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Before 9/11

Hunt for bin Laden
Pipeline Politics
Counterterrorism Before 9/11
Military Exercises
Foreign Intelligence Warnings
Warning Signs
Insider Trading

Al-Qaeda Members

Al-Qaeda in Germany
Alhazmi and Almihdhar
Other 9/11 Hijackers
Mohamed Atta
Nabil al-Marabh
Zacarias Moussaoui
Ziad Jarrah
Hani Hanjour
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed
Marwan Alshehhi

Geopolitics and 9/11

Saudi Arabia and the bin Laden Family
Bin Laden Family
Randy Glass
Mahmood Ahmed
Pakistani ISI
Saeed Sheikh
US Dominance

Day of 9/11

All day of 9/11 events
Flight UA 175
Flight AA 11
Flight AA 77
Richard Clarke
Donald Rumsfeld
Dick Cheney
George Bush
Flight UA 93

The Post-9/11 World

Other events
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Complete 911 Timeline


Project: Complete 911 Timeline

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(8:00 a.m.): Bush Receives Daily Intelligence Briefing

       President 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 it contained nothing serious enough to cause Bush to call National Security Adviser Rice. The briefing ends around 8:20 a.m. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01]

8:01 a.m.: Flight 93 Is Delayed for 41 Minutes

       Flight 93 is delayed for 41 minutes on the runway in Newark, New Jersey. It will take off at 8:42 a.m. 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, 9/22/01; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01 (B)] Apparently, Flight 93 has to wait in a line of about a dozen planes before it can take off. [USA Today, 8/12/02]

(Between 8:13-8:21 a.m.): Flight 11 Transponder Turned Off

Flight controller Matt McCluskey stands in the Boston tower where the Flight 11 hijack was first detected.
Shortly after flight controllers ask Flight 11 to climb to 35,000 feet, the transponder stops transmitting. A transponder is an electronic device that identifies a plane on a controller's screen and gives its exact location and altitude. Among other vital functions, it is also used to transmit a four-digit emergency hijack code. Flight control manager Glenn Michael later says, “We considered it at that time to be a possible hijacking.” [Associated Press, 8/12/02; Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/01; MSNBC, 9/15/01] Initial stories after 9/11 suggest the transponder is turned off around 8:13 a.m., but Pete Zalewski, the flight controller handling the flight, later says the transponder is turned off at 8:20 a.m. [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)] The 9/11 Commission places it at 8:21 a.m. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Colonel Robert Marr, head of NEADS, claims the transponder is turned off some time after 8:30 a.m. where the Flight 11 hijack was first detected a.m. [ABC News, 9/11/02]

September 11, 2001: The 9/11 Attack: 3,000 Die in New York City and Washington, D.C.

The September 11, 2001 attacks. From left to right: The World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Flight 93 crash.
The 9/11 attack: Four planes are hijacked, two crash into the WTC, one into the Pentagon, and one crashes into the Pennsylvania countryside. Nearly 3,000 people are killed.
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, United Airlines, American Airlines, Pentagon, World Trade Center

(8:13 a.m.): Flight 11 Hijacked, but Pilot Makes No Distress Call

Flight 11's manifest. Such details on other flights haven't been released. One version of where the hijackers and murdered passenger Daniel Lewin sat is marked, but there are competing versions of the seat numbers.
The last routine communication takes place between ground control and the pilots of Flight 11 around this time. Flight controller Pete Zalewski is handling the flight. The pilot responds when told to turn right, but immediately afterwards fails to respond to a command to climb. Zalewski repeatedly tries to reach the pilot, even using the emergency frequency, but gets no response. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01; New York Times, 10/16/01; MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B); 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Flight 11 is apparently 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] The Boston Globe notes, “It appears that the hijackers' entry was surprising enough that the pilots did not have a chance to broadcast a traditional distress call.” It would only have taken a few seconds to press the right buttons. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01] Yet flight attendant Amy Sweeney appears to witness three of the hijackers storming the cockpit around 8:20 a.m. [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01 (C)] This would imply that, at most, one or two hijackers enter the cockpit at this time, before the others do.

(After 8:14 a.m.-8:38 a.m.): Flight 11 Pilot Repeatedly Pushes Talk Back Button

John Ogonowski.
At some unknown point after the hijacking begins, the talkback button is activated, which enables Boston flight controllers to hear what is being said in the cockpit. It is unclear whether John Ogonowski, the pilot of Flight 11, activates the talkback button, or whether a hijacker accidentally does so when he takes over the cockpit. A controller later says, “The button [is] being pushed intermittently most of the way to New York.” An article later notes that “his ability to do so also indicates that he [is] in the driver's seat much of the way” to the WTC. Such transmissions continue until about 8:38 a.m. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/01; MSNBC, 9/15/01]

8:14 a.m.: Flight 175 Takes Off 16 Minutes Late

       Flight 175 takes off from Boston's Logan Airport, 16 minutes after its scheduled 7:58 departure time. [Washington Post, 9/12/01; CNN, 9/17/01; Guardian, 10/17/01; Associated Press, 8/19/02 (B); Newsday, 9/10/02]

(8:15 a.m.): Flight Controllers Cannot Contact Flight 11

       Two Boston flight controllers, Pete Zalewski and Lino Martins, discuss the fact that Flight 11 cannot be contacted. Zalewski says to Martins, “He won't answer you. He's nordo [no radio] roger thanks.” [CNN, 9/17/01; Guardian, 10/17/01; New York Times, 10/16/01 (C); MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)]

September 11, 2001: Israeli Special-Ops Passenger Shot or Stabbed by Hijackers?

       An FAA memo written on the evening of 9/11, and later leaked, suggests that a man on Flight 11 was shot and killed by a gun before the plane crashed into the WTC. The “Executive Summary,” based on information relayed by a flight attendant to the American Airlines Operation Center, stated “that a passenger located in seat 10B [Satam Al Suqami] shot and killed a passenger in seat 9B [Daniel Lewin] at 9:20 am.” (Note that since Flight 11 crashed at 8:46, the time must be a typo, probably meaning 8:20). A report in Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz on September 17 identifies Lewin as a former member of the Israel Defense Force Sayeret Matkal, Israel's most successful special-operations unit. [UPI, 3/6/02] Sayeret Matkal is a deep-penetration unit that has been involved in assassinations, the theft of foreign signals-intelligence materials, and the theft and destruction of foreign nuclear weaponry. Sayeret Matkal is best known for the 1976 rescue of 106 passengers at Entebbe Airport in Uganda. [New Yorker, 10/29/01] Lewin founded Akamai, a successful computer company, and his connections to Sayeret Matkal remained hidden until the gun story became known. [Guardian, 9/15/01] FAA and American Airline officials later deny the gun story and suggest that Lewin was probably stabbed to death instead. [UPI, 3/6/02; Washington Post, 3/2/02 (B)] Officials assert that the leaked document was a “first draft,” and subsequently corrected, but declines to release the final draft, calling it “protected information.” However, an FAA official present when the memo was drafted will dispute the FAA's claim, asserting that “[t]he document was reviewed for accuracy by a number of people in the room, including myself and a couple of managers of the operations center.” [World Net Daily, 3/7/02]
People and organizations involved: Federal Aviation Administration, American Airlines, Sayeret Matkal, Satam Al Suqami, Daniel Lewin

(8:20 a.m.): Boston Flight Control Thinks Flight 11 May Be Hijacked?

       According to some reports, Boston flight control decides that Flight 11 has probably been hijacked, but apparently, it does not notify other flight control centers for another five minutes, and does not notify NORAD for approximately 20 minutes. [Newsday, 9/23/01; New York Times, 9/15/01 (C)] ABC News will later say, “There doesn't seem to have been alarm bells going off, [flight] 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] (Note the conflicting account at 8:21 a.m.)

(8:20 a.m.): Flight 77 Takes Off 10 Minutes Late

       Flight 77 departs Dulles International Airport near Washington, ten minutes after its 8:10 scheduled departure time. [CNN, 9/17/01; Washington Post, 9/12/01; Guardian, 10/17/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04; Associated Press, 8/19/02 (B)]

(Before 8:20 a.m.): Hijackers Attack Passenger on Flight 77

Daniel Lewin.
Four hijackers get up from their seats and stab or shoot passenger Daniel Lewin, a multimillionaire who once belonged to the Israel Defense Force's Sayeret Matkal, a top-secret counterterrorist unit. Lewin is sitting in front of one of the three hijackers in business class. An initial FAA memo regarding the flight states that Satam Al Suqami shoots Lewin at 9:20 a.m. The time is certainly a typo; perhaps 8:20 a.m. is meant? The killing is mentioned in a phone call from the flight that starts at 8:20 a.m. [ABC News, 7/18/02; UPI, 3/6/02; Washington Post, 3/2/02 (B)]

(8:20 a.m.): Flight 11 Veers Off Course

       Flight 11 starts to veer dramatically off course. [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)]

8:20 a.m.: Flight 11 IFF Signal Transmission Stops

       Flight 11 stops transmitting its IFF (identify friend or foe) beacon signal. [CNN, 9/17/01]

(8:20 a.m.): Flight 11 Attendant Sweeney Phones in Hijacking Details

Flight attendants Karen Martin and Barbara Arestegui are apparently stabbed early in the hijacking of Flight 11.
Flight 11 attendant Amy (Madeline) Sweeney borrows a calling card from flight attendant Sara Low and uses an Airfone to call Boston's Logan Airport. She speaks to Michael Woodward, an American Airlines flight service manager. Because Woodward and Sweeney are friends, he does not have to verify the call is not a hoax. The call is not recorded, but Woodward takes detailed notes. [New York Observer, 2/11/04; ABC News, 7/18/02] She calmly tells Woodward, “Listen, and listen to me very carefully. I'm on Flight 11. The airplane has been hijacked.” [ABC News, 7/18/02] According to one account, she gives him the seat locations of three hijackers: 9D, 9G, and 10B. She says they are all of Middle Eastern descent, and one speaks English very well. [New York Observer, 2/11/04] Another account states that she identifies four hijackers (but still not the five said to be on the plane), and notes that not all the seats she gave matched up with the seats assigned to the hijackers on their tickets. [ABC News, 7/18/02; Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01 (C)] She says she cannot contact the cockpit, and does not believe the pilots are flying the plane any longer. [New York Observer, 2/11/04] According to a later Los Angeles Times report, “Even as she was relating details about the hijackers, the men were storming the front of the plane and ‘had just gained access to the cockpit,’ ” (Note that Sweeney witnesses the storming of the cockpit at least seven minutes after radio contact from Flight 11 stops and at least one of the hijackers begins taking control of the cockpit.) [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01 (C)] She says the hijackers have stabbed the two first-class flight attendants, Barbara Arestegui and Karen Martin. She adds, “A hijacker cut the throat of a business-class passenger [later identified as Daniel Lewin], and he appears to be dead.” She also says the hijackers have brought a bomb into the cockpit. Woodward asks Sweeney, “How do you know it's a bomb?” She answers, “Because the hijackers showed me a bomb.” She describes its yellow and red wires. Sweeney continues talking with Woodward until Flight 11 crashes. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01; New York Observer, 2/11/04]

(8:21 a.m.): Boston Controller Suspects Something Seriously Wrong with Flight 11, but NORAD Not Notified

       Boston flight controller Pete Zalewski, handling Flight 11, sees that the flight is off course and that the plane has turned off both transponder and radio. Zalewski later claims he turns to his supervisor and says, “Would you please come over here? I think something is seriously wrong with this plane. I don't know what. It's either mechanical, electrical, I think, but I'm not sure.” When asked if he suspected a hijacking at this point, he replies, “Absolutely not. No way.” According to the 9/11 Commission, “the supervisor instructed the controller [presumably Zalewski] to follow standard operating procedures for handling a ‘no radio’ aircraft once the controller told the supervisor the transponder had been turned off.” Another flight controller, Tom Roberts, has another nearby American Airlines flight try to contact Flight 11. There is still no response. The flight is now “drastically off course” but NORAD is still not notified. [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B); 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Note that this response contradicts flight control manager Glenn Michael's assertion that Flight 11 was considered a possible hijacking as soon as the transponder was discovered turned off.

(8:21 a.m.): Flight 11 Attendant Ong Phones in Hijack Report, Officials Doubt Validity

Betty Ong.
Flight 11 attendant Betty Ong calls Vanessa Minter, an American Airlines reservations agent in North Carolina, using a seatback Airfone from the back of the plane. Ong speaks to Minter and an unidentified man for about two minutes. Then supervisor Nydia Gonzales is patched in to the conference call as well. Ong says, “The cockpit's not answering. Somebody's stabbed in business class and ... I think there's mace ... that we can't breathe. I don't know, I think We're getting hijacked.” A minute later, she continues, “And the cockpit is not answering their phone. And there's somebody stabbed in business class. And there's ... we can't breathe in business class. Somebody's got mace or something ... I'm sitting in the back. Somebody's coming back from business. If you can hold on for one second, they're coming back.” As this quote shows, other flight attendants relay information from the front of the airplane to Ong sitting in the back, and she periodically waits for updates. She goes on, “I think the guys are up there [in the cockpit]. They might have gone there—jammed the way up there, or something. Nobody can call the cockpit. We can't even get inside.” The first four and a half minutes of the call is later played in a public 9/11 Commission hearing. Ong apparently continues speaking to Gonzales and Minter until the plane crashes. [New York Observer, 2/11/04; 9/11 Commission Report, 1/27/04] 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey, who has heard more recordings than have been made public, says that some officials on the ground greet her account skeptically: “They did not believe her. They said, ‘Are you sure?’ They asked her to confirm that it wasn't air-rage. Our people on the ground were not prepared for a hijacking.” [New York Times, 4/18/04]

8:21 a.m.: Sweeney's Call Reaches American Headquarters, but Managers Cover Up the News

Amy (Madeline) Sweeney.
American Airlines flight service manager Michael Woodward is listening to Flight 11 attendant Amy Sweeney on the telephone, and he wants to pass on the information he is hearing from her. Since there is no tape recorder, he calls Nancy Wyatt, the supervisor of pursers at Logan Airport. Holding telephones in both hands, he repeats to Wyatt everything that Sweeney is saying to him. Wyatt in turn simultaneously transmits his account to the airline's Fort Worth, Texas, headquarters. The conversation between Wyatt and managers at headquarters is recorded. All vital details from Sweeney's call reach American Airlines' top management almost instantly. However, according to victims' relatives who later hear this recording, the two managers at headquarters immediately begin discussing a cover-up of the hijacking details. They say, “don't spread this around. Keep it close,” “Keep it quiet,” and “Let's keep this among ourselves. What else can we find out from our own sources about what's going on?” One former American Airlines employee who has also heard this recording recalls, “In Fort Worth, two managers in SOC [Systems Operations Control] were sitting beside each other and hearing it. They were both saying, ‘Do not pass this along. Let's keep it right here. Keep it among the five of us.’ ” Apparently, this decision prevents early and clear evidence of a hijacking from being shared during the crisis. Gerard Arpey, American Airlines' executive vice president for operations, soon hears details of the hijacking from flight attendant Betty Ong's phone call at 8:30 a.m., but apparently, he does not learn of Sweeney's call until much later. Victims' relatives will later question whether lives could have been saved if only this information had been quickly shared with other airplanes. [New York Observer, 6/17/04]

(8:23 a.m.): Flight 11 Attendant Ong's Hijacking Account Forwarded to American Airlines Headquarters

       Nydia Gonzalez, an American Airlines supervisor with expertise on security matters, is patched in to a call with flight attendant Betty Ong on Flight 11. [9/11 Commission Report, 1/27/04] At 8:27 a.m., Gonzalez calls Craig Marquis, a manager at American Airlines' headquarters. Gonzalez holds the phone to Ong to one ear, and the phone to Marquis to the other. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/01; New York Observer, 2/11/04] Gonzalez talks to Marquis continuously until Flight 11 crashes. The first four minutes of this call are later played before the 9/11 Commission. Marquis quickly says, “I'm assuming they've declared an emergency. Let me get ATC [air traffic control] on here. Stand by. ... Okay, We're contacting the flight crew now and We're ... We're also contacting ATC.” In the four recorded minutes, Gonzalez relays that Ong is saying the hijackers from seats 2A and 2B are in the cockpit with the pilots. There are no doctors on board. All the first class passengers have been moved to the coach section. The airplane is flying very erratically. [9/11 Commission Report, 1/27/04]

(8:24 a.m.): Boston Flight Controllers Hear Flight 11 Hijacker: We Have Some Planes

       Because the talkback button on Flight 11 has been activated, Boston flight controllers can 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.” Flight controller John Zalewski 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.” [Guardian, 10/17/01; New York Times, 10/16/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04; Boston Globe, 11/23/01; MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B); New York Times, 9/12/01; Channel 4 News, 9/13/01] Immediately after hearing this voice, Zalewski “knew right then that he was working a hijack” and calls for his supervisor. The frequency of Flight 11 is played on speakers so everyone in Boston flight control can hear. [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B); Village Voice, 9/13/01]

(8:24 a.m.): Flight 11 Turns, Many Watch It on Primary Radar

       Boston flight control radar sees Flight 11 making an unplanned 100-degree turn to the south (the plane is already way off course). Flight controllers never lose sight of the flight, though they can no longer determine altitude once the transponder is turned off. [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/02; MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B); 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 flight controller Mark Hodgkins later says, “I watched the target of American 11 the whole way down.” [ABC News, 9/6/02] However, apparently, NEADS has different radar. When they are finally told about the flight, they cannot find it. Boston has to update NEADS on Flight 11's position periodically 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 Service, 1/25/02]

8:25 a.m.: Boston Flight Control Tells Other Centers About Hijack, but Not NORAD

       The Guardian reports that Boston flight control “notifies several air traffic control centers that a hijack is taking place.” But it does not notify NORAD for another 6-15 minutes, depending on the account. [Guardian, 10/17/01] However, the Indianapolis flight controller monitoring Flight 77 claims to not know about this or Flight 175's hijacking twenty minutes later at 8:56 a.m. Additionally, the flight controllers at New York City's La Guardia airport are never told about the hijacked planes and learn about them from watching the news. [Bergen Record, 1/4/04]

(Between 8:27-8:30 a.m.): Ong Gives Flight 11 Details; Seating Accounts Differ

       Craig Marquis, listening to information coming from flight attendant Betty Ong on Flight 11, calls American Airlines' system operations control center in Fort Worth. He says, “She said two flight attendants had been stabbed, one was on oxygen. A passenger had his throat slashed and looked dead and they had gotten into the cockpit.” He relays that Ong said the four hijackers had come from first-class seats: 2A, 2B, 9A, and 9B. She said the wounded passenger was in seat 10B. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01] Note that this conflicts with the seats flight attendant Amy Sweeney gives for the hijackers at about the same time: 9D, 9G, and 10B. By 8:27 a.m., this information is passed to Gerard Arpey, the effective head of American Airlines that morning. By 9:59 a.m., counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke and other top officials receive the information. [Clarke, 2004, pp 13-14]

(Before 8:26 a.m.): Hijackers Identified by Seat Locations

       Having been told by flight attendant Amy Sweeney the seat locations of three hijackers, American Airlines flight service manager Michael Woodward orders a colleague at Boston's Logan Airport to look up those seat locations on the reservations computer. The names, addresses, phone numbers, and credit cards of these hijackers are quickly identified: Abdulaziz Alomari is in 9G, Mohamed Atta is in 9D, and Satam Al Suqami is in 10B. 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey notes that from this information, American Airlines officials monitoring the call would probably have known or assumed right away that the hijacking was connected to al-Qaeda. [ABC News, 7/18/02; New York Observer, 2/11/04]

8:28 a.m.: FAA Centers Have Hijacking Conference Call; NORAD Not Notified

The FAA Command Center, the center of daily management of the US air traffic system. On 9/11 it is managed by Ben Sliney (not pictured here).
Boston flight control calls the FAA Command Center and tells them that they believe Flight 11 has been hijacked and it is heading toward New York airspace. At 8:32 a.m., the Command Center shares this with the Operations Center at FAA headquarters. Headquarters replies that they have just begun discussing the hijack situation with the main FAA New England office. The Command Center immediately establishes a teleconference between the Boston, New York, and Cleveland flight control centers so that Boston can help the others understand what is happening. Even though by 8:24 a.m. Boston is fairly certain that Flight 11 has been hijacked, they do not contact NORAD. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

(8:28 a.m.): Flight 11 Is a Confirmed Hijacking; NORAD Still Not Notified

       American Airlines manager Craig Marquis is talking to Nydia Gonzalez, who in turn is talking to flight attendant Betty Ong on Flight 11. Marquis says, “We contacted air traffic control, they are going to handle this as a confirmed hijacking. So they're moving all the traffic out of this aircraft's way. ... He turned his transponder off, so we don't have a definitive altitude for him. We're just going by ... They seem to think that they have him on a primary radar. They seem to think that he is descending.” This transmission further indicates that Boston flight control believes that Flight 11 has been hijacked by this time. [9/11 Commission Report, 1/27/04]

8:30 a.m.: FAA Hijack Coordinator Responsible For Contacting Military is Out of Contact

Mike Canavan testifying before the 9/11 Commission.
Protocols in place on 9/11 state that if the FAA requests the military to go after an airplane, “the escort service will be requested by the FAA hijack coordinator by direct contact with the National Military Command Center (NMCC).” [FAA, 11/3/98] Acting FAA Deputy Administrator Monty Belger states essentially the same thing to the 9/11 Commission, “The official protocol on that day was for the FAA headquarters, primarily through the hijack coordinator ... to request assistance from the NMCC if there was a need for DOD assistance.” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] However, the hijack coordinator, FAA Office of Civil Aviation Security Director Mike Canavan, is in Puerto Rico and claims to have missed out on “everything that transpired that day.” The 9/11 Commission fails to ask him if he had delegated that task to anyone else while he was gone. [9/11 Commission Final Report, 7/22/04, pp 17; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/03]

8:30 a.m.: Rookie in Command of the NMCC

Captain Charles Leidig.
Captain Charles Leidig, the deputy for command center operations at the NMCC, takes over temporarily from Brigadier General Montague Winfield and is effectively in charge of NMCC during the 9/11 crisis. Winfield had requested the previous day that Leidig stand in for him on September 11. Leidig had started his role as Deputy for Command Center Operations two months earlier and had qualified to stand in for Winfield just the previous month. Leidig remains in charge from a few minutes before the 9/11 crisis begins until about 10:30 a.m., after the last hijacked plane crashes. He presides over an important crisis response teleconference that has a very slow start, not even beginning until 9:39 a.m. [Leidig Testimony, 6/17/04; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04 (B)]

(8:30 a.m.): Some US Leaders Are Scattered; Others in D.C.

Secretary of State Colin Powell leaves his Lima, Peru hotel after hearing the news.
Just prior to learning about the 9/11 attacks, top US leaders are scattered across the country and overseas:
President Bush is in Sarasota, Florida. [Washington Post, 1/27/02]

Secretary of State Powell is in Lima, Peru. [Washington Post, 1/27/02]

General Henry Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is flying across the Atlantic on the way to Europe. [Washington Post, 1/27/02]

Attorney General Ashcroft is flying to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. [Washington Post, 1/27/02]

Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Joe Allbaugh is at a conference in Montana. [ABC News, 9/14/02 (B)]
Others are in Washington:
Vice President Cheney and National Security Adviser Rice are at their offices in the White House. [Washington Post, 1/27/02]

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is at his office in the Pentagon, meeting with a delegation from Capitol Hill. [Washington Post, 1/27/02]

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. [Washington Post, 1/27/02]

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]

Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is at a conference in the Ronald Reagan Building three blocks from the White House. [Clarke, 2004, pp 1]


8:30 a.m.: American Airlines Vice President Informed of Hijacking

Gerard Arpey.
Gerard Arpey (American Airlines' executive vice president for operations) learns from manager Joe Burdepelly that Flight 11 may have been hijacked. Burdepelly tells Arpey that he has been told that another manager, Craig Marquis, is in contact with flight attendant Betty Ong on the hijacked flight. Arpey learns that Ong has said two other attendants have been stabbed, that two or three passengers are in the cockpit, and more. Arpey is the effective head of American Airlines during the early phase of the crisis, because the company's president is still at home and out of contact. [9/11 Commission Report, 1/27/04] At some point before Flight 11 crashes, Arpey is told about the “We have some planes” comment made by the hijackers. [USA Today, 8/13/02]

8:30 a.m.: FAA Command Center Informed of Hijacking; NORAD Still Not Notified

       The FAA's Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, begins its usual daily senior staff meeting. National Operations Manager Ben Sliney interrupts the meeting to report a possible hijacking in progress, as the Center had been told about the Flight 11 hijacking two minutes earlier. Later, a supervisor interrupts the meeting to report that a flight attendant on the hijacked aircraft may have been stabbed. The meeting breaks up before the first WTC crash at 8:46 a.m. Apparently, no one in the meeting contacts NORAD. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 12/17/01]

(8:34 a.m.): Atlantic City Fighters Not Reached; Not Redeployed Until Much Later

       Around this time, Boston flight control attempts to contact an Atlantic City, New Jersey, air base, to send fighters after Flight 11. For decades, the air base had two fighters on 24-hour alert status, but this changed in 1998 due to budget cutbacks. The flight controllers do not realize this, and apparently try in vain to reach someone. Two F-16s from this base are practicing bombing runs over an empty stretch of the Pine Barrens near Atlantic City. Only eight minutes away from New York City, they are not alerted to the emerging crisis. Shortly after the second WTC crash at 9:03 a.m., the two F-16s are ordered to land and are refitted with air-to-air missiles, then sent aloft. However, the pilots re-launch more than an hour after the second crash. They are apparently sent to Washington, but do not reach there until almost 11:00 a.m. After 9/11, one newspaper questions why NORAD “left what seems to be a yawning gap in the midsection of its air defenses on the East Coast—a gap with New York City at the center.” [Bergen Record, 12/5/03; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Had these two fighters been notified at 8:37 a.m. or before, they could have reached New York City before Flight 11.

(8:34 a.m.): Boston Flight Control Hears Hijacker Announcement

       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.” [Boston Globe, 11/23/01; Guardian, 10/17/01; New York Times, 10/16/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Apparently, shortly after this, the transmission tapes that are automatically recorded are played back to hear the words that were spoken by the hijackers a few minutes before. Everyone in the Boston flight control center hears the hijackers say, “We have some planes.” [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)] Ben Sliney, the FAA's National Operations Manager, soon gets word of the “We have some planes” message and later says the phrase haunts him all morning. [USA Today, 8/13/02]

8:34 a.m.: Boston Flight Control Attempts to Contact Air Base Directly; Result Unknown

       Boston flight controllers attempt to contact the military through the FAA's Cape Cod, Massachusetts, facility. Two fighters are on twenty-four hour alert at the Otis Air National Guard Base, at Cape Cod. Boston tries reaching this base so the fighters there can scramble after Flight 11. Apparently, they do this before going through the usual NORAD channels. The 9/11 Commission is vague about the outcome of this call. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] However, the lead pilot at the Otis base, Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy (codenamed Duff), later claims he is given an advance warning to get ready to scramble before the official notification, thanks to a call from Boston flight control at 8:40 a.m. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02]

(8:35 a.m.): Bush Motorcade Leaves for Elementary School

The destination of Bush's motorcade is Booker Elementary School.
President Bush's motorcade leaves for Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. [Washington Post, 1/27/02; BBC, 9/1/02; Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/01; Washington Times, 10/7/02] His official schedule had him leaving at 8:30. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/04] He said farewell to the management at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort at 8:20 a.m. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01]

(8:35 a.m.): Sweeney Continues to Provide Flight 11 Updates

       Flight attendant Amy Sweeney continues to describe what is happening onboard Flight 11 to Michael Woodward at Logan Airport. At some point prior to this, she explains that flight attendants are giving injured people oxygen. They have made an announcement over the PA system asking if there is a doctor or nurse on board. Sweeney is calling from the rear of the coach section. She explains that the passengers in coach, separated by curtains from the violence in first class, are calm, believing that there is some type of medical emergency at the front of the plane. Then, at this time, the plane suddenly lurches, tilting all the way to one side, then becomes horizontal again. Then she says it begins a rapid descent. She tries to contact the cockpit again, but still gets no response. [ABC News, 7/18/02; New York Observer, 2/11/04]

(8:36 a.m.): Flight 11 Attendants Ong and Sweeney Report Plane Maneuvers

       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 reports that the plane has begun a rapid descent. [ABC News, 7/18/02] Sweeney also says that the hijackers are Middle Easterners. [San Francisco Chronicle, 7/23/04]

8:37 a.m.: Flight 11 Enters New York Control Space

       Flight 11 passes from Boston flight control airspace into New York flight control airspace. Flight controller John Hartling takes over monitoring the plane. However, when a colleague tells him the flight is hijacked, he is incredulous: “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)]

(8:37 a.m.): Boston Flight Control Notifies NORAD; Timing Disputed

Jeremy Powell.
According to the 9/11 Commission, Boston flight control contacts NEADS at this time. This is apparently the first successful notification to the military about the crisis. Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Powell, a member of the Air National Guard at NEADS, initially takes the call from Boston flight control. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02; Newhouse News Service, 1/25/02] Boston flight control says, “Hi. Boston [flight control], we have a problem here. We have a hijacked aircraft headed toward New York, and we need you guys to, we need someone to scramble some F-16s or something up there, help us out.” Powell replies, “Is this real-world or exercise?” Boston answers, “No, this is not an exercise, not a test.” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04; BBC, 9/1/02] Powell gives the phone to Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins, regional Mission Crew Chief for the Vigilant Guardian exercise. Deskins later says that initially she and “everybody” else at NEADS thinks the call is part of Vigilant Guardian. After the phone call, she has to clarify to everyone that it is not a drill. [Newhouse News Service, 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] Deskins recalls, “I picked up the line and I identified myself to the Boston [flight] 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.” However, the timing of this vital notification is in some dispute. Deskins herself claimed the call occurred at 8:31 a.m. [ABC News, 9/11/02] Another report later 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] FAA Administrator Jane Garvey testified that the FAA notified NORAD at 8:34 a.m. [New York Times, 12/30/03] NORAD on the other hand, originally claimed they were first notified at 8:40 a.m., and this was widely reported in the media prior to the 9/11 Commission's 2004 report. [NORAD, 9/18/01; Associated Press, 8/19/02 (B); BBC, 9/1/02; Newsday, 9/10/02] If the 8:37 a.m. time is accurate, then flight controllers failed to notify NORAD until approximately 13 minutes after the hijackers in the cockpit clearly stated that the plane had been hijacked at 8:24 a.m.; 17 minutes after the transponder signal was lost and the flight goes far off course; and 24 minutes after radio contact was lost at 8:13 a.m.

8:37 a.m.: Flight 175 Pilots Asked to Look for Flight 11

       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] Apparently, Flight 175 is not told Flight 11 has been hijacked. Flight 175 itself is hijacked a few minutes later.

(After 8:37 a.m.): NORAD Scramble Order Moves Through Official and Unofficial Channels

NORAD commander Larry Arnold.
NORAD gives the command to scramble fighters after Flight 11 after receiving Boston's call. Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins at NEADS tells Colonel Robert Marr, head of NEADS, “I have FAA on the phone, the shout line, Boston [flight control]. 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 recalls, “I said go ahead and scramble them, and we'll get the authorities later.” Arnold then calls NORAD headquarters to report. [ABC News, 9/11/02; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Then, upon receiving proper authorization, NEADS calls Canadian Captain Mike Jellinek at NORAD's Colorado headquarters. Jellinek is sitting near Canadian Air Force Major General Rick Findley, director of combat operations there. Findley's staff is “already on high alert” because of Vigilant Guardian and Operation Northern Vigilance, two emergency training exercises that were currently in progress. Jellinek gets the thumbs up authorization from Findley to send fighters after Flight 11. Findley later states, “At that point all we thought was we've got an airplane hijacked and we were going to provide an escort as requested. We certainly didn't know it was going to play out as it did.” Findley remains in charge of NORAD headquarters while his staff feeds information to NORAD Commander in Chief Ralph Eberhart, who is stationed in Florida. [Canadian Broadcasting Corp., 11/27/01; Toledo Blade, 12/9/01; Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/02; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02]

(8:38 a.m.): Flight 11 Pilot Stops Activating Talk Back Button

       The talkback button on Flight 11, which has been periodically activated since around 8:14 a.m., stops around this time. Some have suggested that this indicates that the hijackers replace pilot John Ogonowski at this time. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/01; MSNBC, 9/15/01]

(8:40 a.m.): Fighter Pilots Unofficially Told to Get Ready to Scramble After Flight 11

Major Daniel Nash.
Major Daniel Nash (codenamed Nasty) and Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy (codenamed Duff ) are the two F-15 pilots who would scramble after Flight 11 and then Flight 175. Apparently, they get several informal calls warning to get ready. According to Nash, at this time, a colleague at the Otis Air National Guard Base tells him that a flight out of Boston has been hijacked, and that he should be on alert. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] NEADS senior technician Jeremy Powell (informed about the hijacking at 8:37 a.m.), says that he telephones Otis Air National Guard Base soon thereafter to tell it to upgrade its “readiness posture.” [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/02] Colonel Robert Marr, head of NEADS, also says that after being told of the hijacking at 8:37 a.m., he says, “I'll call First Air Force [at Otis] and let them know we've got a potential incident.” [BBC, 9/1/02] Boston flight control had tried calling the Otis base directly at 8:34 a.m., although the result of that call remains unclear. Duffy recalls being warned: “I was just standing up by the ops desk and I was told I had a phone call. I asked who it was and they said the [Boston] tower calling and something about a hijacking. It was Flight American 11, a 767, out of Boston going to California. At the time we ran in and got suited up.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02; BBC, 9/1/02; Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] Duffy says, “Halfway to the jets, we got ‘battle stations’ ... which means to get ready for action.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] The actual scramble order does not come until the pilots are already waiting in the fighters: “We went out, we hopped in the jets and we were ready to go—standby for a scramble order if we were going to get one.” [BBC, 9/1/02] Duffy continues, “I briefed Nasty on the information I had about the American Airlines flight. About four-five minutes later, we got the scramble order and took off.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] However, the official notification to scramble these fighters does not come until 8:46 a.m. The six-minute (or more) delay between unofficial and official notification has not been explained.

8:41 a.m.: New York Flight Control Knows Flight 11 Has Been Hijacked

       Flight 175 flies into New York flight control airspace. Dave Bottoglia takes over monitoring the flight. Bottoglia has just been told by the pilot of Flight 175 that he has heard threatening communications from Flight 11. 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 [flight control] thinks it's a hijack.” John Hartling has been watching the hijacked Flight 11 since 8:37 a.m. Bottoglia joins Hartling in watching Flight 11's blip until it disappears over New York City. He does not pay attention to Flight 175 for several minutes. [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)] The New York flight control center was notified of Flight 11's hijacking around 8:25 a.m.

8:41 a.m.: Flight 175 Reports Suspicious Flight 11 Radio Transmission; Hijacked Moments Later

       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 mic and said, ‘Everyone stay in your seats.’ It cut out.” [Guardian, 10/17/01; Newsday, 9/10/02; 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 mic 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 a.m. [New York Times, 10/16/01] Presumably Flight 175 is hijacked within the next minute.

(8:42 a.m.): Flight 93 Takes Off 41 Minutes Late

       Flight 93 takes off from Newark International Airport, bound for San Francisco, California. It leaves 41 minutes late because of heavy runway traffic. [MSNBC, 9/3/02; Newsweek, 9/22/01; Associated Press, 8/19/02 (B); Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

8:43 a.m.: NORAD Notified That Flight 175 Has Been Hijacked

National Guard troops stationed at NORAD's Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, New York.
After 9/11, NORAD and other sources claim that NORAD is notified at this time Flight 175 has been hijacked. [NORAD, 9/18/01; CNN, 9/17/01; Washington Post, 9/12/01; Associated Press, 8/19/02; Newsday, 9/10/02] The 9/11 Commission, however, later concludes that New York flight control gives NEADS its first notification that Flight 175 has been hijacked at 9:03 a.m. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] If this earlier account is the accurate one, NEADS technicians learn of the hijacking at the exact same time the flight controllers do. They already have their headsets linked to Boston flight control to track Flight 11 at this time,and so they learn instantly about Flight 175. [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/02]

8:44 a.m.: Other Pilots Notice Flight 175's Emergency Signal

       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 it's very faint.” [New York Times, 10/16/01 (B)] Flight 175 appears to have been the only trigger of any emergency signal on 9/11. It is possible the ELT came from Flight 11 instead.

(Before 8:45 a.m.): American Airlines Tells Crisis Center, Leaders of Hijacking, but Not Other Pilots

       At American Airlines' headquarters in Fort Worth, their crisis command center used in emergencies, is activated. A page is sent to American's top executives and operations personnel: “Confirmed hijacking Flight 11.” However, pilots on other American flights apparently are not notified. Top managers gather at the command center and watch the radar blip of Flight 11 until it disappears over New York City. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/01]

(8:45-8:46 a.m.): Flight 11 Attendants Calm as End Approaches

       Flight attendant Amy Sweeney is still on the phone with Michael Woodward, describing conditions on Flight 11. The plane is nearing New York City, but the coach section passengers are still quiet, apparently unaware a hijacking is in progress. Woodward asks Sweeney to look out of the window and see if she can tell where they are. She replies, “I see the water. I see the building. I see buildings.” She tells him the plane is flying very low. Then she takes a slow, deep breath and slowly, calmly says, “Oh my God!” Woodward hears a loud click, and then silence. [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01; ABC News, 7/18/02] Flight attendant Betty Ong, on another phone, apparently does not realize what is about to happen. She is repeatedly saying, “Pray for us. Pray for us,” before her phone call comes to a halt. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

(8:46 a.m.): Fighters Ordered to Scramble to Flight 11 Nine Minutes After NORAD Notification

       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. [Channel 4 News, 9/13/01; CNN, 9/17/01; Washington Post, 9/15/01; Los Angeles Times, 9/17/01; NORAD, 9/18/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] According to the 9/11 Commission, NORAD makes the decision to scramble after only one phone call, as the decision is made to act first and get clearances later. Yet there is a nine-minute gap between when the 9/11 Commission says NORAD is notified about the hijacking at 8:37 a.m., and when the fighters are ordered scrambled. This delay has not been explained. The pilots had already received several unofficial warnings before this order—possibly as early as 8:34 a.m., 12 minutes earlier. One of the pilots recalls sitting in the cockpit, ready and waiting for the scramble order to come. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04; BBC, 9/1/02] Yet, according to some reports, they do not take off for another six minutes, at 8:52 a.m. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04; NORAD, 9/18/01] The fighters' initial target, Flight 11, is already crashing into the WTC at this time. Unaware of this development, the fighter pilots scramble to New York City.

8:46 a.m.: First WTC Attack Recorded on Video, but Not Broadcast Until Evening

The hole caused by the Flight 11 crash.
Two French documentary filmmakers are filming a documentary on New York City firefighters about ten blocks from the WTC. One of them hears a roar, looks up, and captures a distant image of the first WTC crash. They continue shooting footage nonstop for many hours, and their footage is first shown that evening on CNN. [New York Times, 1/12/02] President Bush later claims that he sees the first attack live on television, but this is technically impossible, as there was no live news footage of the attack. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/04]

8:46 a.m.: New York Flight Control Suspects Flight 175 Hijacking

       New York flight controller Dave Bottoglia is in charge of monitoring both Flights 11 and 175. He has just watched Flight 11's radar blip disappear over New York City, but does not 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 is the missing Flight 175. Just as Bottoglia notices it, its transponder signal turns back on, but at a different signal than before. “There is no longer any question in Bottoglia's mind that he's looking at a second hijacked airliner,” according to later MSNBC reports. Bottoglia then notices Flight 175 turn east and start descending. He keeps an eye on it and sees it head right toward Delta Flight 2315. He recalls saying to the Delta flight, “Traffic, 2:00, ten 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. On the other hand, according to a NORAD timeline from shortly after 9/11, NORAD is notified by Boston flight control three minutes earlier at 8:43 a.m. [NORAD, 9/18/01] The 9/11 Commission seems to ignore this account from Bottoglia completely, asserting that he notices the transponder change at 8:51 a.m. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

(Before 8:46 a.m.): Rumsfeld Reportedly Predicts Terror Attacks

       Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and Representative Christopher Cox (R) are meeting in Rumsfeld's private Pentagon dining room, discussing missile defense. Rumsfeld later recalls, “I had said at an eight o'clock breakfast that sometime in the next two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve months there would be an event that would occur in the world that would be sufficiently shocking that it would remind people again how important it is to have a strong healthy defense department that contributes to—that underpins peace and stability in our world.” [CNN, 12/5/01] Wolfowitz recalls, “And we commented to them that based on what Rumsfeld and I had both seen and worked on the Ballistic Missile Threat Commission, that we were probably in for some nasty surprises over the next ten years.” [Defense Department, 5/9/03] There are confused accounts that Rumsfeld says, “I've been around the block a few times. There will be another event,” just before the Pentagon is hit by Flight 77, but such comments may have been made around this time instead. Rumsfeld says, “And someone walked in and handed a note that said that a plane had just hit the World Trade Center. And we adjourned the meeting, and I went in to get my CIA briefing ... right next door here [in my office].” [CNN, 12/5/01]

(8:46 a.m.): Bush, Some Aides Reportedly Still Unaware of Flight 11 Hijack

       President Bush is traveling through Sarasota, Florida, in a motorcade when the first WTC attack occurs. According to the 9/11 Commission, “no one in the White House or traveling with the president knew that [Flight 11] had been hijacked [at this time]. Immediately afterward, duty officers at the White House and Pentagon began notifying senior officials what had happened.” However, according to reports, Bush is not notified about the crash until his motorcade reaches its destination, even though there is a secure phone in his vehicle for just this type of emergency, and even though others in the motorcade are notified. Reportedly, not even Jane Garvey, head of the FAA, nor her deputy have been told of a confirmed hijacking before they learn about the crash from the television. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04; Bamford, 2004, pp 17]

(After 8:46 a.m.): United Flight Dispatcher Decides Flight 175 Is Hijacked

       Ed Ballinger, a United Airlines flight dispatcher, is handling 16 United transcontinental flights, including Flights 175 and 93. Shortly after hearing about the WTC crash, he contacts all of his flights to warn them. However, Flight 175 is “not acting appropriately,” and fails to respond. Ballinger concludes the flight has been hijacked. Whether he contacts anyone about his conclusions is unclear. [Chicago Daily Herald, 4/14/04]

(8:46-8:50 a.m.): New York and Boston Flight Control Conclude Flight 11 Has Hit WTC

Rick Tepper.
Rick Tepper, a flight controller at the Newark, New Jersey, tower, looks across the Hudson River at New York City in time to see the explosion caused by Flight 11. Another flight controller there tries to find out what caused it. He recalls that in the next few minutes, “We contacted La Guardia, Kennedy Tower, and Teterboro Tower to find out if they lost an airplane. And they all said they didn't know what it was. I got on the phone to the en route air traffic control's facility out in New York on Long Island, and I asked them if they'd lost any airplanes, and they said, ‘No, but Boston [flight control] lost an airplane. They lost an American 767.’ ” New Jersey flight controller Bob Varcadapane says to the Long Island flight controller, “I have a burning building and you have a missing airplane. This is very coincidental.” The assumption is quickly made at New York and Boston flight control centers that Flight 11 has hit the WTC. NBC later reports, “Word of the fate of Flight 11 quickly travels throughout the air traffic control world.” [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)] However, the Indianapolis flight control center that handles Flight 77 reportedly does not learn of Flight 11's crash until around 9:20 a.m. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

8:46 a.m.: Flight 11 Hits the North Tower of the World Trade Center

Flight 11 hits the WTC North Tower at 8:46. This video still is the only well-known image of this crash.
Flight 11 slams into the WTC North Tower (Building 1). Seismic records pinpoint the crash at 26 seconds after 8:46 a.m. [CNN, 9/12/01; New York Times, 9/12/01; NORAD, 9/18/01; Associated Press, 8/19/02 (B); USA Today, 8/13/02; Newsday, 9/10/02; New York Times, 9/11/02; USA Today, 12/20/01] Investigators believe the plane still has about 10,000 gallons of fuel and is traveling approximately 470 mph. [New York Times, 9/11/02] The plane strikes the 93rd through 98th floors in the 110-story building. No one above the crash line survives; approximately 1,360 people die. Below the crash line, approximately 72 die and more than 4,000 survive. Both towers are slightly less than half full at the time of the attack, with between 5,000 to 7,000 people in each tower. This number is lower than expected. Many office workers have not yet shown up to work, and tourists to the observation deck opening at 9:30 A.M. have yet to arrive. [USA Today, 12/20/01]

(After 8:46 a.m.): FAA Establishes Open Telephone Line with the Secret Service

       Shortly after the WTC is hit, the FAA opens a telephone line with the Secret Service to keep the White House informed of all events. A few days later, Vice President Cheney will state, “The Secret Service has an arrangement with the FAA. They had open lines after the World Trade Center was ...” (He stopped himself before finishing the sentence.) [MSNBC, 9/16/01]

(Between 8:46-8:55 a.m.): Bush's Motorcade Quickly Hears of Flight 11 Crash, but Bush Reportedly Still Unaware

Bush's travels in the Sarasota, Florida, region, with key locations marked.
When Flight 11 hits the WTC at 8:46 a.m., President Bush's motorcade is crossing the John Ringling Causeway on the way to Booker Elementary from the Colony Beach and 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 has crashed in New York City. [Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/01] Around the same time, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who riding in another car in the motorcade, is talking on his cell phone, when he blurts out: “Oh, my God, I don't believe it. A plane just hit the World Trade Center.” (The person with whom Fleischer is speaking remains unknown.) 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] This call takes place “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 elementary school at 8:55 a.m. [Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/01] Some reporters waiting for him to arrive also learn of the crash just minutes after it happens. [CBS News, 9/11/02 (B)] It would make sense that Bush is told about the crash immediately, at the same time that others hear about it. Yet the official story remains that Bush is not told about the crash until he arrives at the school. Author James Bamford comments, “Despite having a secure STU-III phone next to [Bush] in the presidential limousine and an entire national security staff at the White House, it appears that the president of the United States knew less than tens of millions of other people in every part of the country who were watching the attack as it unfolded.” [Bamford, 2004, pp 17]

(After 8:46 a.m.): Emergency Response Plans Activated by Officials, Not by Bush

       President Bush will say in a speech later that evening, “Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government's emergency response plans.” [White House, 9/11/01] However, the Wall Street Journal reports that lower level officials activate CONPLAN (Interagency Domestic Terrorism Concept of Operations Plan) in response to the emerging crisis. CONPLAN, created in response to a 1995 Presidential Decision Directive issued by President Clinton and published in January 2001, details the responsibility of seven federal agencies if a terrorist attack occurs. It gives the FBI the responsibility for activating the plan and alerting other agencies. Bush in fact later states that he doesn't give any orders responding to the attack until after 9:55 a.m. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/04; Conplan, 1/01]

8:46 a.m.: Flight 175 Changes Transponder Signal but Remains Easily Traceable

       Flight 175 stops transmitting its transponder signal. It is 50 miles north of New York City, headed toward Baltimore. [Guardian, 10/17/01; Newsday, 9/10/02; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] However, the transponder is turned off for only about 30 seconds, and 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]

8:48 a.m.: CNN First Major Network to Show WTC Crash Footage

       CNN is the first major network to show the footage of the crash site. It breaks into a commercial and anchor Carol Lin says, “This just in. You are looking at ... obviously a very disturbing live shot there— that is the World Trade Center, and we have unconfirmed reports this morning that a plane has crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.” CNN then switches to Sean Murtagh, the network's vice president of finance, who says in a live telephone interview, “I just witnessed a plane that appeared to be cruising at a slightly lower than normal altitude over New York City. And it appears to have crashed into—I don't know which tower it is—but it hit directly in the middle of one of the World Trade Center towers. It was a jet, maybe a two-engine jet, maybe a 737 ... a large passenger commercial jet ... It was teetering back and forth, wing-tip to wing-tip, and it looks like it has crashed into— probably, twenty stories from the top of the World Trade Center—maybe the eightieth to eighty-fifth floor. There is smoke billowing out of the World Trade Center.” [CNN, 9/11/01; Bamford, 2004, pp 16-17] Many reports do not come until a few minutes later. For instance, ABC first breaks into regular programming with the story at 8:52 a.m. [ABC News, 9/14/02] Incredibly, a NORAD timeline presented to the 9/11 Commission in 2003 claims that CNN doesn't begin its coverage of the attacks until 8:57. [9/11 Commission Report, 5/23/03]

8:48 a.m.: New York Flight Control Center Manager Aware of Ong Phone Call, Unaware Flight 11 Has Crashed

       A New York flight control center manager speaks in a teleconference between flight centers. The person says, “Okay. This is New York [flight control]. We're watching the airplane [Flight 11]. I also had conversation with American Airlines, and they've told us that they believe that one of their stewardesses was stabbed and that there are people in the cockpit that have control of the aircraft, and that's all the information they have right now.” The manager is unaware Flight 11 has already crashed. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] This appears to be a simplified version of flight attendant Betty Ong's phone call, given to American Airlines leader Gerard Arpey and others around 8:30 a.m.

(After 8:48 a.m.): Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Still Oblivious? Accounts Are Contradictory

Air Force General Richard Myers, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and acting Chairman on 9/11.
Air Force General Richard Myers, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sees reports of the first WTC crash on television. Myers is 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. [ABC News, 9/11/02] Myers sees the television in an outer office of Senator Max Cleland (D), 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 he remains oblivious to the emergency until the meeting with Cleland ends, and as the Pentagon explosion takes place at 9:37 a.m. Then Myers speaks to General Ralph Eberhart. [Armed Forces Press Service, 10/23/01] 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.” [General Myers' confirmation hearing, 9/13/01] NORAD claims the first fighters are scrambled even before the first WTC hit. [NORAD, 9/18/01] In his 2004 testimony before the 9/11 Commission, Myers' account changes again. He says that he gets a call from Eberhart, and then “shortly thereafter that the Pentagon was hit as we were on our way back to the Pentagon.” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04 (B)] Myers' claim that he is out of the loop contradicts not only his previous account but also counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke's account of what Myers does that day. According to Clarke's recollection, Myers takes part in a video conference from about 9:10 a.m. until after 10:00 a.m. If Myers is not involved in this conference, then his whereabouts and actions remain unknown until he arrives at the NMCC around 10:30 a.m.

(8:48 a.m.): NORAD's Colorado Headquarters Sees WTC Television Footage

Canadian Air Force Major General Major General Rick Findley.
Canadian Air Force Major General Rick Findley is in charge of battle stations at NORAD's Colorado Springs, Colorado, headquarters. According to Findley, “As the phones were beginning to ring, someone said, ‘Sir, you might want to look at that.’ I looked up and there was the CNN image of the World Trade Center. There was a hole in the side of one of the buildings.” CNN broadcasts this footage starting at 8:48 a.m. An as-yet unidentified person reportedly tells Findley that it was a small plane, who responded, “I said the hole's too big for a small airplane. ... I asked if it was the hijacked aircraft. I was scratching my head, wondering if it was another aircraft altogether.” [Calgary Herald, 10/1/01]

(8:49 a.m.): United Airlines Headquarters Learns Flight 175 Is Missing; NORAD Apparently Not Informed

       Apparently, managers at United Airlines' headquarters in Chicago are unaware of any unfolding emergency until they watch CNN break the story at 8:48 a.m. “Within minutes,” United headquarters gets a call from the FAA, stating that 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 that will take place at about 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.m., a United dispatcher reports that Flight 175 has been lost (it is not clear whether this is a clarification of the earlier message or a change in the timing that one call occurred). [9/11 Commission Report, 1/27/04]

8:50 a.m.: Last Radio Contact with Flight 77

       The last radio contact with Flight 77 is made when a pilot asks for clearance to fly higher. However, six minutes later, the plane fails to respond to a routine instruction. Presumably, it is hijacked during that time. Indianapolis flight control center is handling the plane by this time. [Guardian, 10/17/01; Boston Globe, 11/23/01; New York Times, 10/16/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

8:51-8:53 a.m.: Flight Controller Declares Flight 175 Hijacked

       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, although, according to other published reports, this happened around 8:46 a.m. The controller asks the plane to return to its proper transponder code. There is no response. Beginning at 8:52 a.m., the controller makes repeated attempts to contact the plane, but there is still no response. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Bottoglia contacts another controller at 8:53 a.m., and says, “We may have a hijack. We have some problems over here right now.” [Guardian, 10/17/01; New York Times, 10/16/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] This account conflicts with earlier accounts that NORAD is notified at 8:43 a.m. that Flight 175 has been hijacked. [NORAD, 9/18/01] It also conflicts with Bottoglia's own account of finding Flight 175 at 8:46 a.m. and realizing it is hijacked at that time. [MSNBC, 9/11/02]

(8:50 a.m.): CIA Director, Told of Attack, Immediately Suspects bin Laden

       CIA Director Tenet is told of the first WTC crash while he is eating breakfast with his mentor, former Senator David Boren (D). They are interrupted when CIA bodyguards converge on the table to hand Tenet the cell phone. Tenet is told that the WTC has been attacked by an airplane. Boren later says, “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.” “ ‘He was very collected,’ Boren recalls. ‘He said he would be at the CIA in 15 minutes, what people he needed in the room and what he needed to talk about.’ ” [USA Today, 9/24/01; ABC News, 9/14/02] According to other accounts, Tenet responds to the caller, “They steered the plane directly into the building?” Tenet then says to Boren, “That looks like bin Laden.” Tenet muses aloud, “I wonder if this has something to do with the guy [Zacarias Moussaoui] who trained for a pilot's license.” (Moussaoui had been arrested several weeks earlier.) [Stern, 8/13/03; Saint Paul Pioneer Press, 5/29/02] According to another account, Tenet pauses while on the phone to tell Boren, “The World Trade Center has been hit. We're pretty sure it wasn't an accident. It looks like a terrorist act,” then returns to the phone to identify who should be summoned to the CIA situation room. [Time, 9/14/01] (Note that according to two accounts, Tenet was not informed of the developing crisis until after the second WTC tower had been struck. [Washington Post, 1/27/02; Bamford, 2004, pp 18-19] However, the majority of reports indicate that Tenet was informed of the crisis right after the first WTC tower was struck.)

(8:50 a.m.): Flight 175 Attendant Reports Plane Has Been Hijacked; United Headquarters Informed

Robert Fangman.
Rich Miles, manager of United's Chicago system operations center, receives a call from a mechanic at an airline maintenance center in San Francisco. (This center takes in-flight calls from flight attendants about broken items.) The mechanic informs Miles that a female flight attendant from Flight 175 has just called to report, “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. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/01; Boston Globe, 11/23/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 1/27/04] This information is quickly relayed to United's headquarters. [9/11 Commission Report, 1/27/04] There is no published record identifying this female flight attendant. According to published accounts, a male flight attendant, Robert Fangman, calls from this flight at some unknown time. [CNN, 5/28/04] It is unclear whether the mechanic (or Miles) confused the gender of the caller, or two different attendants call from this flight. [CNN, 5/28/04]

8:50 a.m.: Flight 175 Heads for New York City

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

(8:50 a.m.): Boston Flight Control Informs NORAD That Flight 11 Has Hit WTC

       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 Service, 1/25/02]

(Before 8:50 a.m.): CIA Director Expresses Worry About al-Qaeda Attack

       According to one report, CIA Director Tenet is eating breakfast with his mentor, former Senator David Boren (D). “Before the planes hit the World Trade Center, CIA Director George Tenet warned [Boren] ... that he was worried about a possible attack by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.” [Chicago Sun-Times, 12/6/02]

(8:52 a.m.): New York Flight Controller Tracks Flight 175 into New York; NORAD Not Warned?

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 tracking 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 will not notify NORAD about Flight 175 until after it crashes at 9:03 a.m.

8:52 a.m.: Fighters Ordered Toward the Crashed Flight 11, Head for Flight 175 Instead

A typical F-15.
Two F-15s take off from Otis Air National Guard Base. This occurs six minutes after being ordered to go after Flight 11(which has already crashed); 26 minutes after flight controllers were certain Flight 11 was hijacked; and 39 minutes after flight controllers lost contact with Flight 11. [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] The fighters inadvertently head toward Flight 175 instead. According to one of the pilots, as soon as they strap in, the green light to launch goes on, and they're up in the air even before their fighters' radar kicks in. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02]

8:52 am (and After): Otis Fighters Scramble to New York; Conflicting Accounts of Urgency and Destination

Route of the Otis Air National Guard fighters to New York City.
The F-15 fighters are scrambling to New York City. Later accounts concerning these fighters conflict significantly. According one account, pilot Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy later recalls that they are in a hurry at this time: “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 does not yet realize that his flight is anything 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.” “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 1,875 mph. [Air Force News, 7/30/97] A considerable amount of fuel is required to maintain such high speeds for long, but a NORAD commander notes that, coincidentally, these fighters are 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 General 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 later states that the fighters head straight for New York City at about 1,100 to 1,200 mph. [MSNBC, 9/23/01 (C); Slate, 1/16/02] “An F-15 departing from Otis can reach New York City in ten to twelve minutes, according to an Otis spokeswoman.” [Cape Cod Times, 9/16/01] At an average speed of 1,125 mph, the fighters would reach the city in ten minutes—9:02 a.m. If NORAD commander Arnold's recollection is correct, these fighters should reach Flight 175 just before it crashes. Yet according to a NORAD timeline developed just after 9/11, the fighters take about 19 minutes to reach New York City (arriving at about 9:11 a.m.), traveling below supersonic speeds at less than 600 mph. [NORAD, 9/18/01] The 9/11 Commission later concludes, in direct contradiction of the recollections of the pilots and others involved that day, that the fighters are never directed toward New York City at all, but rather are ordered to head out over the Atlantic Ocean. According to the 9/11 Commission's conclusions, the fighters do not reach New York City until 9:25 a.m. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

(8:52 a.m.): Flight 175 Passenger Details Stabbing

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 crewmembers to unlock the doors to the cockpit. He calls again a couple of minutes before the plane crashes. [Daily Telegraph, 9/16/01 (B); Toronto Sun, 9/16/01; BBC, 9/13/01] Hanson's father immediately calls the local police department and relays what he heard. [San Francisco Chronicle, 7/23/04]

(After 8:52 a.m.): NORAD Scramble Delayed? Witness Casts Doubt on NORAD's Scramble Time

       William Wibel, principal of a school inside Otis Air National Guard Base, is inside the Otis base preparing for a meeting when he learns that the WTC has been attacked and his 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] The WTC crash does not break on local news and radio until about 8:52 a.m. Even if he hears CNN's early reporting starting at 8:48 a.m., it still presumably takes time to learn the meeting is canceled, go back to his car and so forth. NORAD says the fighters took off from Otis at 8:52 a.m.

(8:54 a.m.): Flight 77 Veers Off Course

       Flight 77 from Washington begins to go off course over southern Ohio, turning to the southwest. [Washington Post, 9/12/01; Newsday, 9/23/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

(8:55 a.m.): Situation Room Director Informs Bush of WTC Crash

Captain Deborah Loewer.
Captain Deborah Loewer, director of the White House Situation Room, is traveling in President Bush's motorcade toward Booker Elementary School, when she learns of the first WTC crash from her deputy in the Situation Room at the White House. According to some reports, as soon as the motorcade reaches the school, Loewer runs from her car to Bush's car, and informs Bush. [Catholic Telegraph, 12/7/01; Associated Press, 11/26/01] Note that Bush maintains that he learns of the crash at a later time.

(8:55 a.m.): New York Flight Control Believes Flight 175 Has Been Hijacked; NORAD Reportedly Not Informed

       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 cannot reach them because they 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 a.m., the 9/11 Commission concluded that NORAD is not notified by this time. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] The commission's account conflicts with previous accounts stating that NORAD is notified of the Flight 175 hijacking at 8:43 a.m. The head of the flight control center, Mike McCormick, has already decided at 8:52 a.m. that Flight 175 has been hijacked and is on a suicide run to New York City. [CNN, 8/12/02]

(Between 8:55-9:00 a.m.): Bush First Told About WTC Crash?; Suggests Accident

Karl Rove, Andrew Card, and Dan Bartlett.
President Bush's motorcade has arrived at Booker Elementary School and Bush enters the school with his entourage. The beepers of politicians' aides are going off with news of the first WTC crash as Bush arrives. According to one account, Bush learns of the crash when adviser Karl Rove takes Bush aside in a school corridor and tells him about the calamity. According to this account, 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. This account is recalled by photographer Eric Draper, who was standing nearby at the time. [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 states that Rove tells Bush the WTC has been hit by a large commercial airliner. [Daily 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 third version of the story, Bush later recalls that he first learns of the crash from chief of staff Andrew Card, who 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] “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,” according to a reporter standing nearby at the time. [Daily Mail, 9/8/02; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01]

(8:55 a.m.): Bush Arrives at Elementary School for Photo-Op

Bush's motorcade arrives at Booker Elementary School.
President Bush's motorcade arrives at Booker Elementary School for a photo-op to promote his education policies. [ABC News, 9/11/02; Washington Times, 10/7/02; Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/01; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/02; New York Times, 9/16/01 (B); Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/02] If he left the Colony Resort around 8:35 a.m. as reported, the timing of his arrival at 8:55 a.m. is consistent with the fact that the trip from the resort to the school is said to take 20 minutes. [New York Times, 9/16/01 (B); St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/02 (B); MSNBC, 10/29/02]

(After 8:56-9:24 a.m.): Pentagon Emergency Center Knows Flight 77 Is Hijacked; NORAD Not Notified?

       The New York Times reports, “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 NMCC] [are] urgently talking to law enforcement and air traffic control officials about what to do.” [New York Times, 9/15/01 (C)] Yet, although the Pentagon's NMCC reportedly knows of the hijacking, NORAD reportedly is not notified until 9:24 a.m. by some accounts, and not notified at all by others. [NORAD, 9/18/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

(8:56 a.m.): Flight 77 Transponder Signal Disappears; NORAD Not Informed

       Flight 77's transponder signal is turned off at this time. [Guardian, 10/17/01; Boston Globe, 11/23/01; Newsday, 9/23/01] According to the 9/11 Commission, the Indianapolis flight controller in charge of the flight has watched it go off course and head southwest before the signal disappears. He looks for primary radar signals along its projected flight path as well as in the airspace where it has started to turn. He cannot find the plane. He tries contacting the plane but gets no answer. “ ‘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.” [New York Times, 10/16/01] The controller has not been told about any other hijacked planes. (Other centers have been notified about the Flight 11 hijacking more than 20 minutes earlier at 8:25 a.m. [Guardian, 10/17/01] ) He assumes Flight 77 has experienced electrical or mechanical failure. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Apparently, American Airlines headquarters and the Pentagon's NMCC are notified that Flight 77 is off course with its radio and transponder not working, but NORAD is not notified at this time. [9/11 Commission Report, 1/27/04]

(8:56-9:05 a.m.): Flight 77 Disappears from Radar Screens

       According to the 9/11 Commission, “Radar reconstructions performed after 9/11 reveal that FAA radar equipment tracked [Flight 77] from the moment its transponder was turned off at 8:56 [am.].” However, for eight minutes and 13 seconds, this primary radar data is not displayed to Indianapolis flight controllers. “The reasons are technical, arising from the way the software processed radar information, as well as from poor primary radar coverage where American 77 was flying.” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Apparently, a radar tower in West Virginia doesn't have primary radar. [Washington Post, 11/3/01] But the 9/11 Commission notes that other centers had primary radars that covered the missing areas, yet they weren't asked to do a primary radar search. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

8:58 a.m.: Flight 175 Passenger Says Passengers Want to Do Something About Hijacking

Brian Sweeney.
Brian Sweeney calls his wife on Flight 175, 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 is 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 did not have time before the plane crashed. [CNN, 3/10/04; New York Daily News, 3/9/04]

(9:00 a.m.): Clarke Alerted to Crisis, Immediately Activates CSG

       Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is at a conference three blocks from the White House when a telephone call alerts him to the crisis. He runs to his car. He responds, “Activate the CSG on secure video. I'll be there in less than five.” The CSG is the Counterterrorism and Security Group, comprising the leaders of the government's counterterrorism and security agencies. Clarke hurriedly drives to the White House. [Clarke, 2004, pp 1]

(Before 9:00 a.m.): American Airlines Learns of Flight 77 Problems; Cancels All Flight Take Offs in the Northeast; NORAD Not Notified

       American Airlines headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, learns that Flight 77 is not responding to radio calls, is not emitting a transponder signal, and flight control has lost its location since 8:56 a.m. [9/11 Commission Report, 1/27/04] According to the Wall Street Journal, a call from the FAA roughly says that Flight 77 has “turned off its transponder and turned around. Controllers [have] lost radio communications with the plane. Without hearing from anyone on the plane, American [doesn't] know its location.” Airline executive Gerard Arpey gives an order to stop all American flight take-offs in the Northeast. Within minutes, American gets word that United also has lost contact with a missing airliner (presumably Flight 175). When reports of the second WTC come through after 9:03 a.m., one manager recalls mistakenly shouting, “How did 77 get to New York and we didn't know it?” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/01]

(After 9:00 a.m.): United Flight 23 Hijacking Averted?

       Shortly after 9:00 a.m., United Airlines Flight 23 receives a warning message from flight dispatcher Ed Ballinger. Flight 23 is still on a Newark, New Jersey, runway, about to take off for Los Angeles. Apparently in response to Ballinger's message, the crew tells the passengers there has been a mechanical problem and returns to the departure gate. A number of Middle Eastern men (one account says three, others say six) argue with the flight crew and refuse to get off the plane. Security is called, but they flee before it arrives. [CBS News, 9/14/01 (B); Chicago Daily Herald, 4/14/04] Later, authorities check their luggage and find copies of the Koran and al-Qaeda instruction sheets. Ballinger suspects they got away. “When all we have is a photo from a fake ID, the chances of finding [someone] in Afghanistan or Pakistan are rather slim.” [Chicago Daily Herald, 4/14/04] A NORAD deputy commander later says, “From our perception, we think our reaction on that day was sufficiently quick that we may well have precluded at least one other hijacking. We may not have. We don't know for sure.” [Globe and Mail, 6/13/02]

(9:00 a.m.): WTC South Tower Announcement: OK to Return to Offices

People inside the World Trade Center flee down a stairway.
A public announcement is broadcast inside the WTC Tower Two (the South Tower, which has yet to be hit), saying that the building is secure and people can return to their offices. [New York Times, 9/11/02] 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] Additionally, security agents inside the building repeat similar messages to individuals in the tower. For instance, one survivor recounts hearing, “Our building is secure. You can go back to your floor. If you're a little winded, you can get a drink of water or coffee in the cafeteria.” [New York Times, 9/13/01 (G)] Another survivor recalls an escaping crowd actually running over a man with a bullhorn encouraging them to return to their desks. [Newsday, 9/12/01] Businessman Steve Miller recalls hearing a voice say over the building's loudspeaker something similar to: “There's a fire in Tower One. Tower Two in unaffected. If you want to leave, you can leave. If you want to return to your office, it's okay.” [Washington Post, 9/16/01 (D)] British visitor Mike Shillaker recalls, “As we got to around floor 50, a message came over the [loudspeaker], telling us that there was an isolated fire in Tower One, and we did not need to evacuate Tower Two. Again, thank god we continued down, others didn't.” [BBC, 9/1/02 (B)] Despite messages to the contrary, about two-thirds of the tower's occupants evacuate during the 17 minutes between the attacks. [USA Today, 12/20/01]

(9:00 a.m.): Northern Vigilance Exercise Canceled; False Radar Blips Purged from Radar Screens

A soldier monitors a NORAD radar screen.
Deep below Cheyenne Mountain at NORAD headquarters in Colorado, NORAD is at “full battle staff” levels for a major annual exercise, Operation Northern Vigilance, which tests every facet of the organization. This military exercise, which began two days earlier, deploys fighters to Alaska and Northern Canada to monitor a Russian air force exercise in the Russian arctic. Canadian Captain Mike Jellinek is one hour into his shift, overseeing the Colorado command center, when he learns the FAA believes there is a hijacking in progress and is asking NORAD for support. Northern Vigilance is called off. As the Toronto Star reports, “Any simulated information, what's known as an ‘inject,’ is purged from the [radar] screens.” [NORAD, 9/9/01; Toledo Blade, 12/9/01] Therefore, many minutes into the real 9/11 attack, there may have been false radar blips causing confusion. Additional details, such as whose radar screens had false blips, or from when to when, are unknown. According to Jellinek, the Northern Vigilance is canceled just a minute or two before the second WTC crash at 9:03 a.m. The Russians, having seen the second WTC crash on television, quickly communicate that they are canceling their Russian arctic exercise. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/01; National Post, 10/19/02]

(9:00 a.m.): Cheney Perplexed over WTC Footage on Television

       Vice President Cheney later says he is in his White House office watching the television images of the first WTC crash wreckage. According to his recollection, he was puzzled. “I was sitting there thinking about it. It was a clear day, there was no weather problem—how in hell could a plane hit the World Trade Center?” His staff members elsewhere in the White House are apparently unaware of the emerging crisis. For instance, his chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, sees the television images briefly, but turns off the television so as not to be distracted from a conversation on another topic. [Newsweek, 12/31/01]

(Before 9:00 a.m.): Fire Department Advice to Evacuate WTC Tower Fails to Reach People Inside

       Shortly before 9:00 a.m., fire department commanders at WTC Tower One advise Port Authority police and building personnel to evacuate Tower Two. However, there is no evidence that this advice is communicated effectively to the building personnel in Tower Two. When an announcement is made to evacuate at 9:02 a.m. (one minute before the building is hit), it does not direct everyone to evacuate, and advises only that everyone may wish to start an orderly evacuation if warranted by conditions on their floor. [9/11 Commission Report, 5/19/04]

9:00 a.m.: Pentagon Ups Alert Status

       The Pentagon moves its alert status up one notch from normal to Alpha. After Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon, it increases the alert to Delta, the highest level. The alert level will be reduced to Charlie on September 12th. [MSNBC, 9/11/01; Agence France-Presse, 9/12/01]

(9:00 a.m.): 9/11-Styled Simulation Cancelled

John Fulton.
The National Reconnaissance Office plans a simulation of an airplane accidentally crashing into its headquarters. The office is located four miles from Washington's Dulles airport, where one of the real hijacked planes takes off. The NRO “operates many of the nation's spy satellites. It draws its personnel from the military and the CIA.” The simulation is apparently run by John Fulton “and his team at the CIA.” An agency spokesman says, “It was just an incredible coincidence that this happened to involve an aircraft crashing into our facility. As soon as the real world events began, we canceled the exercise.” [Associated Press, 8/21/02; UPI, 8/22/02]

(9:00 a.m.): Informed of the First Plane Crash, Bush Goes Ahead with Photo-Op

       Sarasota elementary school principal Gwen Tose-Rigell is summoned to a room to talk with President Bush. She recalls, “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.” [Associated Press, 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)]

9:00 a.m.: Flight 175 Passenger Brian Sweeney Predicts Crash into Building

       Flight 175 passenger Brian Sweeney calls his parents a second time, and says to his father, “It's getting bad, Dad—A stewardess was stabbed—They seem to have knives and Mace—They said they have a bomb—It's getting very bad on the plane—Passengers are throwing up and getting sick—The plane is making jerky movements—I don't think the pilot is flying the plane—I think we are going down—I think they intend to go to Chicago or someplace and fly into a building—don't worry, Dad—If it happens, it'll be very fast—My God, my God.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 7/23/04]

September 11, 2001: More Than $100 Million Rushed from WTC

       Data recovery experts later looking at 32 hard drives salvaged from the 9/11 attacks discover a surge in credit card transactions from the WTC in the hours before and during the attacks. Unusually large sums of money are rushed through computers even as the disaster unfolds. Investigators later say, “There is a suspicion that some people had advance knowledge of the approximate time of the plane crashes in order to move out amounts exceeding $100 million. They thought that the records of their transactions could not be traced after the mainframes were destroyed.” [Reuters, 12/19/01]
People and organizations involved: World Trade Center
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