DAY OF 9/11
By Paul Thompson
|The 9/11 timeline
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Part 1: 1979 - 2000
Part 2: Jan. 2001 - 9/11
Part 3: Day of 9/11
Part 4: 9/11 - Dec. 2001
Part 5: Jan. 2002 - present
|Day of 9/11
Bush on 9/11
Approximate times are marked in parentheses.
Points to keep in mind when you read the below:
The scrambling (sending into the air) of fighter aircraft at the first sign of trouble is a routine phenomenon. During the year 2000, there are 425 "unknowns" - pilots who didn't file or diverted from flight plans or used the wrong frequency. Fighters are scrambled in response 129 times in cases where problems are not immediately resolved. After 9/11, such scrambles go from about twice a week to three or four times a day. [Calgary Herald, 10/13/01] Between September 2000 and June 2001, fighters are scrambled 67 times. [AP, 8/13/02] General Ralph E. Eberhart, NORAD Commander in Chief, says that before 9/11, "Normally, our units fly 4-6 sorties a month in support of the NORAD air defense mission." [FNS, 10/25/01] Statistics on how many minutes fighters take to scramble before 9/11 apparently are not released.
"Consider that an aircraft emergency exists... when: ... There is unexpected loss of radar contact and radio communications with any... aircraft." [FAA regulations]
"If... you are in doubt that a situation constitutes an emergency or potential emergency, handle it as though it were an emergency." [FAA regulations]
"Pilots are supposed to hit each fix with pinpoint accuracy. If a plane deviates by 15 degrees, or two miles from that course, the flight controllers will hit the panic button. Theyll call the plane, saying 'American 11, youre deviating from course.' Its considered a real emergency, like a police car screeching down a highway at 100 miles an hour. When golfer Payne Stewarts incapacitated Learjet missed a turn at a fix, heading north instead of west to Texas, F-16 interceptors were quickly dispatched." [MSNBC, 9/12/01]
"A NORAD spokesman says its fighters routinely intercept aircraft. When planes are intercepted, they typically are handled with a graduated response. The approaching fighter may rock its wingtips to attract the pilot's attention, or make a pass in front of the aircraft. Eventually, it can fire tracer rounds in the airplane's path, or, under certain circumstances, down it with a missile." [Boston Globe, 9/15/01]
"In October , Gen. Eberhart told Congress that 'now it takes about
one minute' from the time that the FAA senses something is amiss before it notifies
NORAD. And around the same time, a NORAD spokesofficer told the Associated Press
that the military can now scramble fighters 'within a matter of minutes to anywhere
in the United States.'" [Slate,
The commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, Anatoli Kornukov, says the day after 9/11: "Generally it is impossible to carry out an act of terror on the scenario which was used in the USA yesterday.... As soon as something like that happens here, I am reported about that right away and in a minute we are all up." [Pravda, 9/12/01]
Supposedly, on 9/11, there are only four fighters on ready status in the Northeastern US, and only 14 fighters on permanent ready status in the entire US. [BBC, 8/29/02] However, any number of additional fighters could be in the air or ready to fly at the time the 9/11 attacks begin, but exact numbers are not known.
Additionally, the Air Traffic Services Cell (ATSC), an office designed to facilitate communications between the FAA and the military, had just been given a secure Internet (Siprnet) terminal and other hardware six weeks earlier, "greatly enhancing the movement of vital information." [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/10/02]
(5:53 a.m.) Hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari board a Colgan Air flight from Portland, Maine, to Boston. They are filmed going through security in Portland. This is the only footage of the hijackers in airports on 9/11, and it's not even one of the suicide flights. [Time, 9/24/01] [5:45, New York Daily News, 5/22/02, 5:45, FBI, 10/4/01, 5:53, Miami Herald, 9/22/01, strangely, the photos show two time stamps, one showing 5:45, the other showing 5:53]
(6:00 a.m.) Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari's flight from Portland, Maine to Boston takes off. [FBI, 10/4/01] Two passengers later say Atta and Alomari board separately from each other, keep quiet, and don't draw attention to themselves. [Washington Post, 9/16/01, Chicago Sun-Times, 9/16/01]
(6:00 a.m.) President Bush has just spent the night at Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key, Florida. Surface-to-air missiles have been placed on the roof of the resort. [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/02] Bush wakes up around 6:00 a.m. and is preparing for his morning jog. [MSNBC, 10/27/02, New York Times, 9/16/01 (B), Telegraph, 12/16/01] A van occupied by men of Middle Eastern descent pull up to the Colony stating they have a poolside interview with the president. They are turned away for not having an appointment. [Longboat Observer, 9/26/01] Was this an assassination attempt modeled on the one used on Afghani leader Ahmed Massoud two days earlier? [Time, 8/4/02]
(6:30 a.m.) Lt. Col. Dawne Deskins and other NORAD employees at NEADS (NORAD's Northeast Air Defense Sector that covers the Washington and New York areas) are starting their work day. NORAD is unusually prepared on 9/11, because it is conducting a week-long semiannual exercise called Vigilant Guardian. [Newhouse News, 1/25/02] NORAD is thus fully staffed and alert, and senior officers are manning stations throughout the US. The entire chain of command is in place and ready when the first hijacking is reported. An article later says, "In retrospect, the exercise would prove to be a serendipitous enabler of a rapid military response to terrorist attacks on Sept. 11." [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] ABC News later reports that because NORAD is "conducting training exercises [it] therefore [has] extra fighter planes on alert." [ABC News, 9/14/02] Colonel Robert Marr, in charge of NEADS, says, "We had the fighters with a little more gas on board. A few more weapons on board." [ABC News, 9/11/02] The exercise poses "an imaginary crisis to North American Air Defense outposts nationwide." [Newhouse News, 1/25/02] Accounts by participants vary on if 9/11 was the second, third, or fourth day of the exercise. [Newhouse News, 1/25/02, Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/02, Code One Magazine, 1/02] Since NORAD was in peak form, isn't the incredible slowness of its response times on 9/11 even more inexplicable?
(6:30 a.m.) A man has an argument with five Middle Eastern men over a parking space in the parking lot of Boston's Logan Airport. Later in the day he reports the event, and the car is discovered to have been rented by Mohamed Atta. Inside, police find a ramp pass, allowing access to restricted airport areas. ["About 6.30," News of the World, 9/16/01, time unknown, Miami Herald, 9/22/01] Was the argument a staged event to make sure the car would be found? Why would they leave such a pass in their car instead of using it to board the airplanes?
(6:31 a.m.) Bush goes for a four-mile jog around the golf course at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort. [6:30, Washington Post, 1/27/02, 6:30, MSNBC, 10/27/02, 6:32, Washington Times, 10/7/02]
(6:45 a.m.) "Approximately two hours prior to the first attack", at least two workers at the instant messaging company Odigo receive messages warning of the WTC attack. This Israeli owned company has its headquarters two blocks from the WTC. [Washington Post, 9/28/01, Ha'aretz, 9/26/01]
6:50 a.m. Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari's flight from Portland
arrives on time at Boston's Logan Airport. [The book Inside 9-11: What Really
(7:45 a.m.) Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari board Flight 11. Atta's bags contain airline uniforms and many other remarkable things, but are checked through to his final destination, making them unusable for the attacks. The bags are not loaded onto the plane in time and are later found by investigators. [Boston Globe, 9/18/01] But at least two other hijackers on Flight 11 are able to use stolen uniforms and IDs to board the plane. [Sunday Herald, 9/16/01] There is speculation that the bags were meant to be left behind and found. [New Yorker, 10/1/01] How can Atta have been sure the bags would not be checked onto the plane unless a confederate working in the airport makes sure the bags are not loaded?
(Before 7:59 a.m.) Supposedly, nine of the 19 hijackers are selected for special screening before they board their planes. None of their names are known [Washington Post, 3/2/02], but one article makes clear hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, already on a terrorist watch list for international flights, are not selected. [Cox News, 10/21/01] Six of the nine are chosen for extra scrutiny by a computerized screening system, prompting a sweep of their checked baggage for explosives or unauthorized weapons. Two of the nine are chosen because of irregularities in their identification documents, and one is chosen for traveling with someone having such documents. After screening, all are allowed to board. [Washington Post, 3/2/02]
(Before 7:59 a.m.) Hijacker Mohamed Atta on Flight 11 calls hijacker Marwan Alshehhi in Flight 175 as both planes sit on the runway. They confirm the plot is on. ["Just before 8:00," Time, 8/4/02] Do investigators know what was said in this call or are they just guessing, and if they do, what does that say about their data collection abilities?
(7:59 a.m.) Flight 11 takes off from Boston's Logan Airport, 14 minutes after scheduled departure. [7:45 (actually the scheduled time), Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01, 7:59, ABC News, 7/18/02, 7:59, CNN, 9/17/01, 7:59, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 8:00, Guardian, 10/17/01, 8:00, AP, 8/19/02, 8:00, Newsday, 9/10/02]
(8:00 a.m.) Bush sits down for his daily intelligence briefing. "The President's briefing appears to have included some reference to the heightened terrorist risk reported throughout the summer" but contained nothing serious enough to call National Security Adviser Rice. The briefing ends at about 8:20. [Telegraph, 12/16/01]
Flight 93 is delayed for 41 minutes on the runway in Newark, finally taking
off at 8:42. The Boston Globe credits this delay as a major reason why this
was the only one of the four flights not to succeed in its mission. [Boston
Globe, 11/23/01] [Newsweek,
Post-Gazette, 10/28/01] Apparently Flight 93 has to wait in a line of about
a dozen planes before it can take off. [USA
8:13 a.m. The last routine communication between ground control and the pilots of Flight 11. The pilot responds when told to turn right. But almost immediately afterwards he fails to respond to a command to climb. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01, 8:13:31, New York Times, 10/16/01]
(8:13 a.m.) Flight 11 is hijacked around this time. One flight controller says the plane is hijacked over Gardner, Massachusetts, less than 50 miles west of Boston. [Nashua Telegraph, 9/13/01] Does the hijacking involve all of the hijackers from the beginning, or only one hijacker who is already in the cockpit when the hijacking begins, with the rest joining in later? The storming of the cockpit doesn't appear to happen until after 8:21, yet communication with ground control stops now. Fifteen minutes after takeoff, Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01, "A few minutes into the flight," ABC News, 7/18/02] As the Boston Globe put it, "It appears that the hijackers' entry was surprising enough that the pilots did not have a chance to broadcast a traditional distress call," a button that would have taken only a few seconds to press. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01]
(After 8:13 a.m.) Shortly after flight controllers ask Flight 11 to climb to 35,000 feet, the transponder stops transmitting. The transponder is the electronic device that identifies the jet on the controller's screen, gives its exact location and altitude, and also allows a four-digit emergency hijack code to be sent. Air traffic manager Glenn Michael says later, "We considered it at that time to be a possible hijacking." ["When given permission to climb to 35,000 feet," AP, 8/12/02, "8:13:47 46R: AAL11, now climb maintain FL350," New York Times, 10/16/01, shortly after trying emergency frequencies, Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/01] "Just moments" after radio contact is lost (which is discussed by flight controllers at 8:15), the transponder is turned off. [MSNBC, 9/15/01] NORAD officially says it is not notified the plane is hijacked until 8:40 - 27 minutes later, though one NORAD employee contradicts this (see 8:31 a.m. and 8:40 a.m.). [NORAD, 9/18/01] Colonel Robert Marr, head of NORAD's Northeast Air Defense Sector, later claims the transponder is turned off some time after 8:30. [ABC News, 9/11/02]
(After 8:14 a.m.) At some point after the hijacking begins, the pilot of Flight 11, John Ogonowski, activates the talk-back button, enabling Boston flight controllers to hear what is being said in the cockpit. A controller says, "The button was being pushed intermittently most of the way to New York." An article later notes that "his ability to do so also indicates that he was in the driver's seat much of the way" to the WTC. Such transmissions continue until about 8:38. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/01, MSNBC, 9/15/01]
8:14 a.m. Flight 175 takes off from Boston's Logan Airport, 16 minutes after the scheduled departure time. [CNN, 9/17/01, Washington Post, 9/12/01, Guardian, 10/17/01, AP, 8/19/02, Newsday, 9/10/02]
(8:15 a.m.) Boston flight control tries but fails to contact the pilots of Flight 11, even using emergency frequencies. [8:14, Guardian, 10/17/01] A Boston flight controller states of Flight 11, "He won't answer you. He's nordo roger thanks". Nordo means "no radio." [8:15, New York Times, 10/16/01, "over the Hudson river," CNN, 9/17/01]
8:20 a.m. Flight 11 stops transmitting its IFF (identify friend or foe) beacon signal. [CNN, 9/17/01]
(8:20 a.m.) Flight 11 starts to veer dramatically off course around this time. [USA Today flight path image, on this page] Recall that if a plane goes two miles off course, it should be considered an emergency situation. [MSNBC, 9/12/01]
(8:20 a.m.) Boston flight control decides that Flight 11 has probably been hijacked, but apparently it doesn't notify other flight control centers for another five minutes, and don't notify NORAD for about another 20 minutes. ["About 8:20," Newsday, 9/23/01, "about 8:20," New York Times, 9/15/01] ABC News will later say, "There doesn't seem to have been alarm bells going off, traffic controllers getting on with law enforcement or the military. There's a gap there that will have to be investigated." [ABC News, 9/14/01]
(8:20 a.m.) Flight 77 departs Dulles International Airport near Washington, ten minutes after the scheduled departure time. [8:20, CNN, 9/17/01, 8:20, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 8:20, Guardian, 10/17/01, 8:21, AP, 8/19/02]
(Before 8:21 a.m.) Four hijackers get up from their seats and stab or shoot passenger Daniel Lewin, who once belonged to the Israel Defense Force, Sayeret Matkal, a top-secret counter-terrorist unit. He was sitting in front of one of the three hijackers in business class. This could have happened even before 8:13, but logically seems to have come not much before 8:21. A very preliminary FAA memo says Lewin is shot by Satam Al Suqami at 9:20. Clearly the time is a typo; perhaps 8:20 is meant? [ABC News, 7/18/02, UPI, 3/6/02, Washington Post, 3/2/02] Perhaps Lewin just happened to be there, and, with his past training, tried to be a hero and stop the hijack? Did the hijackers have guns or is the FAA memo wrong?
(8:21 a.m.) Inside Flight 11 and near the back of the plane, flight attendant Betty Ong calls Vanessa Minter at American Airlines reservations in North Carolina, using a seatback GTE Airfone. She begins relaying information to manager Craig Marquis at American Airlines' operations center in Fort Worth, but she can't transfer the call. Another supervisor named Nydia Gonzales also listens in from 8:27. Ong talks for 25 minutes, until the plane crashes. The FBI says that only the first four minutes were recorded, but won't release the tape. Other flight attendants relay information about what is happening in the front. She says the hijackers sprayed something in the first-class cabin to keep people out of the front of the plane. It burns her eyes and she is having trouble breathing. In hushed tones, she tells of a passenger dead (presumably Daniel Lewin) and a crew member dying. ["25 minute phone call until crash," ABC News, 7/18/02, Boston Globe, 11/23/01, USA Today, 8/13/02]
(8:21 a.m.) Another Flight 11 attendant, Amy Sweeney, calls American Airlines ground manager Michael Woodward and speaks calmly to him for 25 minutes until the plane crashes. Supposedly the call is not recorded but Woodward took notes. [ABC News, 7/18/02] However, the Boston Globe says it has a transcript of the call. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01] Her first comment is, "Listen, and listen to me very carefully. I'm on Flight 11. The airplane has been hijacked." She identifies four hijackers (not the five said to be on the plane) and gives the seat numbers for them. Even before the plane crashes, staff are able to determine the names, phone numbers, addresses, and credit card information for these four hijackers, including Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari. She reports that two flight attendants have been stabbed and a passenger has had his throat slashed. She says the hijackers seem to be of Middle Eastern descent. ["Over the next 25 minutes," ABC News, 7/18/02, AP, 10/5/01]
(After 8:21 a.m.) While
flight attendant Amy Sweeney is relating details on the phone about the hijackers,
the men are storming the front of the plane. She says they "just gained
access to the cockpit." It's probable she calls just after the storming
begins, and it is during this struggle when the hijackers stab the two first-class
flight attendants nearest to the cockpit, Barbara Arestegui and Karen Martin.
Sweeney says the hijackers have a bomb with yellow wires attached. [ABC
News, 7/18/02, Los
Angeles Times, 9/20/01] Could it be that one of the hijackers was posing
as a pilot passenger and thus had been able to be in the cockpit as an observer,
as happened on some of the hijacker's test run flights? If so, he would
have begun the hijack around 8:13, but would only received reinforcements and
had Mohamed Atta take over the flying of the plane around now. [Los
Angeles Times, 9/20/01, AP,
News, 7/18/02] This
would explain why Sweeney reported four hijackers, not five.
(8:24 a.m.) The pilot of Flight 11, John Ogonowski, activates the talk-back button, enabling Boston flight controllers to hear a hijacker on Flight 11 say to the passengers: "We have some planes. Just stay quiet and you will be OK. We are returning to the airport." A controller responds, ''Who's trying to call me?'' The hijacker continues, "Everything will be OK. If you try to make any moves you'll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet." [8:24:38, Guardian, 10/17/01, 8:24:38, New York Times, 10/16/01, 8:24, Boston Globe, 11/23/01, 8:28, New York Times, 9/12/01, before 8:28, Channel 4 News, 9/13/01] Immediately after hearing this voice, the controller "knew right then that he was working a hijack." [Village Voice, 9/13/01] Ben Sliney, the FAA's National Operations Manager, soon hears of the message "We have some planes" and later says the phrase haunts him all morning. [USA Today, 8/13/02] The transponder beacon and radio have been off for 10 minutes, the flight has been off course for about four minutes and only now he knows it's a hijack? Even so, no one notifies NORAD for another 14 minutes?
8:25 a.m. Boston flight controllers notify other flight control centers of the Flight 11 hijacking, but supposedly they don't notify (NORAD for another 6 or 15 minutes (see 8:31 a.m. and 8:40 a.m.). [8:25:00, Guardian, 10/17/01] Why isn't NORAD also notified at this time? Note that this means the controllers working Flights 77 and Flight 93 would have been aware of Flight 11's hijacking from this time. [Village Voice, 9/13/01]
8:28 a.m. Boston flight control radar sees Flight 11 making an unplanned 100-degree turn to the south (they're already way off-course). Flight controllers say they never lost sight of the flight, though they could no longer determine altitude once the transponder was turned off. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/01] Before this turn, the FAA had tagged Flight 11's radar dot for easy visibility, and at American Airlines headquarters at least, "All eyes watched as the plane headed south. On the screen, the plane showed a squiggly line after its turn near Albany, then it straightened." [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/01] "Boston Center could still track it on primary radar...." [Newhouse News, 1/25/02] Boston flight controller Mark Hodgkins later says, "I watched the target of American 11 the whole way down." [ABC, 9/6/02] Clearly, an early report stating, "Boston airport officials said they did not spot the plane's course until it had crashed, and said the control tower had no unusual communication with the pilots or any crew members" [Washington Post, 9/12/01], is incorrect, as is another account that says flight controllers only find Flight 11 at 8:42. [Newsday, 9/10/02] But apparently NEADS, part of NORAD, has different radar, and even at 8:40 they cannot find Flight 11. Boston has to periodically update NEADS on Flight 11's position by telephone until NEADS finally finds it a few minutes before it crashes into the WTC. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02, ABC News, 9/11/02, Newhouse News, 1/25/02]
(Around 8:30 a.m.) Just prior to learning about the 9/11 attacks, many of the US's leaders are scattered across the US and overseas. Vice President Cheney and National Security Advisor Rice are at their offices in the White House. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is at his office in the Pentagon, meeting with a delegation from Capitol Hill. Secretary of State Powell is in Lima, Peru. CIA Director Tenet is at breakfast with his old friend and mentor, former senator David Boren (D), at the St. Regis Hotel, three blocks from the White House. General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is flying across the Atlantic on the way to Europe. Attorney General Ashcroft is flying to Milwaukee. FBI Director Mueller is in his office at FBI headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue. [Washington Post, 1/27/02] Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta is at his office at the Department of Transportation. [Senate Commerce Committee, 9/20/01] Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Joe Allbaugh is at a conference in Montana. [ABC, 9/14/02 (B)] George Bush Sr. is supposedly on a flight from Washington to St. Paul, Minnesota, and has his plane diverted to Milwaukee when the air ban begins. [Time, 9/24/01]
8:31 a.m. NORAD employee Lt. Colonel Dawne Deskins later says that Boston flight control notifies NORAD of Flight 77's hijacking at this time, not at 8:40 as has been widely reported, even by Deskins previously (see 8:40 a.m.). [ABC News, 9/11/02] Another later report states, "Shortly after 8:30 a.m., behind the scenes, word of a possible hijacking [reaches] various stations of NORAD." [ABC News, 9/14/02] If Deskins' most recent account is right, Boston flight controllers wait about 10 minutes after they are sure Flight 11 was hijacked before notifying NORAD. Otherwise, Boston waits about 20 minutes.
8:33 a.m. Flight controllers hear a hijacker on Flight 11 say to the passengers: "Nobody move, please, we are going back to the airport. Don't try to make any stupid moves." [8:33, Boston Globe, 11/23/01, 8:33:59, Guardian, 10/17/01, 8:33:59, New York Times, 10/16/01]
(8:35 a.m.) Bush's motorcade leaves for Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. [8:30, Washington Post, 1/27/02, 8:35, Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/01, 8:39, Washington Times, 10/7/02] He said farewell to the management at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort at 8:20. [Telegraph, 12/16/01] Note that an early report that as Bush is leaving the resort, a reporter asks him, "Do you know what's going on in New York?" [ABC News, 9/11/01], appears to be mistaken. Perhaps it happens when Bush arrives at the school?
(8:36 a.m.) On Flight 11, flight attendant Betty Ong reports that the plane tilts all the way on one side and then becomes horizontal again. Flight attendant Amy Sweeney then reports on her phone that the plane has begun a rapid descent. ["About 15 minutes" after the calls began, ABC News, 7/18/02]
8:37 a.m. Flight controllers ask the Flight 175 pilots to look for a lost American Airlines plane 10 miles to the south - a reference to Flight 11. They respond that they can see it. They are told to keep away from it. [8:37:08, Guardian, 10/17/01, 8:37, Boston Globe, 11/23/01, the incident is not included in New York Times flight controller transcript of New York Times, 10/16/01]
(8:38 a.m.) Flight 11 pilot John Ogonowski's periodic activation of the talk-back button, begun around 8:14, stops around this time. It is suggested that means this is when the hijackers replace him as pilot. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/01, MSNBC, 9/15/01]
(8:40 a.m.) Boston flight control supposedly notifies NORAD that Flight 11 has been hijacked (another account says it happens earlier (see 8:31 a.m.). [8:38, CNN, 9/17/01, 8:38, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 8:40, NORAD, 9/18/01, 8:40, AP, 8/19/02, 8:40, Newsday, 9/10/02] This is about 20 minutes after traffic control noticed the plane had its transponder beacon and radio turned off. Such a delay in notification would be in strict violation of regulations. Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Powell, a member of the Air National Guard at NEADS, part of NORAD, takes the call from Boston Center. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02, Newhouse News, 1/25/02] He gives the phone to Lt. Colonel Dawne Deskins, regional Mission Crew Chief for the Vigilant Guardian exercise: "I picked up the line and I identified myself to the Boston Center controller, and he said, we have a hijacked aircraft and I need to get you some sort of fighters out here to help us out." Deskins then tells Colonel Robert Marr, head of NEADS, "I have FAA on the phone, the shout line, Boston Center. They said they have a hijacked aircraft." Marr then calls Major General Larry Arnold at NORAD's command Center in Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, and says, "Boss, I need to scramble [fighters at] Otis [Air National Guard Base]." Arnold later says, "I said go ahead and scramble them, and we'll get the authorities later." [ABC News, 9/11/02] Deskins later says that initially she and "everybody" else at NEADS thought the call was part of the Vigilant Guardian exercise. After the phone call she had to clarify to everyone that it was not a drill. [Newhouse News, 1/25/02] NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold in Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, also says that when he hears of the hijacking at this time, "The first thing that went through my mind was, is this part of the exercise? Is this some kind of a screw-up?" [ABC News, 9/11/02]
(8:40 a.m.) Major Daniel Nash (codenamed Nasty) and Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy (codenamed Duff) are the two F-15 pilots who would scramble after Flight 11 and then Flight 175. Nash says that at this time, a colleague at the Otis Air National Guard Base tells him that a flight out of Boston has been hijacked, and to be on alert. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] NEADS senior technician Jeremy Powell also later says that he telephones Otis Air Base and tells it to upgrade its "readiness posture." [Newhouse News, 1/25/02] Duffy also says he is told in advance about the hijacking by the FAA in Boston. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] Nash and Duffy put on their flight gear and get ready. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] They are already halfway to their jets when "battle stations" are sounded. Duffy briefs Nash on what he knows, and, "About 4-5 minutes later, we [get] the scramble order and [take] off." [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] If this is true, why isn't the order to scramble given when the FAA called the pilots, instead of six minutes later? And even stranger, why does it take another six minutes (8:52) for the fighters to take off, if they had been given a heads up warning to get ready? Had the order to scramble been given now, there would be plenty of time for these fighters to reach New York before Flight 175.
8:41 a.m. The pilots of Flight 175 tell ground control about Flight 11, "We figured we'd wait to go to your center. We heard a suspicious transmission on our departure out of Boston. Someone keyed the mike and said: 'Everyone stay in your seats.' It cut out." [8:41, Guardian, 10/17/01, 8:41, Newsday, 9/10/02, 8:41:32, New York Times, 10/16/01] An alternate version: ''We heard a suspicious transmission on our departure from B-O-S [Boston's airport code]. Sounds like someone keyed the mike and said, 'Everyone, stay in your seats.''' [Boston Globe, 11/23/01] The last transmission from Flight 175, still discussing this message, comes a few seconds before 8:42. [New York Times, 10/16/01] Presumably Flight 175 is hijacked within the next minute.
(8:42 a.m.) Flight 93 takes off from Newark International Airport, bound for San Francisco. It leaves 41 minutes late because of heavy runway traffic. [MSNBC, 9/3/02] [8:41, Newsweek, 9/22/01, 8:41, AP, 8/19/02, 8:42, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01, 8:42, CNN, 9/17/01, 8:42, Guardian, 10/17/01]
8:42 a.m. Flight 175 veers from its official course.
Globe, 11/23/01] (An early CNN reports says
the deviation happens at 8:50, but that's probably when the plane, already off-course,
makes a complete U-turn north.) [CNN,
8:42 a.m. A flight controller says of Flight 175, "... looks like he's heading southbound but there's no transponder no nothing and no one's talking to him." [New York Times, 10/16/01]
(Before 8:43 a.m.) At some unknown time period, businessman Peter Burton Hanson calls his father from Flight 175 and says, "Oh, my God! They just stabbed the airline hostess. I think the airline is being hijacked." Despite being cut off twice, he manages to report how men armed with knives are stabbing flight attendants, apparently in an attempt to force crew to unlock the doors to the cockpit. He calls again and says good-bye just before the plane crashes. [Toronto Sun, 9/16/01, BBC, 9/13/01] This appears to have been one of only two passengers who call from this flight (an unnamed flight stewardess calls as well). Hanson also has a lot of trouble staying connected - is his flight too high up to enable people to easily call out?
8:43 a.m. NORAD is notified that Flight 175 has been hijacked. [8:43, NORAD, 9/18/01, 8:43, CNN, 9/17/01, 8:43, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 8:43, AP, 8/19/02, 8:43, Newsday, 9/10/02] Apparently NORAD doesn't need to be notified, because by this time NEADS technicians have their headsets linked to the FAA in Boston to hear about Flight 11, and so NORAD learns instantly about Flight 175. [Newhouse News, 1/25/02] Note that this means the controllers working Flight 77 and Flight 93 would have been aware of both Flight 175 and Flight 11's hijacking from this time.
8:44 a.m. The pilot of US Airlines Flight 583 tells flight control, regarding Flight 175, "I just picked up an ELT [emergency locator transmitter] on 121.5 it was brief but it went off." The controller responds, "O.K. they said it's confirmed believe it or not as a thing, we're not sure yet..." [New York Times, 10/16/01] This appears to have been the only plane in which the emergency signal is triggered by the pilot.
8:44 a.m. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld is talking about terrorism in the Pentagon. "Let me tell ya," he says, "I've been around the block a few times. There will be another event." He then repeats it for emphasis, "There will be another event." [AP, 9/16/01, Rep. Cox Statement, 9/11/01] Note that supposedly he doesn't know of the hijackings in progress, and says this two minutes before the first WTC crash. He makes other predictive comments "moments" before Flight 77 hits the Pentagon (see (9:38 a.m.)).
(8:45 a.m.) Just prior to the crash of Flight 11, flight attendant Amy Sweeney is asked on the phone if she can recognize where she is. She says, "I see the water. I see the buildings. I see buildings," then after a pause, a quiet "Oh, my God!" Mere seconds later the line goes dead. Meanwhile, flight attendant Betty Ong ends her call repeating the phrase "Pray for us" over and over. Apparently there is quiet instead of screaming in the background. [ABC News, 7/18/02]
(8:46 a.m.) Two F-15 fighters are ordered to scramble from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts to find Flight 11, approximately 190 miles from the known location of the plane and 188 miles from New York City. Fighters in nearer bases are not scrambled. This is six to fifteen minutes after NORAD has been told the plane was hijacked (see 8:31 a.m. and 8:40 a.m.), 29 minutes after losing contact with the plane. [8:39, Channel 4 News, 9/13/01, 8:44, CNN, 9/17/01, 8:44, Washington Post, 9/15/01, 8:44, Los Angeles Times, 9/17/01, 8:46, NORAD, 9/18/01] Supposedly, the scramble order comes after only one phone call - the decision is made to act first and get clearances later. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] So why did it take 6-8 minutes to issue the order? According to the two pilots, Major Daniel Nash and Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy, they are geared up and walking toward their planes when this alarm to scramble sounds. As soon as they strap in, the green light to launch goes on, and they're up even before their jets' radar kicks in. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] Yet, supposedly, it takes six more minutes for them to launch.
8:46 a.m. Flight
11 slams into the north tower, 1 World Trade Center. Investigators believe it
still had about 10,000 gallons of fuel and was traveling 470 mph. [New
York Times, 9/11/02] Approximately 2662 people are
killed on the ground between this crash and the crash of Flight 175. [AP,
8/19/02] [8:45, CNN,
9/12/01, 8:45, New York Times, 9/12/01,
8:46 (based on seismic data), New
York Times, 9/12/01, 8:46, CNN,
9/17/01, 8:46, NORAD, 9/18/01, 8:46,
Post, 9/12/01, 8:46, AP,
8/19/02, 8:46, USA
Today, 9/3/02, 8:46, USA
Today, 8/13/02, 8:46, Newsday,
9/10/02, 8:47:00, Guardian,
10/17/01, 8:48, MSNBC, 9/22/01, 8:46:26,
Times, 9/11/02, 8:46:26, seismic
(8:46 a.m.) Flight 175 stops transmitting its transponder signal, according to some reports. It is 50 miles north of New York City, headed toward Baltimore. [8:46:18, Guardian, 10/17/01, "about the same time" as Flight 11 crash, Newsday, 9/10/02] Another lie? Note that at 8:42, a flight controller said, "There's no transponder no nothing." [New York Times, 10/16/01] However, the transponder is turned off for only about 30 seconds, then changed to a signal that is not designated for any plane on that day. [Newsday, 9/10/02] This "allow[s] controllers to track the intruder easily, though they couldn't identify it." [Washington Post, 9/17/01]
8:46 a.m. At the time of the first WTC crash, three F-16s assigned to Andrews Air Force Base 10 miles from Washington are flying an air-to-ground training mission on a range in North Carolina, 207 miles away. Eventually they are recalled to Andrews and land there at some point after Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/02] F-16s can travel a maximum speed of 1500 mph. Traveling even at 1100 mph, the speed NORAD Major General Larry Arnold says two fighters from Massachusetts travel toward Flight 175, at least one of the F-16s could have returned to Washington within 10 minutes and started patrolling the skies well before 9:00 a.m. Why are they recalled so late, and then ordered back to base (and then to take off again) instead of being sent straight to Washington?
(8:46 a.m.) Flight 77 from Washington goes severely off course. It heads due north for a while, then flies due south and gets back on course. It is off course by around 15 miles, and stays off course for about five minutes, judging from flight path maps. [See USA Today's Flight 77 flight path] According to regulations a fighter should have scrambled to see what was going on, regardless of any excuses from the pilot.
(After 8:46 a.m.) Bush will say in a speech later that evening: "Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government's emergency response plans." [White House.gov, 9/11/01] Whatever these plans were, they don't seem to involve scrambling aircraft at this time.
(After 8:46 a.m.) Shortly after the WTC is hit, the FAA has an open telephone line with the Secret Service, keeping them informed of all events. [Cheney: "The Secret Service has an arrangement with the FAA. They had open lines after the World Trade Center was... " - he stops himself before finishing the sentence, NBC, 9/16/01]
(After 8:46 a.m.) Brigadier General Montague Winfield is in command of the National Military Command Center (NMCC), "the military's worldwide nerve center." [CNN, 9/4/02] According to NORAD command director Captain Michael Jellinek, at some point not long after the WTC hit, telephone links are established with the National Military Command Center (NMCC) located inside the Pentagon (but on the opposite side from where the Pentagon explosion will happen), Canada's equivalent command center, Strategic Command, theater commanders, and federal emergency-response agencies. An Air Threat Conference Call is initiated. At one time or another, Bush, Cheney, key military officers, leaders of the FAA and NORAD, the White House, and Air Force One are heard on the open line. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02, CNN, 9/4/02, ABC News, 9/11/02] Says Winfield, "All of the governmental agencies there that, that were involved in any activity that was going on in the United States at that point, were in that conference." [ABC News, 9/11/02] The call continues right through the Pentagon explosion, as the NMCC doesn't even feel the impact. [CNN, 9/4/02] However, despite being in the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld doesn't join the NMCC or the call until 10:30 (see 10:30 a.m.).
8:46 a.m.) A few minutes after the 8:46 WTC
crash, CIA Director Tenet is told of the crash while he is eating breakfast
with former Senator David Boren. Boren says Tenet is told that the WTC has been
attacked by an airplane: "I was struck by the fact that [the messenger]
used the word attacked." Tenet then hands a cell phone back
to an aide and says to Boren, "You know, this has bin Laden's fingerprints
all over it." [ABC,
9/14/02] Why is Bush supposedly under the impression
the crash was an accident well after Tenet has been told it was an attack? Does
Tenet try to communicate with Bush at this time?
(Between 8:46 - 9:03 a.m.) As soon as Boston flight controllers hear news that a plane might have hit the WTC, they know it was Flight 11. They have been tracking it continually since it began behaving erratically. It takes "several minutes" for Boston to report to NORAD that Flight 11 is responsible. [New York Times, 9/13/01 (F), Newhouse News, 1/25/02] However, flight controllers in New York City complain that they aren't given a conclusive report of what happened to Flight 11 until just before Flight 175 crashes at 9:03. "We had 90 to 120 seconds; it wasn't any 18 minutes," says one controller, referring to the actual elapsed time between the two crashes. Another controller says: "They dove into the airspace. By the time anybody saw anything, it was over." [New York Times, 9/13/01 (F)]
(Between 8:46 - 8:55 a.m.) When Flight 11 hits the WTC at 8:46, Bush's motorcade is crossing the John Ringling Causeway on the way to Booker Elementary from the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort on Longboat Key. [Washington Times, 10/8/02] Sarasota Magazine claims that Bush is on Highway 301, just north of Main Street when he is told that a plane had crashed in New York City. [Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/01] Around the same time, news photographer Eric Draper is riding in another car in the motorcade with Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, and overhears Fleischer say on a cell phone, "Oh, my God, I don't believe it. A plane just hit the World Trade Center." Fleischer is told he will be needed on arrival to discuss reports of the crash. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/17/01, Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/02] Fleischer is told this "just minutes" after the first news reports. [MSNBC, 10/29/02] Congressman Dan Miller also says he is told about the crash just before meeting Bush at Booker at 8:55. [Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/01] Some reporters waiting for him to arrive also learn of the crash just minutes after it happens. [CBS, 9/11/02 (B)] It would make sense that Bush is told about the crash immediately and at the same time that others hear about it. Yet Bush and others claim he isn't told until he arrives at the school.
8:48 a.m. The first news reports appear on TV and radio that a plane may have crashed into the WTC. [New York Times, 9/15/01, CNN, 9/11/01] Many reports don't come until a few minutes later. For instance ABC first breaks into regular programming with the story at 8:52. [ABC, 9/14/02]
(After 8:48 a.m.) Air Force General Richard Myers, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sees the first WTC crash on television. Myers will be acting Chairman of the US military during the 9/11 crisis because Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Henry Shelton is flying in a plane across the Atlantic. He sees the TV in an outer office of Senator Max Cleland, but he says, "They thought it was a small plane or something like that," so he goes ahead and meets with Cleland. He says "nobody informed us" about the second WTC crash, and remains oblivious that there is an emergency, only leaving the meeting with Cleland right as the Pentagon explosion takes place at 9:38. [AFPS, 10/23/01, ABC News, 9/11/02] Yet, in testimony on September 13, 2001, he states, "after the second tower was hit, I spoke to the commander of NORAD, General Eberhart. And at that point, I think the decision was at that point to start launching aircraft." [Myers Confirmation Testimony, 9/13/01] NORAD claims the first fighters are scrambled even before the first WTC hit. [NORAD, 9/18/01] Which of Myers' statements is the lie, or are both of them lies?
8:50 a.m. The last radio contact with Flight 77 is made when the pilots ask for clearance to fly higher. But then they fail to respond to a routine instruction. [Guardian, 10/17/01, Boston Globe, 11/23/01, 8:50:51, New York Times, 10/16/01] Note that normal communication continues with Flight 77 about four minutes after the plane had gone significantly off course, suggesting the original pilot continues to fly the plane for at least a while after it was hijacked. More evidence that a hijacker is already in the cockpit at the start of the hijacking?
(After 8:50 a.m.) "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 Pentagon's National Military Command Center (see After 8:46 a.m.)] [are] urgently talking to law enforcement and air traffic control officials about what to do." [New York Times, 9/15/01] Since the Pentagon is struck around 9:38, this means that shortly after the first signs of trouble, clearly by at least 8:50, the military knows that Flight 77 is hijacked, even though, supposedly, NORAD is not officially notified until 9:24.
(8:50 a.m.) Rich ''Doc'' Miles, manager of United's Chicago system operations center, receives a call from a mechanic at an airline maintenance center in San Francisco that takes in-flight calls from flight attendants about broken items. The mechanic says a female flight attendant from Flight 175 just called and said, ''Oh my God. The crew has been killed, a flight attendant has been stabbed. We've been hijacked.'' Then the line went dead. A dispatcher monitoring the flight then sends messages to the plane's cockpit computer but gets no response. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01]
8:52 a.m. Two F-15s take off from Otis ANG Base, six minutes after being ordered to go after Flight 11, which has already crashed. [8:52, NORAD, 9/18/01, 8:52, CNN, 9/17/01, 8:53, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 8:52, Washington Post, 9/15/01, 8:52, ABC News, 9/11/02] This is 38 minutes after flight controllers lost contact with the plane. They go after Flight 175 instead. According to Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy, one of the pilots, before takeoff, a fellow officer had told him "This looks like the real thing." He says, "It just seemed wrong. I just wanted to get there. I was in full-blower all the way." A NORAD commander has said the planes were stocked with extra fuel as well. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] Full-blower is very rare - it means the fighters are going as fast as they can go. An F-15 can travel over 1875 mph. [Air Force News, 7/30/97] Duffy later says, "As we're climbing out, we go supersonic on the way, which is kind of nonstandard for us." He says his target destination is over Kennedy airport in New York City. [ABC News, 9/11/02] According to Major Gen. Paul Weaver, director of the Air National Guard, "The pilots [fly] 'like a scalded ape,' topping 500 mph but [are] unable to catch up to the airliner." [Dallas Morning News, 9/16/01] ABC News later says, "The fighters are hurtling toward New York at mach 1.2, nearly 900 miles per hour." [ABC News, 9/11/02] NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold says they head straight for New York City at about 1100 to 1200 mph. [MSNBC, 9/23/01 (C), Slate, 1/16/02] "An F-15 departing from Otis can reach New York City in 10 to 12 minutes, according to an Otis spokeswoman." [Cape Cod Times, 9/16/01] At an average speed of 1125 mph, they would reach the city in 10 minutes - 9:02. So if NORAD commander Arnold's speed is correct, these fighters should reach Flight 175 just before it crashes. Yet according to the NORAD timeline [NORAD, 9/18/01], these planes take about 19 minutes to reach New York City, traveling less than 600 mph.
(After 8:52 a.m.) William Wibel, principal of a school inside Otis Air National Guard Base in the Cape Cod region of Massachusetts, is inside the Otis base preparing for a meeting. He hears about the WTC attack and is told the meeting is canceled. He says, "As I drove away, and was listening to the news on the radio, the 102nd was scrambling into duty." [Cape Cod Times, 9/12/01] Given that the WTC story doesn't break on local news and radio until about 8:52, and it must take him some time to learn the meeting is canceled, go back to his car and so forth, he must hear the fighters take off well after 8:52. Yet NORAD says the fighters took off from Otis at 8:52.
8:53 a.m. A flight controller says to other airplanes in the sky regarding Flight 175, "We may have a hijack. We have some problems over here right now." [Guardian, 10/17/01, 8:53:23, New York Times, 10/16/01]
(Before 8:55 a.m.) Captain Deborah Loewer, director of the White House Situation Room, is traveling in Bush's motorcade toward a Saratoga elementary school. She receives a message from her deputy in the White House Situation Room about the first WTC crash. As soon as the motorcade reaches the school, she runs from her car to Bush's car, and passes the message on to Bush. [Catholic Telegraph, 12/7/01, AP, 11/26/01] However, it appears Bush already knows (see (Between 8:46 - 8:55 a.m.)). Note that Bush maintains it is Karl Rove who tells him a few minutes later.
(8:55 a.m.) Bush's motorcade arrives at Booker Elementary School. [8:46, ABC News, 9/11/02, 8:55, Washington Times, 10/7/02, 8:55, Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/01, "just before 9:00," Telegraph, 12/16/01, "shortly before 9:00," Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/02, "just before 9:00," New York Times, 9/16/01 (B), 9:00, Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/02] The trip is said to take 20 minutes, which confirms he arrives around 8:55, if it is true he left around 8:35. [New York Times, 9/16/01 (B), St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/02 (B), MSNBC, 10/29/02]
(8:55 a.m.) A public announcement is broadcast inside the WTC South Tower, saying that the building is secure and people can return to their offices. [New York Times, 9/11/02, click on interactive popup] Such announcements continue until a few minutes before the building is hit, and "may [lead] to the deaths of hundreds of people." No one knows exactly what is said (though many later recall the phrase "the building is secure") or who gives the authority to say it. [USA Today, 9/3/02] Given that at 8:43 NORAD was notified Flight 175 was hijacked and headed toward New York City, why weren't people in the building warned?
(Between 8:55 - 9:00 a.m.) Just after the WTC crash, the beepers of politicians' aides are going off with news of the first WTC crash as Bush arrives and enters Booker Elementary School. According to photographer Eric Draper, standing nearby, Bush advisor Karl Rove rushes up, takes Bush aside in a corridor, and tells him about the calamity. Rove says the cause of the crash was unclear. Bush replies, "What a horrible accident!" Bush also suggests the pilot may have had a heart attack. [Daily Mail, 9/8/02] Dan Bartlett, White House Communications Director, also says he is there when Bush is told: "[Bush] being a former pilot, had kind of the same reaction, going, was it bad weather? And I said no, apparently not." [ABC News, 9/11/02] One account explicitly says that Rove tells Bush the WTC has been hit by a large commercial airliner. [Telegraph, 12/16/01] However, Bush later remembers Rove saying it appeared to be an accident involving a small, twin-engine plane. [Washington Post, 1/27/02] In a later recollection, Bush recalls that it is chief of staff Andrew Card who first warns him and says, "'Here's what you're going to be doing; you're going to meet so-and-so, such-and-such.' And Andy Card says, 'By the way, an aircraft flew into the World Trade Center.'" [Washington Times, 10/7/02] Says a reporter who was standing nearby, "From the demeanor of the President, grinning at the children, it appeared that the enormity of what he had been told was taking a while to sink in." [Daily Mail, 9/8/02] ["Shortly before 9:00," Daily Mail, 9/8/02, "just before 9:00," Telegraph, 12/16/01] In fact, Bush has already been told about the crash twice before this (see (Between 8:46 - 8:55 a.m.) and (Before 8:55 a.m.)). He should also be aware that NORAD has known since 8:40, if not before, that Flight 11 has been hijacked, and since 8:43 that Flight 175 has been hijacked. The New York Times points out that flight controllers learn Flight 77 has been hijacked "within a few minutes" of 8:48. [New York Times, 9/15/01 (C)] Is Bush and his aides putting on a charade to pretend he doesn't know there is a national emergency? If so, why?
(Between 8:55 - 9:00 a.m.) Just after Bush arrives at Booker Elementary School and is briefly told of the WTC crash, he is whisked into a holding room and updated on the situation via telephone by National Security Advisor Rice. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/17/01, Time, 9/12/01] Rice later claims, "He said, what a terrible, it sounds like a terrible accident. Keep me informed." [ABC News, 9/11/02] School principal Gwen Tose-Rigell is then summoned to a room to talk with the President: "He said a commercial plane has hit the World Trade Center, and we're going to go ahead and go on, we're going on to do the reading thing anyway." [AP, 8/19/02 (D)] One local reporter notes that at this point, "He could and arguably should have left Emma E. Booker Elementary School immediately, gotten onto Air Force One and left Sarasota without a moment's delay." [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/12/01 (B)] Why doesn't he? Note that CIA Director Tenet has already been told it was terrorism (see (After 8:46)) and Bush certainly should have been told by Rice of the three known hijackings at this time, if he hasn't been told already. How could Bush continue to think there is only a single-plane accident?
(8:56 a.m.) Flight 77's transponder signal is turned off. [8:56, Guardian, 10/17/01, 8:56, Boston Globe, 11/23/01, "six minutes before" Flight 175 hits WTC, Newsday, 9/23/01] Just prior to this, Flight 77 turns around over northeastern Kentucky, and starts heading back toward Washington. [Washington Post, 9/12/01, Newsday, 9/23/01] For some minutes the plane is missing because flight controllers are looking for the radar signal toward the west and don't realize the plane is headed east. Rumors circulate that the plane might have exploded in midair. [Newsday, 9/23/01] Since the plane had already started turning east before the transponder is turned off, why don't flight controllers look in that direction?
(8:56 a.m.) The New York Times later writes, "'American 77, Indy,' the controller said, over and over. 'American 77, Indy, radio check. How do you read?' By 8:56 a.m., it was evident that Flight 77 was lost." Yet the same newspaper then points out NORAD is not notified about it for another 28 minutes and doesn't find that strange! [New York Times, 10/16/01] Another New York Times article points out that flight controllers learn Flight 77 has been hijacked "within a few minutes" of 8:48. [New York Times, 9/15/01 (C)] Why are fighters not scrambled now to find Flight 77?
8:58 a.m. Brian Sweeney on Flight 175 tries to call his wife but can only leave a message. "We've been hijacked, and it doesn't look too good." He calls his mother and tells her what's happening onboard. [Hyannis News, 9/13/01, Washington Post, 9/21/01]
9:00 a.m. The Pentagon moves its alert status up one notch from normal to Alpha. It stays on Alpha until after Flight 77 hits, and then goes up two more notches to Charlie later on in the day. [USA Today, 9/16/01]
(After 9:00 a.m.)
United warns all of its aircraft of the potential for cockpit intrusion and
to take precautions to barricade cockpit doors. Flight 93 pilots acknowledge
the message. ["Just after 9:00," Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette, 10/28/01] However, they're not told why, what happened
at the WTC, or that another plane is missing.
(9:01 a.m.) Bush later makes the following statement: "And I was sitting outside the classroom waiting to go in, and I saw an airplane hit the tower - the TV was obviously on, and I use to fly myself, and I said, 'There's one terrible pilot.' And I said, 'It must have been a horrible accident.' But I was whisked off there - I didn't have much time to think about it." [CNN, 12/4/01] He has repeated the story on other occasions. [White House, 1/5/02, CBS, 9/11/02] However, it has been noted that Bush doesn't have access to a television until 15 or so minutes later. [Washington Times, 10/7/02] A Boston Herald article later says, "Think about that. Bush's remark implies he saw the first plane hit the tower. But we all know that video of the first plane hitting did not surface until the next day. Could Bush have meant he saw the second plane hit - which many Americans witnessed? No, because he said that he was in the classroom when Card whispered in his ear that a second plane hit." The article points out that Bush had told the story more than once, and asks, " How could the commander-in-chief have seen the plane fly into the first building - as it happened?" [Boston Herald, 10/22/02] By 8:31 or 8:40, NORAD knew that Flight 11 was hijacked, and by 8:43, they knew Flight 175 was hijacked. Bush has just been briefed by his National Security Advisor on the situation. How he can only think, "There's one terrible pilot," based on an impossible television viewing?
(Between 9:01 - 9:03 a.m.) Flight 175 is an unmarked blip to flight controllers in New York City. One controller stands up in horror. "No, he's not going to land. He's going in!" "Oh, my God! He's headed for the city," another controller shouts. "Oh, my God! He's headed for Manhattan!" [Washington Post, 9/21/01]
(9:03 a.m.) Flight 175 hits the south tower, 2 World Trade Center. Millions watch the crash live on television. Approximately 2662 people are killed on the ground between this crash and the crash of Flight 11. [AP, 8/19/02] F-15 fighter jets from Otis Air National Guard Base are still 71 miles or eight minutes away. [9:02, CNN, 9/17/01, 9:02, NORAD, 9/18/01, 9:02, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 9:03, New York Times, 9/12/01, 9:03 (based on seismic data), New York Times, 9/12/01, 9:03, Guardian, 10/17/01, 9:03, CNN, 9/12/01, 9:03, AP, 8/19/02, 9:03, Newsday, 9/10/02, 9:03, USA Today, 9/3/02, 9:03, USA Today, 8/13/02, 9:05, MSNBC, 9/22/01, 9:05, Washington Post, 1/27/02, 9:02:54, New York Times, 9/11/02, 9:02:54, seismic records] The Otis Air National Guard Base is 188 miles from New York City. According to NORAD's timeline, fighters left Otis 11 minutes earlier. If they were still 70 miles away, then that means they must have been traveling about 650 mph, when the top speed for an F-15 is 1875 mph!
(9:03 a.m. and After) The minute Flight 175 hits the south tower, F-15 pilot Maj. Daniel Nash says that clear visibility allows him to see smoke pour out of Manhattan, even though NORAD says he is 71 miles away. However, he says he can't recall actually being told of the Flight 11 hit. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] He isn't told about the danger of Flight 175 until after it too has crashed and he is 60 miles away. [ABC, 9/14/02] And instead of being ordered to New York City, the two F-15s are ordered to hover in a 150-mile chunk of air space off the coast of Long Island. Nash states,"Neither the civilian controller or the military controller knew what they wanted us to do." But then a few minutes later, they receive orders to head to Manhattan for combat air patrol, and they do that for the next four hours. At no point are these pilots given permission to shoot down any airliners. Nash points out that even if he had reached New York City before Flight 175, he couldn't have shot it down because only the President could make that decision and he was indisposed at a public event. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] The pilot of the other fighter, Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy, says that after Flight 175 has crashed, "at that point they [say] the second aircraft just hit the World Trade Center. That was news to me. I thought we were still chasing American 11." [ABC News, 9/11/02] Why are the pilots not being told of their targets? Why are they being sent out into the ocean? Why is Bush reading a book about a goat when all this is happening?
(9:03 a.m.) According to Sarasota County Sheriff Bill Balkwill, just after Bush enters a Booker Elementary classroom, a Marine responsible for carrying Bush's phone walks up to Balkwill, who is standing in a nearby side room. While listening to someone talk to him in his earpiece, the Marine asks, "Can you get me to a television? We're not sure what's going on, but we need to see a television." Three Secret Service agents, a SWAT member, the Marine and Balkwill turn on the television in a nearby front office just as Flight 175 crashes into the WTC. "We're out of here," the Marine tells Balkwill. "Can you get everyone ready?" [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/02] So apparently some of Bush's security want him to leave the school immediately - why does he stay until 9:34?
(9:03 - 9:06 a.m.) Bush enters Sandra Kay Daniels' second-grade class for a photo-op to promote Bush's education policies. [Daily Mail, 9/8/02] Numerous reporters who travel with the president, as well as members of the local media, watch from the back of the room. [AP, 8/19/02 (D)] Altogether there about 150 people in the room, 16 of them the children in the class. He is introduced to the children and poses for a number of staged pictures. The teacher then leads the students through some reading exercises (video footage shows this lasts about three minutes). [Salon, 9/12/01 (B)] Bush later claims that while he is doing this lesson, he is thinking what he will say about the WTC crash. "I was concentrating on the program at this point, thinking about what I was going to say. Obviously, I felt it was an accident. I was concerned about it, but there were no alarm bells." [Washington Times, 10/7/02] The children are just getting their books from under their seats to read a story together when Chief of Staff Andrew Card comes in to tell Bush of the second WTC crash (see (9:06 a.m.)). [Daily Mail, 9/8/02] [9:02, Washington Times, 10/8/02, 9:03, Telegraph, 12/16/01, 9:04, Daily Mail, 9/8/02, according to photographer Eric Draper, who is in the room] Note that Card comes in at the conclusion of the first half of the planned lesson, and "[seizes] a pause in the reading drill to walk up to Mr. Bush's seat." [Washington Times, 10/7/02, Washington Times, 10/8/02] Why doesn't Bush take this opportune moment to leave the room?
(9:03 - 9:08 a.m.) In a series of stages, flight control managers ban aircraft from flying near the cities used by the hijackers. First, takeoffs and landings in New York City are stopped within a minute of the Flight 175 crash, without asking for permission from Washington. Boston and Newark follow suit in the next few minutes. Around 9:08, departures nationwide heading to or through New York and Boston airspace are canceled. [AP, 8/12/02, Newsday, 9/10/02, AP, 8/19/02, USA Today, 8/13/02] Also "a few minutes" after the Flight 175 crash into the WTC at 9:03, all takeoffs from Washington are stopped. [USA Today, 8/12/02, USA Today, 8/13/02] Why is the emergency considered important enough to stop all takeoffs from Washington at this time, but not important enough to scramble even a single plane to defend Washington?
(After 9:03 a.m.) Controllers at the New York traffic center are briefed by their supervisors to watch for airplanes whose speed indicated that they are jets, but which either are not responding to commands or have disabled their transponders. "Controllers in Washington [get] a similar briefing, which [help] them pick out hijacked planes more quickly." [New York Times, 9/13/01 (F)]
(After 9:03 a.m.) Secret Service agents burst into Vice President Cheney's White House office. They carry him under his arms - nearly lifting him off the ground - and propel him down the steps into the White House basement and through a long tunnel toward an underground bunker. ["Just after 9:00," ABC, 9/14/02 (B), around 9:06 when Bush is being told of the second WTC hit, New York Times, 9/16/01 (B), same time Bush is being told, Telegraph, 12/16/01, shortly after Bush's speech at 9:30, CBS, 9/11/02, 9:32, Washington Post, 1/27/02] At about the same time, National Security Adviser Rice is told to go to the bunker as well. [ABC News, 9/11/02] Accounts of when this happens vary widely, from around 9:03 to 9:32. But since ABC News claims Cheney is in the bunker when he is told Flight 77 is 50 miles away from Washington, accounts of this taking place after 9:27 appear to be incorrect (see (9:27 a.m.)). The one eyewitness account, David Bohrer, a White House photographer, says it takes place just after 9:00. [ABC, 9/14/02 (B)] Why doesn't this happen to Bush at the same time? Are reports of this happening to Cheney later spin meant to make Bush remaining in public seem less strange?
(After 9:03 a.m.) Shortly after the second WTC crash, calls from fighter units start "pouring into NORAD and sector operations centers, asking, 'What can we do to help?' At Syracuse, New York, an ANG commander [tells Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) commander Robert] Marr, 'Give me 10 min. and I can give you hot guns. Give me 30 min. and I'll have heat-seeker [missiles]. Give me an hour and I can give you slammers [Amraams].'" Marr replies, "I want it all." [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] Supposedly, Marr says, "Get to the phones. Call every Air National Guard unit in the land. Prepare to put jets in the air. The nation is under attack." [Newhouse News, 1/25/02] Canadian Major General Eric Findley, based in Colorado and in charge of NORAD that day, supposedly has his staff immediately order as many fighters in the air as possible. [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/02] Yet another account says those calls don't take place until about an hour later: "By 10:01 a.m., the command center began calling several bases across the country for help." In fact, it appears the first fighters don't take off from Syracuse until 10:44. This is over an hour and a half after Syracuse's initial offer to help, and not long after a general ban on all flights, including military ones, is lifted (see (9:26 a.m.) and (10:31 a.m.)). These are apparently the first fighters scrambled from the ground aside from three at Langley, two at Otis, an unknown number of fighters from Andrews near Washington, and two fighters that take off from Toledo at 10:16. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/01] What happened to all these volunteer fighters? Armed fighters could be in the air from Syracuse by 9:20 a.m. or so, yet supposedly, when NORAD needs fighters to go after Flight 93 at least 20 minutes after that, the only ones they send are two completely unarmed fighters on a training mission near Detroit! [ABC News, 8/30/02] The only likely explanation is that these fighters are prohibited from taking off. Aircraft cannon (the "hot guns" mentioned) would have been all that was needed in such a situation, since any fighter would presumably follow procedure and intercept visually first, tip their wings from a very short distance away, fire a warning shot, and so on, before firing on the plane.
(After 9:03 a.m.) Brigadier General Montague Winfield, commander of the NMCC, the Pentagon's emergency response center, later says, "When the second aircraft flew into the second tower, it was at that point that we realized that the seemingly unrelated hijackings that the FAA was dealing with were in fact a part of a coordinated terrorist attack on the United States." [ABC, 9/14/02] It is plausible that three planes have been hijacked and one has crashed into the WTC, and the military still thinks its all coincidence?
(After 9:03 a.m.) A few minutes after 9:03 a.m., the Secret Service calls Andrews Air Force Base, located 10 miles from Washington. They are notified to get F-16s armed and ready to fly. Missiles are still being loaded onto the F-16s when the Pentagon is hit over half an hour later. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/02] The problem with this account is that prior to 9/11, the District of Columbia Air National Guard (located at Andrews) had a publicly stated mission "to provide combat units in the highest possible state of readiness." Shortly after 9/11 this mission statement on its website is changed, so it merely has a "vision" to "provide peacetime command and control and administrative mission oversight to support customers, DCANG units, and NGB in achieving the highest levels of readiness." [DCANG Home Page (before and after the change)] Either Andrews fails in its stated mission, or fighters are not ordered to scramble so early.
(9:05 a.m.) West Virginia flight control notices a new eastbound plane entering its radar with no radio contact and no transponder identification. They are not sure it is Flight 77. Supposedly they wait another 19 minutes before notifying NORAD about it. ["About 9:05", Newsday, 9/23/01]
9:06 a.m. All air traffic facilities nationwide are notified that the Flight 11 crash into the WTC was probably a hijacking. [House Committee, 9/21/01, Newsday, 9/23/01]
(9:06 a.m.) Bush is in a Booker Elementary School second-grader classroom. His chief of staff, Andrew Card, enters the room and whispers into his ear, "A second plane hit the other tower, and America's under attack." [New York Times, 9/16/01 (B)] [9:05, New York Times, 9/16/01 (B), 9:05, Telegraph, 12/16/01, 9:05, Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/02, 9:07, Washington Times, 10/8/02, ABC News reporter Ann Compton, who is in the room, says she is struck "So much so that I [write] it down in my reporter's notebook, by my watch, 9:07 a.m.," ABC News, 9/11/02] Intelligence expert James Bamford describes Bush's reaction: "Immediately [after Card speaks to Bush] an expression of befuddlement passe[s] across the President's face. Then, having just been told that the country was under attack, the Commander in Chief appear[s] uninterested in further details. He never ask[s] if there had been any additional threats, where the attacks were coming from, how to best protect the country from further attacks.... Instead, in the middle of a modern-day Pearl Harbor, he simply turn[s] back to the matter at hand: the day's photo op." [Body of Secrets, James Bamford, 4/02 edition, p. 633] Bush continues listening to the goat story. Then, in an event noticeable in its absence, as one newspaper put it, "For some reason, Secret Service agents [do] not bustle him away." [Globe and Mail, 9/12/01] Bush later says of the experience, "I am very aware of the cameras. I'm trying to absorb that knowledge. I have nobody to talk to. I'm sitting in the midst of a classroom with little kids, listening to a children's story and I realize I'm the Commander in Chief and the country has just come under attack." [Telegraph, 12/16/01] Bush continues to listen to the goat story for about ten more minutes (see (9:06 - 9:16 a.m.)). The reason given is that, "Without all the facts at hand, George Bush ha[s] no intention of upsetting the schoolchildren who had come to read for him." [MSNBC, 10/29/02] Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport is only three and a half miles away, and in fact the elementary school was chosen as the location for a photo op partly because of its closeness to the airport. [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/12/02] Why doesn't the Secret Service move Bush away from his known location?
(9:06 - 9:16 a.m.) Bush, having just been told of the second WTC crash (see (9:06 a.m.)), does not leave the Sarasota, Florida, classroom he entered around 9:03. Rather, he stays and listens as 16 Booker Elementary School second-graders take turns reading a story called Pet Goat, about a girl's pet goat. [AFP, 9/7/02] They are just about to begin reading when Bush is warned of the attack. One account says that the classroom is then silent for about 30 seconds, maybe more. Bush then picks up the book and reads with the children "for eight or nine minutes." [Tampa Tribune, 9/1/02] In unison, the children read out loud, "The - Pet - Goat. A - girl - got - a - pet - goat. But - the - goat - did - some - things - that - made - the - girl's - dad - mad." And so on. Bush mostly listens, but does ask the children a few questions to encourage them. [Washington Times, 10/7/02] At one point he says, "Really good readers, whew! ... These must be sixth-graders!" [Time, 9/12/01] In the back of the room, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer catches Bush's eye and holds up a pad of paper for him to read, with "DON'T SAY ANYTHING YET" written on it in big block letters. [Washington Times, 10/7/02] Otherwise, Bush is completely cut off from outside developments. CNN reported in 1999, "Only the president has the authority to order a civilian aircraft shot down." [CNN, 10/26/99] The pilot of one of the planes flying to catch Flight 175 notes that it wouldn't have mattered if he caught up with it, because only Bush could order a shootdown, and Bush is at a public event at the time. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] If that fighter had caught up to Flight 175, or if a fighter had a chance to shoot down Flight 77, would many have needlessly died because Bush didn't leave this classroom? (Note that three articles claim that Bush leaves the classroom at 9:12 [New York Times, 9/16/01 (B), Telegraph, 12/16/01, Daily Mail, 9/8/02], but the video of Bush in the room lasts longer than that. That video also has edits and ends before Bush leaves. The above time is a rough guess based mostly on the Tampa Tribune estimate).
9:09 a.m. Supposedly, NORAD orders F-16s at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, on battle stations alert. Yet the order to scramble won't come till 9:27 or so, and they won't take off until 9:30. Around this time, the FAA command center reports 11 aircraft either not in communication with FAA facilities, or flying unexpected routes. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] So why aren't planes scrambled immediately, at 9:09 or even before, to find out what's going on? One of the pilots who actually takes off from Langley later says the battle stations alert isn't sounded until 9:24. [Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 64-65]
9:15 a.m. American
Airlines orders no new takeoffs in the US; United Airlines follows suit five
minutes later. [Wall Street Journal,
9:16 a.m. The FAA
informs NORAD that Flight 93 may have been hijacked. No fighters are scrambled
in specific response, now or later (there is the possibility some fighters sent
after Flight 77 later head toward Flight 93). Although this is what CNN is told
by NORAD, its not clear why NORAD claims the flight is hijacked at this time
(and NORAD's own timeline inexplicably fails to say when the FAA told them about
the hijack, the only flight for which they fail to provide this data). [CNN,
9/17/01, NORAD, 9/18/01] However,
there may be one explanation: Fox News later reports, "Investigators believe
that on at least one flight, one of the hijackers was already inside the cockpit
before takeoff." 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, 9/24/01] Note that all
witnesses on the plane later report seeing only three hijackers, not four.
So perhaps one hijacker tenuously held control
of the cockpit as the original pilots still flew it, while waiting for reinforcements?
Could this have happened before 9:00, when
Flight 93 got a warning to beware of cockpit intrusions (see (After
9:00 a.m.))? F-16 fighters from
the far-off Langley Air Force Base could reach Washington in seven minutes if
they travel at 1100 mph, the speed NORAD commander Larry Arnold says fighters
traveled to reach New York City earlier in the day.
Note that the crash of Flight 77 is still 22
minutes away, so fighters scrambled to protect Washington from Flight 93 would
protect it from Flight 77 as well, but none are sent at this time.
9:17 a.m. The FAA shuts down all New York City area airports. [CNN, 9/12/01, New York Times, 9/12/01]
(9:16 a.m.) Bush
leaves the Sarasota classroom where he has been since about 9:03. The children
finish their lessons and put away their readers. [Sarasota
Magazine, 9/19/01] Bush advises the children to stay in school and be good
citizens. [Tampa Tribune, 9/1/02,
Petersburg Times, 9/8/02 (B)] He also tells
the children, "Thank you all so very much for showing me your reading skills."
[ABC News, 9/11/02] One student also
asks Bush a question, and Bush gives a quick response on his education policy.
[New York Post, 9/12/02]
A reporter asks, "Mr. President, are you aware of the reports of the plane
crash in New York? Is there any..." This question is interrupted by an
aide who has come into the room, saying, "All right. Thank you. If everyone
could please step outside." Bush then says, "We'll talk about it later."
[CBS, 9/11/02 (B)] Bush then tells school
principal Gwen Tose-Rigell, who is in the room, about the terror attacks and
why he has to leave. [Washington
Times, 10/7/02] He then goes into an empty classroom next door and meets
with his staff there. [ABC News, 9/11/02]
Bush's program with the children was supposed to start at 9:00 and end 20 minutes
later. [Sarasota Herald-Tribune,
9/16/01] So he leaves the classroom only a couple of minutes earlier
than planned, if at all (as the goodbyes and questions on the way out may have
taken another minute or two).
(Between 9:16 - 9:29 a.m.) Bush works with his staff to prepare a speech he will deliver at 9:29. He intermittently watches the television coverage in the room. [Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/02] He also speaks on the phone to advisors, first calling National Security Advisor Rice, then Vice President Cheney, then New York Governor George Pataki. [Daily Mail, 9/8/02] This would have been a good time to discuss if hijacked planes should be shot down or not, but apparently that conversation doesn't happen until after 9:55.
9:21 a.m. The New York City Port Authority closes all bridges and tunnels in New York City. [MSNBC, 9/22/01, CNN, 9/12/01, New York Times, 9/12/01, AP, 8/19/02]
9:24 a.m. The FAA notifies NORAD that Flight 77 "may" have been hijacked and appears to be headed toward Washington. [9:24, NORAD, 9/18/01, 9:24, AP, 8/19/02, 9:25, CNN, 9/17/01, 9:25, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 9:25, Guardian, 10/17/01] This notification is 34 MINUTES after flight control lost contact with the plane and well after two planes have crashed, and even then the FAA only says "may"? Is such a long delay believable, or has that information been doctored to cover the lack of any scrambling of fighters? CNN notes that "after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) warned the military's air defense command that a hijacked airliner appeared to be headed toward Washington, the federal government failed to make any move to evacuate the White House, Capitol, State Department or the Pentagon." [CNN, 9/16/01] A Pentagon spokesman says, "The Pentagon was simply not aware that this aircraft was coming our way." Even Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and his top aides in the Pentagon remain unaware of any danger up to the moment of impact 14 minutes later. [Newsday, 9/23/01] Most senators and congresspeople are in the Capitol building, which is not evacuated until 9:48 (see 9:48 a.m.). Only Vice President Cheney, National Security Advisor Rice and possibly a few others, are evacuated to safety a few minutes after 9:03 (see (After 9:03 a.m.)). Yet, since at least the Flight 11 crash, "military officials in a command center [the National Military Command Center] on the east side of the [Pentagon] [are] urgently talking to law enforcement and air traffic control officials about what to do." [New York Times, 9/15/01] Is it believable that everyone in the Pentagon outside of that command center, even the Secretary of Defense, would remain uninformed?
9:24 a.m. A fighter pilot codenamed Honey who flew one of the F-16s from Langley offers a different story than the official one. He claims that at this time a battle stations alert sounds, and two other pilots are given the order to climb into their F-16s and await further instructions. Then, Honey, who is the supervisor, goes and talks to the two other pilots. Then, "five or ten minutes later," a person from NORAD calls, and Honey speaks to him at the nearby administrative office. He is told that all three of them are ordered to scramble. Honey goes to his living quarters, grabs his flight gear, puts it on, runs to his plane, and takes off. It's hard to know exactly how long all of this takes, but clearly his recollection doesn't jibe with the official timeline, that NORAD orders the fighters scrambled at 9:27 and they take off at 9:30. [Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 64-65] Is NORAD fudging the numbers to hide its inexplicable behavior?
(9:25 a.m.) A passenger on Flight 77, Barbara Olson, calls her husband, Theodore (Ted) Olson, who is Solicitor General at the Justice Department. Ted Olson is in his Justice Department office watching WTC news on television when his wife calls. A few days later, he says, "She told me that she had been herded to the back of the plane. She mentioned that they had used knives and box cutters to hijack the plane. She mentioned that the pilot had announced that the plane had been hijacked." [CNN, 9/14/01 (C)] He tells her that two planes have hit the WTC. [Telegraph, 3/5/02] She feels nobody is taking charge. [CNN, 9/12/01] He doesn't know if she was near the pilots, but at one point she asks, "What shall I tell the pilot? What can I tell the pilot to do?" [CNN, 9/14/01 (C)] Then she gets cut off without warning. [Newsweek, 9/29/01] Ted Olson' recollection of the call's timing is extremely vague, saying it "must have been 9:15 or 9:30. Someone would have to reconstruct the time for me." [CNN, 9/14/01 (C)] Other accounts place it around 9:25. [About 9:25, Miami Herald, 9/14/01, about 9:25, New York Times, 9/15/01 (C), "by 9:25," Washington Post, 9/21/01] The call is said to have lasted about a minute. [Washington Post, 9/12/01 (B)] By some accounts, his warning of that planes have hit the WTC comes later in a second phone call (see (After 9:30 a.m.)). [Washington Post, 9/21/01] In one account, Barbara Olson calls from inside a bathroom. [Evening Standard, 9/12/01] In another account, she is near a pilot, and in yet another she is near two pilots. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01] Ted Olson's account of how the call is made is also strange and conflicting. Three days after 9/11, he says, "I found out later that she was having, for some reason, to call collect and was having trouble getting through. You know how it is to get through to a government institution when you're calling collect." He says he doesn't know what kind of phone she used, but he has "assumed that it must have been on the airplane phone, and that she somehow didn't have access to her credit cards. Otherwise, she would have used her cell phone and called me." [Fox News, 9/14/01] But in another interview on the same day, he says that she used a cell phone and that she may have gotten cut off "because the signals from cell phones coming from airplanes don't work that well." [CNN, 9/14/01 (C)] Six months later, he claims she called collect "using the phone in the passengers' seats." [Telegraph, 3/5/02] But it isn't possible to call on seatback phones without a credit card, which would render making a collect call moot. Many other details are conflicting, and Olson faults his memory and says that he "tends to mix the two [calls] up because of the emotion of the events." [CNN, 9/14/01 (C)] The couple liked to joke that they were at the heart of what Hillary Clinton famously called a "vast, right-wing conspiracy." Ted Olson was a controversial choice as Solicitor General, since he argued on behalf of Bush before the Supreme Court in the 2000 presidential election controversy before being chosen. Barbara Olson was known for her extremely partisan attacks on President Clinton. For instance, a few weeks before 9/11 she had called Clinton's mother a "barfly" who let herself be used by men. [Telegraph, 3/5/02] Some have questioned if Ted Olson can be trusted in his account of the call, since he has stated that lying to the public is justifiable. [Sydney Morning Herald, 3/20/02] Between his memory and his approval of lying for partisan ends, can Ted Olson's account be trusted? This is the only call from Flight 77, and the only call to mention box cutters.
(After 9:25 a.m.) Theodore (Ted) Olson, the Justice Department's Solicitor General, calls the Justice Department's control center to tell about his wife's call from Flight 77 (see (9:25 a.m.)). Accounts vary whether the Justice Department already knows of the hijack or not. [Washington Post, 9/12/01 (B), Channel 4 News, 9/13/01, New York Times, 9/15/01 (C)] Olson merely says, "They just absorbed the information. And they promised to send someone down right away." He assumes they then "pass the information on to the appropriate people." [Fox News, 9/14/01]
(9:25 a.m.) The Flight 93 pilots check in with Cleveland flight control, uttering "good morning." [Newsweek, 11/25/01]
(9:26 a.m.) Jane Garvey, head of the FAA, "almost certainly after getting an okay from the White House, initiate[s] a national ground stop, which forbids takeoffs and requires planes in the air to get down as soon as reasonable. The order, which has never been implemented since flying was invented in 1903, applie[s] to virtually every single kind of machine that can takeoff civilian, military, or law enforcement." Military and law enforcement flights are allowed to resume at 10:31 a.m. A limited number of military flights - the FAA won't reveal details - are allowed to fly during this ban. [Time, 9/14/01] Garvey later calls it "a national ground stop ... that prevented any aircraft from taking off." [House Committee, 9/21/01] Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta also later says, "As soon as I was aware of the nature and scale of the attack, I called from the White House to order the air traffic system to land all aircraft, immediately and without exception." [State Department, 9/20/01] 4,452 planes are flying in the continental US at the time. A later account says Ben Sliney, the FAA's National Operations Manager, makes the decision without consulting his superiors, like Jane Garvey, first. It would be remarkable if Sliney was the one to make the decision, because 9/11 is Sliney's first day on the job as National Operations Manager, "the chess master of the air traffic system." [USA Today, 8/13/02] When he had accepted the job a couple of months earlier, he had asked, "What is the limit of my authority?" The man who had promoted him replied, "Unlimited." [USA Today, 8/13/02 (B)] About 500 planes land in the next 20 minutes, and then much more urgent orders to land are issued at 9:45 a.m. [USA Today, 8/13/02] [9:25, Time, 9/14/01, 9:25, USA Today, 8/13/02, 9:26, House Committee, 9/21/01, 9:26, Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02, 9:26, Newsday, 9/23/01, 9:26, AP, 8/19/02, 9:26, Newsday, 9/10/02] How could the military respond if military takeoffs are prohibited?
(Before 9:27 a.m.) On Flight 93, at least three of the hijackers stand up and put red bandanas around their heads. Two of them force their way into the cockpit. One takes the loudspeaker microphone, apparently unaware it could also be heard by flight controllers, and announces that someone has a bomb onboard and the flight is returning to the airport. He tells them he is the pilot, but speaks with an accent. ["The best estimation is about 40 minutes into the flight" (9:22), Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/29/01, "about 40 minutes into its flight," Boston Globe, 11/23/01, "about 9:28," Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 208]
(9:27 a.m.) Vice President Cheney and National Security Advisor Rice, in their bunker below the White House, are told by an aide that an airplane is 50 miles outside Washington and headed toward it. The plane is Flight 77. Federal Aviation Deputy Chief Monty Belger says, "Well we're watching this target on the radar, but the transponder's been turned off. So we, have no identification." They are given further notices when the plane is 30 miles away, then 10 miles away, until it disappears from radar (time unknown, but the plane is said to be traveling about 500 mph and was 30 miles away at 9:30, so 50 miles would be about 3 minutes before that). [ABC News, 9/11/02] The Dulles tower flight controller who is said to first spot Flight 77's appearance near Washington, Danielle O'Brien, previously claims she doesn't find its radar blip until it is around 12 and 14 miles from Washington, and that Cheney is notified only after that. [ABC, 10/24/01, ABC, 10/24/01 (B)] O'Brien's account does not jibe with the fact that the FAA warned that the plane was headed toward Washington at 9:24 (see 9:24 a.m.).
(9:27 a.m.) NORAD orders three F-16 fighters scrambled from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia to intercept Flight 77. Langley is 129 miles from Washington. Ready aircraft at Andrews Air Force Base, 15 miles away, are not scrambled. [Newsday, 9/23/01] [9:24, NORAD, 9/18/01, 9:27, CNN, 9/17/01, 9:25, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 9:35, CNN, 9/17/01, 9:35, Washington Post, 9/15/01] One of the three pilots, Major Dean Eckmann, later says he is told before scrambling that the WTC has been hit by a plane. [AP, 8/19/02 (C)] Note that according to the official NORAD timeline, they ordered the F-16s scrambled the same minute they were told about the hijacking. A rare example of competence. But earlier, according to their own timeline, they waited six minutes before scrambling fighters after Flight 11. Why? Flight 77 had supposedly been missing from the radar screen since 8:56. Why wait 31 minutes to send a plane and find out where it is?
(9:27 a.m.) Tom Burnett calls his wife Deena and says, "I'm on United Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco. The plane has been hijacked. We are in the air. They've already knifed a guy. There is a bomb on board. Call the FBI." Deena connects to emergency 911. [9:27, "she scribbled down what Tom told her and noted the time," Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 107, ABC News, 9/12/01, "within minutes" of 9:28, MSNBC, 7/30/02, "She recalls it was around 6:20 a.m. -- 9:20 Eastern time," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01, "shortly after" Jeremy Glick's call, Toronto Sun, 9/16/01] His wife Deena wonders if the call might have been before the cockpit was taken over, because he spoke quickly and quietly as if he was being watched. He also had a headset like phone operators use, so he could have made the call unnoticed. Note that original versions of this conversation appear to have been censored. The most recent account has the phone call ending with, "We are in the air. The plane has been hijacked. They already knifed a guy. One of them has a gun. They're saying there is a bomb onboard. Please call the authorities." [Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 107] The major difference from earlier accounts, of course, is the mention of a gun. The call wasn't recorded, but Deena's call immediately afterwards to 911 was, and she states on that, "They just knifed a passenger and there are guns on the plane." [Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 108] This is the first of over 30 additional phone calls by passengers inside the plane. [MSNBC, 7/30/02]
(9:28 a.m.) On Flight 93, "there are the first audible signs of problems, in background cockpit noise." Flight controllers hear the sound of screaming and scuffling over an open mike. They then hear hijackers speaking in Arabic to each other. Yet this is at least 12 minutes after at least one hijacker has taken over the cockpit and done something to cause the FAA to notify NORAD of a hijacking. [9:28, Guardian, 10/17/01, after 9:25, Newsweek, 11/25/01]
(9:28 a.m.) On Flight 93, flight controllers hear someone say, "Get out of here," through an open microphone in the cockpit. The mike goes off and comes back on. Scuffling is heard in the background. Somebody again yells, "Get out of here!" Eventually there are a total of four murky radio transmissions, which include lots of non-English phrases, ''bomb on board" twice, ''our demands'' and ''keep quiet.'' ["probably around the time the plane was taken over," Boston Globe, 11/23/01, 9:28, MSNBC, 7/30/02, 9:30, Observer, 12/2/01, 9:32: "90 minutes into the flight," Toronto Sun, 9/16/01] Newsweek repeats possibly the same story, but suggests it happened at 9:58: "The last transmission from the cockpit records someone, probably a hijacker, screaming 'Get out of here. Get out of here.' Then grunting, screaming and scuffling. Then silence." [Newsweek, 9/22/01]
9:29 a.m. Still inside Booker Elementary School, Bush gives a brief speech in front of about 200 students, plus many teachers and reporters. [Daily Mail, 9/8/02] He says, "Today we've had a national tragedy. Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country" (see the text of the speech here [Federal News Service, 9/11/01]). The talk occurs at exactly the time and place stated in his publicly announced advance schedule - making Bush a possible terrorist target. [9:24, MSNBC, 9/22/01, 9:28, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 9:30, CNN, 9/12/01, 9:30, New York Times, 9/12/01, speech begins at 9:29:55 according to an ABC News timing device, advanced schedule 9:30 in Federal News Service, 9/10/01]
9:30 a.m. United begins landing all of its flights inside the US. American Airlines follows suit five minutes later. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/01] Note all planes nationwide have been ordered down already (see (9:26 a.m.)) but the urgency has not been specified - this apparently increases the urgency.
9:30 a.m. Radar tracks Flight 77 as it closes to within 30 miles of Washington. [CBS News, 9/21/01]
9:30 a.m. The three F-16s scrambled toward Flight 77 get airborne. [9:30, NORAD, 9/18/01, 9:30, ABC News, 9/11/02, 9:35, Washington Post, 9/12/01] The pilots' names are Major Brad Derrig, Captain Craig Borgstrom, and Major Dean Eckmann, all from the North Dakota Air National Guard's 119th Fighter Wing but stationed at Langley. [AP, 8/19/02 (C), ABC News, 9/11/02] If the NORAD departure time is correct, the F-16s would have to travel slightly over 700 mph to reach Washington before Flight 77 does. The maximum speed of an F-16 is 1500 mph. [AP, 6/16/00] Even at traveling 1300 mph, these planes could have reached Washington in six minutes - well before any claim of when Flight 77 crashed. Yet they obviously don't.
(9:30 a.m.) The FAA's emergency operations center gets up and running, five minutes after the FAA issued an order grounding all civilian, military, and law enforcement aircraft. [Time, 9/14/01]
(9:30 a.m.) Chris Stephenson, the flight controller in charge of the Washington airport tower, says that he is called by the Secret Service around this time. He is told an unidentified aircraft is speeding toward Washington. Stephenson looks at the radarscope and sees Flight 77 about five miles to the west. He looks out the tower window and sees the plane turning to the right and descending. He follows it until it disappears behind a building in nearby Crystal City, Virginia. [USA Today, 8/12/02] However, according to another account, just before 9:30 a.m., a controller in the same tower has an unidentified plane on radar, "heading toward Washington and without a transponder signal to identify it. It's flying fast, she says: almost 500 mph. And it's heading straight for the heart of the city. Could it be American Flight 77? The FAA warns the Secret Service." [USA Today, 8/13/02] So does the Secret Service warn the FAA, or vice versa?
(9:30 a.m.) Flight controllers mistakenly suspect that Delta Flight 1989, flying west over Pennsylvania, has been hijacked. The controllers briefly suspect the sound of hijackers' voices in Flight 93 is coming from this plane, only a few miles away. The flight "joins a growing list of suspicious jets. Some of their flight numbers will be scrawled on a white dry-erase board throughout the morning" at FAA headquarters. Miscommunications lead to further suspicion of Flight 1989 even after the source of the hijacker's message is confirmed to come from Flight 93. The flight lands in Cleveland at 10:10. Eventually, about 11 flights will be suspected, with four of them actually hijacked. [USA Today, 8/13/02 (B)]
(9:30 a.m.) The transponder signal from Flight 93 ceases and radar contact is lost. [9:30, MSNBC, 9/3/02, 9:40, CNN, 9/17/01] However, the plane can still be tracked, and is tracked at least at United headquarters until shortly before the final crash (the exact time is not mentioned). However, altitude can no longer be determined. The plane's speed begins to vary wildly, moving between 600 and 400 mph before eventually settling around 400 mph. [Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 77, 214]
(9:30 a.m.) The hijackers make an announcement to the passengers on Flight 77, telling them to phone their families as they are "all going to die". They also tell the passengers that they are going to hit the White House. ["When they took over the controls," Sunday Herald, 9/16/01, "around 9:30," Cox News, 10/21/01] Given this announcement, why are there no phone calls from this flight except for Barbara Olson's?
(After 9:30 a.m.)
About five minutes after Barbara Olson called her husband Ted Olson, the Justice
Department's Solicitor General, she calls again (note the timing of both calls
is extremely vague.) [About 9:30, five minutes after first call, Miami
Herald, 9/14/01] A few days later, Ted Olson describes the conversation:
"She said the plane had been high hijacked shortly after takeoff and they
had been circling around, I think were the words she used. She reported to me
that she could see houses. I asked her which direction the plane was going.
She paused -- there was a pause there. I think she must have asked someone else.
She said I think it's going northeast.... She told me that [the hijackers] did
not know she was making this phone call." [CNN,
9/14/01 (C)] She doesn't mention the nationality, number, or other details
of the hijackers. Then the phone goes dead, he doesn't know why. [CNN,
9/14/01 (C), Washington
Post, 9/12/01 (B)] He also says that she said, "The pilot had announced
that the plane had been hijacked. She said it had been hijacked shortly after
takeoff." [Fox News, 9/14/01]
Her last words before she was cut off were, "What do I tell the pilots
to do?" [BBC,
9/13/01] She had asked this already in her first phone call. [Washington
Post, 9/12/01 (B)] Then the phone goes dead supposedly "moments before"
the plane crashes [Newsweek,
9/29/01], but actually Ted Olson's timing recall is so vague that it isn't
clear if this is when the call happens, and he says he doesn't know why the
call ends (see [CNN, 9/14/01 (C)]). The
call is originally said to last about a minute [Washington
Post, 9/12/01 (B)], but Olson later says it could have lasted up to four
minutes. [CNN, 9/14/01 (C)] Note that
there is some reason to doubt the contents of this call, since the only source
appears to be Ted Olson, who has given vague and contradictory accounts, and
has stated a willingness to lie to the public (see (9:25
(After 9:31 a.m.) A few minutes after 9:31, a hijacker on board Flight 93 can be heard on the cockpit voice recording ordering a woman to sit down. A woman, presumably a flight attendant, implores, "Don't, don't." She pleads, "Please, I don't want to die." Patrick Welsh, the husband of flight attendant Debbie Welsh, is later told that a flight attendant was stabbed early in the takeover, and it is strongly implied it was his wife. She was a first-class attendant, and he says, "knowing Debby," she would have resisted. [Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 207]
9:32 a.m. The New York Stock Exchange closes. [MSNBC, 9/22/01]
9:33 a.m. According to the New York Times, Flight 77 becomes lost at 8:56 when it turns off its transponder, and stays lost until now. Washington flight controllers see a fast moving blip on their radar at this time and send a warning to Dulles Airport in Washington. [New York Times, 10/16/01] However, at 9:24 the FAA notifies NORAD Flight 77 is headed toward Washington (see 9:24 a.m.), and Vice President Cheney is told around 9:27 that radar is tracking Flight 77 heading toward Washington (see (9:27 a.m.)). Is it conceivable that an airplane could be lost inside US air space for 37 minutes?
(9:33 - 9:38 a.m.) Radar data shows Flight 77 crossing the Capitol Beltway and headed toward the Pentagon. But the plane, flying more than 400 mph, is too high when it nears the Pentagon at 9:35, crossing the Pentagon at about 7,000 feet up. [CBS News, 9/21/01, Boston Globe, 11/23/01] The plane then makes a difficult high-speed descending turn. It makes a "downward spiral, turning almost a complete circle and dropping the last 7,000 feet in two-and-a-half minutes. The steep turn is so smooth, the sources say, it's clear there [is] no fight for control going on." [CBS News, 9/21/01] It gets very 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, 9/21/01] The Telegraph later writes, "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." [Telegraph, 9/16/01]White House spokesman Ari Fleischer suggests 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, 9/21/01]If Flight 77 passed within a few miles of the White House, why couldn't it have been shot down by the weapons on the White House?
(9:34 a.m.) Bush's motorcade leaves Booker Elementary School and heads toward Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. [9:34, Washington Times, 10/8/02, 9:35, Telegraph, 12/16/01] A few days after 9/11, Sarasota's main newspaper reports, "Sarasota barely skirted its own disaster. As it turns out, terrorists targeted the president and Air Force One on Tuesday, maybe even while they were on the ground in Sarasota and certainly not long after. The Secret Service learned of the threat just minutes after Bush left Booker Elementary." [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/16/01] A year later, Chief of Staff Andrew Card says, "As we were heading to Air Force One, we did hear about the Pentagon attack, and we also learned, what turned out to be a mistake, but we learned that the Air Force One package could in fact be a target." [MSNBC, 9/9/02] Real threat or not, this only increases the strangeness that Bush wasn't immediately evacuated as some of his security recommended at 9:03. And why would Bush take off in Air Force One without fighter escort if a threat to Air Force One was just discovered?
(9:34 a.m.) A hijacker says over the radio to Flight 93's passengers: "Ladies and gentlemen, here it's the captain, please sit down. Keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb aboard." Apparently Cleveland flight controllers can understand about a minute of screams, then a voice saying something about a "bomb on board." A hijacker says in broken English that they are returning to the airport. [9:32, MSNBC, 9/3/02, 9:34, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01, 9:35, Newsweek, 9/22/01]
9:34 a.m. Tom Burnett calls his wife Deena a second
time. He says, "They're in the cockpit." He has checked the pulse
of the man who was knifed (later identified as Mark Rothenberg, sitting next
to him in seat 5B) and determined he is dead. She tells him about the hits on
the WTC. He responds, "Oh my God, it's a suicide mission." As they
continue to talk, he tells her the plane has turned back. By this time, Deena
is in constant communication with the FBI and others, and a policeman is at
her house. ["Again, Deena noted the time," Among the Heroes,
by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 110]
9:35 a.m. Flight 93 climbs without authorization. [Guardian, 10/17/01, USA Today, 8/13/02]
(9:36 a.m.) Flight 93 files a new flight plan with a final destination of Washington, reverses course and heads toward Washington. [9:35, "turned around near Cleveland," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01, "turns off course," 9:36:01, Guardian, 10/17/01, 9:36, MSNBC, 9/3/02, 9:36, "made an ominous turn," Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 219] Radar shows the plane turning 180 degrees. [CNN, 9/13/01] The new flight plan schedules the plane to arrive in Washington at 10:28. [Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 78]
9.36 a.m. The national airport instructs a military C-130 (Golfer 06) that has just departed Andrews Air Force Base to intercept Flight 77 and identify it. [Guardian, 10/17/01, New York Times, 10/16/01] Remarkably, this C-130 is the same C-130 that is 17 miles from Flight 93 when it later crashes into the Pennsylvania countryside. [Minneapolis Star Tribune, 9/11/02, Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/01] The pilot, Lt. Col. Steve O'Brien, claims he took off around 9:30, planning to return to Minnesota after dropping supplies off in the Caribbean. He later describes his close encounter: "When air traffic control asked me if we had him [Flight 77] in sight, I told him that was an understatement - by then, he had pretty much filled our windscreen. Then he made a pretty aggressive turn so he was moving right in front of us, a mile and a half, two miles away. I said we had him in sight, then the controller asked me what kind of plane it was. That caught us up, because normally they have all that information. The controller didn't seem to know anything." O'Brien reports that the plane is either a 757 or 767 and its silver fuselage means it is probably an American Airlines plane. "They told us to turn and follow that aircraft - in 20-plus years of flying, I've never been asked to do something like that." [Minneapolis Star Tribune, 9/11/02]
(9:37 a.m.) The blip representing Flight 77 that radar technicians have been watching on their screens disappears. Its last known position is six miles from the Pentagon and four miles from the White House. [CBS News, 9/21/01, Newhouse News, 1/25/02, ABC News, 9/11/02, USA Today, 8/13/02] Supposedly, just before radar contact is lost, FAA headquarters is told, "The aircraft is circling. It's turning away from the White House." The plane is said to be traveling 500 mph, or a mile every seven seconds. [USA Today, 8/13/02]
(9:37 a.m.) Jeremy Glick calls his wife Lyz from Flight 93. He describes the hijackers as Middle Eastern, Iranian looking. They put on red headbands and the three of them stood up and yelled and ran into the cockpit. He was sitting in the front of the coach section, but was sent to the back with most of the passengers. They claimed to have a bomb, which looked like a box with something red around it. He says the plane has turned around. Family members immediately call emergency 911 on another line. New York state police get patched in midway through the call. Glick finds out about the WTC towers. Two others onboard also learn about the WTC at about this time. Glick's phone remains connected until the very end of the flight. [9:37, Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 143, MSNBC, 7/30/02, "just before 9:30," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01, no time explanation, Toronto Sun, 9/16/01]
(9:38 a.m.) Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld is in the Pentagon meeting with Representative Cox (R), and is apparently completely oblivious of the approaching Flight 77. As he watches TV coverage of the WTC, he says, "Believe me, this isn't over yet. There's going to be another attack, and it could be us." Supposedly, "moments later, the plane hit." [Telegraph, 12/16/01] Rumsfeld is apparently psychic, because two minutes before the first WTC crash and supposedly completely ignorant of the hijackings, he predicted a terrorist attack upon the US (see 8:44 a.m.). Rumsfeld's office is on the fourth floor of the Pentagon, relatively near the impact. He later says that just after the explosion, "I went downstairs and went outside. And around the corner and of course, there it was." He claims he immediately began helping the wounded: "There was a, a young woman bleeding, sitting on the ground, and I think she said to me, she didn't know who I was, she said, she could see people holding, drips going into people, IV of some kind, and she said, something to the effect, if people would, if someone could bring that person over, I could hold it." [ABC News, 9/11/02] He helps load the wounded into ambulances until 10:30 (see 10:30 a.m.). [Minneapolis Star Tribune, 9/12/01]
(9:38 a.m.) As fireman Alan Wallace is walking in front of the Pentagon, he looks up and sees Flight 77 coming straight at him. It is about 25 feet off the ground, no landing wheels visible, a few hundred yards away, and closing fast. He runs about 30 feet and dives under a nearby van. ["About 9:40," Washington Post, 9/21/01] The plane is traveling at about 460 mph, and flying so low that it clips the tops of street lights. [CBS News, 9/21/01]
9:38 a.m. Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon. Approximately 125 on the ground are later determined killed or missing. [9:37, NORAD, 9/18/01, 9:37, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 9:38, CNN, 9/17/01, 9:38, Guardian, 10/17/01, 9:38, USA Today, 8/13/02, 9:38, ABC News, 9/11/02, 9:38, CBS, 9/11/02 (B), 9:39, Washington Post, 1/27/02, 9:40, AP, 8/19/02, 9:43, CNN, 9/12/01, 9:43, MSNBC, 9/22/01, 9:43, MSNBC, 9/3/02, 9:43, New York Times, 9/12/01, 9:45, Boston Globe, 11/23/01, At 9:39:02 on NBC News, reporter Jim Miklaszewski states that, "Moments ago, I felt an explosion here at the Pentagon," Television Archive, WDCN 9:30] Flight 77 strikes the only portion of the Pentagon that had been recently renovated. "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 - 2 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, 9/16/01]
9:38 a.m. NORAD states the fighters scrambled
after Flight 77 took off from Langley at 9:30, 129 miles away, yet when Flight
77 crashes they are still 105 miles away. [Newsday,
9/23/01, NORAD, 9/18/01] If so,
that means they must have flown north 24 miles in 8 minutes - an average of
about 180 mph! The F-16 pilot codenamed Honey later offers a different explanation
of where the F-16s are at 9:38. He says they are flying toward New York, when
they see a black column of smoke coming from Washington, about 30 or 40 miles
to the west. He is then asked over the radio by the North East Air Defense Sector
of NORAD if he can confirm the Pentagon is burning. He confirms it. The F-16s
are then ordered to set up a defensive perimeter above Washington. [Among
the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 76] One of the three pilots, Major
Brad Derrig later claims their target destination all along is Reagan National
Airport, in Washington near the Pentagon. [ABC
News, 9/11/02] Another pilot, Major Dean Eckmann, also later claims their
destination all along was Washington. [AP,
8/13/02 (C)] That means either that Honey is the third pilot, Captain
Craig Borgstrom, or one of the other two have an inconsistent account. NORAD
officer Major James Fox says he dispatches the jets without targets. "That
would come later." [Newhouse
News, 1/25/02] But when and where is not clarified. If Honey's account
is true, it shows that the F-16s would have been over Washington in time to
shoot down Flight 77 if they had been given orders to fly directly to Washington,
and not to New York, which was already defended by two F-15s! (Additionally,
subtract 8-10 miles (Sidewinder missile) or 12-20 miles (Sparrow missile) from
the flight distance required for the fighters. [Slate,
1/16/02]) If Honey's account is true, it also would explain eyewitness
claims of fighters over Washington only a couple of minutes after the Pentagon
explosion, not at 9:56 when they supposedly arrive.
A C-130 transport plane that has been sent to follow Flight 77 flies a short
distance from Flight 77 as it crashes. This curious C-130 is the same C-130
that is 17 miles from Flight 93 when it later crashes into the Pennsylvania
Star Tribune, 9/11/02, Pittsburgh
Channel, 9/15/01] A number of people see this plane fly remarkably close
to Flight 77:
1) Kelly Knowles says that seconds after seeing Flight 77 pass, she sees a "second plane that seemed to be chasing the first [pass] over at a slightly different angle." [Daily Press, 9/15/01]
2) Keith Wheelhouse says the second plane was a C-130, two others aren't certain. [Daily Press, 9/15/01] Wheelhouse "believes it flew directly above the American Airlines jet, as if to prevent two planes from appearing on radar while at the same time guiding the jet toward the Pentagon." As Flight 77 descends toward the Pentagon, the second plane veers off west. [Daily Press, 9/14/01]
3) USA Today reporter Vin Narayanan, who saw the Pentagon explosion, says, "I hopped out of my car after the jet exploded, nearly oblivious to a second jet hovering in the skies." [USA Today, 9/17/01]
4) USA Today Editor Joel Sucherman sees a second plane. [eWeek, 9/13/01]
5) Brian Kennedy, press secretary for a congressman, and others also see a second plane. [Sacramento Bee, 9/15/01]
6) An unnamed worker at Arlington national cemetery "said a mysterious second plane was circling the area when the first one attacked the Pentagon." [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/20/01]
7) John O'Keefe is driving a car when he sees the Pentagon crash. "The first thing I did was pull over onto the shoulder, and when I got out of the car I saw another plane flying over my head.... Then the plane -- it looked like a C-130 cargo plane -- started turning away from the Pentagon, it did a complete turnaround." [New York Law Journal, 9/12/01]
The pilot of the C-130, Lt. Col. Steve O'Brien, is later interviewed, but his account differs from the on-the-ground eyewitnesses. He claims that just before the explosion, "With all of the East Coast haze, I had a hard time picking him out," implying he is not nearby. He also says that just after the explosion, "I could see the outline of the Pentagon," again implying he is not nearby. He then asks "the controller whether [I] should set up a low orbit around the building," but he is told "to get out of the area as quickly as possible. 'I took the plane once through the plume of smoke and thought if this was a terrorist attack, it probably wasn't a good idea to be flying through that plume.'" [Minneapolis Star Tribune, 9/11/02] Why does this C-130 get so close to Flight 77?
(After 9:38 a.m.) A few minutes after Flight 77 crashes, the Secret Service commands fighters from Andrews Air Force Base, 10 miles from Washington, to "Get in the air now!" [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/02] Why weren't these fighters ordered into the air earlier - Vice President has been aware that a plane was headed towards Washington for at least ten minutes before the crash (see (9:27 a.m.)) so presumably the Secret Service would have been aware as well. Andrews planes were told to be prepared to scramble a few minutes after 9:03 (see (After 9:03 a.m.)), so they could have made the 10 mile distance to the Pentagon very quickly. Almost simultaneously, a call from someone else in the White House declares the Washington area "a free-fire zone." Says one pilot, "That meant we were given authority to use force, if the situation required it, in defense of the nation's capital, its property and people." Lt. Col. Marc H. (Sass) Sasseville and a pilot only known by the codename Lucky sprint to their waiting F-16s armed only with "hot" guns and 511 rounds of "TP" -- nonexplosive training rounds. The pilots later say that, had all else failed, they would have rammed into Flight 93. Meanwhile, the three F-16s flying on a training mission 207 miles away return to their home at Andrews Air Force Base. Major Billy Hutchison's fighter still has enough gas to take off again immediately; the other two need to refuel. He supposedly takes off with no weapons. "Hutchison was probably airborne shortly after the alert F-16s from Langley arrive over Washington, although 121st FS pilots admit their timeline-recall 'is fuzzy.'" This would mean Hutchison doesn't even leave Andrews until after 9:49 (see (9:49 a.m.)). His is said to be the first fighter to reach Washington. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/02] Could the pilot's recall of times be "fuzzy" because they don't like lying? There are multiple reports of Andrews fighters at the Pentagon before and of the above fighters were reported to have taken off. For instance, "Within minutes of the [Pentagon] attack ... F-16s from Andrews Air Force Base were in the air over Washington DC." [Telegraph, 9/16/01] "A few moments [after the Pentagon attack] ... overhead, fighter jets scrambled from Andrews Air Force Base and other installations." [Denver Post, 9/11/01] A year later, ABC News reports, "High overhead [the Pentagon], jet fighters arrive. Just moments too late." [ABC News, 9/11/02] Yet other newspaper accounts deny fighters from Andrews were deployed [USA Today, 9/16/01], and some deny Andrews even had fighters at all! [USA Today, 9/16/01 (B)] NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold has said, "We [didn't] have any aircraft on alert at Andrews." [MSNBC, 9/23/01 (C)]
(9:39 a.m.) The hijackers probably inadvertently transmit over radio: ''Hi, this is the captain. We'd like you all to remain seated. There is a bomb on board. And we are going to turn back to the airport. And they had our demands, so please remain quiet.'' [9:38, MSNBC, 9/3/02, 9:39, Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 209, no time marker, Boston Globe, 11/23/01] It isn't clear if this is a different account of a similar message a short while earlier (see (9:34 a.m.)) or a different message.
9:41 a.m. From Flight 93, Marion Birtton calls a friend. She tells him two people have been killed and the plane has been turned around. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01]
9:42 a.m. 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." [9:42, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01] In an alternate version, he says, "I'm in the air, I'm calling you on the Airphone. I'm calling you from the plane. We've been taken over. There are three men that say they have a bomb." ["Just before dawn in San Francisco," Toronto Sun, 9/16/01, 9:42, Boston Globe, 11/23/01]
9:43 a.m. Bush's motorcade arrives at Sarasota's airport and pulls up close to Air Force One. He learns a plane has hit the Pentagon as the motorcade gets near the airport. Bush immediately boards the plane. [Washington Times, 10/8/02, Telegraph, 12/16/01] Security then does an extra-thorough search of all the baggage for the other passengers, delaying takeoff until 9:55. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/02 (B)]
(After 9:44 a.m.) According to F-16 pilot Honey's account, at some point after the F-16s had set up a defensive perimeter over Washington, the lead pilot receives a garbled message about Flight 93 that isn't heard by the other two pilots. "The message seemed to convey that the White House was an important asset to protect." Honey says he is later told the message is, "Something like, 'Be aware of where it is, and it could be a target.''' The other pilot, codenamed Lou, says the unnamed lead pilot tells him, "I think the Secret Service told me this." [Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 76] Both Lou and Honey state they are never given orders to shoot down any plane that day. [Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 222] How could these pilots not be sure of their instructions to protect the White House? Wouldn't the order have been confirmed and shared with the two other pilots? What happened to the dramatic "I want you to protect the White House at all costs" order supposedly given to all the pilots (see (After 9:56 a.m.))? Why aren't any of them actually ordered to fly toward this mysterious target?
9:45 a.m. Tom Burnett calls his wife Deena for the third time. She tells him about the crash into the Pentagon. Tom speaks about the bomb he'd mentioned earlier, saying, "I don't think they have one. I think they're just telling us that." He says the hijackers are talking about crashing the plane into the ground. "We have to do something." He says that he and others are making a plan. "A group of us." [Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 111] So there would have been at least 19 minutes advance warning that a passenger takeover was likely, if the contents of these phone calls were being passed on to the right authorities. Even by his second call, the FBI was listening in. [Toronto Sun, 9/16/01]
9:45 a.m. After having some trouble with his phone, passenger Todd Beamer is able to speak to Verizon phone representative Lisa Jefferson, with the FBI listening in. He talks for about 15 minutes. Beamer says he has been herded to the back of the plane along with nine other passengers and five flight attendants. A hijacker who says he has a bomb strapped to his body is guarding them. 27 passengers are being guarded by a hijacker in first class, which is separated by a curtain. One hijacker has gone into the cockpit. One passenger is dead (that leaves one passenger unaccounted for - presumably the man who made a call from the bathroom). The two pilots are apparently dead. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/16/01, Newsweek, 9/22/01, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01] (A conflicting version [Boston Globe, 11/23/01] states that 27 were in the back, and that he saw four hijackers) Is Burnett's first class section group in contact with Todd Beamer's coach section group in the back of the plane or are there two independent plans to take over the plane?
(9:45 a.m.) The White House begins a general evacuation. This is 21 minutes after the FAA warned a hijacked plane appeared to be headed toward Washington (see 9:24 a.m.) and about 40 minutes after Vice President Cheney has been evacuated from the White House (see (After 9:03 a.m.)). [9:43, New York Times, 9/12/01, 9:45, MSNBC, 9/22/01, 9:45, Washington Post, 1/27/02, 9:45, Telegraph, 12/16/01, 9:45, CNN, 9/12/01, 9:48, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 9:48, AP, 8/19/02] Initially the evacuation is orderly, but soon the Secret Service agents are yelling that everyone should run. [ABC, 9/11/02]
(9:45 a.m.) Ben Sliney, FAA's National Operations Manager, orders the entire nationwide air traffic system shut down. All flights at US airports are stopped. 3,949 flights are still in the air at the time. Sliney makes the decision without consulting FAA head Jane Garvey, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, or other bosses, but they quickly approve. [USA Today, 8/13/02, USA Today, 8/13/02 (B)] [9:40, MSNBC, 9/22/01, 9:40, CNN, 9/12/01, 9:40, New York Times, 9/12/01, 9:45, AP, 8/12/02, 9:45, AP, 8/19/02, 9:45, Newsday, 9/10/02, 9:45, USA Today, 8/13/02, 9:49, Washington Post, 9/12/01] 75 percent of the planes land within one hour of the order. [USA Today, 8/12/02 (C)] The Washington Post has reported that it was Mineta who told Monte Belger at the FAA: "Monte, bring all the planes down," even adding, "[Expletive] pilot discretion." [Washington Post, 1/27/02] However, it is later reported by a different Post reporter that Mineta didn't even know of the order until 15 minutes later. This reporter "says FAA officials had begged him to maintain the fiction." [Slate, 4/2/02]
(9:46 a.m.) According to the Flight 93 voice recording, around this time one hijacker in the cockpit says to another, "Let the guys in now." A vague instruction is given to bring the pilot back in. It's not clear if this is a reference to an original pilot or a hijacker pilot. Investigators aren't sure if the original pilots were killed or allowed to live. ["About midway", through a 31-minute recording that starts at 9:31, Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 208] Also by this time, "everyone" in the United Airlines crisis center "now knew that a flight attendant on board had 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, 10/15/01] Perhaps the pilots were being kept alive, in case the hijackers faced a problem they couldn't handle? The presence of two hijackers in the cockpit talking to each other suggests that there were in fact four hijackers, and one was in the cockpit from before the hijacking began, since passengers only saw three, and two are known to have been guarding the passengers.
(9:47 a.m.) On Flight 93, Jeremy Glick is still on the phone with his wife Lyz. He tells her that the passengers are taking a vote if they should try to take over the plane or not. [About the same time as a different phone call, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01] He later says that all the men on the plane have voted to attack the hijackers. [No time marker, Toronto Sun, 9/16/01] When asked about weapons, he says they don't have guns, just knives. This appears to contradict an earlier mention of guns, but this may be the true account since no other calls mention guns, and the voice recorder doesn't record any gunshots. His wife Lyz got the impression from him that the hijacker standing nearby claiming to hold the bomb would be easy to overwhelm. [Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 153-154] If the authorities hadn't learned they shouldn't shoot down the plane from Tom Burnett's call two minutes earlier, they should have learned it from this one.
9:48 a.m. The Capitol building in Washington begins evacuation, 24 minutes after the FAA has warned a hijacked plane appeared to be headed toward Washington (see 9:24 a.m.). [AP, 8/19/02] Senator Tom Daschle, majority leader of the Senate, later states, "Some capitol policemen broke into the room and said, we're under attack. I've got to take you out right away." Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, third in line of succession to the presidency behind Vice President Cheney, is in the Capitol building with other congresspeople. Only after this time are Hastert and others in the line of succession moved to secure locations. Some point after this, Hastert and other leaders are flown by helicopter to secret bunkers. [ABC News, 9/11/02] It is later reported that the target for Flight 93 was the Capitol building, so had that flight not been delayed 40 minutes before takeoff, it is possible most senators and congresspeople would have been killed.
9:49 a.m. The FAA orders the Pittsburgh control tower evacuated. Shortly before, Cleveland flight controllers called Pittsburgh flight control and said a plane was heading toward Pittsburgh and refusing to communicate. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/23/01 (B)]
(9:49 a.m.) Three F-16s scrambled from Langley 129 miles away at 9:30 reach the Pentagon. The planes, armed with heat-seeking, Sidewinder missiles, are authorized to knock down civilian aircraft. According to NORAD, they were flying at 650 mph. The official maximum speed for F-16s is 1500 mph. [9:49, CNN, 9/17/01, 9:49, NORAD, 9/18/01, 9:56: "15 minutes after Flight 77 hit the Pentagon," New York Times, 9/15/01, "just before 10:00," CBS, 9/14/01] Using NORAD's official arrival time of 9:49, the journey takes 19 minutes, or a speed of only about 410 mph! Using the New York Times arrival time of 9:56, the journey takes 26 minutes, or a speed of only about 300 mph!
9:50 a.m. Sandra Bradshaw calls her husband from Flight 93. She says, ''Have you heard what's going on? My flight has been hijacked. My flight has been hijacked with three guys with knives." [Boston Globe, 11/23/01] She tells him that they are in the rear galley filling pitchers with hot water to use against the hijackers. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01]
(After 9:50 a.m.) Shortly after the Langley fighters arrive over Washington, three F-16s from Andrews also arrive. The first is probably piloted by Major Billy Hutchison. F-16s flown by Lt. Col. Marc H. (Sass) Sasseville and codename Lucky arrive shortly thereafter. Only Sasseville's plane has ammunition. Supposedly, these three fighters remain ignorant that three Langley F-16s are flying over Washington at the same time, at a higher altitude. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/02]
9:53 a.m. The 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, Flight 93). Tenet tells Rumsfeld about the intercept two hours later. [CBS, 9/4/02] How could someone in Afghanistan know so quickly that Flight 93 had been delayed 40 minutes before takeoff, was still in the air, and was controlled by hijackers? Do the hijackers call from the plane?
9:53 a.m. The hijackers in the cockpit of Flight 93 grow concerned that the passengers might retaliate. One urges that the plane's fire ax be held up to the door's peephole to scare the passengers. [Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 209-210]
9:54 a.m. Tom Burnett calls his wife Deena for the fourth and last time. In early reports of this call, he says, "I know we're all going to die. There's three of us who are going to do something about it." [No time marker, Toronto Sun, 9/16/01, no time marker, Boston Globe, 11/23/01] However, in a later and much more complete account, he sounds much more upbeat. "It's up to us. I think we can do it." "Don't worry, we're going to do something." He specifically mentions they plan to regain control of the airplane over a rural area. [9:54, "again Deena noted the time," Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 118] Could the early reports of fatalism have been deliberate misinformation to make it appear that the passengers had no chance of success?
(9:56 a.m.) Bush departs from the Saratoga, Florida, airport on Air Force One. [9:54, Dallas Morning News, 8/28/02, 9:55, New York Times, 9/16/01 (B), 9:55, Daily Mail, 9/8/02,9:55, Washington Post, 1/27/02, 9:55, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 9:55, AP, 9/12/01, 9:55, ABC News, 9/11/02, 9:57, CBS, 9/11/02 (B), 9:57, New York Times, 9/12/01, 9:57, CNN, 9/12/01, 9:57, Telegraph, 12/16/01] Amazingly, his plane takes off without any fighters protecting it. "The object seemed to be simply to get the President airborne and out of the way," says an administration official. [Telegraph, 12/16/01] There are still 3,520 planes in the air over the US. [USA Today, 8/13/02 (B)] About half of the planes in the region of Florida where Bush is are still in the air. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/7/02] With so many reports of hijacked planes, how is being in the sky unescorted any safer than being on the ground?
(After 9:56 a.m.) After flying off in Air Force One, Bush talks to Vice President Cheney on the phone. Cheney recommends that Bush authorize the military to shoot down any plane under control of the hijackers. "I said, 'You bet,'" Bush later recalls. "We had a little discussion, but not much." ["After Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon," Newsday, 9/23/01, time unknown, USA Today, 9/16/01, "Once airborne, Bush spoke again to Cheney," Washington Post, 1/27/02, after Bush is airborne, CBS, 9/11/02] Flight 93 is still in the air, and fighters are given orders to intercept it and possibly shoot it down. [ABC News, 9/11/02] If this decision was so easy to make, why wasn't it given earlier? Bush was available to make this decision at any time after leaving the Booker Elementary classroom around 9:16. Why hasn't he okayed the shooting down of any aircraft during that time, when it's been known there is a hijacked plane (Flight 77) headed toward Washington since at least 9:24?
(After 9:56 a.m.) At some point after the F-16s are in the air, someone from the Secret Service gets on the radio and tells the pilots, "I want you to protect the White House at all costs." [New York Times, 10/16/01] This must have occurred after Bush gave his okay to shoot down planes just after 9:55 (see also (After 9:44 a.m.)).
(9:56 - 10:40 a.m.) Air Force One takes off and quickly gains altitude. One passenger later says, "It was like a rocket. For a good 10 minutes, the plane was going almost straight up." [CBS, 9/11/02 (B)] Once the plane reaches cruising altitude, it flies in circles. Journalists on board sense this, because the television reception for a local station generally remains good. "Apparently Bush, Cheney and the Secret Service argue over the safety of Bush coming back to Washington. [Salon, 9/12/01, Telegraph, 12/16/01]
(After 9:56 - 10:06 a.m.) Inside his White House bunker, a military aide asks Vice President Cheney, "There is a plane 80 miles out. There is a fighter in the area. Should we engage?" Cheney immediately answers "Yes." [Washington Post, 1/27/02] An F-16 fighter near Washington heads in pursuit of Flight 93. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01] However, a different explanation says, "The closest fighters are two F-16 pilots on a training mission from Selfridge Air National Guard Base near Detroit." These are ordered after Flight 93, even though but they supposedly aren't armed with any weapons. It is claimed they are supposed to crash into Flight 93 if they cannot persuade it to land. [ABC News, 8/30/02, ABC News, 9/11/02] However, Washington is much closer to Flight 93's position than Detroit by this time, and there are already "dozens" of fighters flying over Washington by this time so why send those? In either case, as the fighter (or fighters) gets nearer to Flight 93, Cheney is asked twice more to confirm if the fighter should engage, and he responds yes both times. [Washington Post, 1/27/02] Montague Winfield, in charge of the Pentagon's command center, later says, "At some point, the closure time [between the fighter and Flight 93] came and went, and nothing happened, so you can imagine everything was very tense at the NMCC." [ABC, 9/15/02] Yet Major Gen. Paul Weaver, director of the Air National Guard, had previously claimed that no military planes were sent after Flight 93. [Seattle Times, 9/16/01] And the pilots flying over Washington that have spoken say that all of them didn't even learn about Flight 93 or any plane crashing in Pennsylvania until they returned to base in the afternoon. [Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 222] There is a lot of evidence that fighters were sent after Flight 93, including the Vice President's claim. Is someone lying, or were the planes coming from somewhere else?
9:57 a.m. One of the hijackers in the cockpit asks if anything is going on, apparently meaning outside the cockpit. "Fighting," the other one says. [Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 210] An analysis of the flight recorder suggests that the passenger struggle actually started in the front of the plane (where Bingham and Burnett were sitting) about a minute before a struggle in the back of the plane (where Beamer was sitting). [Observer, 12/2/01] Officials later theorize that the Flight 93 passengers did actually reach the cockpit using a food cart as a battering ram and a shield. They claim that digital enhancement of the cockpit voice recorder reveals the sound of plates and glassware crashing around 9:57. [Newsweek, 11/25/01]
(9:57 a.m. and After) "In the cockpit! In the cockpit!" is heard. Hijackers are reportedly heard telling each other to hold the door. In English, someone outside shouts, "Let's get them." The hijackers are also praying "Allah o akbar" (God is great). One of the hijackers suggests shutting off the oxygen supply to the cabin (which apparently wouldn't have had an effect since the plane was already below 10,000 feet). A hijacker says, "Should we finish?" Another one says, "Not yet." The sounds of the passengers get clearer, and in unaccented English "Give it to me!" is heard. "I'm injured," someone says in English. Then something like "roll it up" and "lift it up" is heard. Passengers' relatives believe this sequence proves that the passengers did take control of the plane. [MSNBC, 7/30/02, Telegraph, 8/6/02, Newsweek, 11/25/01, Observer, 12/2/01, Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 270-271]
9:58 a.m. Todd Beamer ends his long phone call saying that they plan "to jump" the hijacker in the back who has the bomb. In the background, the phone operator already could hear an "awful commotion" of people shouting, and women screaming, "Oh my God," and "God help us." He lets go of the phone but leaves it connected. His famous last words are said to nearby passengers: "Are you ready guys? Let's roll" (alternate version: "You ready? Okay. Let's roll"). [Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 204, Newsweek, 9/22/01, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01]
9:58 a.m. CeeCee Lyles says to her husband, "Aah, it feels like the plane's going down." Her husband Lorne says, "What's that?" She replies, "I think they're going to do it. They're forcing their way into the cockpit (an alternate version says, "They're getting ready to force their way into the cockpit"). A little later she screams, then says, "They're doing it! They're doing it! They're doing it!" Her husband hears more screaming in the background, then he hears a "whooshing sound, a sound like wind," then more screaming, and then the call breaks off. [Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 180, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01]
9:58 a.m. Sandy Bradshaw tells her husband, "Everyone's running to first class. I've got to go. Bye." She had been speaking with him since 9:50. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01, Boston Globe, 11/23/01]
9:58 a.m. A man calls 911 from a bathroom on the plane, crying, "We're being hijacked, we're being hijacked!" [Toronto Sun, 9/16/01], then reports that "he heard some sort of explosion and saw white smoke coming from the plane and we lost contact with him." [ABC News, 9/11/01, AP, 9/12/01] One minute after the call began, the line goes dead. [Pittsburgh Channel, 12/6/01] Investigators believe this was Edward Felt, the only passenger not accounted for on phone calls. He was sitting in first class, so he probably was in the bathroom near the front of the plane. At one point he appears to have peeked out the bathroom door. [Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 193-194, 196] The mentions of smoke and explosions on the recording of his call are now denied. [Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 264] The person who took Felt's call is not allowed to speak to the media. [Mirror, 9/13/02] If that's true, why is this important fact only denied now, when the FBI got a copy of the recording on 9/11, and let the media report the smoke and explosion story for months?
9:59 a.m. The south tower of the World Trade Center collapses. It was hit by Flight 175 at 9:02. [9:50, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 9:59, MSNBC, 9/22/01, 9:59, AP, 8/19/02, 9:59, ABC News, 9/11/02, 9:59 (based on seismic data), New York Times, 9/12/01, 10:05, CNN, 9/12/01, 10:05, New York Times, 9/12/01 , 9:59:39, US Army authorized seismic study, 9:59:04, seismic records]
(Before 10:00 a.m.) Defense officials initially say, "There were no military planes in the skies over Washington until 15 to 20 minutes after the Pentagon was hit" - 9:53 to 9:58. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 9/14/01] But several sources later report that fighters were above Washington within "minutes" or "moments" of the Pentagon explosion. [Denver Post, 9/11/01, Telegraph, 9/16/01, ABC News, 9/11/02] ABC News later reports that by 10:00, "Dozens of fighters are buzzing in the sky. F-16s scrambled at Andrews Air Force Base in nearby Maryland" (the exact time is not given, but the account is placed between 9:45 and 10:00 in a later ABC News chronology of 9/11). [ABC News, 9/11/02] Another account says the first two F-16s from Andrews that are armed with missiles arrive ten minutes after the three F-16s from Andrews arrived at 9:49 (see (9:49 a.m.)). [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/02] In contradiction to this, a few days after 9/11, the New York Times reports, "In the White House Situation Room and at the Pentagon, the response seemed agonizingly slow. One military official recalls hearing 'words to the effect of, "Where are the planes?"' The Pentagon insists it had air cover over its own building by 10 a.m., 15 minutes after the building was hit. But witnesses, including a reporter for The New York Times who was headed toward the building, did not see any until closer to 11." [New York Times, 9/16/01 (B)]
10:00 a.m. There are reports on television of a fire at the State Department. At 10:20 a.m. and apparently again at 10:33 a.m. it is reported this was caused by a car bomb. [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/01, Telegraph, 12/16/01] Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage sees this on television, goes outside the building to see if it true, finds out it isn't, and calls his colleagues to inform them that the reports are false. [ABC, 9/15/02 (B)]
(10:00 a.m.) Elizabeth
Wainio says to her stepmother, "Mom, they're rushing the cockpit. I've
got to go. Bye," then hangs up. This may have been a delayed reaction to
events, since her stepmother says that in their ten-minute call Elizabeth was
in a trance-like state, appeared to have resigned herself to death, was breathing
in a strange manner, and even said she felt she was leaving her body. ["Shortly
after 10:00," MSNBC, 7/30/02, "sometime
shortly before 10," Pittsburgh
(10:00 a.m.) Bill Wright is flying a small plane when a flight controller asks him to look around outside his window. He sees Flight 93 three miles away - close enough to see the United Airlines colors. Flight control asks him the plane's altitude, then commands him to get away from the plane and land immediately. Wright sees the plane rock back and forth three or four times before he flies from the area. He speculates that the hijackers were trying to throw off the attacking passengers. [Time unknown, Pittsburgh Channel, 9/19/01]
(Between 10:00-10:06 a.m.) During this time, there apparently are no calls from Flight 93. Several cell phones left on record only silence. For instance, Todd Beamer doesn't hang up, but nothing more is heard after he puts down the phone, suggesting things are quiet in the back of the plane. [Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 218] The only exception is Richard Makely, who is listening to the Jeremy Glick open phone line after Glick went to attack the hijackers. A reporter summarizes Makely explaining that, "The silence last[s] two minutes, then there [is] screaming. More silence, followed by more screams. Finally, there [is] a mechanical sound, followed by nothing." [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/17/01] The second silence lasts between 60 and 90 seconds. [Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 219] Near the end of the cockpit voice recording, loud wind sounds can be heard. [CNN, 4/19/02, Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 270-271] "Sources claim the last thing heard on the cockpit voice recorder is the sound of wind - suggesting the plane had been holed." [Mirror, 9/13/02] Is there a hole that depressurizes the cabin and lets in the wind? If the passengers had taken over the plane, there was at least one passenger, Don Greene, who was a professional pilot, who'd learned to fly at age 14, as well as Andrew Garcia, a former flight controller. [Newsweek, 9/22/01, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01, Telegraph, 8/6/02] So what happened here???
10:01 a.m. The FAA orders F-16 fighters to scramble from Toledo, Ohio. Although the base has no fighters on standby alert status, it manages to put fighters in the air 16 minutes later, a "phenomenal" response time - but still 10 minutes after the last hijacked plane has crashed. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/01] One interesting aspect is that NORAD has explained that it didn't scramble fighters from bases nearer to the hijacked planes because they only used bases in the NORAD defensive network (a mere seven bases in the entire US). Yet this Toledo base wasn't part of that network, so why weren't planes in this base and other bases scrambled an hour or more earlier? Could it be that they were scrambled earlier, and that it was one of these F-16s that tailed Flight 93?
10:02 a.m. The Sears Tower in Chicago begins evacuation. Other prominent tall buildings and landmarks begin evacuating about an hour later. [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/01]
10:03 a.m. According to the US government, Flight 93 crashes at 10:03. [NORAD, 9/18/01] The cockpit voice recording was recorded on a 30 minute reel, which means that as new tape was recorded the old tape was being erased. The government has let relatives listen to this tape, which begins at 9:31 and runs for 31 minutes. [CNN, 4/19/02, Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 206-207] So it sounds like the recording ends a minute before the official crash time. However, a seismic study authorized by the US Army to determine when the plane crashed concludes the crash happens at 10:06:05. [US Army authorized seismic study] The discrepancy is so puzzling, the Philadelphia Daily News has an article on the issue, called "Three-Minute Discrepancy in Tape." It notes that leading seismologists agree that Flight 93 crashed last Sept. 11 at 10:06:05 a.m., give or take a couple of seconds, and government officials won't explain why they say the plane crashed at 10:03. [Philadelphia Daily News, 9/16/02] What happened to the vital last three or four minutes of this tape? Was the tape doctored, or was the timing of the whole tape moved forward?
(Before 10:06 a.m.) CBS television reports at some point before the crash that two F-16 fighters are tailing Flight 93. [Independent, 8/13/02] Shortly after 9/11, a flight controller in New Hampshire ignores a ban on controllers speaking to the media, and it is reported he claims "that an F-16 fighter closely pursued Flight 93... the F-16 made 360-degree turns to remain close to the commercial jet, the employee said. 'He must've seen the whole thing,' the employee said of the F-16 pilot's view of Flight 93's crash." [AP, 9/13/01, Nashua Telegraph, 9/13/01]
(Before 10:06 a.m.) In the tiny town of Boswell, about 10 miles north and slightly to the west of Flight 93's crash site, Rodney Peterson and Brandon Leventry notice a passenger jet lumbering through the sky at about 2,000 feet. They realize such a big plane flying so low in that area is odd. They see the plane dip its wings sharply to the left then to the right. The wings level off and the plane keeps flying south, continuing to slowly descend. Five minutes later they hear news that the plane has crashed. Other witnesses also later describe the plane flying east-southeast, low and wobbly. [Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 205-206, New York Times, 9/14/01] "Officials initially say that it looks like the plane was headed south when it hit the ground." [Cleveland Newschannel 5, 9/11/01] Note the fact that they heard news the plane had crashed only five minutes later supports that the plane crashed at 10:06, not the official time of 10:03. The rocking wings could have been the hijackers trying to throw off the attack of the passengers, or it could be a passenger pilot trying to gain control of the plane. In either case, its interesting that the plane appeared to stop rocking.
(Before 10:06 a.m.) Numerous eyewitnesses see
and hear Flight 93 just before its crash:
1) Terry Butler, at Stoystown: He sees the plane come out of the clouds, low to the ground. "It was moving like you wouldn't believe. Next thing I knew it makes a heck of a sharp, right-hand turn." It banks to the right and appears to be trying to climb to clear one of the ridges, but it continues to turn to the right and then veers behind a ridge. About a second later it crashes. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/12/01]
2) Ernie Stuhl, the mayor of Shanksville: "I know of two people -- I will not mention names -- that heard a missile. They both live very close, within a couple of hundred yards... This one fellow's served in Vietnam and he says he's heard them, and he heard one that day." He adds that based on what he has learned, F-16s were "very, very close." [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/01]
Accounts of the plane making strange noises:
3) Laura Temyer of Hooversville: "I didn't see the plane but I heard the plane's engine. Then I heard a loud thump that echoed off the hills and then I heard the plane's engine. I heard two more loud thumps and didn't hear the plane's engine anymore after that." (She insists that people she knows in state law enforcement have privately told her the plane was shot down, and that decompression sucked objects from the aircraft, explaining why there was a wide debris field.) [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/01]
4) Charles Sturtz, a half mile from the crash site: The plane is heading southeast and has its engines running. No smoke can be seen. "It was really roaring, you know. Like it was trying to go someplace, I guess." [WPXI Channel 11, 9/13/01]
5) Michael Merringer, two miles from the crash site: "I heard the engine gun two different times and then I heard a loud bang..." [AP, 9/12/01]
6) Tim Lensbouer, 300 yards away: "I heard it for 10 or 15 seconds and it sounded like it was going full bore." [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/12/01]
Accounts of the plane flying upside down:
7) Rob Kimmel, several miles from the crash site: He sees it fly overhead, banking hard to the right. It is 200 feet or less off the ground as it crests a hill to the southeast. "I saw the top of the plane, not the bottom." [Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 210-211]
8) Eric Peterson of Lambertsville: He sees a plane flying overhead unusually low. The plane seemed to be turning end-over-end as it dropped out of sight behind a tree line. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/12/01]
9) Bob Blair of Stoystown: He sees the plane spiraling and flying upside down before crashing. Its not much higher than the treetops. [Daily American, 9/12/01]
Accounts of a sudden plunge and more strange sounds:
10) An unnamed witness says he hears two loud bangs before watching the plane take a downward turn of nearly 90 degrees. [Cleveland Newschannel 5, 9/11/01]
11) Another unnamed witness sees the plane overhead. It makes a high-pitched, screeching sound. The plane then makes a sharp, 90-degree downward turn and crashes. [Cleveland Newschannel 5, 9/11/01]
12) Tom Fritz, about a quarter-mile from the crash site: He hears a sound that "wasn't quite right" and looks up in the sky. "It dropped all of a sudden, like a stone," going "so fast that you couldn't even make out what color it was." [St. Petersburg Times, 9/12/01]
13) Terry Butler, a few miles north of Lambertsville: "It dropped out of the clouds." The plane rose slightly, trying to gain altitude, then "it just went flip to the right and then straight down." [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/12/01]
14) Lee Purbaugh, 300 yards away: "There was an incredibly loud rumbling sound and there it was, right there, right above my head maybe 50 feet up.... I saw it rock from side to side then, suddenly, it dipped and dived, nose first, with a huge explosion, into the ground. I knew immediately that no one could possibly have survived." [Independent, 8/13/02]
Upside down and a sudden plunge:
15) Linda Shepley: She hears a loud bang and sees the plane bank to the side. [ABC News, 9/11/01] She sees the plane wobbling right and left, at a low altitude of roughly 2,500 feet, when suddenly the right wing dips straight down, and the plane plunges into the earth. She says she has an unobstructed view of Flight 93's final two minutes. [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/01]
16) Kelly Leverknight in Stony Creek Township of Shanksville: "There was no smoke, it just went straight down. I saw the belly of the plane." It sounds like it is flying low, and it's heading east. [Daily American, 9/12/01, St. Petersburg Times, 9/12/01]
17) Tim Thornsberg, working in a nearby strip mine: "It came in low over the trees and started wobbling. Then it just rolled over and was flying upside down for a few seconds ... and then it kind of stalled and did a nose dive over the trees." [WPXI Channel 11, 9/13/01]
What sense can be made of all these different accounts? Some say it was flying a couple thousand feet up and suddenly plunged down, some say it was flying extremely low. Turns, climbs, strange noises, flipping, etc.... While many of these accounts conflict, virtually all support a missile strike, because of the common theme of noises and a plane struggling to rise and stay in the air. The plunge doesn't seem to be a deliberate thrust of the plane toward the ground, but instead the result of engine failure. Other passenger planes hit by missiles continued to fly for several minutes before crashing. For instance, a Korean Airline 747 was hit by two Russian missiles in 1983, yet continued to fly for two more minutes. [KAL Cockpit Voice Recorder transcript] Is that what happened here?
(Before 10:06 a.m.) Flight 93 apparently starts
to break up before it crashes, because debris is found very far away from the
crash site. [Philadelphia
Daily News, 11/15/01] The plane is generally obliterated upon landing, except
for one half-ton piece of engine found over a mile away. [Independent,
8/13/02] One story calls what happened to this engine "intriguing,"
because "the heat-seeking, air-to-air Sidewinder missiles aboard an F-16
would likely target one of the Boeing 757's two large engines." [Philadelphia
Daily News, 11/15/01] Smaller debris fields
are also found two, three, and eight miles away from the main crash site. [CBS,
5/23/02] Eight miles away, local media quote residents speaking of a second
plane in the area and burning debris falling from the sky. [Reuters,
9/13/01] Residents outside Shanksville reported "discovering clothing,
books, papers and what appeared to be human remains. Some residents said they
collected bags-full of items to be turned over to investigators. Others reported
what appeared to be crash debris floating in Indian Lake, nearly six miles from
the immediate crash scene. Workers at Indian Lake Marina said that they saw
a cloud of confetti-like debris descend on the lake and nearby farms minutes
after hearing the explosion...." [Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette, 9/13/01] Moments after the crash, Carol Delasko initially
thinks someone had blown up a boat on Indian Lake: "It just looked like
confetti raining down all over the air above the lake." [Pittsburgh
Tribune-Review, 9/14/01] Investigators say that far-off wreckage "probably
was spread by the cloud created when the plane crashed and dispersed by a 10
mph southeasterly wind." [Delaware
News Journal, 9/16/01] But much of the wreckage is found sooner than
that wind could have carried it, and not always southeast.
10:06 a.m. Flight 93 crashes just north of the
Somerset County Airport, about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, 124 miles or
15 minutes from Washington DC. [10:00, MSNBC,
9/22/01, 10:03, NORAD, 9/18/01, 10:06,
10/17/01, 10:06, Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette, 10/28/01, 10:06, MSNBC,
9/3/02, 10:06, Mirror,
9/13/02, 10:06, USA
Today, 8/13/02, 10:07, AP,
8/19/02, 10:10, CNN,
9/12/01, 10:10, Washington
Post, 9/12/01, 10:10, New York Times, 9/12/01,
Globe, 11/23/01, 10:06:05, US
Army authorized seismic study] Little information
about the crash has been made public.
(Before and After 10:06 a.m.)
"At least half a dozen named individuals ... have reported seeing a second
plane flying low and in erratic patterns, not much above treetop level, over
the crash site within minutes of the United flight crashing. They describe the
plane as a small, white jet with rear engines and no discernible markings."
1) Lee Purbaugh: "I didn't get a good look but it was white and it circled the area about twice and then it flew off over the horizon." [Mirror, 9/13/02]
2) Susan Mcelwain: Less than a minute before the Flight 93 crash rocked the countryside, she sees a small white jet with rear engines and no discernible markings swoop low over her minivan near an intersection and disappear over a hilltop, nearly clipping the tops of trees lining the ridge. [Bergen Record, 9/14/01] She later adds, "There's no way I imagined this plane - it was so low it was virtually on top of me. It was white with no markings but it was definitely military, it just had that look. It had two rear engines, a big fin on the back like a spoiler on the back of a car and with two upright fins at the side. I haven't found one like it on the internet. It definitely wasn't one of those executive jets. The FBI came and talked to me and said there was no plane around.... But I saw it and it was there before the crash and it was 40 feet above my head. They did not want my story - nobody here did." [Mirror, 9/13/02]
3 and 4) Dennis Decker and Rick Chaney, Decker speaking: "As soon as we looked up [after hearing the Flight 93 crash], we saw a midsized jet flying low and fast. It appeared to make a loop or part of a circle, and then it turned fast and headed out." Decker and Chaney described the plane as a Learjet type, with engines mounted near the tail and painted white with no identifying markings. "It was a jet plane, and it had to be flying real close when that 757 went down. If I was the FBI, I'd find out who was driving that plane." [Bergen Record, 9/14/01]
5) Jim Brandt sees a small plane with no markings stay about one or two minutes over the crash site before leaving. [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/12/01]
6) Tom Spinelli: "I saw the white plane. It was flying around all over the place like it was looking for something. I saw it before and after the crash." [Mirror, 9/13/02]
The FBI later says this was a Fairchild Falcon 20 business jet, directed after the crash to fly from 37,000 feet to 5,000 feet and obtain the coordinates for the crash site to help rescuers. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/16/01, Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/01] Was the unmarked jet some kind of reconnaissance plane? The FBI also says there was a C-130 military cargo aircraft flying at 24,000 feet about 17 miles away, but that plane wasn't armed and had no role in the crash. [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/01, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/16/01] Note that this is the same C-130 that flies very close to Flight 77 right as that planes crashes into the Pentagon (see 9:38 a.m.).
(After 10:06 a.m.) Just after Flight 93 crashes, "Up above, a fighter jet streak[s] by." [ABC, 9/15/02]
(After 10:06 a.m.) At some point after Flight 93 crashes, NORAD diverts
"unarmed Michigan Air National Guard fighter jets that happened to be flying
a training mission in northern Michigan since the time of the first attack."
[AP, 8/30/02] Why weren't they diverted
an hour or more earlier?
(10:08 a.m.) Bush is told of the crash of Flight 93 a few minutes later. Because of Cheney's earlier order, he asks, "Did we shoot it down or did it crash?" Several hours later, he is assured it crashed. [Washington Post, 1/27/02]
10:08 a.m. Armed agents deploy around the White House. [CNN, 9/12/01]
10:10 a.m. All US military forces are ordered to Defcon Three (or Defcon Delta), "The highest alert for the nuclear arsenal in 30 years." [ABC News, 9/11/02] Supposedly Rumsfeld makes the order, but its hard to see how he could have done this since he was assisting the wounded in the Pentagon explosion until 10:30 (see 10:30 a.m.). [ABC News, 9/11/02, CNN, 9/4/02] Another account says Defcon Delta doesn't happen until about noon. [Telegraph, 12/16/01]
10:12 a.m. CNN reports an explosion at Capitol Hill. CNN determines this is untrue 12 minutes later. [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/01]
10:13 a.m. Federal buildings in Washington begin evacuation. The UN building evacuates first; others follow later. [CNN, 9/12/01, New York Times, 9/12/01]
10:15 a.m. The section of the Pentagon reportedly hit by the crash of Flight 77 collapses. [10:10, CNN, 9/12/01, 10:10, New York Times, 9/12/01, recorded live on WDCC-TV at 10:15, Television Archive, WDCC 10:00] A few minutes prior to its collapse, firefighters saw warning signs and sounded a general evacuation tone. No firefighters were injured. [NFPA Journal, 11/1/01]
(10:24 a.m.) Jane Garvey, head of the FAA, orders the diversion of all international flights to the U.S. Most flights are diverted to Canada. [10:41, Time, 9/14/01, 10:24, MSNBC, 9/22/01, 10:24, CNN, 9/12/01, 10:24, New York Times, 9/12/01]
10:28 a.m. The World Trade Center's north tower collapses. It was hit by Flight 11 at 8:46. [10:28, MSNBC, 9/22/01, 10:28, CNN, 9/12/01, 10:28, New York Times, 9/12/01, 10:28, AP, 8/19/02, 10:28 (based on seismic data), New York Times, 9/12/01, 10:29, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 10:28:31, seismic records] The death toll could have been much worse - an estimated 15,000 people made it out of the WTC to safety. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/02]
10:30 a.m. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld finally enters the Pentagon's National Military Command Center (NMCC), where the military's response to the 9/11 attacks is being coordinated. [CNN, 9/4/02] Rumsfeld was supposedly in the Pentagon meeting with Representative Cox (R) about missile defense and terrorism until the Pentagon explosion. [AP, 9/16/01, Rep. Cox Statement, 9/11/01] He then went outside to help the wounded of the attack until this time (see (9:38 a.m.)). Brigadier General Montague Winfield later says, "For 30 minutes we couldn't find him. And just as we began to worry, he walked into the door of the National Military Command Center." [ABC News, 9/11/02] Shouldn't Rumsfeld have reported to the NMCC long before? For nearly an hour, apparently no one knew if he was killed in the Pentagon explosion or not.
10:31 a.m. "The FAA [allows] military, and law enforcement flights to resume (and some flights that the FAA can't reveal that were already airborne)." All civilian, military and law enforcement flights were ordered to land as soon as reasonably possible about one hour earlier (see (9:26 a.m.)). [Time, 9/14/01]
10:32 a.m. Cheney calls Bush and tells him of a threat to Air Force One. He is told it would take between 40 minutes and 90 minutes to get a protective fighter escort up to Air Force One. His plane turns toward Louisiana soon after. [Washington Post, 1/27/02] Many doubt the existence of this threat. For instance, Representative Martin Meehan (D) says, "I don't buy the notion Air Force One was a target. That's just PR, that's just spin." [Washington Times, 10/8/02] A later account calls the threat "completely untrue," and says Cheney probably made the story up. A well-informed, anonymous Washington official says, "It did two things for [Cheney]. It reinforced his argument that the President should stay out of town, and it gave George W an excellent reason for doing so." [Telegraph, 12/16/01] Why wouldn't Air Force One already have a fighter escort, and why would it take so long for new planes to arrive? Does Cheney also delay a fighter escort? Why does he apparently lie to keep Bush away?
(10:35 a.m.) Air Force One turns toward Louisiana. It has been decided Bush cannot go directly to Washington. [About 10:30, CBS, 9/11/02 (B), about 10:42, Washington Post, 1/27/02]
(10:42 a.m.) Roughly around this time, the FAA tells the White House that it still cannot account for three planes in addition to the four that have crashed. It takes the FAA another hour and a half to account for the three other aircraft. [Time, 9/14/01] Vice President Cheney later says, "That's what we started working off of, that list of six, and we could account for two of them in New York. The third one we didn't know what had happened to. It turned out it had hit the Pentagon, but the first reports on the Pentagon attack suggested a helicopter and then later a private jet." [Los Angeles Times, 9/17/01] Amongst false rumors during the day are reports of a bomb aboard a United Airlines jet that just landed in Rockford, Illinois. "Another plane disappears from radar and might have crashed in Kentucky. The reports are so serious that [FAA head Jane] Garvey notifies the White House that there has been another crash. Only later does she learn the reports are erroneous." [USA Today, 8/13/02 (B)] Could the crash in Kentucky refer to Flight 77, which did disappear from the radar screen over Kentucky? Its exact path back to Washington has never been known precisely but only estimated.
(10:55 a.m.) Colonel Mark Tillman, pilot of Air Force One, is told there is a threat to Bush's plane. Tillman has an armed guard placed at his cockpit door while the Secret Service double-checks the identity of everyone on board. Then traffic controllers warn that a suspect airliner is dead ahead. Says Tillman, "Coming out of Sarasota there was one call that said there was an airliner off our nose that they did not have contact with." Tillman takes evasive action, pulling his plane high above normal traffic. [CBS, 9/11/02 (B)] Reporters on board notice the rise in elevation. [10:55 according to a reporter who writes it in her notebook, Dallas Morning News, 8/28/02, "just before 11:00," Salon, 9/12/01] The report is apparently a false alarm. The alarm shows the folly of having Bush get in Air Force One at this time without a fighter escort.
(Between 10:55 - 11:30 a.m.) No fighters escort Bush's Air Force One until somewhere in this time period. At 10:32, Cheney said it would take until about 11:10 to 12:00 to get a fighter escort to Air Force One. [Washington Post, 1/27/02] According to one account, around 10:00 Air Force One "is joined by an escort of F-16 fighters from a base near Jacksonville, Florida," but this is contradicted by Cheney's comment reported a month later. [Telegraph, 12/16/01] Another account says, "At 10:41, ... Air Force One headed toward Jacksonville to meet jets scrambled to give the presidential jet its own air cover." [New York Times, 9/16/01 (B)] But apparently when Air Force One takes evasive action around 10:55 there is still no fighter escort (see 10:55 a.m.). NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold later says, "We scrambled available airplanes from Tyndall [near Tallahassee, not Jacksonville, Florida] and then from Ellington in Houston, Texas," but he doesn't say when. [Code One Magazine, 1/02] In another account, two F-16s eventually arrive, piloted by Shane Brotherton and Randy Roberts, from the Texas Air National Guard, not from any Florida base. [CBS, 9/11/02] By 11:30 there are six fighters protecting Air Force One. [Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/01] Given that two of the seven bases said to have fighters on alert on 9/11 are in Florida, Homestead Air Station, 185 miles from Sarasota, and Tyndall Air Station, 235 miles from Sarasota, not to mention the Jacksonville base, why don't fighters escort Air Force One from takeoff, or a few minutes later?
(11:00 a.m.) Evacuations are ordered at the tallest skyscrapers in several cities, and major tourist attractions are closed, including Walt Disney World, Philadelphia's Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, Seattle's Space Needle, and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. [Times Union, 9/11/01]
(11:00 a.m.) FAA's command center is told that all the flights over the United States are accounted for and complying with controllers. Every commercial flight in US airspace - about a quarter of the planes still in the air - is within 40 miles of its destination. Others are still over the oceans, and many are heading toward Canada. [USA Today, 8/13/02 (B)] There are 923 planes still in the air over the US. [USA Today, 8/13/02 (B)]
11:08 a.m. A message sent from Korean Air Flight 85 is misinterpreted to indicate a possible hijacking. At 1:24 p.m. the pilots accidentally issue a hijacking alert as the plane nears Alaska on its way to Anchorage, Alaska. Two fighters tail the plane, and it is told it will be shot down unless it avoids populated areas. Strategic sites are evacuated across Alaska. The plane eventually lands safely in Whitehorse, Canada, at 2:54 p.m. [USA Today, 8/12/02 (B)]
11:30 a.m. General Wesley Clark, former supreme commander of NATO, says on television, "This is clearly a coordinated effort. It hasn't been announced that its over.... Only one group has this kind of ability and that is Osama bin Laden's." [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/01]
11:45 a.m. Air Force One lands at Barksdale Air Force base near Shreveport, Louisiana. "The official reason for landing at Barksdale was that Bush felt it necessary to make a further statement, but it isn't unreasonable to assume that - as there was no agreement as to what the President's movements should be - it was felt he might as well be on the ground as in the air." [Salon, 9/12/01, New York Times, 9/16/01 (B), Telegraph, 12/16/01, CBS, 9/11/02] If this is true, then having him take off without any fighter escort makes even less sense.
(12:00 Noon) Bush arrives at the Barksdale Air Force base headquarters in a Humvee escorted by armed outriders. Reporters and others are not allowed to say where they are. [Telegraph, 12/16/01] Compare this level of security to the complete lack of any security measures to protect Bush earlier in the day when it is learned that a second plane has hit the WTC.
(12:00 Noon) Sen. Orrin Hatch (R), a member of both the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, says he has just been "briefed by the highest levels of the FBI and of the intelligence community." He says, "They've come to the conclusion that this looks like the signature of Osama bin Laden, and that he may be the one behind this." [Salon, 9/12/01] At 12:05, CIA Director Tenet tells Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld that a message from a bin Laden agent celebrating the attacks was intercepted two hours earlier (see (9:53 a.m.)). Rumsfeld writes in his notes that the lead is "vague," that it "might not mean something," and that there is "no good basis for hanging hat." More evidence suggesting an al-Qaeda link comes several hours later (see (2:40 p.m.)). [CBS, 9/4/02]
12:15 p.m. The US closes some border crossings with Canada and Mexico. [MSNBC, 9/22/01]
12:16 p.m. US airspace is clear except for military and emergency flights. Only a few transoceanic flights were still landing in Canada. [USA Today, 8/12/02 (C)] At 12:30, the FAA reports about 50 flights still flying in US airspace, but none are reporting problems. [CNN, 9/12/01, New York Times, 9/12/01]
12:36 p.m. Bush gives a short speech that is taped and played by the networks at 1:04 p.m. ["Just after 12:30," Salon, 9/12/01, 12:36, Washington Times, 10/8/02] In a speech at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, President Bush announces that security measures are being taken and says: "Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts." [MSNBC, 9/22/01, CNN, 9/12/01, New York Times, 9/12/01] He also states, "Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward. And freedom will be defended." [ABC News, 9/11/02]
(12:58 p.m.) Bush spends most of his time at Barksdale Air Force base arguing on the phone with Cheney and others over where he should go next. "A few minutes before 1 p.m.," he agrees to fly to Nebraska. As earlier (see 10:32 a.m.), there are rumors of a "credible terrorist threat" to Air Force One. [Telegraph, 12/16/01]
(1:02 p.m.) New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani orders an evacuation of Manhattan south of Canal Street. [1:02 PM, MSNBC, 9/22/01, 11:00 AM, AP, 8/19/02]
1:04 p.m. President Bush puts the US military on high alert worldwide. [CNN, 9/12/01, AP, 8/19/02]
1:27 p.m. A state of emergency is declared in Washington. [CNN, 9/12/01, New York Times, 9/12/01]
(1:30 p.m.) President Bush leaves Barksdale Air Force Base for Nebraska's Offutt Air Force Base, home to the US Strategic Command. [1:15, Telegraph, 12/16/01, 1:31, Salon, 9/12/01, 1:44, MSNBC, 9/22/01, 1:48, CNN, 9/12/01] He travels with Chief of Staff Andrew Card, senior advisor Karl Rove, communications staffers Dan Bartlett, Ari Fleischer and Gordon Johndroe, and a reduced number of reporters. [Salon, 9/12/01]
1:44 p.m. The Navy dispatches aircraft carriers and guided missile destroyers to New York and Washington. Around the country, fighters, airborne radar, and refueling planes scramble. The North American Aerospace Defense Command go to its highest alert. [MSNBC, 9/22/01, CNN, 9/12/01]
(2:00 p.m.) F-15 fighter pilot Major Daniel Nash returns to base around this time, after chasing Flight 175 and patrolling the skies over New York City. He says that when he got out of the plane, "he was told that a military F-16 had shot down a fourth airliner in Pennsylvania, a report that turned out to be incorrect." [About 1:30, Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02, about 2:30, Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] How do we know it was incorrect? Isn't it interesting that the fighter pilots active that day thought it was correct?
(2:40 p.m.) By this time, the CIA determines from airplane passenger manifests that three of the hijackers were suspected al-Qaeda operatives. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld begins planning an attack against bin Laden. In his notes composed at this time (which are leaked almost one year later), he writes he wants the "best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time. Not only UBL. [Usama bin Laden] Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not." [CBS, 9/4/02]
(2:50 p.m.) Air Force One lands at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, Nebraska. Bush stays on the plane for about 10 minutes before entering United States Strategic Command at 3:06. [Salon, 9/12/01] Bush is taken into an underground bunker designed to withstand a nuclear blast. There, he uses an advanced strategic command and communications center to teleconference directly with Vice President Cheney, National Security Advisor Rice, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and members of the National Security Council. The meeting ends at 4:15. [Telegraph, 12/16/01, Washington Times, 10/8/02] [2:50, Daily Mail, 9/8/02, 2:50, Telegraph, 12/16/01, 2:50, Salon, 9/12/01, 3:07, AP, 8/19/02] Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, CIA Director Tenet, and Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta also participate in the teleconference. [ABC News, 9/11/02]
4:00 p.m. CNN reports that US officials say there are "good indications" that Saudi militant bin Laden, suspected of coordinating the bombings of two US embassies in 1998, is involved in the attacks, based on "new and specific" information developed since the attacks. [CNN, 9/12/01]
4:10 p.m. Building 7 of the WTC complex is reported on fire. [CNN, 9/12/01]
(4:33 p.m.) President Bush leaves Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska for Washington. [4:30, MSNBC, 9/22/01, 4:30, CNN, 9/12/01, 4:36, Telegraph, 12/16/01, 4:36, Washington Times, 10/8/02]
5:20 p.m. Building 7 of the WTC complex, a 47-story tower, collapses from ancillary damage. No one is killed. [5:20, MSNBC, 9/22/01, 5:20, CNN, 9/12/01, 5:25, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 5:25, AP, 8/19/02]
(6:54 p.m.) Bush arrives back at the White House, after exiting Air Force One at 6:42 and flying across Washington in a helicopter. [ABC News, 9/11/02] [6:34, Salon, 9/12/01, 6:54, Washington Times, 10/8/02, 6:54, CNN, 9/12/01, 6:54, Telegraph, 12/16/01, 7:00, AP, 8/19/02]
(7:00 p.m.) Secretary of State Powell returns to Washington from Lima, Peru. Ten hours after the attacks began, he is finally able to speak to Bush for the first time when they both arrive at the White House at about the same time. Powell later says of his flight, "And the worst part of it, is that because of the communications problems that existed during that day, I couldn't talk to anybody in Washington." [ABC News, 9/11/02] The Telegraph later theorizes, "Why so long? In the weeks before September 11 Washington was full of rumors that Powell was out of favor and had been quietly relegated to the sidelines..." [Telegraph, 12/16/01]
8:30 p.m. Bush addresses the nation on live TV. [CNN, 9/12/01] In what will later be called the Bush Doctrine, he states,"We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them." [Washington Post, 1/27/02]
9:00 p.m. Bush meets with his full National Security
Council, followed roughly half an hour later by a meeting with a smaller group
of key advisers. Bush and his advisors have already decided bin Laden is behind
the attacks. CIA Director Tenet says that al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan
are essentially one and the same. Bush says, tell the Taliban we're finished
with them. [Washington
(11:30 p.m.) Before going to sleep, Bush writes in his diary, The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today. ... We think it's Osama bin Laden." [Washington Post, 1/27/02]