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Before 9/11

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

Al-Qaeda Members

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

Geopolitics and 9/11

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

Day of 9/11

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

The Post-9/11 World

Other events
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Complete 911 Timeline


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(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]

(9:06-9:16 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]

9:09 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.): 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]

(9:10 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.: 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.

(9:12 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]

(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.

(9:16 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.

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.): Mineta Reaches Bunker, Meets Cheney

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta.
Transportation Secretary Mineta arrives at the White House bunker containing Vice President Cheney and others. In later testimony, he recalls that Cheney is already there when he arrives. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/04] This supports accounts of Cheney reaching the bunker not long after the second WTC crash, but the 9/11 Commission concludes Cheney doesn't arrive until a few minutes before 10:00 a.m.. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

(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 Command Center Notifies Field Facilities That Flight 77 Is Lost; Indianapolis Flight Control Reportedly Finally Learns of National Crisis

       According to the 9/11 Commission, Indianapolis flight control learns that there are other hijacked aircraft by this time (presumably at least Flights 11 and 175). Millions of people have known about the crashes since CNN and all other media began broadcasting images from New York at 8:48 a.m., but Indianapolis is reportedly unaware until this time. The Indianapolis flight controllers begin to doubt their assumption that Flight 77 has crashed and consider that it might be hijacked. After a discussion between the Indianapolis manager and the FAA Command Center, the Command Center notifies some other FAA facilities that Flight 77 is lost. By 9:21 a.m., the Command Center, some FAA field facilities, and American Airlines join the search for Flight 77. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

(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]

9:21 a.m.: FAA Command Center Advises Dulles Airport Control to Be on Lookout

       According to the 9/11 Commission, the FAA Command Center advises the Dulles Airport terminal control facility in Washington to look for primary targets. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] By at least one account, Dulles notices Flight 77 a few minutes later.

(9:21-9:26 a.m.): United Airlines Dispatchers Advise Pilots to Secure Cockpit Doors; Flight 93 Gets the Message

       At 9:21 a.m., United Airlines dispatchers are told to advise their flights to secure cockpit doors. Flight dispatcher Ed Ballinger has apparently already started doing this on his own a couple of minutes earlier. Sending electronic messages one by one, at 9:24 he sends a message to Flight 93 reading: “Beware of cockpit intrusion. Two aircraft in New York hit Trade Center buildings.” Ballinger claims that he was specifically instructed by superiors not to tell pilots why they needed to land (apparently he added the detail about the WTC against orders). [New York Observer, 6/17/04] Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl acknowledges the message two minutes later, replying, “Ed, confirm latest message please Jason.” This is the last vocal contact from the cockpit of Flight 93. [9/11 Commission Report, 1/27/04] Note that this formal warning is in addition to an informal one sent by Ballinger that reached Flight 93 around 9:00 a.m. In contrast to United Airlines, the 9/11 Commission finds no evidence that American Airlines sends such warnings to their pilots at any time during the hijackings.

9:21 a.m.: FAA Headquarters Mistakenly Tells Boston Controller Flight 11 Is Still Airborne

       According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS is contacted by Boston flight control. A controller says, “I just had a report that American 11 is still in the air, and it's on its way towards—heading towards Washington. ... That was another—it was evidently another aircraft that hit the tower. That's the latest report we have. ... I'm going to try to confirm an ID for you, but I would assume he's somewhere over, uh, either New Jersey or somewhere further south.” The NEADS official asks, “He—American 11 is a hijack? ... And he's heading into Washington?” The Boston controller answers yes both times and adds, “This could be a third aircraft.” Somehow Boston is told by FAA headquarters that Flight 11 is still airborne, but the commission hasn't been able to find where this mistaken information came from. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

9:21 a.m.: All New York City Bridges and Tunnels Are Closed

       The New York City Port Authority closes all bridges and tunnels in New York City. [MSNBC, 9/22/01; CNN, 9/12/01; New York Times, 9/12/01; Associated Press, 8/19/02 (B)]

9:21 a.m.: One Langley Pilot Claims to Be Put on Battle Stations Now, Not 12 Minutes Earlier

Major Dean Eckmann.
Major Dean Eckmann, an F-16 fight pilot at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, recalls, “The scramble horn goes off and we get the yellow light, which is our battle stations. So at that point I go running out to the airplanes—to my assigned alert airplane—get suited up and I get into the cockpit ready to start.” [BBC, 9/1/02] A few minutes before the battle stations order, Eckmann is told that a plane has hit the WTC. He assumes it's some kind of accident. [Associated Press, 8/19/02 (C)] However, another pilot, codenamed Honey (apparently Craig Borgstrom), claims the battle stations command happens at 9:24 a.m.; while the 9/11 Commission claims it happens at 9:09 a.m.

9:23 a.m.: NEADS Wants Fighters to Track Phantom Flight 11

       According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS has just been told that the hijacked Flight 11 is still in the air and heading toward Washington. The NEADS Battle Commander says, “Okay, uh, American Airlines is still airborne. Eleven, the first guy, he's heading towards Washington. Okay? I think we need to scramble Langley right now. And I'm gonna take the fighters from Otis, try to chase this guy down if I can find him.” The NEADS Mission Crew Commander issues the order, “Okay ... scramble Langley. Head them towards the Washington area.” The Langley, Virginia, base gets the scramble order at 9:24 a.m. NEADS keeps their fighters from the Otis base over New York City. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

(9:24 a.m.): By Some Accounts, FAA Notifies NORAD Flight 77 Is Hijacked and Washington-Bound; 9/11 Commission Claims This Never Happens

       Shortly after 9/11, NORAD reported that the FAA notified them at this time that Flight 77 “may” have been hijacked and that it appears headed toward Washington. [NORAD, 9/18/01; Associated Press, 8/19/02 (B); CNN, 9/17/01; Washington Post, 9/12/01; Guardian, 10/17/01] Apparently, flight controllers at Dulles International Airport discover a plane heading at high speed toward Washington; an alert is sounded within moments that the plane appears to be headed toward the White House. [Washington Post, 11/3/01] In 2003, the FAA supported this account, but claimed that they had informally notified NORAD earlier. “NORAD logs indicate that the FAA made formal notification about American Flight 77 at 9:24 a.m., but information about the flight was conveyed continuously during the phone bridges before the formal notification.” [FAA, 5/22/03] Yet in 2004, the 9/11 Commission claims that both NORAD and the FAA are wrong. The 9/11 Commission explains that the notification NEADS received at 9:24 a.m. was the incorrect information that Flight 11 had not hit the WTC and was headed south for Washington, D.C. Thus, according to the 9/11 Commission, NORAD is never notified by the FAA about the hijacking of Flight 77, but accidentally learns about it at 9:34 a.m. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

(9:24 a.m.): Langley Fighters Are Ordered to Scramble; but One Pilot Claims the Order Is Only a Battle Stations Alert

       The BBC later reports that at this time, Robert Marr, head of NEADS, gives the scramble order to the F-16 fighters based in Langley, Virginia: “North East sectors back on. We ought to be getting the weapons crews back in. Get the scramble order rolling. Scramble.” [BBC, 9/1/02] The 9/11 Commission concurs that the scramble order is given now. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] NORAD also has agreed. [NORAD, 9/18/01] However, many media reports have placed it later. [CNN, 9/17/01; Washington Post, 9/12/01; CNN, 9/17/01; Washington Post, 9/15/01] A pilot codenamed Honey gives a slightly different account. He claims that at this time a battle stations alert sounds and two other pilots are given the order to climb into their F-16s and await further instructions. Then, Honey, the supervising pilot, talks to the two other pilots. Then, “five or ten minutes later,” a person from NORAD calls and Honey speaks to him at the nearby administrative office. He is told that all three of them are ordered to scramble. Honey goes to his living quarters, grabs his flight gear, puts it on, runs to his plane, and takes off. [Longman, 2002, pp 64-65] Honey appears to be the codename for Captain Craig Borgstrom, because in another account, Borgstrom is given an alert and then talks to the two other pilots. [Associated Press, 8/19/02 (C)] A different pilot account has the battle stations warning three minutes earlier, while the 9/11 Commission claims that it happens fifteen minutes earlier. Pilot Major Dean Eckmann recalls, “They go ‘active air scramble, vector zero one zero one, max speed.’ And then I push us over to the tower frequency and get our departure clearance and they launch us out right away. ... We can carry M9-Heat Seekers, Side Winders for the M7-Sparrow, plus we have an internal 20mm Vulcan Cannon, and we were pretty much armed with all that. We had a pretty quick response time. I believe it was four to five minutes we were airborne from that point.” The BBC reports, “Even while last minute pre-launch checks are being made, the controllers learn that a third plane—American Airlines flight 77 out of Washington—may have been hijacked.” Just before the fighters take off, the BBC says, “The pilots get a signal over the plane's transponder—a code that indicates an emergency wartime situation.” [BBC, 9/1/02]

9:25 a.m.: FAA Command Center Finally Tells FAA Headquarters About Flight 77

       According to the 9/11 Commission, the FAA Command Center advises FAA headquarters that American 77 is lost in Indianapolis flight control's airspace, that Indianapolis has no primary radar track, and is looking for the aircraft. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] The Command Center had learned this 16 minutes earlier at 9:09 a.m. American Airlines headquarters was notified of the same information before 9:00 a.m.

(After 9:25 a.m.): Flight 77 Passenger Call Reaches Justice Department and Beyond

Ted Olson.
Theodore (Ted) Olson, the Justice Department's Solicitor General, calls the Justice Department's control center to relate his wife Barbara's call from Flight 77. Accounts vary whether the Justice Department already knows of the hijack or not. [Washington Post, 9/12/01 (B); Channel 4 News, 9/13/01; New York Times, 9/15/01 (C)] Olson merely says, “They just absorbed the information. And they promised to send someone down right away.” He assumes they then “pass the information on to the appropriate people.” [Fox News, 9/14/01]

(9:26 a.m.): Rookie FAA Manager Bans All Take Offs Nationwide, Including Most Military Flights? Mineta Asserts He Issues Order Minutes Later

FAA Administrator Jane Garvey.
Time magazine later reports that Jane Garvey, head of the FAA, “almost certainly after getting an okay from the White House, initiate[s] a national ground stop, which forbids takeoffs and requires planes in the air to get down as soon as is reasonable. The order, which has never been implemented since flying was invented in 1903, applie[s] to virtually every single kind of machine that can takeoff—civilian, military, or law enforcement.” Military and law enforcement flights are allowed to resume at 10:31 a.m. A limited number of military flights—the FAA will not reveal details—are allowed to fly during this ban. [Time, 9/14/01] Garvey later calls it “a national ground stop ... that prevented any aircraft from taking off.” [House of Representatives Committee, 9/21/01] Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta later says he was the one to give the order: “As soon as I was aware of the nature and scale of the attack, I called from the White House to order the air traffic system to land all aircraft, immediately and without exception.” [State Department, 9/20/01] According to Mineta, “At approximately 9:45 ... I gave the FAA the final order for all civil aircraft to land at the nearest airport as soon as possible.” [9/11 Commission Report, 5/23/03] At the time, 4,452 planes are flying in the continental US. A later account states that Ben Sliney, the FAA's National Operations Manager, makes the decision without consulting his superiors, like Jane Garvey, first. It would be remarkable if Sliney was the one to make the decision, because 9/11 is Sliney's first day on the job as National Operations Manager, “the chess master of the air traffic system.” [USA Today, 8/13/02] When he accepted the job a couple of months earlier, he had asked, “What is the limit of my authority?” The man who had promoted him replied, “Unlimited.” [USA Today, 8/13/02 (B)] Yet another account, by Linda Schuessler, manager of tactical operations at the FAA Command Center where Sliney was located, says, “... it was done collaboratively ... All these decisions were corporate decisions. It wasn't one person who said, ‘Yes, this has got to get done.’ ” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 12/17/01] About 500 planes land in the next 20 minutes, and then much more urgent orders to land are issued at 9:45 A.M. [USA Today, 8/13/02; Time, 9/14/01; USA Today, 8/13/02; House of Representatives Committee, 9/21/01; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02; Newsday, 9/23/01; Associated Press, 8/19/02 (B); Newsday, 9/10/02]

(9:27 a.m.): Flight 93 Passenger Tom Burnett Calls Wife, Mentions Bomb, Knife, and Gun

Tom Burnett.
Tom Burnett calls his wife, Deena, using a cell phone and says, “I'm on United Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco. The plane has been hijacked. We are in the air. they've already knifed a guy. There is a bomb on board. Call the FBI.” Deena connects to emergency 9-1-1. [ABC News, 9/12/01; Longman, 2002, pp 107; MSNBC, 7/30/02; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01 (B); Toronto Sun, 9/16/01] Deena wonders if the call might have been before the cockpit was taken over, because he spoke quickly and quietly as if he was being watched. He also had a headset like phone operators use, so he could have made the call unnoticed. Note that original versions of this conversation appear to have been censored. The most recent account has the phone call ending with, “We are in the air. The plane has been hijacked. They already knifed a guy. One of them has a gun. they're saying there is a bomb onboard. Please call the authorities.” [Longman, 2002, pp 107] The major difference from earlier accounts, is the mention of a gun. The call wasn't recorded, but Deena's call to 9-1-1 immediately afterwards was, and on that call she states, “They just knifed a passenger and there are guns on the plane.” [Longman, 2002, pp 108] Deena Burnett later says of her husband: “He told me one of the hijackers had a gun. He wouldn't have made it up. Tom grew up around guns. He was an avid hunter and we have guns in our home. If he said there was a gun on board, there was.” [Times of London, 8/11/02 (B)] This is the first of over 30 phone calls by passengers inside the plane. [MSNBC, 7/30/02] Passengers are told what happened at the WTC in least five of the phone calls. Five calls show an intent to revolt against the hijackers. [San Francisco Chronicle, 7/23/04]

(9:27 a.m.): Cheney Given Updates on Unidentified Flight 77 Heading Toward Washington

       Vice President Cheney and National Security Adviser Rice, in their bunker below the White House, are told by an aide that an airplane is headed toward Washington from 50 miles away. The plane is Flight 77. FAA deputy Monty Belger says, “Well We're watching this target on the radar, but the transponder's been turned off. So we have no identification.” They are given further notices when the plane is 30 miles away, then ten miles away, until it disappears from radar (time unknown, but the plane is said to be traveling about 500 mph and was 30 miles away at 9:30 a.m., so 50 miles would be about three minutes before that). [ABC News, 9/11/02] Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta gives virtually the same account before the 9/11 Commission. [9/11 Commission Report, 5/23/03] However, the 9/11 Commission later claims the plane heading toward Washington is only discovered at 9:32 a.m. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

9:28 a.m.: Myers Updates Clarke Videoconference on Fighter Response

       Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, directing a video conference with top officials, asks Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Richard Myers, “I assume NORAD has scrambled fighters and AWACS. How many? Where?” Myers replies, “Not a pretty picture, Dick. We are in the middle of Vigilant Warrior, a NORAD exercise, but ... Otis has launched two birds toward New York. Langley is trying to get two up now [toward Washington]. The AWACS are at Tinker and not on alert.” Vigilant Warrior may be a mistaken reference to the on-going war game Vigilant Guardian. Otis Air National Guard Base is in Massachusetts, 188 miles east of New York City; Langley is in Virginia, 129 miles south of Washington; Tinker Air Force Base is in Oklahoma. Clarke asks, “Okay, how long to CAP [combat air patrol] over D.C.?” Myers replies, “Fast as we can. Fifteen minutes?” Note that according to Clarke, Myers is surrounded by generals and colonels as he says this (which contradicts Myers' own accounts of where he is and what he's doing). [Clarke, 2004, pp 5] The first fighters don't reach Washington until 30 minutes or more later.

(9:28 a.m.): Cleveland Flight Control Hears Sounds of Struggle as Flight 93 Is Hijacked

Jason Dahl.
Flight 93 acknowledges a transmission from a Cleveland flight controller. This is the last normal contact with the plane. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] According to the 9/11 Commission, less than a minute later, the controller, and pilots of aircraft in the vicinity, hear “a radio transmission of unintelligible sounds of possible screaming or a struggle from an unknown origin...” [Newsweek, 11/25/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04; Guardian, 10/17/01] Someone, presumably pilot Jason Dahl, is overheard by controllers as he shouts, “Mayday!” [New York Times, 7/22/04 (B)] Seconds later, the controller responds: “Somebody call Cleveland?” Then there are more sounds of screaming and someone yelling, “Get out of here, get out of here.” [MSNBC, 7/30/02; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04; Observer, 12/2/01; Toronto Sun, 9/16/01; Newsweek, 9/22/01] Then the voices of the hijackers can be heard talking in Arabic. The words are later translated to show they are talking to each other, saying, “Everything is fine.” [Newsweek, 11/25/01] Later passenger phone calls describe two dead or injured bodies just outside the cockpit; presumably these are the two pilots. [New York Times, 7/22/04 (B)]

9:28 am (or Before): Erratic Flight 93 Movements Noticed by Cleveland Flight Controller

Key events of Flight 93 (times are based on a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette map and otherwise interopolated).
Cleveland flight controller Stacey Taylor has been warned to watch transcontinental flights heading west for anything suspicious. She later recalls, “I hear one of the controllers behind me go, ‘Oh, my God, oh my God,’ and he starts yelling for the supervisor. He goes, ‘What is this plane doing? What is this plane doing?’ I wasn't that busy at the time, and I pulled it up on my screen and he was climbing and descending and climbing and descending, but very gradually. He'd go up 300 feet, he'd go down 300 feet. And it turned out to be United 93.” (Note the time of this incident is not specified, but presumably it is prior to when Cleveland controllers note Flight 93 descends 700 feet at 9:29 a.m.) [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)]

9:28 a.m.: CNN Reports US Officials Think Attacks Caused by Terrorists

       CNN quotes the Associate Press as reporting that a US official believes the attacks are believed to have been carried out by terrorists. [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/01]

(9:29 a.m.): Confirmation of Strange Sounds Coming from Flight 93; NORAD Not Notified

       Shortly after hearing strange noises from the cockpit of Flight 93, Cleveland flight controllers notice the plane has descended about 700 feet. They try to contact the plane several times, but get no answer. At 9:30 a.m., a controller asks other nearby flights on his frequency if they've heard screaming; several say that they have. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] However, despite these disturbing sounds and lack of contact with the plane, Cleveland doesn't notify anyone else about it.

(9:29 a.m.): Pentagon Command Center Begins High Level Conference Call

The National Miilitary Command Center, inside the Pentagon.
Captain Charles Leidig is in command of the National Military Command Center (NMCC), “the military's worldwide nerve center.” [CNN, 9/4/02] Telephone links are established with the NMCC located inside the Pentagon (but on the opposite side of the building from where the explosion will happen), Canada's equivalent command center, Strategic Command, theater commanders, and federal emergency-response agencies. An Air Threat Conference Call is initiated and it lasts for eight hours. At one time or another, President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, key military officers, leaders of the FAA and NORAD, the White House, and Air Force One are heard on the open line. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] NORAD command director Captain Michael Jellinek claims this happens “immediately” after the second WTC hit. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] However, the 9/11 Commission concludes it starts nearly 30 minutes later, at approximately 9:29 a.m. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Brigadier General Montague Winfield, who later takes over for Leidig, says, “All of the governmental agencies that were involved in any activity going on in the United States at that point, were in that conference.” [ABC News, 9/11/02] The call continues right through the Pentagon explosion; the impact is not felt within the NMCC. [CNN, 9/4/02] However, despite being in the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld doesn't enter the NMCC or participate in the call until 10:30 a.m.

9:29 a.m.: President Bush Makes a Scheduled Speech; Proclaims Terrorist Attack on Our Country

President Bush begins speaking at 9:29 in the library of Booker Elementary School.
Still inside Booker Elementary School, President Bush gives a brief speech in front of about 200 students, plus many teachers and reporters. [Daily Mail, 9/8/02] He says, “Today we've had a national tragedy. Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country.” [Federal News Service, 9/11/01] The talk occurs at exactly the time and place stated in his publicly announced advance schedule—making Bush a possible terrorist target. [MSNBC, 9/22/01; Washington Post, 9/12/01; CNN, 9/12/01; New York Times, 9/12/01] This is the last most Americans will see of Bush until the evening. reporters at Booker Elementary School.

(9:30 a.m.): Clarke Asks Cheney's Bunker for Air Force One Fighter Escort and Shootdown Authorization; Neither Happen for Some Time

       As President Bush begins a speech in Florida, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke orders all US embassies overseas closed and orders all military bases to an alert level named Combat Threatcon. Over the next few minutes, Clarke discusses with aides where Bush should go from Sarasota, Florida. He telephones PEOC, the command bunker containing Vice President Cheney and National Security Adviser Rice, and says, “Somebody has to tell the President he can't come right back here [to Washington]. Cheney, Condi, somebody, Secret Service concurs. We do not want them saying where they are going when they take off. Second, when they take off, they should have fighter escort. Three, we need to authorize the Air Force to shoot down any aircraft—including a hijacked passenger flight—that looks like it is threatening to attack and cause large-scale death on the ground. Got it?” [Clarke, 2004, pp 5-7] However, when Bush departs on Air Force One about half an hour later, there are no fighter escorts, and none appear for an hour or so. In addition, if Clarke requests authorization for a shootdown order at this time, it is apparently ignored; neither President Bush nor Vice President Cheney give shootdown authorization for at least another 30 minutes.

(9:30 a.m.): Who Warns Who of Flight 77's Impending Approach to D.C.?

       Chris Stephenson, head flight controller at Washington's Reagan National Airport tower, says that he is called by the Secret Service around this time. He is told an unidentified aircraft is speeding toward Washington. Stephenson looks at the radarscope and sees Flight 77 about five miles to the west. He looks out the tower window and sees the plane turning to the right and descending. He follows it until it disappears behind a building in nearby Crystal City, Virginia. [USA Today, 8/12/02] However, according to another account, just before 9:30 a.m., a controller in the same tower has an unidentified plane on radar, “heading toward Washington and without a transponder signal to identify it. It's flying fast, she says: almost 500 mph. And it's heading straight for the heart of the city. Could it be American Flight 77? The FAA warns the Secret Service.” [USA Today, 8/13/02] In short, it is unclear whether the Secret Service warns the FAA, or vice versa.

(9:30 a.m.): Delta Flight Mistakenly Suspected by Cleveland Flight Control

       Flight controllers mistakenly suspect that Delta Flight 1989, flying west over Pennsylvania, has been hijacked. The controllers briefly suspect the sound of hijackers' voices in Flight 93 is coming from this plane, only a few miles away. USA TODAY reports the flight “joins a growing list of suspicious jets. Some of their flight numbers will be scrawled on a white dry-erase board throughout the morning” at FAA headquarters. Miscommunications lead to further suspicion of Flight 1989 even after the source of the hijackers' message is confirmed to come from Flight 93. At some point, the Cleveland Airport flight control tower is evacuated for fear Flight 1989 will crash into it. Flight 1989 lands in Cleveland at 10:10 a.m. Eventually, about 11 flights will be labeled suspicious, with four of them actually hijacked. [USA Today, 8/13/02 (B); MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)] The 9/11 Commission later has another explanation as to why Flight 1989 is suspected. They claim that at 9:41 a.m., Boston flight control identifies Flight 1989 as a possible hijacking strictly because it is a transcontinental 767 that had departed from Logan Airport. Although NEADS never loses track of the flight, it launches fighters from Ohio and Michigan to intercept it soon after 10:00 a.m. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

(9:30 a.m.): Dulles Flight Controllers Track Flight 77; Timing Disputed

Flight controller Danielle O'Brien.
Radar tracks Flight 77 as it closes within 30 miles of Washington. [CBS News, 9/21/01] Todd Lewis, flight controller at Washington's Dulles Airport, later recalls, “... my colleagues saw a target moving quite fast from the northwest to the southeast. So she—we all started watching that target, and she notified the supervisor. However, nobody knew that was a commercial flight at the time. Nobody knew that was American 77. ... I thought it was a military flight.” [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)] Another account is similar, saying that just before 9:30 a.m., a Dulles Airport controller sees an aircraft without a transponder traveling almost 500 mph headed toward Washington. [USA Today, 8/13/02] In yet another account, Danielle O'Brien, the Dulles flight controller said to be the first to spot the blip, claims she doesn't spot it until it is around 12 to 14 miles from Washington. [ABC News, 10/24/01; ABC News, 10/24/01 (B)] There are also accounts that Vice President Cheney is told around 9:27 a.m. that radar is tracking Flight 77, 50 miles away from Washington. The 9/11 Commission says the plane isn't discovered until 9:32 a.m.

(9:30 a.m.): FAA Emergency Operations Center Is Finally Operational

       The FAA's Emergency Operations Center gets up and running, five minutes after the FAA issues an order grounding all civilian, military, and law enforcement aircraft. [Time, 9/14/01] This center's role in the crisis response remains unclear.

(After 9:30 a.m.): Secret Service Finally Rushes Bush Out of School

       Kevin Down, a Sarasota police officer, recalls that immediately after President Bush's speech concludes, “The Secret Service agent [runs] out from the school and [says] We're under terrorist attack, we have to go now.” [BBC, 9/1/02] The motorcade departs a few minutes later.

(Between 9:30-10:00 a.m.): Cockpit Voice Recording Begins

       Apparently, the only cockpit voice recording recovered undamaged from any of the 9/11 crashes is from Flight 93. It recorded on a 30-minute reel, which means that the tape is continually overwritten and only the final 30 minutes of any flight is recorded, though in practice sometimes the tape is slightly longer. Flight 93's recording lasts 31 minutes and begins at this time. [CNN, 4/19/02; Longman, 2002, pp 206-207; Hartford Courant, 4/19/04] According to one account, it begins seconds before the plane is hijacked. [Washington Post, 11/17/01] However, the version of the tape later played for the victims' relatives begins “too late to pick up the sounds of the hijackers' initial takeover.” [NBC, 4/18/02]

9:30 a.m.: Langley Fighters Take Off Toward Washington; They Could Reach City in Six Minutes but Take Half an Hour

A typical F-16.
The three F-16s at Langley, Virginia, get airborne. [NORAD, 9/18/01; ABC News, 9/11/02; Washington Post, 9/12/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] The pilots are Major Brad Derrig, Captain Craig Borgstrom, and Major Dean Eckmann, all from the North Dakota Air National Guard's 119th Fighter Wing stationed at Langley. [Associated Press, 8/19/02 (C); ABC News, 9/11/02] If the assumed NORAD departure time is correct, the F-16s would have to travel slightly over 700 mph to reach Washington before Flight 77 does. The maximum speed of an F-16 is 1,500 mph. [Associated Press, 6/16/00] Even traveling at 1,300 mph, these planes could have reached Washington in six minutes—well before any claim of when Flight 77 crashed. Yet it is claimed they are accidentally directed over the Atlantic Ocean instead, and they will only reach Washington about 30 minutes later. NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold admits in 2003 testimony that had the fighters been going at full speed, “it is physically possible that they could have gotten over Washington” before Flight 77. But asked if the fighters would have had shootdown authorization had they reached the hijacked plane, Arnold says no, claiming that even by this time in the morning it is only “through hindsight that we are certain that this was a coordinated attack on the United States.” [9/11 Commission Report, 5/23/03]

(9:30-9:37 a.m.): Langley Fighters Fly East to Ocean Instead of North to Washington; Explanations Differ

Route of the Langley Air Base fighters to Washington.
The three Langley fighters are airborne, but just where they go and how fast are in dispute. There are varying accounts that the fighters are ordered to Washington, New York, Baltimore, or no destination at all. The 9/11 Commission reports that, in fact, the pilots don't understand there is an emergency and head east. They give three reasons. “First, unlike a normal scramble order, this order did not include a distance to the target, or the target's location. Second, a ‘generic’ flight plan incorrectly led the Langley fighters to believe they were ordered to fly due east (090) for 60 miles. The purpose of the generic flight plan was to quickly get the aircraft airborne and out of local airspace. Third, the lead pilot and local FAA controller incorrectly assumed the flight plan instruction to go ‘090 for 60’ was newer guidance that superseded the original scramble order.” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] However, the Wall Street Journal gives a different explanation, surprisingly from 9/11 Commission testimony. “Once they got in the air, the Langley fighters observed peacetime noise restrictions requiring that they fly more slowly than supersonic speed and takeoff over water, pointed away from Washington, according to testimony before the [9/11 Commission].” The fighters that departed to New York City over 30 minutes earlier at 8:52 a.m. traveled faster than supersonic because they realized they were in a national emergency. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/04] In 2003 testimony, NORAD Commander Major General Larry Arnold explains that the fighters head over the ocean because NORAD is “looking outward” and has to have clearance to fly over land. [9/11 Commission Report, 5/23/03] Yet, in contrast to these accounts, the BBC reports that just before takeoff at 9:24 a.m., the pilots are specifically told that Flight 77 may have been hijacked, and they get a cockpit signal indicating they are in an emergency wartime situation. All the above accounts concur that, for whatever reason, the fighters go too far east. They don't reach Washington until roughly around 10:00 a.m.

9:30 a.m.: United Flights Are Instructed to Land Immediately; American Follows Suit

       United Airlines begins landing all of its flights inside the US (Note: All planes nationwide were already ordered down at 9:26 a.m. and told to land in a reasonable amount of time. Now they're told to land immediately.) American Airlines begins landing all of their flights five minutes later. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/01]

(After 9:31 a.m.): Flight 93 Attendant Is Stabbed

Flight attendant Debbie Welsh is apparently stabbed.
A few minutes after 9:31 a.m., a hijacker on board Flight 93 can be heard on the cockpit voice recorder ordering a woman to sit down. A woman, presumably a flight attendant, implores, “don't, don't.” She pleads, “Please, I don't want to die.” Patrick Welsh, the husband of flight attendant Debbie Welsh, is later told that a flight attendant was stabbed early in the takeover, and it is strongly implied it was his wife. She was a first-class attendant, and he says, “knowing Debbie,” she would have resisted. [Longman, 2002, pp 207]

9:32 a.m.: Stock Exchange Closes

       The New York Stock Exchange closes. It is a short distance from the WTC. [MSNBC, 9/22/01]

9:32 a.m.: Cheney Is Notified That Flight 77 Is Headed To Washington

Vice President Cheney pointing a finger inside the Presidential Emergency Operations Center. Footage of the World Trade Center plays on the televisions in the background (exact time is unknown).
According to the 9/11 Commission, the Dulles Airport terminal control facility in Washington has been looking for unidentified primary radar blips since 9:21 a.m. and now finds one. Several Dulles flight controllers “observed a primary radar target tracking eastbound at a high rate of speed” and notify Reagan Airport. FAA personnel at both Reagan and Dulles airports notify the Secret Service. The identity or aircraft type is unknown. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] However, other accounts place the discovery of this plane by Dulles around 9:24 a.m. or 9:30 a.m., and Vice President Cheney is told radar is tracking Flight 77 at 9:27 a.m.

(9:32 a.m.): Flight 93 Hijacker Tells Passengers Bomb Is Onboard; Flight Controllers Overhear

       A hijacker says over the radio to Flight 93's passengers: “Ladies and gentlemen, here is the captain, please sit down. Keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb aboard.” Apparently, Cleveland flight controllers can understand about a minute of screams, before a voice again says something about a “bomb on board.” A hijacker says in broken English that they are returning to the airport. [Newsweek, 9/22/01; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01; MSNBC, 9/3/02] According to the 9/11 Commission's account, the hijacker's voice says, “Keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb on board.” The controller understands, but chooses to respond, “Calling Cleveland [flight control], you're unreadable. Say again, slowly.” Apparently there's no answer. The controller notifies his supervisor, who soon passes the notice to FAA headquarters. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

9:33 a.m.: Planes Warned Away from Washington

       The BBC reports that pilot Major Dean Eckmann gets a message as he's flying from Langley, Virginia. “They said—all airplanes, if you come within (I believe it was) 30 miles of Washington, D.C., you will be shot down.” [BBC, 9/1/02] It's not clear who “they” are and what authority they have. However, fighters are not actually given shootdown orders until later, if at all.

(9:33-9:37 a.m.): Eyewitness Reports Indicate There Was No Loss of Control on Flight 77

       Radar data shows Flight 77 crossing the Capitol Beltway and headed toward the Pentagon. However, the plane, flying more than 400 mph, is too high when it nears the Pentagon at 9:35 a.m., crossing the Pentagon at about 7,000 feet up. [CBS News, 9/21/01; Boston Globe, 11/23/01] The plane then makes a difficult high-speed descending turn. It makes a “downward spiral, turning almost a complete circle and dropping the last 7,000 feet in two-and-a-half minutes. The steep turn is so smooth, the sources say, it's clear there [is] no fight for control going on.” [CBS News, 9/21/01] It gets very near the White House during this turn. “Sources say the hijacked jet ... [flies] several miles south of the restricted airspace around the White House.” [CBS News, 9/21/01] The Daily Telegraph later writes, “If the airliner had approached much nearer to the White House it might have been shot down by the Secret Service, who are believed to have a battery of ground-to-air Stinger missiles ready to defend the president's home. The Pentagon is not similarly defended.” [Daily Telegraph, 9/16/01] White House spokesman Ari Fleischer suggests the plane goes even closer to the White House, saying, “That is not the radar data that we have seen. The plane was headed toward the White House.” [CBS News, 9/21/01] If Flight 77 passed within a few miles of the White House, why couldn't it have been shot down by the weapons on the White House roof?

9:34 a.m.: FAA Mentions in Passing to NORAD That Flight 77 Is Missing

       According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS contacts Washington flight control to ask about Flight 11. A manager there happens to mention, “We're looking—we also lost American 77.” The commission claims, “No one at FAA Command Center or headquarters ever asked for military assistance with American 77.” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Yet, 38 minutes earlier, flight controllers determined Flight 77 was off course, out of radio contact, and had no transponder signal. They'd warned American Airlines headquarters within minutes. By some accounts, this is the first time NORAD is told about Flight 77, but other accounts have them warned around 9:25 a.m.

9:34 a.m.: Flight 93 Passenger Burnett Calls Again, Learns It's a Suicide Mission

       Tom Burnett calls his wife Deena a second time. He says, “they're in the cockpit.” He has checked the pulse of the man who was knifed (later identified as Mark Rothenberg, sitting next to him in seat 5B) and determined he is dead. She tells him about the hits on the WTC. He responds, “Oh my God, it's a suicide mission.” As they continue to talk, he tells her the plane has turned back. By this time, Deena is in constant communication with the FBI and others, and a police officer is at her house. [Longman, 2002, pp 110]

(9:34 a.m.): Bush Leaves Booker Elementary School for Sarasota Airport; Possible Threat En Route

Bush speaks on a cell phone while sitting next to Andrew Card as his motorcade travels to the Sarasota airport.
President Bush's motorcade leaves Booker Elementary School and heads toward Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. [Washington Times, 10/8/02; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/04] A few days after 9/11, Sarasota's main newspaper reports, “Sarasota barely skirted its own disaster. As it turns out, terrorists targeted the president and Air Force One on Tuesday, maybe even while they were on the ground in Sarasota and certainly not long after. The Secret Service learned of the threat just minutes after Bush left Booker Elementary.” [Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/16/01] Kevin Down, a Sarasota police officer at the scene, recalls, “I thought they were actually anticipating a terrorist attack on the President while we were en route.” [BBC, 8/30/02] ABC News reporter Ann Compton, who is part of the motorcade, recalls, “It was a mad-dash motorcade out to the airport.” [BBC, 9/1/02] A year later, Chief of Staff Andrew Card says, “As we were heading to Air Force One, we did hear about the Pentagon attack, and we also learned, what turned out to be a mistake, but we learned that the Air Force One package could in fact be a target.” [MSNBC, 9/9/02] Real threat or not, this only increases the strangeness that Bush was not immediately evacuated as some of his security recommended at 9:03 a.m.

9:34 a.m.: FAA's Headquarters Notified There Might Be a Bomb Onboard Flight 93; NORAD Not Notified

       According to the 9/11 Commission, word of Flight 93's hijacking reaches FAA headquarters. By this time, headquarters has established an open line of communication with the FAA Command Center at Herndon, Virginia. It had instructed the center to poll all flight control centers about suspect aircraft. So, at this time, the Command Center passes on Cleveland's message: “United 93 may have a bomb on board.” The Command Center continually updates FAA headquarters on Flight 93 until it crashes. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

(9:35 a.m.): Silent Flight 93 Climbs and Drops; NORAD Still Not Notified

       When Flight 93 is over Youngstown, Ohio, Stacey Taylor and other Cleveland flight controllers see it rapidly climb 6,000 feet above its assigned altitude of 35,000 feet and then rapidly descend. The plane drops so quickly toward Cleveland that the flight controllers worry they might be the target. Other accounts say the climb occurs around 9:35 a.m. Controllers continue to try to contact the plane but still get no response. [Guardian, 10/17/01; USA Today, 8/13/02; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

9:35 a.m.: Flight 93 Attendant Warns United Airlines About Hijacking; Account Spreads but Not to NORAD

       The San Francisco United Airlines maintenance center receives a call from an unnamed flight attendant on Flight 93 saying that the flight has been hijacked. The information is quickly passed on. [9/11 Commission Report, 1/27/04] Within ten minutes, “everyone” in the United Airlines crisis center “now [knows] that a flight attendant on board had called the mechanics desk to report that one hijacker had a bomb strapped on and another was holding a knife on the crew.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/01]

(9:35 a.m.): Treasury Department Evacuates; Pentagon and Other Washington Department Do Not

       The Treasury Department is evacuated a few minutes before Flight 77 crashes. [9/11 Commission Report, 1/26/04] Yet, CNN notes that “after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) warned the military's air defense command that a hijacked airliner appeared to be headed toward Washington, the federal government failed to make any move to evacuate the White House, Capitol, State Department, or the Pentagon.” [CNN, 9/16/01] A Pentagon representative says, “The Pentagon was simply not aware that this aircraft was coming our way.” Even Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and his top aides in the Pentagon remain unaware of any danger up to the moment of impact. [Newsday, 9/23/01] Senators and congresspeople are in the Capitol building, which is not evacuated until 9:48 a.m. Only Vice President Cheney, National Security Adviser Rice, and possibly a few others are evacuated to safety a few minutes after 9:03 a.m. Yet, supposedly, since at least the Flight 11 crash, “military officials in a command center [the National Military Command Center] on the east side of the [Pentagon] [are] urgently talking to law enforcement and air traffic control officials about what to do.” [New York Times, 9/15/01] The White House is evacuated at 9:45 a.m.

(9:36 a.m.): Flight 93 Turns Around, Files a New Flight Plan

       Flight 93 files a new flight plan with a final destination of Washington, reverses course and heads toward Washington. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01; Guardian, 10/17/01; MSNBC, 9/3/02; Longman, 2002, pp 219] Radar shows the plane turning 180 degrees. [CNN, 9/13/01 (B)] The new flight plan schedules the plane to arrive in Washington at 10:28 a.m. [Longman, 2002, pp 78]

9.36 a.m.: Military Cargo Plane Asked to Identify Flight 77

A typical C-130.
Reagan Airport flight control instructs a military C-130 (Golfer 06) that has just departed Andrews Air Force Base to intercept Flight 77 and identify it. [Guardian, 10/17/01; New York Times, 10/16/01 (D)] Remarkably, this C-130 is the same C-130 that is 17 miles from Flight 93 when it later crashes into the Pennsylvania countryside. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 9/11/02; Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/01] The pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Steve O'Brien, claims he took off around 9:30 a.m., planning to return to Minnesota after dropping supplies off in the Caribbean. He later describes his close encounter: “When air traffic control asked me if we had him [Flight 77] in sight, I told him that was an understatement—by then, he had pretty much filled our windscreen. Then he made a pretty aggressive turn so he was moving right in front of us, a mile and a half, two miles away. I said we had him in sight, then the controller asked me what kind of plane it was. That caught us up, because normally they have all that information. The controller didn't seem to know anything.” O'Brien reports that the plane is either a 757 or 767 and its silver fuselage means it is probably an American Airlines plane. “They told us to turn and follow that aircraft—in 20 plus years of flying, I've never been asked to do something like that.” [Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 9/11/02] The 9/11 Commission reports that it is a C-130H and the pilot specifically identifies the hijacked plane as a 757. Seconds after impact, he reports, “Looks like that aircraft crashed into the Pentagon, sir.” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

(9:36 a.m.): Cleveland Flight Control Wants NORAD Notified; FAA Command Center Says People Are Working on It

       According to the 9/11 Commission, at about this time Cleveland flight control specifically asks the FAA Command Center whether someone has requested the military to launch fighters toward Flight 93. Cleveland offers to contact a nearby military base. The Command Center replies that FAA personnel well above them in the chain of command have to make that decision and are working on the issue. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Cleveland overheard a hijacker say there was a “bomb on board” at 9:32 a.m. and passed the message to FAA higher ups.

9:37 a.m.: Rumsfeld Either Being Briefed by CIA or with Clarke Video Conference When Pentagon Is Hit

       There are conflicting accounts of what Defense Secretary Rumsfeld does in the 35 minutes between the second WTC crash and the Pentagon crash. In his 9/11 Commission testimony, he covers the time with the phrase “shortly thereafter:” “I was in my office with a CIA briefer and I was told that a second plane had hit the other tower. Shortly thereafter, at 9:38 a.m., the Pentagon shook with an explosion of then unknown origin.” [9/11 Commission Report, 3/23/04] In the book Bush at War, Bob Woodward writes, “Aware of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Rumsfeld had been proceeding with his daily intelligence briefing in his office” when the Pentagon gets hit. [Woodward, 2002] However, according to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, Rumsfeld joins a video conference at 9:10 a.m., shortly after the second WTC hit, and stays with the conference, possibly from his office. After being told the Pentagon has been hit, Clarke says, “I can still see Rumsfeld on the screen, so the whole building didn't get hit”. The military response to the 9/11 crisis is being coordinated in the NMCC, apparently located only around 200 feet away, directly below Rumsfeld's office. [Defense Department, 9/15/01 (B); Reuters, 9/11/01]

(Before 9:37 a.m.): Rumsfeld Said to Make Eerie Predictions, but Witness Who Gives Account Is Long Gone

       Representative Christopher Cox later claims he is still meeting with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. They are still discussing missile defense, apparently completely oblivious of the approaching Flight 77. Watching television coverage from New York City, Rumsfeld says to Cox, “Believe me, this isn't over yet. There's going to be another attack, and it could be us.” According to the Daily Telegraph, Flight 77 hits the building “moments later.” [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01] In another telling, Cox claims that Rumsfeld says, “If we remain vulnerable to missile attack, a terrorist group or rogue state that demonstrates the capacity to strike the US or its allies from long range could have the power to hold our entire country hostage to nuclear or other blackmail. And let me tell you, I've been around the block a few times. There will be another event.” Rumsfeld repeats that sentence for emphasis. According to Cox, “Within minutes of that utterance, Rumsfeld's words proved tragically prophetic.” Cox also claims, “I escaped just minutes before the building was hit.” [Rep. Cox Statement, 9/11/01] However, Rumsfeld claims that this meeting with Cox ended before the second WTC crash, which occurred at 9:03 a.m. Cox himself said that after being told of the WTC, “[Rumsfeld] sped off, as did I.” Cox says he immediately headed to his car, making it impossible for him to still be in the Pentagon “just minutes before” it is hit. [Associated Press, 9/11/01] Another account puts Rumsfeld's “I've been around the block a few times. There will be another event” comment two minutes before the first WTC crash at 8:46 a.m., when Rumsfeld reportedly makes other predictive comments. [Associated Press, 9/16/01 (C)]

9:37 a.m.: United Flights Are Told to Bar Cockpit Entry

       Captain Jim Hosking, piloting United Flight 890 from Japan to Los Angeles, is sent a warning message to his cockpit printer. It reads, “There has been a terrorist attack against United Airlines and American Airlines aircraft. We are advised there may be additional hijackings in progress. Shut down all access to the flight deck. Unable to elaborate further.” He tells his first officer, “Get out the crash axe.” Other pilots are receiving similar messages around this time. [USA Today, 8/13/02]

(Between 9:37-9:58 a.m.): Seven Planes Unaccounted For New York City

       Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is told by his chief of staff that the White House knows of seven planes that are unaccounted for. He is told that the Pentagon has been hit, but also hears erroneous reports that the Sears Tower and other buildings have been hit. [9/11 Commission Report, 5/19/04]

(After 9:37 a.m.): FBI Confiscates Film of Pentagon Crash

       An employee at a gas station located across the street from the Pentagon servicing military personnel later says the station's security cameras should have recorded the moment of impact. However, he says, “I've never seen what the pictures looked like. The FBI was here within minutes and took the film.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch, 12/11/01] A security camera atop a hotel close to the Pentagon also records the impact. Hotel employees watch the film several times before the FBI confiscates the video. [Gertz File, 9/21/01] This film footage has never been released.

(After 9:37 a.m.): Cheney Tells Bush to Stay Away from Washington

       Having learned that the Pentagon had been hit, Vice President Cheney telephones President Bush, who is on his way to the Sarasota airport, and tells him that the White House has been “targeted.” Bush says he wants to return to Washington, but Cheney advises him not to “until we could find out what the hell was going on.” According to Newsweek, this call takes place in a tunnel on the way to the PEOC underground bunker. Cheney reaches the bunker “shortly before 10:00 a.m.” [Newsweek, 12/31/01] The 9/11 Commission's account largely follows Newsweek's. He reaches the tunnel around the time of the Pentagon crash and lingers by a television and secure telephone as he talks to Bush. The commission has Cheney enter the bunker just before 10:00, but they note, “There is conflicting evidence as to when the Vice President arrived in the shelter conference room.” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Indeed, in other accounts, including those of Richard Clarke and Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, Cheney reaches the bunker before the Flight 77 crash at 9:37 a.m. [Clarke, 2004, pp 3-4; ABC News, 9/11/02; 9/11 Commission Report, 5/23/03] Regardless of Cheney's location, as Cheney and Bush talk on the phone, Bush once again refrains from making any decisions or orders about the crisis. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

9:37 a.m.: Witnesses See Military Cargo Plane Near Flight 77; Pilot Implies He's Far Away

       A C-130 transport plane that has been sent to follow Flight 77 is trailing only a short distance behind the plane as it crashes. This curious C-130, originally bound for Minnesota, is the same C-130 that will be 17 miles from Flight 93 when it later crashes into the Pennsylvania countryside. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 9/11/02; Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/01] A number of people see this plane fly remarkably close to Flight 77:
Kelly Knowles says that seconds after seeing Flight 77 pass, she sees a “second plane that seemed to be chasing the first [pass] over at a slightly different angle.” [Daily Press, 9/15/01]

Keith Wheelhouse says the second plane was a C-130; two other witnesses aren't certain. [Daily Press, 9/15/01]
Wheelhouse “believes it flew directly above the American Airlines jet, as if to prevent two planes from appearing on radar, while at the same time guiding the jet toward the Pentagon.” As Flight 77 descends toward the Pentagon, the second plane veers off west. [Daily Press, 9/14/01]
USA Today reporter Vin Narayanan, who saw the Pentagon explosion, says, “I hopped out of my car after the jet exploded, nearly oblivious to a second jet hovering in the skies.” [USA Today, 9/17/01]

USA Today Editor Joel Sucherman sees a second plane but gives few details. [eWeek, 9/13/01]
Brian Kennedy, press secretary for a congressman, and others also see a second plane. [Sacramento Bee, 9/15/01]
An unnamed worker at Arlington National Cemetery “said a mysterious second plane was circling the area when the first one attacked the Pentagon.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/20/01]

John O'Keefe is driving a car when he sees the Pentagon crash. “The first thing I did was pull over onto the shoulder, and when I got out of the car I saw another plane flying over my head. ... Then the plane—it looked like a C-130 cargo plane—started turning away from the Pentagon, it did a complete turnaround.” [New York Law Journal, 9/12/01]

The pilot of the C-130, Lieutenant Colonel Steve O'Brien, is later interviewed, but his account differs from the on-the-ground eyewitnesses. He claims that just before the explosion, “With all of the East Coast haze, I had a hard time picking him out,” implying he is not nearby. He also says that just after the explosion, “I could see the outline of the Pentagon,” again implying he is not nearby. He then asks “the controller whether [I] should set up a low orbit around the building,” but he is told “to get out of the area as quickly as possible.” “I took the plane once through the plume of smoke and thought if this was a terrorist attack, it probably wasn't a good idea to be flying through that plume.” [Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 9/11/02]


(After 9:37 a.m.): Rumsfeld Reportedly Rushes to Help Pentagon Crash Victims, but Accounts Are Contradictory and Problematic

This picture of Rumsfeld (center), taken from the US Army website, is captioned, “Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld returns to Pentagon inner offices Tuesday morning after surveying the damage from the hijacked plane which crashed into the bu
By all accounts, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is in his Pentagon office when Flight 77 crashes, though accounts differ as to what he's doing there. Rumsfeld later relates what he does next: “I was sitting here and the building was struck, and you could feel the impact of it very clearly, and I don't know what made me do anything I did, to be honest with you. I just do it instinctive. I looked out the window, saw nothing here, and then went down the hall until the smoke was too bad, then to a stairwell down and went outside and saw what had happened. Asked a person who'd seen it, and he told me that a plane had flown into it. I had been aware of a plane going into the World Trade Center, and I saw people on the grass, and we just, we tried to put them in stretchers and then move them out across the grass towards the road and lifted them over a jersey wall so the people on that side could stick them into the ambulances. I was out there for awhile, and then people started gathering, and we were able to get other people to do that, to hold IVs for people. There were people lying on the grass with clothes blown off and burns all over them. Then at some moment I decided I should be in here figuring out what to do, because your brain begins to connect things, and there were enough people there to worry about that. I came back in here, came into this office. There was smoke in here by then.” [Defense Department, 10/12/01] Versions of this story appear elsewhere. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 9/12/01; CNN, 12/5/01; ABC News, 9/11/02; Defense Department, 5/9/03] Rumsfeld says the crash site is “around the corner” from his fourth floor office [ABC News, 9/11/02] , but, in fact, the crash site is on the opposite site of the huge Pentagon. [Reuters, 9/11/01] Rumsfeld says he reaches the crash site “moments after” the crash, which would be an impressive feat given the over 2,000 feet distance. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/23/04] One report even has Rumsfeld pull budget analyst Paul Gonzalez to safety from the burning wreckage. [Daily Telegraph, 9/16/01 (B)] However, Gonzalez later offers his own detailed recollections of pulling other people to safety, which fail to involve Rumsfeld in any way. [Washington Post, 3/11/02] Deputy Defense Secretary Torie Clarke, in the Pentagon at the time, says Rumsfeld is “one of the first people” outside [Defense Department, 9/15/01 (C)] , and remains outside for “about half an hour.” [Defense Department, 9/15/01 (B)] A Pentagon spokesperson has Rumsfeld helping for “15 minutes or so...” [Reuters, 9/11/01] In another account, he loads the wounded onto stretchers for 15 minutes. [Scripps Howard News Service, 9/11/01] Rumsfeld reportedly helps at the crash site until a security agent urges him to leave. [Washington Post, 1/27/02] However, in his 2004 testimony to the 9/11 Commission, he no longer mentions helping the wounded, merely saying, “I went outside to determine what had happened. I was not there long because I was back in the Pentagon with a crisis action team shortly before or after 10:00 A.M.” [9/11 Commission Report, 3/23/04] There are no photographs or eyewitness accounts of Rumsfeld outside the Pentagon that morning, except for one photograph of him walking down a sidewalk with some aides. In counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke's account, Rumsfeld never leaves a video conference for very long, except to move from one secure teleconferencing studio to another elsewhere in the Pentagon. [Clarke, 2004, pp 8-9]

(Between 9:37-9:45 a.m.): Clarke Orders Combat Air Patrols over All Major Cities; Order Apparently Not Passed On

       At an indeterminate time after Flight 77 hits the Pentagon, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is given a note by the head of the Secret Service. The note reads, “Radar shows aircraft headed this way. I'm going to empty out the [White House].” The Secret Service knows this because they have equipment that can see what the FAA's radar is seeing around Washington. However, the note is too late: Flight 77 has already crashed. At almost the same time, another aide says to Clarke, “A plane just hit the Pentagon.” He replies, “I can still see Rumsfeld on the screen, so the whole building didn't get hit. No emotion in here. We are going to stay focused.” He orders an aide, “Find out where the fighter planes are. I want Combat Air Patrol over every major city in this country. Now!” [Clarke, 2004, pp 7-8; Australian, 3/27/04] NORAD does give this nationwide order around 9:49 a.m., but bases had been calling into NORAD and asking for permission to send up fighters since the second WTC crash. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Other cities generally remain unprotected until after 11:00 a.m. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/01] The Secret Service order to evacuate the White House takes place at 9:45 a.m.

(Before 9:37 a.m.): Sheer Coincidence Brings Emergency Rescue and Secret Service Near to Pentagon

       In response to an emergency 9-1-1 telephone call, the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center dispatches several units to deal with an apartment fire in Rosslyn, Virginia—within the vicinity of the Pentagon. Because this fire is in a high-rise building, nine different fire and medical service units are dispatched. However, the first engine crew to arrive radios to the other units that the fire has gone out. Consequently, by “sheer coincidence,” at the time when the Pentagon is hit, there are a significant number of available fire and medical service units already on the road nearby. [Arlington County After-Action Report, 7/02; Fire Engineering, 11/02] Additionally, Secret Service personnel are concentrated around the heliport a short distance from where Flight 77 will hit: “President Bush was scheduled to fly from Florida that afternoon, and his helicopter, Marine One, would carry him to the Pentagon. That meant Secret Service everywhere and their cars blocking the driveway.” [Scripps Howard News Service, 8/1/02]

9:37 a.m.: Langley Fighters Still Short of Washington; Where and Why Is Not Clear

       Accounts differ as to how far from Washington the F-16 fighters scrambled from Langley are when Flight 77 crashes. The Langley, Virginia, base is 129 miles from Washington. NORAD originally claimed that, at the time of the crash, the fighters are 105 miles away, despite having taken off seven minutes earlier. [NORAD, 9/18/01] The 9/11 Commission claims that at 9:36 a.m., NEADS discovers that Flight 77 is only a few miles from the White House and is dismayed to find the fighters have headed east over the ocean. They are ordered to Washington immediately, but are still about 150 miles away. This is farther away than the base from which they took off. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] The F-16 pilot codenamed Honey (who is apparently Captain Craig Borgstrom) offers a different explanation. As previously mentioned, he says they are flying toward New York, when they see a black column of smoke coming from Washington, about 30 or 40 miles to the west. He is then asked over the radio by NEADS if he can confirm the Pentagon is burning. He confirms it. The F-16s are then ordered to set up a defensive perimeter above Washington. [Longman, 2002, pp 76; New York Observer, 2/11/04] The maximum speed of an F-16 is 1,500 mph. [Associated Press, 6/16/00] Had the fighters traveled straight to Washington at 1,300 mph, they would have reached Washington at least one minute before Flight 77.

9:37 a.m.: Fireman Dodges Flight 77; Immediately Notifies Superior About Crashed Jumbo Jet

Internet researchers have put together this image showing how an object the size of a jumbo jet clips a number of light poles and then destroys columns inside the Pentagon. [From website]
Fireman Alan Wallace is busy with a safety crew at the Pentagon's heliport pad. As Wallace is walking in front of the Pentagon, he looks up and sees Flight 77 coming straight at him. It is about 25 feet off the ground, with no landing wheels visible, a few hundred yards away, and closing fast. He runs about 30 feet and dives under a nearby van. [Washington Post, 9/21/01] The plane is traveling at about 460 mph, and flying so low that it clips the tops of streetlights. [CBS News, 9/21/01] Using the radio in the van, he calls his fire chief at nearby Fort Myer and says, “We have had a commercial carrier crash into the west side of the Pentagon at the heliport, Washington Boulevard side. The crew is OK. The airplane was a 757 Boeing or a 320 Airbus.” [Scripps Howard News Service, 8/1/02]

(Before 9:37 a.m.): Flight 77 Turns, Then Disappears from Radar

       Washington flight controllers are watching Flight 77's radar blip. Just before radar contact is lost, FAA headquarters is told, “The aircraft is circling. It's turning away from the White House.” [USA Today, 8/13/02] Then the blip disappears. Its last known position is six miles from the Pentagon and four miles from the White House. The plane is said to be traveling 500 mph, or a mile every seven seconds. [CBS News, 9/21/01; Newhouse News Service, 1/25/02; ABC News, 9/11/02; USA Today, 8/13/02]

(After 9:37 a.m.): Andrews Pilots Aware of Crisis but Still on Ground

Amraam missiles being loaded onto a 119th Fighter Wing jet on the day of 9/1.
After the Pentagon is hit, fighters at nearby Andrews Air Force Base are still preparing to launch. At some unknown point, flight squad commander Lieutenant Colonel Marc Sasseville assembles three F-16 pilots and gives them a curt briefing. He recalls saying, “I have no idea what's going on, but we're flying. Here's our frequency. We'll split up the area as we have to. Just defend as required. We'll talk about the rest in the air.” All four of them dress up and get ready. One officer at Andrews recalls, “After the Pentagon was hit, we were told there were more [airliners] coming. Not ‘might be’- they were coming.” Meanwhile, a “flood” of calls from the Secret Service and local FAA flight control centers pour into Andrews, as the fighter response is coordinated. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/02] However, the loading of missiles onto the fighters is very time consuming, and when these fighters finally take off nearly an hour later, they will launch without the missiles installed.

9:37 a.m.: Flight 77 Crashes into Reinforced Section of the Pentagon

The Pentagon explodes.
Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon. Approximately 125 people on the ground are later determined killed or missing. [NORAD, 9/18/01; CNN, 9/17/01; Guardian, 10/17/01; USA Today, 8/13/02; ABC News, 9/11/02; CBS News, 9/11/02 (B); Associated Press, 8/19/02 (B); MSNBC, 9/3/02] Flight 77 strikes the only side of the Pentagon that had recently been renovated—it was “within days of being totally [renovated].” [Defense Department, 9/15/01] “It was the only area of the Pentagon with a sprinkler system, and it had been reconstructed with a web of steel columns and bars to withstand bomb blasts. The area struck by the plane also had blast-resistant windows—two inches thick and 2,500 pounds each—that stayed intact during the crash and fire. While perhaps, 4,500 people normally would have been working in the hardest-hit areas, because of the renovation work only about 800 were there...” More than 25,000 people work at the Pentagon. [Los Angeles Times, 9/16/01 (C)]

(9:37 a.m.): Flight 93 Passenger Jeremy Glick Describes Hijackers, Bomb

Jeremy Glick.
Jeremy Glick calls his wife, Lyz, from Flight 93. He describes the hijackers as Middle Eastern- and Iranian-looking. According to Glick, three of them put on red headbands, stood up, yelled, and ran into the cockpit. He had been sitting in the front of the coach section, but he was then sent to the back with most of the passengers. Glick says the hijackers claimed to have a bomb, which looked like a box with something red around it. Family members immediately call emergency 9-1-1 on another line. New York State Police are patched in midway through the call. Glick finds out about the WTC towers. Two others onboard also learn about the WTC at about this time. Glick's phone remains connected until the very end of the flight. [Longman, 2002, pp 143; MSNBC, 7/30/02; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01 (B); Toronto Sun, 9/16/01]

9:39 a.m.: Media Reports Pentagon Explosion

       Two seconds after 9:39 a.m., reporter Jim Miklaszewski states on NBC News, “Moments ago, I felt an explosion here at the Pentagon.” [Television Archive, WDCN 9:30] However, no media outlets record video footage of the Pentagon crash, and the cause of the crash remains unknown for some minutes afterward.

(9:39 a.m.): Flight 93 Hijacker Again Warns of Bomb on Board, Flight Controllers Again Overhear; NORAD Still Not Notified

       The Flight 93 hijackers (probably inadvertently) transmit over the radio: “Hi, this is the captain. We'd like you all to remain seated. There is a bomb on board. And we are going to turn back to the airport. And they had our demands, so please remain quiet.” [Boston Globe, 11/23/01; MSNBC, 9/3/02; Longman, 2002, pp 209; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] The controller responds, “United 93, understand you have a bomb on board. Go ahead,” but there is no response. There was a very similar “bomb on board” warning from the same flight at 9:32 a.m. The 9/11 Commission indicates that these are separate incidents. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Cleveland flight control apparently continues to wait for FAA superiors to notify NORAD. Earlier in the morning, Boston flight control directly contacted NORAD and local air force bases when they determined Flight 11 was hijacked.

9:39 a.m.: Rumsfeld Is Wanted at NMCC Teleconference but Cannot Be Reached

       Captain Charles Leidig, a low ranking officer temporarily in charge of the NMCC, is handling the NMCC's crisis teleconference. He mentions reports of a crash into the opposite side of the Pentagon, and requests that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld be added to the conference. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] As one magazine has noted, “On September 11, the normal scramble-approval procedure was for an FAA official to contact the [NMCC] and request Pentagon air support. Someone in the NMCC would call NORAD's command center and ask about availability of aircraft, then seek approval from the Defense Secretary—Donald H. Rumsfeld—to launch fighters.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] Rather than join the NMCC conference, Rumsfeld has already gone out of the Pentagon to see the crash site, and remains out of contact for some time. It is unknown if Rumsfeld had a cell phone or pager, and if so, why he cannot be reached.

(9:40 a.m.): FAA Command Center Identifies Ten Possible Hijacked Planes

       Newark, New Jersey, flight controller Bob Varcadapane is talking on the phone with the FAA Command Center. He is told that the Command Center is still suspicious of at least ten planes for one reason or another, all possible hijackings. [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)]

(9:40 a.m.): Flight 93 Transponder Signal Turned Off; Flight Still Closely Tracked

       The transponder signal from Flight 93 ceases. [MSNBC, 9/3/02; MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B); CNN, 9/17/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] However, the plane can be—and is—tracked using primary radar by Cleveland flight controllers and at United headquarters. Altitude can no longer be determined, except by visual sightings from other aircraft. The plane's speed begins to vary wildly, fluctuating between 600 and 400 mph before eventually settling around 400 mph. [Longman, 2002, pp 77, 214; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

9:41 a.m.: Flight 93 Passenger Birtton Reports Two Killed

       Flight 93 passenger Marion Birtton calls a friend. She tells him two people have been killed and the plane has been turned around. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01]

(9:41 a.m.): FBI Agent Already Aware of Flight 93 Hijacking

       Newark, New Jersey, flight controller Greg Callahan is talking on the phone to an FBI agent. The agent says about Flight 93: “We suspect that this aircraft has now been taken over by hostile forces.” The agent describes the sharp turn it has made over eastern Ohio and that it is now heading back over southwestern Pennsylvania. Callahan says he could tell the plane is on a course for Washington. [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)] The FBI has been in contact with Deena Burnett and informed of what her husband, Flight 93 passenger Tom Burnett, has been saying since at least 9:34 a.m. [Longman, 2002, pp 110] It is unclear where in the chain of command details of these Flight 93 calls reach, and the 9/11 Commission has not clarified the issue of what the FBI knew and when.

9:42 a.m.: Passenger Mark Bingham Tells of Bomb Threat on Flight 93

Mark Bingham.
From Flight 93, Mark Bingham calls his mother and says, “I'm on a flight from Newark to San Francisco and there are three guys who have taken over the plane and they say they have a bomb.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01 (B)] In an alternate version, he says, “I'm in the air, I'm calling you on the Airfone. I'm calling you from the plane. we've been taken over. There are three men that say they have a bomb.” [Toronto Sun, 9/16/01; Boston Globe, 11/23/01]

9:43 a.m.: Bush Learns of Attack on Pentagon as Motorcade Reaches Sarasota Airport

Bush boards Air Force One in Sarasota, Florida, waving to people below as if the day were like any other.
President Bush's motorcade arrives at Sarasota's airport and pulls up close to Air Force One. As the motorcade nears the airport, he learns a plane has hit the Pentagon. Bush immediately boards the plane. [Washington Times, 10/8/02; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01] Congressman Dan Miller and others hurry up the rear steps of the plane while Bush enters through the exposed front stairs. Bush pauses in the doorway to wave to photographers. The St. Petersburg Times notes this raises “further questions about security [on 9/11].” [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/04] Security then does an extra-thorough search of all the baggage of the other passengers, delaying takeoff until 9:55 a.m. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/02 (B)]

9:44 a.m.: NMCC Conference Thinks Flight 1989, Not Flight 93, Is Fourth Hijack

       NORAD briefs the NMCC teleconference on the possible hijacking of Delta Flight 1989. Four minutes later, a representative from the White House bunker containing Vice President Cheney asks if there are any indications of other hijacked planes. Captain Charles Leidig, temporarily in charge of the NMCC, mentions the Delta flight and comments, “that would be the fourth possible hijack.” Flight 1989 is in the same general Ohio region as Flight 93, but NORAD doesn't scramble fighters toward either plane at this time. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

(9:45 a.m.): Bush Aides Debate Where to Fly Air Force Once

       According to the 9/11 Commission, Chief of Staff Andrew Card, the lead Secret Service agent, the President's military aide, and Air Force One pilot Colonel Mark Tillman, confer on a possible destination for Air Force One around this time. According to witnesses, some support President Bush's desire to return to Washington, but the others advise against it. The issue is still not decided when Air Force One takes off around 9:55 a.m. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]

9:45 a.m.: Tom Burnett Says Flight 93 Passengers Are Making Plans to Defeat Hijackers

       Tom Burnett calls his wife, Deena, for the third time. She tells him about the crash at the Pentagon. Tom speaks about the bomb he'd mentioned earlier, saying, “I don't think they have one. I think they're just telling us that.” He says the hijackers are talking about crashing the plane into the ground. “We have to do something.” He says that “a group of us” are making a plan. [Longman, 2002, pp 111] This indicates there would have been at least 19 minutes advance notice that a passenger takeover was likely, if the contents of these phone calls are being passed on to the right authorities. Note that by Burnett's second call at 9:34 a.m., the FBI was already listening in. [Toronto Sun, 9/16/01]

(9:45 a.m.): Senior FAA Manager, on His First Day on the Job, Orders All Planes Out of the Sky Nationwide

FAA National Operations Manager Ben Sliney.
Ben Sliney, FAA's National Operations Manager, orders the entire nationwide air traffic system shut down. All flights at US airports are stopped. Around 3,950 flights are still in the air. Sliney makes the decision without consulting FAA head Jane Garvey, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, or other bosses, but they quickly approve his actions. It's Sliney's first day on the job. [USA Today, 8/13/02; USA Today, 8/13/02 (B); MSNBC, 9/22/01; CNN, 9/12/01; New York Times, 9/12/01; Associated Press, 8/12/02; Associated Press, 8/19/02 (B); Newsday, 9/10/02; USA Today, 8/13/02; Washington Post, 9/12/01] Seventy-five percent of the planes land within one hour of the order. [USA Today, 8/12/02 (C)] The Washington Post has reported that Mineta told Monty Belger at the FAA: “Monty, bring all the planes down,” even adding, “[Expletive] pilot discretion.” [Washington Post, 1/27/02] However, it is later reported by a different Post reporter that Mineta did not even know of the order until 15 minutes later. This reporter “says FAA officials had begged him to maintain the fiction.” [Slate, 4/2/02]

9:45 a.m.: United Headquarters Learns Flight 77 Has Crashed into the Pentagon

       United Airlines headquarters receives a report that an aircraft has crashed into the Pentagon. They learn it is Flight 77. [9/11 Commission Report, 1/27/04]

(9:45 a.m.): White House Finally Evacuated

Secret Service with automatic weapons directing people away from the White House.
The White House begins a general evacuation. This comes about 30 minutes after the probable time Vice President Cheney has been evacuated from the White House. [New York Times, 9/12/01; MSNBC, 9/22/01; Washington Post, 1/27/02; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01; Associated Press, 8/19/02 (B)] Initially the evacuation is orderly, but soon the Secret Service agents are yelling that everyone should run. [ABC News, 9/11/02]
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