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Barry Jennings, a City Housing Authority worker who had become trapped in World Trade Center Building 7, finds the building’s lobby in ruins as he is being rescued from it, and steps over what feels to him like dead bodies. [Dylan Avery, 2007] After the first plane hit the WTC, Jennings had gone up to the emergency command center on the 23rd floor of WTC 7 along with Michael Hess, New York’s corporation counsel (see (Shortly Before 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Dylan Avery, 2007] After heading down the stairs, the two men became trapped on the building’s eighth floor (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). Some time later, firefighters come into WTC 7 to help the two men out of the building. [UPN 9, 9/11/2001; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109-110]
Lobby Is 'Total Ruins' - According to Jennings, when he gets down to the lobby, he is astonished to find it totally ruined. In a 2007 interview he will recall: “[W]hen I came in there, the lobby had nice escalators. It was a huge lobby.” But reaching it again, he asks the firefighter who is escorting him, “Where are we?” and the firefighter answers, “This was the lobby.” Jennings finds this “unbelievable,” and says, “You gotta be kidding me.” He will describe the lobby as being “total ruins.”
'Stepping over People' - Furthermore, Jennings steps over what may be dead bodies in the lobby. He will say: “[T]he firefighter that took us down kept saying, ‘Do not look down,’ and I kept saying, ‘Why is that?’ [He said,] ‘Do not look down.’ And, stepping over people. And you know you could feel when you’re stepping over people.” [Dylan Avery, 2007] Yet most people were evacuated from WTC 7 around 9:03 a.m., if not earlier (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109] The very latest that people left the building, according to official accounts, was 9:30 a.m. (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 305] In a later interview, Jennings will clarify: “I never saw dead bodies.… [I]t felt like I was stepping over them but I never saw them.” The BBC will say, “There is no evidence that anyone died in Tower 7 on 9/11.” [BBC, 7/4/2008; BBC, 7/6/2008] According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), firefighters lead Jennings and Hess out of WTC 7 at around 12:10 p.m. to 12:15 p.m. (see 12:10 p.m.-12:15 p.m. September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/2004, pp. L-18 ]
Michael Hess. [Source: Harvard Law Bulletin]While most of Building 7 of the World Trade Center was evacuated around the time the South Tower was hit, if not earlier (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), firefighters now find three individuals who have become trapped inside it, and lead them out of the building. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/2004, pp. L-18 ; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109-110] Among these individuals are Barry Jennings, a City Housing Authority worker, and Michael Hess, New York’s chief lawyer who is also a longtime friend of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. The two had gone up to the 23rd floor emergency command center of the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management after the first attack occurred, but found it empty (see (Shortly Before 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 11/21/1997; Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Giuliani, 2002, pp. 20-21 and 244; Dylan Avery, 2007] They then headed downstairs but became trapped around the eighth floor by smoke and debris that filled the staircase. After breaking a window and calling for help, they were spotted by firefighters outside. When the firefighters go in, they also find a security officer for one of the businesses based in the building, who is trapped on the seventh floor by the smoke in the stairway. This officer headed up the building after the South Tower collapsed at 9:59, to check that all his personnel had left there (see (Shortly After 9:59 a.m.-12:10 p.m.) September 11, 2001). All three men are escorted out of the building. [Penn State Public Broadcasting, 3/1/2002; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 6/2004, pp. L-18 ; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 110; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 298-299 ]
President Bush is taken to the headquarters of the 8th Air Force at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, from where he calls government officials in New York and Washington, DC, prepares and records a speech to the nation, and watches television coverage of the terrorist attacks. [Salon, 9/12/2001; Associated Press, 10/2/2001; American History, 10/2006 ] After landing at Barksdale (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001), Bush was initially driven to a conference center on the base, where he made a brief phone call (see (11:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Newseum et al., 2002, pp. 164]
Bush Is Driven to the 8th Air Force Headquarters - Bush emerges from there at 12:11 p.m. accompanied by his senior adviser, Karl Rove, his chief of staff, Andrew Card, his military aide, some other aides, and several Secret Service agents. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 112; American History, 10/2006 ] He is then driven to “Building 245” on the base—the headquarters of the 8th Air Force—in a small motorcade that also includes the pool of reporters who have been traveling with him on Air Force One. Inside the building, they all can see a sheet of paper that has been taped to a door, with words written in large black type, “Defcon Delta”—the highest possible state of military alert. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 112] Bush and his staff go to the office of Lieutenant General Thomas Keck, the commander of the 8th Air Force, where they get to work responding to the attacks. [American History, 10/2006 ]
Bush Prepares a Speech to the Nation - Bush and Card together draft a speech to the nation that the president is going to record at the base, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. [Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002] However, according to journalist and author Bill Sammon, the speech is drafted by Bush’s press secretary, Ari Fleischer, who is with the president at Barksdale, and edited by White House counselor Karen Hughes, who is back in Washington. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 113] Once the speech is ready, Keck escorts Bush to the building’s conference room to be filmed delivering it. [American History, 10/2006 ] The reporters traveling on Air Force One go to the conference room after entering the 8th Air Force headquarters building and are there when Bush records his speech at 12:36 p.m. (see 12:36 p.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/11/2001]
Bush Watches TV, Makes Phone Calls - Bush watches the latest developments on a television in Keck’s office. After recording his speech, he sees the footage, shown on CNN, of the World Trade Center towers collapsing for the first time, according to Keck. He then tells Keck, “I don’t know who this is, but we’re going to find out and we’re going to go after them, and we’re not just going to slap them on the wrist.” Keck replies, “We’re with you.” There is a secure phone in Keck’s office, and, while he is at the base, Bush uses it to talk with Vice President Dick Cheney at the White House (see (12:11 p.m.-1:25 p.m.) September 11, 2001), Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon (see 1:02 p.m. September 11, 2001), and Hughes. He also talks over the secure phone with New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, New York Governor George Pataki, and New York Senator Charles Schumer.
Bush Is Informed of the Intelligence about the Attacks - Keck remains at Bush’s side for the entire time the president is in the 8th Air Force headquarters building. He works intently, monitoring base security and keeping up to date with the latest information from the 8th Air Force Command. He and his team keep Bush and his aides informed about the intelligence coming in via Air Force channels about the morning’s attacks and ongoing events. After nearly two hours at Barksdale, Bush and his entourage prepare to leave the base. Keck will accompany the president as he is driven back to Air Force One. [Associated Press, 10/2/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; American History, 10/2006 ; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, Charles Schumer, Donald Rumsfeld, George E. Pataki, Andrew Card, Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Karl C. Rove, US Secret Service, Thomas Keck, Karen Hughes
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
President Bush spends time arguing with his colleagues about where he should go next while he is at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana and is advised to stay away from Washington, DC. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Bush, 2010, pp. 133] Air Force One landed at Barksdale at 11:45 a.m. (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001) and, about 25 minutes later, Bush was taken to the headquarters of the 8th Air Force at the base (see (12:11 p.m.-1:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 112; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] The media are now asking about his whereabouts and why he has not returned to Washington. Bush is in fact keen to return to the capital. “I was worried people would get the impression that the government was disengaged,” he will later write. “The American people needed to see their president in Washington,” he will comment.
Bush Is Advised to Stay Away from Washington - While he is at the base, Bush debates whether he should return to Washington with the Secret Service and Vice President Dick Cheney, who is at the White House. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Bush, 2010, pp. 133] These people advise him against going back. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] “The Secret Service agents felt it was still too uncertain,” he will recall, adding: “Dick [Cheney] and [National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who is at the White House] agreed. They recommended that I go to the Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. It had secure housing space and reliable communications.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 133] Meanwhile, Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff, spends time on the phone, seeking opinions from a number of trusted individuals. On the basis of these calls, he advises Bush that it would be reckless to return to Washington. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001]
Secret Service Decides Where the President Goes - Despite Bush’s desire to return to the capital, the Secret Service has the power to determine where the president should go in a crisis, according to Dave Wilkinson, assistant special agent in charge of the presidential protection division. “By federal law, the Secret Service has to protect the president,” he will say, adding: “The wishes of that person that day are secondary to what the law expects of us. Theoretically it’s not his call, it’s our call.” [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Bush therefore acquiesces and a few minutes before 1:00 p.m., according to the London Daily Telegraph, agrees to fly to Offutt Air Force Base rather than going back to Washington. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] “I resigned myself to delaying my return once again,” he will comment. [Bush, 2010, pp. 133] Bush “fought with us tooth and nail all day to go back to Washington,” Wilkinson will say, but the Secret Service “basically refused to take him back.” [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Bush Is Frustrated at Being Unable to Return to the White House - After returning to Air Force One, but before the plane takes off, Bush gets on the phone to Cheney again and expresses his increasing frustration at being unable to return to the capital. He tells the vice president: “I can assure you I’d like to come home now. Tonight would be great.” Then, at 1:25 p.m., he turns to Card and Edward Marinzel, the head of his Secret Service detail, and says: “I want to go back home ASAP. I don’t want whoever this is holding me outside of Washington.” But Marinzel tells him, “Our people say it’s too unsteady still.” Bush replies, “Cheney says it’s not safe yet, as well.” Card then advises, “The right thing is to let the dust settle.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 118-119] Air Force One will take off from Barksdale Air Force Base and head to Offutt Air Force Base at 1:37 p.m. (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 9/12/2001]
Garrett McKenzie. [Source: Rudi Williams]Photographers who are taking pictures at the Pentagon, to document the scene of the attack there in as close as possible to its original state, are told to limit what evidence they photograph. FBI Special Agent Tom O’Connor—who is in charge of the initial evidence recovery operation at the Pentagon—and his superiors have put out the word that it is unnecessary to document every piece of the airplane. This is because, reportedly, “the smaller fragments didn’t prove anything, except that there was an airplane there, which was obvious enough from other evidence.” FBI Special Agent Garrett McKenzie, who is coordinating the effort to photograph evidence at the Pentagon, pulls together a dozen photographers for a briefing. He instructs them: “We don’t need to photograph all the plane parts, only unique airplane parts or something specific. Like the pilot’s yoke, or anything with part of a serial number on it. If we have to prove what kind of plane this was, the serial numbers will be what we need.” [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 181-183]
The Navy Annex, located next to the Virginia State Police Barracks. [Source: Arlington County After-Action Report]The FBI establishes a command post for its response to the Pentagon attack at the Virginia State Police Barracks, overlooking the Pentagon. [Fire Engineering, 11/2002] Around midday, Assistant Special Agent in Charge Robert Blecksmith arrived at the Pentagon and took over from Special Agent Chris Combs as the FBI’s on scene commander. He had quickly decided that the area around the Arlington County Fire Department’s incident command post by the Pentagon was too crowded and lacked support facilities. He therefore decides it will be safer for the FBI to carry out its operations at the Virginia State Police Barracks, located next to the Navy Annex, a few hundred yards from the Pentagon. Along with Combs, Blecksmith establishes the FBI’s command post there, and starts moving the FBI up to it. The two men will spend most of the afternoon at the barracks, where they work on establishing a Joint Operations Center (JOC) at nearby Fort Myer. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A23 and C50 ; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 178] The JOC will open early the following morning (see September 12, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 161]
Due to the chaos and gridlock resulting from the morning’s attacks, the FBI is hampered in mobilizing its investigative operation at the Pentagon. Because the Pentagon is a crime scene, it is the FBI’s job to gather and document every piece of evidence there. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 177] Special Agent Chris Combs, the FBI’s representative at the crash site, has been setting up the FBI operation since arriving at 9:49 a.m. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A20 and 1-1 ; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 178] Since before 10:00 a.m., the bureau’s evidence recovery team has been arriving. But although every available agent has been paged, many are stuck in traffic, and it will take several hours before the entire FBI contingent makes it to the Pentagon. The FBI also has a fleet of sophisticated command vehicles and helicopters, plus other specialized equipment. But even though the crash site is within the “FBI’s backyard,” according to authors Patrick Creed and Rick Newman, by around 12:15 p.m. none of this has arrived yet. The bureau’s rapid-deployment gear, which includes everything needed to gather and document evidence, is stored in a warehouse in Washington, DC. But with traffic in the region at a standstill, it is almost impossible to get this through the streets to the Pentagon. Chris Combs asks his boss at the FBI’s Washington field office if any helicopters are available to get equipment to the Pentagon quickly. But several choppers at the FBI facility in Quantico, just 30 miles south of the Pentagon, are reserved for specific duties during government emergencies and are currently locked down. And according to Creed and Newman, other government helicopters the bureau relies upon for backup are tied up, though what they are being used for is unstated. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A22 ; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 177-179] Furthermore, NBC News has reported that the FBI’s top teams have been away from Washington for the last two days for a major training exercise in California (see 10:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). This means about 50 personnel, plus helicopters and equipment, are currently out of place and unavailable. [NBC 4, 9/11/2001]
San Francisco International Airport. [Source: CBS]San Francisco International Airport, the original destination of Flight 93, the fourth aircraft to be hijacked in the morning’s terrorist attacks, is evacuated except for essential personnel and shut down. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001] About 3,000 people are evacuated from the airport. [Associated Press, 9/12/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/12/2001] Bomb-sniffing dogs patrol the hallways. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001] While the other major Bay Area airports are also shut down, only San Francisco Airport evacuates its terminals and closes its access roads. [Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, 9/12/2001] Security is heightened at many US airports, but the security precautions are particularly high at the San Francisco and Los Angeles airports (see 12:04 p.m. September 11, 2001), since these were the intended destinations of the four hijacked aircraft. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/12/2001]
US airspace is clear of all civilian air traffic, with the exception of a small number of law enforcement and emergency operations aircraft. Otherwise, only military aircraft are airborne. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/18/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 4/15/2002; USA Today, 8/12/2002] The FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, announces that the airspace has been successfully shut down. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 269] At 9:26 a.m., the Command Center ordered a national ground stop that prevented any aircraft from taking off (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and at 9:45 a.m. it ordered FAA facilities to instruct all aircraft to land at the nearest airport (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Since then, about 4,500 commercial and general aviation aircraft have landed without incident. This is the first time ever that all civilian aircraft in the United States have been grounded. [US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure, 9/21/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 29] Author Pamela Freni will later comment that this clearing of the skies was “a tremendous feat accomplished by a huge team that had never even practiced this part of the game before.” Frank Hatfield, the air traffic division manager for the FAA’s eastern region, will comment: “What we did on September 11 was done amazingly well. It was almost like World War II, the way the airplanes were handled.” [Freni, 2003, pp. 69] At 12:30 p.m., the FAA will report that there are 50 flights in US airspace, but none of them are reporting any problems. [CNN, 9/12/2001]
Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, who is in the White House Situation Room, is informed that Vice President Dick Cheney wants him to come down to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), located below the East Wing of the White House. Clarke heads down and, after being admitted by Cheney’s security detail, enters the PEOC. In addition to the vice president and his wife Lynne Cheney, the PEOC contains National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, political adviser Mary Matalin, Cheney’s chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, deputy White House chief of staff Josh Bolten, and White House counselor Karen Hughes. Clarke can see the White House Situation on a screen. But Army Major Mike Fenzel, who is also in the PEOC, complains to him, “I can’t hear the crisis conference [that Clarke has been leading] because Mrs. Cheney keeps turning down the volume on you so she can hear CNN… and the vice president keeps hanging up the open line to you.” Clarke later describes that Lynne Cheney is, like her husband, “a right-wing ideologue,” and is offering her advice and opinions while in the PEOC. When Clarke asks the vice president if he needs anything, Cheney replies, “The [communications] in this place are terrible.” His calls to President Bush keep getting broken off. By the time Clarke heads back upstairs to the Situation Room, it is 12:30 p.m. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 17-19]
Secretary of State Colin Powell learned of the attacks on the US while away in Peru, Lima (see (9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). During his seven-hour flight back to Washington, he is frustrated at being unable to communicate with other senior government leaders. In a March 2002 speech at the State Department, Powell will recall, “I never felt more useless in my life than on the morning of the 11th of September. Phones [were] gone because of what happened here and what happened to the [communications] system here in Washington. They couldn’t get a phone line through. I was able to get some radio communications—two radio spots on the way back—but for most of that seven-hour period, I could not tell what was going on here in my capital, and I’m the secretary of state!” [Telecom News, 2002, pp. 4-5 ; Verton, 2003, pp. 149-150] Powell is able to talk by radio with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. But, according to journalist Bob Woodward, any “real talk” between them “was hopeless.” [Woodward, 2002, pp. 10] Yet, in a 7:40 p.m. press briefing, State Department Deputy Spokesman Philip Reeker will claim that Powell “has been kept in the loop and informed all day.” [US Department of State, 9/11/2001]
Deena Burnett is visited at her home in San Ramon, California, by three FBI agents, and questioned about the calls she received from her husband, Tom Burnett, who was a passenger on Flight 93. Deena has now learned of the plane crashing in Pennsylvania, and a police officer staying with her informed her that this was her husband’s plane. The FBI agents spend over an hour with Deena, asking her about her husband and what he’d said in his four calls from Flight 93. [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 71-72 and 74-75] She describes to them how Tom called her using his cell phone and told her his flight had been hijacked. In his final call he’d described how a group of the passengers was going to “do something.” She says her husband was a former college football player and very intelligent, so if he’d concluded he was going to die, he would have taken action. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 ] Deena remembers that she’d taken notes, writing down the details of her husband’s calls. But she does not want the agents to have these, saying, “You wouldn’t be able to read it anyway.” They do not take the notes with them when they leave. They will return later in the day and tell Deena specifically not to say anything to anyone—especially the media—about her cell phone conversations with her husband, because it is part of their investigation. [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 75 and 81]
Richard Rotanz. [Source: University of Delaware]Richard Rotanz, the deputy director of New York’s Office of Emergency Management, assesses the state of World Trade Center Building 7 and sees significant damage inside the building. [BBC, 7/6/2008; BBC, 10/17/2008] WTC 7 was damaged by the debris when the North Tower of the WTC collapsed at 10:28 a.m. (see 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 11/2008, pp. 16] At around 12:30 p.m., according to the BBC, Rotanz and some other officials—whose identities are unstated—go into WTC 7 to see what condition the building is in. “At the time the building wasn’t safe, but we had to make an assessment just the same,” Rotanz will later tell the BBC. He will describe what he observes inside WTC 7, saying: “You could hear the building creak above us. You could hear things fall. You could hear the fire burning. You could see columns just hanging from the floors, gaping holes in the floors up above us.” He also sees “an elevator car that was blown out of its shaft” and is now “down the hall.” [BBC, 7/6/2008; BBC, 10/17/2008] The elevator car is “30 or 40 feet away from where the elevator shaft once was,” according to another account. [Aegis Insurance Services, Inc. v. 7 World Trade Center Company, LP, 12/4/2013 ] Rotanz and those with him soon leave the building. “We didn’t spend that long” inside WTC 7, Rotanz will say. Rotanz has also observed significant damage to the exterior of WTC 7 (see (After 10:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [BBC, 10/17/2008] At around 2:30 p.m., senior firefighters will make the decision to abandon the possibility of fighting the fires in WTC 7 (see (2:00 p.m.-2:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). The building will collapse at around 5:20 p.m. (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 111]
President Bush records a speech at Barksdale Air Force Base. [Source: Win McNamee / Reuters]President Bush delivers a short speech to the nation in a windowless conference room at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, which is recorded and will be broadcast on television about half an hour later. [Time, 9/14/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 113-117] Since arriving at Barksdale (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001), Bush has been spending time in the office of Lieutenant General Thomas Keck, the commander of the 8th Air Force (see (12:11 p.m.-1:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [American History, 10/2006 ] Bush will later recall that by 12:30 p.m., “it had been almost three hours since I had spoken to the country” (see 9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001) and he is “worried people would get the impression that the government was disengaged.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 133]
Bush Taken to Conference Room to Record Statement - A short statement to the nation has therefore been prepared for Bush to deliver. Keck escorts the president from his office to the conference room in the 8th Air Force headquarters building to record it. Bush is also accompanied to the room by his chief of staff, Andrew Card, his senior adviser, Karl Rove, his communications director, Dan Bartlett, his press secretary Ari Fleischer, and several Secret Service agents. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 113; American History, 10/2006 ] A hurried attempt has been made to prepare the room for the president’s speech. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] Airmen have arranged three US flags behind the wooden lectern behind which Bush will speak, and have tried to add some lighting to brighten up the dark room. The reporters who have been traveling with the president on Air Force One went to the conference room after entering the 8th Air Force headquarters building, and are assembled there when Bush comes in. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; American History, 10/2006 ]
Tape of Speech Taken to Satellite Truck to Be Broadcast - Bush delivers his 219-word speech in precisely two minutes. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Woodward, 2002, pp. 19] After doing so, he leaves the room without acknowledging, or taking any questions from, the reporters in the room. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Newseum et al., 2002, pp. 165] Keck, who stays to watch Bush deliver the speech, then escorts the president back to his office. [American History, 10/2006 ] Master Sergeant Rich Del Haya, the officer in charge of the 8th Air Force public affairs office, is then called to the 8th Air Force headquarters building to collect the videotape of the speech. He runs out of the building with it, accompanied by a CBS network producer and reporter, and drives toward the base’s far north entrance. Gate officials contact a state trooper outside the base, who escorts the three to a satellite truck of the local CBS affiliate. [Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002] The recording of the president’s speech will be broadcast from the satellite truck at 1:04 p.m. (see 1:04 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 117]
Philip Perry. [Source: Cornell Law School]Liz Cheney, the eldest daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, her husband, and their children arrive at a secure government facility at Mount Weather, Virginia, where they have been taken by the Secret Service. Earlier on, Secret Service Special Agent Michael Seremetis, a member of the vice presidential protective division, instructed some of his colleagues to locate Liz Cheney, and then evacuate her and her children to the facility. By 10:55 a.m., Cheney and her children had made it to their home, and 20 minutes later they were being taken to Mount Weather by the Secret Service. Cheney’s husband, Philip Perry, arrived at the White House at around 11:20 a.m. [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001; United States Secret Service, 11/17/2001 ] Perry is the acting associate attorney general, the third-ranking official at the Justice Department. [US Department of Justice, 8/17/2001; Associated Press, 8/23/2001; US Congress. Senate, 5/19/2005] By 12:40 p.m., Secret Service agents were transporting him to Mount Weather. Cheney, her children, and the Secret Service agents with them arrive at Mount Weather at 12:45 p.m. Perry and the agents with him arrive there at 1.15 p.m. [United States Secret Service, 11/17/2001 ] The facility at Mount Weather is “a massive underground complex originally built to house governmental officials in the event of a full-scale nuclear exchange,” according to The Guardian. [Guardian, 8/28/2006] It is located in rural Virginia, 48 miles from Washington, DC. [Time, 12/9/1991] Cheney, Perry, and their children will remain there until 5:30 p.m., when they will be taken to Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland (see 5:30 p.m. September 11, 2001). [United States Secret Service, 11/17/2001 ] Congressional leaders are also taken to the facility at Mount Weather throughout the day, after being evacuated from Washington (see (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between Late Morning and Early Afternoon) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/15/2002; Bamford, 2004, pp. 79-81]
Attorney General John Ashcroft arrives at the FBI’s Strategic Information and Operations Center (SIOC), located on the fifth floor of its Washington, DC, headquarters. [CNN, 11/20/1998; 9/11 Commission, 12/17/2003 ; Ashcroft, 2006, pp. 120] Ashcroft has returned to Washington after his scheduled engagement in Milwaukee had to be aborted due to the terrorist attacks (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Newsweek, 9/24/2001; Newsweek, 3/10/2003]
Ashcroft Heads to SIOC instead of Remote, Classified Site - After his plane landed at Reagan National Airport (see (12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001), Ashcroft was advised by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to head to the remote, classified site, where other Justice Department personnel had gone. But because the roads were clogged with traffic, at the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, Ashcroft and his deputy chief of staff, David Israelite, turned around and headed instead toward the SIOC. While on his way to the SIOC, Ashcroft ordered that senior Justice Department officials like Thompson, who was at the remote, classified site, meet him at the center. Ashcroft will later estimate that he arrives at the SIOC sometime between 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. [9/11 Commission, 12/17/2003 ; Ashcroft, 2006, pp. 118-120]
Sophisticated Command Center Can Manage Multiple Crises - The FBI’s new, upgraded SIOC officially opened in November 1998. [CNN, 11/20/1998; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1/18/2004] The windowless, high-tech command center is 30,000 square feet in size. [Ashcroft, 2006, pp. 120] It can seat 380 people, includes 20 rooms to support its operations, and is equipped with sophisticated computers and communications equipment. It functions as a 24-hour watch post, a crisis management center, and an information processing center. It is capable of handling up to five crises at once. [CNN, 11/20/1998; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1/18/2004] The SIOC was operational “[w]ithin minutes” of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, according to the FBI, and provides “analytical, logistical, and administrative support” for the FBI’s teams on the ground in New York, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2003] Ashcroft will remain at the SIOC throughout the day, along with most of the FBI and Justice Department’s top officials (see (2:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Los Angeles Times, 9/12/2001; Ashcroft, 2006, pp. 129]
Members of President Bush’s staff decide to remove any nonessential passengers traveling with the president on Air Force One when it leaves Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and determine that they will leave behind some congressmen, numerous White House staffers, and most of the journalists that have been accompanying them. [Sarasota Magazine, 11/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 118; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 145; Rove, 2010, pp. 259]
Reporters Traveling with President Reduced to Five - While the president’s staffers are preparing to leave Barksdale, Bush’s chief of staff Andrew Card pulls White House press secretary Ari Fleischer aside and tells him they need to reduce the number of people flying on the president’s plane. Usually, when the president flies, numerous personnel get to his destination ahead of him to prepare for his arrival, but at the present time, Bush’s support team is limited to those already on Air Force One. “Given the heightened sense of security,” Fleischer will later recall, “the Secret Service didn’t want the president to wait for the normal entourage to board the makeshift motorcade that would be assembled upon landing.” Card says the traveling White House staff is going to be reduced and the members of Congress on board will also be left behind at Barksdale, and he tells Fleischer to decrease the number of reporters flying with the president. Card wants the pool of reporters reduced from the current 13 to three, but agrees to Fleischer’s request to make it five. Fleischer decides the reporters that remain with them will be Ann Compton of ABC Radio, Sonya Ross of the Associated Press, Associated Press photographer Doug Mills, and a CBS cameraman and soundman. [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 145-146] White House assistant press secretary Gordon Johndroe passes on the bad news to the reporters. While they are waiting on a bus to be driven back to Air Force One, he comes on board and tells them there will only be five seats on the president’s plane for the media. [USA Today, 9/11/2001]
Reporters Angry at Being Left Behind - The reporters and nonessential personnel remaining at Barksdale Air Force Base will be standing on the tarmac and watching as Air Force One takes off from there, heading for its next destination (see 1:37 p.m. September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 5/3/2011] Some of the reporters will be angry at being left behind. As the president and his entourage are approaching the plane, Reuters correspondent Steve Holland will shout out to Fleischer, “Ari, what about us?” Another angry reporter will call out, “Who’s in charge here, the military or the civilians?” [White House, 8/8/2002; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 146]
'Skeleton Crew' Remaining on Air Force One - As well as the eight reporters, others removed from the plane include Representatives Adam Putnam (R-FL) and Dan Miller (R-FL), Bush’s senior education adviser Sandy Kress, Bush’s personal aide Blake Gottesman, and several Secret Service agents. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Sarasota Magazine, 11/2001] Fleischer will recall that after the nonessential passengers have been left behind, those who continue on Air Force One are just “a skeleton crew.” [White House, 8/8/2002] Those remaining at Barksdale will be escorted to a building and stay there until another plane flies them from the base back to Washington, DC, later in the afternoon (see (3:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sarasota Magazine, 11/2001]
Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, Adam Putnam, Andrew Card, Ann Compton, Steve Holland, US Secret Service, Gordon Johndroe, Sonya Ross, Blake Gottesman, Doug Mills, Barnett A. (“Sandy”) Kress, Dan Miller
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
The main gate at Bolling Air Force Base. [Source: US Air Force]A temporary Air Force Operations Center is established at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, DC, after the original Operations Center at the Pentagon had to be evacuated due to smoke from the burning building coming in. [CNN, 10/10/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 136; Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 ] Air Force personnel had been responding to the terrorist attacks in the Operations Center in the basement of the Pentagon. The Air Force’s Crisis Action Team (CAT) was activated in response to the attacks in New York and carried out its activities there (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Dover Post, 9/19/2001; Syracuse University Magazine, 12/2001] Senior officials, including General John Jumper, the Air Force chief of staff, and James Roche, the secretary of the Air Force, arrived at the Operations Center after the Pentagon was hit and assisted the Air Force’s response to the attacks (see After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [CNN, 10/10/2001; Lompoc Record, 9/11/2003; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 136] But as the morning went on, thick smoke from the burning building started coming into the Operations Center and became a major problem. Air Force officials therefore decided to set up a temporary Operations Center at Bolling Air Force Base, just across the Potomac River from the Pentagon. At 12:20 p.m., Air Force leaders and assistants left the Operations Center at the Pentagon, and were flown by helicopter to the replacement facility. Member of the CAT also relocated to the new facility, which is functioning by 1:00 p.m. At the new Operations Center, Air Force Surgeon General Paul Carlton Jr. briefs Roche and Jumper on what medical assistance the Air Force might provide to help the emergency response efforts in New York and the Washington area. The two men approve his plan to send medical personnel and equipment to McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, to support the emergency response efforts in New York as required. By 3:00 a.m. on September 12, conditions at the Pentagon will have improved sufficiently for operational command to be moved back to the Air Force’s original Operations Center, and that center will be fully operational again at 5:30 a.m. [Prospectus, 9/2006, pp. 3-6 ; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 117, 136; Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 ]
From Barksdale Air Force Base, President Bush speaks with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld informs the president that it had been an American Airlines plane that hit the Pentagon. Previously, there had been a question as to whether it was hit by a smaller plane or a helicopter. [New Yorker, 9/25/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 116] Rumsfeld also tells Bush, “This is not a criminal action. This is war.” Washington Times reporter Rowan Scarborough later reflects, “Rumsfeld’s instant declaration of war… took America from the Clinton administration’s view that terrorism was a criminal matter to the Bush administration’s view that terrorism was a global enemy to be destroyed.” [Washington Times, 2/23/2004] Bush reportedly tells Rumsfeld that there will “be a counterattack and that the military [will] not be hamstrung by politics the way it had been in Vietnam.” He says to Rumsfeld, “It’s a day of national tragedy and we’ll clean up the mess. And then the ball will be in your court and [incoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] Dick Myers’s court to respond.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 116]
A short pre-recorded statement is broadcast on television, in which President Bush tells the nation that all appropriate security measures are being taken, and he assures people that “the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.” [CNN, 9/12/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 117] The 219-word statement, lasting two minutes, was recorded about half an hour ago in a conference room at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana (see 12:36 p.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Woodward, 2002, pp. 19]
Bush Says US Will Find and Punish Terrorists - Bush begins: “Freedom itself was attacked this morning by faceless cowards. And freedom will be defended.” He continues: “Make no mistake: The United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.” He reassures the public that he has been in contact with his colleagues in Washington, DC, and they “have taken all appropriate security precautions to protect the American people. Our military at home and around the world is on high alert status, and we have taken the necessary security precautions to continue the functions of your government.” He says, “[W]e will do whatever is necessary to protect America and Americans.” He concludes his statement, saying: “The resolve of our great nation is being tested. But make no mistake: We will show the world that we will pass this test. God bless.” [CNN, 9/11/2001; White House, 9/11/2001]
Bush Remains at Base after Speech Is Broadcast - After the president’s statement was recorded, Rich Del Haya, a military public relations officer at Barksdale, brought the videotape of it to a TV satellite truck outside the base. A technician there put the tape into a deck to be broadcast. However, the uplink failed twice. Finally, the third broadcast goes out to American TV screens. TV anchors emphasize that the president’s remarks are recorded, not live. “The implication,” journalist and author Bill Sammon will later write, “was that the White House had purposely delayed the airing of the tape in order to get a head start on the president’s next secret destination.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 117; Times-Picayune, 9/8/2002] The 9/11 Commission Report will similarly state that “for security reasons,” Bush’s statement “was taped and not broadcast live.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] But according to Sammon: “[T]he tape delay had been a function of mere logistics—there were no cables available at Barksdale for a live feed on such short notice. In fact, Bush remained at Barksdale more than half an hour after his taped speech was aired.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 117]
Bush's Delivery of Statement Is 'Not Reassuring' - Some commentators will later be critical of Bush’s performance in delivering his statement. Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward will write: “The president’s eyes were red-rimmed when he walked in. His performance was not reassuring. He spoke haltingly, mispronouncing several words as he looked down at his notes.” [Woodward, 2002, pp. 19] Howard Fineman of Newsweek will call the speech “the low point” in the president’s war on terrorism. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 116] Bush will comment that the “sentiment” of his speech “was right, but the setting—a sterile conference room at a military base in Louisiana—did not inspire much confidence.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 133]
Logan Walters. [Source: SCF Partners]While he is at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, President Bush receives an intelligence report from the US Strategic Command (Stratcom), informing him that a high-speed object is heading for his ranch in Crawford, Texas. It is already more than 45 minutes since US airspace had been cleared of all aircraft except military and emergency flights (see 12:16 p.m. September 11, 2001). Bush orders an underling to notify everyone at the ranch about this. [New Yorker, 9/25/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 117; CBS News, 9/2/2003] In the White House Situation Room, they are also informed of the rogue aircraft. Logan Walters, who is Bush’s personal aide, calls the ranch’s caretaker and tells him, “Get as far away from there as you can.” Senior national security official Franklin Miller then receives a phone call informing him that a combat air patrol (CAP) has been established over the ranch. [Draper, 2007, pp. 142] (A CAP is an aircraft patrol with the purpose of intercepting and destroying hostile aircraft before they reach their targets. [US Department of Defense, 4/12/2001] ) Miller heads to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House to ask Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley about the CAP. Both men agree that it seems unnecessarily excessive. When Miller returns to the Situation Room, he sets about calling off the CAP, but finds that it wasn’t even established to begin with, and that, furthermore, the report of a rogue aircraft was a false alarm. [Draper, 2007, pp. 143] A threat to Air Force One had allegedly been received earlier on (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but this too is later deemed to have been a false alarm. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554]
Anchorage Air Route Traffic Control Center. [Source: FAA]The pilots of a Korean Airlines passenger jet that is due to land in the US and is considered a possible hijacking, switch their plane’s transponder to transmit the code signaling a hijacking, even though the plane has not been hijacked. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 277-278] Korean Airlines Flight 85 is a Boeing 747 bound from Seoul, South Korea, to New York, and which is currently heading for a refueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska. For reasons that are unclear, the plane’s pilots included the code signaling a hijacking in a text message they sent to their airline at 11:08 a.m. The FAA was notified of this and alerted controllers at its Anchorage Center to the suspicious flight (see (Shortly Before 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). The FAA also alerted NORAD, which launched fighter jets to follow the aircraft (see (12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Anchorage Daily News, 9/29/2001; USA Today, 8/12/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 257]
Pilots Send Signal Indicating a Hijacking - Flight 85 entered the Anchorage Center’s airspace at around 1:00 p.m. The air traffic controller there who is handling the flight queried the pilots to determine whether their plane had been hijacked. He used a code word when speaking to them, as a way of covertly asking if the plane was hijacked, in case the crew was unable to speak openly over the radio. However the pilots offered no reassurance that their plane was secure. Instead, at 1:24 p.m., they switch the plane’s transponder (a device that sends information about an aircraft to controllers’ radar screens) to “7500”: the universal code that means a plane has been hijacked. This action sets off “a frenzy of activity,” according to USA Today. Within minutes, Alaska’s governor orders the evacuation of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, as well as the evacuation of federal buildings and all large hotels in Anchorage.
FAA Wants Flight to Remain on Current Course - However, officials at the FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, are unconvinced that Flight 85 has been hijacked, and advise the Anchorage Center controllers not to redirect it. The Command Center is in contact with Korean Airlines headquarters, which is emphatically stating it has received no indication that Flight 85 is in trouble. Ben Sliney, the national operations manager at the Command Center, urges the Anchorage Center controllers to keep seeking clarification from Flight 85’s pilots about the status of their aircraft. [USA Today, 8/12/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 277-278] But NORAD will instruct the controllers to direct the plane away from Anchorage (see (Shortly After 1:24 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Anchorage Daily News, 9/8/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 278] Flight 85 will continue transmitting the hijack code from its transponder until it lands in Canada at 2:54 p.m. (see 2:54 p.m. September 11, 2001). Only then will officials be able to confirm that the flight has not been hijacked (see September 12, 2001).
Reason for False Alarm Unclear - No clear explanation will be given as to why the pilots of Flight 85 switch their transponder to the hijacking code. In August 2002, USA Today will state: “To this day, no one is certain why the pilots issued the alert.… The Korean pilots may have misinterpreted the controller’s comments as an order to reset the transponder.” [USA Today, 8/12/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 278-279] Korean Airlines officials will say the pilot of Flight 85 believed that controllers at the Anchorage Center were directing him to send out the hijack signal. Administrator Michael Lim will say: “Our captain was following their instruction. They even told the captain to transmit code 7500, hijack code. Our captain, who realized how serious it is, they were just following instructions.” However, the airline will refuse to make available a tape recording of conversations between the pilot and its officials on the ground in Anchorage. [Anchorage Daily News, 9/29/2001]
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada, receives conflicting information from the military and other government agencies regarding a Korean Airlines passenger jet that is mistakenly considered hijacked and has been instructed to land at Whitehorse Airport. [Yukon Government, 11/13/2001, pp. 14-16, 35-36 ; Spencer, 2008, pp. 277-278]
Plane Redirected to Whitehorse - Korean Airlines Flight 85, a Boeing 747, was due to land in Anchorage, Alaska, for a refueling stop. The plane has not been hijacked, but its pilots have given indications that it is hijacked (see (Shortly Before 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and 1:24 p.m. September 11, 2001). Because Flight 85 has less than an hour’s worth of fuel remaining, it is agreed that the plane should land at Whitehorse Airport (see (Shortly After 1:24 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Alaska Legislature. Joint Senate and House Armed Services Committee, 2/5/2002; Anchorage Daily News, 9/8/2002]
Aircraft Hijacked or Low on Fuel? - Whitehorse RCMP is first alerted to Flight 85 at 1:25 p.m., when Winnipeg RCMP informs it that Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND) is saying the flight is indicating a hijacking situation, and more information will be forthcoming. Ten minutes later, the DND contacts Whitehorse RCMP itself, saying a potentially hijacked Korean Airlines 747 is en route to Whitehorse Airport. At 1:55 p.m., Transport Canada similarly alerts Whitehorse RCMP to the potentially hijacked Korean Airlines 747 en route to Whitehorse. Then, at 2:13 p.m., Transport Canada Winnipeg advises Whitehorse RCMP that it has received a report from the Transport Canada Situation Center in Ottawa that Flight 85 has been hijacked and is near Whitehorse. However, while the DND and Transport Canada say Flight 85 is under hijack status, at 2:20 p.m. NORAD calls Whitehorse RCMP and says the flight is not hijacked, but instead a low fuel emergency. Nine minutes later, though, NORAD calls again and says Flight 85 might indeed be hijacked, as communications anomalies with the aircraft’s pilot remain suspicious. Due to the conflicting reports it is receiving, Whitehorse RCMP decides to err on the side of caution, and considers Flight 85 to be both hijacked and low on fuel until investigations prove otherwise.
Conflicting Arrival Times - Whitehorse RCMP also receives two significantly different reports of when Flight 85 is due to arrive at Whitehorse Airport. At 1:45 p.m., NORAD informs it that the aircraft is 400 miles away and due to arrive in one hour. But 10 minutes later, Transport Canada says the flight is estimated to be arriving in just 12 minutes, meaning around 2:07 p.m. [Yukon Government, 11/13/2001, pp. 14-16, 35-36 ] Flight 85 will eventually land without incident at Whitehorse Airport at 2:54 p.m. (see 2:54 p.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/12/2002; Anchorage Daily News, 9/8/2002]
In the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the East Wing of the White House, numerous key officials are assembled, including Vice President Dick Cheney, his chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, White House counselor Karen Hughes, and others. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 18-19] A technician informs Libby that levels of carbon dioxide in the room have climbed too high. Libby remembers that excessive carbon dioxide can affect a person’s judgment, and arranges to have any non-essential personnel—comprising various lower-level aides—removed from the room. [Newsweek, 12/31/2001] According to journalist and author Stephen Hayes, it is in fact David Addington, the vice president’s general counsel, who asks the lower-level officials to leave. [Hayes, 2007, pp. 343]
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]
Jean ChrÃ©tien. [Source: University of Alberta]Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien gives his authorization for US fighter jets to shoot down a passenger jet that is suspected of being hijacked, if necessary. [Globe and Mail, 9/12/2002] Korean Airlines Flight 85 is a Boeing 747 heading to New York, but due to land in Anchorage, Alaska, for a refueling stop. Although the plane has not been hijacked, its pilots have given indications that it is hijacked (see (Shortly Before 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and 1:24 p.m. September 11, 2001). NORAD has therefore scrambled fighter jets to follow it (see (12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/12/2002] Lieutenant General Norton Schwartz, the commander of the Alaskan NORAD Region, has ordered air traffic controllers to turn Flight 85 away from Anchorage, and said he would have it shot down if it refused to divert (see (Shortly After 1:24 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 278] According to the Globe and Mail, the command of the Canadian NORAD Region, in Winnipeg, agreed that “the airliner could enter Canadian airspace accompanied by the US fighters, but insisted the decision to shoot it down must be the Canadian government’s.” Now, Chrétien receives a phone call from a Canadian NORAD commander. He is told Flight 85 might have to be shot down. Chrétien replies, “Yes, if you think they are terrorists, you call me again, but be ready to shoot them down.” Chrétien will later state, “I authorized [the shootdown] in principle.” Reflecting on the difficult decision he makes, he will say: “It’s kind of scary that… [there is] this plane with hundreds of people and you have to call a decision like that.… But you prepare yourself for that. I thought about it—you know that you will have to make decisions at times that will [be] upsetting you for the rest of your life.” [Globe and Mail, 9/12/2002; National Post, 9/12/2002] Flight 85 is redirected to Whitehorse Airport in Canada, and will land there safely at 2:54 p.m. (see 2:54 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 278]
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, 9/12/2001; 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
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 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]
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 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 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]
New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani announces that the New York City subway and bus service has been partially restored. [CNN, 9/12/2001]
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]
The entrance to Offutt Air Force Base’s bunker. [Source: CBC]Air Force One, with President Bush on board, lands at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska, accompanied by two F-16 fighter jets. [Salon, 9/12/2001; Bamford, 2004, pp. 89; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326] Offutt is the home of the US Strategic Command (Stratcom), which controls America’s nuclear weapons. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; US Air Force, 9/6/2011] The large base is one of the most heavily defended in the US. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] Personnel there were told earlier in the day that the president might come to Offutt during the crisis but they only received confirmation that he would be landing at the base about 20 to 30 minutes ago. [Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002; Omaha World-Herald, 9/8/2002; Omaha World-Herald, 9/9/2016] They have, however, taken the initiative to start preparing for his arrival. “There were pretty wide-scale preparations going on anticipating that the president might come, without knowing for sure, even before we got notice that he was coming,” Admiral Richard Mies, commander in chief of Stratcom, will later recall. “We’d started to evacuate the main quarters that could be used for VIPs and install some of the protection there that’d be needed in case [Bush] needed to spend the night,” Mies will say. [NET News, 12/27/2011; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Journalists on Air Force One were not told they would be landing at Offutt. However, they learned what was happening when they saw a local television channel showing the plane arriving at the base (see (2:50 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Gilbert et al., 2002, pp. 198; Sammon, 2002, pp. 120-121; Sylvester and Huffman, 2002, pp. 138] Bush will get off the plane about 10 minutes after it lands and then be taken to an underground command center (see (3:00 p.m.-3:10 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Salon, 9/12/2001; Bamford, 2004, pp. 89] He will conduct a meeting of the National Security Council in a secure video teleconference while he is at the base (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Times, 10/8/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326] Personnel at Offutt were the middle of a major training exercise called Global Guardian when America came under attack this morning (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001 and Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001), although the exercise has now been canceled (see (10:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Omaha World-Herald, 9/8/2002; Schmitt and Shanker, 2011, pp. 22]
A Korean Airlines 747 at Whitehorse Airport. [Source: Government of Yukon]A Korean Airlines passenger jet that is mistakenly considered hijacked and is low on fuel lands without incident at Whitehorse Airport, in Canada’s Yukon Territory. [USA Today, 8/12/2002; Anchorage Daily News, 9/8/2002]
Plane Still Transmitting Hijack Signal - Korean Airlines Flight 85 is a Boeing 747 with 215 people on board, and was on its way from Seoul, South Korea, to New York. Although it has not been hijacked, for reasons that are unclear, its pilots have given indications that the plane has been hijacked (see (Shortly Before 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and 1:24 p.m. September 11, 2001). Flight 85 was due to land in Anchorage, Alaska, for a refueling stop, but has been diverted to Whitehorse (see (Shortly After 1:24 p.m.) September 11, 2001). The aircraft is still transmitting a beacon code indicating it is hijacked, 90 minutes after its pilots switched the transponder to that code. [USA Today, 8/12/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 257, 277-278] Fighter jets that launched to follow Flight 85 (see (12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001) have escorted the plane all the way from Alaska to Whitehorse. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/12/2001; USA Today, 8/12/2002; Anchorage Daily News, 9/8/2002]
Schools and Government Buildings Evacuated - Because hijacking is a criminal activity, the Whitehorse Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has taken charge of the local response to Flight 85. The RCMP removed children from schools and evacuated buildings that are considered probable targets for terrorist attacks, including the Yukon government’s main administration building and Whitehorse City Hall. All non-essential members of staff have been evacuated from the Whitehorse Airport terminal building; a security perimeter has been established around the airport; and part of the Alaska Highway has been closed. [Yukon Government, 11/13/2001, pp. 14-15 ] Police suggested that downtown businesses and residents evacuate, but most have not done so.
Co-Pilot Escorted off Plane at Gunpoint - Flight 85 now lands at Whitehorse Airport safely and without incident, and is directed to a secluded area on the tarmac. [Anchorage Daily News, 9/29/2001; USA Today, 8/12/2002; Anchorage Daily News, 9/8/2002] Heavily armed members of the RCMP surround it. [Canadian Press, 9/12/2001; United Press International, 9/12/2001] A single RCMP officer then walks up the plane’s steps and asks to speak with a member of the flight crew. The co-pilot subsequently emerges and is escorted off the plane at gunpoint. [Anchorage Daily News, 9/29/2001] One witness to the incident will later recount, “He had everyone drawing down on him and he had to take some clothes off, wave his shirt in the air and all that.” [Canadian Press, 9/12/2001] The rest of the crew and the passengers will be escorted off the plane later on, around 5:10 p.m. The passengers will be instructed to leave all their personal items, including their carry-on luggage, on the aircraft. [Anchorage Daily News, 9/29/2001; Yukon Government, 11/13/2001, pp. 17 ; Anchorage Daily News, 9/8/2002] The fighters that escorted Flight 85 to Whitehorse will circle above the airport while the plane is being inspected. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/12/2001] The RCMP will finally confirm that Flight 85 had not been hijacked early the following morning (see September 12, 2001). [Yukon Government, 11/13/2001, pp. 18 ]
Reasons for Landing at Whitehouse Unclear - Although it was reportedly because of the plane’s lack of fuel that it was decided to land Flight 85 at Whitehorse Airport, a report published by the government of Yukon in November 2001 will state: “The question of why this potentially dangerous aircraft was directed to Whitehorse rather than another airport remains unanswered by senior national agencies, the [FAA], NORAD, and Transport Canada.… [Q]uestions about the decision-making process to re-direct [Flight 85] to Whitehorse have not been answered in any significant detail.” The report will add, “It is expected that greater detail on this will not be forthcoming from these agencies in the short-term.” [Yukon Government, 11/13/2001, pp. 5 ; Anchorage Daily News, 9/8/2002]
President Bush gets off Air Force One and is taken to a command center several stories underground at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. [Salon, 9/12/2001; Bamford, 2004, pp. 89] At 2:50 p.m., the president’s plane landed at Offutt, home of the US Strategic Command (Stratcom), which controls America’s nuclear weapons (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326] About 10 minutes later, Bush emerges from the plane. [Salon, 9/12/2001] Admiral Richard Mies, commander in chief of Stratcom, along with a driver and a Secret Service agent, has come in a car to meet Air Force One on the runway. After getting off the plane, Bush gets into the back of the car with Mies. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 121; NET News, 12/27/2011; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] His staffers, meanwhile, get onto buses. [Studies in Intelligence, 9/2006 ] The vehicles are driven away from the plane and across the large base. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 121]
Bush Goes to the Underground Command Center - Bush and his staffers are then taken to Stratcom’s underground command center. [CBS News, 9/2/2003] They are taken by Mies through the center’s fire escape in order to reach it. [NET News, 12/27/2011; Omaha World-Herald, 9/9/2016] They are driven to a small, concrete building, resembling a hut, go through a door in it, and then head down a staircase. [White House, 8/12/2002; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 147-148] “We went down and down and down, pretty far underground,” Brian Montgomery, the White House’s director of advance, will later recall. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] “It’s a long way down,” Karl Rove, Bush’s senior adviser, will describe, “and then you emerge and go through a series of hallways and special doors, blast doors… and then you enter into a conference center, which is… several stories underground.” [ABC News, 9/11/2002]
Exercise Means Extra People Are in the Command Center - The command center, according to author James Bamford, is “a cavernous two-story war room with banks of dark wooden desks curved away from a giant projection screen on which [is] displayed the status of military forces around the world.” [Bamford, 2004, pp. 89] Eight giant video screens are loaded with data and numerous military personnel are seated at computer terminals that are hooked into satellites monitoring activities around the world. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002] Stratcom was in the middle of a major training exercise, called Global Guardian, when the attacks began this morning (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001 and Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001) and consequently many more people are in the command center than would normally be there.
Bush Is Briefed on the Attacks - When Bush enters, Rear Admiral Jay Donnelly, the operations officer in the center, announces, “Ladies and gentlemen, the president.” Everyone comes to attention. Bush then tells them to sit down. Mies gives Bush a briefing in the command center. “The president sat down and I briefed him on what each of [the] screens was displaying,” he will recall, adding, “Gave him, as best I could, an update from [Stratcom’s] perspective of what was happening based on what we knew.” [Omaha World-Herald, 9/8/2002; NET News, 12/27/2011] After being briefed, Bush and Andrew Card, his chief of staff, will be taken to a teleconference center. [CBS News, 9/2/2003; Rove, 2010, pp. 261] There, Bush will conduct a meeting of the National Security Council in a secure video teleconference (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Times, 10/8/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326; NET News, 12/27/2011]
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 airliner. [Source: Public domain]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. [Federal Aviation Administration, 1/2/2002 ] NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) was alerted to the plane by US Customs and the FBI, according to a NORAD representative on the Pentagon’s air threat conference call (see 9:37 a.m.-9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). NORAD has been unable to locate the aircraft on radar, according to the NORAD representative. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001] 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 Is Reportedly Transmitting the 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] However, according to the NORAD representative on the air threat conference call, the plane’s transponder has not been “squawking” the code for a hijacking. “We do not have squawk indication at this point,” he has said.
Plane Is Reportedly Diverted to Pittsburgh - An FAA representative on the air threat conference call apparently says an e-mail has been sent from the suspicious aircraft, stating that the plane is being diverted to Pittsburgh, although the FAA representative’s communications are distorted and therefore unclear. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001]
President Says Fighters Can Shoot Down the Plane - President Bush discusses the suspicious US Airways flight with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld over the air threat conference call after landing at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001) and Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), listens in. [Filson, 2003, pp. 87-88] Rumsfeld wants Bush to confirm that fighters are authorized to shoot down the plane if it is considered a threat to a city in the US. “The reason I called… was just to verify that your authorization for the use of force would apply as well in this situation,” he says. Bush replies, “It does, but let us make sure that the fighters and you on the ground get all the facts.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001]
Plane Is on the Ground in Spain - After a time, it will be found that the plane is not a threat and is on the ground in Spain. Arnold will be called by Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at 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] Reggie Settles, the FAA representative at NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center in Colorado, will be informed by US Airways that Flight 937 in fact never existed. However, he will be told, there is a US Airways Flight 911, which “took off from Madrid,” but “has turned back and returned to Madrid,” and “is not en route to the United States.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001]
President Decides to Leave Offutt after the Concerns Are Resolved - After he learns that the suspicious 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 will reply, “Okay, then I’m getting airborne.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 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]
Entity Tags: Larry Arnold, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, North American Aerospace Defense Command, US Airways, Robert Marr, Reggie Settles, White House, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Northeast Air Defense Sector, US Customs Service
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
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, 9/12/2001; Sarasota Magazine, 11/2001; 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, 11/2001; 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, 11/2001; 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]
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]
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).
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]
According to numerous rescue and recovery workers, the area around World Trade Center 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: Joseph Fortis, Daniel Nigro, Nick Visconti, Ray Goldbach, Tiernach Cassidy, Frank Fellini, Thomas Von Essen, Edward Kennedy (firefighter), Vincent Massa, John Norman, World Trade Center
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
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 ]
Bush speaking to Cheney shortly after leaving Offutt.
[Source: White House]Air Force One, with President Bush on board, takes off from Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska and heads for Washington, DC. [CNN, 9/12/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 123; Draper, 2007, pp. 143] The president’s plane landed at Offutt at 2:50 p.m. While he was at the base, Bush conducted a meeting of the National Security Council in a secure video teleconference (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bamford, 2004, pp. 89, 91; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326] Against objections from the Secret Service, he has announced that he will be returning to Washington (see (4:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Woodward, 2002, pp. 28; Washington Times, 10/8/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 135]
Bush Thanks Personnel at Offutt - Bush waved to personnel at the base as he was making his way out to his plane. “We were working at our desks and all of a sudden, there was the president striding down the hallway,” Julie Ziegenhorn, a public affairs officer, will later describe, adding, “He walked right out the front door, waving to us.” He shouted to the personnel, “Thanks for all you’re doing!”
Pilot Was Surprised that Bush Is Leaving - Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, was incredulous when he was told the president was getting ready to leave, since he’d expected Bush to stay at Offutt for a much longer time. He had been in an office at the base when a young airman ran up to him and said, “It looks like the president is heading back to the plane.” He dismissed the airman, saying, “It probably wasn’t the guy,” but the airman replied, “No, I’m pretty sure I just saw him drive by.” Tillman then raced back to Air Force One and found the president waiting for him at the top of the stairs by the cockpit. Bush told him: “Tillman, we got to get back home. Let’s get back home.”
Reporters Are Allowed to Say What Bush Is Doing - Reporters who have been traveling with Bush are finally permitted to describe the president’s movements on the record. “I called my bureau and told them that the president was heading back to Washington and would address the nation from the Oval Office,” Ann Compton of ABC Radio will recall. [US Air Force, 2/29/2012 ; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Bush Tells His Wife, 'See You at the White House' - As Air Force One is taking off, Bush calls his wife, Laura, who is at the Secret Service headquarters in Washington (see (10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001), to let her know he is returning to the capital. He tells her: “I’m coming home. See you at the White House. I love you. Go on home.” After talking to her, he feels comfortable enough to make a joke. “If I’m in the White House and there’s a plane coming my way, all I can say is I hope I read my Bible that day,” he says to his aides. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 123; Woodward, 2002, pp. 17, 28; Washington Times, 10/8/2002]
Richard Tubb. [Source: US Air Force]Dr. Richard Tubb, the White House physician, gives everyone on Air Force One a week’s worth of Cipro, a drug used to treat anthrax. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Air Force One, with President Bush on board, took off from Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska at around 4:33 p.m. (see (4:33 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/12/2001; Draper, 2007, pp. 143]
Doctor Is Concerned about a Possible Biological Attack - Tubb will later recall that as the plane is then flying toward Washington, DC, “The thing at that moment I was most worried about was a biologic [attack].” In order to protect the White House staffers on the plane in the “unlikely but high-risk scenario” of such an attack occurring, he decides there is “little harm” in giving them antibiotics. He therefore gives everyone on the plane—presumably including the president—a week’s worth of Cipro. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Cipro is an antibiotic that is commonly used to treat anthrax. [Forbes, 10/17/2001]
Passengers Are Given an Envelope Containing Cipro - Brian Montgomery, the White House’s director of advance, notices Tubb giving the drug to the passengers on Air Force One. He sees the doctor leaning over each person, whispering to them, patting them on the shoulder, and giving them a small envelope containing Cipro. When Tubb reaches Montgomery, he asks him, “How do you feel?” Montgomery says he feels fine. “You don’t feel disoriented?” Tubb asks and Montgomery says no. Tubb asks, “Have you ever heard of Cipro?” and comments, “We don’t know what might’ve been in that school”—referring to the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, which Bush visited this morning (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001)—“so we’re just being careful.” Montgomery asks what the drug is used for and Tubb replies, “In case it’s anthrax.” [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Doctor Will Later Be Pleased at His Actions - Letters containing anthrax spores will be sent to media organizations and US government offices later this month and in October, leading to five people dying and a further 17 people becoming ill but surviving (see October 5-November 21, 2001). [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 12/8/2001; BBC, 9/25/2006; CNN, 2/19/2010; National Public Radio, 2/15/2011] Commenting on this, Tubb will reflect, “It was scary later realizing later that fall [that] anthrax wasn’t as unimaginable as we’d thought.” “I was suddenly real pleased with how we’d reacted on the plane,” he will say. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Tubb is director of the White House Medical Unit and physician to the White House. He oversees all healthcare services within the White House and Camp David, and aboard executive aircraft. [US Air Force, 7/2006] Later today, staffers accompanying Vice President Dick Cheney to Camp David (see Shortly After 10:00 p.m. September 11, 2001) will also be given Cipro, supposedly as “a precaution” (see Evening, September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 10/23/2001]
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).
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]
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 ]
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]
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]
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]
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]
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).
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]
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).
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
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).
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).
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]
The Defense Protective Service (DPS)—the law enforcement agency that guards the Pentagon—arrests three people at the Pentagon who are dressed in firefighting gear but are not firefighters. Further details of who these people are and why they are at the Pentagon are unstated. John Jester, the chief of the DPS, later reflects: “When you have a major event, certain people are like moths around a light bulb. They come to the scene as thrill seekers.” Reportedly, incident command, DPS, and FBI officials are worried by the “absence of an effective identification system to control the large number of people that [are passing] through the outer perimeter fence to support firefighting and recovery operations” at the Pentagon. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 170]
John McCole [Source: Robson Books]Some gruesome remains are discovered in the World Trade Center ruins:
Investigators find a pair of severed hands bound together with plastic handcuffs on a nearby building. They are believed to have belonged to a flight attendant. [Newsday, 9/15/2001]
Honorary firefighter Michael Bellone and two other recovery workers discover the body of an attendant from American Airlines Flight 11. Reportedly, the men’s digging efforts reveal “a blue skirt, then one side of a body, and finally a pair of wings still attached to the lapel of a woman’s jacket.” [Swanson, 2003, pp. 140; Daily Standard (Grand Lake), 9/11/2006] Other reports describe the discovery of the body of a flight attendant with her hands bound. Presumably they are referring to the same remains. [Guardian, 9/13/2001; New York Times, 9/15/2001]
There are reports of whole rows of seats with passengers in them being found, as well as much of the cockpit of one of the planes, complete with the body of a suspected hijacker. Police cannot confirm these reports. [Ananova, 9/13/2001; Guardian, 9/13/2001; New York Times, 9/15/2001]
Fire Lieutenant John McCole sees a body bag with a tag on it saying, “Possible Perp—pilot.” McCole later comments, “I found it pretty amazing that someone’s body could remain so intact after crashing through a skyscraper into the middle of an inferno.” [McCole, 2002, pp. 57] Yet, contradicting the claim that a hijacker’s body was found, only in February 2003 are the remains of two hijackers identified (see Late February 2003).
While all of these bodies and plane parts are supposedly found, it will be claimed that none of the four black boxes for the two aircraft that hit the WTC are ever found. A National Transportation Safety Board spokesperson later says: “It’s extremely rare that we don’t get the recorders back. I can’t recall another domestic case in which we did not recover the recorders.” [CBS News, 2/25/2002] The black boxes are considered “nearly indestructible,” are placed in the safest parts of the aircraft, and are designed to survive impacts much greater than the WTC impact. They can withstand heat of up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour, and can withstand an impact of an incredible 3,400 G’s. [ABC News, 9/17/2001] However, in 2004, it will be reported that some of the black boxes are found in the weeks after 9/11, but their discovery is kept secret (see October 2001).
Before 9/11, New York City was scheduled to have a major terrorism training exercise on this day, in a large commercial warehouse on the Hudson River. Called Tripod, it was intended to test how well the city’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) could administer treatment in the event of a biological-terrorism attack. More than 1,000 Police Academy cadets and Fire Department trainees were recruited to act the parts of terrified civilians afflicted with a range of medical conditions. Various individuals were invited to watch, including Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the police and fire commissioners, and representatives of the FBI and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Presumably many have already arrived for the exercise when the 9/11 attacks occur (see 7:00 a.m. -9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). Because Pier 92, where Tripod was due to take place, has been set up ready for the exercise, OEM staff are able to move there and quickly convert it into a large emergency operations center when their original command center (in WTC Building 7) is evacuated and later destroyed during 9/11. Thus, within 31 hours of the attacks, OEM has a functional facility able to manage the search and rescue effort, just four miles north-northwest of the WTC site. [New York Magazine, 10/15/2001; Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 20; 9/11 Commission, 5/19/2004] Tripod is the follow-up to a previous training exercise in New York, called RED Ex (see May 11, 2001). [New York Sun, 12/20/2003] Due to the 9/11 attacks, Tripod is called off, but will eventually take place on May 22, 2002. [City of New York, 5/22/2002]
A mysterious man, who is initially assumed to be working for the military, assists firefighters involved in the Pentagon recovery efforts, but then disappears without trace and is thought to have been an impostor who had managed to slip inside the Pentagon grounds.
"Johnny" - Arlington firefighter Bob Gray is introduced by his colleague Bobby Beer to a man wearing a hard hat. Beer introduces the man only as “Johnny,” and adds, “He’s our go-between with PenRen [the Pentagon Renovation Program], and he knows some of the military guys too.” Although “Johnny” is not wearing any identifying badge or ID, he seems knowledgeable, appears “taut and serious, with a purposeful military stance,” and even introduces Gray and Beer to a couple of friends of his who say they work for Special Forces. Johnny says if Gray and Beer need anything from the military, he can help. As a security perimeter has now been set up around the crash site, Gray assumes Johnny must be there officially. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 367-368]
Disappears - Johnny turns out to be very helpful and assists Gray and Beer repeatedly. But, on the evening of September 14, he suddenly disappears. Gray and Beer ask around, but no one at the Pentagon seems to know exactly who Johnny is or what his last name is, and none of the agencies involved in the recovery effort say he worked for them. Johnny’s disappearance appears to follow an error he had made after firefighters discovered two bodies inside the Pentagon’s E Ring. Johnny mistakenly called the truck used to remove bodies to the temporary morgue prematurely, before FBI agents had the chance to photograph and document the remains. Gray and Beer start to wonder if Johnny in fact had no official standing, and was an impostor.
Clearance - According to authors Patrick Creed and Rick Newman, “It wasn’t unusual at high-profile crime scenes for law-enforcement pretenders to show up and insinuate themselves into the work.” Johnny would have required “some kind of clearance to get through the concentric security perimeters that sprung up around the building—unless he’d been inside the wire before security tightened. It was possible that he had wandered in at the very beginning and simply stayed—there was enough food, water, and basic support on the scene to survive for days. Somebody who was determined enough to sleep inside one of the tents, or even on the grass, could easily have bypassed security.”
Tighter Security - However, the FBI has now become stricter about security, and is ushering out volunteers and scrutinizing anyone without airtight credentials. Gray and Beer conclude that Johnny may have come to the attention of the FBI when he called the body truck, leading agents to inquire who he was, and this could have prompted his disappearance from the Pentagon. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 416-418]
Fort Myer. [Source: US Army]At 6:00 a.m., the FBI opens the Joint Operations Center (JOC) for coordinating the emergency response to the Pentagon attack. The JOC is located in a community center at Fort Myer, an army base 1.5 miles northwest of the Pentagon, and is commanded by FBI Special Agent in Charge Timothy Bereznay. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A23 and A28 ; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 161] The US government’s January 2001 Interagency Domestic Terrorism Concept of Operations Plan (CONPLAN) allocated to the FBI responsibility for activating a JOC to coordinate the activities of federal departments and agencies in response to terrorist attacks. All the government organizations responding to the Pentagon attack are expected to assign a senior representative with decision-making authority to the JOC. There are 26 such representatives in all. Because many of the responding agencies are unfamiliar with the functions of the JOC, there is initially “considerable confusion” after it opens. [US Government, 1/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C49 and C51 ; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 161] The FBI has been able to set up the JOC particularly quickly as a result of its preparations for the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, scheduled to take place in Washington at the end of September (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). Months previously, the FBI surveyed regional sites and chose Fort Myer as the location to coordinate the law enforcement response to any violent protests at that event. [Guardian, 9/14/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 161]
According to a former senior Justice Department official, a high-level former national security official working as a senior intelligence analyst for a large domestic law enforcement agency inside the White House accidentally walks into a restricted room, where he finds a computer system logged on to what he recognizes to be the Main Core database. Main Core contains a list of potential enemies of the state for use by the Continuity of Government program (see 1980s or Before). He will refuse to be interviewed about the matter, but will tell the senior Justice Department official about it. The Justice Department official will add that when she mentions the specific name of the top-secret system during a conversation, he turns “white as a sheet.” [Salon, 7/23/2008]
Regarding President Bush’s decision not to return to Washington immediately after the 9/11 attacks, historian Robert Dallek tells a USA Today reporter: “Frankly, President Bush made an initial mistake. The president’s place is back in Washington” (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (9:45 a.m.-9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and 10:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley adds, “If I were Bush, I’d be in the White House right now, saying, ‘We took a hit at the Pentagon and had a disaster in New York, but the government of the United States is unscathed by this and we’re going to march forward.’” When Dallek’s words appear in print, White House political adviser Karl Rove calls Dallek to inform him that Bush did not return to Washington right away because of security threats to the White House (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and Air Force One (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (4:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). Rove provides no substantiation for his claims, and media critic Eric Alterman later asks, “If you think Air Force One is to be attacked (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001), why go up in Air Force One?” Looking back on Dallek’s assessment, New York Times columnist Frank Rich later writes, “September 11 was the first time since the British set fire to the White House in 1814 that a president abandoned the capital for security reasons.” [USA Today, 9/12/2001; Rich, 2006, pp. 24-25]
After arriving at FAA headquarters on September 12, Tony Ferrante, the manager of FAA investigations, spends several days working out the movements of the four hijacked planes. He is astonished at the precision with which they were flown towards their targets, later saying: “[I]t was almost as though it was choreographed.… It’s not as easy as it looks to do what they did at 500 miles an hour.” He concludes that either the hijackers were better pilots than originally thought, or they were aided by additional equipment such as radios to communicate among the four planes or handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) equipment. [Freni, 2003, pp. 74 and 76] 9/11 Commission investigators will in fact later speculate that the hijackers may have purchased GPS devices, “so they could determine the latitude and longitude of their intended targets.” According to a summary of a Commission interview, “Any autopilot changes made by the terrorist pilots to assist them in navigating to predetermined coordinates would simply have been to enter a specific location such as Newark or Reagan National” Airport. However, airline personnel will tell the 9/11 Commission investigators that “Entering changes to the autopilot is something that terrorist pilots probably would not have been trained or able to do.” Even a United Airlines senior pilot, who instructs on how to do this, says “he always has to pause before he makes such corrections to make sure to remember how to enter the change.” [9/11 Commission, 11/17/2003 ]
According to columnist and defense expert William M. Arkin, the Bush administration updates the civil disturbance plan known as Operation Garden Plot. This military plan was first established in the late 1960s to deal with anti-war protests and urban riots (see Winter 1967-1968). Arkin reports: “The Army’s ‘Operation Garden Plot,’ a plan formulated in the 1960s for dealing with large civil disturbances, has been dusted off and updated to focus mostly on military intervention in response to a domestic event involving weapons of mass destruction.… Special Operations Command, and more specifically the super-secret Delta Force, now have a role in thwarting and responding to domestic terrorist incidents.” [Los Angeles Times, 5/26/2002]
Five of the six air traffic controllers at the FAA’s New York Center that provided tape-recorded statements where they described their actions during the 9/11 attacks subsequently prepare written statements about the attacks. However, they do not get to listen to their earlier taped accounts to help them do this. [US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 ]
FAA Requires Written Statements - Six controllers at the New York Center who communicated with, or tracked, two of the hijacked aircraft on 9/11 have participated in a session where they were recorded giving their personal accounts of the attacks (see 11:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 5/6/2004] But FAA policy requires all personnel that were involved with an aircraft accident or incident to provide written statements. [US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 ] According to David LaCates, the deputy operations manager at the New York Center, the usual procedure is for those controllers to watch a computerized recreation of the air traffic radar picture during the event while listening to an audio tape of their air traffic controller position during that event, and then compile a written statement. [9/11 Commission, 10/2/2003 ]
Five Controllers Prepare Statements - One of the six controllers provides a written statement during the day of September 11, some time after giving his or her tape-recorded account; three of them provide written statements about two weeks later; the fifth does so three weeks after the attacks. All of the written statements are two pages long, except one that is four pages. According to Kevin Delaney, the New York Center’s quality assurance manager, the sixth controller does not provide a written statement because these statements are only required from the controllers that talked to the hijacked aircraft or had been working radar positions that the flight paths of the hijacked aircraft intersected.
Controllers Do Not Hear Tape - Before the controllers gave their tape-recorded accounts, Mike McCormick, the New York Center manager, told the local controllers’ union president that they would be able to use their taped statements to help them prepare their written ones (see (Shortly Before 11:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Yet the controllers never listen to the tape before they make their written statements, nor do they compare their completed written statements with their earlier taped ones. When one of the controllers asks to listen to the tape, she will be told that it is not meant for anyone to hear (see (November 2001)).
Written Statements Generally Consistent with Recorded Ones - Three of the five controllers that provide written statements will later tell Department of Transportation investigators that they believe their written statements are mostly consistent with their earlier recorded statements. The other two controllers will say they believe their written statements are more accurate or more detailed, because they were able to review radar data and transcripts of radio communications before preparing them. However, they will say they cannot be certain of this, since they never listened to the tape. In a 2004 report, the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General will state that its “review of the controllers’ written witness statements, in comparison with two sets of sparse and sketchy notes taken during the taping, suggests some measure of consistency.” [US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 ; Air Safety Week, 5/17/2004] The tape of the controllers’ statements will be destroyed some time between December 2001 and February 2002 (see Between December 2001 and February 2002), without any of the controllers having listened to it. [New York Times, 5/6/2004; Washington Post, 5/6/2004]
A manager at the FAA’s New York Center begins forwarding evidence relating to the 9/11 attacks to the FBI, but he does not pass on, or reveal the existence of, a tape recording of some of the center’s air traffic controllers recalling their interactions with the hijacked aircraft. [US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 ] Shortly after the attacks occurred, Kevin Delaney, the New York Center’s quality assurance manager, was instructed to make a tape recording of six controllers at the center who had been involved in handling or tracking two of the hijacked aircraft, giving their personal accounts of what happened (see 11:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 ; Washington Post, 5/6/2004; Air Safety Week, 5/17/2004]
Tape Not Provided to FBI - In response to verbal requests from the FBI, the FAA’s liaison to the bureau provides it with evidential material relating to the 9/11 attacks. Beginning on September 12, Delaney forwards evidence materials, as they become available, to the FBI through this liaison. But, although the tape of the controllers’ statements was logged into the New York Center’s record of evidence, neither Delaney nor Mike McCormick, the center’s manager, passes it to the FBI. Furthermore, neither of the two managers even discloses the existence of the tape to the FBI or the FAA liaison. Nor do they provide the center’s evidence log, which references the tape, to the FBI. Yet McCormick will later claim that one of his reasons for having requested the tape be made on September 11 was that he wanted a recording of the controllers’ statements that would be immediately available for law enforcement efforts. [US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 ; Air Safety Week, 5/17/2004] He had also reassured the six controllers that the tape with their recorded statements on would be strictly for use only by law enforcement personnel (see (Shortly Before 11:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 ]
Tape Could Have Been Provided on Following Day - By September 13, the FAA liaison will have provided the FBI with air traffic control voice and radar data, which the bureau is most interested in receiving, as well as several written statements that have already been obtained from controllers at the FAA’s Boston and Cleveland Centers, and from personnel at Washington’s Dulles Airport. Had McCormick or Delaney notified the liaison of the tape’s existence, he could have forwarded it to the FBI along with these statements. The tape will be deliberately destroyed several months later (see Between December 2001 and February 2002), and is never made available to the FBI for its investigation. [US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 ; Air Safety Week, 5/17/2004]
In the weeks following 9/11, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) assists the FBI in its response to the attacks. Over 60 NTSB employees work at the scenes of the crashes—the Pentagon, Pennsylvania, and New York—and at the board’s headquarters in Washington, DC, helping to identify aircraft parts, searching for and analyzing the flight recorders, and assisting the victims’ families. [National Transportation Safety Board, 9/13/2001; US Congress. Senate. Committee on Commerce, 6/25/2002] However, unusually, none of the four planes that crashed are the subject of formal NTSB investigations. According to Vern Grose, a highly respected air disaster analyst and former NTSB member: “First of all, after any aircraft crash, the NTSB [normally] launches what they call a ‘go team’ within two hours and that go team will have up to twelve people on it. Specialists in airframe, in engines, in electronics, in human factors. And these folks all go to the scene—they isolate the scene. From that point on, it’s the NTSB’s responsibility.” But with the crashes on 9/11, Grose says, “it’s my understanding that it did not occur exactly like that. They may have launched an NTSB crew, but it never took the same course a normal investigation would have.” [Lappe and Marshall, 2004, pp. 40-41] The NTSB says that, because the four crashes were “criminal acts,” the FBI is consequently the “lead investigative agency.” [National Transportation Safety Board, 9/13/2001] Therefore, the NTSB will later state that it “did not determine the probable cause” of any of the four crashes, “and does not plan to issue a report or open a public docket.” [National Transportation Safety Board, 3/7/2006; National Transportation Safety Board, 3/7/2006; National Transportation Safety Board, 3/7/2006; National Transportation Safety Board, 3/7/2006] However, even under these circumstances, Grose calls the lack of NTSB investigation “unacceptable.” He says, “Though the NTSB statute states the leadership of the investigation will defer to the FBI, the NTSB has still completed formal investigations into crashes deemed criminal acts.” It previously did so, for example, in the case of EgyptAir Flight 990, in which a pilot crashed a plane in an apparent suicide attempt (see October 31, 1999). [Lappe and Marshall, 2004, pp. 41] The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette complains about the unconventional investigative process, specifically in relation to Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania. It says that, while the NTSB is “a small government agency whose procedures are fairly open,” with the FBI instead handling the investigation, “everything, even the most minute details, are being kept under strict lock and key.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11/4/2001] As well as the lack of an NTSB investigation, attempts at conducting a precise grid search of the Flight 93 crash site will be overruled by the FBI (see September 16, 2001). [Longman, 2002, pp. 262]
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada, finally confirms that a suspicious passenger jet that landed at Whitehorse Airport the previous afternoon was never hijacked. [Yukon Government, 11/13/2001, pp. 18 ; Alaska Legislature. Joint Senate and House Armed Services Committee, 2/5/2002]
Plane Showed Five Indicators of a Hijacking - Korean Airlines Flight 85 is a Boeing 747 that was heading from Seoul, South Korea, to New York on September 11, but was diverted to Whitehorse (see (Shortly After 1:24 p.m.) September 11, 2001). Although the plane was not hijacked, its pilots had been giving indications that it was hijacked (see (Shortly Before 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and 1:24 p.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/12/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 277-278] According to a report published by the government of Yukon, “There were five separate and ongoing indicators of a hijacking situation,” although the report will not specify what those indicators were. [Yukon Government, 11/13/2001, pp. 17 ]
Pilots and Crew Questioned - Flight 85 landed at Whitehorse Airport without incident at 2:54 p.m. the previous afternoon (see 2:54 p.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/12/2002; Anchorage Daily News, 9/8/2002] Investigators then interviewed its pilots and crew. [Anchorage Daily News, 9/29/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 278-279] One of the pilots cited miscommunication as the reason for the false hijack reports. [Yukon Government, 11/13/2001, pp. 17, 36 ]
Spokeswoman Announced No Hijacking - Several hours after Flight 85 landed, airport spokeswoman Brenda Wale had announced: “It’s not a hijacking situation. There was a communications problem aboard the plane so they were unable to communicate and respond properly to the tower anywhere they went. It raised alarm bells.” [Canadian Press, 9/12/2001] At 5:10 p.m. that afternoon, following a discussion between the RCMP and other responding agencies, Whitehorse Airport and part of the Alaska Highway that had been closed earlier on were reopened.
Police Confirms No Hijacking of Flight 85 - Because hijacking is a criminal activity, the Whitehorse RCMP has been in charge of the local response to Flight 85. Very early this morning, it brings a bomb-sniffing dog onto the plane to search it. The aircraft’s cargo is also searched. No threats are found. Finally, two hours later, the RCMP confirms that a hijacking situation did not exist on Flight 85. The aircraft is security cleared and approved to depart from Whitehouse once FAA and Transport Canada airspace restrictions have been lifted and scheduling requirements have been made. [Yukon Government, 11/13/2001, pp. 4, 14-18 ] Flight 85 will leave Whitehorse on September 13, and fly on to New York. [Anchorage Daily News, 9/29/2001; Anchorage Daily News, 9/8/2002]
Mike McCormick. [Source: CNN]Managers at the FAA’s New York Center fail to inform their higher-ups of an audio tape that was made on September 11, on which several air traffic controllers recalled their experiences with two of the hijacked aircraft. [New York Times, 5/6/2004; Washington Post, 5/6/2004] New York Center manager Mike McCormick had directed Kevin Delaney, the quality assurance manager, to record statements from the six controllers at the center that had been involved in handling or tracking Flights 11 and 175 (see 11:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 ; US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 ; Air Safety Week, 5/17/2004]
FAA Superiors Not Informed - However, neither of the two managers subsequently notifies authorities at the FAA’s regional office or Washington headquarters of the existence of the tape with the recorded statements on. Among others, Delaney and McCormick fail to notify the air traffic evaluations and investigations staff at headquarters, which is the FAA’s policy authority on aircraft accident and incident investigations. They also fail to inform FAA authorities of agreements they made with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association to destroy the tape at a future date (see (Shortly Before 11:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and October 2001-February 2002). Additionally, they do not inform the FBI of the tape’s existence (see September 12, 2001).
Investigations Staff Could Have Prevented Tape's Destruction - Delaney deliberately destroys the tape of the controllers’ statements at some point between December 2001 and February 2002 (see Between December 2001 and February 2002). But had he or McCormick consulted with the FAA’s air traffic evaluations and investigations staff, they would have been “instructed that the tape—as an original record—be retained, for five years, in accordance with agency retention requirements,” according to a 2004 report by the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (see May 6, 2004).
Tape Learned of in Late 2003 - This report will also state, “When we interviewed officials from outside of New York Center, including the then-FAA administrator, deputy administrator, and director of air traffic services, they told us they were unaware that controller statements had been taped until the issue arose following the 9/11 Commission interviews of center personnel in September and October 2003.” [US Department of Transportation, 5/4/2004 ]
President Bush speaking with Karl Rove and Ari Fleischer on Air Force One on September 11. [Source: George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum]Bush administration officials give differing accounts about whether a threat was made against Air Force One, the president’s plane, on September 11. [Washington Post, 9/27/2001; Slate, 9/28/2001; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 ] The White House reportedly received an anonymous phone call at around 10:30 a.m. on September 11 in which the caller said Air Force One would be the next terrorist target and used code words indicating they had inside information about government procedures (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Vice President Dick Cheney promptly phoned President Bush on Air Force One and told him about the threat (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/13/2001; Woodward, 2002, pp. 18; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554]
Press Secretary Reveals Threat during News Briefing - White House press secretary Ari Fleischer reveals the existence of the threat on September 12, after conferring with Cheney and White House counselor Karen Hughes about whether the administration should respond to criticisms of Bush’s failure to return to Washington, DC, immediately after the previous day’s attacks. Hughes advises Fleischer to mention the threat during his press briefing on this day. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554; Fleischer, 2005, pp. 157] Fleischer therefore says in the briefing, “[W]e have specific and credible information that the White House and Air Force One were also intended targets of these attacks.” He says the threat against the president’s plane led to the decision to take Bush to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001) and was one of the reasons why Bush did not head back to Washington right away in response to the attacks. [White House, 9/12/2001]
Cheney Recalls 'Credible Threat' - On September 16, Cheney similarly tells NBC’s Meet the Press, “We received a threat to Air Force One,” and adds, “I think it was a credible threat, enough for the Secret Service to bring it to me.” [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001] And later in the month, White House adviser Karl Rove, who was with Bush on Air Force One on September 11, recalls that those on the president’s plane were informed of “a specific threat made to Air Force One,” which was a “declaration that Air Force One was a target.” [New Yorker, 9/25/2001]
Unnamed Officials Doubt whether Threat Was Made - Other officials, however, contradict these accounts. Near the end of September, CBS News reports that the phone call in which the threat was reportedly made “simply never happened.” It says that, according to unnamed sources, “White House staffers apparently misunderstood comments made by their security detail.” [Slate, 9/28/2001] And some unnamed Bush administration officials tell the Associated Press that “they now doubt whether there was actually a call made threatening Air Force One.” The officials say they “have been unsuccessful in trying to track down whether there was such a call, though officials still maintain they were told of a telephone threat [on] September 11 and kept Bush away from Washington for hours because of it.” [Associated Press, 9/26/2001] Fleischer will later recall that he learns, weeks after publicly revealing the existence of the supposed threat against Air Force One, “that the threat was unfounded.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554] “I learned it was a mistake from the press,” he will say, “who had been tipped by someone who knew.” [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 158]
Threat Was 'Almost Surely Bogus' - At the start of November, when asked about the alleged call in which Air Force One was threatened, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice says: “I don’t know if it was a crank call or a real threat. I don’t think we’re going to ever know.” [White House, 11/1/2001] And at the end of 2001, Newsweek reports that the reported threat to Air Force One has been determined to be “almost surely bogus,” although it adds, “White House officials say they do not know where it came from.” [Newsweek, 12/30/2001] White House spokesman Dan Bartlett says in 2004 that “there hadn’t been any actual threat” against Air Force One on September 11. Word of a threat, he says, “resulted from confusion in the White House bunker, as multiple conversations went on simultaneously.” Around the same time, however, Cheney’s office says it still cannot rule out that a threat to Air Force One was made. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 ]
Steven Stefanakos. [Source: New York City Police Department.]Recovery workers at Ground Zero search for one of the black boxes from Flight 11 or Flight 175—the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11—in locations where a signal from the device has reportedly been picked up, but it is unclear if they find a black box. [Appel, 2009, pp. 281-282] The two “black boxes” carried by all commercial aircraft—the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder—can provide valuable information about why a plane crashed. [CBS News, 2/25/2002; PBS, 2/17/2004] In the week after the 9/11 attacks occur, investigators identify a signal being emitted by one of the black boxes in the WTC debris, according to a report published by the New York State Emergency Management Office (see September 18, 2001). [New York State Emergency Management Office, 9/18/2001, pp. 1 ] The signal is detected by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), according to author Anthea Appel. However, while FAA personnel are able to hear the signal, they are unable to pinpoint exactly where it is coming from.
FAA Suggests Two Possible Locations for the Black Box - The FAA initially says it thinks the signal is coming from the corner of Liberty and Church Streets, which border the south and east edges of the WTC site, respectively, and so recovery workers are sent to dig at this location. However, after a few days, it changes its mind and, on September 21, says the signal is coming from Building 5 of the WTC. [Appel, 2009, pp. 281] This nine-story building is located in the northeast corner of the WTC site. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 4-1] The signal is coming from inside or directly under its roof, the FAA says.
Police Officers See No Sign of the Black Box - Lieutenant Delia Mannix of the New York Police Department’s Emergency Service Unit (ESU), who is in charge of the operation to recover the black box, decides the only way to search the roof of Building 5 is to send a team up in a small, waist-high cage known as a “bucket.” Steven Stefanakos and two other ESU officers, who are selected for the task, get into a bucket and a crane lifts them onto the roof of Building 5. Knowing the black box is supposed to be under or embedded in the roof, Stefanakos and the two other officers look around, trying to spot a hole or a dent where the black box could have punctured the roof after being catapulted out of the plane when it crashed into the WTC. The roof, however, appears to be intact.
FAA Staffer Responsible for Locating the Black Box Has Gone Home - Unsure where to search, Stefanakos tries contacting the FAA staffer who is responsible for locating the black box. He tries to reach them three times over his radio but gets no response. Finally, a voice comes over his radio, telling him: “The FAA aren’t here. They went home for the weekend.” Noting that it is only about five o’clock in the afternoon, Stefanakos and his two colleagues are incredulous. As they are being carried down to the ground in the bucket, they comment to each other: “We’ve been workin’ every day for 16 or 17 hours straight with no days off. And here we are, inches away from the black box, and the FAA just get up and leave in the middle of a recovery just because they don’t wanna screw up their weekend!” [Appel, 2009, pp. 281-282] Whether a black box is subsequently retrieved from the roof of Building 5 is unstated. The 9/11 Commission Report will state that the black boxes from the planes that crashed into the WTC “were not found.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 456] Furthermore, a report published by the New York City Office of Emergency Management on September 25 will claim that the FAA has in fact been “[u]nable to detect any ‘pinging’ from either ‘black box’” at Ground Zero. [New York City Office of Emergency Management, 9/25/2001, pp. 17-18 ] However, firefighter Nicholas DeMasi, who works extensively in the wreckage of the WTC, will say he helped federal agents recover three black boxes at Ground Zero (see October 2001). [Swanson, 2003, pp. 108; Philadelphia Daily News, 10/28/2004]
Roxanne Sullivan is out shopping when Flight 93 crashes just a quarter of a mile from where she lives. Heading home, she is stopped by police and has to convince them to allow her to her house. She is told she can only have two hours there to pack her bags, and then must leave. Two hours later, the police visit and say she can stay. But, according to Sullivan, they tell her she and her husband “must check in and out each time we left. No one was allowed to visit us, nor could we visit others in the area. The rules had been set and would remain in force for two weeks. We could not go down to the site, even though our property line is adjacent to the crash site property.” No explanation is reported as to why they are placed under this “house arrest.” [McCall, 2002, pp. 39-40; Daily Telegraph, 3/28/2003; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 7/4/2004]
Under the authority of the FBI, remains of 9/11 victims at the Pentagon are taken to a temporary morgue in the Pentagon’s north parking lot, where they are photographed, labeled, and then placed in refrigeration. [Stars and Stripes, 9/17/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A-47 ; Quartermaster Professional Bulletin, 3/2005] They are then transported to Davison Army Airfield at nearby Fort Belvoir, and from there to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, where there is a large mortuary created for use in wartime. FBI agents accompany the remains at all points during transportation. [American Forces Press Service, 9/15/2001; PBS, 9/21/2001; Soldiers, 10/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C-55 ] About 250 people, including 50 medical examiners and 50 members of the FBI’s ‘disaster team,’ work at the mortuary to identify the remains. [Stars and Stripes, 9/17/2001] Remains are first scanned for the presence of unexploded ordnance or metallic foreign bodies. FBI experts then collect trace evidence to find any chemicals from explosives, and also conduct fingerprint identifications. [Pentagram, 11/30/2001] Other techniques used include dental records and X-rays. Tissue samples are sent to an Armed Forces laboratory in Rockville, Maryland, for DNA analysis. [PBS, 9/21/2001] Identification is problematic because specimens are often unrecognizable body parts, and are nearly always mixed with debris composed of aircraft and building materials. [Harcke, Bifano, and Koeller, 4/2002] However, by the time Dover staff formally end their identification effort, on November 16, they have identified remains of 184 of the 189 people who died in the Pentagon or aboard Flight 77, including the five hijackers (see November 21, 2001). [Washington Post, 11/21/2001]
A chunk of hot metal being removed from the North Tower rubble about eight weeks after 9/11.
[Source: Frank Silecchia]In the weeks and months after 9/11, numerous individuals report seeing molten metal in the remains of the World Trade Center:
Ken Holden, who is involved with the organizing of demolition, excavation, and debris removal operations at Ground Zero, will later tell the 9/11 Commission, “Underground, it was still so hot that molten metal dripped down the sides of the wall from [WTC] Building 6.” [9/11 Commission, 4/1/2003]
William Langewiesche, the only journalist to have unrestricted access to Ground Zero during the cleanup operation, will describe, “[I]n the early days, the streams of molten metal that leaked from the hot cores and flowed down broken walls inside the foundation hole.” [Langewiesche, 2002, pp. 32]
Leslie Robertson, one of the structural engineers responsible for the design of the WTC, describes fires still burning and molten steel still running 21 days after the attacks. [SEAU News, 10/2001 ]
Alison Geyh, who heads a team of scientists studying the potential health effects of 9/11, reports: “Fires are still actively burning and the smoke is very intense. In some pockets now being uncovered, they are finding molten steel.” [Johns Hopkins Public Health Magazine, 2001]
Ron Burger, a public health advisor who arrives at Ground Zero on September 12, says that “feeling the heat” and “seeing the molten steel” there reminds him of a volcano. [National Environmental Health Association, 9/2003, pp. 40 ]
Paramedic Lee Turner arrives at the World Trade Center site on September 12 as a member of a federal urban search and rescue squad. While at Ground Zero, he goes “down crumpled stairwells to the subway, five levels below ground.” There, he reportedly sees, “in the darkness a distant, pinkish glow—molten metal dripping from a beam.” [US News and World Report, 9/12/2002]
According to a member of New York Air National Guard’s 109th Air Wing, who is at Ground Zero from September 22 to October 6: “One fireman told us that there was still molten steel at the heart of the towers’ remains. Firemen sprayed water to cool the debris down but the heat remained intense enough at the surface to melt their boots.” [National Guard Magazine, 12/2001]
New York firefighters will recall “heat so intense they encountered rivers of molten steel.” [New York Post, 3/3/2004]
As late as five months after the attacks, in February 2002, firefighter Joe O’Toole sees a steel beam being lifted from deep underground at Ground Zero, which, he says, “was dripping from the molten steel.” [Knight Ridder, 5/29/2002]
Steven E. Jones, a physics professor from Utah, will claim this molten metal is “direct evidence for the use of high-temperature explosives, such as thermite,” used to deliberately bring down the WTC towers. [MSNBC, 11/16/2005] He will say that without explosives, a falling building would have “insufficient directed energy to result in melting of large quantities of metal.” [Deseret Morning News, 11/10/2005] There will be no mention whatsoever of the molten metal in the official reports by FEMA, NIST, or the 9/11 Commission. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005] But Dr. Frank Gayle, who leads the steel forensics aspects of NIST’s investigation of the WTC collapses, will be quoted as saying: “Your gut reaction would be the jet fuel is what made the fire so very intense, a lot of people figured that’s what melted the steel. Indeed it didn’t, the steel did not melt.” [ABC News 7 (New York), 2/7/2004] As well as the reports of molten metal, data collected by NASA in the days after 9/11 finds dozens of “hot spots” (some over 1,300 degrees) at Ground Zero (see September 16-23, 2001).
Entity Tags: Frank Gayle, Joe O’Toole, Ken Holden, Leslie Robertson, Alison Geyh, Lee Turner, William Langewiesche, Ron Burger, World Trade Center, Steven E. Jones
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Kenneth Holden. [Source: Public domain]The New York City agency that oversees the Ground Zero cleanup operation following the 9/11 attacks is the Department of Design and Construction (DDC). [Glanz and Lipton, 2004, pp. 299] This obscure 1,300-man bureaucracy is normally responsible for overseeing municipal construction contracts, such as street repairs and jails. Its two top officials are Kenneth Holden and his lieutenant, Michael Burton. [Langewiesche, 2002, pp. 9] Burton is in lower Manhattan the morning of 9/11, instead of in his office in Queens, for a meeting at City Hall, just a few blocks away from the World Trade Center. [Engineering News-Record, 4/22/2002] That afternoon, he meets Holden and together they begin organizing the cleanup operation. By 5:30 p.m., the group of workers they have assembled gains permission to explore the WTC ruins. Under Burton’s direction, the team of “unbuilders” subsequently undertakes what journalist William Langewiesche describes as “the most aggressive possible schedule of demolition and debris removal.” Yet this appears to go against established procedures. On previous occasions the standard emergency response to natural or man-made disasters in the US, such as the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, was to rapidly nationalize efforts on the ground, under the direction of FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers. [Langewiesche, 2002, pp. 66, 90, 94, 146] New York’s official emergency plans, which were written before 9/11, in fact require the Department of Sanitation to remove debris after a building collapse. A mid-level official who was involved in writing the latest plans mentions a week after 9/11 that she doesn’t even know quite what the DDC is. DDC’s only previous experiences of dealing with emergencies are a sinking EMS station in Brooklyn, caused by a water leak, and a structural failure at Yankee Stadium. According to Langewiesche, there is no specific moment when Holden and Burton are placed in charge of the Ground Zero cleanup effort. “Rather, there was a shift of power in their direction that was never quite formalized and, indeed, was unjustified by bureaucratic logic or political considerations.” Reportedly, at some point, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani made a “back-room decision to scrap the organization charts, to finesse the city’s own Office of Emergency Management (OEM), and to allow the DDC to proceed.” [Langewiesche, 2002, pp. 66, 88 and 118; Engineering News-Record, 4/22/2002] The Ground Zero cleanup operation officially ends in May 2002. [CBS News, 5/16/2002; New York Times, 5/29/2002]
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