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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
Israel
Iraq
Saeed Sheikh
Bin Laden Family
Pakistani ISI
Drugs
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

Afghanistan
Other events
Investigations
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Complete 911 Timeline

 
  

Project: Complete 911 Timeline

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Showing 951-1050 of 1609 events (use filters to narrow search):    previous 100    next 100

(Between 9:45-9:55 a.m.): Clarke Initiates Continuity of Government Plans; Hears Shoot Down Talk from Cheney Bunker

       At some point after the White House is evacuated, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke institutes Continuity of Government plans. Important government personnel, especially those in line to succeed the President, are evacuated to alternate command centers. Additionally, Clarke gets a phone call from the PEOC command center where Vice President Cheney and National Security Adviser Rice are positioned. An aide tells Clarke, “Air Force One is getting ready to take off with some press still on board. [President Bush will] divert to an air base. Fighter escort is authorized. And ... tell the Pentagon they have authority from the President to shoot down hostile aircraft, repeat, they have authority to shoot down hostile aircraft.” However, acting Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers wants the rules of engagement clarified before the shootdown order is passed on, so Clarke orders that pilots be given guidelines before receiving shootdown authorization. [Clarke, 2004, pp 8-9] Clarke's account that Cheney is giving shootdown authorization well before 10:00 a.m. matches Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta's account of seeing Cheney giving what he interprets as a shootdown order before the Pentagon crash. [9/11 Commission Report, 5/23/03] However, the 9/11 Commission later asserts that Cheney doesn't make the shootdown decision until about 10:00 a.m. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
          

9:45 a.m.: FBI Listens as Passenger Todd Beamer Describes Flight 93 Take Over Plan

      
Todd Beamer.
After having some trouble getting authorization to use an Airfone to call his family, passenger Todd Beamer is able to speak to Verizon phone representative Lisa Jefferson, with the FBI listening in. He talks for about 15 minutes. Beamer says he has been herded to the back of the plane along with nine other passengers and five flight attendants. A hijacker, who says he has a bomb strapped to his body, is guarding them. Twenty-seven passengers are being guarded by a hijacker in first class, which is separated from the rest of the aircraft by a curtain. One hijacker has gone into the cockpit. One passenger is dead (that leaves one passenger unaccounted for—presumably the man who made a call from the bathroom, thought to be Edward Felt). The two pilots are apparently dead. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/16/01; Newsweek, 9/22/01; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01 (B); Boston Globe, 11/23/01] A conflicting version states that 27 passengers were in the back, and that Beamer saw four hijackers instead of just three. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01] It is not clear if Tom Burnett's first class section group is in contact with Todd Beamer's coach section group or if there are two independent plans to take over the plane.
          

9:46 a.m.: NMCC Teleconference Still Looking to Include Rumsfeld and Myers

       Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's office, and acting Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Myers' office, report to the NMCC teleconference that they are still trying to track down Rumsfeld and Myers, respectively, and bring them into the conference. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Rumsfeld is apparently outside the Pentagon looking at the Flight 77 crash site, though counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke suggests Rumsfeld is elsewhere in the Pentagon for much of the time. Myers' whereabouts in the period after the Pentagon crash have not been fully explained. Rumsfeld and Myers do not enter the NMCC until about 10:30 a.m.
          

(9:46 a.m.): Flight 93 Hijackers Bring the Pilot Back In

       According to the later-recovered Flight 93 cockpit voice recording, around this time one hijacker in the cockpit says to another, “Let the guys in now.” A vague instruction is given to bring the pilot back in. It's not clear if this is a reference to an original pilot or a hijacker pilot. Investigators aren't sure if the original pilots were quickly killed or allowed to live. [Longman, 2002, pp 208]
          

9:47 a.m.: Internal Collapse at WTC South Tower Reported

      
Someone falling from the WTC. [Allsport] “Probably well over 50” jumped or fell from the North Tower, none from the South Tower. [New York Times, 9/11/02]
A man who is on the 105th floor of the South Tower calls emergency 9-1-1 to report that floors below his location, “in the 90-something floor,” have collapsed. The 9-1-1 operator types a record of this call into the Special Police Radio Inquiry Network (SPRINT) data link, which will be passed on to the New York fire department's Emergency Medical Service (EMS). It isn't known when the call is made exactly, but the EMS Dispatch computer apparently receives the call record at this time. However, because it is classified as a “supplement message,” it is not yet read by anyone. The police dispatcher dealing with the area around the WTC also receives the call record, but misinterprets it as meaning that the floor the person is on has collapsed. EMS dispatchers are dealing with an enormous volume of calls as well as performing many other tasks under extreme pressure during the crisis, so a report later concludes that the EMS operators didn't have the time to review the information before the collapse of the South Tower at 9:59, and the fire chiefs never received the information. [McKinsey Report, 8/19/2002]
          

(9:47 a.m.): Passenger Jeremy Glick Tells of Vote to Take Over Flight 93

       On Flight 93, Jeremy Glick is still on the phone with his wife, Lyz. He tells her that the passengers are taking a vote if they should try to take over the plane or not. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01 (B)] He later says that all the men on the plane have voted to attack the hijackers. [Toronto Sun, 9/16/01] When asked about weapons, he says they don't have guns, just knives. This appears to contradict an earlier mention of guns. His wife gets the impression from him that the hijacker standing nearby, claiming to hold the bomb, would be easy to overwhelm. [Longman, 2002, pp 153-154]
          

9:48 a.m.: Capitol Building Finally Evacuates

       The Capitol building in Washington begins evacuation. Congress is in session, but apparently the chambers are not filled with congresspeople. [Guardian, 7/22/04; Associated Press, 8/19/02 (B)] Senator Tom Daschle, Majority Leader of the Senate, later states, “Some capitol policemen broke into the room and said, ‘We're under attack. I've got to take you out right away.’ ” Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, third in line of succession to the presidency behind Vice President Cheney, is in the Capitol building with other congresspeople. Only after this time are Hastert and others in the line of succession moved to secure locations. Some time after this, Hastert and other leaders are flown by helicopter to secret bunkers. [ABC News, 9/11/02]
          

9:49 a.m.: FAA Headquarters Continues to Delay Decision on Contacting NORAD About Flight 93

       According to the 9/11 Commission, the FAA Command Center has just twice warned FAA headquarters that United 93 is now “29 minutes out of Washington, D.C.” Someone at headquarters says to someone at the Command Center, “they're pulling Jeff [last name unknown] away to go talk about United 93.” Command Center replies, “Uh, do we want to think about, uh, scrambling aircraft [NORAD fighters]?” FAA headquarters replies, “Uh, God, I don't know.” Command Center says, “Uh, that's a decision somebody's gonna have to make probably, in the next ten minutes.” FAA headquarters answers, “Uh, ya know, everybody just left the room.” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] This is 13 minutes since Cleveland flight control had asked the Command Center in vain to contact NORAD about Flight 93.
          

9:49 a.m.: Pittsburgh Flight Control Tower Evacuates

       The FAA orders the Pittsburgh control tower evacuated. Shortly before the order, Cleveland flight controllers called Pittsburgh flight control to say that a plane is heading toward Pittsburgh and the pilot refuses to communicate. The plane is Flight 93. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/23/01 (B)]
          

9:49 a.m.: Fighters Ordered to Scramble Nationwide

      
General Ralph Eberhart.
In the words of the 9/11 Commission, the commander of NORAD (General Ralph Eberhart) directs “all air sovereignty aircraft to battle stations fully armed.” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Apparently, this means all fighters with air defense missions are to be armed and ready to scramble. This may be connected to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke's claim that after the Pentagon is hit, 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] Another account says calls to bases to scramble don't begin until about 10:01 a.m. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/01] It has not been explained why this order wasn't given much earlier. Calls from Air Force bases across the country offering to help had started “pouring into NORAD” shortly after 9:03 a.m., when televised reports made an emergency situation clear. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] With a couple of exceptions, other fighters do not actually start taking off until about 11:00 a.m.
          

9:50 a.m.: Sandy Bradshaw Tells of Preparations to Fight Three Guys with Knives

      
Sandra Bradshaw.
Sandy Bradshaw calls her husband from Flight 93. She says, “Have you heard what's going on? My flight has been hijacked. My flight has been hijacked with three guys with knives.” [Boston Globe, 11/23/01] She tells him that some passengers are in the rear galley filling pitchers with hot water to use against the hijackers. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01 (B)]
          

(Between 9:50-10:40 a.m.): Numerous False Reports of Terrorist Acts in Washington

      
A television broadcast falsely describes smoke coming from Washington Mall instead of its true source, the Pentagon.
There are numerous false reports of additional terror attacks. Before 10:00 a.m., some hear reports on television of a fire at the State Department. At 10:20 a.m., and apparently again at 10:33 a.m., it is publicly reported this was caused by a car bomb. [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/01; Broadcasting and Cable, 8/26/02; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01] At 10:23 a.m., the Associated Press reports, “A car bomb explodes outside the State Department, senior law enforcement officials say.” [Broadcasting and Cable, 8/26/02] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke hears these reports at this time and asks Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in the State Department to see if the building he's in has been hit. Armitage goes outside the building, finds out there's no bomb, and calls his colleagues to inform them that the reports are false. Reports of a fire on the Capitol Mall also appear and are quickly found to be false. [ABC News, 9/15/02 (B); Clarke, 2004, pp 8-9] There are numerous other false reports over the next hour, including explosions at the Capitol building and USA Today headquarters. [Broadcasting and Cable, 8/26/02] For instance, CNN reports an explosion on Capitol Hill at 10:12 a.m. CNN then announces this is untrue 12 minutes later. [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/01]
          

(9:52 a.m.): Lynne Cheney Joins Husband in White House Bunker; Vice President Repeatedly Hangs up Clarke Telephone

      
Lynne Cheney.
According to the 9/11 Commission, Lynne Cheney joins her husband, Vice President Cheney, in the PEOC (Presidential Emergency Operations Center) bunker below the White House. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] She had been at a downtown office around 9:00 a.m. when she was escorted by the Secret Service to the White House. [Newsweek, 12/31/01] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke describes the people in the PEOC as “decidedly more political” than those in his bunker below the other wing of the White House. In addition to Cheney and his wife, most of the day the PEOC contains National Security Adviser Rice, political adviser Mary Matalin, Cheney's Chief of Staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Deputy White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, and White House Communications Director Karen Hughes. Clarke is told later in the day by someone else in the PEOC, “I can't hear the crisis conference [led by Clarke] because Mrs. Cheney keeps turning down the volume on you so she can hear CNN ... and the vice president keeps hanging up the open line to you.” Clarke notes that the “right-wing ideologue” Lynne Cheney frequently offers her advice and opinions during the crisis. [Clarke, 2004, pp 18]
          

9:53 a.m.: FAA Headquarters Still Only Talking About Telling NORAD of Flight 93 Hijack

       According to the 9/11 Commission, FAA headquarters informs the FAA Command Center that the Deputy Director for Air Traffic Services is talking to Deputy Administrator Monty Belger about scrambling aircraft after Flight 93. Headquarters is informed that the flight is 20 miles northwest of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Incredibly, FAA headquarters has known since 9:34 A.M. about hijackers talking about a bomb on board the flight, and more evidence has since been passed on confirming a hijacking in progress. Still, reportedly, no one tells NORAD anything about the plane.
          

9:53 a.m.: NSA Intercepts al-Qaeda Phone Call Predicting Fourth Attack

       The National Security Agency (NSA) reportedly intercepts a phone call from one of bin Laden's operatives in Afghanistan to a phone number in the Republic of Georgia. The caller says he has “heard good news” and that another target is still to come (presumably, the target Flight 93 is intended to hit). [CBS News, 9/4/02] Since the 9/11 crisis began, NSA translators have been told to focus on Middle Eastern intercepts and translate them as they are received instead of oldest first, as is the usual practice. This call is translated in the next hour or two, and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld hears about it just after noon. [CBS News, 9/4/02; Bamford, 2004, pp 54]
          

9:53 a.m.: Hijackers Fear Passenger Retaliation

       According to Flight 93's cockpit voice recording, the hijackers grow concerned that the passengers might retaliate. One urges that the plane's fire axe be held up to the cockpit door's peephole to scare the passengers. [Longman, 2002, pp 209-210]
          

(9:55-10:15 a.m.): Langley Fighters Finally Reach Washington; Accounts of Timing Are Contradictory

      
A fighter and helicopter both fly directly above the Pentagon on 9/11 on the morning of 9/11. Exact time is unknown.
The three F-16s scrambled after Flight 77 from Langley, Virginia, at 9:30 a.m. finally reach Washington and the burning Pentagon. The 129 mile distance could theoretically be covered by the fighters in six minutes, but they've taken a wide detour over the ocean. The exact time they arrive is very unclear. NORAD originally claimed they arrive as soon as 9:49 a.m., but the 9/11 Commission implies they don't arrive until shortly after 10:00 a.m., though no exact time is specified. [CNN, 9/17/01; NORAD, 9/18/01; New York Times, 9/15/01; CBS News, 9/14/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Press accounts of when the first fighters reach Washington are highly contradictory. Early news accounts of fighters arriving from Andrews Air Force Base “within minutes,” “a few moments,” or “just moments” after the Pentagon crash appear to have been accounts of these Langley fighters, since they apparently arrive before Andrews fighters do. [Daily Telegraph, 9/16/01; Denver Post, 9/11/01; ABC News, 9/11/02] Yet other newspaper accounts inaccurately deny fighters from Andrews were deployed [USA Today, 9/16/01] , and some deny Andrews even had fighters at all. [USA Today, 9/16/01 (B)] Defense officials initially claimed, “There were no military planes in the skies over Washington until 15 to 20 minutes after the Pentagon was hit” —in other words, 9:53 a.m. to 9:58 a.m. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 9/14/01] ABC News reports that by 10:00 a.m., “Dozens of fighters are buzzing in the sky” over Washington. [ABC News, 9/11/02] Whereas the New York Times reports, “In the White House Situation Room and at the Pentagon, the response seemed agonizingly slow. One military official recalls hearing words to the effect of, ‘Where are the planes?’ ” The Pentagon insists it had air cover over its own building by 10 a.m., 15 minutes after the building was hit. However, witnesses, including a reporter for the New York Times who was headed toward the building, did not see any until “closer to 11.” [New York Times, 9/16/01 (B)] It is likely, though not completely certain, that fighters would have reached Washington before Flight 93 did, had the plane not crashed.
          

9:54 a.m.: Tom Burnett Calls for Fourth Time; Details Plan to Take Control of Plane

       Tom Burnett calls his wife, Deena, for the fourth and last time. In early reports of this call, he says, “I know We're all going to die. There's three of us who are going to do something about it.” [Toronto Sun, 9/16/01; Boston Globe, 11/23/01] However, in a later, more complete, account, he sounds much more upbeat. “It's up to us. I think we can do it.” He adds, “don't worry, We're going to do something.” He specifically mentions they plan to regain control of the airplane over a rural area. [Longman, 2002, pp 118]
          

(After 9:55 a.m.): Langley Fighters Receive Vague Order to Protect White House

       The Langley F-16s headed to Washington are told that all planes in the US have been ordered to land (that command was given at 9:45 a.m.). According to the New York Times, at some point after this, someone from the Secret Service gets on the radio and tells the pilots, “I want you to protect the White House at all costs.” [New York Times, 10/16/01] F-16 pilot Honey (who is apparently Captain Craig Borgstrom) gives a similar, though less dramatic, account. At some point after the F-16s had set up a defensive perimeter over Washington, the lead pilot (again, Borgstrom) receives a garbled message about Flight 93 that isn't heard by the other two pilots. “The message seemed to convey that the White House was an important asset to protect.” Honey says he is later told the message is, “Something like, ‘Be aware of where it is, and it could be a target.’ ” Another pilot, codenamed Lou, says Honey tells him, “I think the Secret Service told me this.” [Longman, 2002, pp 76] Both Lou and Honey state they are never given clear and direct orders to shoot down any plane that day. [Longman, 2002, pp 222]
          

(9:56-10:40 a.m.): Air Force One Takes Off, Then Flies in Circles While Bush and Cheney Argue

       Air Force One takes off and quickly gains altitude. One passenger later says, “It was like a rocket. For a good ten minutes, the plane was going almost straight up.” [CBS News, 9/11/02 (B)] Once the plane reaches cruising altitude, it flies in circles. Journalists on board sense this because the television reception for a local station generally remains good. “Apparently Bush, Cheney, and the Secret Service argue over the safety of Bush coming back to Washington.” [Salon, 9/12/01 (B); Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01] For much of the day Bush is plagued by connectivity problems in trying to call Cheney and others. He is forced to use an ordinary cell phone instead of his secure phone. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
          

(After 9:56 a.m.): Bush and Cheney Confer on Actions to Be Taken

       After flying off in Air Force One, President Bush talks on the phone to Vice President Cheney. Cheney recommends that Bush authorize the military to shoot down any plane under control of the hijackers. “I said, ‘You bet,’ ” Bush later recalls. “We had a little discussion, but not much.” [Newsday, 9/23/01; USA Today, 9/16/01; Washington Post, 1/27/02; CBS News, 9/11/02] The 9/11 Commission claims that Cheney tells Bush three planes are still missing and one has hit the Pentagon. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Bush later says that he doesn't make any major decisions about how to respond to the 9/11 attacks until after Air Force One takes off [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/04] , which fits with this account of Bush approving shootdown authorization shortly after take off.
          

(9:56 a.m.): Air Force One Gets Airborne Without Fighter Escort

      
Air Force One departs from Sarasota.
President Bush departs from the Sarasota, Florida, airport on Air Force One. [New York Times, 9/16/01 (B); Daily Mail, 9/8/02; Washington Post, 1/27/02; Associated Press, 9/12/01; ABC News, 9/11/02; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/04; CBS News, 9/11/02 (B); Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01] Amazingly, his plane takes off without any fighters protecting it. “The object seemed to be simply to get the President airborne and out of the way,” says an administration official. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01] There are still 3,520 planes in the air over the US. [USA Today, 8/13/02 (B)] About half of the planes in the Florida region where Bush's plane is are still airborne. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/7/02] Apparently, fighters don't meet up with Air Force One until about an hour later. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke claims to have heard around 9:50 a.m. from the bunker containing Vice President Cheney that fighter escort had been authorized. [Clarke, 2004, pp 8-9]
          

(9:57 a.m. and After): Passengers and Hijackers Struggle in the Flight 93 Cockpit

       “In the cockpit! In the cockpit!” is heard. The hijackers are reportedly heard telling each other to hold the door. In English, someone outside shouts, “Let's get them.” The hijackers are also praying “Allah o akbar” (God is great). One of the hijackers suggests shutting off the oxygen supply to the cabin (which apparently would not have had any effect since the plane was already below 10,000 feet). A hijacker says, “Should we finish?” Another one says, “Not yet.” The sounds of the passengers get clearer, and in unaccented English “Give it to me!” is heard. “I'm injured,” someone says in English. Then something like “roll it up” and “lift it up” is heard. Passengers' relatives believe this sequence proves that the passengers did take control of the plane. [MSNBC, 7/30/02; Daily Telegraph, 8/6/02; Newsweek, 11/25/01; Observer, 12/2/01; Longman, 2002, pp 270-271]
          

9:57 a.m.: Passengers Begin Attempt to Regain Control of Flight 93

       One of the hijackers in the cockpit asks if anything is going on, apparently meaning outside the cockpit. “Fighting,” the other says. [Longman, 2002, pp 210] An analysis of the cockpit flight recording suggests that the passenger struggle actually starts in the front of the plane (where Mark Bingham and Tom Burnett are sitting) about a minute before a struggle in the back of the plane (where Todd Beamer is sitting). [Observer, 12/2/01] Officials later theorize that the Flight 93 passengers reach the cockpit using a food cart as a battering ram and a shield. They claim digital enhancement of the cockpit voice recorder reveals the sound of plates and glassware crashing around 9:57 a.m. [Newsweek, 11/25/01]
          

9:58 a.m.: CeeCee Lyles Cries they're Doing It; Strange Sounds Follow

      
CeeCee Lyles.
CeeCee Lyles says to her husband, “Aah, it feels like the plane's going down.” Her husband Lorne says, “What's that?” She replies, “I think they're going to do it. they're forcing their way into the cockpit” (an alternate version says, “they're getting ready to force their way into the cockpit”). A little later she screams, then says, “they're doing it! they're doing it! they're doing it!” Her husband hears more screaming in the background, then he hears a “whooshing sound, a sound like wind,” then more screaming, and then the call breaks off. [Longman, 2002, pp 180; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01 (B)]
          

9:58 a.m.: Flight 93 Passengers Run to First Class

       Sandy Bradshaw tells her husband, “Everyone's running to first class. I've got to go. Bye.” She had been speaking with him since 9:50 a.m. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01 (B); Boston Globe, 11/23/01]
          

9:58 a.m.: Todd Beamer Ends Call; He and Others in Rear of Plane Join Takeover Attempt

       Todd Beamer ends his long phone call with a Verizon phone company representative saying that they plan “to jump” the hijacker in the back of the plane who has the bomb. In the background, the phone operator already could hear an “awful commotion” of people shouting, and women screaming, “Oh my God,” and “God help us.” He lets go of the phone but leaves it connected. His famous last words are said to nearby passengers: “Are you ready guys? Let's roll” (alternate version: “You ready? Okay. Let's roll”). [Longman, 2002, pp 204; Newsweek, 9/22/01; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01 (B)] Sounds of fighting in the back of the plane where Beamer is can be heard about a minute after such sounds in the front. [Observer, 12/2/01]
          

9:58 a.m.: Ed Felt Said to Describe Explosion and White Smoke from Bathroom Call

      
Edward Felt.
A man dials emergency 9-1-1 from a bathroom on the plane, crying, “We're being hijacked, We're being hijacked!” [Toronto Sun, 9/16/01] The operator reports, “he heard some sort of explosion and saw white smoke coming from the plane and we lost contact with him.” [ABC News, 9/11/01 (B); ABC News, 9/11/01 (C); Associated Press, 9/12/01 (B)] One minute after the call begins, the line goes dead. [Pittsburgh Channel, 12/6/01] Investigators believe this was Edward Felt, the only passenger not accounted for on phone calls. He was sitting in first class, so he probably was in the bathroom near the front of the plane. At one point, he appears to have peeked out the bathroom door during the call. [Longman, 2002, pp 193-194, 196] The mentions of smoke and explosions on the recording of his call are now denied. [Longman, 2002, pp 264] The person who took Felt's call is not allowed to speak to the media. [Mirror, 9/13/02]
          

9:58 a.m.: Fighters to New York City Possibly Scrambled 56 Minutes Late, According to Giuliani and Early Reports

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

(9:59 a.m.): Clarke Told Some Hijackers Have al-Qaeda Connections

       Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is told in private by Dale Watson, counterterrorism chief at the FBI, “We got the passenger manifests from the airlines. We recognize some names, Dick. they're al-Qaeda.” Clarke replies, “How the f_ck did they get on board then?” He is told, “Hey, don't shoot the messenger, friend. CIA forgot to tell us about them.” As they are talking about this, they see the first WTC tower collapse on television. [Clarke, 2004, pp 13-14] Some hijacker names, including Mohamed Atta's, were identified on a reservations computer over an hour earlier.
          

(Between 9:59-10:28 a.m.): Firefighters don't Hear Any Message to Evacuate North Tower

      
Fireman Mike Kehoe heads upstairs while others flee downstairs. Kehoe luckily survived the building collapses.
At some point between the collapse of the two WTC towers, it is claimed that fire chiefs order the firefighters to come down. It has not been reported exactly who issued this order or when. Witnesses claim that scores of firefighters, unaware of the danger, were resting on lower floors in the minutes before the second tower collapsed. “Some firefighters who managed to get out said they had no idea the other building had already fallen, and said that they thought that few of those who perished knew.” At least 121 firefighters in the remaining tower die. The Fire Department blames a faulty radio repeater. However, Authority claims later transcripts of radio communications show the repeaters worked. [New York Times, 11/9/02 (B)]
          

9:59 a.m.: White House Finally Requests Continuity of Government Plans, Air Force One Escort, and Fighters for Washington

       The 9/11 Commission reports, “An Air Force Lieutenant Colonel working in the White House Military Office [joins] the [NMCC] conference and state[s] that he had just talked to Deputy National Security Adviser Steve Hadley. The White House request[s]: (1) the implementation of Continuity of Government measures, (2) fighter escorts for Air Force One, and (3) the establishment of a fighter combat air patrol over Washington, D.C.” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke gave the Continuity of Government orders a few minutes before from inside the White House. This is consistent with Bush's claim that he doesn't make any major decisions about the 9/11 attacks until shortly before 10:00 a.m.
          

(After 9:59 a.m.): WTC Building 7 Appears Damaged

      
Damage to World Trade Center Building 7.
WTC Building 7 appears to have suffered significant damage at some point after the WTC Towers had collapsed, according to firefighters at the scene. Firefighter Butch Brandies tells other firefighters that nobody is to go into Building 7 because of creaking and noises coming out of there. [Firehouse Magazine, 8/02] According to Deputy Chief Peter Hayden, there is a bulge in the southwest corner of the building between floors 10 and 13. [Firehouse Magazine, 4/02] Battalion Chief John Norman later recalls, “At the edge of the south face you could see that it was very heavily damaged.” [Firehouse Magazine, 5/02] Deputy Chief Nick Visconti also later recalls, “A big chunk of the lower floors had been taken out on the Vesey Street side.” Captain Chris Boyle recalls, “On the south side of 7 there had to be a hole 20 stories tall in the building, with fire on several floors.” [Firehouse Magazine, 8/02] The building will collapse hours later.
          

(After 9:59 a.m.): Clarke Orders Securing of Buildings, Harbors, and Borders

       Some time after the first WTC tower collapse, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke orders all landmark buildings and all federal buildings in the US evacuated. He also orders all harbors and borders closed. [Clarke, 2004, pp 14-15] The Sears Tower in Chicago begins evacuation around 10:02 a.m. Other prominent buildings are slower to evacuate. [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/01]
          

(Before 9:59 a.m.): Giuliani Apparently Told WTC Towers Will Collapse When Fire Chiefs Think Otherwise

       Between 9:25 a.m. and 9:45 a.m., one senior New York fire chief recommends to the Fire Department Chief of Department that there might be a WTC collapse in a few hours, and, therefore, fire units probably shouldn't ascend much above the sixtieth floor (presumably this assumes the collapse would be gradual so those on lower floors would still have time to evacuate). This advice is not followed or not passed on. Apparently, no other senior fire chiefs mention or foresee the possibility of the WTC towers falling. [9/11 Commission Report, 5/19/04] However, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani recounts, “I went down to the scene and we set up headquarters at 75 Barclay Street, which was right there, with the police commissioner, the fire commissioner, the head of emergency management, and we were operating out of there when we were told that the World Trade Center was going to collapse. And it did collapse before we could actually get out of the building, so we were trapped in the building for ten, 15 minutes, and finally found an exit and got out, walked north, and took a lot of people with us.” [ABC News, 9/11/01 (D)] As can be seen by another account of similar events, this happens before the first WTC tower falls, not the second. [9/11 Commission Report, 5/19/04] It is not clear who tells Giuliani to evacuate when no fire chiefs were considering the possibility of an imminent collapse.
          

(9:59 a.m.): Fighter over New York City Never Receives Formal Shootdown Order

      
An F-16 flies over New York City on September 12, 2001. Smoke is still rising from the World Trade Center.
According to Major Daniel Nash, pilot of one of the two fighters first scrambled on 9/11 at 8:52 a.m., their fighters over New York City are never given a shootdown order by the military that day. He recalls that around the time of the collapse of the South Tower, “The New York controller did come over the radio and say if we have another hijacked aircraft We're going to have to shoot it down.” [BBC, 9/1/02] However, he says this is an off-the-cuff personal statement, not connected to the chain of command. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02]
          

9:59 a.m.: South Tower of WTC Collapses

      
The South Tower of the World Trade Center collapses.
The South Tower of the World Trade Center collapses. It was hit by Flight 175 at 9:03 A.M., 57 minutes earlier. [Washington Post, 9/12/01; MSNBC, 9/22/01; Associated Press, 8/19/02 (B); ABC News, 9/11/02; New York Times, 9/12/01 (B); USA Today, 12/20/01]
          

10:00 a.m.: Hijackers Respond to Passenger Revolt

       According to the 9/11 Commission, the hijacker pilot, presumably Ziad Jarrah, has been rolling the plane sharply to the left and right in an attempt to prevent passengers from reaching the cockpit. At this time, he stabilizes the plane and asks another hijacker, “Is that it? Shall we finish it off?” Another voice answers, “No. Not yet. When they all come, we finish it off.” The pilot starts pitching the nose of the airplane up and down. A few seconds later a passenger's voice can be heard saying, “In the cockpit. If we don't we'll die!” Another voice says, “Roll it!” which some speculate could be a reference to pushing a foot cart into the cockpit door. By 10:01, the pilot stops the pitching and says, “Allah o akbar! Allah o akbar!” (“God is great”), then asks, “Is that it? I mean, shall we put it down?” Another hijacker responds, “Yes, put it in it, and pull it down.” [New York Times, 7/22/04 (B); San Francisco Chronicle, 7/23/04]
          

10:00 a.m.: Flight 93 Transponder Gives Brief Signal

       The transponder for Flight 93 briefly turns back on. The plane is at 7,000 feet. The transponder stays on until about 10:03 a.m. It is unclear why the transponder signal briefly returns. [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B); Guardian, 10/17/01]
          

(Between 10:00-10:30 a.m.): Rumsfeld Returns to the Pentagon and Speaks to Bush; Rumsfeld's Whereabouts Murky

       Rumsfeld returns from the Pentagon crash site “by shortly before or after 10:00 a.m.” Then he has “one or more calls in my office, one of which was with the President,” according to his testimony before the 9/11 Commission. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04 (B)] The commission later concludes that Rumsfeld's call with President Bush has little impact: “No one can recall any content beyond a general request to alert forces.” The possibility of shooting down hijacked planes is not mentioned. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Then Rumsfeld goes to the Executive Support Center before finally entering the NMCC at 10:30 a.m. Acting Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers repeats all these details. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04 (B)] The Executive Support Center has secure video facilities [Washington Times, 2/23/04] , so it is possible Rumsfeld joins or rejoins the video conference that counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke claims Rumsfeld is a part of much of the morning.
          

(Between 10:00-10:15 a.m.): Bush and Cheney Said to Confer on Shootdown Orders, 9/11 Commission Doubts Their Account

       According to a 9/11 Commission staff report, Vice President Cheney is told that a combat air patrol has been established over Washington. Cheney then calls President Bush to discuss the rules of engagement for the pilots. Bush authorizes the shootdown of hijacked aircraft at this time. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] According to a Washington Post article, which places the call after 9:55 a.m., “Cheney recommended that Bush authorize the military to shoot down any such civilian airliners—as momentous a decision as the president was asked to make in those first hours.” Bush then talks to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to clarify the procedure, and Rumsfeld passes word down the chain of command. [Washington Post, 1/27/02] Cheney and Bush recall having this phone call, and National Security Adviser Rice recalls overhearing it. However, as the commission notes, “Among the sources that reflect other important events that morning there is no documentary evidence for this call, although the relevant sources are incomplete. Others nearby who were taking notes, such as the Vice President's Chief of Staff, [I. Lewis ‘Scooter’] Libby, who sat next to him, and [Lynne] Cheney, did not note a call between the President and Vice President immediately after the Vice President entered the conference room.” The commission also apparently concludes that no evidence exists to support the claim that Bush and Rumsfeld talked about such procedures at this time. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Commission Chairman Thomas Kean says, “The phone logs don't exist, because they evidently got so fouled up in communications that the phone logs have nothing. So that's the evidence we have.” Commission Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton says of the shootdown order, “Well, I'm not sure it was carried out.” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04 (C); New York Daily News, 6/18/04] Newsweek reports that it “has learned that some on the commission staff were, in fact, highly skeptical of the vice president's account and made their views clearer in an earlier draft of their staff report. According to one knowledgeable source, some staffers ‘flat out didn't believe the call ever took place.’ ” According to a 9/11 Commission staffer, the report “was watered down” after vigorous lobbying from the White House. [Newsweek, 6/20/04] An account by Canadian Captain Mike Jellinek (who was overseeing NORAD's Colorado headquarters, where he claims to hear Bush give a shootdown order), as well as the order to empty the skies of aircraft, appears to be discredited. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/01]
          

(Between 10:00-10:06 a.m.): Flight 93 Cell Call Listeners Hear Silence, Strange Sounds

      
Potential pilots Don Greene and Andrew Garcia.
During this time, there apparently are no calls from Flight 93. Several cell phones that are left on record only silence. For instance, although Todd Beamer does not hang up, nothing more is heard after he puts down the phone, suggesting things are quiet in the back of the plane. [Longman, 2002, pp 218] The only exception is Richard Makely, who listens to Jeremy Glick's open phone line after Glick goes to attack the hijackers. A reporter summarizes Makely explaining that, “The silence last[s] two minutes, then there [is] screaming. More silence, followed by more screams. Finally, there [is] a mechanical sound, followed by nothing.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/17/01] The second silence lasts between 60 and 90 seconds. [Longman, 2002, pp 219] Near the end of the cockpit voice recording, loud wind sounds can be heard. [CNN, 4/19/02; Longman, 2002, pp 270-271] “Sources claim the last thing heard on the cockpit voice recorder is the sound of wind—suggesting the plane had been holed.” [Mirror, 9/13/02] There was at least one passenger, Don Greene, who was a professional pilot. Another passenger, Andrew Garcia, was a former flight controller. [Newsweek, 9/22/01; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01 (B); Daily Telegraph, 8/6/02]
          

(10:00 a.m.): Elizabeth Wainio Says they're Rushing the Cockpit

      
Elizabeth Wainio.
Flight 93 passenger Elizabeth Wainio says to her stepmother, “Mom, they're rushing the cockpit. I've got to go. Bye,” then hangs up. This may have been a delayed reaction to events, since her stepmother says that in their 10-minute call, Elizabeth was in a trancelike state, appeared to have resigned herself to death, was breathing in a strange manner, and even said she felt she was leaving her body. The timing for this call is also approximate, and variously reported as taking place just before or just after 10:00 a.m. [MSNBC, 7/30/02; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01 (B)]
          

10:01 a.m.: Local Pilot Sees Flight 93 Rocking Back and Forth

       Bill Wright is piloting a small plane when a flight controller asks him to look around outside his window, according to his later claims. He sees Flight 93 three miles away—close enough that Wright can see the United Airlines colors. Flight control asks him the plane's altitude, and then commands him to get away from the plane and land immediately. Wright sees the plane rock back and forth three or four times before he flies from the area. [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/19/01] According to the 9/11 Commission, the FAA Command Center tells FAA headquarters that a nearby plane had seen Flight 93 “waving his wings.” The commission says, “The aircraft had witnessed the radical gyrations in what we believe was the hijackers' effort to defeat the passenger assault.” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] This presumably is a reference to Wright.
          

10:01 a.m.: Toledo Fighters Ordered Scrambled Toward Flight 1989 Instead of Flight 93

       The FAA orders F-16 fighters to scramble from Toledo, Ohio. Although the base has no fighters on standby alert status, it manages to put fighters in the air 16 minutes later, a “phenomenal” response time—but still ten minutes after the last hijacked plane has crashed. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/01] The 9/11 Commission concludes these fighters, along with fighters from Michigan, are scrambled to go after Delta Flight 1989. (Delta Flight 1989 was not out of contact with air traffic controllers, and was not hijacked.) Meanwhile, according to the 9/11 Commission, no fighters are ever scrambled to intercept Flight 93. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
          

10:02 a.m.: Cockpit Voice Recording Ends Early?

       The cockpit voice recording of Flight 93 was recorded on a 30-minute reel, which means that the tape is continually overwritten and only the final 30 minutes of any flight would be recorded. The government later permits relatives to hear this tape. Apparently, the version of the tape played to the family members begins at 9:31 a.m. and runs for 31 minutes, ending one minute before, according to the government, the plane crashes. [CNN, 4/19/02; Longman, 2002, pp 206-207] The New York Observer comments, “Some of the relatives are keen to find out why, at the peak of this struggle, the tape suddenly stops recording voices and all that is heard in the last 60 seconds or so is engine noise. Had the tape been tampered with?” [New York Observer, 6/17/04]
          

10:02 a.m.: Secret Service Warns Cheney Hijackers Are Headed Toward Washington

       Vice President Cheney and other leaders now in the White House bunker begin receiving reports from the Secret Service of a presumably hijacked aircraft heading toward Washington. The Secret Service is getting this information about Flight 93 through links to the FAA. However, they are looking at a projected path, not an actual radar return, so they do not realize that the plane crashes minutes later. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
          

10:02 a.m.: 9/11 Commission Details the Moments Before Flight 93 Crash

       According to the 9/11 Commission, a Flight 93 hijacker says, “Pull it down! Pull it down!” The airplane rolls onto its back as one of the hijackers shouts, “Allah o akbar! Allah o akbar!” The commission comments, “The hijackers remained at the controls but must have judged that the passengers were only seconds from overcoming them.” Presumably the plane crashes seconds later. [San Francisco Chronicle, 7/23/04] However, there are questions as to whether the voice recording actually ends at this time. Furthermore, there is a near complete disconnect between these quotes and the quotes given in previous accounts of what the cockpit recording revealed. For instance, in other accounts, passenger voices saying, “Give it to me!,” “I'm injured,” and “Roll it up” or “Lift it up” are heard just before the recording ends. [MSNBC, 7/30/02; Daily Telegraph, 8/6/02; Newsweek, 11/25/01; Observer, 12/2/01; Longman, 2002, pp 270-271]
          

(10:03-10:10 a.m.): Flight 93 Crashes; Seven-Minute Discrepancy on Exact Timing of Crash

       Exactly when Flight 93 crashes remains unclear. According to NORAD, Flight 93 crashes at 10:03 a.m. [NORAD, 9/18/01] The 9/11 Commission gives an exact time of 11 seconds after 10:03 a.m. They claim this “time is supported by evidence from the staff's radar analysis, the flight data recorder, NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board] analysis, and infrared satellite data.” They do note that “[t]he precise crash time has been the subject of some dispute.” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] However, a seismic study authorized by the US Army to determine when the plane crashed concluded that the crash happened at 10:06:05 a.m. [Seismic Study, 2002; San Francisco Chronicle, 12/9/02] The discrepancy is so puzzling that the Philadelphia Daily News publishes an article on the issue, titled “Three-Minute Discrepancy in Tape.” It notes that leading seismologists agree on the 10:06 a.m. time, give or take a couple of seconds. [Philadelphia Daily News, 9/16/02] The New York Observer notes that, in addition to the seismology study, “The FAA gives a crash time of 10:07 a.m. In addition, the New York Times, drawing on flight controllers in more than one FAA facility, put the time at 10:10 a.m. Up to a seven-minute discrepancy? In terms of an air disaster, seven minutes is close to an eternity. The way our nation has historically treated any airline tragedy is to pair up recordings from the cockpit and air-traffic control and parse the timeline down to the hundredths of a second. However, as [former Inspector General of the Transportation Department] Mary Schiavo points out, ‘We don't have an NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) investigation here, and they ordinarily dissect the timeline to the thousandth of a second.’ ” [New York Observer, 2/11/04] (Note that this work uses 10:06 a.m. as the most likely time of the crash, detailed below).
          

10:03 a.m.: NMCC Learns of Flight 93 Hijacking, NORAD Still Not Told

       According to the 9/11 Commission, the NMCC learns about the Flight 93 hijacking at this time. Since the FAA has not yet been patched in to the NMCC's conference call, the news comes from the White House. The White House learned about it from the Secret Service, and the Secret Service learned about it from the FAA. NORAD apparently is still unaware. Four minutes later, a NORAD representative on the conference call states, “NORAD has no indication of a hijack heading to Washington, D.C., at this time.” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
          

(After 10:06 a.m.): Clarke Updated on Fighter Situation, Told Flight 93 Still Headed Toward Washington

       Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is told by an aide, “Secret Service reports a hostile aircraft ten minutes out.” Two minutes later, he is given an update: “Hostile aircraft eight minutes out.” In actual fact, when Flight 93 crashes at 10:06 a.m., it's still about 15 minutes away from Washington. Clarke is also told that there are 3,900 aircraft still in the air over the Continental US (which is roughly accurate); four of those aircraft are believed to be piloted by terrorists (which is inaccurate by this time). Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman Richard Myers then reports, “We have three F-16s from Langley over the Pentagon. Andrews is launching fighters from the D.C. Air National Guard. We have fighters aloft from the Michigan Air National Guard, moving east toward a potential hostile over Pennsylvania. Six fighters from Tyndall and Ellington are en route to rendezvous with Air Force One over Florida. They will escort it to Barksdale.” [Clarke, 2004, pp 8-9; NORAD, 9/18/01] However, fighters do not meet up with Air Force One until about an hour later. Franklin Miller, a senior national security official who worked alongside Clarke on 9/11, and another official there, later fail to recall hearing any aide warning that a plane could be only minutes away. [New York Times, 3/30/04 (B)] The time of this incident is not given, but the Michigan fighters are not diverted until after 10:06 a.m. If this takes place after 10:06 a.m., it would parallel similar warnings about Flight 93 after it has already crashed provided to Vice President Cheney elsewhere in the White House.
          

(After 10:06 a.m.): Fighter Said to Fly Past Flight 93 Crash Site

      
The Flight 93 crater later in the morning. Notice the destruction of the airplane is nearly total.
“Up above, a fighter jet streak[s] by,” just after Flight 93 crashes, according to ABC News. [ABC News, 9/15/02] It isn't clear what evidence this ABC News claim is based on. There are other accounts of a fighter or fighters in the area before the crash, mentioned previously.
          

(Before 10:06 a.m.): Fighters Trailing Flight 93?

       Shortly after 9/11, NORAD claims that there is a fighter 100 miles away from Flight 93 when it crashes. However, no details, such as who the pilot is, or which base or direction the fighter is coming from, are ever given by NORAD. [NORAD, 9/18/01] CBS television reports that two F-16 fighters were tailing the flight and within 60 miles of the plane when it crashed. [CBS News, 9/14/02; Independent, 8/13/02] Shortly after 9/11, an unnamed New England flight controller ignores a ban on controllers speaking to the media, reportedly claiming “that an F-16 fighter closely pursued Flight 93 ... the F-16 made 360-degree turns to remain close to the commercial jet.” He adds that the fighter pilot “must've seen the whole thing.” He reportedly learned this from speaking to controllers nearer to the crash. [Associated Press, 9/13/01; Nashua Telegraph, 9/13/01] However, a Cleveland flight controller named Stacey Taylor later claims to have not seen any fighters on radar around the crash. [MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B)] Major General Paul Weaver, director of the Air National Guard, had previously claimed that no military planes were sent after Flight 93. [Seattle Times, 9/16/01] A different explanation by ABC News says, “The closest fighters are two F-16 pilots on a training mission from Selfridge Air National Guard Base” near Detroit, Michigan. These are ordered after Flight 93, even though they reportedly aren't armed with any weapons. It is claimed they are supposed to crash into Flight 93 if they cannot persuade it to land. [ABC News, 8/30/02; ABC News, 9/11/02] However, these fighters apparently are not diverted from Michigan until after Flight 93 crashes at 10:06 a.m.
          

(After 10:06 a.m.): Clarke Told of Flight 93 Crash

       Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is told by an aide, “United 93 is down, crashed outside of Pittsburgh. It's odd. Appears not to have hit anything much on the ground.” The timing of this event is unclear. [Clarke, 2004, pp 14-15]
          

(Before and After 10:06 a.m.): Witnesses See Low-Flying, Small White Jet at Flight 93 Crash

      
Looking straight down onto the Flight 93 crash site. North is to the top. Note the impact point north of the road, and the burned trees to the south of it.
A second plane, described “as a small, white jet with rear engines and no discernible markings,” is seen by at least five witnesses flying low and in erratic patterns, not much above treetop level, over the crash site within minutes of the United flight crashing. [Independent, 8/13/02] Lee Purbaugh: “I didn't get a good look but it was white and it circled the area about twice and then it flew off over the horizon.” [Mirror, 9/13/02]
Susan Mcelwain: Less than a minute before the Flight 93 crash rocked the countryside, she sees a small white jet with rear engines and no discernible markings swoop low over her minivan near an intersection and disappear over a hilltop, nearly clipping the tops of trees lining the ridge. [Bergen Record, 9/14/01]
She later adds, “There's no way I imagined this plane—it was so low it was virtually on top of me. It was white with no markings but it was definitely military, it just had that look. It had two rear engines, a big fin on the back like a spoiler on the back of a car and with two upright fins at the side. I haven't found one like it on the Internet. It definitely wasn't one of those executive jets. The FBI came and talked to me and said there was no plane around. ... But I saw it and it was there before the crash and it was 40 feet above my head. They did not want my story—nobody here did.” [Mirror, 9/13/02]
Dennis Decker and/or Rick Chaney, say: “As soon as we looked up [after hearing the Flight 93 crash], we saw a midsized jet flying low and fast. It appeared to make a loop or part of a circle, and then it turned fast and headed out.” Decker and Chaney described the plane as a Learjet type, with engines mounted near the tail and painted white with no identifying markings. “It was a jet plane, and it had to be flying real close when that 757 went down. If I was the FBI, I'd find out who was driving that plane.” [Bergen Record, 9/14/01]

Jim Brandt sees a small plane with no markings stay about one or two minutes over the crash site before leaving. [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/12/01]

Tom Spinelli: “I saw the white plane. It was flying around all over the place like it was looking for something. I saw it before and after the crash.” [Mirror, 9/13/02]
The FBI later says this was a Fairchild Falcon 20 business jet, directed after the crash to fly from 37,000 feet to 5,000 feet and obtain the coordinates for the crash site to help rescuers. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/16/01; Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/01] The FBI also says there was a C-130 military cargo aircraft flying at 24,000 feet about 17 miles away, but that plane wasn't armed and had no role in the crash. [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/01; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/16/01] Note that this is the same C-130 that flies very close to Flight 77 right as that planes crashes into the Pentagon.
          

10:06 a.m.: Flight 93 Crashes into Pennsylvania Countryside

      
Flight 93 crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside. Resue vehicles arrive in the distance.
Flight 93 crashes into an empty field just north of the Somerset County Airport, about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, 124 miles or 15 minutes from Washington, D.C. [NORAD, 9/18/01; Guardian, 10/17/01; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/28/01; MSNBC, 9/3/02; USA Today, 8/13/02; Associated Press, 8/19/02 (B); CNN, 9/12/01] A US Army authorized seismic study times the crash at five seconds after 10:06 a.m. [Seismic Study, 2002; San Francisco Chronicle, 12/9/02] As mentioned previously, the timing of this crash is disputed and it may well occur at 10:03 a.m., 10:07 a.m., or 10:10 a.m.
          

(After 10:06 a.m.): Michigan Fighters Diverted Toward Flight 1989

       At some point after Flight 93 crashes, NORAD diverts “unarmed Michigan Air National Guard fighter jets that happened to be flying a training mission in northern Michigan since the time of the first attack.” [Associated Press, 8/30/02] The 9/11 Commission concludes these fighters and fighters from Ohio are scrambled for Delta Flight 1989, a flight that was never hijacked or even out of contact. Meanwhile, reportedly, no fighters are scrambled after Flight 93 at all, which has already crashed. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
          

(Before 10:06 a.m.): Flight 93 Breaks Up Prior to Crash?

       Flight 93 apparently starts to break up before it crashes, because debris is found very far away from the crash site. [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/01] The plane is generally obliterated upon landing, except for one half-ton piece of engine found some distance away. Some reports indicate that the engine piece was found over a mile away. [Independent, 8/13/02] The FBI reportedly acknowledges that this piece was found “a considerable distance” from the crash site. [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/01] Later, the FBI will cordon off a three-mile wide area around the crash, as well as another area six to eight miles from the initial crash site. [CNN, 9/13/01] One story calls what happened to this engine “intriguing, because the heat-seeking, air-to-air Sidewinder missiles aboard an F-16 would likely target one of the Boeing 757's two large engines.” [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/01] Smaller debris fields are also found two, three, and eight miles away from the main crash site. [Independent, 8/13/02; Mirror, 9/13/02] Eight miles away, local media quote residents speaking of a second plane in the area and burning debris falling from the sky. [Reuters, 9/13/01 (C)] Residents outside Shanksville reported “discovering clothing, books, papers, and what appeared to be human remains. Some residents said they collected bags-full of items to be turned over to investigators. Others reported what appeared to be crash debris floating in Indian Lake, nearly six miles from the immediate crash scene. Workers at Indian Lake Marina said that they saw a cloud of confetti-like debris descend on the lake and nearby farms minutes after hearing the explosion...” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/13/01] Moments after the crash, Carol Delasko initially thinks someone had blown up a boat on Indian Lake: “It just looked like confetti raining down all over the air above the lake.” [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/14/01] Investigators say that far-off wreckage “probably was spread by the cloud created when the plane crashed and dispersed by a ten mph southeasterly wind.” [Delaware News Journal, 9/16/01] However, much of the wreckage is found sooner than that wind could have carried it, and not always southeast.
          

(Before 10:06 a.m.): Witnesses See Flight 93 Rocking Wings as It Slowly Descends

       In the tiny town of Boswell, about ten miles north and slightly to the west of Flight 93's crash site, Rodney Peterson and Brandon Leventry notice a passenger jet lumbering through the sky at about 2,000 feet. They realize such a big plane flying so low in that area is odd. They see the plane dip its wings sharply to the left, then to the right. The wings level off and the plane keeps flying south, continuing to descend slowly. Five minutes later, they hear news that the plane has crashed. Other witnesses also later describe the plane flying east-southeast, low, and wobbly. [Longman, 2002, pp 205-206; New York Times, 9/14/01] “Officials initially say that it looks like the plane was headed south when it hit the ground.” [Cleveland Newschannel 5, 9/11/01]
          

(After 10:06 a.m.): Al-Qaeda Agents Heard Saying we've Hit the Targets

       According to Newsweek, “shortly after the suicide attacks,” US intelligence picks up communications among bin Laden associates relaying the message: “we've hit the targets.” [Newsweek, 9/13/01]
          

(After 10:06 a.m.): Bush, Told of Flight 93 Crash, Wonders If It Was Shot Down

       President Bush is told that Flight 93 crashed a few minutes after it happened, but the exact timing of this notice is unclear. Because of Vice President Cheney's earlier order, he asks, “Did we shoot it down or did it crash?” Several hours later, he is assured that it crashed. [Washington Post, 1/27/02]
          

(Before 10:06 a.m.): Witnesses See Flight 93 Flying Erratically and Making Strange Noises

      
A map of the countryside near the Flight 93 crash.
Numerous eyewitnesses see and hear Flight 93 just before its crash:
Terry Butler, at Stoystown: He sees the plane come out of the clouds, low to the ground. “It was moving like you wouldn't believe. Next thing I knew it makes a heck of a sharp, right-hand turn.” It banks to the right and appears to be trying to climb to clear one of the ridges, but it continues to turn to the right and then veers behind a ridge. About a second later it crashes. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/12/01]

Ernie Stuhl, the mayor of Shanksville: “I know of two people—I will not mention names— that heard a missile. They both live very close, within a couple of hundred yards ... This one fellow's served in Vietnam and he says he's heard them, and he heard one that day.” He adds that based on what he has learned, F-16s were “very, very close.” [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/01]
Accounts of the plane making strange noises:
Laura Temyer of Hooversville: “I didn't see the plane but I heard the plane's engine. Then I heard a loud thump that echoed off the hills and then I heard the plane's engine. I heard two more loud thumps and didn't hear the plane's engine anymore after that.” (She insists that people she knows in state law enforcement have privately told her the plane was shot down, and that decompression sucked objects from the aircraft, explaining why there was a wide debris field.) [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/01]

Charles Sturtz, a half-mile from the crash site: The plane is heading southeast and has its engines running. No smoke can be seen. “It was really roaring, you know. Like it was trying to go someplace, I guess.” [WPXI Channel 11, 9/13/01]

Michael Merringer, two miles from the crash site: “I heard the engine gun two different times and then I heard a loud bang...” [Associated Press, 9/12/01 (B)]

Tim Lensbouer, 300 yards away: “I heard it for ten or 15 seconds and it sounded like it was going full bore.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/12/01 (B)]
Accounts of the plane flying upside down:
Rob Kimmel, several miles from the crash site: He sees it fly overhead, banking hard to the right. It is 200 feet or less off the ground as it crests a hill to the southeast. “I saw the top of the plane, not the bottom.” [Longman, 2002, pp 210-211]
Eric Peterson of Lambertsville: He sees a plane flying overhead unusually low. The plane seemed to be turning end-over-end as it dropped out of sight behind a tree line. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/12/01]
Bob Blair of Stoystown: He sees the plane spiraling and flying upside down, not much higher than the treetops, before crashing. [Daily American, 9/12/01]
Accounts of a sudden plunge and more strange sounds:
An unnamed witness says he hears two loud bangs before watching the plane take a downward turn of nearly 90 degrees. [Cleveland Newschannel 5, 9/11/01]

Tom Fritz, about a quarter-mile from the crash site: He hears a sound that “wasn't quite right” and looks up in the sky. “It dropped all of a sudden, like a stone,” going “so fast that you couldn't even make out what color it was.” [St. Petersburg Times, 9/12/01]

Terry Butler, a few miles north of Lambertsville: “It dropped out of the clouds.” The plane rose slightly, trying to gain altitude, then “it just went flip to the right and then straight down.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/12/01]

Lee Purbaugh, 300 yards away: “There was an incredibly loud rumbling sound and there it was, right there, right above my head—maybe 50 feet up. ... I saw it rock from side to side then, suddenly, it dipped and dived, nose first, with a huge explosion, into the ground. I knew immediately that no one could possibly have survived.” [Independent, 8/13/02]
Upside down and a sudden plunge:
Linda Shepley: She hears a loud bang and sees the plane bank to the side. [ABC News, 9/11/01]
She sees the plane wobbling right and left, at a low altitude of roughly 2,500 feet, when suddenly the right wing dips straight down, and the plane plunges into the earth. She says she has an unobstructed view of Flight 93's final two minutes. [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/01]
Kelly Leverknight in Stony Creek Township of Shanksville: “There was no smoke, it just went straight down. I saw the belly of the plane.” It sounds like it is flying low, and it's heading east. [Daily American, 9/12/01; St. Petersburg Times, 9/12/01]

Tim Thornsberg, working in a nearby strip mine: “It came in low over the trees and started wobbling. Then it just rolled over and was flying upside down for a few seconds ... and then it kind of stalled and did a nose dive over the trees.” [WPXI Channel 11, 9/13/01]
Some claim that these witness accounts support the idea that Flight 93 is hit by a missile. [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/01] While this theory certainly can be disputed, it is worth noting that some passenger planes hit by missiles continued to fly erratically for several minutes before crashing. For instance, a Korean Airline 747 was hit by two Russian missiles in 1983, yet continued to fly for two more minutes. [KAL Cockpit Voice Recorder transcript]
          

10:07 a.m.: Cleveland Flight Control Updates NEADS

       According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS finally receives a call from Cleveland flight control about Flight 93. Cleveland passes on the plane's last known latitude and longitude. NEADS is unable to locate it on radar because it has already crashed. By the commission's account, this is NORAD's first notification about the Flight 93 hijacking, even though Cleveland realized Flight 93 was hijacked at 9:32 a.m., 35 minutes earlier, and notified FAA headquarters at 9:34 a.m., 33 minutes earlier. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
          

10:08 a.m.: Military Cargo Pilot Asked to Verify Flight 93 Crash

       Cleveland flight controller Stacey Taylor has asked a nearby C-130 pilot to look at Flight 93's last position and see if they can find anything. Remarkably, this C-130 pilot is the same pilot who was asked by flight control to observe Flight 77 as it crashed in Washington earlier. He tells Taylor that he saw smoke from the crash shortly after the hijacked plane went down. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04; MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B); Guardian, 10/17/01]
          

10:08 a.m.: Guards Surround the White House

       Armed agents deploy around the White House. [CNN, 9/12/01]
          

10:08 a.m.: FAA Informed That Flight 93 Has Crashed, Confirms Crash Nine Minutes Later

       According to the 9/11 Commission, the FAA Command Center reports to FAA headquarters at this time that Flight 93 has crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside. “It hit the ground. That's what they're speculating, that's speculation only.” The Command Center confirms that Flight 93 crashed at 10:17 a.m. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04; MSNBC, 9/11/02 (B); Guardian, 10/17/01]
          

10:10 a.m.: Langley Fighters Told They Cannot Shoot Down Hijacked Planes

       According to the 9/11 Commission, the NEADS Mission Crew Commander is sorting out the orders given to the Langley fighter pilots. The Commander does not know that Flight 93 had been heading toward Washington or that it had crashed. He explicitly instructs the Langley fighters that they cannot shoot down aircraft—they have “negative clearance to shoot” aircraft over Washington. Authorization to shoot down hijacked civilian aircraft only reaches NEADS at 10:31 a.m. Even then, the authorization is not passed on to the pilots. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
          

(10:10 a.m.): Military Put on High Alert

      
Blast doors at NORAD headquarters in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado.
All US military forces are ordered to Defcon Three (or Defcon Delta), “The highest alert for the nuclear arsenal in 30 years.” [ABC News, 9/11/02; CNN, 9/4/02; Clarke, 2004, pp 15; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01] Rumsfeld claims that he makes the recommendation, but it is hard to see how he can do this, at least at this time. He later asserts that he discusses the issue with acting Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers in the NMCC first. However, they do not arrive at the PEOC until about 10:30 a.m. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/23/04] At 10:15 a.m., the massive blast doors to US Strategic Command, headquarters for NORAD in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, are closed for the first time in response to the high alert. [BBC, 9/1/02; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] In another account, acting Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers gives the Defcon order by himself. President Bush later contradicts both accounts, asserting that he gives the order. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/04]
          

(Between 10:10-10:15 a.m.): Cheney, Told That Flight 93 Is Still Heading to Washington, Orders It Shot Down

       The Secret Service, viewing projected path information about Flight 93, rather than actual radar returns, does not realize that Flight 93 has already crashed. Based on this erroneous information, a military aide tells Vice President Cheney and others in the White House bunker that the plane is 80 miles away from Washington. Cheney is asked for authority to engage the plane, and he quickly provides authorization. The aide returns a few minutes later and says the plane is 60 miles out. Cheney again gives authorization to engage. A few minutes later and presumably after the flight has crashed or been shot down, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten suggests Cheney contact President Bush to confirm the engage order. Bolten later tells the 9/11 Commission that he had not heard any prior discussion on the topic with Bush, and wanted to make sure Bush knew. Apparently, Cheney calls Bush and obtains confirmation. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] However, there is controversy over whether Bush approved a shootdown before this incident or whether Cheney gave himself the authority to make the decision on the spot. As Newsweek notes, it is moot point in one sense, since the decision was made on false data and there is no plane to shoot down. [Newsweek, 6/20/04]
          

10:13 a.m.: Washington Buildings Evacuate

       More prominent buildings in Washington begin evacuation. The United Nations building in New York City evacuates first; many federal buildings follow later. [CNN, 9/12/01; New York Times, 9/12/01] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke apparently began arranging these evacuations a short time before this. [Clarke, 2004, pp 14-15]
          

(10:13-10:23 a.m.): Projected Flight 93 Arrival into Washington; Could It Have Been Shot Down?

       The 9/11 Commission later concludes that if Flight 93 had not crashed, it would probably have reached Washington around this time. The commission notes that there are only three fighters over Washington at this time, all from Langley, Virginia. However, the pilots of these fighters were never briefed about why they were scrambled. As the lead pilot explained, “I reverted to the Russian threat... I'm thinking cruise missile threat from the sea. You know, you look down and see the Pentagon burning and I thought the b_stards snuck one by us. ... You couldn't see any airplanes, and no one told us anything.” The pilots knew their mission was to identify and divert aircraft flying within a certain radius of Washington, but did not know that the threat came from hijacked planes. In addition, the commission notes that NEADS did not know where Flight 93 was when it crashed, and wonders if they would have determined its location and passed it on the pilots before the plane reached Washington. They conclude, “NORAD officials have maintained that they would have intercepted and shot down United 93. We are not so sure.” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
          

10:14 a.m.: Cheney Gives Engage Order to NMCC to Relay to Fighters

       According to the 9/11 Commission, beginning at this time, the White House repeatedly conveys to the NMCC that Vice President Cheney confirmed fighters were cleared to engage the inbound aircraft if they could verify that the aircraft was hijacked. However, the authorization fails to reach the pilots. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
          

10:15 a.m.: Pentagon Section Collapses

      
The wall where the Pentagon was hit before and after its collapsed at 10:15.
The front section of the Pentagon that had been hit by Flight 77 collapses. [CNN, 9/12/01; New York Times, 9/12/01; Television Archive, WDCC 10:00] A few minutes prior to its collapse, firefighters saw warning signs and sounded a general evacuation tone. No firefighters were injured. [NFPA Journal, 11/1/01]
          

10:15 a.m.: NEADS Learns Flight 93 Is Down

       According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS calls Washington flight control at this time. Asked about Flight 93, flight control responds, “He's down.” It is clarified that the plane crashed “somewhere up northeast of Camp David.” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
          

(10:17 a.m.): FAA Out of the Loop; Finally Joins NMCC Teleconference

       The National Military Command Center (NMCC) has been conducting an interagency teleconference to coordinate the nation's response to the hijackings since 9:29 a.m. Yet the 9/11 Commission reports that the FAA is unable to join the call until this time, apparently due to technical difficulties. NORAD asked three times before the last hijacked plane crashed for the FAA to provide a hijacking update to the teleconference. None were given, since no FAA representative was there. When an FAA representative finally joins in, that person has no proper experience, no access to decision makers, and no information known to senior FAA officials at the time. Furthermore, the highest-level Defense Department officials rely on this conference and do not talk directly with senior FAA officials. As a result, the leaders of NORAD and the FAA are effectively out of contact with each other during the entire crisis. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
          

10:20 a.m.: United Headquarters Learns Flight 93 Has Crashed

       United Airlines headquarters receives confirmation that Flight 93 has crashed from the airport manager in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. [9/11 Commission Report, 1/27/04] Cleveland flight control had confirmation of the crash at 10:08 a.m.
          

(10:24 a.m.): All International Flights into US Ordered Diverted by FAA

       Jane Garvey, head of the FAA, orders the diversion of all international flights to the US. Most flights are diverted to Canada. [Time, 9/14/01; MSNBC, 9/22/01; CNN, 9/12/01; New York Times, 9/12/01]
          

10:28 a.m.: WTC North Tower Collapses

      
The North Tower collapses in a matter of seconds.
The World Trade Center's North Tower collapses. It was hit by Flight 11 at 8:46, 102 minutes earlier. [MSNBC, 9/22/01; CNN, 9/12/01; New York Times, 9/12/01; Associated Press, 8/19/02 (B); Seismic Study, 2002] The death toll could have been much worse—an estimated 15,000 people made it out of the WTC to safety after 8:46 a.m. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/8/02]
          

(Before 10:30 a.m.): Myers Finally Enters NMCC; Prior Whereabouts Disputed

       Acting Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers enters the NMCC, though exactly when this happens remains unclear. According to his own statements, he was on Capitol Hill, in the offices of Senator Max Cleland (D) from the time just prior to the first WTC attack until around the time the Pentagon was hit. However, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke claims Myers takes part in a video conference for much of the morning. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, who enters the NMCC around 10:30 a.m., claims that as he entered, Myers “had just returned from Capitol Hill.” [Defense Department, 3/23/04] In Myers' testimony before the 9/11 Commission, he fails to mention where he was or what he was doing from the time of the Pentagon crash until about 10:30 a.m., except to say, “I went back to my duty station. And we—what we started doing at that time was to say, ‘OK, we've had these attacks. Obviously they're hostile acts. Not sure at that point who perpetrated them.’ ” [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04 (B)] These discrepancies in Myers' whereabouts remain unresolved.
          

(10:30 a.m.): Medevac Helicopter Provides Scare for Bunkered Cheney, Others

       Vice President Cheney and others in the White House bunker are given a report of another airplane heading toward Washington. Cheney's Chief of Staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, later states, “We learn that a plane is five miles out and has dropped below 500 feet and can't be found; it's missing.” Believing they only have a minute or two before the plane crashes into Washington, Cheney orders fighters to engage the plane, saying, “Take it out.” However, reports that this is another hijacking are mistaken. It is learned later that day that a Medevac helicopter five miles away was mistaken for a hijacked plane. [Newsweek, 12/31/01; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
          

(10:30 a.m.): Missing Rumsfeld Finally Enters NMCC

       Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, missing for at least 30 minutes, finally enters the NMCC, where the military's response to the 9/11 attacks is being coordinated. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04; CNN, 9/4/02] Rumsfeld later claims that he only started to gain a situational awareness of what was happening after arriving at the NMCC. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Rumsfeld was in his office only 200 feet away from the NMCC until the Pentagon crash at 9:37 a.m. His activities during this period are unclear. He went outside to the Flight 77 crash site and then stayed somewhere else in the Pentagon until his arrival at the NMCC. Brigadier General Montague Winfield later says, “For 30 minutes we couldn't find him. And just as we began to worry, he walked into the door of the [NMCC].” [ABC News, 9/11/02] Winfield himself apparently only shows up at the NMCC around 10:30 a.m. as well.
          

10:31 a.m.: NEADS Does Not Pass Along NORAD Shootdown Order

       According to the 9/11 Commission, NORAD Commander Major General Larry Arnold instructs his staff to broadcast the following message over a NORAD chat log: “10:31 Vice President [Cheney] has cleared us to intercept tracks of interest and shoot them down if they do not respond, per CONR CC [General Arnold].” NEADS first learns of the shootdown order from this message. However, NEADS does not pass the order to the fighter pilots in New York City and Washington. NEADS leaders later say they do not pass it on because they are unsure how the pilots should proceed with this guidance. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] The pilots flying over New York City claim they are never given a formal shootdown order that day.
          

10:31 a.m.: Military and Law Enforcement Flights Resume

       The FAA allows “military and law enforcement flights to resume (and some flights that the FAA can't reveal that were already airborne).” All civilian, military, and law enforcement flights were ordered at 9:26 a.m. to land as soon as reasonably possible. [Time, 9/14/01] Civilian flights remain banned until September 13. Note that the C-130 cargo plane that witnessed the Flight 77 crash and which came upon the Flight 93 crash site right after it had crashed was apparently not subject to the grounding order issued about an hour earlier.
          

10:32 a.m.: Air Force One Threatened? Some Doubt Entire Story

       Vice President Cheney reportedly calls President Bush and tells him of a threat to Air Force One and that it will take 40-90 minutes to get a protective fighter escort in place. Many doubt the existence of this threat. For instance, Representative Martin Meehan (D) says, “I don't buy the notion Air Force One was a target. That's just PR, that's just spin.” [Washington Times, 10/8/02] A later account calls the threat “completely untrue,” and says Cheney probably made the story up. A well-informed, anonymous Washington official says, “It did two things for [Cheney]. It reinforced his argument that the President should stay out of town, and it gave George W. an excellent reason for doing so.” [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01]
          

(10:35 a.m.): Bush Heads for Louisiana on Air Force One

       Air Force One turns toward a new destination of Barksdale Air Force Base, near Shreveport, Louisiana, in response to a decision that Bush should not go directly to Washington. [CBS News, 9/11/02 (B); Washington Post, 1/27/02]
          

(Before 10:36 a.m.): Andrews Fighters Ordered to Shoot Down Threatening Planes Over Washington

      
David Wherley.
A Secret Service agent again contacts Andrews Air Force Base and commands, “Get in the air now!” It's not clear if this is treated as an official scramble order, or how quickly fighters respond to it. According to fighter pilot Lieutenant Colonel Marc Sasseville, almost simultaneously, a call from someone else in the White House declares the Washington area “a free-fire zone. That meant we were given authority to use force, if the situation required it, in defense of the nation's capital, its property and people.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/02] Apparently, this second call is made to General David Wherley, flight commander of the Air National Guard at Andrews. He had contacted the Secret Service after hearing reports that it wanted fighters airborne. One Secret Service agent, using two telephones at once, relays instructions to Wherley from another Secret Service agent in the White House who has been given the instructions from Vice President Cheney. Wherley's fighters are to protect the White House and shoot down any planes that threaten Washington. Wherley gives Lieutenant Colonel Marc Sasseville, lead pilot, the authority to decide whether to execute a shootdown. President Bush and Vice President Cheney later claim they were not aware that any fighters had scrambled from Andrews at the request of the Secret Service. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] Sasseville and the pilot code-named Lucky will take off at 10:42 a.m.
          

(10:38 a.m.): Fighters Training in North Carolina Relaunch from Andrews

       The 9/11 Commission claims that the first fighters from Andrews Air Force Base scramble at this time and are flying patrol over Washington by 10:45 a.m. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04] The three F-16s flying on a training mission in North Carolina, 200 miles away have finally been recalled to their home base at Andrews. As soon as lead pilot Major Billy Hutchison lands and checks in via radio, he is told to take off again immediately. His fighter apparently has no weapons whatsoever. The two other fighters only have training rounds for their guns, and very little fuel. “Hutchison was probably airborne shortly after the alert F-16s from Langley arrive over Washington, although [the] pilots admit their timeline-recall ‘is fuzzy.’ ” The officer who sent Hutchison off “told him to ‘do exactly what ATC asks you to do.’ Primarily, he was to go ID [identify] that unknown [aircraft] that everybody was so excited about [Flight 93]. He blasted off and flew a standard departure route, which took him over the Pentagon.” Flight 93 crashed half an hour before this; it is unclear how the Andrews base could still not know it crashed by this time. The pilots later say that, had all else failed, they would have rammed into Flight 93, had they reached it in time. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/02]
          

10:39 a.m.: Cheney Brings Rumsfeld Up to Date, But Errs on Pilot Knowledge About Shootdown Order

       Vice President Cheney tries to bring Defense Secretary Rumsfeld up to date over the NMCC's conference call, as Rumsfeld has just arrived there minutes before. Cheney explains that he has given authorization for hijacked planes to be shot down and that this has been told to the fighter pilots. Rumsfeld asks, “So we've got a couple of aircraft up there that have those instructions at the present time?” Cheney replies, “That is correct. And it's my understanding they've already taken a couple of aircraft out.” Then Rumsfeld says, “We can't confirm that. We're told that one aircraft is down but we do not have a pilot report that they did it.” Cheney is incorrect that this command has reached the pilots. [9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04]
          

(10:42 a.m.): Status of Three Planes Unknown; False Rumors Persist of More Terrorist Activity

       Around this time (roughly), the FAA tells the White House that it still cannot account for three planes in addition to the four that have crashed. It takes the FAA another hour and a half to account for these three aircraft. [Time, 9/14/01] Vice President Cheney later says, “That's what we started working off of, that list of six, and we could account for two of them in New York. The third one we didn't know what had happened to. It turned out it had hit the Pentagon, but the first reports on the Pentagon attack suggested a helicopter and then later a private jet.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/17/01] Amongst false rumors during the day are reports of a bomb aboard a United Airlines jet that just landed in Rockford, Illinois. “Another plane disappears from radar and might have crashed in Kentucky. The reports are so serious that [FAA head Jane] Garvey notifies the White House that there has been another crash. Only later does she learn the reports are erroneous.” [USA Today, 8/13/02 (B)]
          

(10:42 a.m.): Andrews Fighters Finally Take Off, but Without Missiles

       Two F-16s take off from Andrews Air Force Base lightly armed with nothing more than “hot” guns and non-explosive training rounds. Lead pilot Lieutenant Colonel Marc Sasseville flies one; the other pilot is only known by the codename Lucky. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/02] These fighters had been at another base that morning, waiting to be armed with AIM-9 missiles, a process that takes about an hour. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] Since they took off without the missiles, presumably they could have taken off unarmed much earlier. (The first call for them to scramble came not long after 9:00 a.m.). Two more F-16s, armed with AIM-9 missiles, take off twenty-seven minutes later, at 11:09 a.m. These are apparently piloted by Major Dan Caine and Captain Brandon Rasmussen. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/02; 9/11 Commission Report, 6/17/04 (B)] F-16s from Richmond, Virginia, and Atlantic City, New Jersey, arrive over Washington a short time later. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/02] The Andrews fighters are apparently the only fighters in the US scrambled before 11:00 with official shootdown authorization, but the first Andrews fighters into the air have no missiles. It is unclear if the Andrews fighters relaunching a few minutes earlier had shootdown orders, but they had no weapons either. It appears the Andrews fighters launching at 11:09 a.m. are the first fighters in the US with both shootdown orders and missiles to use.
          

10:53 a.m.: Election Postponed

       New York's primary elections, already in progress, are postponed. [CNN, 9/12/01]
          

(10:55 a.m.): Air Force One Takes Evasive Action from False Alarm

      
Colonel Mark Tillman in the cockpit of Air Force One.
Colonel Mark Tillman, pilot of Air Force One, is told there is a threat to President Bush's plane. Tillman has an armed guard placed at his cockpit door while the Secret Service double-checks the identity of everyone on board. Air traffic controllers warn that a suspect airliner is dead ahead, according to Tillman: “Coming out of Sarasota there was one call that said there was an airliner off our nose that they did not have contact with.” Tillman takes evasive action, pulling his plane high above normal traffic. [CBS News, 9/11/02 (B)] Reporters on board notice the rise in elevation. [Dallas Morning News, 8/28/02; Salon, 9/12/01 (B)] The report is apparently a false alarm.
          

(Between 10:55-11:41 a.m.): Fighter Escort Finally Reaches Air Force One? Reports Conflict

      
President Bush (center, bending) and others look out the windows of Air Force One as their fighter escort arrives.
No fighters escort President Bush's Air Force One until around this time, but accounts conflict. At 10:32 a.m., Vice President Cheney said it would take until about 11:10 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. to get a fighter escort to Air Force One. [Washington Post, 1/27/02] However, according to one account, around 10:00 a.m., Air Force One “is joined by an escort of F-16 fighters from a base near Jacksonville, Florida.” [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/01] Another report states, “At 10:41 [am.] ... Air Force One headed toward Jacksonville to meet jets scrambled to give the presidential jet its own air cover.” [New York Times, 9/16/01 (B)] But apparently, when Air Force One takes evasive action around 10:55 a.m., there is still no fighter escort. NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold later says, “We scrambled available airplanes from Tyndall [near Tallahassee and not near Jacksonville, Florida] and then from Ellington in Houston, Texas,” but he does not say when this occurs. [Code One Magazine, 1/02] In yet another account, two F16s eventually arrive, piloted by Shane Brotherton and Randy Roberts, from Ellington, not from any Florida base. [CBS News, 9/11/02] The St. Petersburg Times, after interviewing people on Air Force One, estimate the first fighters, from Texas, arrive between 11:00 and 11:20. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/04] By 11:30 a.m., there are six fighters protecting Air Force One. [Sarasota Magazine, 9/19/01] The BBC, however, reports that the Ellington, Texas, fighters are scrambled at 11:30 a.m., and quotes ABC reporter Ann Compton, inside Air Force One, saying fighters appear out the windows at 11:41 a.m. [BBC, 9/1/02] Given that two of the seven bases said to have fighters on alert on 9/11 are in Florida (Homestead Air Station, 185 miles from Sarasota; and Tyndall Air Station, 235 miles from Sarasota), why a fighter escort does not reach Air Force One earlier remains unclear. Philip Melanson, author of a book on the Secret Service, comments, “I can't imagine by what glitch the protection was not provided to Air Force One as soon as it took off. I would have thought there'd be something in place whereby one phone call from the head of the security would get the fighters in the air immediately.” [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/04]
          

(11:00 a.m.): Skyscrapers, Tourist Attractions Closed

       More skyscrapers and tourist attractions are evacuated, including Walt Disney World, Philadelphia's Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, Seattle's Space Needle, and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. [Times Union, 9/11/01]
          

(11:00 a.m.): Customs Claims to Determine the Names of All 19 Hijackers

       Robert Bonner, the head of Customs and Border Protection, later testifies, “We ran passenger manifests through the system used by Customs—two were hits on our watch list of August 2001.” (This is presumably a reference to hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, watch-listed on August 23, 2001.) “And by looking at the Arab names and their seat locations, ticket purchases and other passenger information, it didn't take a lot to do a rudimentary link analysis. Customs officers were able to ID 19 probable hijackers within 45 minutes. I saw the sheet by 11 a.m. And that analysis did indeed correctly identify the terrorists.” [New York Observer, 2/11/04] However, Bonner appears to be at least somewhat incorrect: for two days after the attacks the FBI believes there are only 18 hijackers, and the original list contains some erroneous Arab-sounding names on the flight manifests, such as Adnan Bukhari and Ameer Bukhari. [CNN, 9/13/01 (D)] Some hijacker names, including Mohamed Atta's, were identified on a reservations computer around 8:30 a.m., and Richard Clarke was told some of the names were al-Qaeda around 10:00 a.m.
          

(11:00 a.m.): All Flights over US Soil Complying with Controllers

       The FAA Command Center is told that all the flights over the United States are accounted for and pilots are complying with controllers. There are 923 planes still in the air over the US. Every commercial flight in US airspace—about a quarter of the planes still in the air—is within 40 miles of its destination. Others are still over the oceans, and many are heading toward Canada. [USA Today, 8/13/02 (B)]
          

September 11, 2001: FBI Agents Obtain Warrant for Moussaoui Too Late

       Zacarias Moussaoui reportedly cheers as he watches the 9/11 attack on television inside a prison, where he is being held on immigration charges. [BBC, 12/12/01] Within an hour of the attacks, the Minnesota FBI uses a memo written to FBI headquarters shortly after Moussaoui's arrest to ask permission from a judge for the search warrant they have been desperately seeking. Even after the attacks, FBI headquarters is still attempting to block the search of Moussaoui's computer, characterizing the similarities between the actual attack and the fears expressed by the local FBI agents before 9/11 as a mere coincidence. [Time, 5/21/02] However, a federal judge approves the warrant that afternoon. [New Yorker, 9/30/02] Minnesota FBI agent Coleen Rowley notes that this very memo was previously deemed insufficient by FBI headquarters to get a search warrant, and the fact that they are immediately granted one when finally allowed to ask shows “the missing piece of probable cause was only the [FBI headquarters'] failure to appreciate that such an event could occur.” [Time, 5/21/02] The search uncovers information suggesting Moussaoui may have been planning an attack using crop dusters, but it does not reveal any direct connection to the 9/11 hijackers. However, investigators find some German telephone numbers and the name “Ahad Sabet.” The numbers allow them to determine the name is an alias for Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Mohamed Atta's former roommate, and they find he wired Moussaoui money. They also find a document connecting Moussaoui with the Malaysian Yazid Sufaat, a lead that could have led to hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar. [New Yorker, 9/30/02; MSNBC, 12/11/01] Rowley later suggests that if they had received the search warrant sooner, “There is at least some chance that ... may have limited the September 11th attacks and resulting loss of life.” [Time, 5/27/02]
          

11:08 a.m.: Korean Air Flight Mistakenly Believed Hijacked

       A message sent from Korean Air Flight 85 is misinterpreted to indicate a possible hijacking. At 1:24 p.m., the pilots accidentally issue a hijacking alert as the plane nears Alaska on its way to Anchorage. Two fighters tail the plane, and notify it that it will be shot down unless it avoids populated areas. Strategic sites are evacuated across Alaska. The plane eventually lands safely in Whitehorse, Canada, at 2:54 p.m. [USA Today, 8/12/02 (B)]
          

11:30 a.m.: Television Speculation al-Qaeda Is Responsible

       General Wesley Clark, former Supreme Commander of NATO, says on television, “This is clearly a coordinated effort. It hasn't been announced that it's over. ... Only one group has this kind of ability and that is Osama bin Laden's.” [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/01]
          

(11:30 a.m.): Congressmen Meet with Bush

       Two congressmen, Dan Miller (R) and Adam Putnam (R), are on Air Force One. they've been receiving periodic updates on the crisis from President Bush's adviser Karl Rove. At this time, they're summoned forward to meet with the president. Bush points out the fighter escort, F-16s from a base in Texas, has now arrived. He says that a threat had been received from someone who knew the plane's code name. As mentioned above, there are doubts that any such threat ever occurred. [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/04]
          
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