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Day of 911

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Flight AA 11
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Complete 911 Timeline: United Airlines Flight 175


Project: Complete 911 Timeline

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(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 (B)] 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?

8:14 a.m.

Flight 175's intended and actual routes.
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]

8:37 a.m.

       Flight controllers ask the United Airlines 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. [Guardian 10/17/01; Boston Globe 11/23/01; 9/11 Commission Report 6/17/04] Just prior to this, Flight 11 passes from Boston flight control airspace into New York flight control airspace. John Hartling, the New York flight controller put in charge of the hijacked flight, later recounts being told that Flight 11 was hijacked: “I didn't believe him. Because I didn't think that that stuff would happen anymore, especially in this country.” [MSNBC 9/11/02 (B)]

8:41 a.m.

       Flight 175 flies from Boston flight control airspace into New York flight control airspace. Dave Bottoglia is in charge of monitoring the flight. Bottoglia has just been told by the pilot of Flight 175 that he's heard threatening communications from Flight 11 (see 8:41 a.m.). Seconds later, a controller sitting next to Bottoglia gets up and points to a radar blip. He says, “You see this target here? This is American 11. Boston center thinks it's a hijack.” Bottoglia keeps watching the blip until it disappears over New York City, and fails to notice Flight 175 for several minutes (see 8:46 a.m.). [MSNBC 9/11/02 (B)]

8:41 a.m.

United Airlines Flight 175, a Boeing 767.
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.

8:43 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 an unidentified flight controller, 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.… ” One minute later, another pilot says, “We picked up that ELT, too, but its very faint.” [New York Times, 10/16/01 (B)] This appears to have been the only plane in which the emergency signal is triggered by the pilot.

8:46 a.m.

       New York flight controller Dave Bottoglia is in charge of monitoring both Flights 11 and 175. He's just watched Flight 11's radar blip disappear over New York City, but doesn't yet realize the plane has crashed. “Within seconds” of losing Flight 11's blip, he realizes that Flight 175 is also missing. He has another controller take over all his other planes so he can focus on finding Flight 175. He tries contacting the planes several times unsuccessfully. Curt Applegate, sitting at the radar screen next to Bottoglia, sees a blip that might be the missing Flight 11. In fact, it's the missing Flight 175. Right as Bottoglia notices it, its transponder signal turns back on, but at a different signal than before (see (8:46 a.m.)). MSNBC reports, “There is no longer any question in Bottoglia's mind that he's looking at a second hijacked airliner.” He then notices it turn east and start descending. He keeps an eye on it and sees it head right at Delta Flight 2315. He recalls saying to the Delta flight, “Traffic, 2:00, 10 miles. I think he's been hijacked. I don't know his intentions. Take any evasive action necessary.” Flight 2315 takes evasive action, missing Flight 175 by less than 200 feet. [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)] However, there is no claim that NORAD is notified about the hijacking at this time. According to a NORAD timeline, NORAD is notified by Boston flight control three minutes earlier (see 8:43 a.m.). The 9/11 Commission seems to completely ignore this account from Bottoglia, and has him notice the transponder change at 8:51, instead of as it is happening, as he claims (see 8:51-8:53 a.m.).

(8:46 a.m.)

The hole caused by the Flight 11 crash
Flight 175 stops transmitting its transponder signal. It is 50 miles north of New York City, heading toward Baltimore. [8:46:18, Guardian, 10/17/01, “about the same time” as Flight 11 crash, Newsday, 9/10/02, 8:47, 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] 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]

(8:49 a.m.)

       Apparently, managers at United Airlines' headquarters in Chicago are unaware of any unfolding emergency until they watch CNN break the story at 8:48. “Within minutes,” United headquarters gets a call from the FAA saying the plane that crashed into the WTC was an American Airlines passenger plane. At about the same time and before a call about the flight at about 8:50 (see (8:50 a.m.)), a manager says to Jim Goodwin, United's chairman and chief executive, “Boss, we've lost contact with one of our airplanes [Flight 175].” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/01] At around 9:00, a United dispatcher reports that Flight 175 has been lost (it's not clear if this is a clarification of the message ten minutes earlier or a change in the timing). [Independent Commission 1/27/04]

(8:49 a.m.)

Peter Hanson.
Businessman Peter 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. [around 8:49, Telegraph, 9/16/01 (B), Toronto Sun, 9/16/01, BBC, 9/13/01] The 9/11 Commission later concludes, “Reports from Flight 175 included one passenger predicting the hijackers intended to fly an aircraft into a building.” As only two passengers call from the flight and the other call is described elsewhere in the report, it is likely Hanson says this. [CNN 3/10/04]

8:51-8:53 a.m.

       According to the 9/11 Commission, the flight controller handling Flight 175 (presumably Dave Bottoglia [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)]) only notices now that the flight's transponder signal has changed, though this happened around 8:46 (see (8:46 a.m.)). The controller asks the plane to return to its proper transponder code. There's no response. Beginning at 8:52, he makes repeated attempts to contact the plane, but there is still no response. [Independent Commission Report, 6/17/04] ] He contacts another controller at 8:53, and says, “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, Independent Commission Report, 6/17/04] This account conflicts with earlier accounts that NORAD is notified at 8:43 that Flight 175 has been hijacked (see 8:43 a.m.). It also conflicts with Bottoglia's own account of finding Flight 175 at 8:46 and realizing it is hijacked then (see 8:46 a.m.).

(8:50 a.m.)

Robert Fangman.
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 goes dead. A dispatcher monitoring the flight then sends messages to the plane's cockpit computer but gets no response. [“a little more” than 8:47, Wall Street Journal, 10/15/01, “around 8:50,” B oston Globe, 11/23/01, “around 8:50,” 9/11 Commission, 1/27/04] The information is quickly relayed to United headquarters. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/04] There is no known name of any female flight attendant from this flight calling, but male flight attendant Robert Fangman calls from this flight at some unknown time. It is unclear if there is a gender confusion on the call received by Miles, or if there are two attendants who call from this flight. [CNN 5/28/04]

8:50 a.m.

       Flight 175, already off course, makes a near complete U-turn and starts heading north towards New York City. [CNN 9/17/01]

(8:52 a.m. and after)

       There are differing accounts on how long the F-15s scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base take to reach New York City. According to pilot Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy, they are in a hurry. Duffy later recalls, “We've been over the flight a thousand times in our minds and I don't know what we could have done to get there any quicker.” However, though Duffy says he's been warned Flight 11 had been hijacked and appears headed toward New York City, he doesn't realize it is something other than a routine exercise: “It's just peacetime. We're not thinking anything real bad is going to happen out there.” [BBC, 9/1/02, Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] But in another account, Duffy claims that fellow officer tells him before takeoff, “This looks like the real thing.” Duffy recalls, “It just seemed wrong. I just wanted to get there. I was in full-blower all the way.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] Full-blower means the fighters are traveling at or near full speed. An F-15 can travel over 1875 mph. [Air Force News, 7/30/97] It requires a lot of fuel to maintain such high speeds for long, but a NORAD commander notes these fighters happen to be stocked with extra fuel. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] 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] He says, “When we [take] off we [start] climbing a 280-heading, basically towards New York City. I [am] supersonic …. We [are] to proceed to Manhattan directly and set up a combat air patrol.” [BBC, 9/1/02] There are different accounts as to just how quickly they travel. 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, the fighters 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 a NORAD timeline just after 9/11, these planes take about 19 minutes to reach New York City (putting them there at 9:11), traveling below supersonic speeds at less than 600 mph. [NORAD, 9/18/01] The 9/11 Commission later concludes that the fighters are never directed toward New York City at all, despite the accounts of the pilots and others, and head out over the ocean instead (see (9:08-9:13 a.m.)). They don't reach New York City until 9:25. [Independent Commission Report 6/17/04]

(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.

(8:52 a.m.)

Mike McCormick.
Mike McCormick, head of New York flight control center, sees the first WTC attack on CNN. He assumes that Flight 175, which he is seeing on his radar screen, is also headed into the WTC. He says, “Probably one of the most difficult moments of my life was the 11 minutes from the point I watched that aircraft, when we first lost communications until the point that aircraft hit the World Trade Center. For those 11 minutes, I knew, we knew, what was going to happen, and that was difficult.” [CNN, 8/12/02] Yet, according to the 9/11 Commission, this flight control center won't notify NORAD about Flight 175 until after it crashes (see (9:03 a.m.)).

8:52 a.m.

A typical F-15.
Two F-15s take off from Otis Air National Guard Base, six minutes after being ordered to go after Flight 11, which has already crashed. This is 39 minutes after flight controllers lost contact with Flight 11 (see (8:13 a.m.)), and 26 minutes after flight controllers were certain Flight 11 was hijacked (see (8:24 a.m.)). [NORAD 9/18/01; CNN 9/17/01; Washington Post 9/15/01; ABC News 9/11/02; Washington Post 9/12/01; 9/11 Commission Report 6/17/04] They inadvertently head toward Flight 175 instead. As soon as they strap in, the green light to launch goes on, and they're up even before their fighters' radar kicks in. [Cape Cod Times 8/21/02]

(8:55 a.m.)

       The head New York flight controller notifies a manager at the facility that she believes Flight 175 has been hijacked. The manager tries to notify regional managers about this, but is told the managers are discussing the hijacking of Flight 11 and refuse to be disturbed. However, even though the controller managing Flight 175 said “we may have a hijack” at 8:53, NORAD is still not notified. [Independent Commission Report, 6/17/04] This is according to the 9/11 Commission, but this account conflicts with previous accounts that NORAD is notified of the Flight 175 hijacking at 8:43 (see 8:43 a.m.). The head of the flight control center, Mike McCormick, has already decided at 8:52 that Flight 175 has been hijacked and is on a suicide run to New York City (see (8:52 a.m.)).

8:58 a.m.

Brian Sweeney.
Brian Sweeney on Flight 175 calls his wife but can only leave a message. “We've been hijacked, and it doesn't look too good.” Then he calls his mother and tells her what's happening onboard. [Hyannis News, 9/13/01, Washington Post, 9/21/01] She recalls him saying, “They might come back here. I might have to go. We are going to try to do something about this.” She also recalls him identifying the hijackers as Middle Eastern. Then he tells his mother he loves her and hangs up the phone. The mother turns on the television and soon sees Flight 175 crash into the WTC. The 9/11 Commission later concludes that the Flight 175 passengers planned to storm the cockpit but didn't have time before the plane crashed. [CNN 3/10/04; New York Daily News 3/9/04]

(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] Managers at American Airlines' headquarters in Forth Worth, Texas also closely watch radar showing Flight 175 head into New York City. [USA Today, 8/12/02] Yet, according to the 9/11 Commission, no one has notified NORAD about the flight (see (9:03 a.m.)).

(9:01 a.m.)

       New York flight control contacts New York terminal approach control and asks for help in locating Flight 175. Different flight controllers scan different altitudes, and terminal approach only deals with low flying planes. These low altitude flight controllers remain uninformed about what happened to Flight 11 until about now: “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 such controller says of both planes: “They dove into the airspace. By the time anybody saw anything, it was over.” [New York Times 9/13/01 (F); Independent Commission Report 6/17/04]

(9:01 a.m.)

       A manager from New York flight control tells the FAA Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, “We have several situations going on here. It's escalating big, big time. We need to get the military involved with us …. We're, we're involved with something else, we have other aircraft that may have a similar situation going on here ….” The 9/11 Commission calls this the first notification to FAA leadership of the second hijack. [“Between 9:01 and 9:02,” Independent Commission Report, 6/17/04] If this is true, then it means United Airlines headquarters hasn't contacted the FAA despite knowing Flight 175 has been hijacked since about 8:50 (see (8:49 a.m.) and (8:50 a.m.)).

9:02:54 a.m.

Flight 175 an instant before it hits the WTC south tower.
Flight 175 hits the south tower, 2 World Trade Center. [CNN 9/17/01; NORAD 9/18/01; Washington Post 9/12/01; New York Times 9/12/01; New York Times 9/12/01 (B); Guardian 10/17/01; CNN 9/12/01; AP 8/19/02; Newsday 9/10/02; USA Today 9/3/02; USA Today 8/13/02; MSNBC 9/22/01; Washington Post 1/27/02; New York Times 9/11/02; USA Today 12/20/01] Millions watch the crash live on television. The plane strikes the 78th through 84th floors in the 110 story building. Approximately 100 people are killed or injured in the initial impact; 600 people in the tower eventually die. All but four work above the crash point. The death toll is far lower than in the north tower because about two-thirds of the tower's occupants get out in the 17 minutes after the first tower is struck (see also (8:55 a.m.)). [USA Today 12/20/01] F-15 fighter jets from Otis Air National Guard Base are still 71 miles or eight minutes away when the tower is hit. [NORAD, 9/18/01] 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.)

Flight 175 hits the WTC south tower at 9:03.
The minute Flight 175 hits the south tower, F-15 pilot Major Daniel Nash says that clear visibility allows him to see smoke pour out of Manhattan, even though NORAD says he is 71 miles away. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] The other pilot, Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy, recalls, “We're 60 miles out, and I could see the smoke from the towers.” They call to NORAD right then for an update, and Duffy relates, “At that point, they said the second aircraft just hit the World Trade Center. That was news to me. I thought we were still chasing American [Airlines Flight] 11.” [ABC, 9/14/02] Duffy again relates, “It was right about then when they said the second aircraft had just hit the World Trade Center, which was quite a shock to both [Nash] and I, because we both thought there was only one aircraft out there. We were probably 70 miles or so out when the second one hit. So, we were just a matter of minutes away.” [BBC, 9/1/02] He asks for clarification of their mission, but is met with “considerable confusion.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] Bob Varcadapane, a Newark, New Jersey flight controller who sees the Flight 175 crash, claims, “I remember the two F-15s. They were there moments after the impact. And I was just—said to myself, ‘If only they could have gotten there a couple minutes earlier.’ They just missed it.” [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)] But the 9/11 Commission later concludes that the pilots never get near New York City at all at this time. According to the Commission's account, from 8:46 until 8:52, NORAD personnel are unable to find Flight 11. Shortly after 8:50, and just before the fighters take off, NORAD is given word that a plane has hit the WTC. So, lacking a clear target, the fighters take off toward a military controlled airspace over the ocean, off the coast of Long Island (see (9:08 -9:13 a.m.)). [9/11 Commission Report 6/17/04]

(9:03 a.m.)

       The 9/11 Commission later concludes that New York flight control tells NEADS that Flight 175 has been hijacked at this time. The Commission calls this “the first indication that the NORAD air defenders had of the second hijacked aircraft.” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Robert Marr, head of NEADS, claims that he only learns a flight other than Flight 11 has been hijacked by watching Flight 175 crash into the WTC on television. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] However, after 9/11, NORAD originally concluded they were notified about Flight 175 at 8:43 (see 8:43 a.m.). Additionally, as Flight 175 crashes into the WTC, Canadian Captain Mike Jellinek overseeing the command center in NORAD's Colorado headquarters is on the phone with NEADS. He sees this live on television and asks NEADS, “Was that the hijacked aircraft you were dealing with?” The reply is yes. [Toronto Star, 12/9/01] This contradicts the Commission's conclusion that NEADS has not yet been told about Flight 175. But even if the Commission's account is correct, Flight 175 lost radio contact at 8:42, changed transponder signals at 8:46 (see (8:46 a.m.)), a flight controller called it possibly hijacked at 8:46 and/or 8:53 (see 8:46 a.m. and 8:51-8:53 a.m.), and a flight control manager called it hijacked at 8:55 (see(8:55 a.m.)). The Commission has not explained why New York flight control would wait at least 10 and as many as 17 minutes before warning NORAD that Flight 175 is possibly hijacked. [Independent Commission Report, 6/17/04] It would also mean that United Airlines headquarters fails to notify NORAD despite knowing the plane has been hijacked for about a dozen minutes (see (8:49 a.m.) and (8:50 a.m.)).

(9:03 a.m.)

       Flight controllers in Newark, New Jersey are on the phone with New York flight controllers and asked to visually find Flight 175 out from their windows. They see it and watch in horror as it drops the last five thousand feet and crashes into the WTC. Rick Tepper (who also saw the explosion of the first crash) recalls: “He was in a hard right bank, diving very steeply and very fast. And he—as he was coming up the Hudson River, he—he made another hard left turn and—just heading for downtown Manhattan …. You could see that he was trying to line himself up on the tower. Just before he hit the tower, he almost leveled it out and just— just hit the building.” Newark immediately calls the Air Traffic Control System Command Center in Washington and tells them they will not land any more airplanes in Newark, in an effort to keep aircraft away from New York City. It is the first step in shutting down the national airspace system. [MSNBC 9/11/02 (B)]

(9:03 a.m.)

       A manager at Boston flight control reports to the FAA's New England regional headquarters the “we have some planes” comment made by a Flight 11 hijacker earlier in the morning (see (8:24 a.m.)). The Boston controller says, “I'm gonna reconfirm with, with downstairs, but the, as far as the tape … seemed to think the guy said that ‘we have planes.’ Now, I don't know if it was because it was the accent, or if there's more than one [hijacked plane], but I'm gonna, I'm gonna reconfirm that for you, and I'll get back to you real quick. Okay?” Asked, “They have what?,” this person clarifies, “Planes, as in plural …. It sounds like, we're talking to New York, that there's another one aimed at the World Trade Center …. A second one just hit the Trade Center.” The person at New England headquarters replies, “Okay. Yeah, we gotta get —we gotta alert the military real quick on this.” At 9:05, Boston confirms for this headquarters and the FAA Command Center in Herndon, Virginia that a hijacker said “we have planes” (forgetting the “some” ). [Independent Commission Report 6/17/04] It appears Boston replayed the recording of the hijacker saying this about half an hour earlier (see 8:33 a.m.). Other people, such as American Airlines leader Gerard Arpey at that airline's headquarters, apparently learn about this comment before the Flight 11 crash at 8:46 (see 8:30 a.m.).

(9:08-9:13 a.m.)

       The two F-15s sent to New York City to find Flight 11 are ordered to hover in a 150-mile chunk of air space off the coast of Long Island. There are contradictory accounts over whether they reach New York City before being directed over the ocean (see (9:08 -9:13 a.m.)). Pilot Major Daniel Nash states, “Neither the civilian controller or the military controller knew what they wanted us to do.” [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] At 9:09, the NEADS Mission Crew Commander learns of the second WTC crash, and decides to send the fighters to New York City. The 9/11 Commission says the fighters remain in a holding pattern over the ocean until 9:13 while the FAA clears the airspace. The fighters then establish a Combat Air Patrol over the city at 9:25. It's unclear what the fighters do between 9:13 and 9:25, as the distance between the two locations is unknown but presumably not large. [Independent Commission Report, 6/17/04] These fighters remain over New York City for the next four hours. [Cape Cod Times 8/21/02]

(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] The actual order to stop all planes from taking off at New York's La Guardia airport is given to the airplanes on the ground at 9:07. [New York Times, 12/30/03] Mike McCormick, head of a Long Island, New York air traffic control center, makes the decision without consulting any superiors. [ABC News 8/12/02] 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?

(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 The Pet Goat, from the book “Reading Mastery 2, Storybook 1.” It's a simple story about a girl's pet goat. [AFP, 9/7/02, Editor and Publisher, 7/2/04] 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] 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] In actual fact, by 9/11 Defense Secretary Rumsfeld also has the authority to order a shootdown, but he also claims to be out of contact. [New York Observer, 6/17/04] (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] However, the video lasts for “at least seven additional minutes” and ends before Bush leaves. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/04] The above time is a rough guess based mostly on the Tampa Tribune estimate). Much of this video footage is shown in Michael Moore's 2004 movie, Fahrenheit 911. [New York Times 6/18/04 (C)]

9:58 a.m.

       According to mayor Rudy Giuliani's 9/11 Commission testimony in 2004, about one minute before the first WTC tower falls, he is able to reach the White House by phone. Speaking to Chris Henick, deputy political director to President Bush, Giuliani learns the Pentagon has been hit and asks about fighter cover over New York City. Henick replies, “The jets were dispatched 12 minutes ago and they should be there very shortly, and they should be able to defend you against further attack.” [Independent Commission, 5/19/04] If this is true, it means fighters scramble from the Otis base around 9:46, not at 8:52 as others have claimed (see (8:52 a.m.)). While Giuliani's account may seem wildly off compared to other many other reports of these fighters scrambling much earlier, in fact it is consistent with reports shortly after 9/11. In the first few days, acting Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers and NORAD spokesman Marine Corps Major Mike Snyder claimed no fighters were scrambled anywhere until after the Pentagon was hit. [General Myers' Senate confirmation hearing, 9/13/01, Boston Globe 9/15/01] This story only changed on the evening of September 14, 2001, when CBS reported, “contrary to early reports, US Air Force jets did get into the air on Tuesday while the attacks were under way.” [CBS 9/14/01]

9:59 a.m.

WTC south tower collapses at 9:59.
The south tower of the World Trade Center collapses. It was hit by Flight 175 at 9:02. [Washington Post 9/12/01; MSNBC 9/22/01; AP 8/19/02; ABC News 9/11/02; New York Times 9/12/01 (B); CNN 9/12/01; New York Times 9/12/01; US Army authorized seismic study; USA Today 12/20/01]

(9:59 a.m.)

       According to Major Daniel Nash, pilot of one of the two fighters first scrambled on 9/11 (see 8:52 a.m.), the fighters over New York City are never given a shoot down order by the military that day. He recalls that around the time of the collapse of the South Tower, “The New York controller did come over the radio and say if we have another hijacked aircraft we're going to have to shoot it down.” [BBC, 9/1/02] However, he says this is an off-the-cuff personal statement, not connected to the chain of command. [Cape Cod Times 8/21/02]

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