluemont, Virginia, during the morning and early afternoon (see (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between Late Morning and Early Afternoon) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/15/2002] According to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), who is among this group: “We all felt anxious and frustrated, feeling responsible as Congressional leaders to both communicate and take action, but unable to do either. We talked among ourselves of our concern for our loved ones back in Washington and our need to be with them as soon as possible.” In particular, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) begins “pressing the people around him—his own security detail and the facility’s personnel—about his strong desire to get back to Washington.” [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 115] However, during a teleconference, Vice President Cheney told the leaders they could not leave Mount Weather (see (Between 2:50 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] Lott will recall that, in spite of this, he makes the decision to go back to Washington and arranges for this to happen: “I’d finally had enough. I told my ground security to leave for the Capitol, and now—‘because I’m not spending the night here.’ I had this decision radioed back to the vice president’s people, and the others pulling the strings. They finally relented and arranged to have us ferried back to the Capitol by helicopter.” [Lott, 2005, pp. 222] But House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) will say he in fact is responsible for making this decision, and that he then tells his colleagues: “Hey, it’s up to us. We need to stand together, go back to Washington and show people that we are standing together.” The leaders are flown back to Washington at around 6:00 p.m. [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 116; Hastert, 2004, pp. 10]
Mark Jacobson, a reporter for New York Magazine, later recounts an encounter he has about this time. Walking through the ruins of the World Trade Center complex, he sits down next to a weary and dust covered firefighter. The firefighter points to WTC Building 7, perhaps 400 yards away, and says, “That building is coming down.” Jacobson asks when and the firefighter responds, “Tonight. Maybe tomorrow morning.” Jacobson watches as the building collapses about five minutes later. [New York Magazine, 3/20/2006]
The 47-story WTC Building 7 collapses. It housed New York City’s emergency command center, offices of the FBI, CIA, and various commercial offices. The collapse of the building buries an electrical substation containing more than 130,000 gallons of oil from transformers and high-voltage lines—most of which contain low levels of hazardous PCBs—that provides fuel for a fire that will burn for more than three months contaminating the city’s air with a number of toxins including dibenzo-p-dioxins, dibenzofurans, and other polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Hang, 11/26/2001; New York Daily News, 11/27/2001; New York Daily News, 11/29/2001; Stanford Report, 12/5/2001; Environmental Law, 12/26/2001; Alexander's Gas & Oil Connections, 1/9/2002; Kupferman, 2003 ]
A four-image progression of photos showing World Trade Center Building 7 collapsing down into its footprint. [Source: unknown] (click image to enlarge)Building 7 of the World Trade Center complex, a 47-story tower, collapses. No one is killed. [CNN, 9/12/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001; MSNBC, 9/22/2001; Associated Press, 8/21/2002] It collapses in 6.6 seconds, which is just 0.6 of a second longer than it would have taken a free-falling object dropped from its roof to hit the ground. [Deseret Morning News, 11/10/2005] Many questions will arise over the cause of its collapse in the coming months and years. Building 7, which was not hit by an airplane, is the first modern, steel-reinforced high-rise to collapse because of fire. [Chicago Tribune, 11/29/2001; Stanford Report, 12/5/2001; New York Times, 3/2/2002] Some will later suggest that the diesel fuel stored in several tanks on the premises may have contributed to the building’s collapse. The building contained a 6,000-gallon tank between its first and second floors and another four tanks, holding as much as 36,000 gallons, below ground level. There were also three smaller tanks on higher floors. [Chicago Tribune, 11/29/2001; New York Times, 3/2/2002; New York Observer, 3/25/2002; Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 1-17] However, the cause of the collapse is uncertain. A 2002 government report will conclude: “The specifics of the fires in WTC 7 and how they caused the building to collapse remain unknown at this time. Although the total diesel fuel on the premises contained massive potential energy, the best hypothesis has only a low probability of occurrence.” [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 1-17] Some reports indicate that the building may have been deliberately destroyed. Shortly after the collapse, CBS News anchor Dan Rather comments that the collapse is “reminiscent of… when a building was deliberately destroyed by well-placed dynamite to knock it down.” [CBS News, 9/11/2001] And moments after the collapse, MSNBC’s Brian Williams joins David Restuccio, an FDNY lieutenant, by phone to ask him about the collapse. “You guys knew this was coming all day?” asks Williams. Restuccio replies: “We had heard reports that the building was unstable, and that it would eventually need to come down on its own, or it would be taken down. I would imagine it came down on its own.” Restuccio does not explain what he means by “it would be taken down.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2001]
United Airlines Flight 8811 takes off from San Francisco, California, to transport a group of FBI agents to Washington, DC. The Boeing 757 is carrying 75 FBI agents and 14,000 pounds of equipment across the US. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 279] The agents are members of the FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG) and its Hostage Rescue Team, which is operated by the CIRG, who arrived in California the previous day for a week of field training (see September 10, 2001) and were therefore stranded away from Washington when the terrorist attacks occurred this morning (see 10:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). After learning that the FBI had essential personnel wanting to return to Washington, United Airlines offered to provide an aircraft and crew to fly them home (see (3:50 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [NBC 4, 9/11/2001; Darling, 2010, pp. 73-76] Flight 8811 has received approval to take off from NORAD headquarters. It is one of the first non-military aircraft to be permitted to take off since NORAD implemented a limited version of a plan called “SCATANA,” which gave the military control over US airspace (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). After taking off, the plane’s pilot, Captain Barry Nance, is cleared “direct” across the country. As he flies to Washington, Nance hears just three other aircraft over the radio, all of them military fighter jets. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Spencer, 2008, pp. 279] Flight 8811 will reach Washington just after midnight and land at Reagan National Airport. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 282; Lynn Spencer, 2008]
Liz Cheney, the eldest daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, her husband, Philip Perry, and their children are taken by the Secret Service to Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland. [United States Secret Service, 11/17/2001 ] Camp David is located about 70 miles northwest of Washington, DC, in the Catoctin Mountains. The retreat is closed to the public and surrounded by maximum security fencing. [BBC, 7/10/2000; Washington Times, 3/28/2003; Baltimore Sun, 9/2/2011] Cheney and her family are transported there from a secure government facility at Mount Weather, Virginia, where they were taken by the Secret Service earlier in the day (see 12:45 p.m.-1:15 p.m. September 11, 2001). They will arrive at Camp David at 7:05 p.m. Cheney’s parents—Dick and Lynne Cheney—will join them there at around 10:30 p.m. (see Shortly After 10:00 p.m. September 11, 2001). Liz Cheney, Perry, and their children will leave Camp David the following morning. [United States Secret Service, 11/17/2001 ]
General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, finally arrives at the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon after returning to the US when his flight to Europe was aborted.
Vice Chairman Updates Shelton - After Shelton enters the NMCC, General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, briefs him. Myers says that Air National Guard and regular Air Force combat air patrols are flying above major US cities under AWACS control, the entire US military is on Threatcon level Delta, and the Joint Forces Command is sending headquarters units to New York and Washington, DC.
Intelligence Director Says Only One 'Hint' Indicated Possible Attack - Shelton then turns to Vice Admiral Tom Wilson, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Rear Admiral Lowell Jacoby, the director of intelligence for the Joint Staff, and asks them, “Have we had any intel ‘squeaks’ on an attack like this—anything at all?” Wilson replies: “The only possible hint of this coming was several months ago when we got a single intercept requesting jumbo jet training. Since then, there’s been nothing.” Myers will later comment that Wilson is “referring to the vast electronic signals data-mining operations of our intelligence community that targeted known terrorist networks, such as al-Qaeda and their allies.” [Myers, 2009, pp. 159]
Shelton Flying to Europe at Time of Attacks - Shelton was flying across the Atlantic Ocean to Hungary for a NATO conference when he learned of the terrorist attacks in the US, and had ordered that his plane return to Washington (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the plane was repeatedly denied permission to enter US airspace (see (After 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and only landed at Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, at 4:40 p.m. (see 4:40 p.m. September 11, 2001). From there, three patrol cars and about a dozen motorcycle cops escorted the chairman and his accompanying staff members as they were driven to the Pentagon. Once at the Pentagon, Shelton initially went to his office and then visited the site of the attack, to see the wreckage there. After returning to the building, he headed to the NMCC. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001 ; Giesemann, 2008, pp. 22-32; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 430-436; Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 ]
Chairman in Office for Much of Evening - Shelton will spend much of the evening in his office with staff, preparing for meetings of the National Security Council later this evening and the following day (see (9:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and September 12, 2001). At 6:42 p.m., he will join Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John Warner (R-VA) to give a news briefing (see 6:42 p.m. September 11, 2001), and at around 9:00 p.m. he will head to the White House for the National Security Council meeting there. [CNN, 9/12/2001; Priest, 2003, pp. 37; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 436]
Two F-15 fighter jets that have been patrolling the airspace above New York are instructed to investigate a supposedly suspicious aircraft, but upon inspection find it to be the tanker plane that has been providing them with fuel. [Richard, 2010, pp. 130-131] The two fighters, which belong to the 102nd Fighter Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts, are piloted by Major Martin Richard and Major Robert Martyn. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001] They arrived over New York at around 11:00 a.m., after being instructed to set up a combat air patrol over the city (see (11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 10/14/2003 ; Richard, 2010, pp. 24]
NEADS Reports Suspect Aircraft over Long Island - After patrolling the New York airspace for several hours, the two pilots are preparing to fly back to Otis Air Base. Suddenly, a controller at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) calls and alerts them to a suspicious aircraft in the area. The controller says, “We have a report of a light aircraft flying erratically, 15 west of your position over Long Island.” After Martyn acknowledges the message, the two fighters bank hard to the left and descend. Richard reaches an altitude of about 500 feet, but, as his plane’s radar sweeps, he looks around and sees nothing there. He calls out, “Picture clear,” and then reports back to NEADS. The NEADS controller then tells Richard to “skip it,” and says the suspect aircraft is now “20 northeast of your position, at 30,000 feet.” He asks if the two fighters have enough fuel to investigate it and Richard responds, “Affirmative.” Richard and Martyn then reform and increase their power. However, Richard will later write, “It didn’t make any sense that a large aircraft would make it from the city, head northeast, and climb to 30,000 feet undetected.”
Pilot Inspects Aircraft, Finds It Is Tanker Plane - Martyn asks the NEADS controller, “Are you sure that’s not the tanker we just used over Ground Zero?” but the controller retorts, “Unknown.” Martyn says to Richard over the radio, “That’s the tanker we just were refueling with,” and asks him if he has enough fuel left to go and identify the target. Richard says he has and then flies above Martyn. He closes in to within about three miles of the aircraft NEADS identified, and can see the engines and the boom, revealing it to indeed be the tanker that has been providing them with fuel. He thinks to himself, “How could [NEADS] have screwed this up?” He will later reflect, “It was incredible to me that they didn’t know this was the tanker we had just left!” Richard calls NEADS and tells the controller there, “It’s the tanker.” Sheepishly, the controller confirms the message. [Richard, 2010, pp. 130-131] Richard and Martyn then return to Otis Air Base at around 6:00 p.m. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001]
The Washington Post reports, “Several US officials said there was no warning in the days before the attacks that a major operation was in the works. ‘In terms of specific warning that something of this nature was to occur, no,’ one official said.” [Washington Post, 9/11/2001] An anonymous “senior US official” tells ABC News, “There were no warnings regarding time or place. There are always generic threats now but there was nothing to indicate anything specific of this nature. In fact, in recent weeks, we were not in all that high a period of threat warning.” [ABC News, 9/12/2001]
On the evening of September 11, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the military decline to comment on whether fighter jets were launched to intercept any of the hijacked aircraft earlier in the day. Laura Brown, an FAA spokeswoman, refuses to say whether the agency requested military intercepts. Major Barry Venable, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), similarly says he does not know whether the FAA asked NORAD to send up jets to intercept the errant aircraft. Lt. Col. Margaret Quenneville, a spokeswoman for the 102nd Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, which operates from Otis Air National Guard Base at Cape Cod, refuses to comment on whether the fighter wing was requested to intercept the hijacked airliners. [Cape Cod Times, 9/12/2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/12/2001] Several days later, it will be revealed that two F-15s were indeed launched from Otis around the time the first WTC tower was hit, and three F-16s were launched from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia shortly before the time the Pentagon was hit (see September 14, 2001). [CBS News, 9/14/2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/16/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001] But as late as September 15, the New York Times is reporting, “The Federal Aviation Administration has officially refused to discuss its procedures or the sequence of events on Tuesday morning, saying these are part of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s inquiry.” [New York Times, 9/15/2001]
An unidentified fast-moving aircraft is noticed flying toward Air Force One as it is bringing President Bush back to Washington, DC, but the aircraft turns out to be just a Learjet, reportedly “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 88] Bush announced he would be returning to Washington while he was at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska (see (4:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001), and his plane left the base and headed for the capital shortly after 4:30 p.m. (see (4:33 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 123; Bush, 2010, pp. 135] As Air Force One is approaching Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, fighter jets belonging to the District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG) and the 119th Fighter Wing are flying combat air patrols over the capital. They have been joined by a number of other fighters from across the northeast US.
Pilots Told They Will Be Escorting Air Force One - Among the pilots flying over Washington are Lieutenant Colonel Marc Sasseville and Lieutenant Heather Penney of the DCANG, who are flying their second mission of the day. Sasseville and Penney are instructed to contact an Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) plane in their area and “expect special tasking.” When they make contact with the AWACS plane, its controller directs them to fly about 160 miles to the west and says they are going to “escort Air Force One.” Two of the 119th Fighter Wing’s jets offer to accompany Sasseville and Penney, and Sasseville accepts.
Unidentified Aircraft Seen Flying toward Air Force One - A short time later, an AWACS controller reports that a fast-moving unidentified aircraft is flying toward Air Force One. The aircraft is currently about 70 miles southwest of the president’s plane, but is on a “cutoff vector” to Air Force One. The controller reports that the suspicious plane is flying above 40,000 feet, whereas Air Force One is “in the 20,000 feet range.” All the same, Sasseville directs the 119th Fighter Wing’s jets to intercept the aircraft and they quickly do so.
Aircraft Is Not a Threat - The suspicious aircraft turns out to be just a Learjet “that hadn’t yet landed after aircraft nationwide had been ordered out of the air,” according to Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 88] However, the FAA ordered that all airborne aircraft must land at the nearest airport many hours earlier, at around 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure, 9/21/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 25] The plane is simply “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” according to author Leslie Filson. [Filson, 2003, pp. 88] “There was a Learjet vectored on Air Force One,” Sasseville will tell the 9/11 Commission, “but it was nothing.” [9/11 Commission, 3/11/2004 ] The two DCANG fighters and the two 119th Fighter Wing jets will subsequently accompany Air Force One as it flies into Andrews Air Force Base. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002]
As Air Force One is approaching Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, with the president on board, the FAA reports an aircraft racing towards it. Fighters quickly intercept the aircraft, which turns out to be a Lear business jet, “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 88]
New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani urges New Yorkers to stay home the following day. [CNN, 9/12/2001]
Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England will later claim that President Bush makes an unpublicized visit to the Pentagon at this time. In 2007, England will recall in a speech, “Then that night, on 9/11, we had a meeting in the Pentagon—and I remember this well, because the president came to the Pentagon that evening, at 6:15 in the evening… And the president came and met in the conference room right next to Secretary Rumsfeld’s office. And he came and he said, ‘Get ready.’ He said,‘Get ready.’ He said, ‘This is going to be a long war.’” [US Department of Defense, 1/22/2007] If this account is true, then Air Force One must have flown very quickly from Nebraska (if reports are true Bush left at 4:33 (see (4:33 p.m.) September 11, 2001), the plane would have travelled at about 700 mph, faster than its official top speed of 600 mph), and Bush must have stayed at the Pentagon briefly before arriving live on camera at the White House around 6:45 (see (6:54 p.m.) September 11, 2001). If Bush did go to the Pentagon, is it not exactly clear why or why no account would mention it until 2007.
Laura Bush, the president’s wife, is driven, by members of the Secret Service, to the White House from the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC, and is then escorted down to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House. [Bush, 2010, pp. 203-204] Bush was brought to the Secret Service headquarters this morning for her own safety (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Woodward, 2002, pp. 17; Kessler, 2006, pp. 136]
First Lady Reassured that No More Attacks Will Occur - There, she spent much of the afternoon “like most other Americans, glued to the television,” according to Us Weekly magazine. Bush was, however, “perhaps more at ease than the average American because her [Secret Service] agents were receiving news before it was reported on television.” Bush will later recall: “[A]fter some time, we started hearing from our agents that most of the planes [in US airspace] had been accounted for, fairly early in the day, I think, before they really started announcing it on television. So at some point we started feeling reassured that [a terrorist attack] wasn’t going to happen again that day.” After Bush and those with her learned that the president would be returning to Washington today (see (4:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and (4:33 p.m.) September 11, 2001), Bush’s Secret Service agents decided that the first lady could go back to the White House.
First Lady Arrives at White House - At 6.30 p.m., she will recall, Bush gets into a Secret Service motorcade and is driven to the White House by Dave Saunders, one of her agents. [CNN, 9/11/2001; Us Weekly, 10/15/2001; Kessler, 2006, pp. 136; Bush, 2010, pp. 203] It is a short journey, as the Secret Service headquarters is just a few blocks from the White House. [Washington Post, 8/23/2009] Bush is driven along the deserted streets and then her vehicle goes at full throttle through the gate of the White House. She notices “[h]eavily armed men in black” swarming over the White House grounds. She then gets out of the vehicle, preceded by her Secret Service agents.
First Lady Taken to Underground Conference Room - Bush is “hustled inside” the White House, she will recall, and taken “downstairs through a pair of big steel doors that closed behind me with a loud hiss, forming an airtight seal.” She then walks along the hallway below the White House to the PEOC, and is taken into the conference room adjacent to the PEOC’s “nerve center.” Those already in the room include National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, White House counselor Karen Hughes, and deputy White House chief of staff Josh Bolten. Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne Cheney, are also there. Lynne Cheney comes over and hugs the first lady. She then whispers into the first lady’s ear, “The plane that hit the Pentagon circled the White House first” (see 9:34 a.m.- 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). This information, Bush will comment, causes a “shiver” to “vibrate down [her] spine.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 203-204] President Bush will join the first lady in the PEOC at 7:10 p.m., after he arrives at the White House (see 7:10 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Bush, 2010, pp. 137-138; Bush, 2010, pp. 204-205] Staffers who were with the first lady at the Secret Service headquarters went to the White House and then headed home at around 4:30 p.m. (see (4:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 8/31/2002]
Donald Rumsfeld (center) with, left to right, Secretary of the Army Tom White, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Henry Shelton, and Senators John Warner (R-VI) and Carl Levin (D-MI). [Source: Bob Houlihan / US Navy]At a press briefing, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld takes Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) to task for the Democrats’ opposition to increased defense spending. After answering questions about the terrorist attacks and assuring the nation that “the Pentagon is functioning,” Rumsfeld suddenly turns to Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and says: “Senator Levin, you and other Democrats in Congress have voiced fear that you simply don’t have enough money for the large increase in defense that the Pentagon is seeking, especially for missile defense, and you fear that you’ll have to dip into the Social Security funds to pay for it. Does this sort of thing convince you that an emergency exists in this country to increase defense spending, to dip into Social Security, if necessary, to pay for defense spending—increase defense spending?” Levin replies: “One thing where the committee was unanimous on, among many, many other things, was that the—we authorized the full request of the president, including the $18 billion. So I would say that Democrats and Republicans have seen the need for the request.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001]
Donald Rumsfeld speaking at his 6:42 p.m. news briefing. Behind the secretary of defense, left to right, are Thomas White, Henry Shelton, John Warner, and Carl Levin. [Source: Bob Houlihan/US Navy]Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and four other senior officials give a news briefing at the Pentagon, which is broadcast live around the world, to reassure the public that the US government is still functioning and the nation is strong, and during the briefing Rumsfeld says that, despite the devastating attack there, the Pentagon will reopen the following day. [Government Executive, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; Giesemann, 2008, pp. 34; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 436] Joining Rumsfeld in the Pentagon press room to give the briefing are Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John Warner (R-VA), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the committee’s ranking minority member, respectively; General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has returned to the US after his flight to Europe was aborted (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001); and Secretary of the Army Thomas White, who has come to the Pentagon from the alternate command location. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 145] Levin and Warner called Rumsfeld earlier in the day, promising him their wholehearted support, and he had suggested they come over to the Pentagon. [Clarke, 2006, pp. 228]
Officials Addressing Millions of Americans - As Rumsfeld and the four other men stood outside the press room before the briefing, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke informed them, “Gentlemen, you are about to address 320 million Americans who have witnessed an unspeakable tragedy today.” [Giesemann, 2008, pp. 34]
Pentagon 'Will Be in Business Tomorrow' - Rumsfeld begins the briefing, reading out a statement he has written by hand. He says, “This is a tragic day for our country,” and adds, “We have taken a series of measures to prevent further attacks and to determine who is responsible.” After summarizing some of the Defense Department’s actions throughout the day, Rumsfeld gives reassurance that the Pentagon is still up and running, pointing out that “the briefing here is taking place in the Pentagon. The Pentagon’s functioning,” and, he adds, “It will be in business tomorrow.” Shelton calls the day’s terrorist attacks “an outrageous act of barbaric terrorism carried out by fanatics,” and states, “I have no intentions of discussing today what comes next, but make no mistake about it, your armed forces are ready.”
'No Information' that Military Shot Down Any Aircraft - Rumsfeld takes a number of questions from reporters, but refuses to speculate about any uncertain information. When asked: “What about Osama bin Laden? Do you suspect him as the prime suspect in this?” Rumsfeld answers, “It’s not the time for discussions like that.” One reporter says, “[T]here were rumors earlier in the day that the plane which crashed in Pennsylvania had been brought down by the United States, either shot down or in some other manner,” to which Rumsfeld responds, “We have absolutely no information that any US aircraft shot down any other aircraft today.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001; Clarke, 2006, pp. 230-231]
Briefing Would Be a 'Powerful Statement' - The briefing has come about because Clarke felt earlier on that Rumsfeld should do a media briefing today and that, despite the objections of others, it should be conducted at the Pentagon, as this would be “the most powerful statement we could deliver that we were open for business.” Rumsfeld agreed with Clarke’s suggestion to hold such a briefing. [Clarke, 2006, pp. 229-230] Shelton will later recall that the feedback the briefing generates “by far surpassed any other I have ever received. The nation was obviously shaken and looking for reassurance that their government was still functioning.” [Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 436]
Members of the Secret Service emergency response team (ERT) are ordered to pull back out of camera range when President Bush’s helicopter arrives at the White House, which means they are too far from the president to respond effectively should something bad happen. ERT officers are waiting on the South Lawn of the White House when Marine One, the president’s helicopter, lands there with Bush on board (see (6:54 p.m.) September 11, 2001). However, senior Secret Service officials who are also present order them to “pull back so that the television cameras would not capture images of the heavily armed sharpshooters and alarm the public,” according to US News and World Report. Several ERT officers will later report that they are therefore “too far away from the president when he stepped out of Marine One to be effective if something had happened.” ERT members are the Secret Service’s “sharpshooters assigned to respond to any terrorist strike,” according to US News and World Report. [US News and World Report, 12/1/2002; Melanson, 2005, pp. 331] They are “[d]edicated to protecting the president and securing the White House grounds,” according to the Daily Mail, and are “skilled, unobtrusive, and absolutely lethal when called upon.” [Daily Mail, 12/16/2010]
According to journalist Kathy Gannon, President Bush calls Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf at some point during the evening of 9/11. Bush tells Musharraf he has to choose between supporting or opposing the US. “Musharraf promised immediate and unconditional support for the United States and said he could stop Pakistan’s support for the Taliban. Overnight, Musharraf went from pariah to valued friend.” [Gannon, 2005, pp. 146] Similar conversations will take place between US officials and the ISI Director who happens to be in Washington (see September 13-15, 2001). But despite these promises, the Pakistani ISI will continue to secretly help the Taliban (see for instance Mid-September-October 7, 2001, September 17-18 and 28, 2001 and Early October 2001).
President Bush and Laura Bush talking with Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center. [Source: Eric Draper / White House]President Bush is reunited with his wife, Laura Bush, in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, shortly after arriving back at the White House. [Bush, 2010, pp. 137-138; Bush, 2010, pp. 204-205] Bush arrived at the White House at 6:54 p.m. (see (6:54 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/12/2001] He headed to the Oval Office, where he read through a draft of the speech he is going to deliver to the nation later in the evening and modified a few lines. He then headed down to the PEOC, where the first lady was waiting for him. [Bush, 2010, pp. 137-138] The first lady was taken to the PEOC after she was driven to the White House from the Secret Service headquarters, at around 6:30 p.m. (see 6:30 p.m. September 11, 2001). Bush walks into the PEOC at 7:10 p.m. and hugs his wife. [Bush, 2010, pp. 203-205] The first lady will later recall, “We were really glad to see each other, but also the enormity of what had happened in our country had really sunk in by then, and so we just comforted each other.” [Us Weekly, 10/15/2001] The president will describe: “We didn’t have a lot of time to talk, but we didn’t need to. Her hug was more powerful than any words.” Other senior government officials are in the PEOC, including Vice President Dick Cheney, who is there with his wife, Lynne Cheney. After their reunion, the president and the first lady “talked with the Cheneys a bit,” Laura Bush will recall. The president will subsequently head upstairs, practice his speech, and then go to the Oval Office to deliver it (see 8:30 p.m. September 11, 2001). The first lady will go to the White House residence (the first family’s living quarters). [Bush, 2010, pp. 138; Bush, 2010, pp. 204-205]
Members of Congress gathered on the steps of the Capitol. [Source: US House of Representatives]Congressional leaders and about 150 other members of the House and Senate appear together on the steps of the Capitol building in Washington for a press conference, and announce that Congress will reconvene the following morning. [USA Today, 9/12/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001] House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) says: “Senators and House members, Democrats and Republicans will stand shoulder to shoulder to fight this evil that has perpetrated on this nation. We will stand together to make sure that those who have brought forth this evil deed will pay the price.” Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) calls the day’s attacks “an assault on our people and on our freedom,” and says, “We, Republicans and Democrats, House and Senate, stand strongly united behind the president and we’ll work together to ensure that the full resources of the government are brought to bear in these efforts.” To applause, he announces, “Congress will convene tomorrow.” The press conference ends with the members of Congress joining together for an apparently spontaneous singing of “God Bless America.” [CNN, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001]
Secretary of State Colin Powell arrives back in Washington, DC. He had been away in Peru at the time of the attacks, and his flight back to the US had only taken off at around 12:30 p.m. EDT. The exact time he arrives in the capital is unclear, though a State Department spokesman said at 7:40 p.m. that he was due to return “within the hour.” Powell will be at the White House in time for a 9:30 p.m. meeting between the president and his key advisers (see (9:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). By then, Bush will already have delivered his speech to the nation declaring, “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them” (see 8:30 p.m. September 11, 2001). As journalist Bob Woodward will comment, “The president, [National Security Adviser Condoleezza] Rice, [White House counselor Karen] Hughes and the speechwriters had made one of the most significant foreign policy decisions in years, and the secretary of state had not been involved.” [US Department of State, 9/11/2001; Woodward, 2002, pp. 31-32; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] The Daily Telegraph later comments, “In the weeks before September 11 Washington was full of rumors that Powell was out of favor and had been quietly relegated to the sidelines.” [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001]
On the evening after the 9/11 attacks, some White House personnel, including Vice President Dick Cheney’s staff, are given the anti-anthrax drug Cipro, and told to take it regularly. [Associated Press, 10/24/2001] An unnamed “high government official” also advises some reporters to take Cipro shortly after 9/11 (see Shortly After September 11, 2001). Judicial Watch will later sue the Bush administration to release documents showing who knew what and when, and why presidential staff were protected while senators, congresspeople, and others were not. [Associated Press, 6/9/2002]
Bush addresses the nation from the White House.
[Source: White House]From the White House Oval Office, President Bush gives a seven-minute address to the nation on live television. [CNN, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; Woodward, 2002, pp. 31] He says, “I’ve directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice.” In what will later be called the Bush Doctrine, he states, “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.” [US President, 9/17/2001; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] Washington Post reporter Dan Balz will later comment that this “those who harbor them” statement “set the tone for where the administration was going both with Afghanistan and, I think, with Iraq.” Bush’s speechwriter at the time, David Frum, will later say: “When he laid down those principles, I don’t know whether he foresaw all of their implications, how far they would take him. I don’t know if he understood fully and foresaw fully the true radicalism of what he had just said.” Neoconservatives see hope that the words could lead to an invasion of Iraq. Author and former National Security Council staffer Kenneth Pollack will comment, “It does seem very clear that after September 11th, this group seized upon the events of September 11th to resurrect their policy of trying to go after Saddam Hussein and a regime change in Iraq.” [PBS Frontline, 2/20/2003] Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived back from Peru too late to influence the content of this pivotal speech (see (Between 7:40 p.m. and 8:40 p.m.) September 11, 2001).
President Bush (below television screen) meeting with the National Security Council in a bunker below the White House. In the far row from left to right, are Attorney General Ashcroft, President Bush, Chief of Staff Card, CIA Director Tenet, and counterterrorism “tsar” Ckarke. In the near row, Secretary of State Powell can be seen waving his hand, and National Security Advisor Rice sits to his right. [Source: Eric Draper/ White House]President Bush meets with his full National Security Council. According to journalist Bob Woodward, this meeting turns out to be “unwieldy.” So at 9:30 p.m., Bush follows it with a meeting with a smaller group of his most senior principal national security advisers in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) beneath the White House. Bush and his advisers have already decided bin Laden is behind the attacks. As the president later recalls, in these meetings, “That’s when we first got the indication… we’ve identified, we think it’s al-Qaeda.” He says the FBI now thinks that “it’s al-Qaeda, and we start to develop our plans to get them. I mean, there wasn’t any hesitation. We’re starting the process of coalition-building and how to get ‘em.” (According to other accounts, though, the CIA had informed Bush hours earlier that it was virtually certain al-Qaeda was to blame for the attacks (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001).) CIA Director George Tenet says that al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan are essentially one and the same. Tenet says, “Tell the Taliban we’re finished with them.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 133; Woodward, 2002, pp. 31-33; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] The president says, “I want you all to understand that we are at war and we will stay at war until this is done. Nothing else matters. Everything is available for the pursuit of this war. Any barriers in your way, they’re gone. Any money you need, you have it. This is our only agenda.” When, later in the discussion, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld points out that international law only allows force to prevent future attacks and not for retribution, Bush yells, “No. I don’t care what the international lawyers say, we are going to kick some ass.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 23-24] Bush will subsequently announce a new US doctrine of preemptive attack the following June (see June 1, 2002). [Time, 6/23/2002] During the meeting, the president refers to the present political situation as a “great opportunity” (see (Between 9:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). By the time the meeting ends, it is after 10 p.m. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 133]
New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani says in an interview with CNN’s Larry King: “The Health Department has done tests and at this point it is not a concern. So far, all the tests we have done do not show undue amounts of asbestos or any particular chemical agent that you have to be concerned about.” [CNN, 9/11/2001]
President Bush is meeting with his key advisers in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center below the White House (see (9:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). Referring to the attacks and the present political situation, Bush tells the meeting, “This is a great opportunity. We have to think of this as an opportunity.” According to journalist Bob Woodward, he means this is a chance to improve relations, especially with major powers such as Russia and China. [Woodward, 2002, pp. 31-32; Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
A section from Rumsfeld’s notes, dictated to Stephen Cambone. [Source: Defense Department] (click image to enlarge)Stephen Cambone, the Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, makes the following note for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld at an emergency policy meeting, “AA 77—3 indiv have been followed since Millennium + Cole. 1 guy is assoc of Cole bomber. 2 entered US in early July (2 of 3 pulled aside and interrogated?).” Although four of the subsequently alleged Flight 77 hijackers were known to the authorities in connection with terrorism before 9/11, it appears that the three referred to here as being followed are Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, and Salem Alhazmi, due to their ties to an al-Qaeda Malaysia summit around the Millennium (see January 5-8, 2000) and ties to the USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000). Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar initially arrived in the US shortly before or after the Millennium plot was due to come to fruition (see November 1999 and January 15, 2000), even entering at Los Angeles Airport (LAX), a target of the plot. If the note is literally correct that some US authorities were following these three since the Millennium, this would contradict the 9/11 Commission’s position that the trail of the three was lost shortly after the Millennium. The comment that one of the hijackers is an associate of a Cole bomber could refer to photos the CIA had before 9/11 identifying Almihdhar standing next to Cole bomber Fahad al-Quso (see Early December 2000) or photos of him standing next to Cole bomber Khallad bin Attash (see January 4, 2001). The note’s mention that two of them entered the US in July is also accurate, as Salem Alhazmi entered the US on June 29 (see April 23-June 29, 2001) and Khalid re-entered on July 4 (see July 4, 2001). [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 ; US Department of Defense, 2/6/2006 ] Earlier in the day, Cambone took notes for Rumsfeld that indicate Rumsfeld is keen to move against Iraq following the 9/11 attacks, even though he was aware there may be no connection between Iraq and 9/11 (see (2:40 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 ; Guardian, 2/24/2006]
Mayor Giuliani announces that New York City schools will be closed the following day. He explains that power is out on west side of Manhattan and that NYC Department of Health (DOH) tests indicate that no airborne chemical agents were released during attack. [CNN, 9/12/2001]
After a meeting with the full National Security Council from 9:00 to 10:00 p.m. (see (9:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001), President Bush continues meeting with a smaller group of advisers. During this meeting, Bush says the US will punish not just the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, but also those who harbored them (this closely echoes the rhetoric he used in a speech that evening (see 8:30 p.m. September 11, 2001)). Secretary of State Colin Powell suggests the US needs to build a coalition of other nations. But according to the 9/11 Commission, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld urges Bush to “think broadly about who might have harbored the attackers, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Sudan, and Iran. He wonder[s] aloud how much evidence the United States would need in order to deal with these countries, pointing out that major strikes could take up to 60 days to assemble.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 330] According to journalist Bob Woodward, at this meeting, “Rumsfeld actually puts Iraq on the table and says, ‘Part of our response maybe should be attacking Iraq. It’s an opportunity.’” [PBS Frontline, 6/20/2006] Earlier in the day, notes by a Rumsfeld aide indicate Rumsfeld was aware that evidence was already suggesting al-Qaeda was behind the 9/11 attacks, but he wanted to use 9/11 as an excuse to attack Iraq as well (see (2:40 p.m.) September 11, 2001).
Liz Cheney. [Source: US Department of State]After attending President Bush’s meeting with his principal advisers in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center beneath the White House, Vice President Dick Cheney heads back upstairs, accompanied by his wife Lynne Cheney and his two top aides, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and David Addington. They all head out onto the White House’s South Lawn and get onto Marine Two, the vice president’s helicopter, being joined on it by a military aide, a communications expert, three Secret Service agents, and Cheney’s doctor. They take off, in violation of long-standing protocol, according to which only the president takes off from the South Lawn. Only a few of the most senior White House officials are informed of their destination. About 30 minutes later they arrive at Camp David, the presidential retreat in the Catoctin Mountains, about 70 miles from the White House. Again going against tradition, Cheney and his family settle into the cabin usually reserved for the president, Aspen Lodge. Liz Cheney, the vice president’s eldest daughter, and her young family, joins them there. This is the first of many nights that Cheney spends in “secure, undisclosed locations” in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks (see September 12, 2001-2002). [Federation of American Scientists, 10/2/2000; Hayes, 2007, pp. 345-346] He will return to Washington the following morning for an 8 a.m. meeting at the White House (see September 12, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/28/2002]
After meeting with a small group of his key advisers in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House (see (9:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001), President Bush is heading for the elevator to go back upstairs, when he is stopped by a Secret Service agent. The agent tells him, “You’ll be sleeping down here tonight.” Bush says no. When the agent tries to argue about it, Bush repeats, “No, I’m not going to.” He later says his reasons for refusing the Secret Service agent’s instruction are, firstly, “the bed [in the PEOC] looked unappetizing. Secondly, it was a little stale in there. And I needed sleep.” The agent acquiesces, but warns, “If we have any threats, we will come and get you.” Bush then heads up to his bedroom. [Newsweek, 12/3/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 133-134] But, shortly after going to bed, the president and first lady will be rushed down to the PEOC due to a false alarm over an approaching plane (see 11:08 p.m. September 11, 2001).
Attorney General John Ashcroft briefs about 250 members of Congress on the latest developments regarding the day’s terrorist attacks. [Associated Press, 9/12/2001] Since he arrived there in the early afternoon (see (Between 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001), Ashcroft has spent most of the day at the Strategic Information and Operations Center at the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, DC (see (2:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). He and other senior Justice Department officials have repeatedly heard from members of Congress who want more information about the attacks. Ashcroft will later recall, “We tried our best to provide it, but we were still in the heat of battle.” However, “No matter; Congress wanted answers.” Therefore, after attending a meeting at the White House—presumably President Bush’s meeting with his National Security Council and/or his subsequent meeting with his most senior principal national security advisers (see (9:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001)—Ashcroft heads to the police station north of the Hart Senate Office Building, to brief the House and Senate members who are gathered there. [9/11 Commission, 12/17/2003 ; Ashcroft, 2006, pp. 129] About 250 members of Congress are at the briefing. [Associated Press, 9/12/2001] Ashcroft will recall, “The place was jammed with members of Congress, all shouting questions, some complaining about apparent inconsistencies, many expressing dissatisfaction that we didn’t know everything, and all wanting answers that I didn’t know or couldn’t say.” [Ashcroft, 2006, pp. 129] He reportedly tells those at the briefing that “the US government now believes teams of three to five individuals carrying knives commandeered those four airliners earlier today, destroying them and themselves in the process.” [CNN, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001] Ashcroft stays at the police station until well after midnight, holding what he will describe as “an intense discussion” with the members of Congress. He has to say “I don’t know” over and over again, he will recall. [Ashcroft, 2006, pp. 129]
Members of Massachusetts Task Force 1 at Ground Zero. [Source: Massachusetts Task Force 1]The first two Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urban search and rescue teams arrive in New York in response to the attacks on the World Trade Center. The teams, Massachusetts Task Force 1 and Pennsylvania Task Force 1, are among the initial eight task forces from around the United States that were activated by FEMA to help search for victims of the attacks in New York. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 9/11/2001; White House, 9/11/2001; Fire Engineering, 10/1/2002] Both were activated this morning. [Pennsylvania Urban Search and Rescue, 2001 ; Government Executive, 9/1/2002]
Task Forces Set Up 'Base of Operations' - Around late afternoon to early evening, 62 members of Massachusetts Task Force 1 and 72 members of Pennsylvania Task Force 1 set off for New York. [Pennsylvania Urban Search and Rescue, 2001 ; Boston Herald, 9/12/2001; North County News, 9/4/2002] After encountering long delays in the traffic in and around the city, they arrive at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan at around 10:30 p.m. There, they set up a base of operations, which is the area where task forces set up their command center and equipment cache, along with sleeping, food service, and personal hygiene areas for their members. After a few hours of rest, members of the task forces will undertake preliminary rescue operations at between 5:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. on September 12.
Six More Task Forces Subsequently Arrive - Later on September 12, and on September 13, the two task forces will be joined by Ohio Task Force 1 and Indiana Task Force 1. On September 14, the final four of the initial eight urban search and rescue teams activated by FEMA after the terrorist attacks will arrive at the WTC site. These are Missouri Task Force 1, California Task Force 1, California Task Force 6, and California Task Force 7. After being flown to McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, these four teams will make their way to New York by ground transportation. [Fire Engineering, 10/1/2002]
Search and Rescue Teams Deployed to Pentagon - FEMA’s urban search and rescue teams consist mainly of local emergency services personnel, and include engineers, medical personnel, and specially trained search dogs. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 9/11/2001; Associated Press, 9/12/2001] Four of these teams have been deployed to the Pentagon, to search for victims there. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 9/11/2001; Government Executive, 9/11/2001] And FEMA sent an “advance element team” to the WTC site earlier in the day. [White House, 9/11/2001] FEMA’s operations in response to the attacks also include monitoring the air quality following the release of asbestos from the WTC and the Pentagon, finding a place to dispose of rubble, and providing counseling for families and rescue workers. [Associated Press, 9/12/2001]
After refusing the Secret Service’s instruction to sleep in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, and going instead to his bedroom (see (Shortly After 10:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001), President Bush is awoken by someone telling him, “Mr. President, Mr. President! Incoming plane! We could be under attack! Come on! Right now!” Bush and the first lady get out of bed, and join everybody else heading to the PEOC. On the way down, they run into Andrew Card, Condoleezza Rice, and also Neil Bush—one of the president’s younger brothers—who apparently is staying at the White House at this time. About a minute after arriving at the PEOC, though, someone comes in and says, “Mr. President, good news! It’s one of our own!” Bush later says the incoming plane was just an F-16 fighter jet. The Secret Service still wants him to spend the night in the PEOC, but Bush refuses and goes back to the residence for the rest of the night. [Newsweek, 12/3/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 134-135; Woodward, 2002, pp. 36]
Susan Mcelwain, who lives two miles from the Flight 93 crash site, had seen a small jet plane flying very low overhead as she was driving home. She later recalls that it had been “heading right to the point where Flight 93 crashed and must have been there at the very moment it came down.” But it was only later in the afternoon, after returning home and turning on the TV, that she’d realized what she’d seen was connected to the attacks in New York and Washington. While she was confused that a Boeing 757—not a small jet plane—was being reported as having gone down near where she’d been, she’d then realized that the small plane was flying in a different direction to that being described for Flight 93. So she got her husband to tell the police about what she’d witnessed. Consequently, late in the evening, the FBI turns up to talk to her about it. Yet, as Mcelwain later recalls, “They did not want my story.” They keep asking her how big the plane she’d seen was. When she tells them it was small, not much bigger than her van, one of the agents tells her, “You don’t know what a 757 looks like.” She retorts, “Don’t be condescending towards me. If you don’t want to believe me, that’s fine, but I thought I should report what I saw. You ought to know there was something else in the air at the same time this was going on. We want to make sure it was ours and not somebody else’s.” After this, she will recall, the agent “did seem to get a little nicer. Told me that it was a white Learjet. Somebody was taking pictures. And I said, ‘Before the crash?’ and he says, ‘Well, we’ve got to go,’ and that was the end of it.” [Bergen Record, 9/14/2001; Mirror, 9/12/2002; Lappe and Marshall, 2004, pp. 38-40] Numerous other witnesses also saw a small jet plane flying above the crash site around the time Flight 93 reportedly went down (see (Before and After 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Before going to sleep, President Bush writes in his diary, “The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today.… We think it’s Osama bin Laden.” [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
On October 31, 2005, the Associated Press will report that the Bush administration has missed dozens of deadlines set by Congress since 9/11 to help protect the US from terrorist attacks. For instance, a plan to defend ships and ports from attack is overdue, as are rules to protect air cargo. There still is no comprehensive plan to protect vital infrastructure. Part of the problem is that Congress set so many deadlines, some for minor projects. [Associated Press, 10/31/2005]
One page of a torn up 757 cockpit poster used by the hijackers. It was found in a trash compactor at the Days Inn, near the Newark Airport. [Source: FBI]Investigators find a remarkable number of possessions left behind by the hijackers:
Two of Mohamed Atta’s bags are found on 9/11. They contain a handheld electronic flight computer, a simulator procedures manual for Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft, two videotapes relating to “air tours” of the Boeing 757 and 747 aircraft, a slide-rule flight calculator, a copy of the Koran, Atta’s passport, his will, his international driver’s license, a religious cassette tape, airline uniforms, a letter of recommendation, “education related documentation” and a note (see September 28, 2001) to other hijackers on how to mentally prepare for the hijacking. [Sydney Morning Herald, 9/15/2001; Boston Globe, 9/18/2001; Independent, 9/29/2001; Associated Press, 10/5/2001] Author Terry McDermott will later comment, “Atta’s bag contained nearly every important document in his life… If you wanted to leave a roadmap for investigators to follow, the suitcase was a pretty good place to start.” [McDermott, 2005, pp. 306]
Marwan Alshehhi’s rental car is discovered at Boston’s Logan Airport containing an Arabic language flight manual, a pass giving access to restricted areas at the airport, documents containing a name on the passenger list of one of the flights, and the names of other suspects. The name of the flight school where Atta and Alshehhi studied, Huffman Aviation, is also found in the car. [Los Angeles Times, 9/13/2001]
A car registered to Nawaf Alhazmi is found at Washington’s Dulles Airport on September 12. This is the same car he bought in San Diego in early 2000 (see March 25, 2000). Inside is a copy of Atta’s letter to the other hijackers, a cashier’s check made out to a flight school in Phoenix, four drawings of the cockpit of a 757 jet, a box cutter-type knife, maps of Washington and New York, and a page with notes and phone numbers. [Arizona Daily Star, 9/28/2001; Cox News Service, 10/21/2001; Die Zeit (Hamburg), 10/1/2002] The name and phone number of Osama Awadallah, a friend of Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar in San Diego, is also found on a scrap of paper in the car (see September 12, 2001 and After). [CNN, 2/1/2002]
A rental car is found in an airport parking lot in Portland, Maine. Investigators are able to collect fingerprints and hair samples for DNA analysis. [Portland Press Herald, 10/14/2001]
A Boston hotel room contains airplane and train schedules. [Sydney Morning Herald, 9/15/2001]
FBI agents carry out numerous garbage bags of evidence from a Florida apartment where Saeed Alghamdi lived. [CNN, 9/17/2001]
Two days before 9/11, a hotel owner in Deerfield Beach, Florida, finds a box cutter left in a hotel room used by Marwan Alshehhi and two unidentified men. The owner checks the nearby trash and finds a duffel bag containing Boeing 757 manuals, three illustrated martial arts books, an 8-inch stack of East Coast flight maps, a three-ring binder full of handwritten notes, an English-German dictionary, an airplane fuel tester, and a protractor. The FBI seizes all the items when they are notified on September 12 (except the binder of notes, which the owner apparently threw away). [Miami Herald, 9/16/2001; Associated Press, 9/16/2001]
In an apartment rented by Ziad Jarrah and Ahmed Alhaznawi, the FBI finds a notebook, videotape, and photocopies of their passports. [Miami Herald, 9/15/2001]
In a bar the night before 9/11, after making predictions of a attack on America the next day, the hijackers leave a business card and a copy of the Koran at the bar. The FBI also recovers the credit card receipts from when they paid for their drinks and lap dances. [Associated Press, 9/14/2001]
A September 13 security sweep of Boston airport’s parking garage uncovers items left behind by the hijackers: a box cutter, a pamphlet written in Arabic, and a credit card. [Washington Post, 9/16/2001]
A few hours after the attacks, suicide notes that some of the hijackers wrote to their parents are found in New York. Credit card receipts showing that some of the hijackers paid for flight training in the US are also found. [Los Angeles Times, 9/13/2001]
A FedEx bill is found in a trash can at the Comfort Inn in Portland, Maine, where Atta stayed the night before 9/11. The bill leads to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, allowing investigators to determine much of the funding for 9/11. [Newsweek, 11/11/2001; London Times, 12/1/2001]
A bag hijackers Alhazmi and Almihdhar left at a mosque in Laurel, Maryland, is found on September 12. The bag contains flight logs and even receipts from flight schools from San Diego the year before (see September 9, 2001).
On 9/11, in a Days Inn hotel room in Newark, New Jersey, investigators find used plane tickets for Saeed Alghamdi, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ziad Jarrah, and Ahmed Alnami. The tickets are all from a Spirit Continental Airlines flight from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to Newark on September 7. Also, flight manuals for Boeing 757 and 767 airplanes are found in English and Arabic. [Investigative Services Division, FBI Headquarters, 4/19/2002]
The hijackers past whereabouts can even be tracked by their pizza purchases. An expert points out: “Most people pay cash for pizza. These [hijackers] paid with a credit card. That was an odd thing.” [San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/3/2002] “In the end, they left a curiously obvious trail—from martial arts manuals, maps, a Koran, Internet and credit card fingerprints. Maybe they were sloppy, maybe they did not care, maybe it was a gesture of contempt of a culture they considered weak and corrupt.” [Miami Herald, 9/22/2001] The New Yorker quotes a former high-level intelligence official as saying: “Whatever trail was left was left deliberately—for the FBI to chase” (see Late September 2001). [New Yorker, 10/8/2001]
Entity Tags: Huffman Aviation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington Dulles International Airport, Marwan Alshehhi, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ahmed Alnami, Mohamed Atta, Saeed Alghamdi, Osama Awadallah, Nawaf Alhazmi, Terry McDermott, Ziad Jarrah
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
It is later reported that FBI officials believe that a second grouping or cell of “perhaps 20 al-Qaeda terrorists [are] in the United States on Sept. 11 to carry out another attack. Members of this second cell, one official [says], apparently [abandon] apartments they… rented in Paterson, New Jersey, and Fairfax, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C., after Sept. 11, leaving rented furniture and other possessions behind in their haste.” [St. Paul Pioneer Press, 10/7/2002] Another article notes, “Police always have had concerns about sleeper agents in the [Brooklyn, New York] area. They particularly were concerned by a story… from several NYPD sources about an abandoned rental car that was parked in front of a mosque only a few blocks from New Utrecht. The car had been rented under the phony name ‘Bomkr’ from Logan International Airport in Boston shortly before the attacks. Investigators thought the name sounded a lot like ‘bomb car.’ The anonymous party rented several other cars from Logan, all of which either have disappeared or been abandoned. Police suspect the cars were used by al-Qaeda operatives to return to their home bases after the attacks.” [Insight, 9/10/2002]
Michael Burton. [Source: PBS]Following the World Trade Center collapses, a decision is made to quickly transport the remaining structural steel to scrap yards, to be shipped abroad and melted down for reuse. Consequently, virtually all of it is disposed of before investigators trying to assess why the WTC collapsed can examine it. Michael Burton and other officials at the Department of Design and Construction—the New York City agency overseeing the cleanup operation (see (September 11, 2001-May 2002))—are responsible for making this decision. Burton clears it with Richard Tomasetti of Thornton-Tomasetti Engineers, the prime consultant on the cleanup job. However, referring to the subsequent WTC investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (see August 21, 2002), Tomasetti will later admit that had he known the direction that investigations into the collapses would take, he would have taken a different stand. [Langewiesche, 2002, pp. 30; Glanz and Lipton, 2004, pp. 330 and 396] Authors and New York Times reporters James Glanz and Eric Lipton write that Michael Burton, “who had become the effective czar for the cleanup job, had made it clear that he cared very little about engineering subtleties like the question of why the towers first stood, then collapsed on September 11. ‘We know why they fell,’ he said. ‘Because they flew two planes into the towers.’ But he was deeply immersed in the details of hauling steel out of the debris pile.” [Glanz and Lipton, 2004, pp. 299] Much of the WTC steel will be shipped to India, China, and other Asian countries for recycling (see September 12-October 2001).
Around 2:30 a.m., the FBI arrives at Huffman Aviation flight school in Venice, Florida, inquiring about suspected hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi, who attended the school (see July 6-December 19, 2000). Huffman Aviation has around 200 students, about half of them foreigners. The FBI takes away all its records on former students, including photocopies of Atta and Alshehhi’s passports, as well as two computers. [Charlotte Sun, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/13/2001; US Congress, 3/19/2002] Students at another Florida flight school say the FBI arrived at their school within hours of the attacks (see September 11, 2001).
Billie Vincent, a former FAA security director, suggests the hijackers had inside help at the airports. “These people had to have the means to take control of the aircrafts. And that means they had to have weapons in order for those pilots to relinquish control. Think about it, they planned this thing out to the last detail for months. They are not going to take any risks at the front end. They knew they were going to be successful before they started… It’s the only thing that really makes sense to me.” [Miami Herald, 9/12/2001] The same day, the Boston Globe reports, “A former TWA official said he knew of at least two cases in which members of a cleaning crew smuggled weapons on board which were later used to hijack planes.… One source familiar with the airline industry said that, given enough time and money, it would not be difficult for terrorists to smuggle weapons onto a domestic flight. He said terrorists could arrange to have weapons moved onto an airliner by having terrorists or sympathizers hired as air cargo handlers or airline cleaners. The weapons could then be brought on board and concealed without ever having to pass through a security checkpoint. ‘If you have a year or more to plan, how hard can it be to get someone hired to clean the trash out of an airplane,’ the source said.” [Boston Globe, 9/12/2001]
NEADS Headquarters in Rome, New York [Source: Vanity Fair] (click image to enlarge)Staff at the Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, NY, notice an unidentified, low-flying plane heading slowly and directly toward their building. Yet all civilian aircraft are supposed to be grounded, with only military or emergency aircraft allowed to fly over the US. According to NEADS Commander Robert Marr, “We thought anyone in the air was either a terrorist or a criminal.” Fighters from the Vermont Air National Guard are diverted towards Rome, and Marr orders the evacuation of the NEADS building, with only himself and a small crew remaining inside. Just miles away from them, the plane suddenly changes course and is forced to land nearby by the pursuing fighters. Robert Marr later says he never found out who the culprit was, but he’d heard it was a local pilot with a seaplane. [Filson, 2003, pp. 73]
Dr. Marcella Fierro [Source: Ernie Branson]Virginia Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Marcella Fierro, believing that state forensic pathologists have jurisdiction over the Pentagon’s land, reassigns staff from three other regional offices to the Northern Virginia office in order to conduct postmortem examinations on victims of the Pentagon attack. However, following what the Washington Post calls a “behind-the-scenes tug of war,” after FBI and Defense Department officials meet with her they instead opt to conduct forensic and mortuary activities at Defense Department facilities. Fierro requests and later receives a letter from Attorney General John Ashcroft relieving her department of its responsibilities. [Washington Post, 9/13/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A-47]
Veteran CIA operative John Maguire calls long-time friend Mohammed Abdullah al-Shahwani, a former Iraqi general, and tells him, “It’s showtime.” Maguire and al-Shahwani worked together in the ‘90s on a covert plan to overthrow the Iraqi government, but the plan was never approved by the Clinton White House. Maguire believes the 9/11 attacks have provided the long awaited opportunity to remove Saddam Hussein. [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 154]
W. Gene Corley. [Source: ASCE]The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its contractor, Greenhorne and O’Mara, Inc., from Greenbelt, Maryland, begin putting together a Building Performance Assessment Team (BPAT), to conduct a formal analysis of the World Trade Center collapses, and produce a report of its findings. FEMA routinely deploys such teams following disasters, like floods or hurricanes. The 23-member BPAT team set up at the WTC collapse site is assembled by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and headed by Dr. W. Gene Corley of Construction Technologies Laboratories in Skokie, Illinois. Corley was previously the principal investigator for FEMA’s study of the Murrah Building, in Oklahoma City in 1995. [New Yorker, 11/12/2001] BPAT team members are based nationwide and have to communicate with each other mostly by phone, as they continue with their regular jobs. While some of them are being paid for their efforts, others are working on the investigation voluntarily. They are told not to speak with reporters, under threat of dismissal from the team, supposedly because of the delicacy of the subject with which they are dealing. The BPAT team receives $600,000 of funding from FEMA, plus approximately $500,000 in ASCE in-kind contributions. [New York Times, 12/25/2001; Associated Press, 1/14/2002; US Congress, 3/6/2002] The team will have great difficulty accessing the collapse site and evidence they want to see (see March 6, 2002). They will be unable to get FEMA to obtain such basic data as detailed blueprints of the WTC buildings. FEMA will also refuse to allow them to make appeals to the public for photos and videos of the towers that might aid their investigation. Bureaucratic restrictions will often prevent them from making forensic inspections at Ground Zero, interviewing witnesses, or getting important evidence, like recorded distress calls from people who were trapped in the towers. [Glanz and Lipton, 2004, pp. 330] The end product of their investigation is the FEMA World Trade Center Building Performance Study, released in May 2002 (see May 1, 2002).
The US is not interested in help from a high-level Taliban informant. Mullah Mohammed Khaksar was the Taliban’s intelligence minister and is currently their deputy interior minister. He is in charge of security in the Afghan capital of Kabul and regularly meets with other high ranking Taliban leaders. But since 1997, he has also been secretly providing a steady stream of intelligence to the Northern Alliance, the enemies of the Taliban. Further, he had offered to help the US defeat the Taliban, and several times before 9/11 CIA agents disguised as journalists visited him to solicit inside information (see April 1999). [Washington Post, 11/30/2001] However, in the weeks after 9/11, he passes letters to get in contact with US intelligence, but never hears back from them. Time magazine will later report, “Khaksar said he was ready to pass on information that might lead to the capture of the fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar and to some al-Qaeda hideouts in Afghanistan. But he waited days, weeks, months, and nobody contacted him.” [Time, 2/25/2002] Finally in late November 2001, he will publicly defect to the Northern Alliance, thus ending his ability to get real-time information on the movements of Omar and others. [Knight Ridder, 11/29/2001] The US will continue to remain uninterested in what Khaksar has to say (see February 25, 2002).
David Childs. [Source: Publicity photo]Developer Larry Silverstein, who recently took over the lease of the World Trade Center (see July 24, 2001), later tells journalist Steven Brill that he’d been so sickened by the destruction on 9/11, and by the deaths of four of his employees in the WTC, that he did not focus on insurance or financial matters until “perhaps two weeks later.” But according to two people who call him this morning to offer their sympathy, Silverstein soon changes the subject: “He had talked to his lawyers… and he had a clear legal strategy mapped out. They were going to prove, Silverstein told one of the callers, that the way his insurance policies were written the two planes crashing into the two towers had been two different ‘occurrences,’ not part of the same event. That would give him more than $7 billion to rebuild, instead of the $3.55 billion that his insurance policy said was the maximum for one ‘occurrence.’ And rebuild was just what he was going to do, he vowed.” By mid-morning, he calls his architect David Childs, and instructs him to start sketching out a plan for a new building. He tells Childs to plan to build the exact same area of office space as has been destroyed. In fact, Silverstein’s lawyers claim the developer had been on the phone to them on the evening of 9/11, wondering “whether his insurance policies could be read in a way that would construe the attacks as two separate, insurable incidents rather than one.” [Brill, 2003, pp. 18-19 and 39-40; Real Deal, 1/2004] Yet Jerome Hauer, the former director of New York’s Office of Emergency Management, had gone to Silverstein’s office on 9/11, and later claims that Silverstein’s primary concern that day had been his employees, and whether they had gotten out of the WTC. “Larry was absolutely devastated,” he says. [Weiss, 2003, pp. 374] Following a lengthy legal dispute, Silverstein will eventually receive $4.55 billion in insurance payouts for the destruction of the WTC (see May 23, 2007). [New York Post, 5/24/2007]
After arriving at the Pentagon on September 11 (see 9:42 a.m. September 11, 2001), the FBI is involved in removing bodies and body parts from the crash site. It works closely with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) teams and fire department Technical Rescue Teams (TRT). Members of these teams hunt through the debris, searching for survivors. When they find bodies or body parts, they call upon the FBI to photograph, number, and tag these remains. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C-54] Though the Flight 77 passengers had been in the back of the plane at the time of the crash, most of their remains are found deep inside the building, near the end of the area traveled by the aircraft debris. Conversely, the remains of the suspected hijackers, who would have been at the front of the plane, are found relatively close to the front of the building, where the plane first impacted it. (However, these remains will be identified as belonging to the hijackers only through a process of elimination, as they do not match DNA samples of the victims of the attack.) According to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Pentagon Building Performance Report, the location of the remains as such indicates that “the front of the aircraft disintegrated essentially upon impact but, in the process, opened up a hole allowing the trailing portions of the fuselage to pass into the building.” Journalist Steve Vogel concludes, “The fuselage in essence turned inside out as it passed through the Pentagon.” The search and rescue operations at the Pentagon come to an end on the morning of September 22, and the Arlington County Fire Department then turns command of the crash site over to the FBI. [Washington Post, 11/21/2001; Mlakar et al., 1/2003, pp. 40 ; Vogel, 2007, pp. 432 and 467]
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