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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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(8:46 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]

(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]

(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]

(8:46 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]

(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]

8:48 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.

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]

(8:49 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.): 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]

8:51-8:53 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.: 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]

(8:50 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.): 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 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]

(8:52 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 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]

(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.

8:52 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 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]

(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]

(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]

(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]

(8:56-9:05 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]

(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.): 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]

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.): 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]

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

(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]

(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]

(After 9:00 a.m.): Flight Dispatcher Sends Warning to All United Flights, Including Flight 93

       Ed Ballinger, a flight dispatcher for United Airlines, is continuing to send messages one by one to the 16 transcontinental flights he is covering, warning them of the first WTC crash. He is handling both Flights 175 and 93, and 175 has failed to respond to his message. A few minutes after 9:00, he sends a message to Flight 93. The exact content of the message is not known, but apparently it doesn't advise the pilots to bar the cockpit door. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01; New York Observer, 6/17/04] Another flight controller at the Cleveland tower in charge of Flight 93 at the time later recalls, “I saw controllers step up to the plate and start warning flight crews. This was totally by the seat of their pants. It's not because they're directed to by anybody. It's just, OK, everybody's on alert right now.” [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)] Ballinger later says, “One of the things that upset me was that [the FAA and United Airlines headquarters] knew, 45 minutes before [Flight 93 crashed], that American Airlines had a problem. I put the story together myself [from news accounts]. Perhaps if I had the information sooner, I might have gotten the message to [Flight] 93 to bar the door.” [New York Observer, 6/17/04] Ballinger will send Flight 93 a second, more detailed warning that does warn to bar the door. It will reach Flight 93 at 9:24 a.m., shortly before the flight is hijacked.

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]

(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.): 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)]

(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]

(9:00 a.m.): Rice Informs Bush Flight 11 Has Accidentally Hit the WTC, but Knows Nothing Else

       National Security Adviser Rice later claims she is in her White House office when she hears about the first WTC crash just before 9:00 a.m. She recalls, “I thought to myself, what an odd accident.” She reportedly speaks to President Bush around 9:00 a.m. on the telephone, and tells him that a twin-engine plane has struck the WTC tower. She says, “That's all we know right now, Mr. President.” [Newsweek, 12/31/01] Rice later claims, “He said, what a terrible, it sounds like a terrible accident. Keep me informed.” [ABC News, 9/11/02] Despite her title of National Security Adviser, she is apparently unaware that NORAD has scrambled planes after learning of two hijackings in progress at least 15 minutes ago. She goes ahead with her usual national security staff meeting. [Newsweek, 12/31/01] Author James Bamford comments, “Neither Rice nor Bush was aware that the United States had gone to ‘battle stations’ alert and had scrambled fighter jets into the air to intercept and possibly take hostile action against multiple hijacked airliners, something that was then known by hundreds of others within NORAD, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Pentagon.” [Bamford, 2004, pp 17] Congressman Dan Miller, who is waiting in a receiving line to meet Bush, says he waits a few minutes for the call to end. Bush appears unbothered when he greets Miller after the call. Miller recalls, “It was nothing different from the normal, brief greeting with the president.” [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/04]

(After 9:00 a.m.): Indianapolis Flight Control Issues Alert to Look for Flight 77; FAA and NORAD Not Notified

       According to the 9/11 Commission, shortly after 9:00 a.m., Indianapolis flight control begins to notify other government agencies that American 77 is missing and has possibly crashed. For instance, at 9:08 a.m., Indianapolis contacts Air Force Search and Rescue at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, and tells them to look out for a downed aircraft. They also contact the West Virginia State Police, and ask whether they have any reports of a downed aircraft. However, they apparently do not notify the FAA or NORAD. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

(9:01 a.m.): Bush Claims to See First WTC Crash on Television While at Elementary School

       President Bush later makes the following statement: “And I was sitting outside the classroom waiting to go in, and I saw an airplane hit the tower—the television was obviously on, and I use to fly myself, and I said, ‘There's one terrible pilot.’ And I said, ‘It must have been a horrible accident.’ But I was whisked off there—I didn't have much time to think about it.” [CNN, 12/4/01] He has repeated the story on other occasions. [White House, 1/5/02; CBS News, 9/11/02] Notably, the first WTC Crash was not shown live on television. Further, Bush does not have access to a television until 15 or so minutes later. [Washington Times, 10/7/02] A Boston Herald article later notes, “Think about that. Bush's remark implies he saw the first plane hit the tower. But we all know that video of the first plane hitting did not surface until the next day. Could Bush have meant he saw the second plane hit—which many Americans witnessed? No, because he said that he was in the classroom when Andrew Card whispered in his ear that a second plane hit.” The article, noting that Bush has repeated this story more than once, asks, “How could the commander in chief have seen the plane fly into the first building—as it happened?” [Boston Herald, 10/22/02] A Bush spokesman later calls Bush's repeated comments “just a mistaken recollection.” [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/04]

(9:01 a.m.): New York Flight Control Informs Low Altitude NYC Controllers About Flight 175 Hijacking

       New York flight control contacts New York terminal approach control and asks for help in locating Flight 175. Different flight controllers scan different altitudes, and terminal approach controllers only deal with low-flying planes. These low altitude flight controllers have remained uninformed about the fate of Flight 11 until about now: “We had 90 to 120 seconds; it wasn't any 18 minutes,” says one controller, referring to the actual elapsed time between the two crashes. Another such controller says of both planes: “They dove into the airspace. By the time anybody saw anything, it was over.” [New York Times, 9/13/01 (F); 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

(Between 9:01-9:03 a.m.): Flight Controllers, American Headquarters Watch Flight 175 Head into New York City

       Flight 175 is an unmarked blip to flight controllers in New York City. One controller stands up in horror. “No, he's not going to land. He's going in!” Another controller shouts, “Oh, my God! He's headed for the city. ... Oh, my God! He's headed for Manhattan!” [Washington Post, 9/21/01] Managers at American Airlines' headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, also closely watch Flight 175 head into New York City on radar. [USA Today, 8/12/02] Yet, according to the 9/11 Commission, no one has notified NORAD about the flight.

(9:01 a.m.): New York Flight Control Tells FAA Command Center About Flight 175 Hijack; Wants NORAD Help

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

(9:01 a.m.): La Guardia Flight Controllers and Port Authority Unaware of Hijackings

       An unidentified woman in the La Guardia control tower speaks to a Port Authority police officer. La Guardia is one of two major New York City airports. The Port Authority patrols both the WTC and the city's airports. The woman asks the officer what has happened at the WTC, and the officer replies that he has learned from the news that a plane crashed into it. [New York Times, 12/30/03] Around the same time, one flight controller in the tower says to another, “But you don't know anything.” The other responds, “We don't know. We're looking at it on Channel 5 right now.” [Bergen Record, 1/4/04] “Nothing on the [later released transcripts] shows that the La Guardia controllers knew that the planes flying into their airspace had been seized by terrorists, or that military aircraft were screaming in pursuit over the Hudson River.” Port Authority officials appear to be equally oblivious. [New York Times, 12/30/03]

(9:03 a.m.): New York Flight Control Informs NORAD That Flight 175 Has Been Hijacked; Timing of Notice in Question

       The 9/11 Commission later concludes that New York flight control tells NEADS that Flight 175 has been hijacked at this time. The commission refers to this as “the first indication that the NORAD air defenders had of the second hijacked aircraft.” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Colonel Robert Marr, head of NEADS, claims that he first learns a flight other than Flight 11 has been hijacked when he sees Flight 175 crash into the WTC on television. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] However, this account contradicts NORAD's conclusion reached shortly after 9/11 that it was first notified about Flight 175 at 8:43 a.m. [NORAD, 9/18/01] Additionally, as Flight 175 crashes into the WTC, Canadian Captain Mike Jellinek (who is overseeing the command center in NORAD's Colorado headquarters) is on the phone with NEADS. He sees the crash live on television and asks NEADS, “Was that the hijacked aircraft you were dealing with?” The reply is yes. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/01] If the commission's account is correct, several questions remain unanswered. Flight 175 lost radio contact at 8:42 A.M. and changed transponder signals at 8:46 a.m.; a flight controller declared it possibly hijacked sometime between 8:46 a.m. and 8:53 a.m.; and a flight control manager called it hijacked at 8:55 a.m. The commission has not explained why New York flight control would wait 10-17 minutes before warning NORAD that Flight 175 is possibly hijacked. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] It also would not explain why United Airlines headquarters would fail to notify NORAD National Guard after learning that the plane has been hijacked at about 8:50 a.m.

(After 9:03 a.m.): Air Base Commanders Offer to Help NORAD; Timing of Acceptance Unclear

NEADS commander Robert Marr.
Shortly after the second WTC crash, calls from fighter units begin “pouring into NORAD and sector operations centers, asking, ‘What can we do to help?’ ” In Syracuse, New York, an Air National Guard commander tells NEADS commander Robert Marr, “Give me ten [minutes] and I can give you hot guns. Give me 30 [minutes] and I'll have heat-seeker [missiles]. Give me an hour and I can give you slammers [Amraams].” Marr replies, “I want it all.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] Reportedly, Marr says, “Get to the phones. Call every Air National Guard unit in the land. Prepare to put jets in the air. The nation is under attack.” [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/02] Canadian Major General Eric Findley, based in Colorado and in charge of NORAD that day, reportedly has his staff immediately order as many fighters in the air as possible. [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/02] However, according to another account, NORAD does not accept the offers until about an hour later: “By 10:01 a.m., the command center began calling several bases across the country for help.” [Toledo Blade, 12/9/01] The 9/11 Commission later concludes that a command for other bases to prepare fighters to scramble is not given until 9:49 a.m. In fact, it appears the first fighters from other bases to take off are those from Syracuse at 10:44 a.m. This is over an hour and a half after Syracuse's initial offer to help, and not long after a general ban on all flights, including military ones, is lifted at 10:31 a.m. These are apparently the fourth set of fighters scrambled from the ground. Previously, three fighters from Langley, two from Otis, and two from Toledo, Ohio, were scrambled at 10:01 a.m., but did not launch until fifteen minutes later. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/01]

(After 9:03 a.m.): Boston Controllers Give Cockpit Security Alert to New England Planes and Asks FAA to Issue Nationwide Warning; FAA Fails to Do So

       “Within minutes of the second impact,” Boston flight control's Operations Manager instructs all flight controllers in his center to inform all aircraft in the New England region to monitor the events unfolding in New York and to advise aircraft to heighten cockpit security. Boston asks the FAA Command Center to issue a similar cockpit security alert to all aircraft nationwide. The 9/11 Commission concludes, “We have found no evidence to suggest that Command Center managers instructed any centers to issue a cockpit security alert.” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] United Airlines flight dispatchers give their pilots a cockpit warning about 20 minutes later.

(9:03 a.m.): Boston Flight Control Tells FAA That Hijackers Said We Have Planes, FAA Suggests Notifying NORAD

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

(9:03 a.m.): Contradictions over Otis Fighter Mission and Whereabouts

       The minute Flight 175 hits the South Tower, pilot Major Daniel Nash says that clear visibility allows him to see smoke pour out of Manhattan, even though NORAD says he is 71 miles away. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] The other Otis pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, recalls, “We're 60 miles out, and I could see the smoke from the towers.” They call NORAD right then for an update, and Duffy relates, “At that point, they said the second aircraft just hit the World Trade Center. That was news to me. I thought we were still chasing American [Airlines Flight] 11.” [ABC News, 9/14/02] In another account Duffy again relates, “It was right about then when they said the second aircraft had just hit the World Trade Center, which was quite a shock to both [Nash] and I, because we both thought there was only one aircraft out there. We were probably 70 miles or so out when the second one hit. So, we were just a matter of minutes away.” [BBC, 9/1/02] He asks for clarification of their mission, but the request is met with “considerable confusion.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] Bob Varcadapane, a Newark, New Jersey, flight controller who sees the Flight 175 crash, claims, “I remember the two F-15s. They were there moments after the impact. And I was just—said to myself, ‘If only they could have gotten there a couple minutes earlier.’ They just missed it.” [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)] However, the 9/11 Commission appears to believe that the pilots never get near New York City at this time. According to the commission's account, from 8:46 a.m. until 8:52 a.m., NORAD personnel are unable to find Flight 11. Shortly after 8:50 a.m., and just before the fighters take off, NORAD is given word that a plane has hit the WTC. Lacking a clear target, the fighters take off toward a military controlled airspace over the ocean, off the coast of Long Island. A map released by the 9/11 Commission indicates that at 9:03 the fighters are about 100 miles away and heading southwest instead of west to New York City. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

(After 9:03 a.m.): Wolfowitz Continues Routine Meeting, Rumsfeld Stays in Office

       Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz has recently left a meeting with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld around 8:46 a.m. Wolfowitz later recalls, “We were having a meeting in my office. Someone said a plane had hit the World Trade Center. Then we turned on the television and we started seeing the shots of the second plane hitting, and this is the way I remember it. It's a little fuzzy. ... There didn't seem to be much to do about it immediately and we went on with whatever the meeting was.” [Defense Department, 5/9/03] Rumsfeld recalls, “I was in my office with a CIA briefer and I was told that a second plane had hit the other tower.” [9/11 Commission Report, 3/23/04] Deputy Defense Secretary Torie Clarke recalls, “A couple of us had gone into ... Secretary Rumsfeld's office, to alert him to that, tell him that the crisis management process was starting up. He wanted to make a few phone calls. So a few of us headed across the hallway to an area called the National Military Command Center [around 200 feet away]. He stayed in his office.” [Defense Department, 9/15/01 (B)]

(After 9:03 a.m.): NMCC Commander Not at the NMCC; Later Misleads Regarding His Role in Crisis Response

Brigadier General Montague Winfield.
Brigadier General Montague Winfield, commander of the NMCC, the Pentagon's emergency response center, later says, “When the second aircraft flew into the second tower, it was at that point that we realized that the seemingly unrelated hijackings that the FAA was dealing with were in fact a part of a coordinated terrorist attack on the United States.” [ABC News, 9/14/02] However, despite the tenor of this and other media reports (for instance, [CNN, 9/4/02; ABC News, 9/15/02] ), Winfield isn't actually at the NMCC during the 9/11 crisis. [Leidig Testimony, 6/17/04; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04 (B)]

9:03 a.m.: Newark Flight Controllers Watch Flight 175 Hit WTC

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

After 9:03 a.m.: WTC Building 7 Evacuated; Exact Timing Unclear

       According to a soldier at the scene, WTC Building 7 is evacuated before the second tower is hit. [Fort Detrick Standard, 10/18/01] However, a firefighter who arrived there after the second tower is hit is told that the building is being evacuated due to reports of a third plane, indicating that two planes have already crashed. [Jems And Firerescue Supplement, 3/02]

9:03 a.m.: Bush's Security Agents Watch Second WTC Crash on Television; Bush Continues with Photo-Op

Flight 175 hits he WTC south tower. The picture is taken from a traffic helicopter.
According to Sarasota County Sheriff Bill Balkwill, just after President Bush enters a Booker Elementary classroom, a Marine responsible for carrying Bush's phone walks up to Balkwill, who is standing in a nearby side room. While listening to someone talk to him in his earpiece, the Marine asks, “Can you get me to a television? We're not sure what's going on, but we need to see a television.” Three Secret Service agents, a SWAT member, the Marine, and Balkwill turn on the television in a nearby front office just as Flight 175 crashes into the WTC. “We're out of here,” the Marine tells Balkwill. “Can you get everyone ready?” [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/02] However, Bush stays at the school for another half-hour. Who makes the decision to stay—and why—remains unclear, and the Secret Service won't comment on the matter. Philip Melanson, author of a book on the Secret Service, comments, “With an unfolding terrorist attack, the procedure should have been to get the president to the closest secure location as quickly as possible, which clearly is not a school. you're safer in that presidential limo, which is bombproof and blastproof and bulletproof. ... In the presidential limo, the communications system is almost duplicative of the White House—he can do almost anything from there but he can't do much sitting in a school.” [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/04]

(9:03-9:08 a.m.): Flight Control Managers Ban Aircraft Around New York and Washington

       In a series of stages, flight control managers ban aircraft from flying near the cities targeted by the hijackers. All takeoffs and landings in New York City are halted within a minute of the Flight 175 crash, without asking for permission from Washington. Boston and Newark flight control centers follow suit in the next few minutes. Around 9:08 a.m., departures nationwide heading to or through New York and Boston airspace are canceled. [Associated Press, 8/12/02; Newsday, 9/10/02; Associated Press, 8/19/02 (B); USA Today, 8/13/02] Mike McCormick, head of a Long Island, New York, air traffic control center, makes the decision without consulting any superiors. [ABC News, 8/12/02] In addition, “a few minutes” after 9:03 a.m., all takeoffs from Washington are stopped. [USA Today, 8/12/02; USA Today, 8/13/02]

(9:03 a.m.): Fighters Do Not Have Shootdown Authority

       A fighter pilot flying from Otis Air Base toward New York City later notes that it wouldn't have mattered if he caught up with Flight 175, because only President Bush could order a shootdown, and Bush is at a public event at the time. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] “Only the president has the authority to order a civilian aircraft shot down,” according to a 1999 CNN report. [CNN, 10/26/99] In fact, by 9/11, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld also has the authority to order a shootdown, but he is not responding to the crisis at this time. [New York Observer, 6/17/04]

(Before 9:03 a.m.): Special FAA-Military Link Fails to Help Communication Problems

       At some point before the second WTC crash, the FAA Command Center sets up a teleconference with FAA facilities in the New York area. Also on the same floor of the same building is “the military cell” — the Air Traffic Services Cell—created by the FAA and the Defense Department to coordinate priority aircraft movement during warfare or emergencies if needed. “The Pentagon staffs it only three days per month for refresher training, but September 11 happen[s] to be one of those days.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 12/17/01] Additionally, just weeks earlier the cell had been given a secure terminal and other hardware “greatly enhancing the movement of vital information.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/10/02] The 9/11 Commission later determines that communication between the FAA and the military is extremely poor. It is unclear why this connection, which the 9/11 Commission fails to mention, does not help.

(After 9:03 a.m.): Rice Learns of Second Attack; Goes to Basement Bunker

       National Security Adviser Rice has just started her daily national security staff meeting at 9:00 a.m. Shortly after 9:03 a.m., an aide hands her a note saying a second plane has hit the WTC. Rice later claims that she thinks, “This is a terrorist attack,” and then leaves the meeting, quickly walking to the White House Situation Room. [Newsweek, 12/31/01] However, according to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, Rice leaves the meeting for Vice President Cheney's office. Clarke meets her there a few minutes later and only then does she go down to the basement bunker. [Clarke, 2004, pp 1-2]

(After 9:03 a.m.): Secret Service Wants Fighters Scrambled from Andrews; None Are Ready to Fly

       A few minutes after 9:03 a.m., a squadron pilot at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland (just ten miles from Washington), hears that two planes have crashed into the WTC. He calls a friend in the Secret Service to see what's going on. The Secret Service calls back, and asks whether Andrews can scramble fighters. Apparently anticipating the need, one commander has already started preparing weapons for the fighters. However, the weapons are located in a bunker on the other side of The Base, and the process takes time. The fighters don't take off for about another hour and a half (10:42 a.m.). Meanwhile, there are also three unarmed F-16 fighters assigned to the Andrews base on a training mission 207 miles to the south in North Carolina. These are not recalled until much later, and don't reach Washington until 10:45 a.m. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/02] NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold has said, “We [didn't] have any aircraft on alert at Andrews.” [MSNBC, 9/23/01 (C)] However, prior to 9/11, the District of Columbia Air National Guard [DCANG] based at Andrews had a publicly stated mission “to provide combat units in the highest possible state of readiness.” Prior to 9/11, the mission statement was posted on the D.C. National Guard's public website. Shortly after 9/11, this mission statement is removed and replaced by a DCANG “vision” to “provide peacetime command and control and administrative mission oversight to support customers, DCANG units, and NGB in achieving the highest levels of readiness.” [DCANG Home Page]

9:03 a.m.: Flight 175 Crashes into WTC South Tower; Millions Watch Live on Television

Flight 175 an instant before it hits the WTC south tower.
Flight 175 hits the South Tower of the World Trade Center (Tower Two). Seismic records pinpoint the time at six seconds before 9:03 a.m. (rounded to 9:03 a.m.). [CNN, 9/17/01; NORAD, 9/18/01; New York Times, 9/12/01; CNN, 9/12/01; Associated Press, 8/19/02 (B); USA Today, 9/3/02; New York Times, 9/11/02; USA Today, 12/20/01] Millions watch the crash live on television. The plane strikes the 78th through 84th floors in the 110-story building. Approximately 100 people are killed or injured in the initial impact; 600 people in the tower eventually die. All but four of those killed work above the crash point. The death toll is far lower than in the North Tower because about two-thirds of the South Tower's occupants have evacuated the building in the 17 minutes since the first tower was struck. [USA Today, 12/20/01] The combined death toll from the two towers is estimated at 2,819, not including the hijackers. [Associated Press, 8/19/02 (B)]

(After 9:03 a.m.): New York and Washington Flight Controllers Told to Watch for Suspicious Aircraft

       New York flight controllers are told by the FAA to watch for airplanes whose speed indicates that they are jets, but which either are not responding to commands or have disabled their transponders. “Controllers in Washington [get] a similar briefing, which [help] them pick out hijacked planes more quickly.” [New York Times, 9/13/01 (F)] Other centers are apparently not told the same, and Indianapolis flight control apparently remains unaware of any crisis. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

(9:03-9:06 a.m.): Bush Enters Classroom Photo-Op, Still Claims to Think WTC Crash Is Accidental

President Bush enters Sandra Kay Daniels' classroom.
President Bush enters Sandra Kay Daniels' second-grade class for a photo-op to promote Bush's education policies. [Daily Mail, 9/8/02] Numerous reporters who travel with the president, as well as members of the local media, watch from the back of the room. [Associated Press, 8/19/02 (D)] Altogether, there are about 150 people in the room, 16 of whom are children in the class. He is introduced to the children and poses for a number of pictures. The teacher then leads the students through some reading exercises (video footage shows this lasts about three minutes). [Salon, 9/12/01 (B)] Bush later claims that during this lesson, he is thinking what he will say about the WTC crash. “I was concentrating on the program at this point, thinking about what I was going to say. Obviously, I felt it was an accident. I was concerned about it, but there were no alarm bells.” [Washington Times, 10/7/02] The children are just getting their books from under their seats to read a story together when Chief of Staff Andrew Card comes in to tell Bush of the second WTC crash. [Washington Times, 10/8/02; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01] According to the Washington Times, Card comes in at the conclusion of the first half of the planned lesson, and “[seizes] a pause in the reading drill to walk up to Mr. Bush's seat.” [Washington Times, 10/7/02; Washington Times, 10/8/02]

(9:05 a.m.): Clarke, Cheney, and Rice Talk, Clarke's Recommendation to Evacuate White House Is Ignored

       Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is driving up to a gate outside the White House when an aide calls and tells him, “The other tower was just hit.” He responds, “Well, now we know who We're dealing with. I want the highest level person in Washington from each agency on-screen now, especially the FAA.” He has already ordered this aide to set up a secure video conference, about five minutes earlier. A few minutes later, he finds Vice President Cheney and National Security Adviser Rice in Vice President Cheney's White House office. Cheney tells Clarke, “It's an al-Qaeda attack and they like simultaneous attacks. This may not be over.” Rice asks Clarke for recommendations, and he says, “We're putting together a secure teleconference to manage the crisis.” He also recommends evacuating the White House (However, evacuation does not begin until 9:45 a.m., after a critical 40 minutes has passed). Rice notes the Secret Service wants them to go to the bomb shelter below the White House, and as Clarke leaves the other two, he sees Rice and Cheney gathering papers and preparing to evacuate. [Clarke, 2004, pp 1-2; Australian, 3/27/04]

9:05 am (and After): Flight 77 Reappears on Radar, but Flight Controllers Do Not Notice

       According to the 9/11 Commission, Flight 77's radar blip, missing for the last eight minutes, reappears on Indianapolis flight control's primary radar scope. It is east of its last known position. It remains in air space managed by Indianapolis until 9:10 a.m., and then passes into Washington air space. Two managers and one flight controller continue to look west and southwest for the flight, but don't look east. Managers don't instruct other Indianapolis controllers to join the search for the flight. Neither they nor FAA headquarters issues an “all points bulletin” to surrounding centers to search for Flight 77. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Newsday claims that rumors circulate the plane might have exploded in midair. [Newsday, 9/23/01] However, the 9/11 Commission's conclusion that Indianapolis flight controllers did not look east is contradicted by an account indicating that American Airlines headquarters was told that Flight 77 had turned around.

(9:06-9:16 a.m.): Bush Reads Pet Goat Story for Nearly Ten Minutes; Warned Not to Talk

President Bush and Sandra Kay Daniels read the goat story while the media watches.
President Bush, having just been told of the second WTC crash, stays in the Booker Elementary School Classroom, and listens as 16 Booker Elementary School second-graders take turns reading “The Pet Goat.” It's a simple story about a girl's pet goat. [Agence France-Presse, 9/7/02; Editor and Publisher, 7/2/04] They are just about to begin reading when Bush is told of the attack. One account says that the classroom is then silent for about 30 seconds, maybe more. Bush then picks up the book and reads with the children “for eight or nine minutes.” [Tampa Tribune, 9/1/02] In unison, the children read aloud, “The—Pet— Goat. A—girl—got—a—pet—goat. But—the—goat—did— some—things—that—made—the—girl's—dad—mad.” And so on. Bush mostly listens, but does ask the children a few questions to encourage them. [Washington Times, 10/7/02] At one point he says, “Really good readers, whew! ... These must be sixth-graders!” [Time, 9/12/01] In the back of the room, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer catches Bush's eye and holds up a pad of paper for him to read, with “ DON' T SAY ANYTHING YET” written on it in big block letters. [Washington Times, 10/7/02] (Note that three articles claim that Bush leaves the classroom at 9:12 a.m.) [New York Times, 9/16/01 (B); Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01; Daily Mail, 9/8/02] However, a videotape of the event lasts for “at least seven additional minutes” and ends before Bush leaves. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/04] (The timing of this entry is a rough approximation based mostly on the Tampa Tribune estimate. Much of this video footage is shown in Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. [New York Times, 6/18/04 (C)]

9:06 a.m.: Flight Controllers Nationwide Are Told Flight 11 Crash Caused by Hijacking

       All flight control facilities nationwide are notified that the Flight 11 crash into the WTC was probably a hijacking. [House of Representatives Committee, 9/21/01; Newsday, 9/23/01]

(9:06 a.m.): Bush Told WTC Hit Again and America's Under Attack; He Continues Photo-Op

Andrew Card speaks to President Bush and tells him of the second World Trade Center crash.
President Bush is in a Booker Elementary School second-grader classroom. His chief of staff, Andrew Card, enters the room and whispers into his ear, “A second plane hit the other tower, and America's under attack.” [New York Times, 9/16/01 (B); Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01; Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/02; Washington Times, 10/8/02; ABC News, 9/11/02] Intelligence expert James Bamford describes Bush's reaction: “Immediately [after Card speaks to Bush] an expression of befuddlement passe[s] across the president's face. Then, having just been told that the country was under attack, the commander in chief appear[s] uninterested in further details. He never ask[s] if there had been any additional threats, where the attacks were coming from, how to best protect the country from further attacks. ... Instead, in the middle of a modern-day Pearl Harbor, he simply turn[s] back to the matter at hand: the day's photo-op.” [Bamford, 2002, pp 633] Bush begins listening to a story about a goat. But despite the pause and change in children's exercises, as one newspaper put it, “For some reason, Secret Service agents [do] not bustle him away.” [Globe and Mail, 9/12/01] Bush later says of the experience, “I am very aware of the cameras. I'm trying to absorb that knowledge. I have nobody to talk to. I'm sitting in the midst of a classroom with little kids, listening to a children's story and I realize I'm the commander in chief and the country has just come under attack.” [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01] Bush listens to the goat story for about ten more minutes. The reason given is that, “Without all the facts at hand, George Bush ha[s] no intention of upsetting the schoolchildren who had come to read for him.” [MSNBC, 10/29/02] Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport is only three and a half miles away. In fact, the elementary school was chosen for the photo-op partly because of its closeness to the airport. [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/12/02] Why the Secret Service does not move Bush away from his publicized location that morning remains unclear.

(9:08-9:13 a.m.): Fighters Put in Holding Pattern over Ocean Instead of Defending New York City

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

9:09 a.m.: NORAD Said to Order Langley Fighters to Battle Stations Alert; Pilots Say This Happens Much Later

       According to some reports, NORAD orders F-16s at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, on battle stations alert. Around this time, the FAA command center reports that 11 aircraft are either not in communication with FAA facilities, or flying unexpected routes. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] The 9/11 Commission also later accepts this version, claiming that the intent of the alert was not to protect Washington, but because there is a concern that the fighters currently hovering over New York City will run low on fuel, and need to be replaced. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] However, at least one pilot, Major Dean Eckmann, asserts that the battle stations alert does not occur until 9:21 a.m. Another pilot, code-named Honey (presumably Craig Borgstrom), asserts that this does not occur until 9:24 a.m. [BBC, 9/1/02]

9:09 a.m.: Indianapolis Flight Control Tells Local FAA Flight 77 Is Missing, but FAA Headquarters and NORAD Are Not Yet Told

       Indianapolis flight control reports the loss of contact with Flight 77 to the FAA regional center. They describe it as a possible crash. The center waits 16 minutes before passing the information to FAA headquarters at 9:25 a.m. [Washington Post, 11/3/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] However, American Airlines headquarters has been notified of the same information before 9:00 a.m.

9:10 a.m.: Port Authority Tells La Guardia Airport WTC Crashes Are Criminal Acts

       According to released transcripts, a caller from the Port Authority police desk tells a La Guardia Airport control tower employee that, “they are considering [the crashes into the WTC] a criminal act.” The control tower employee replies, “We believe that, and we are holding all aircraft on the ground.” [Associated Press, 12/29/03] La Guardia is one of two major New York City airports, and the Port Authority patrol both the WTC and the city's airports.

(9:10 a.m.): Clarke Directs Crisis Response Through Video Conference with Top Officials; 9/11 Commission and Others Barely Mention the Conference

       Around this time, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke reaches the Secure Video Conferencing Center next to the Situation Room in the West Wing of the White House. From there, he directs the response to the 9/11 attacks and stays in contact with other top officials through video links. On video are Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, CIA Director Tenet, FBI Director Mueller, FAA Administrator Jane Garvey, Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson (filling in for the traveling Attorney General Ashcroft), Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (filling in for the traveling Secretary of State Powell), and Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers (filling in for the traveling Chairman Henry Shelton). National Security Adviser Rice is with Clarke, but she lets Clarke run the crisis response, deferring to his longer experience on terrorism matters. Clarke is also told by an aide, “We're on the line with NORAD, on an air threat conference call.” [Clarke, 2004, pp 2-4; Australian, 3/27/04] The 9/11 Commission acknowledges the existence of this conference, but only gives it one sentence in a staff report about the day of 9/11: “The White House Situation Room initiated a video teleconference, chaired by Richard Clarke. While important, it had no immediate effect on the emergency defense efforts.” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Yet, as the Washington Post puts it, “everyone seems to agree” Clarke is the chief crisis manager on 9/11. [Washington Post, 3/28/04 (B)] Even his later opponent, National Security Adviser Rice, calls him 9/11's “crisis management guy.” [UPI, 4/10/04] The conference is where the government's emergency defense efforts are concentrated.

(9:10 a.m.): Rice and Cheney Apparently Go to White House Bunker; Other Accounts Have Cheney Moving Locations Later

       According to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke and others, Vice President Cheney goes from his White House office to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), a bunker in the East Wing of the White House, at about this time. National Security Adviser Rice, after initiating a video conference with Richard Clarke in the West Wing, goes to the PEOC to be with Cheney. There is no video link between response centers in the East and West Wings, but a secure telephone line is used instead. [Clarke, 2004, pp 3-4; ABC News, 9/14/02 (B); New York Times, 9/16/01 (B); Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01] One eyewitness account, David Bohrer, a White House photographer, says Cheney leaves for the PEOC just after 9:00 a.m. [ABC News, 9/14/02 (B)] However, there is a second account claiming that Cheney doesn't leave until sometime after 9:30 a.m. In this account, Secret Service agents burst into Cheney's White House office. They carry him under his arms—nearly lifting him off the ground—and propel him down the steps into the White House basement and through a long tunnel toward an underground bunker. [Washington Post, 1/27/02; BBC, 9/1/02; Newsweek, 12/31/01; New York Times, 10/16/01; MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B); 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] At about the same time, National Security Adviser Rice is told to go to the bunker as well. [ABC News, 9/11/02] In addition to the eyewitness accounts of Clarke and Bohrer, ABC News claims that Cheney is in the bunker when he is told Flight 77 is 50 miles away from Washington at 9:27 a.m., suggesting that accounts of Cheney entering the bunker after 9:27 a.m. are likely incorrect.

(9:10 a.m.): Washington Flight Control Sees Unidentified Plane, Apparently Fails to Notify FAA or NORAD

       Washington flight control notices a new eastbound plane entering its radar with no radio contact and no transponder identification. They do not realize it is Flight 77. They are aware of the hijackings and crashes of Flights 11 and 175, yet they apparently fail to notify anyone about the unidentified plane. [Newsday, 9/23/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Another report says they never notice it, and it is only noticed when it enters radar coverage of Washington's Dulles International Airport at 9:24 a.m. [Washington Post, 11/3/01]

(9:12 a.m.): Flight 77 Attendant Has Confirmed Hijacking, American Airlines Learns

Renee May.
Renee May, a flight attendant on Flight 77, uses a cell phone to call her mother in Las Vegas. She tells her mother that the flight has been hijacked, and that everyone has been asked to move to the back of the plane. She asks her mother to call American Airlines and let them know Flight 77 has been hijacked. Her mother (Nancy May) calls the airline. [Las Vegas Review Journal, 9/13/01; Las Vegas Review Journal, 9/15/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 1/27/04; San Francisco Chronicle, 7/23/04] American Airlines headquarters is already aware that Flight 77 is hijacked, but supposedly Indianapolis flight control covering the flight still is not told.

9:13 a.m.: Port Authority Asks New York Airports About Hijacked Planes, Airports Know Little

       A Port Authority police officer calls a flight controller at La Guardia Airport in New York City. The officer asks, “They are inquiring whether or not you can call Kennedy's tower, because they can't get through, and inquire whether or not they had any contact with these aircrafts.” The flight controller responds, “At this time, we do not think that anyone in the FAA had any contact with them.” [New York Times, 12/30/03] “Kennedy” is a reference to John F. Kennedy Airport, another major airport in New York City. Port Authority police, who patrol both the WTC and the airports, seek information from the controllers about the hijackers. However, the controllers are unable to offer any news. [New York Times, 12/30/03]

9:15 a.m.: American Airlines Orders No New Take Offs in US; United Airlines Follows Suit

       American Airlines orders no new take-offs in the US United Airlines follows suit five minutes later. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/01]

(Between 9:15-9:25 a.m.): FAA Head Tells Clarke Videoconference That Flight 11 and 175 Were Hijacked

       Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke begins a crisis response video conference by asking FAA Administrator Jane Garvey what she knows. Garvey replies, “The two aircraft that went in [to the WTC] were American flight 11, a 767, and United 175, also a 767. Hijacked.” She says that she has put a hold on all takeoffs and landings in New York and Washington, then states, “We have reports of eleven aircraft off course or out of communications.” Clarke and Garvey discuss the feasibility of canceling all takeoffs nationally, and grounding all planes in the air. Garvey says it is possible, but will take time. [Clarke, 2004, pp 4-5]

(9:16 a.m.): NORAD's Original Claim Flight 93 Is Hijacked at This Time Is Apparently Wrong; One Hijacker May Have Snuck Into Cockpit Early

       According to a NORAD timeline from a week after 9/11, NORAD claims that Flight 93 may have been hijacked at this time. The timeline inexplicably fails to say when the FAA told them about the hijack, the only flight for which they fail to provide this data. [CNN, 9/17/01; NORAD, 9/18/01] However, there may be one explanation: There are media reports that “investigators had determined from the cockpit voice recorder from United Airlines Flight 93 ... that one of the four hijackers had been invited into the cockpit area before the flight took off from Newark, New Jersey.” Cockpit voice recordings indicate that the pilots believed their guest was a colleague “and was thereby extended the typical airline courtesy of allowing any pilot from any airline to join a flight by sitting in the jumpseat, the folded over extra seat located inside the cockpit.” [Fox News, 9/24/01; Herald Sun, 9/25/01] However, this account has not been confirmed. The 9/11 Commission asserts the hijacking begins around 9:28 a.m. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Note that during the 9/11 Commission hearings in May 2003, NORAD officials stated that the FAA informed NEADS at 9:16 a.m. that United Flight 93 was hijacked. According to a commission report in 2004, “this statement was incorrect.” No further explanation is offered for NORAD's incorrect timeline. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

(9:16 a.m.): Bush Takes His Time Leaving Classroom Photo-Op

Bush continues to read the goat story.
President Bush leaves the Sarasota classroom where he has been since about 9:03 a.m. The children finish their lessons and put away their readers. [Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/01] Bush advises the children to stay in school and be good citizens. [Tampa Tribune, 9/1/02; St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/02 (B)] He also tells the children, “Thank you all so very much for showing me your reading skills.” [ABC News, 9/11/02] One student also asks Bush a question, and Bush gives a quick response on his education policy. [New York Post, 9/12/02] A reporter asks, “Mr. President, are you aware of the reports of the plane crash in New York? Is there any...” This question is interrupted by an aide who has come into the room, saying, “All right. Thank you. If everyone could please step outside.” Bush then says, “We'll talk about it later.” [CBS News, 9/11/02 (B)] Bush then tells school principal Gwen Tose-Rigell, who is in the room, about the terror attacks and why he has to leave. [Washington Times, 10/7/02] He then goes into an empty classroom next door and meets with his staff there. [ABC News, 9/11/02] Bush's program with the children was supposed to start at 9:00 a.m. and end 20 minutes later. [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/16/01] He leaves the classroom only a couple of minutes earlier than planned, if at all. The “goodbyes” and questions on the way out may have taken another minute or two.

(Between 9:16-9:29 a.m.): Bush Works on Speech with Staff; Makes No Decisions

Bush in a holding room before giving his speech. Communications director Dan Bartlett points to the TV, and the clock reads 9:25.
President Bush works with his staff to prepare a speech he will deliver at 9:29 a.m. He intermittently watches the television coverage in the room. [Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/02] He also speaks on the phone to advisers, first calling National Security Adviser Rice, then Vice President Cheney, then New York Governor George Pataki. [Daily Mail, 9/8/02] Bush often turns to look at a television screen. He declares, “We're at war.” [BBC, 9/1/02] Bush later claims he makes no major decisions about the crisis until after boarding Air Force One at 9:55 A.M.

9:17 a.m.: FAA Shuts Down All New York City Airports

       The FAA shuts down all New York City area airports. [CNN, 9/12/01; New York Times, 9/12/01] A flight controller at La Guardia airport reports the taxiways, runways, and airspace are completely clear at 9:37 a.m. [New York Times, 12/30/03]

(9:18 a.m.): FAA Command Center Warns Flight Controllers Nationwide to Watch for Suspicious Aircraft

       The FAA Command Center finally issues a nationwide alert to flight controllers to watch for planes disappearing from radar or making unauthorized course changes. [Washington Post, 11/3/01]

(9:20 a.m.): Barbara Olson Said to Call from Flight 77, but Account Is Full of Contradictions

Barbara Olson.
A passenger on Flight 77, Barbara Olson, calls her husband, Theodore (Ted) Olson, who is Solicitor General at the Justice Department. [San Francisco Chronicle, 7/23/04] Ted Olson is in his Justice Department office watching WTC news on television when his wife calls. A few days later, he says, “She told me that she had been herded to the back of the plane. She mentioned that they had used knives and box cutters to hijack the plane. She mentioned that the pilot had announced that the plane had been hijacked.” [CNN, 9/14/01 (C)] He tells her that two planes have hit the WTC. [Daily Telegraph, 3/5/02] She feels nobody is taking charge. [CNN, 9/12/01] He doesn't know if she was near the pilots, but at one point she asks, “What shall I tell the pilot? What can I tell the pilot to do?” [CNN, 9/14/01 (C)] Then she is cut off without warning. [Newsweek, 9/29/01] Ted Olson's recollection of the call's timing is extremely vague, saying it “must have been 9:15 [am.] or 9:30 [am.]. Someone would have to reconstruct the time for me.” [CNN, 9/14/01 (C)] Other accounts place it around 9:25 A.M. [Miami Herald, 9/14/01; New York Times, 9/15/01 (C); Washington Post, 9/21/01] The call is said to have lasted about a minute. [Washington Post, 9/12/01 (B)] By some accounts, his message that planes have hit the WTC comes later, in a second phone call. [Washington Post, 9/21/01] In one account, Barbara Olson calls from inside a bathroom. [Evening Standard, 9/12/01] In another account, she is near a pilot, and in yet another she is near two pilots. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01] Ted Olson's account of how Barbara Olson made her calls is also conflicting. Three days after 9/11, he says, “I found out later that she was having, for some reason, to call collect and was having trouble getting through. You know how it is to get through to a government institution when you're calling collect.” He says he doesn't know what kind of phone she used, but he has “assumed that it must have been on the airplane phone, and that she somehow didn't have access to her credit cards. Otherwise, she would have used her cell phone and called me.” [Fox News, 9/14/01] Why Barbara Olson would have needed access to her credit cards to call him on her cell phone is not explained. However, in another interview on the same day, he says that she used a cell phone and that she may have been cut off “because the signals from cell phones coming from airplanes don't work that well.” [CNN, 9/14/01 (C)] Six months later, he claims she called collect “using the phone in the passengers' seats.” [Daily Telegraph, 3/5/02] However, it is not possible to call on seatback phones, collect or otherwise, without a credit card, which would render making a collect call moot. Many other details are conflicting, and Olson faults his memory and says that he “tends to mix the two [calls] up because of the emotion of the events.” [CNN, 9/14/01 (C)] The couple liked to joke that they were at the heart of what Hillary Clinton famously called a “vast, right-wing conspiracy.” Ted Olson has been a controversial choice as Solicitor General since he argued on behalf of Bush before the Supreme Court in the 2000 presidential election controversy before being nominated for his current position.

(9:20 a.m.): FAA Sets Up Ineffectual Hijacking Teleconference

       The FAA sets up a hijacking teleconference with several agencies, including the Defense Department. This is almost one hour after the FAA's Boston flight control notified other flight control centers about the first hijacking at 8:25 a.m. Yet even after this delay, FAA and Defense Department participants in the teleconference later claim it plays no role in coordinating the response to the hijackings. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

(9:20 a.m.): FBI Washington Office Is Warned Flight 77 Has Been Hijacked

Arthur Eberhart.
In a government report analyzing the effectiveness of rescue worker response to the Pentagon crash, it is mentioned that, “At about 9:20 a.m., the WFO [FBI Washington Field Office] Command Center [is] notified that American Airlines Flight 77 had been hijacked shortly after takeoff from Washington Dulles International Airport. [Special Agent in Charge Arthur] Eberhart dispatche[s] a team of 50 agents to investigate the Dulles hijacking and provide additional security to prevent another. He sen[ds] a second team to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport as a precautionary step. At the WFO Command Center, Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) Jim Rice [is] on the telephone with the Pentagon when Flight 77 crashe[s] into the building.” [Arlington County After-Action Report, 7/02 (B)] Yet according to the 9/11 Commission, NORAD is not told that Flight 77 had been hijacked at this time or any time before it crashes. However, the FAA has claimed they officially warned NORAD at 9:24 a.m. and informally warned them even earlier (see (9:24 a.m.)).
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