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Don Carty. [Source: Publicity photo]Don Carty, the president of American Airlines, calls his airline’s System Operations Command Center (SOCC) in Fort Worth, Texas, and asks if the plane that is reported to have hit the World Trade Center belonged to American Airlines. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] According to author Lynn Spencer, Carty, who is still at home, learned that an American Airlines plane had been hijacked when he received a message from the airline on his pager, which stated, “Confirmed hijacking Flight 11” (see 8:49 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 52] But Carty will tell CNN that he learned of the hijacking in “a call from our operations people.” He will say he’d told the caller that he “would be out immediately,” but then, he will say, “it suddenly occurred to me that maybe I should check whether the press had the story, and I turned on the TV, and almost at the moment I turned on the TV, I saw them talking about something that struck the World Trade Center.” Carty will say that upon seeing the report, “[J]ust in my gut, I knew it was our airplane” that had hit the WTC. [CNN, 11/19/2001] Carty phones Gerard Arpey, American Airlines’ executive vice president of operations, who is at the SOCC. He says, “The press is reporting an airplane hit the World Trade Center,” and asks, “Is that our plane?” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] Arpey replies that the airline’s personnel do not know. He tells Carty only that they “had confirmed the hijacking of Flight 11, and knew it was flying toward New York City and descending.” [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 ]
[Source: Family photo]A flight attendant on Flight 175 calls the United Airlines maintenance office in San Francisco and speaks with Marc Policastro, an employee there. The attendant reports that Flight 175 has been hijacked, both of its pilots have been killed, a flight attendant has been stabbed, and the hijackers are probably flying the plane. The line then goes dead. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 7-8; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 21] The call, which lasts 75 seconds, is made using an Airfone in row 31 at the back of the plane. Flight crews on United aircraft are able to contact the maintenance office simply by dialing *349 on an Airfone. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 90-91; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] The identity of the attendant making the call is unclear. According to the Wall Street Journal, the caller is “a female flight attendant.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001] The 9/11 Commission Report, however, refers to them as “a male flight attendant,” and one of the Commission’s earlier staff statements will specifically name Robert Fangman, who is one of the attendants on Flight 175. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 7; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 18] A summary of the phone calls made from the four hijacked planes presented at the 2006 Zacarias Moussaoui trial will refer to the caller simply as a “flight attendant,” with a question mark signifying their name. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] After the call ends, Policastro and also another employee at the maintenance office try contacting Flight 175 using ACARS (an e-mail system that enables personnel on the ground to rapidly communicate with those in the cockpit of an aircraft), but they receive no response to these and subsequent attempts at reaching the flight. According to GTE Airfone records, another successful call will be made from Flight 175 to the maintenance office four minutes after this first one (see 8:56 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, other evidence indicates only one call is made. Shortly before 9:00 a.m., a supervisor at the maintenance office will call the United Airlines System Operations Control center, just outside Chicago, and inform a manager there of the reported hijacking of Flight 175 (see Shortly Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). The supervisor also calls the airline’s security chief. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 21-22 and 90]
An article in the New York Times will later suggest that officials in the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) promptly become aware of the problems with Flight 77, long before NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) is alerted to the flight. The article will state, “During the hour or so that American Airlines Flight 77 [is] under the control of hijackers, up to the moment it struck the west side of the Pentagon, military officials in [the NMCC are] urgently talking to law enforcement and air traffic control officials about what to do.” [New York Times, 9/15/2001] This appears consistent with what would be expected under normal procedures. According to the FAA’s acting Deputy Administrator Monte Belger: “Prior to 9/11, FAA’s traditional communication channel with the military during a crisis had been through the National Military Command Center (NMCC). They were always included in the communication net that was used to manage a hijack incident.” He will say that, since the FAA does not have direct dedicated communication links with NORAD, in a hijack scenario the NMCC has “the responsibility to coordinate [the Defense Department]‘s response to requests from the FAA or the FBI.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] NEADS reportedly is not alerted to Flight 77 until significantly later: at 9:24 a.m. by some accounts (see (9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001), or, according to other accounts, at 9:34 a.m., when it only learns that Flight 77 is missing (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
The jet fuel that spilled from Flight 11 when it hit the North Tower (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) has mostly burned up by this time. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which investigates the collapses, will say “The initial jet fuel fires themselves lasted at most a few minutes.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 183] Engineering professor Forman Williams will say the jet fuel “burned for maybe 10 minutes.” [Popular Mechanics, 3/2005] Flight 11, a Boeing 767, had a fuel capacity of 23,980 gallons, but was only carrying about 10,000 gallons when it hit the WTC. NIST will estimate that less than 1,500 gallons were consumed in a fireball inside the tower and a comparable amount was consumed in the fireballs outside the building. Therefore, approximately 7,000 gallons splashed onto the office furnishings and started fires on various floors. However, after the jet fuel is used up, office fires burn until the building collapses. NIST will calculate that there were about four pounds per square foot of combustibles in the office space, or about 60 tons per floor. Offices in the WTC actually have fewer combustibles than some other similar spaces due to the small number of interior walls and limited bookshelf space. NIST will later find that only three of sixteen perimeter columns it recovers reached a temperature of 250°C and neither of the two core columns it retrieves reached this temperature. NIST will also find that none of the samples it acquires reaches a temperature above 600°C (see August 27, 2003). Although steel does not melt until its temperature is about 1,600°C, it may begin to lose significant strength at over 500°C. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 20, 29, 24, 77] The jet fuel will also burn up in the South Tower about 10 minutes after it is hit (see 9:13 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Jim Goodwin. [Source: Chicago Tribune]Rich Miles, the manager at the United Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center just outside Chicago, receives a call from a supervisor at United’s maintenance office in San Francisco, informing him that Flight 175 has been reported as hijacked. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 22] The maintenance office received a call minutes earlier from a flight attendant on United 175, who said their plane had been hijacked (see 8:52 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 7-8] When the supervisor tells Miles about this, he initially responds, “No, the information we’re getting is that it was an American 757.” (The FAA has just informed United Airlines that the plane that hit the World Trade Center was a hijacked American Airlines 757 (see (Shortly After 8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001).) But the supervisor insists, “No, we got a call from a flight attendant on 175.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001] Miles notifies his boss Bill Roy, the SOC director, about this information. Roy then contacts United’s CEO Jim Goodwin and its chief operating officer Andy Studdert, who are in a meeting at the airline’s headquarters, located next to the SOC. Roy then begins the process of activating the crisis center at the United headquarters, which will take about 30 minutes to complete. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 22]
Flight 175 passenger Peter Hanson calls his parents a second time, and says to his father, “It’s getting bad, Dad—A stewardess was stabbed—They seem to have knives and Mace—They said they have a bomb—It’s getting very bad on the plane—Passengers are throwing up and getting sick—The plane is making jerky movements—I don’t think the pilot is flying the plane—I think we are going down—I think they intend to go to Chicago or someplace and fly into a building—don’t worry, Dad—If it happens, it’ll be very fast—My God, my God.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 7/23/2004]
Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is at a conference three blocks from the White House when a telephone call alerts him to the crisis. He runs to his car. He responds, “Activate the CSG on secure video. I’ll be there in less than five.” The CSG is the Counterterrorism Security Group, comprising the leaders of the government’s counterterrorism and security agencies. Clarke hurriedly drives to the White House. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 1]
Zacarias Moussaoui cheers as he watches the 9/11 attacks on television inside a prison, where he is being held on immigration charges. At his trial in 2006 (see March 6-May 4, 2006) he will recall watching television and seeing “the blue sky and the World Trade Center in flames.” [BBC, 12/12/2001; New York Times, 3/27/2006]
According to the 9/11 Commission, shortly after 9:00 a.m., Indianapolis flight control begins to notify other government agencies that American 77 is missing and has possibly crashed. For instance, at 9:08 a.m., Indianapolis contacts Air Force Search and Rescue at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, and tells them to look out for a downed aircraft. It is not clear what Air Force Search and Rescue does with this information. Indianapolis also contacts the West Virginia State Police at about 9:15 a.m., and asks whether they have any reports of a downed aircraft (see Soon After 9:09 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, they apparently do not contact NORAD, but do notify the FAA regional center at 9:09 a.m. (see 9:09 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
In a conference call, Peter Mulligan, a manager at the FAA’s New York Center, tells the FAA Command Center in Herndon, Virginia: “We have several situations going here. It’s escalating big, big time. We need to get the military involved with us.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 10/14/2003, pp. 15 ] This is apparently a reference to the hijacking of Flight 175. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 22]
Manager Gives No Details of Aircraft - Mulligan does not initially give any details of the hijacked aircraft, such as its flight number, position, or heading, but soon leaves the phone to inform his military liaison of the hijack (see 9:01 a.m.-9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). After about one minute, Mulligan comes back on the phone, says that the liaison has been notified, and adds: “We’re involved in something else. We have other aircraft that may have a similar situation going on here.” Again, he provides no detailed information about the second hijacked plane, whose number does not appear to be communicated to the FAA’s Command Center before it crashes. [Federal Aviation Administration, 10/14/2003, pp. 16-18 ]
9/11 Commission Confused - According to the transcript of the 9/11 Commission hearing at which a recording of the teleconference is played, it is the Herndon Command Center that says, “We’re involved with something else, we have other aircraft that may have a similar situation going on here.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] This version, which indicates the Command Center already knows about the hijacking of Flight 175 when Mulligan passes on the notification, is subsequently picked up by some media. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; American RadioWorks, 9/2/2004; CBC, 9/12/2006] However, this will be altered in the Commission’s final report, which attributes the “We’re involved with something else” statement to Mulligan. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 22] The transcript of the call on which this section of the report is based indicates that the statement is actually made by Mulligan and that the 9/11 Commission is therefore only correcting an initial error it made at the hearing in its final report. [Federal Aviation Administration, 10/14/2003, pp. 18 ]
The military liaison at the FAA’s New York Center is reportedly told that Flight 175 has been hijacked. The information is passed on to the liaison by New York Center manager Peter Mulligan. In an apparent reference to the hijacking on a phone bridge with other air traffic control facilities, Mulligan first says the situation is escalating (see (9:01 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and adds, “Just get me somebody who has the authority to get military in the air now.” Mulligan then drops out of the teleconference for a short while, but returns and says: “It’s OK. I’ve got it taken care of over here. I got… my military guy. We got some interceptors in the air.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 10/14/2003, pp. 15-17 ] According to the 9/11 Commission Report, Mulligan says this between 9:01 and 9:02. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 22] A person at the New York Center then calls NEADS at 9:03 (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Presumably, this is the military liaison Mulligan just informed of the hijacking.
Jim Pierce. [Source: AON]Jim Pierce, a cousin of President Bush, sees the South Tower of the WTC hit from the nearby Millennium Hotel. Pierce is the managing director of the AON Corporation, an insurance company with offices in WTC 2. He had arranged a business conference, to be held on the tower’s 105th floor this morning. However, the previous night, the conference was moved to the Millennium Hotel because the group was too large for the original room. According to a book by former First Lady Barbara Bush, Pierce later learns that 12 people are in the room where the meeting was originally planned to take place when the South Tower is hit, and only one of them survives. [Boston Globe, 2001; Ananova, 9/18/2001; Newsweek, 10/27/2003] Another AON Corporation meeting is taking place on the 105th floor of the South Tower, run by business executive Mary Wieman. Of about 50 participants in attendance, only six are able to escape. [New York Times, 12/17/2001; USA Today, 9/2/2002]
In the CIA’s Near East Division (NE) front office suite on the sixth floor of the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, everyone thinks Osama bin Laden is to blame as soon as they see the second aircraft hitting the World Trade Center. Gary Schroen, a former CIA station chief in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, is in the NE office suite, where several people have been staring at the television showing the burning North Tower. As Schroen later recalls, “We were getting calls from CTC [the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center], friends of the CTC in and around the building, that the World Trade Center, one of the towers had been struck.” According to Schroen, there are “like, 30 of us standing around,” and “as soon as the second aircraft smashed into the second tower, everyone said, ‘Bin Laden. It was bin Laden.… This is the attack that bin Laden’s been promising.’” [Schroen, 2005, pp. 12-14; NPR, 5/2/2005; PBS Frontline, 1/20/2006] When CIA Director George Tenet learned of the first WTC attack, he reportedly said immediately that he thought bin Laden was responsible (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Woodward, 2002, pp. 4]
At the FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, manager John White learns of the communication apparently made by a hijacker on Flight 11, stating “We have some planes” (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), and quickly notifies the national operations manager of this. Terry Biggio, the operations manager at the FAA’s Boston Center, is relaying all the information he has about Flight 11 to the Command Center’s teleconference. In the conference room at the Command Center, White is listening in. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 79-80] Because the air traffic controller monitoring Flight 11 had not understood the “We have some planes” hijacker communication, the Boston Center’s quality assurance specialist had been instructed to “pull the tape” of the transmission, listen to it carefully, and then report back. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 19] Having learned that the specialist has deciphered the transmission, Biggio now relays the details of it over the teleconference. Seconds later, those at the Command Center see Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower of the World Trade live on CNN. White promptly dispatches a manager to pass on the details of the transmission to Ben Sliney, the national operations manager at the Command Center (see 9:06 a.m. and After September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 79-80] The FAA’s New England regional office also learns of the “We have some planes” communication at this time (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 23]
The 9/11 Commission will later conclude that the FAA’s New York Center tells NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) that Flight 175 has been hijacked at this time. The Commission will refer to this as “the first indication that the NORAD air defenders had of the second hijacked aircraft.” The notification is apparently received from the military liaison at the New York Center (see 9:01 a.m.-9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
NEADS Technician Announces 'Second Possible Hijack' - Tape recordings of the NEADS operations floor will reveal ID tech Stacia Rountree answering the call from the New York Center, and saying out loud, “They have a second possible hijack!” [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Colonel Robert Marr, the NEADS battle commander, will claim he first learns that an aircraft other than Flight 11 has been hijacked when he sees Flight 175 crash into the World Trade Center on television. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins will claim that when she sees Flight 175 hitting the South Tower on television, “we didn’t even know there was a second hijack.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 59]
Conflicting Accounts - However, these accounts contradict NORAD’s claim that it makes shortly after 9/11 that NEADS was first notified about Flight 175 at 8:43 a.m. (see 8:43 a.m. September 11, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001] Additionally, as Flight 175 crashes into the WTC, Canadian Captain Mike Jellinek, who is working at NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado operations center, is on the phone with NEADS. He sees the crash live on television and asks NEADS, “Was that the hijacked aircraft you were dealing with?” The reply is yes. (However, it is unclear whether Jellinek is referring to Flight 175 or to the smoke coming from the crash of Flight 11.) [Toronto Star, 12/9/2001] If the 9/11 Commission’s account is correct, several questions remain unanswered. Flight 175 lost radio contact at 8:42 a.m. (see 8:41 a.m.-8:42 a.m. September 11, 2001) and changed transponder signals at 8:47 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m.-8:47 a.m. September 11, 2001); an air traffic controller declared it possibly hijacked sometime between 8:46 a.m. and 8:53 a.m. (see (Shortly After 8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001); and an air traffic control manager called it hijacked at 8:55 a.m.(see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The Commission will not explain why the New York Center waits 10 to 16 minutes before warning NEADS that Flight 175 is possibly hijacked. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
Flight 175 hits the WTC South Tower. The picture was taken from a traffic helicopter. [Source: WABC 7/ Salient Stills]Flight 175 hits the South Tower of the World Trade Center (Tower Two). Seismic records pinpoint the time at six seconds before 9:03 a.m. (rounded to 9:03 a.m.). Hijackers Marwan Alshehhi, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Mohand Alshehri, Hamza Alghamdi, and Ahmed Alghamdi presumably are killed instantly, and many more in the tower will die over the next few hours. [New York Times, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; USA Today, 12/20/2001; Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 1-10; New York Times, 5/26/2002; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; USA Today, 9/2/2002] According to the NIST report, the crash time is 9:02:59. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 38] According to the 9/11 Commission Report, the crash time is 9:03:11. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 8] Millions watch the crash live on television. The plane strikes the 77th through 85th floors in the 110-story building. Approximately 100 people are killed or injured in the initial impact; 600 people in the tower eventually die. The death toll is far lower than in the North Tower because about two-thirds of the South Tower’s occupants have evacuated the building in the 17 minutes since the first tower was struck. [USA Today, 12/20/2001; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 5-9, 41] The combined death toll from the two towers is estimated at 2,819, not including the hijackers. [Associated Press, 8/21/2002] The impact severs some columns on the south side of the South Tower. Each of the Twin Towers is designed as a “tube-in-tube” structure and the steel columns which support its weight are arranged around the perimeter and in the core. The plane, which is traveling at an estimated speed of around 500 mph (see October 2002-October 2005), severs 33 of the building’s 236 perimeter columns and damages another one. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 39] The perimeter columns bear about half of the tower’s weight, so the damage to them reduces the tower’s ability to bear gravity loads by about 7.1 percent. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 6] The actual damage to the 47 core columns is not known, as there are no photographs or videos of it, but there will be much speculation about this after 9/11. It will be suggested that some parts of the aircraft may be able to damage the core even after crashing through the exterior wall (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 107] According to NIST’s base case model, five of the core columns are severed and another five suffer some damage. [National Institute of Standards & Technology, 9/2005, pp. 235 ] This may reduce the tower’s ability to bear loads by a further approximately 8 percent, meaning that the aircraft impact accounted for a loss of about 15 percent of the building’s strength. This damage will be cited as an event contributing to the building’s collapse after 9/11 (see October 23, 2002 and October 19, 2004). NIST’s base case estimate of damage to the North Tower’s core will be similar, even though the aircraft impact there was dissimilar (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Flight 11 hit the North Tower’s core head on, whereas Flight 175 only hits the corner of the South Tower’s core. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 20-23, 38-41] In addition, some of the fireproofing on the steel columns and trusses may be dislodged (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards & Technology, 9/2005, pp. xxxvi, 83 ] Photographs and videos of the towers will not show the state of fireproofing inside the buildings, but the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will try to estimate the damage to fireproofing using a series of computer models. Its severe case model (see (October 2002-October 2005)) will predict that 39 of the 47 core columns are stripped of their fireproofing on one or more floors and that fireproofing is stripped from trusses covering 80,000 ft2 of floor area, the equivalent of about two floors. NIST will say that the loss of fireproofing is a major cause of the collapse (see April 5, 2005), but only performs 15 tests on fireproofing samples (see October 26, 2005). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 41] According to NIST, less fireproofing is stripped from the North Tower (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Terry Biggio. [Source: CNN]Over an FAA teleconference, Terry Biggio, the operations manager at the FAA’s Boston Center, reports to the FAA’s New England regional office the “We have some planes” comment apparently made by a Flight 11 hijacker at 8:24 a.m. (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 23; Spencer, 2008, pp. 79-80] Because the Boston Center controller monitoring Flight 11 had not understood the communication, the center’s quality assurance specialist had been instructed to “pull the tape” of the transmission, listen to it carefully, and then report back. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 19] Biggio now reports to the New England region representative: “I’m gonna reconfirm with, with downstairs, but the, as far as the tape, Bobby seemed to think the guy said that ‘we have planes.’ Now, I don’t know if it was because it was the accent, or if there’s more than one [hijacked plane], but I’m gonna, I’m gonna reconfirm that for you, and I’ll get back to you real quick. Okay?” Another participant in the teleconference asks, “They have what?” and Biggio clarifies: “Planes, as in plural.… It sounds like, we’re talking to New York, that there’s another one aimed at the World Trade Center.… A second one just hit the Trade Center.” The New England region representative replies: “Okay. Yeah, we gotta get—we gotta alert the military real quick on this.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 23] A manager at the FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, is monitoring the teleconference, and so also learns of the “We have some planes” communication at this time (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 79-80] At 9:05 a.m., Biggio will confirm for the New England region representative—with the Command Center listening in—that a hijacker said, “we have planes” (forgetting the “some”). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 24]
After the second WTC tower is hit, NBC News correspondent Jim Miklaszewski is heading down a hall inside the Pentagon when he runs into a Defense Department official. The official says he doesn’t yet know anything specific about the attack. But, he says, it is so coordinated that “[i]f I were you I would stay off the E-ring [the outermost corridor of the Pentagon] today, because we’re next.” According to Miklaszewski, the official had no specific information, “that was just his gut instinct.” [Gilbert et al., 2002, pp. 43]
Jeffrey Hathaway. [Source: US Department of Defense]Rear Admiral Jeffrey Hathaway of the US Coast Guard is presently temporarily assigned to the Navy Command Center at the Pentagon. For about the last two months, he has been in charge of Navy Anti-Terrorism Force Protection. He’d been at the Command Center earlier on for the morning briefings, but headed back to Coast Guard headquarters at about 8 a.m. He’d been aware of the first plane hitting the WTC, yet, despite his specific anti-terrorism role, apparently did not know immediately that the US was under terrorist attack. He later says it was only “apparent to me after I found out that the second plane had flown into the World Trade Center that the first one was not an accident, and that there was some sort of a coordinated attack.” Furthermore, he will claim, “No one knew where it was coming from. It could have been domestic terrorists for all we knew. No one knew why.” He claims there were no indicators that such an attack was imminent, saying, “There were general indicators in the air of general threats; nothing that was in my role that would have indicated hijacked airliners INCONUS [in the continental US].… There was very little attention being paid to anti-terrorism efforts INCONUS for the Navy. We were mostly focused on the fallout from the USS Cole bombing in Yemen.” [US Coast Guard, 6/20/2002 ; National Defense Magazine, 6/2003]
American Airlines and the FAA Command Center discuss the hijacking of Flight 77 again, apparently at some point between when Flight 175 hits the World Trade Center at 9:03 (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001) and Flight 77 hits the Pentagon at 9:37 (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). Although American Airlines was initially informed of the hijacking by the FAA (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001), at this point an American Airlines employee calls an FAA employee and tells him that Flight 77 has been hijacked. The FAA employee appears to be unaware of this hijacking, as, when he is told that American Airlines is missing a second plane (in addition to Flight 11, which has hit the World Trade Center) he asks for the flight number and inquires when the company last knew something about the flight. The American Airlines employee responds by saying, “we were talking to them according to Indianapolis Center about 45 minutes ago.” As the last recorded communication with Flight 77 was as at 8:51 (see 8:51 a.m. September 11, 2001), this would put this conversation at around 9:36. However, this conversation is part of a transcript of discussions by FAA employees and others, and in the transcript it appears shortly after the first mention of Flight 175’s crash at 9:03, indicating it may have occurred earlier than 9:36. [Federal Aviation Administration, 10/14/2003, pp. 19-21 ]
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is informed of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center and immediately realizes it is a terrorist attack. Rice’s executive assistant, Army Lieutenant Colonel Tony Crawford, informed Rice of the first crash shortly before 9:00 a.m. while she was in her office at the White House, but, Rice will later say, she had thought it was a “strange accident” (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Rice had gone down to the conference area of the White House Situation Room for her daily meeting with her top aides. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; Bumiller, 2007, pp. xi-xii] According to her own later recollections, a few minutes into this meeting, Crawford comes in and hands her a note saying a second plane has hit the WTC. Rice will comment: “I thought, ‘My God, this is a terrorist attack.‘… I knew right away, right away, because that—that couldn’t be coincidence that two planes had hit the World Trade Center that morning.” She gets up and tells Anna Perez, her communications counselor who is with her in the meeting, “Find Dick Clarke,” referring to the White House counterterrorism chief. [White House, 10/24/2001; PBS Frontline, 7/12/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002] According to Perez’s later recollection, Rice also tells the others in the room about the second plane hitting the WTC. [White House, 11/1/2001] After saying to her staff, “I have to go,” Rice abruptly heads out. [Newsweek, 12/30/2001] However, Josh Bolten, the deputy White House chief of staff, will contradict Rice’s account and say that he, not Crawford, alerts Rice to the second crash at the WTC. Bolten will recall that he learned of the crash while in the Situation Room and then, realizing it was not an accident, walks into the conference area where Rice is holding her meeting. He asks Rice to step outside the room for a minute and then tells her, “A second plane has hit; this is not an accident, it is an attack” (see (9:03 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Vice President Dick Cheney, Bolten, and Clarke will indicate that Rice initially goes from her staff meeting to Cheney’s office (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [NBC, 9/16/2001; Clarke, 2004, pp. 1-2; C-SPAN, 10/6/2013] But in her own recollections, Rice will make no mention of this, saying that she goes straight from the conference area to the Situation Room’s operations center, intending to assemble a crisis meeting of the national security team (see (9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [O, the Oprah Magazine, 2/1/2002; PBS Frontline, 7/12/2002; BBC Radio 4, 8/1/2002 ; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; Bumiller, 2007, pp. xii]
Logo of the United States European Command. [Source: United States European Command]Hundreds of US military personnel are preparing for a major exercise in Europe, which is based around the scenario of terrorists threatening to attack the United States with a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapon, but the exercise is canceled in response to the real-world attacks in the US. The exercise, which is run by the US military’s European Command, is called Ellipse Charlie, according to journalists Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker. [Schmitt and Shanker, 2011, pp. 22-23; Naylor, 2015, pp. ix] Ellipse Charlie, however, is run by the Pacific Command. The exercise is therefore likely to be Ellipse Bravo, a European Command exercise. [Arkin, 2005, pp. 359; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/27/2005; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/27/2005]
Participants Have to Stop Terrorists Who Have an 'Unconventional' Weapon - The exercise is set to take place in six European and Mediterranean countries, and on a ship at sea, and is meant to last 16 days. The goal is for participants “to find and thwart terrorists who [have] captured an unconventional weapon”—i.e. a nuclear, chemical, or biological weapon—“and threatened to use it against the United States,” according to Schmitt and Shanker. About 1,800 Special Operations personnel, along with “a handful of other secret government operators,” are set to take part. [Schmitt and Shanker, 2011, pp. 22-23] A smaller exercise called Jackal Cave, which is run by the Joint Special Operations Command and is currently taking place in several European countries, is “nested” in Ellipse Bravo, according to journalist and author Sean Naylor (see (8:46 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Naylor, 2015, pp. ix-x]
Al-Qaeda Is the Mock Enemy in the Exercise - The hypothetical enemy in Ellipse Bravo appears to be al-Qaeda or a similar terrorist group. Although Naylor will claim that the mock terrorists in Jackal Cave are “not Islamist,” according to Schmitt and Shanker, Ellipse Bravo is going to involve “a complicated mock attack from a foe like al-Qaeda.” [Schmitt and Shanker, 2011, pp. 23; Naylor, 2015, pp. 441] Furthermore, al-Qaeda was apparently the hypothetical enemy in a previous Ellipse Bravo exercise, held in late August to early September 1998. The scenario for that exercise, according to a report by the US Department of Energy, was that “[d]ue to the United States’ continued presence in the Arab world, international terrorist financier Osama bin Laden had called upon the Muslim community to strike back at the United States.” [US Department of Energy, 12/3/1998 ]
'Ellipse' Exercises Involve Weapons of Mass Destruction - Further details of the current Ellipse Bravo exercise are unclear. “Ellipse” exercises, which are led by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are “highly classified, interagency, major crisis action and management” exercises that involve weapons of mass destruction, according to military analyst William Arkin. [Arkin, 2005, pp. 358] The Ellipse Bravo exercise held in 1998 was intended to “evaluate and validate the US federal response to a radiological weapon of mass destruction in an international environment.” That exercise, which took place outside the US, involved representatives of the US Special Forces and the US Army’s 52nd Ordnance Group, along with personnel from the Department of Energy, including members of its Nuclear Emergency Search Team. [US Department of Energy, 2/1999, pp. 121 ; Richelson, 2009, pp. 172] The current Ellipse Bravo exercise is called off during its final planning stages in response to the terrorist attacks in the US and the commandos involved in it then hurry back to their normal bases. [Schmitt and Shanker, 2011, pp. 23]
The second plane hitting the World Trade Center (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001) causes internal alarms to go off in WTC Building 7, located just a few hundred feet away from the Twin Towers. The alarms warn there is no water pressure and that the building’s emergency power generator has been activated. Office of Emergency Management (OEM) staff, based in Building 7, immediately request air security over New York. They are told that federal support is on its way, but the Federal Aviation Administration instructs them to use NYPD and Port Authority Police Department air assets to clear the airspace around the WTC. They are also warned that the Kennedy Airport control tower is reporting an unaccounted for plane heading towards New York. A report by the Mineta Transportation Institute will claim that this plane is Flight 93, which later crashes in Pennsylvania. [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 16] However, Flight 93 is still flying west at this time, and only reverses course and heads towards Washington at around 9:36 a.m. (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to at least one person at the scene, WTC 7 is evacuated around this time due to the reports of this incoming third plane (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Jems And FireRescue, 3/2002, pp. 68 ]
Lisa Gordon-Hagerty. [Source: University of Michigan]Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is driving up to a gate outside the White House when Lisa Gordon-Hagerty—a member of his staff who is already at the White House—calls and tells him, “The other tower was just hit.” He responds: “Well, now we know who we’re dealing with. I want the highest level person in Washington from each agency on-screen now, especially the FAA.” He ordered Gordon-Hagerty to set up a secure video conference about five minutes earlier. A few minutes later, according to his own recollections, Clarke finds Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in Cheney’s White House office. Clarke tells Cheney: “It’s an al-Qaeda attack and they like simultaneous attacks. This may not be over.” Rice asks Clarke for recommendations and he says, “We’re putting together a secure teleconference to manage the crisis.” He also recommends evacuating the White House. (A slow evacuation of the White House will begin around 9:20-9:25 (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001).) Rice notes the Secret Service wants them to go to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, and as Clarke leaves the other two, he sees Cheney gathering up his papers. In Cheney’s outer office, Clarke will recall, he sees eight Secret Service agents instead of the usual two, ready to move to the PEOC. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 1-2; Australian, 3/27/2004]
After leveling off at 25,000 feet and making a slight course change to the east-northeast, Flight 77 has its autopilot disconnected. It remains off for about three minutes before being re-engaged. This is according to information later obtained from its flight data recorder. During these three minutes, Flight 77’s altitude dips as low as 22,000 feet, but by the time the autopilot is re-engaged it has leveled again at 25,250 feet. [National Transportation Safety Board, 2/13/2002, pp. 3 ; National Transportation Safety Board, 2/19/2002, pp. 2 ; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 30 and 94] The autopilot will later be disengaged again for the last eight minutes of the plane’s flight (see 9:29 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Brian Clark. [Source: CTV]Brian Clark, the executive vice president of brokerage firm Euro Brokers, was on the 84th floor of the South Tower, where his firm’s offices are, when Flight 175 crashed into it. He had headed out, going down Stairway A, which is the only staircase in the tower that remains intact from top to bottom, and was soon joined by Stanley Praimnath, who also works in the South Tower. They reach a point that Clark later guesses to have been around the 77th or 78th floor, where the stairway walls are cracked, allowing them to look through. This would be around the lower end of the floors where the plane impacted. However, Clark sees no large fire. He later says, “[Y]ou could look through the cracks and see flames. They were just quietly licking up, not a roaring inferno. And there was some smoke there, but again I think the stairs were pressurized, pushing the air out so we had less smoke in the stairway than you might imagine.” [BBC, 3/7/2002; New York Times, 5/26/2002; Sun, 9/6/2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004] This apparently contradicts later claims that the tower was subjected to “extreme fires” prior to its collapse. [New York Times, 10/20/2004] Firefighter Orio Palmer will make it up to this level of the tower later on, and also report only finding small fires there (see 9:52 a.m. September 11, 2001). Clark and Praimnath continue down the stairs and make it out just minutes before the collapse. They are two of only four people who were at or above the impact zone after Flight 175 hit, who are able to escape from the South Tower. [CNN, 9/9/2002] A further 14 people are able to get out of the building from its 78th floor, which is the lower part of the crash zone. [Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 255]
[Source: Family photo]Renee May, a flight attendant on Flight 77, calls her parents in Las Vegas and reports her plane has been hijacked. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] According to author Tom Murphy, May previously tried calling the American Airlines flight services office at Washington’s Reagan National Airport, but all the lines there were busy. [Murphy, 2006, pp. 56-57] However, a summary of the phone calls made from the four hijacked planes that is presented at the 2006 Zacarias Moussaoui trial will make no mention of this earlier call. May’s first attempt at calling her parents, at 9:11 a.m., had not connected, but her second attempt a minute later is successful, and the call lasts for two-and-a-half minutes. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 31; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] According to reports shortly after 9/11 in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, May makes her call using a cell phone. [Las Vegas Review-Journal, 9/13/2001; Las Vegas Review-Journal, 9/15/2001] But at the Moussaoui trial it will be claimed she uses an Airfone. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 7 ] According to most accounts, including that of the 9/11 Commission, she speaks to her mother, Nancy May. [Las Vegas Review-Journal, 9/13/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 7 ] But according to Murphy, she speaks with her father, Ronald May. [Murphy, 2006, pp. 57] Renee reports that her plane is being hijacked. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 31] Although it will be officially claimed that there are five hijackers on Flight 77, she says six individuals have taken over the plane (see Between 9:12 a.m. and 9:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/27/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 2-3 and 9] Renee says the hijackers have moved people to the rear of the aircraft, though it is unclear whether she is referring to all of the passengers or just the flight’s crew. She tells her parent (either her mother or father, depending on the account) to call American Airlines and inform it of the hijacking. She gives three numbers in Northern Virginia to call. Before the time Flight 77 crashes, Renee May’s mother (or her father, according to Murphy) is able to contact an American Airlines employee at Reagan National Airport and pass on what their daughter has reported (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 31; Murphy, 2006, pp. 57]
The jet fuel that spilled from Flight 175 when it hit the South Tower (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001) has mostly burned up by this time. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which later investigates the collapses, will say the “initial jet fuel fires themselves lasted at most a few minutes.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 183] Engineering professor Forman Williams will say the jet fuel “burned for maybe 10 minutes.” [Popular Mechanics, 3/2005] Flight 175, a Boeing 767, had a capacity of 23,980 gallons, but was only carrying about 9,100 gallons of fuel when it hit the WTC. NIST will estimate that less than 1,500 gallons were consumed in a fireball inside the tower and 910 to 2,275 gallons were consumed in the fireballs outside the building. Approximately 6,100 gallons therefore splashed onto the office furnishings and started fires on various floors. However, after the jet fuel is used up, office fires burn until the building collapses. NIST will calculate that there were about four pounds per square foot of combustibles in the office space, or about 60 tons per floor. Offices in the WTC actually had fewer combustibles than other similar spaces due to the small number of interior walls and limited bookshelf space. NIST will later find that only three of sixteen perimeter columns it recovers reached a temperature of 250°C and neither of the two core columns it retrieves reached this temperature. NIST will also find that none of the samples it acquires reached a temperature above 600°C (see August 27, 2003). While steel does not melt until its temperature is about 1,600°C, it may begin to lose significant strength at over 500°C. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 29, 38, 42, 77] The jet fuel also burned up in the North Tower about 10 minutes after it was hit (see 8:57 a.m. September 11, 2001). When a group of firefighters reach the bottom impact floor in the South Tower just before collapse, they only find two isolated fires (see 9:52 a.m. September 11, 2001).
In a phone call from Flight 77, flight attendant Renee May describes six hijackers on her plane, yet official accounts will state there are only five. May is able to call her parents from Flight 77 to report that her plane has been hijacked (see (9:12 a.m.) September 11, 2001). She says six individuals have carried out the hijacking. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 31] Yet, despite this, the official claim put forward by the FBI and later the 9/11 Commission will be that there are five hijackers—not six—on this flight. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/27/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 27] Apparently, the only other person to make a phone call from Flight 77 is passenger Barbara Olson, who reaches her husband (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/12/2001; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004 ] But Olson does not appear to make any reference to the number of hijackers on the plane. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 ; CNN, 9/14/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9]
Barry Jennings [Source: Public domain]Barry Jennings, a City Housing Authority worker, and Michael Hess, New York’s corporation counsel, hear unexplained explosions inside World Trade Center Building 7, where they become trapped. [UPN 9, 9/11/2001; BBC, 7/6/2008] The two men went up to the emergency command center on the 23rd floor of WTC 7 after the first attack occurred (see (Shortly Before 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Independent, 9/13/2001] At some point, the power goes out in the building. They then start walking down the stairs to get out. According to Hess, when the two men get down to the eighth floor, “there was an explosion and we’ve been trapped on the eighth floor with smoke, thick smoke, all around us, for about an hour and a half.” [UPN 9, 9/11/2001] Jennings will also recall hearing explosions. He will say: “I made it to the sixth floor and there was an explosion. The explosion was beneath me.” [Dylan Avery, 2007] He will add, “[T]he staircase that I was standing on just gave way,” and, “Then we made it back to the eighth floor, I heard some more explosions.” [BBC, 7/6/2008] Jennings says to Hess: “This is it; we’re dead. We’re not gonna make it out of here.” [Penn State Public Broadcasting, 3/1/2002] The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will claim the two men head down the stairs after 9:59, when the first collapse occurs, and then become trapped around the time the second tower collapses, at 10:28. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109-110] But according to the London Independent, they start heading down the stairs after the second attack at 9:03, which suggests the explosions begin earlier on. [Independent, 9/13/2001] Jennings will confirm this, saying that when he hears the first explosion, “Both [of the Twin Towers] were still standing,” meaning it occurs before 9:59. He says: “I was trapped in there when both [Twin Towers] came down.… All this time I’m hearing explosions.” [Dylan Avery, 2007] The cause of the explosions is unclear. Later on, firefighters will rescue Hess and Jennings from the building (see 12:10 p.m.-12:15 p.m. September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109-110]
According to an early timeline laid out to CNN by unnamed but “informed defense officials,” the FAA informs NORAD at this time that Flight 93 may have been hijacked. [CNN, 9/17/2001] In public testimony before the 9/11 Commission in 2003, NORAD officials will similarly claim that the FAA first reports the possible hijacking of Flight 93 at this time. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] Yet this is 12 minutes before the hijacking is meant to have occurred (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 38] One explanation is put forward that could possibly help explain the discrepancy: There are media reports that “investigators had determined from the cockpit voice recorder from United Airlines Flight 93… that one of the four hijackers had been invited into the cockpit area before the flight took off from Newark, New Jersey.” Cockpit voice recordings indicate that the pilots believed their guest was a colleague “and was thereby extended the typical airline courtesy of allowing any pilot from any airline to join a flight by sitting in the jumpseat, the folded over extra seat located inside the cockpit.” [Fox News, 9/24/2001; Herald Sun (Melbourne), 9/25/2001] This would be consistent with passenger phone calls from the plane, describing only three hijackers on Flight 93 (see (9:27 a.m.-10:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Longman, 2002, pp. 120] However, the reports will not be confirmed. The 9/11 Commission Report will dismiss the claim that NORAD was alerted at 9:16, stating, “In public testimony before this Commission in May 2003, NORAD officials stated that at 9:16, NEADS received hijack notification of United 93 from the FAA. This statement was incorrect. There was no hijack to report at 9:16. United 93 was proceeding normally at that time.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 34] No further explanations will be offered for the incorrect timelines. NORAD’s own initial timeline, released on September 18, 2001, will not give a time for when the FAA alerted it to Flight 93. It will only say that the FAA and its Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) “established a line of open communication discussing AA Flt 77 and UA Flt 93.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001]
Fire Chief Ray Downey is on the corner of West Street and Vesey Street, where the chiefs in charge of the response at the WTC have gathered to survey the scene. [Downey, 2004, pp. 233] Downey is the head of the New York Fire Department’s Special Operations Command, where he has pioneered techniques for responding to terrorist attacks. [CBS News, 9/11/2006] Reportedly, he had felt certain that a big attack on American soil was due. Worst in his mind had been “a situation in which there was a secondary device timed to explode after rescuers had rushed to the scene” of a terrorist attack. As he now checks in with the fire chiefs who are trying to put together a response plan, he tells them “he is worried about secondary devices in the towers, explosive devices that could hurt the firemen.” [Downey, 2004, pp. 224 and 233] Shortly after the South Tower comes down, Downey will in fact say he thought bombs in the building had caused it to collapse (see Shortly After 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). [City of New York, 12/6/2001] He will be killed when the North Tower collapses at 10:28 a.m. [New York Times, 9/9/2005]
United Airlines Flight 23, a Boeing 767 bound from JFK International Airport in New York to Los Angeles, cancels its takeoff and may thus avoid becoming the morning’s fifth hijacked plane. It was scheduled to depart at 8:30 a.m., but was late in pushing back from the gate and is still waiting in line to take off. [Associated Press, 9/13/2001; New York Times, 10/20/2001] The plane’s pilots, Tom Mannello and Carol Timmons, have heard a report over their radio that a plane has flown into the World Trade Center. They then receive a text message from United Airlines dispatcher Ed Ballinger, which reportedly states: “We have gone to heightened security. Do not open cockpit doors. Secure the cockpit.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 102-103] This is presumably the message Ballinger sent out at 9:19 (see 9:19 a.m. September 11, 2001), though it seems to be more like a description of the message he sends out at 9:32 (see 9:32 a.m.-9:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 37 and 39]
Pilots Alarmed at Warning - Having never received a warning like this before, the pilots are alarmed. Timmons starts barricading the cockpit door with their suitcases while Mannello grabs the crash ax for protection. Mannello calls the plane’s lead flight attendant to inform her of the threat, and tells her not to open the cockpit door under any circumstances. Soon afterwards, she calls back and informs him: “We [the plane’s flight attendants] just think you should know this because we think it is unusual. We have four young Arab men sitting in first class this morning.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 103] (Other accounts will claim there are three or even six suspicious passengers on the flight. [Associated Press, 9/13/2001; Chicago Daily Herald, 4/14/2004] ) Mannello hasn’t been told what the reported threat is about or if it relates to Arabs, so simply thanks the attendant for the information. Minutes later, the pilots receive a radio message from ground control, announcing, “All aircraft, be advised that the airport is now closed.” A subsequent message announces the airport is being evacuated. Mannello decides to move his aircraft back to the terminal. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 103-104]
Arab Passengers Become Aggressive - After the passengers are told their flight has been canceled, the Arab men become upset. They stand up and start urgently consulting with each other, and then refuse to return to their seats. [Associated Press, 9/13/2001; New York Times, 10/20/2001] One official will later describe: “These guys got belligerent, and said something like, ‘We’ve got to be on this plane.’ They expressed a desire to remain on the plane and resisted getting off.” [New York Times, 9/14/2001] According to the Associated Press, “The argument with a member of the flight crew became so heated that the crew member called airport security. But before security arrived, the men had vanished.” [Associated Press, 9/13/2001]
Evidence Indicates Plans for Hijacking Plane - Authorities will later check the men’s unclaimed baggage and find box-cutters, copies of the Koran, and al-Qaeda instruction sheets. [Chicago Daily Herald, 4/14/2004; Spencer, 2008, pp. 105] In 2002, apparently referring to this incident, Lieutenant General Ken Pennie, the deputy commander of NORAD, will state, “We suspect there might have been more than just the four aircraft involved” as targets for the 9/11 attacks. [Globe and Mail, 6/13/2002] The FBI will investigate this incident and go through the flight manifest to determine the names of the Arab men, who are believed to have had ticketed reservations. [Associated Press, 9/13/2001; New York Times, 9/14/2001] Investigators will interview the plane’s crew nearly half a dozen times. But no information about the suspicious Arab passengers is ever released to the public. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 105] On September 14, it is reported that investigators believe at least one of these passengers was among a number of individuals taken into custody at JFK and La Guardia Airports the previous day (see September 13-14, 2001). [New York Times, 9/14/2001] However, these detained individuals are soon cleared of any connection with the events of 9/11 and are released. [Associated Press, 9/14/2001] In 2004, Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL) will say the suspicious Flight 23 passengers were never found and are likely still at large. [Chicago Daily Herald, 4/14/2004]
The exterior wall on the east side of the World Trade Center’s South Tower apparently bows before the building collapses. The first inquiry into the collapse, by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Society of Civil Engineers, states that the perimeter walls bow outward. “Expansion of floor slabs and framing results in outward deflection of columns and potential overload,” the investigation concludes. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 2-25] However, a subsequent report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology states that the east wall of the South Tower bows inward. In places the wall is said to bow inward by between seven and nine inches at floor 80, and NIST interprets this bowing to mean that the floors must be sagging. NIST will find that the sagging and bowing are two of the seven major factors that led to the collapse of each tower, as the bowing walls are no longer able to support their share of the buildings’ weight, causing the buildings to tilt and the upper sections to fall. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 43-46, 87] A wall in the North Tower also apparently bows before the building collapses (see 10:23 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Shortly after 9/11, NORAD reported that the FAA notified them at this time that Flight 77 “may” have been hijacked and that it appears headed toward Washington. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; Guardian, 10/17/2001; Associated Press, 8/21/2002] Apparently, flight controllers at Dulles International Airport discover a plane heading at high speed toward Washington; an alert is sounded within moments that the plane appears to be headed toward the White House. [Washington Post, 11/3/2001] In 2003, the FAA supported this account, but claimed that they had informally notified NORAD earlier. “NORAD logs indicate that the FAA made formal notification about American Flight 77 at 9:24 a.m. (see (9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but information about the flight was conveyed continuously during the phone bridges before the formal notification.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 5/22/2003] Yet in 2004, the 9/11 Commission claims that both NORAD and the FAA are wrong. The 9/11 Commission explains that the notification NEADS received at 9:24 a.m. was the incorrect information that Flight 11 had not hit the WTC and was headed south for Washington, D.C. Thus, according to the 9/11 Commission, NORAD is never notified by the FAA about the hijacking of Flight 77, but accidentally learns about it at 9:34 a.m. (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
According to journalist and author Jere Longman, “On all phone calls made from [Flight 93], passengers reported seeing only three hijackers. Not a single caller reported four hijackers.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 120] (As an exception, one article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette claims that passenger Todd Beamer describes four hijackers; however, other reports say he describes only three (see 9:45 a.m.-9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001] ) Yet the official claim is that there are four hijackers on this plane. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/27/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 4] Some family members of the passengers and crew will later be suspicious that one of the hijackers was in the plane’s cockpit from takeoff (see 9:16 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, according to Longman, “Investigators, pilots, flight attendants and United officials tended to discount this theory.… Paperwork would have to be filled out in advance if an observer requested to sit in the cockpit. No request was made for Flight 93, United officials later reported.… Flight 93 was hijacked approximately forty-five minutes after it left Newark. Other pilots agreed that Captain Dahl likely would have requested that any observer return to his regular seat by that time.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 120] The 9/11 Commission’s explanation for the reports of three hijackers instead of four is that Ziad Jarrah, “the crucial pilot-trained member of [the hijacker’s] team, remained seated and inconspicuous until after the cockpit was seized; and once inside, he would not have been visible to the passengers.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 12]
According to Deena Burnett, when her husband Tom Burnett first calls her from Flight 93 (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001), he mentions that one of the plane’s hijackers has a gun. [Longman, 2002, pp. 107; San Francisco Chronicle, 4/21/2002; Sacramento Bee, 9/11/2002] She will recall him telling her: “The hijackers have already knifed a guy. One of them has a gun. They’re telling us there’s a bomb on board.” [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 61] However, contradicting this account, the 9/11 Commission will conclude that the Flight 93 hijackers do not possess a gun. It will state: “[N]one of the other callers [from Flight 93] reported the presence of a firearm. One recipient of a call from the aircraft recounted specifically asking her caller whether the hijackers had guns. The passenger replied that he did not see one. No evidence of firearms or of their identifiable remains was found at the aircraft’s crash site, and the cockpit voice recorder gives no indication of a gun being fired or mentioned at any time. We believe that if the hijackers had possessed a gun, they would have used it in the flight’s last minutes as the passengers fought back.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 13] News reports shortly after 9/11 and later in 2001 will mention Tom Burnett describing the hijackers having knives and claiming to have a bomb, but say nothing about him referring to a hijacker with a gun. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/12/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/13/2001; San Francisco Chronicle, 9/17/2001; Newsweek, 12/3/2001] According to notes of her initial interview with the FBI (see (12:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001), Deena Burnett tells the investigators that her husband described to her a passenger being knifed and the hijackers claiming to have a bomb. But the notes will make no mention of her saying she was told about a hijacker possessing a gun. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 ] And Deena apparently does not mention any gun in early interviews with the press, saying only: “[My husband] said, ‘I’m on the airplane, the airplane that’s been hijacked, and they’ve already knifed a guy. They’re saying they have a bomb. Please call the authorities.’” [Associated Press, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/15/2001] But she will later state: “He told me one of the hijackers had a gun. He wouldn’t have made it up. Tom grew up around guns. He was an avid hunter and we have guns in our home. If he said there was a gun on board, there was.” [London Times, 8/11/2002]
Jason Dahl. [Source: Publicity photo]According to the 9/11 Commission, less than a minute after Flight 93 acknowledged a routine radio transmission from the FAA’s Cleveland Center (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001), John Werth—the controller handling the flight—and pilots of other aircraft in the vicinity of Flight 93 hear “a radio transmission of unintelligible sounds of possible screaming or a struggle from an unknown origin.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; CBS News, 9/10/2006] Someone, presumably Flight 93’s pilot Jason Dahl, is overheard by controllers as he shouts, “Mayday!” [New York Times, 7/22/2004] Seconds later, the controller responds, “Somebody call Cleveland?” Then there are more sounds of screaming and someone yelling, “Get out of here, get out of here.” [Toronto Sun, 9/16/2001; Newsweek, 9/22/2001; Observer, 12/2/2001; MSNBC, 7/30/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Then the voices of the hijackers can be heard talking in Arabic. The words are later translated to show they are talking to each other, saying, “Everything is fine.” [Newsweek, 12/3/2001] Later, passenger phone calls will describe two dead or injured bodies just outside the cockpit; presumably these are the two pilots. [New York Times, 7/22/2004]
The 9/11 Commission will later conclude that the four hijackers take over Flight 93 at 9:28 a.m., one minute after the plane’s crew made their last communication with the FAA’s Cleveland Center (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to the Commission, the hijackers “wielded knives (reported by at least five callers); engaged in violence, including stabbing (reported by at least four callers and indicated by the sounds of the cockpit struggle transmitted over the radio); relocated the passengers to the back of the plane (reported by at least two callers); threatened use of a bomb, either real or fake (reported by at least three callers); and engaged in deception about their intentions (as indicated by the hijacker’s radio transmission received by FAA air traffic control).” Flight 93 suddenly drops 685 feet in the space of just 30 seconds, and the Cleveland Center hears two suspicious radio transmissions from its cockpit (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the 9/11 Commission will add, “While this appears to show the exact time that the hijackers invaded the cockpit, we have found no conclusive evidence to indicate precisely when the terrorists took over the main cabin or moved passengers seated in the first-class cabin back to coach.” The four hijackers waited about 46 minutes after takeoff before beginning their takeover of Flight 93. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 38-39] Yet, the Commission claims, when alleged hijacker ringleader Mohamed Atta met with fellow Hamburg cell member Ramzi bin al-Shibh in Spain about two months earlier (see July 8-19, 2001), he’d said that the “best time [for the hijackers] to storm the cockpit would be about 10-15 minutes after takeoff, when the cockpit doors typically were opened for the first time.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 245] The Commission will state, “We were unable to determine why [the Flight 93 hijackers] waited so long.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 39] The long wait is particularly notable, considering that Flight 93 had already been significantly delayed before taking off from Newark Airport (see 8:01 a.m. September 11, 2001). In fact, in an early timeline, Pentagon officials will state the hijacking occurred significantly earlier, at around 9:16, and in 2003, NORAD officials repeat this claim (see 9:16 a.m. September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/17/2001; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003]
John Werth. [Source: CBS]Shortly after hearing strange noises from the cockpit of Flight 93, Cleveland air traffic controllers notice the plane has descended about 700 feet. John Werth, the controller who is handling the plane, tells the supervisor nearest to him, “I think we have another one [i.e., another hijacking].” He will repeatedly radio the cockpit over the next four minutes, asking the pilot to confirm the hijacking, but receive no response. At 9:30 a.m., Werth begins asking other nearby flights on his frequency if they’ve heard screaming; several say that they have. [Gregor, 12/21/2001 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28; CBS News, 9/10/2006] The Cleveland Center immediately notifies United Airlines’ headquarters of the loss of communication with Flight 93 (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the FAA chain of command is apparently not also immediately informed. And the Cleveland Center will not contact NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) about Flight 93 until 10:07 a.m. (see 10:05 a.m.-10:08 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28 and 30]
Shortly before Flight 93 reverses direction and heads east, someone in its cockpit radios in and asks the FAA for a new flight plan, with a final destination of Washington, DC. [ABC News, 9/11/2001; ABC News, 9/14/2001] Jeff Krawczyk, the chief operating officer of a company that tracks aircraft movements, later comments, “We hardly ever get a flight plan change. Very unusual.” [Washington Business Journal, 9/11/2001] Who it is that makes this request is unclear. The hijacker takeover of Flight 93 occurred around 9:28 a.m. (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001) [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 11] , so it is presumably made by one of the hijackers. Twenty-five minutes later the pilot hijacker will also program a new destination into the plane’s navigational system (see 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Joseph Callan. [Source: FDNY]Emergency responders in the lobby of the north WTC tower hear an unconfirmed report of a third plane heading toward New York. Consequently, Assistant Fire Chief Joseph Callan orders all firefighters to evacuate the tower. The third plane report is soon found to be incorrect. One firefighter tells a colleague over radio, “That plane is ours, I repeat, it is ours.” Rescue operations therefore continue. [New York Times, 7/7/2002; New York City Fire Department, 8/19/2002, pp. 32; Fire Engineering, 9/2002; Associated Press, 11/16/2002] The source of the incorrect report is apparently Richard Rotanz, the deputy director of the New York Office of Emergency Management (OEM), who is reportedly in the OEM command center on the 23rd floor of WTC Building 7. A Secret Service agent in WTC 7 reportedly told him there were unconfirmed reports of other planes in the air. When OEM Director Richard Sheirer called Rotanz some time after the second WTC tower was hit, Rotanz relayed this information, telling him there were “still planes unaccounted for that may [be] heading for New York.” Sheirer then told people in the North Tower lobby “that another plane was on the way.” Journalists Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins, in their book Grand Illusion, blame Sheirer for “instantly converting unspecific information into a very specific false alarm.” This false alarm quickly ends up on fire and police department dispatches. Sheirer is apparently so unnerved by it that he instructs the police department aviation unit to not let another plane hit the WTC. As he will later tell the 9/11 Commission, though, “We were grasping at straws,” since no police helicopter could “stop a commercial jet going over 400 miles per hour.” [Firehouse Magazine, 9/2/2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 32-33] Emergency medical technician Richard Zarrillo is currently in WTC 7, and is informed by an OEM rep there of the alleged third plane inbound for New York. While the rest of Building 7 was evacuated earlier on (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), this false threat reportedly leads to the evacuation of the OEM command center as well (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [City of New York, 10/25/2001] (However, some accounts indicate the command center may have been evacuated earlier (see (Soon After 8:46 a.m.-9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly Before 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001).) Soon after hearing this false report of a third inbound plane, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, and OEM Director Richard Sheirer will all leave the North Tower lobby and relocate to a temporary command post on Barclay Street (see (9:50 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Kerik, 2001, pp. 334; 9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 ; Barrett and Collins, 2006, pp. 342]
At the FAA’s Cleveland Center, an air traffic controller hears a transmission, presumably made by Flight 93 hijacker-pilot Ziad Jarrah, stating: “Ladies and gentlemen: Here the captain, please sit down, keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb on board. So, sit.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 12; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 39] As the 9/11 Commission later notes, “Like [Mohamed] Atta on Flight 11, Jarrah apparently did not know how to operate the communication radios; thus his attempts to communicate with the passengers were broadcast on the [air traffic control] channel.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 98] While this communication is assumed to have come from Flight 93, an early FAA report states that it came “from an unknown origin.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ] According to Newsweek, just prior to the communication, Cleveland Center controllers heard the sound of screaming from the flight. [Newsweek, 9/22/2001] The 9/11 Commission states that, around the time of the transmission, the plane’s cockpit voice recording indicates “that a woman, most likely a flight attendant, was being held captive in the cockpit. She struggled with one of the hijackers who killed or otherwise silenced her.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 12; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 39] Though the Cleveland air traffic controller understands the hijacker’s communication, he responds to it: “Calling Cleveland Center, you’re unreadable. Say again, slowly.” He also notifies his supervisor who passes the information up the chain of command, and the FAA’s Command Center is subsequently informed, “United 93 may have a bomb on board.” At 9:34 the Command Center will relay this information to FAA headquarters (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28]
Based on an analysis of radar data for Flight 77 as it approaches the Pentagon and makes a 330 degree loop (see 9:34 a.m.- 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001), experts will later say that the plane is being flown so smoothly that “it’s clear there [is] no fight for control going on.” [CBS News, 9/21/2001; Boston Globe, 11/23/2001] The plane gets near the White House during this turn. “Sources say the hijacked jet… [flies] several miles south of the restricted airspace around the White House.” [CBS News, 9/21/2001] The Daily Telegraph will later write: “If the airliner had approached much nearer to the White House it might have been shot down by the Secret Service, who are believed to have a battery of ground-to-air Stinger missiles ready to defend the president’s home. The Pentagon is not similarly defended.” [Daily Telegraph, 9/16/2001] White House spokesman Ari Fleischer will suggest the plane goes even closer to the White House, saying, “That is not the radar data that we have seen. The plane was headed toward the White House.” [CBS News, 9/21/2001 Sources: Ari Fleischer]
FAA Administrator Jane Garvey notifies the video conference chaired by counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke that all aircraft have been ordered to land at the nearest field and reads a list of potential hijacks including Delta 1989 and United 93. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 5] Although, according to Clarke’s account, both General Richard Myers and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld are present at the conference at this point, the 9/11 Commission will later claim that the military was not notified about the hijacking of United 93 until over half an hour later (see 10:03 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Mark Rothenberg. [Source: Family photo]Tom Burnett, a passenger on the hijacked Flight 93, calls his wife Deena Burnett a second time from the aircraft and is told about the planes hitting the World Trade Center. [Sacramento Bee, 9/11/2002] Deena is on the phone with an FBI agent, reporting her husband’s previous call from the plane (see 9:31 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001), when she hears her call-waiting beep. She answers her husband’s call, making a note of the time. [Newsweek, 12/3/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 109-110] Tom tells her the plane’s hijackers are “in the cockpit. The guy they knifed is dead.… I tried to help him, but I couldn’t get a pulse.” [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 64] (According to journalist and author Jere Longman, Burnett is likely referring here to fellow passenger Mark Rothenberg. [Longman, 2002, pp. 107] ) Deena says: “Tom, they are hijacking planes all up and down the East coast. They are taking them and hitting designated targets. They’ve already hit both towers of the World Trade Center.” [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 64] (When the FBI later interviews her (see (12:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001), Deena will say it seemed her husband was already aware at this time that other flights had crashed into the WTC, although this possibility is not specifically brought up during their call. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 ] ) Tom says the hijackers are “talking about crashing this plane.” He adds: “Oh my gosh! It’s a suicide mission.” Deena hears him repeating the information she has told him to other people. When she asks who this is, he tells her he is talking to his seatmate. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 ; Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 64] Tom wants to know if commercial aircraft have been hijacked, how many planes and which airlines are involved, and who is involved? [Longman, 2002, pp. 110] He then says: “We’re turning back toward New York. We’re going back to the World Trade Center. No, wait, we’re turning back the other way. We’re going south.” He reports: “We’re over a rural area. It’s just fields. I’ve gotta go.” He then hangs up. The call has lasted about two minutes. [Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 64] According to Longman, unlike his previous call, which he made using his cell phone, Tom Burnett makes this call using an Airfone. [Longman, 2002, pp. 110] But other reports will state that he makes all four of his calls from Flight 93 using his cell phone. [Associated Press, 9/13/2001; Washington Post, 4/19/2002; San Francisco Chronicle, 4/21/2002] According to notes of Deena Burnett’s later interview with the FBI, all Tom’s calls are made using his cell phone, but “one of the calls did not show on the caller identification as [Deena] was on the line with another call” when it was made. This could be referring to this second call, which occurred while Deena was on the phone with the FBI agent. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 ]
Before crashing into the Pentagon, Flight 77 performs a rapid downward spiral, flying almost a complete circle and descending 7,000 feet in two and a half minutes. [CBS News, 9/21/2001]
330-Degree Turn - At 9:34 a.m., Flight 77 is about 3.5 miles west-southwest of the Pentagon. But, at an altitude of around 7,000 feet, it is flying too high to hit its target. [CBS News, 9/21/2001; New York Times, 10/16/2001; National Transportation Safety Board, 2/19/2002 ] Based on an analysis of radar data and information from the plane’s flight data recorder, a 2002 National Transportation Safety Board report will describe the maneuver the aircraft then performs: “[Flight 77] started a right 330-degree descending turn to the right. At the end of the turn, the aircraft was at about 2,000 feet altitude and four miles southwest of the Pentagon. Over the next 30 seconds, power was increased to near maximum and the nose was pitched down in response to control column movements.” The aircraft accelerates to about 530 miles per hour as it closes in on the Pentagon. [National Transportation Safety Board, 2/19/2002 ]
Controllers Watch on Radar - Air Traffic Controllers at Washington Dulles International Airport follow Flight 77 on their radar screens as it performs this maneuver. Danielle O’Brien will later recall: “John, our supervisor, relayed verbatim, ‘OK, he’s 12 miles west, he’s moving very fast eastbound.… Eleven miles west.’ And it was just a countdown. Ten miles west, nine miles west.… And it went six, five, four, and I had it in my mouth to say three, and all of a sudden the plane turned away. In the room it was almost a sense of relief.” [ABC, 10/24/2001; ABC News, 10/24/2001] Todd Lewis will recall that the aircraft “was heading right towards a prohibited area in downtown Washington.… Then it turned south and away from the prohibited area, which seemed like a momentary sigh of relief, and it disappeared. But it was going away from Washington, which seemed to be the right thing.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] However, O’Brien will continue: “[T]he plane turned back. He continued in the right-hand turn, made a 360-degree maneuver.… We lost radar contact with that aircraft. And we waited. And we waited.” [ABC, 10/24/2001; ABC News, 10/24/2001]
Maneuver Indicates Advanced Flying Skills - According to CBS News, “The steep turn” made by Flight 77 “was so smooth… sources say, it’s clear there was no fight for control going on.” The “complex maneuver suggests the hijackers had better flying skills than many investigators first believed.” [CBS News, 9/21/2001] Aviation experts will conclude that this maneuver was the work of “a great talent… virtually a textbook turn and landing.” [Washington Post, 9/10/2002] Due to the aircraft’s high speed and the way it is being flown, Dulles Airport controllers mistake it for a military fighter jet (see (9:25 a.m.-9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; ABC News, 10/24/2001; MSNBC, 9/11/2002] Yet the hijacker allegedly at the controls, Hani Hanjour, was considered to be a very poor pilot at numerous flight schools he attended (see October 1996-December 1997, 1998, January-February 2001, February 8-March 12, 2001, (April-July 2001), and Mid-August 2001). [Washington Post, 9/10/2002]
An unknown flight attendant on Flight 93, later determined to be Sandy Bradshaw, calls the United Airlines maintenance facility in San Francisco, and reports that her plane has been hijacked. The San Francisco number is one that flight crews know to call if they need to report mechanical problems, obtain advice on troubleshooting, or request maintenance while in flight. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 40; United States of America v. Zacarias Moussaoui, a/k/a Shaqil, a/k/a Abu Khalid al Sahrawi, Defendant., 4/11/2006 ] Bradshaw makes her call from the rear of Flight 93, using an Airfone. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 ] A United Airlines maintenance employee initially answers the call. Shortly thereafter, it is taken over by a manager at the facility. Bradshaw reports that hijackers are in the cabin of her plane behind the first-class curtain, and also in the cockpit. They have pulled a knife, have killed a flight attendant, and have announced they have a bomb on board. The manager will later describe Bradshaw as being “shockingly calm” during the conversation. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 40; United States of America v. Zacarias Moussaoui, a/k/a Shaqil, a/k/a Abu Khalid al Sahrawi, Defendant., 4/11/2006 ] Bradshaw’s call lasts just under six minutes. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] The manager reports the emergency to his supervisor, who passes the information to the crisis center at United Airlines’ headquarters, outside Chicago. [USA Today, 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 40] After about 9:45-9:50, “everyone” in the crisis center will know “that a flight attendant on board” Flight 93 has “called the mechanics desk to report that one hijacker had a bomb strapped on and another was holding a knife on the crew.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 43] The manager at the San Francisco maintenance facility instructs the Airfone operator to try and reestablish contact with the plane, but the effort is unsuccessful. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 40] At 9:50, Bradshaw will make another call from Flight 93, this time to her husband (see 9:50 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 12 ]
A contract crew has been installing furniture in the southwest perimeter of the Pentagon. Construction workers are currently doing the final touching up, after more than three years of renovation work on this area of the building, and some Defense Department employees are already moving into their new office spaces. But the wife of one crew member phones her husband after seeing footage of the attacks in New York on CNN and says she feels he is in danger at the Pentagon. Hearing of the attacks, the crew leader instructs his 23 workers to abandon what they are doing and evacuate. Moments later, as they are crossing the parking lot, they see the airliner crash into the exact area of the Pentagon they had just left. [Government Executive, 5/1/2002; Freni, 2003, pp. 43-44] There is no evidence that anyone else in the Pentagon evacuates the building before it is struck (see Before 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Newsday, 9/23/2001] Another report, which appears to be describing the same incident, says the construction crew evacuates for a different reason: to discuss security with a customer in the parking lot. [Pentagram, 9/14/2001]
Military officers at the FAA’s Command Center are informed of the hijacking of Flight 93, according to the FAA’s National Operations Manager Ben Sliney. If such notification is given, it is presumably shortly after the Command Center learns of the hijacking (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). Sliney will later tell the 9/11 Commission: “Available to us at the Command Center of course is the military cell, which was our liaison with the military services. They were present at all of the events that occurred on 9/11.” He will add, “The normal protocols for the events that were transpiring then—that is to say hijacked aircraft, which requires a notification to NORAD—those, at least I was given to understand, were made promptly—the notifications on each hijack.” The FAA’s acting Deputy Administrator Monte Belger will add: “[T]here were military people on duty at the FAA Command Center, as Mr. Sliney said. They were participating in what was going on. There were military people in the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization in a situation room. They were participating in what was going on.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] If the cell is notified, it is unclear what, if anything, the military liaison officers—Colonel John Czabaranek, Lieutenant Colonel Michael-Anne Cherry, and Major Kevin Bridges (see (Between 9:04 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001)—at the Command Center do with the information about Flight 93’s hijacking. The 9/11 Commission will say that the first notification to the military about Flight 93 comes at 10:07 a.m. (see 10:05 a.m.-10:08 a.m. September 11, 2001).
A number of witnesses see a helicopter flying near the Pentagon in the minutes before the attack there.
Jeffrey Mark Parsons, an assistant chief patrol agent with the United States Border Patrol, sees a blue and white helicopter that appears as if it is coming in to land, from a window on the 17th floor of the hotel he is staying at, near the Pentagon. Parsons will later recall that two or three minutes before the Pentagon attack occurs: “I saw [the helicopter] circle… between the hotel and the Pentagon, going toward the landing pad [at the Pentagon] where that airliner ultimately hit. And I thought that he landed on the pad.” Parsons will say the helicopter flies in at “a weird angle,” and recall that he has been staying at the Marriott Residence Inn in Arlington for almost a month, but has “never seen a helicopter approach the Pentagon from that direction before.” He will recognize the helicopter as a Huey because he has flown Hueys and knows they make “a very distinct sound.” According to John Darrell Sherwood, a Navy historian who interviews Parsons about the incident, the helicopter belongs to the US Park Police and has been instructed to intercept the aircraft that subsequently hits the Pentagon (see Shortly Before 9:35 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US Naval Historical Center, 12/13/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 258]
A senior Air Force officer who is somewhere outside the Pentagon also sees a helicopter circling the Pentagon around this time, although he believes it to be a US military helicopter. Shortly after the Pentagon attack, the unnamed officer will tell a CNN reporter that the helicopter “disappeared behind the building where the helicopter landing zone is… and he then saw [a] fireball go into the sky” when the Pentagon is hit. [CNN, 9/11/2001]
Jennifer Reichert, who is stuck in traffic on Route 27 in front of the Pentagon, will later describe that just before the attack, “A helicopter takes off from the heliport at the Pentagon.” She will add: “Minutes—maybe seconds—later, I hear it: American Airlines Flight 77 screams toward the Pentagon. The explosion [of the crash] shakes my car.” [Washington Post, 9/5/2002]
Perhaps due to the presence of this helicopter in the area, some people will initially think the attack on the Pentagon involves a helicopter hitting the building. Captain William Durm, the commander of the Pentagon’s Triservice Dental Clinic, will head to the building’s center courtyard shortly after the Pentagon is hit. Someone there will tell him a helicopter has hit the other side of the building. [Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 11] Some early news reports will suggest a helicopter crashed into the Pentagon. [Thomas Crosbie Media, 9/11/2001; Poynter Institute, 9/2/2002] One report will claim that “one aircraft and a helicopter have crashed into the Pentagon.” [Airline Industry Information, 9/11/2001] Vice President Dick Cheney will later tell NBC’s Meet the Press that “the first reports on the Pentagon attack suggested a helicopter” hit the building. [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001] The Guardian will report that one witness claims the explosion that occurs when the Pentagon is hit blows up a helicopter circling overhead. [Guardian, 9/12/2001] New York Times columnist William Safire will report that, at approximately this time, Cheney is told that either another plane or “a helicopter loaded with explosives” is heading for the White House. [New York Times, 9/13/2001]
At the United Airlines crisis center, at its headquarters outside Chicago, staff members watch Flight 93’s radar track until the plane crashes. United Airlines’ senior management has started to gather in the theater-like crisis center, a room that resembles NASA’s Mission Control. Although the airline still has hundreds of flights in the air, officials have highlighted only Flight 93’s path on the large Aircraft Situation Display screen. Even after the plane’s transponder has been switched off (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001), the flight can still be tracked, but officials can no longer determine its altitude. They watch as the plane’s speed fluctuates wildly while it heads toward Washington. Hank Krakowski, United Airlines’ director of flight operations, will later recall: “We knew what was going on. We could see the airplane headed toward the capital. We were wondering whether the military was going to intervene or not.” Those in the crisis center see Flight 93’s radar track stop moving at the time it crashes. A dispatcher determines the latitude and longitude of its last position and reports that it was south of Johnstown in Pennsylvania, about 120 miles from Washington. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 77-78 and 214; USA Today, 8/13/2002]
According to the later claims of several senior officials, the US military is tracking Flight 93 as it heads east and is ready to shoot it down if necessary.
According to Brigadier General Montague Winfield, the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) has “received the report from the FAA that Flight 93 had turned off its transponder, had turned, and was now heading towards Washington, DC.” Winfield will add, “The decision was made to try to go intercept Flight 93.” [ABC News, 9/11/2002]
General Richard Myers, the acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will write that in the NMCC, “We learned that there was apparently a fourth hijacked aircraft, United Airlines Flight 93 out of Newark, bound nonstop for San Francisco. Like the other planes, it had switched off its transponder, making it much harder if not impossible to track on ground radar.” [Myers, 2009, pp. 152]
Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region, will say, “I was personally anxious to see what 93 was going to do, and our intent was to intercept it.” Three fighters have taken off from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to Arnold, “we launched the aircraft out of Langley to put them over top of Washington, DC, not in response to American Airline 77, but really to put them in position in case United 93 were to head that way.” [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] He says, “as we discussed it in the conference call, we decided not to move fighters toward 93 until it was closer because there could have been other aircraft coming in,” but adds, “I had every intention of shooting down United 93 if it continued to progress toward Washington, DC… whether we had authority or not.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 73]
Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), is reportedly “focused on United Flight 93, headed straight toward Washington.” He will concur with Arnold, saying: “United Airlines Flight 93 would not have hit Washington, DC. He would have been engaged and shot down before he got there.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 73] Marr and Arnold will both say they were tracking Flight 93 even earlier on, while it was still heading west (see Shortly Before 9:36 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Yet, contradicting these claims, the 9/11 Commission will conclude that the military only learns about Flight 93 around the time it crashes. It says the NMCC learns of the hijacking at 10:03 a.m. (see 10:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). Based upon official records, including recordings of the NEADS operations floor, it says NEADS never follows Flight 93 on radar and is first alerted to it at 10:07 a.m. (see 10:05 a.m.-10:08 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 30-31, 34 and 42; Washington Post, 4/30/2006; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]
William Douglas Crowder. [Source: US Navy]A senior Navy officer at the Pentagon is told in a phone call that another hijacked aircraft is heading toward Washington, DC, and yet he tells a colleague who also receives this news to keep the information to himself. [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001] Rear Admiral William Douglas Crowder is the executive assistant to Admiral William Fallon, the vice chief of naval operations. [US Department of Defense, 9/26/2001; Proceedings, 9/2002] He is working in Fallon’s office, on the fourth floor of the Pentagon’s E-ring. [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001; Washington Post, 11/17/2006] Fallon is currently down the hall, in the office of Admiral Vern Clark, the chief of naval operations. Those in Fallon’s office are aware of the attacks on the World Trade Center, and have speculated that if this is an organized attack, then Washington, and specifically the Pentagon, is a likely target (see (8:48 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Crowder Told of Plane Approaching Washington - Crowder now answers a call from the Navy Command Center, which is on the first floor of the Pentagon’s southwest face. His deputy, Commander David Radi, listens in on the call, as he is required to. Captain William Toti, the special assistant to the vice chief of naval operations, will later describe what Crowder is told. Toti will recall, “I was not listening in, but the gist of the conversation was there’s another airplane that’s been hijacked that’s heading towards Washington.” [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001] (An intelligence unit located within the Navy Command Center was recently notified of “indications of another aircraft that’s been hijacked” and that is “heading out to DC” (see Shortly Before 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Daily Telegraph, 9/11/2002] ) Crowder replies to the caller, “Okay, got it.”
Crowder Instructs Deputy to Keep Information Secret - Radi appears afraid. Presumably referring to the office staff’s prediction of a possible attack on the Pentagon, he says: “Holy sh_t. Captain Toti, it’s coming true.” Crowder runs out of the office to go and tell Fallon what he has just learned. But as he is heading out, he calls back to Radi: “That’s close hold. Don’t tell anybody what you just heard.” Toti will comment, “Remember that Crowder and Radi are the only two people who heard” about the approaching hijacked plane. Just then, the Pentagon is hit: “Not 30 seconds after Crowder hangs up and runs out the door,” Toti will recall, “we hear the airplane, the jet engines, and feel impact. The building shook like an earthquake. We heard the explosion.” [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001] No steps have been taken to evacuate the Pentagon or alert its workers before the building is hit (see Before 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Vogel, 2007, pp. 429]
Officer Finds Crowder's Order 'Peculiar' - In an interview a month later, Toti will reflect: “In retrospect, I wonder what the hell was close hold about that fact that there was a hijacked airplane coming in towards the Pentagon. If anything, it would have been nice to alert people of that.” He will add that he has not asked Crowder “why he said that,” but says Crowder’s instruction to Radi “stuck out in [my] mind at the time as kind of a peculiar thing to say.”
Officer Told Not to Go to Command Center - Toti’s life is likely saved because, just before the call about the approaching plane is received, Crowder told him not to go to the Navy Command Center—a part of the Pentagon that suffers serious damage when the building is hit. After seeing the burning WTC on television, Toti had been uncomfortable that his office had not received any information about what was going on from the Command Center. After “a few minutes of hearing nothing,” he had suggested to Crowder “that I go to the ops center to see if they had any information we should pass to senior Navy leadership.” But, as Toti was heading out the door toward the Command Center, Crowder instructed him: “Wait, give them another minute. If they don’t call by then, you can go down.” Toti therefore returned to his desk. “Just then,” Toti will recall, Crowder receives the call from the Command Center about the hijacked plane approaching Washington. [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001; Proceedings, 9/2002] Much of the Navy Command Center is destroyed when the Pentagon is hit (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001), and 42 of the 50 people working in it are killed. [Washington Post, 1/20/2002; National Defense Magazine, 6/2003] Toti will say that Crowder “probably saved my life.” [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001]
Having followed a seemingly normal course until now, after reaching the Cleveland area, Flight 93 suddenly makes a sharp turn to the south. It then makes another turn back eastward, cutting through West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle before re-entering Pennsylvania. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/13/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 41] Having thus turned 180 degrees, it now heads toward Washington, DC. [CNN, 9/13/2001]
According to a book about the FAA’s response to the 9/11 attacks, Cleveland Center air traffic controllers follow Flight 93 as it turns south and reverses course (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But, “bomb threats called in concerning four other planes focused their attention onto what they believed to be more critical maneuvers.” [Freni, 2003, pp. 40] One of these four planes is presumably Delta Flight 1989, which is mistakenly thought to be hijacked and to have a bomb aboard (see (9:28 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [WKYC, 9/11/2006] The identities of the other three planes are unknown. By this time, Cleveland Center has already overheard a radio transmission from Flight 93 stating, “We have a bomb on board” (see (9:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and has acknowledged this, reporting, “United 93 may have a bomb on board,” so it seems unlikely that other threatened aircraft would be regarded as “more critical maneuvers.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
When Flight 77 hits the Pentagon, it misses the parts of the building known to house the military’s most senior leaders. Journalist and author Steve Vogel later says, “The hijackers had not hit the River or Mall sides” of the building, “where the senior military leadership had been concentrated since 1942.” At the time of the attack, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is “sitting in the same third-floor office above the River entrance as every secretary of defense since Louis Johnson in 1949, a location that had been a matter of public record all that time. The joint chiefs and all the service secretaries were arrayed in various prime E-Ring offices on the River and Mall sides.” Furthermore, “All the command centers save the Navy’s were on the River or Mall sides; the National Military Command Center could have been decimated as the Navy Command Center was, a disaster that could have effectively shut down the Pentagon as the first American war of the twenty-first century began.” Instead, the area hit comprises Army accounting offices, the Navy Command Center, and the Defense Intelligence Agency’s comptroller’s office. [Vogel, 2007, pp. 431 and 449-450] Due to recent renovation work, many offices in that section of the Pentagon are currently empty. [Government Executive, 9/11/2001]
The strike on the Pentagon does not generate a clear seismic signal. A study by the Maryland Geological Survey will state, “We analyzed seismic records from five stations in the northeastern United States, ranging from 63 to 350 km from the Pentagon. Despite detailed analysis of the data, we could not find a clear seismic signal. Even the closest station… did not record the impact. We concluded that the plane impact to the Pentagon generated relatively weak seismic signals.” The study, which is conducted at the request of the Army, states that there are seismic signals for the two planes impacting the World Trade Center and for the Flight 93 crash in Pennsylvania, which allow times to be determined for these events. [Kim and Baum, 2002 ]
Lyz Glick. [Source: NBC]In phone calls made from Flight 93, some passengers and crew members sound as if they are able to keep surprisingly calm, despite the crisis:
Passenger Jeremy Glick calls his wife, Lyz, at 9:37. She later recalls, “He was so calm, the plane sounded so calm, that if I hadn’t seen what was going on on the TV, I wouldn’t have believed it.” She says, “I was surprised by how calm it seemed in the background. I didn’t hear any screaming. I didn’t hear any noises. I didn’t hear any commotion.” [Bergen Record, 10/5/2001; MSNBC, 9/11/2006]
Passenger Lauren Grandcolas calls her husband, Jack, at 9:39, and leaves a message on the answering machine. According to journalist and author Jere Longman, “It sounded to Jack as if she were driving home from the grocery store or ordering a pizza.” Jack Grandcolas later says, “She sounded calm.” He describes, “There is absolutely no background noise on her message. You can’t hear people screaming or yelling or crying. It’s very calm, the whole cabin, the background, there’s really very little sound.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 128; Kate Solomon, 2006; Washington Post, 4/26/2006]
Passenger Mark Bingham speaks on the phone with his mother and aunt, reportedly from around 9:42. His aunt finds him sounding “calm, matter-of-fact.” His mother later recalls, “His voice was calm. He seemed very much composed, even though I know he must have been under terrible duress.” She also says the background discussion between passengers, about taking back the plane, sounds like a “calm boardroom meeting.” [CNN, 9/12/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 129-130; CNN, 4/21/2006]
Passenger Todd Beamer speaks with GTE supervisor Lisa Jefferson for 13 minutes, starting at 9:45. Jefferson later says that Beamer “stayed calm through the entire conversation. He made me doubt the severity of the call.” She tells Beamer’s wife, “If I hadn’t known it was a real hijacking, I’d have thought it was a crank call, because Todd was so rational and methodical about what he was doing.” [Beamer and Abraham, 2002, pp. 211; Beliefnet (.com), 2006]
Passenger Honor Elizabeth Wainio speaks with her stepmother, Esther Heymann, from around 9:54. Heymann later tells CNN that Wainio “really was remarkably calm throughout our whole conversation.” (However, according to Jere Longman, although she speaks calmly, Wainio’s breathing is “shallow, as if she were hyperventilating.”) When her stepdaughter is not talking, Heymann reportedly cannot “hear another person. She could not hear any conversation or crying or yelling or whimpering. Nothing.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 168 and 171-172; CNN, 2/18/2006]
Flight attendant Sandy Bradshaw calls her husband at 9:50. He later says, “She sounded calm, but like her adrenaline was really going.” [US News and World Report, 10/21/2001]
At 9:58, flight attendant CeeCee Lyles phones her husband. He later says, “She was surprisingly calm,” considering the screaming he heard in the background. Her relatives attribute her calmness to her police training (she is a former police officer). [Lyles, 9/11/2001; Dallas Morning News, 9/17/2001; Investor's Business Daily, 4/18/2002]
Longman later writes, “I heard tapes of a couple of the phone calls made from [Flight 93] and was struck by the absence of panic in the voices.” [Longman, 2002, pp. xi]
Entity Tags: Lauren Grandcolas, Jeremy Glick, Jere Longman, Esther Heymann, Jack Grandcolas, Lisa Jefferson, Lyz Glick, CeeCee Lyles, Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Elizabeth Wainio, Sandy Bradshaw
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
The Pentagon explodes.
[Source: Donley/ Sipa]Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon. All 64 people on the plane are killed. A hundred-and-twenty-four people working in the building are killed, and a further victim will die in hospital several days later. Hijackers Hani Hanjour, Khalid Almihdhar, Majed Moqed, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salem Alhazmi presumably are killed instantly. (Typically, they are not included in the death counts.) [CNN, 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; Guardian, 10/17/2001; Washington Post, 11/21/2001; USA Today, 8/13/2002; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; MSNBC, 9/3/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002; CBS, 9/11/2002] Flight 77 hits the first floor of the Pentagon’s west wall. The impact and the resulting explosion heavily damage the building’s three outer rings. The path of destruction cuts through Army accounting offices on the outer E Ring, the Navy Command Center on the D Ring, and the Defense Intelligence Agency’s comptroller’s office on the C Ring. [Vogel, 2007, pp. 431 and 449] Flight 77 strikes the only side of the Pentagon that had recently been renovated—it was “within days of being totally [renovated].” [US Department of Defense, 9/15/2001] “It was the only area of the Pentagon with a sprinkler system, and it had been reconstructed with a web of steel columns and bars to withstand bomb blasts. The area struck by the plane also had blast-resistant windows—two inches thick and 2,500 pounds each—that stayed intact during the crash and fire. While perhaps, 4,500 people normally would have been working in the hardest-hit areas, because of the renovation work only about 800 were there.” More than 25,000 people work at the Pentagon. [Los Angeles Times, 9/16/2001] Furthermore, the plane hits an area that has no basement. As journalist Steve Vogel later points out, “If there had been one under the first floor, its occupants could easily have been trapped by fire and killed when the upper floors collapsed.” [Vogel, 2007, pp. 450]
An employee at a gas station located across the street from the Pentagon servicing military personnel later says the station’s security cameras should have recorded the moment of impact. However, he says, “I’ve never seen what the pictures looked like. The FBI was here within minutes and took the film.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch, 12/11/2001] A security camera atop a hotel close to the Pentagon also records the impact. Hotel employees watch the film several times before the FBI confiscates the video. [Washington Times, 9/21/2001] The Justice Department will refuse to release the footage, claiming that if they did it might provide intelligence to someone who would want to harm the US, but some Pentagon officials say they see no national security value to the video. [CNN, 3/7/2002] The gas station footage and video taken from one nearby hotel, the Doubletree, will eventually be released in 2006, but do not show much (see September 13, 2006-Early December 2006). Reporter Sandra Jontz, who is evacuated from the Pentagon some time after it is hit, notices a Department of Transportation camera that monitors traffic backups pointed towards the crash site. [Bull and Erman, 2002, pp. 281] As of the end of 2006, the footage from this camera has not been released.
A group of Army officers at the Pentagon initially thinks that a bomb has gone off in their building when it is attacked. Army Major Craig Collier and his colleagues are in their office on the second floor of the Pentagon’s C Ring, about 200 feet from where the building is hit. Collier will later recall: “[T]he building jolted and we heard a muffled boom, then a rumble.… All of my peers in the area are experienced combat arms officers, and we quickly agreed that it sounded and felt like a bomb.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 26] Numerous other Pentagon employees also initially think a bomb has gone off, and apparently only a few guess a plane has hit the place (see (9:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Even though two planes have already crashed in New York, some people in the Pentagon initially think a bomb has gone off when their building is hit:
Steve Carter, who is in the Building Operations Command Center on the first floor of the Pentagon, hears a “big boom,” and tells his assistant, “I think we just got hit by a bomb.” [Vogel, 2007, pp. 434]
John Bowman, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, is in his office near the main entrance to the Pentagon’s south parking lot at the time of the attack. He later describes, “Most people knew it was a bomb.” [Pentagram, 9/14/2001]
Army Colonel Jonathan Fruendt is in his second floor office in the Pentagon’s inner A Ring, when he feels and hears “a very sharp jolt and the sound of an explosion.” He later recalls, “I thought it was a bomb that had gone off.” [Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 73]
Apparently only a few people in the Pentagon initially guess a plane has hit the place. According to the Defense Department’s book about the Pentagon attack, among the few exceptions are Peter Murphy and his companions in the Marine Corps Office of the General Counsel, located on the fourth floor just above where the building is hit: “Unlike most other survivors, Murphy and his companions ‘were pretty certain it was a plane and it was a terrorist,’ even though they had not seen the plane coming in. They had been watching the attack on the Twin Towers and had speculated about such an attack on the Pentagon.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 45]
Lt. Col. Brian Birdwell. [Source: Molly A. Burgess / US Army]At least three Pentagon employees in the area of the building that is hit, and who narrowly survive the attack, initially believe that what they have experienced is a bomb, or bombs, going off:
John Thurman, an Army lieutenant colonel, is in a second floor office just above where the Pentagon is hit. [Washington Post, 4/12/2006] He later describes the moment of impact: “To me it didn’t seem like a plane.… [T]o me it seemed like it was a bomb. Being in the military, I have been around grenade, artillery explosions. It was a two-part explosion to me.… [I]t seemed like that there was a percussion blast that blew me kind of backwards in my cubicle to the side. And then it seemed as if a massive explosion went off at the same time.” He will add: “I had thought that perhaps the terrorists had surreptitiously gotten construction workers to come in and place explosives.” [United States of America v. Zacarias Moussaoui, a/k/a Shaqil, a/k/a Abu Khalid al Sahrawi, Defendant., 4/11/2006 ]
Lt. Nancy McKeown is on the first floor of the Pentagon’s D Ring in the Navy Command Center, which is mostly destroyed when the building is hit. [Washington Post, 1/20/2002; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 30-31] She will recall: “[I]t initially felt like an earthquake.… It sounded like a series of explosions going off.… It sounded like a series of bombs exploding, similar to like firecrackers when you light them and you just get a series going off.” [United States of America v. Zacarias Moussaoui, a/k/a Shaqil, a/k/a Abu Khalid al Sahrawi, Defendant., 4/11/2006 ] She yells out to her colleagues, “Bomb!” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 31]
Army Lt. Col. Brian Birdwell is returning to his second floor office, and is just yards from where the building is impacted. [9/11 Commission, 3/31/2003; Dallas Morning News, 9/7/2006] “Bomb! I thought,” he recalls of the moment the building is hit. [US News and World Report, 12/2/2001; Today's Christian Woman, 7/1/2004]
According to his own account, acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers was in a meeting on Capitol Hill with Senator Max Cleland (D-GA) since just before 9:00 a.m. (see Shortly Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] It is unclear exactly when this meeting ended. But Myers says he first learns of the Pentagon attack (which occurs at 9:37) around the time he is leaving the building for the drive back to the Pentagon. In an early interview, he says he hears somebody say the Pentagon has been hit just after he comes out of his meeting with Cleland. [Armed Forces Radio And Television Service, 10/17/2001] In some accounts, he says he hears that the Pentagon has been hit just as he is leaving Capitol Hill. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004 ] In a meeting in 2006, he says, “my security guy got the call the Pentagon had been hit,” as he is making his way out of the building. [Council on Foreign Relations, 6/29/2006] Myers says that, as his car crosses the 14th Street Bridge across the Potomac River, he can see all the black smoke rising up out of the Pentagon. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 463; American Forces Press Service, 9/8/2006] Max Cleland later confirms that Myers meets with him on this morning, and is with him until the time of the Pentagon attack, or slightly before. [US Congress, 9/13/2001; CNN, 11/20/2001; Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/16/2003] However, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke gives a contradictory account. He claims that Myers is back at the Pentagon, speaking to him over a video conference, around ten minutes before the Pentagon is struck (see 9:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 5]
President Bush learns that the Pentagon has been attacked while he is being driven to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, during a phone call with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39; Bush, 2010, pp. 128] Bush and his entourage left the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, at around 9:35 a.m. to be taken to Air Force One (see (9:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Bloomberg, 6/17/2004] As the president’s limousine is speeding toward the airport, Bush and Andrew Card, his chief of staff, talk on the phone with colleagues at the White House. [White House, 8/16/2002; St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/2002] In a call with Rice, Bush is told that there has been a third plane crash, this one at the Pentagon. [Bush, 2010, pp. 128] The attack took place at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 10] Rice, who is in the White House Situation Room, learned about it when she saw it being reported on television. [White House, 10/24/2001; O, the Oprah Magazine, 2/1/2002]
Bush Appears 'Preternaturally Calm' - After Rice tells him about the attack, Bush “sat back in my seat and absorbed her words,” he will later recall. “My thoughts clarified,” he will write, adding: “The first plane could have been an accident. The second was definitely an attack. The third was a declaration of war.” In response to the news, he will recall, his “blood [is] boiling” and he thinks, “We [are] going to find out who did this and kick their ass.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 128] Bush, though, is able to maintain his composure, according to Karl Rove, his senior adviser, who is with him in the limousine. “I was aghast at the news [of the attack on the Pentagon] and probably seemed anxious,” Rove will comment, but “he seemed preternaturally calm.” [Rove, 2010, pp. 252]
Accounts Will Conflict over Who Makes the Call - Bush will claim that he makes the call to Rice. [Bush, 2010, pp. 128] Rice, though, will say that she makes it (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [BBC Radio 4, 8/1/2002 ; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; New York Times, 9/11/2002] Bush will also state that he talks to Rice using the secure phone in his limousine. [Bush, 2010, pp. 128] However, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the secure telephone lines are currently down and so he has to contact Washington, DC, using a borrowed cell phone (see (9:34 a.m.-9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006]
Lauren Grandcolas. [Source: Family photo / AP]At 9:39 a.m., Flight 93 passenger Lauren Grandcolas calls her husband in San Rafael, California, leaving him a 46-second message on the answering machine. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 42; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] Some reports state that she is using a cell phone. [Houston Chronicle, 9/12/2001; Chicago Tribune, 9/14/2001; USA Today, 9/25/2001] But the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says she uses an Airfone. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001] Her husband, Jack Grandcolas, later describes that she sounds “very, very calm.” [Associated Press, 9/12/2001] According to some early reports, she says, “We have been hijacked,” and “They”—presumably meaning the hijackers—“are being kind.” [Houston Chronicle, 9/12/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Chicago Tribune, 9/14/2001; Time, 9/16/2001] But in other accounts, she does not specify that her plane has been hijacked. She reportedly begins, “Honey, are you there? Jack, pick up sweetie. Okay, well I just wanted to tell you I love you. We’re having a little problem on the plane.” She continues, “I’m comfortable and I’m okay… for now. Just a little problem. So I just love you. Please tell my family I love them too. Bye, honey.” According to some accounts, Grandcolas then passes the phone to fellow passenger Elizabeth Wainio, who is sitting next to her, and tells her to call her family. [New York Times, 9/13/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 128; MSNBC, 9/11/2006] The Wall Street Journal reports that Grandcolas’s voice can be heard at the end of her recorded message saying to another passenger, “Now you call your people.” [Wall Street Journal, 5/26/2005] Yet, according to a summary of passenger phone calls presented at the 2006 trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, this could not be the case, as Grandcolas tries to make a further seven calls over the following four minutes. These are apparently either unsuccessful or quickly disconnected, lasting between “0 seconds” and “7 seconds.” They appear to include four more attempts at calling her husband, and one attempt to call her sister Vaughn Lohec. According to the summary, Wainio does not make a phone call until later, at just before 9:54 a.m. The summary also claims that, although Wainio and Grandcolas had originally been assigned seats next to each other in row 11, they are now in different parts of the plane. While Wainio is in row 33, Grandcolas is now in row 23, and there is no passenger next to her who also makes a phone call. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
At 9:39 a.m., after having maintained a maximum altitude of 41,000 feet for about two minutes, Flight 93 begins a rapid descent, going down at a rate of 4,000 feet per minute. At 9:46, it interrupts this, going up from 19,000 feet to 20,500 feet, but then resumes its descent at the slower rate of 1,300 feet per minute. At 9:59, it has reached an altitude of 5,000 feet. [National Transportation Safety Board, 2/19/2002 ] The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will later describe this as a “surprising element in the navigation of Flight 93,” since the aircraft begins its “rapid descent from cruise altitudes while still approximately 260 nautical miles [about 300 miles] from the (presumed) target.” [National Transportation Safety Board, 2/13/2002, pp. 3 ] The target of Flight 93 is later believed to be either the White House or the Capitol building. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 14] The NTSB will note that by the times Flights 11, 175, and 77 had descended below 5,000 feet, they were all within 10 nautical miles (11.5 miles) of their targets. “UAL 93, on the other hand, descended to 5,000 feet while still 135 [nautical miles] from Washington.” [National Transportation Safety Board, 2/13/2002 ]
The ‘white jet’ seen circling above the White House and Capitol. [Source: Discovery Channel]Several television networks interrupt their coverage of events in New York to report that a mysterious white aircraft is circling over the White House and the Capitol.
At 9:41 a.m., Peter Jennings of ABC News reports that “there is a plane circling the White House at the moment. And they’re clearing the grounds there.… And this plane circling the White House adds to the trauma that people are feeling today, but we have no idea precisely what the means.” [ABC News, 9/11/2001]
At 9:52 a.m., CNN correspondent John King, who is standing about 200 yards from the White House, says: “About 10 minutes ago, there was a white jet circling overhead. Now, you generally don’t see planes in the area over the White House. That is restricted air space. No reason to believe that this jet was there for any nefarious purposes, but the Secret Service was very concerned, pointing up at the jet in the sky. It is out of sight now, best we can tell.” [CNN, 9/11/2001] Another CNN correspondent, Kate Snow, also reports seeing a plane at around this time, “circling over the Capitol.” She says: “Now whether that may have been an Air Force plane, it’s unclear. But that seemed to be the reason, according to security guards that I talked with, towards the evacuation of the Capitol.” [CNN, 9/11/2001] (The Capitol is reportedly evacuated at 9:48 a.m. (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Fox News, 9/11/2003] )
At 9:55 a.m., NBC News turns to a live report from its correspondent Bob Kur, who recalls: “And in the most surreal of this morning’s scenes here at the White House, a white plane, a very big jet, was flying an unusual pattern near the White House over Lafayette Park, very slowly. It made one circle and then we have not seen it since. There was a lot of concern about what that plane might be. But, again, it’s only speculation, but most people say that since flights have been cleared from US air space, and it was a totally white plane, looked unusual to all of us, that it was a government plane of some kind.” [NBC 4, 9/11/2001]
A CNN comparison between video footage of this plane and an official Air Force photograph will suggest it is an E-4B. This is a militarized version of a Boeing 747 that is used as a flying command post. An E-4B has in fact just been launched from Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, DC (see (9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001), so this could plausibly be the same plane as is witnessed by the reporters. Two government sources familiar with the incident will later tell CNN the plane was a military aircraft, but that its details are classified. Even by 2007, the Pentagon, FAA, and Secret Service will have offered no public explanation for this plane over the White House. [Verton, 2003, pp. 143-144; CNN, 9/12/2007] In 2009, John Farmer, the former senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, will claim that this “mystery plane” is an E-4B with the call sign “Venus 77” that takes off from Andrews Air Force Base at around 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Farmer, 2009, pp. 206-207, 372]
After learning that Delta flight 1989 may have been hijacked from Boston flight control (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001), NEADS calls Cleveland flight control, which is handling the flight, to discuss this. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 14] Although Cleveland flight control has been aware that United 93 has been hijacked since before 9:30, it apparently fails to mention this to NEADS. According to the 9/11 Commission, the NMCC is not notified of United 93’s hijacking until 10:03 (see 10:03 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Logo of the FBI’s National Capital Response Squad. [Source: FBI]Within five minutes of the Pentagon being hit, the first group from the FBI’s National Capital Response Squad arrives there. Due to this being a terrorist attack, the Pentagon and its grounds are immediately declared a federal crime scene. Under the terms of a 1995 presidential directive, this makes them the exclusive responsibility of the FBI. The FBI immediately begins collecting evidence and is also responsible for recovering bodies. Its agents are able to confiscate security videos from a nearby gas station within minutes of the crash (see (After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). More than 700 FBI agents, assisted by hundreds of individuals from other organizations, will participate in the recovery operation. [US President, 6/21/1995; Washington Times, 9/12/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A-7, A-23, C-1, C-54 ]
[Source: Family photo]From Flight 93, Mark Bingham calls his mother and says, “I’m on a flight from Newark to San Francisco and there are three guys who have taken over the plane and they say they have a bomb.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001] In an alternate version, he says, “I’m in the air, I’m calling you on the Airfone. I’m calling you from the plane. We’ve been taken over. There are three men that say they have a bomb.” [Toronto Sun, 9/16/2001; Boston Globe, 11/23/2001]
An Associated Press news alert at 9:43 a.m. states, “An aircraft has crashed into the Pentagon, witnesses say.” [Associated Press, 2001 ; Broadcasting and Cable, 8/26/2002] This is apparently the first news of the crash. Initial television reports stated there had been an explosion at the Pentagon, but not that a plane caused it (see 9:39 a.m.-9:44 a.m. September 11, 2001). Minutes later, there is still uncertainty over what caused the explosion. At 9:49, CNN’s Chris Plant reports from the Pentagon, “[I]nitial reports from witnesses indicate that there was in fact a helicopter circling the building, contrary to what the AP reported, according to the witnesses I’ve spoken to anyway, and that this helicopter disappeared behind the building, and that there was then an explosion” (see (9:35 a.m.-9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/11/2001] It is not until 9:53 that CNN confirms, “it was a plane that crashed into the Pentagon.” [CNN, 9/11/2001]
Lisa Jefferson. [Source: Lisa Jefferson]Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer reaches a GTE operator using one of the plane’s seatback phones. He had tried using his credit card on the phone, but been unable to get authorization, so his call is routed to a customer service center in the Chicago area. [Newsweek, 9/22/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 198-199; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 11 ] Beamer initially reaches operator Phyllis Johnson, who calls customer service supervisor Lisa Jefferson over and informs her of the call. As Jefferson later recalls, “I asked [Johnson] information that I needed to report to our surveillance center. And by the time I came back, she appeared to be traumatized, and that’s when I told her I would take the call over… She was just dazed.” Having immediately contacted the FBI, airline security, and GTE operations personnel, Jefferson gets on the line and speaks to Beamer for the next 13 minutes (see 9:45 a.m.-9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/22/2001; Orlando Sentinel, 9/5/2002; Beliefnet (.com), 2006] She later informs Beamer’s wife Lisa, “[I]t was a miracle that Todd’s call hadn’t been disconnected. Because of the enormous number of calls that day, the GTE systems overloaded and lines were being disconnected all around her… She kept thinking, This call is going to get dropped! Yet Todd stayed connected… all the way to the end.” [Beamer and Abraham, 2002, pp. 217] According to journalist and author Jere Longman, “GTE-Verizon [does] not routinely tape its telephone calls. As a supervisor, [Jefferson] would have been the one to monitor the taping, but she did not want to risk losing the call.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 199] Yet an early article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette will claim that, “because it was to an operator,” Beamer’s call “was tape-recorded.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/19/2001] Lisa Beamer will only be informed of her husband’s call from Flight 93 three days later, and be read a summary of it written by Jefferson (see September 14, 2001). [Newsweek, 12/3/2001]
Logo of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. [Source: Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine]The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), a radical Palestinian group, reportedly claims responsibility for the attacks on the World Trade Center. Abu Dhabi television says it has received a call from the group, claiming responsibility for crashing the planes into the Twin Towers. The details of the claim are then picked up by the Reuters news agency. It is unknown who is responsible for saying the DFLP is behind the attacks. The claim is reportedly made in an anonymous telephone call to the Arab television station. [BBC, 9/12/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/12/2001; Ma'an News Agency, 9/11/2011] It is soon retracted, though. At around 10:00 a.m., a spokesman for the DFLP will deny the group’s responsibility for the attacks (see (10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Liverpool Daily Post, 9/12/2001; Poynter Institute, 9/2/2002] All the same, the allegation about the group’s involvement will reach a large audience. [Ma'an News Agency, 9/11/2011] The DFLP is a Marxist-Leninist organization that was founded in 1969. It operates mainly in Syria, Lebanon, and the Israeli-occupied territories, and is believed to have about 500 members. It began a relatively small-scale campaign of assaults and bombings in Israel and the occupied territories during the 1970s. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/11/2001; BBC, 2/4/2002] However, it was removed from the US State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations in October 1999 because of “the absence of terrorist activity” by the group in the previous two years. [Associated Press, 10/8/1999; US Department of State, 10/8/1999]
According to the later-recovered Flight 93 cockpit voice recording, around this time one hijacker in the cockpit says to another, “Let the guys in now.” A hijacker says, “Should we let the guys in?” and another says, “Inform them, and tell him to talk to the pilot. Bring the pilot back.” It’s not clear if this is a reference to an original pilot or a hijacker pilot. According to one description of passenger Todd Beamer’s call from the plane, a flight attendant can be overheard in the background saying that two men lying on the floor in first class are the plane’s captain and co-pilot, indicating that they are already dead (see 9:45 a.m.-9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). But it is not possible to determine the fate of the two pilots from the cockpit voice recording, and investigators will be unsure as to whether they were killed or allowed to live. [Longman, 2002, pp. 199 and 208-209; Associated Press, 4/12/2006]
[Source: Family photo]After having trouble getting authorization on an Airfone to call his family (see 9:43 a.m. September 11, 2001), Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer is able to speak to GTE customer service supervisor Lisa Jefferson. Jefferson, who quickly alerts the FBI about Beamer’s call, talks to him for 13 minutes. According to a report in the London Observer, she has the FBI simultaneously on another line, offering guidance. She immediately asks Beamer for details of the flight, like “What is your flight number? What is the situation? Where are the crew members?” With the help of a flight attendant sitting next to him, Beamer details the numbers of passengers and crew on the plane. He says the hijackers have divided the passengers into two groups, with ten of them in first class at the front of the plane, and 27 in the back. (Jefferson’s written summary of the conversation will say that the larger number of passengers was in the front. However, Beamer’s wife later says that Jefferson informed her it was in fact the other way around.) According to some reports, Beamer says three people have hijacked the plane. Two of them, armed with knives, are in the cockpit and have locked the door; the third is in first class with what appears to be a bomb strapped around his waist. A curtain has been closed separating first class from the coach section of the plane. Other accounts claim the hijacker with the bomb is in fact in the rear of the plane. According to one report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Beamer describes four hijackers in total: the two in the cockpit, the one with the bomb guarding the passengers in the back of the plane, and a fourth in first class. But the Orlando Sentinel says Beamer tells Jefferson he is free to talk because the hijacker in first class has closed the curtain, indicating there is no hijacker at the back of the plane. (Beamer himself is at the back of plane, calling from a phone in row 32.) According to an early article in Newsweek, he says that one passenger is dead and he doesn’t know about the pilots. However, journalist and author Jere Longman later writes that Beamer describes to Jefferson two people on the floor in fist class, possibly dead. The flight attendant next to him can be overheard saying these are the plane’s captain and co-pilot. The attendant does not mention their names or say they are wearing uniforms, but she sounds certain. Beamer then repeats what the attendant has told him. At some point in the call, Beamer asks, “Do you know what [the hijackers] want? Money or ransom or what?” He seems unaware of the other hijackings that have occurred. Jefferson informs him of the two planes crashing in New York. [Chicago Tribune, 9/16/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/19/2001; Newsweek, 9/22/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/22/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Observer, 12/2/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 198-200; Orlando Sentinel, 9/5/2002; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 11 ] Beamer says of the hijackers, “It doesn’t seem like they know how to fly the plane.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/17/2001] He also tells Jefferson about himself, including where he is from, that he has two sons, and that his wife is expecting a third child in January. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/22/2001] He tells her, “I just want to talk to somebody and just let someone know that this is happening.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 204]
Flight 93 passenger Tom Burnett calls his wife Deena Burnett for the third time. She is able to determine that he is using his cell phone, as the caller identification shows his number. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 ] She had just seen the television reports about the Pentagon being hit, and mistakenly thought Tom’s plane had crashed into it. [Longman, 2002, pp. 111] She asks, “Tom, you’re okay?” but he replies, “No, I’m not.” Deena tells him, “They just hit the Pentagon.” She hears him repeating this information to people around him. She continues: “They think five airplanes have been hijacked. One is still on the ground. They believe all of them are commercial planes. I haven’t heard them say which airline, but all of them have originated on the East Coast.” She doesn’t know who is involved in the attacks. [Sacramento Bee, 9/11/2002; Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 65-66] The hijackers had earlier told the passengers there was a bomb on Flight 93 (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 ; Longman, 2002, pp. 107] But now Tom appears to doubt this. He asks Deena, “What is the probability of them having a bomb on board?” He then answers himself: “I don’t think they have one. I think they’re just telling us that for crowd control.” Based on her experience as a former flight attendant, Deena says, “A plane can survive a bomb if it’s in the right place.” Tom continues: “[The hijackers are] talking about crashing this plane into the ground. We have to do something. I’m putting a plan together.” He says “several people” are helping him. “There’s a group of us.” Deena is surprised, but reassured, at her husband’s calmness. She will recall that it is as if he were at work, “sitting at his desk, and we were having a regular conversation.” He tells her he will call back, and then hangs up. A policeman then arrives at Deena Burnett’s house, no doubt in response to her earlier 911 call (see 9:31 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001), and follows her inside. [Sacramento Bee, 9/11/2002; Burnett and Giombetti, 2006, pp. 66]
Personnel at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, are panicked when they temporarily lose communication with a third American Airlines flight, and they also receive a text message from the plane mistakenly signaling that it has been hijacked. At 9:45 a.m., according to the Wall Street Journal, the airline loses radio contact with the plane, which is flying from Boston to Seattle. SOC personnel are therefore “convinced it [is] a third hijacking,” following American Airlines Flights 11 and 77.
Pilots Send Message Indicating a Hijacking - The plane with which communication is lost appears to be American Airlines Flight 189. According to Donald Robinson, a dispatcher at the SOC who is currently dealing with transcontinental flights, the airline receives a text message from Flight 189 signaling it has been hijacked. Robinson will later tell the FBI that Flight 189 is the “only known flight that sent a hijack message back to the dispatchers.” This “hijack message” is sent using ACARS, an e-mail system that enables airline personnel on the ground to communicate with those in the cockpit of an in-flight aircraft. After receiving the message, Robinson sends a message back to Flight 189, asking the pilots if they are “squawking” the universal code signifying a hijacking. The normal procedure in these circumstances is to send a series of ACARS messages to the plane so as to verify whether a hijacking is indeed in progress and, if so, to obtain information about it.
Dispatcher Later Suggests Message Was Sent Accidentally - Robinson will tell the FBI he believes the crew of Flight 189 mistakenly sent the message that includes the hijack code because a warning message they received from American Airlines made them fear an impending hijacking. (After it learned of the two plane crashes at the World Trade Center, American Airlines had become concerned for its remaining transcontinental flights, and sent them all a message instructing them to keep their cockpit doors shut.) Robinson says that when pilots type the hijack code into an ACARS message, the message is sent automatically, whereas normally it is necessary to press the send key to transmit an ACARS message. He says he suspects the crew did not realize this, and probably keyed in the code “in order to be ready for a possible problem.” Alternatively, he suggests, “the code was squawked by mistake.” However, this is just speculation, and Robinson says it is “unknown why the cockpit sent this message.”
Communication Restored after 10 Minutes - The loss of communication with the aircraft is due to a “radio glitch,” according to the Wall Street Journal, and everyone at the SOC calms down when radio contact with the flight is restored 10 minutes after it is lost. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001]
Marion Britton. [Source: US Census Bureau]Flight 93 passenger Marion Britton calls her longtime friend Fred Fiumano at his auto repair shop in New York City, and talks to him for just under four minutes. According to the Chicago Tribune, she is using a cell phone. [Chicago Tribune, 9/30/2001; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] Journalist and author Jere Longman writes that, because her own cell phone is not working, Britton is using a borrowed phone (i.e. a cell phone). She gives Fiumano the phone number belonging to another passenger and tells him to write it down. [Longman, 2002, pp. 162 and 166] However, during the 2006 Zacarias Moussaoui trial, the prosecution claims that Britton, who had been assigned a seat in row 12 of the plane, makes her call from a phone in row 33, presumably meaning a seatback phone rather than a cell phone. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 12 ] Britton is crying. She tells Fiumano her plane has been hijacked and has made a U-turn. When he tells her that the World Trade Center is on fire, she replies, “I know, and we’re going to go down.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/22/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001] Britton says, “They’re gonna kill us, you know, we’re gonna die.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2006] Fiumano tries to reassure her, but she responds, “Two passengers have had their throats cut.” [New York Times, 4/13/2006] (In passenger Todd Beamer’s call from Flight 93 (see 9:45 a.m.-9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001), a flight attendant is reportedly heard in the background saying that two men lying on the floor in first class, possibly dead, are the plane’s pilot and co-pilot. It is unclear if these are the two people that Britton refers to as having had their throats cut, and she’d simply mistaken them for passengers. [Longman, 2002, pp. 199] ) Fiumano hears a lot of yelling and screaming, and then the line goes dead. He tries calling Britton back but is unable to get through. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/22/2001]
Doug Davis. [Source: Federal Aviation Administration]John White, a manager at the FAA’s Command Center, suggests to Doug Davis, the special assistant for technical operations in air traffic services at FAA headquarters, that fighter jets should be launched in response to Flight 93. However, FAA headquarters is apparently unable to act on this suggestion. [Federal Aviation Administration, 10/21/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 29; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] In the last few minutes, the Command Center has warned headquarters that Flight 93 is “29 minutes out of Washington” and approaching the city (see 9:41 a.m.-9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 44]
Command Center Asks about Launching Fighters - Davis now tells White, “They’re pulling Jeff [Griffith, the FAA’s deputy director of air traffic] away to go talk about United 93.” White asks, “Uh, do we want to think, uh, about scrambling aircraft?” Davis replies, “Oh, God, I don’t know.” White says, “Uh, that’s a decision somebody’s gonna have to make probably in the next 10 minutes.” However, Davis only responds, “Uh, ya know everybody just left the room.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 10/21/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 29] This conversation takes place 13 minutes after the FAA’s Cleveland Center asked the Command Center whether anyone had asked the military to launch fighter jets to intercept Flight 93 (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 40]
Person Who Could Request Fighters Is Unavailable - Apparently there is only one person at FAA headquarters who is authorized to request military assistance, and Ben Sliney, the Command Center’s national operations manager, is told that no one can find him. Sliney will later recount: “I said something like, ‘That’s incredible. There’s only one person. There must be someone designated or someone who will assume the responsibility of issuing an order, you know.’ We were becoming frustrated in our attempts to get some information. What was the military response?” [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] This lack of response to Flight 93 contrasts with the FAA’s earlier reaction to Flight 11, when Boston Center air traffic controllers contacted NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) themselves (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and even called military bases directly (see 8:34 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20]
Molten metal pouring out of the side of the World Trade Center. [Source: Cameraplanet]Video footage later reveals that in the minutes immediately before the collapse of the WTC’s South Tower, a stream of molten metal starts pouring out of a window opening around the northeast corner of its 80th floor. FEMA later suggests that this is “possibly aluminum from the airliner,” and comments, “This is of particular interest because, although the building collapse appears to have initiated at this floor level, the initiation seems to have occurred at the southeast rather than the northeast corner.” [Civil Engineering, 5/2002; Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 2-34; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 207] According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, “The composition of the flowing material can only be the subject of speculation, but its behavior suggests it could have been molten aluminum.” [Pitts, Butler, and Junker, 9/2005, pp. 375] However physics professor Steven E. Jones will in 2006 dispute this, saying that molten aluminum is silvery and never turns yellow, like what is in the video footage. He will instead claim the presence of this molten metal supports the theory that explosives, specifically thermite, are what caused the Twin Towers to collapse. He says thermite can cause steel to melt and become yellowish. [Deseret Morning News, 4/10/2006]
The National Security Agency (NSA) reportedly intercepts a phone call from one of bin Laden’s operatives in Afghanistan to a phone number in the Republic of Georgia. The caller says he has “heard good news” and that another target is still to come (presumably, the target Flight 93 is intended to hit). [CBS News, 9/4/2002] The caller is also supposed to say that the attackers are following through on “the doctor’s program.” This is said to be a reference to al-Qaeda’s number two leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who has a doctorate in medicine. [New Yorker, 9/9/2002] Since the 9/11 crisis began, NSA translators have been told to focus on Middle Eastern intercepts and translate them as they are received instead of oldest first, as is the usual practice. This call is translated in the next hour or two, and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld hears about it just after noon. [CBS News, 9/4/2002; Bamford, 2004, pp. 54]
According to the 9/11 Commission, FAA headquarters informs the FAA Command Center that the deputy director for air traffic services is talking to Deputy Administrator Monte Belger about scrambling aircraft after Flight 93. Yet in interviews with the commission, neither Belger nor the deputy director recall this discussion, and Belger subsequently e-mails the commission saying he does not believe the conversation took place. However, tape recordings reveal a staff person from headquarters at this time telling the Command Center, “Peter’s talking to Monte now about scrambling.” FAA headquarters is also informed that the flight is 20 miles northwest of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 461] When questioned about this, Belger will point out that there are military people on duty at the FAA Command Center and in a situation room at the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization, and that they are participating in what is going on. In addition, Belger will later tell the commission that he thought the NMCC was on the hijack net and would therefore have received notification on this channel at the same time as all other agencies. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Incredibly, FAA headquarters has known since 9:34 A.M. about hijackers talking about a bomb on board the flight, and more evidence has since been passed on confirming a hijacking in progress. Still, reportedly, no one tells NORAD anything about the plane.
Mark Tillman. [Source: US Air Force]Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, is warned about an unidentified man, possibly carrying a gun, who is standing at the end of the runway at the airport in Sarasota, Florida, as he is preparing to take off with President Bush on the plane. [Fox News, 9/6/2011; US Air Force, 2/29/2012 ] Bush arrived at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport after being driven away from the Emma E. Booker Elementary School and is now on Air Force One (see (9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 98-99; St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] While the plane’s crew members were waiting for him to arrive, they were told there was “great potential that we are going to be under attack sitting on the ramp” and they received “reports of unidentified people all around the airport,” according to Tillman (see (9:04 a.m.-9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [United Services Automobile Association, 9/11/2011]
Secret Service Alerts Pilot to Man Carrying a 'Long Gun' - Now, as Air Force One is taxiing out for takeoff, Tillman receives a warning from the Secret Service about an unidentified man who is standing by the fence at the end of the runway and carrying some type of device. The Secret Service “didn’t know what the gentleman had, but he had something in his hand; they thought it might have been a long gun,” Tillman will later recall. [Fox News, 9/6/2011] “It is almost impossible to defend against a long gun if he’s going to shoot me on the ground,” Tillman will note. He is told that “shooters have [the unidentified man] in sight” and “will take him down if he moves.” He is instructed, “[P]lease, do not taxi by him and take off,” even though the direction of the prevailing wind would normally lead to the plane going by the man while taking off. [US Air Force, 2/29/2012 ] Tillman therefore has to launch in the opposite direction, with a tail wind, in order to stay away from the man. [Wichita Eagle, 11/13/2012]
Plane Takes Off 'Like a Rocket' - Air Force One will take off at about 9:54 a.m. (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] Tillman will climb the plane steeply. This, he will say, is “what we needed to do to make sure that [the man] didn’t have a correct line of sight to fire at the aircraft.” [Peter Schnall, 1/25/2009] “I start hauling down the runway,” he will describe. “Pull back, went up at about 8,000 feet per minute, and just put the plane on its tail, rolled it off towards the Gulf of Mexico, because I didn’t want the shooter to get us.” [US Air Force, 2/29/2012 ] White House communications director Dan Bartlett, who is on Air Force One, will note that the plane takes off “like a rocket.” He will recall that “for a good 10 minutes, the plane was going almost straight up.” [White House, 8/12/2002] White House adviser Karl Rove, who is also on Air Force One, will comment that he has not previously “been in a jet at such a steep incline.” He will also say the Secret Service is “concerned about the possibility of terrorists with shoulder-launched ground-to-air missiles” and it therefore wants the plane “out of range quickly.” [Rove, 2010, pp. 252-253]
Suspicious Man Found to Be Not a Threat - The fear over the unidentified man at the end of the runway will turn out to be unfounded. The man, according to Tillman, is just someone who has come to the airport with his children to see Air Force One leaving Sarasota, and the device he is carrying is just a video camera. [US Air Force, 2/29/2012 ; Wichita Eagle, 11/13/2012]
[Source: Family photo]Honor Elizabeth Wainio, a 27-year-old passenger on board Flight 93, calls her stepmother Esther Heymann, who is in Cantonsville, Maryland. [Chicago Tribune, 9/30/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001] According to journalist and author Jere Longman, the call starts “shortly past nine-fifty.” Official accounts say it starts at 9:54, or seconds before. [Longman, 2002, pp. 167; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 44; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] Wainio begins, “We’re being hijacked. I’m calling to say good-bye.” She says a “really nice person” next to her has handed her the phone and told her to call her family. News reports suggest this person is Lauren Grandcolas, who had been assigned a seat by Wainio in row 11 of the plane. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 167-168; MSNBC, 9/3/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2006] But according to a summary of passenger phone calls presented at the 2006 Zacarias Moussaoui trial, Wainio and Grandcolas are now separated and sitting in different areas of the plane. Wainio is now in row 33 along with fellow passenger Marion Britton and an unnamed flight attendant. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] According to some reports, Wainio is using a cell phone. Newsweek states that she actually tells her stepmother she is using a cell phone loaned to her by another passenger. [Newsweek, 9/22/2001; Chicago Tribune, 9/30/2001] But the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette claims she uses an Airfone. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001] According to Longman, there are “long silences” throughout the call. [MSNBC, 7/30/2002] Heymann cannot hear anyone in the background: “She could not hear any conversation or crying or yelling or whimpering. Nothing.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 172] Longman describes that Heymann gets the feeling her stepdaughter is “resigned to what was going to happen to her. And that she actually seemed to be leaving her body, going to a better place. She had had two grandmothers who were deceased, and at one point she told her [step]mother, ‘They’re waiting for me.’” [MSNBC, 7/30/2002] Wainio also talks about her family, and says she is worried about how her brother and sister will handle this terrible news. [Longman, 2002, pp. 168] Accounts conflict over how long her call lasts and when it ends (see (Between 9:58 a.m. and 10:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
The hijacker pilot of Flight 93 (presumably Ziad Jarrah) reprograms the plane’s navigational system for a new destination. He dials in the navigational code for Washington’s Reagan National Airport, which is just four miles from the White House, and an arrival time of 10:28 a.m. The 9/11 Commission will say this further indicates that the plane’s intended target is the nation’s capital. [Longman, 2002, pp. 78, 182; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 457; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 45] A minute later, an air traffic controller at the FAA’s Cleveland Center will enter a revised flight plan for Flight 93 into the FAA computer system, giving a new destination of Reagan Airport, although the reason she does this is unclear (see 9:56 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 9/12/2001; 9/11 Commission, 10/2/2003 ] Twenty-five minutes earlier, at 9:30 a.m., someone in Flight 93’s cockpit had radioed in and requested a new flight plan from the FAA, with a final destination of Washington (see 9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/14/2001]
One of the hijackers in the cockpit asks if anything is going on, apparently meaning outside the cockpit. “Fighting,” the other says. [Longman, 2002, pp. 210] An analysis of the cockpit flight recording suggests that the passenger struggle actually starts in the front of the plane (where Mark Bingham and Tom Burnett are sitting) about a minute before a struggle in the back of the plane (where Todd Beamer is sitting). [Observer, 12/2/2001] Officials later theorize that the Flight 93 passengers reach the cockpit using a food cart as a battering ram and a shield. They claim digital enhancement of the cockpit voice recorder reveals the sound of plates and glassware crashing around 9:57 a.m. [Newsweek, 12/3/2001]
Since 9:45 a.m., Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer has been talking by Airfone to Lisa Jefferson, a GTE customer service supervisor (see 9:45 a.m.-9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). Beamer is a devout Christian, and asks Jefferson to recite the Lord’s Prayer with him. He then recites the 23rd Psalm. He also gives her his home phone number and tells her to contact his wife if he does not survive, and let his family know how much he loves them. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/17/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/22/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 198-200] He tells Jefferson that some of the passengers are going to “jump” the hijacker who claims to have a bomb, and try to seize control of the plane. He says, “We’re going to do something. I know I’m not going to get out of this.” In the background, Jefferson can hear an “awful commotion” of people shouting, and women screaming, “Oh my God,” “God help us,” and “Help us Jesus.” Beamer lets go of the phone but leaves it connected. Jefferson can hear him speaking to someone else, saying the words that later become famous: “Are you ready guys? Let’s roll” (alternate version: “You ready? Okay. Let’s roll”). [Newsweek, 9/22/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 203-204] Beamer reportedly talks to Jefferson for 13 minutes, meaning his last words to her are at 9:58 a.m. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/16/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/19/2001] Jefferson then hears more screaming and other commotion. She remains on the phone until after the time Flight 93 crashes (see (9:59 a.m.-10:49 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Orlando Sentinel, 9/5/2002]
Will Jimeno. [Source: Todd Plitt / USA Today]Some witnesses reportedly see a massive fireball at ground level, coming from the South Tower just before it starts to collapse. According to a report by the Mineta Transportation Institute (a research institute founded by Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta), “People inside the South Tower felt the floor vibrate as if a small earthquake were occurring.… The vibration lasted for about 30 seconds. The doors were knocked out, and a huge ball of flame created by the exploding diesel fuel from the building’s own supply tank shot from the elevator shaft and out the doors of the South Tower, consuming everything in its path. Minutes later, at 9:59 a.m., the tower collapsed.” [Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow, 9/2003, pp. 16] Around the same time, Port Authority Police Officer Will Jimeno is in a corridor leading toward the North Tower. “Suddenly the hallway began to shudder,” and he sees “the giant fireball explode in the street,” when the South Tower begins to collapse. [Bowhunter, 1/2003] Ronald DiFrancesco is the last person to make it out of the South Tower before it collapses. As he is heading toward the exit that leads onto Church Street, he hears a loud roar as the collapse begins. According to the Ottawa Citizen, “Mr. DiFrancesco turned to his right in the direction of Liberty Street, to see a massive fireball—compressed as the South Tower fell—roiling toward [him].” He bolts for the exit, before being knocked unconscious and blown many yards across the street. [USA Today, 12/18/2001; Ottawa Citizen, 6/4/2005; Ottawa Citizen, 6/5/2005; PBS NOVA, 9/5/2006] A number of other witnesses report feeling the ground shaking just seconds before the South Tower collapses (see Shortly Before 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Since around 9:54, Flight 93 passenger Elizabeth Wainio has been speaking by phone with her stepmother Esther Heymann (see (9:54 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 44] Wainio ends her call saying, “They’re getting ready to break into the cockpit. I have to go. I love you. Good-bye.” She then hangs up. [Longman, 2002, pp. 172] The 9/11 Commission concludes that the passengers’ revolt against the hijackers that Wainio is referring to begins at 9:57 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 45] Yet according to journalist and author Jere Longman, Wainio’s call lasts 11 minutes, and ends at “just past ten” o’clock, which is several minutes after the revolt starts. [Longman, 2002, pp. 171-172] In fact, if Wainio’s call began around 9:54, as is officially claimed, and lasts 11 minutes, it would end around 10:05. This is after official accounts claim Flight 93 crashed, but before the crash time of 10:06 later provided by an analysis of seismic records (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, according to the 9/11 Commission and a summary of passenger phone calls presented at the 2006 Zacarias Moussaoui trial, Wainio’s call only lasts four-and-a-half minutes. This would mean it ends just shortly after the passenger revolt begins. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; Kim and Baum, 2002 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 30; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 44 and 46; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
[Source: Family photo]An emergency call is received at the 911 center in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, from Edward Felt, a passenger on Flight 93. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/8/2002] Felt makes the 911 call using his cell phone. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 45; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] It is answered by dispatcher John Shaw, on a line at the center specifically for incoming cell phone calls. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001 ; Longman, 2002, pp. 193] Glenn Cramer, a supervisor at the 911 center, hears Shaw responding to the caller, “You are what hijacked?” and consequently picks up a phone that allows him to listen in on the rest of Felt’s call. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001 ; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/7/2001]
Call Center Workers Mishear Name - Felt identifies himself. Shaw and Cramer apparently mishear, and both will recall that he says his name is “Ed Wart.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 ; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001 ] (The FBI will initially refuse to disclose the caller’s name to the press, but he is later revealed to have been Edward Felt, a 41-year-old engineer from New Jersey. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 194; New York Times, 3/27/2002] ) Felt says, “We are being hijacked, we are being hijacked!” He repeatedly states that his call is not a hoax. [ABC News, 9/11/2001; Associated Press, 9/11/2001] He says the passengers need help immediately. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 ]
Felt Answers Questions about His Flight, but Does Not Describe Hijackers - Shaw asks Felt standard questions, such as where is he? What type of plane is he on? And what has happened? [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/11/2002] Felt tells Shaw his cell phone number and says he is on United Airlines Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco. [Longman, 2002, pp. 193-194; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/11/2002; United States of America v. Zacarias Moussaoui, a/k/a Shaqil, a/k/a Abu Khalid al Sahrawi, Defendant., 4/11/2006 ] He says he is locked in the bathroom of the plane, but does not say if this is its front or rear bathroom. He does not say anything about how many hijackers are on board, nor make any statements about any weapons the hijackers may possess. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001 ] Nor does he mention any attempt by the passengers to regain control of the plane. [Longman, 2002, pp. 196]
Felt Describes 'Lots of Passengers,' though Plane Is Mostly Empty - Shaw will recall to the FBI that Felt tells him the plane is loaded with numerous passengers. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 ] Glenn Cramer will similarly tell the FBI that Felt describes “lots of passengers” on board. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001 ] Yet there are only 37 passengers (including the four hijackers) on Flight 93, constituting just 20 percent of its passenger capacity of 182. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 36] Felt says: “We’re going down. We’re going down.” [New York Times, 3/27/2002; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/11/2002] Cramer will say that Felt describes an explosion on the aircraft and smoke coming from it, but others—including Shaw—will deny this (see (Between 9:58 a.m. and 9:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001 ; Longman, 2002, pp. 264; Valley News Dispatch, 9/11/2002]
Call Ends after One Minute - Shaw will tell the FBI the call lasts “less than five minutes” before the line disconnects. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 ] According to other accounts, it lasts just over one minute. [Dayton Daily News, 9/12/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 197; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/8/2002; Valley News Dispatch, 9/11/2002] After the call ends, other employees at the Westmoreland County 911 center are instructed to notify the FBI and the FAA about it. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001 ] When the FBI arrives at the center, it will immediately take possession of the tape of Felt’s call. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001]
According to an emergency call center supervisor who listens in on the call, when passenger Edward Felt phones 911 from Flight 93 to report that his plane has been hijacked, he says he has heard an explosion and sees smoke coming from the plane. But others will explicitly deny this. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; New York Times, 3/27/2002] Felt called 911 on his cell phone at 9:58 a.m., and talks to a dispatcher at the 911 center in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania (see 9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Longman, 2002, pp. 193; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 45]
Said to Mention Explosion - Glenn Cramer, a supervisor at the center, listens in on the call on a separate line. The following day, he will tell the FBI that Felt said “some sort of explosion had occurred aboard the aircraft,” and “that there was white smoke somewhere on the plane.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001 ; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/7/2001] Cramer will similarly tell the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Felt said he “did hear some sort of an explosion and saw white smoke coming from the plane, but he didn’t know where.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/12/2001] Some people will later cite this account as evidence that Flight 93 was shot down by the military to prevent it reaching its target, or was brought down when a bomb on board went off. [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001; New York Times, 3/27/2002; Independent, 8/13/2002; Mirror, 9/12/2002; Philadelphia Daily News, 9/16/2002]
Account Disputed - However, others dispute Cramer’s account. John Shaw, the dispatcher who Felt talks to, will apparently make no mention of Felt reporting an explosion or smoke when he is interviewed by the FBI later in the day. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001 ] And, in 2002, Shaw will state specifically that Felt made no mention of any explosion or smoke. “Didn’t happen,” he will say. Sandra Felt, the wife of Edward Felt, will hear the recording of the 911 call and subsequently also say her husband did not mention an explosion or smoke. [Longman, 2002, pp. 264; New York Times, 3/27/2002; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 4/21/2002; Valley News Dispatch, 9/11/2002] Authorities will not explain Cramer’s contradictory account, and in September 2002 Britain’s Daily Mirror will report, “Glenn Cramer has now been gagged by the FBI.” [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/2001; Mirror, 9/12/2002]
People inside the World Trade Center flee down a stairway. [Source: Shannon Stapleton]Almost all the occupants of the South Tower who are able to evacuate the building have done so and have crossed the street to safety. Only 11 occupants who were below the impact floors are still in the building when it collapses. However, 619 building occupants in or above the impact zone have either already died or perish in the collapse, as do many emergency workers. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. xxxix, 44] Most workers in the North Tower also leave the building before it collapses (see 10:27 a.m. September 11, 2001).
A GTE Airfone recovered from the debris of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. [Source: Smithsonian National Museum of American History]After Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer has finished speaking to GTE customer service supervisor Lisa Jefferson (see Shortly Before 9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001), he puts down the seatback phone he has been talking on but leaves the line connected. Jefferson continues listening until after the time the plane crashes, yet does not hear any sound when the crash occurs. As she later recalls, “I was still on the line and the plane took a dive and by then, it just went silent. I held on until after the plane crashed—probably about 15 minutes longer and I never heard a crash—it just went silent because—I can’t explain it. We didn’t lose a connection because there’s a different sound that you use. It’s a squealing sound when you lose a connection. I never lost connection, but it just went silent.” She says that soon afterwards, “they had announced over the radio that United Airlines Flight 93 had just crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and a guy put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘Lisa, you can release the line now. That was his plane.‘… [E]ventually I gave in and I hung the phone up.” [Beliefnet (.com), 2006] According to a summary of the passenger phone calls presented at the 2006 trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, Beamer’s call lasts for “3,925 seconds.” As it began just before 9:44 a.m., this would mean it ends around 10:49 a.m. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
Employees at CIA headquarters are aware that Flight 93 is unaccounted for, and assume their building is its intended target. This is according to CIA contractor Billy Waugh, who is currently doing some work for the agency and is at its Langley headquarters at the time of the attacks. In a 2004 book, Waugh will describe: “We had witnessed the hits on the World Trade Center and knew the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 remained unaccounted for. It was a widespread assumption within the building that this flight was headed straight for us in the CIA headquarters.” [Waugh and Keown, 2004, pp. 293-294] At around 10:00 a.m., much of CIA headquarters is evacuated, following reports of unresponsive aircraft possibly heading toward Washington (see (9:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Tenet, 2007, pp. 164] Waugh recalls, “There was no panic, just an understanding that those in my division needed to walk to the west parking lot, away from the buildings, and await the inevitable impact.” He adds that, “Upon hearing that Flight 93 had gone down in a Pennsylvania field, a couple of us returned to the HQ building to pick up any necessary gear.” [Waugh and Keown, 2004, pp. 294] The 9/11 Commission will state that Flight 93’s intended target is either the Capitol building or the White House, not CIA headquarters. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 14] However, in 2006 MSNBC will note, “to this day, the ultimate target of the terrorists on this aircraft has never been confirmed.” [MSNBC, 9/12/2006]
When a housekeeper at the Park Inn in Boston, where 9/11 hijackers Wail and Waleed Alshehri stayed before the attacks, attempts to clean their room, a “male of foreign descent” tells her she should not clean it yet and should return in the early afternoon, as someone is still asleep there. The hijackers are thought to have left the hotel and checked in for their flights several hours previously (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The male’s identity is unknown and the housekeeper’s story appears to confuse the FBI, as an entry about it in an FBI timeline drafted after the attacks ends with five question marks. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 292 ]
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