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Context of 'March 30, 2000: Lawyer’s Analysis Considers the Legal Aspects of Shooting Down a Hijacked Airliner'

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Employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, lose communication with Betty Ong, a flight attendant on the hijacked Flight 11. (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 20-22; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 5-6)
Ong Stops Responding to Questions - For about the last 25 minutes, Ong has been on the phone with a number of employees at the reservations office, and has been providing them with information about the trouble on her plane. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 8) But now she stops responding to their communications. Nydia Gonzalez, one of the reservations office employees, continues questioning Ong. She says: “What’s going on Betty? Betty, talk to me. Betty, are you there? Betty?” Receiving no response, she asks her colleague Winston Sadler, who is also participating in the call, “Do you think we lost her?” On another phone line, Gonzalez immediately notifies a manager at the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Texas that contact with Ong has been lost (see 8:44 a.m. September 11, 2001). (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 20-22; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 14)
Ong Asked Airline Employees to 'Pray for Us' - Toward the end of the call, Ong said repeatedly to the reservations office employees: “Pray for us. Pray for us.” (ABC News 7/18/2002) Gonzalez will say in an interview later today that Ong’s final words, before the call ends, were, “Oh my God, the flight, it’s going down, it’s going down.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 1-8) But in a subsequent interview, she will say that before the call ends, Ong “started to cry” and then her final words were, “Oh God, oh God, what is going on?” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71) The reservations office employees have lost communication with Ong by 8:44 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 6) But according to a summary of phone calls from the hijacked flights presented at the 2006 trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the call from Ong began at 8:18 a.m. and 47 seconds, and lasts exactly 27 minutes, meaning it ends at 8:45 a.m. and 47 seconds. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) Flight 11 will crash into the World Trade Center less than a minute after that, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7)

Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant on Flight 11, gives updates over the phone to Michael Woodward, an American Airlines flight services manager at Logan International Airport in Boston, as her plane approaches the World Trade Center, and then, after she reports that the plane is flying “very, very low,” the line goes dead. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/13/2001, pp. 1-2; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 6-7) Sweeney has been on the phone with the American Airlines flight services office at Logan Airport since 8:32 a.m., describing to Woodward the trouble on her plane (see (8:32 a.m.-8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 11)
Sweeney Says Plane Is 'in a Rapid Descent' - She now tells Woodward: “Something is wrong. We are in a rapid descent.” She says her plane is flying “all over the place.” (9/11 Commission 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 14) Around this time, Woodward tells Nancy Wyatt, another employee in the flight services office, that Sweeney has “started screaming that there’s something wrong with the airplane.” He adds: “In other words… [the original pilot is] not flying the airplane. They’re not flying the airplane.” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 34-41)
Sweeney Says Plane Is Flying 'Very Low' - Woodward asks Sweeney to look out of the window to see if she can determine where her plane is. (9/11 Commission 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 14) In an interview with the FBI a couple of days later, Woodward will say that Sweeney tells him: “I see water. I see buildings. We’re very, very low. Oh my God.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/13/2001, pp. 1-2) In 2004, he will give a slightly different account, telling the 9/11 Commission that Sweeney says: “We are flying low. We are flying very, very low. We are flying way too low.” Seconds later she says, “Oh my God, we are way too low.” (9/11 Commission 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 14) Sweeney says “Oh my God” after taking “a very slow, deep breath,” Woodward will tell ABC News. She says these final words “[v]ery slowly, very calmly, very quietly. It wasn’t in panic,” Woodward will say.
Call Suddenly Cut Off - Woodward then hears what he will describe as “very, very loud static on the other end” of the line. (ABC News 7/18/2002) After a short time, the line goes dead. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/13/2001, pp. 1-2) Woodward looks up from the phone and tells everyone else in the office that the line has died. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/13/2001, pp. 3-4) Wyatt is on the phone with Ray Howland, an employee at the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Fort Worth, Texas, and has been passing on to him the information that Sweeney was providing to Woodward (see 8:40 a.m.-8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). She now informs Howland, “Okay, we just lost connection” with Sweeney. (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 34-41; et al. 9/7/2011, pp. 14 pdf file)
Flight Services Office Personnel Learn of Crash at WTC - Shortly after Sweeney’s call is cut off, Woodward’s operational manager, Craig Kopetz, will enter the flight services office and say that a plane has just crashed into the WTC. Woodward will not initially connect this news with the crisis he has been dealing with. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/13/2001, pp. 1-2; ABC News 7/18/2002) Those in the flight services office will then go to their command center. “Approximately 15 minutes later,” according to Elizabeth Williams, one of Woodward’s colleagues, the group will realize that “Flight 11 was the same flight which crashed into the WTC.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/13/2001, pp. 3-4) The call between Sweeney and Woodward lasts “approximately 12 minutes” and ends at around 8:44 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission. (9/11 Commission 2004, pp. 4; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 11, 14) But according to a summary of phone calls from the hijacked flights presented at the 2006 trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the call began at 8:32 a.m. and 39 seconds, and lasts 13 minutes and 13 seconds, meaning it ends at 8:45 a.m. and 52 seconds. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) Flight 11 crashes into the WTC less than a minute later, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7)

An air traffic controller at the FAA’s Boston Center suggests that Flight 11 is going to crash into the World Trade Center. (The Learning Channel 8/20/2006) Flight 11 is heading southbound toward New York, descending at about 3,200 feet per minute. (National Transportation Safety Board 2/19/2002 pdf file) John Hartling, a controller at the Boston Center who has been monitoring it (see (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001), will later recall, “One of my fellow controllers on the other side of the room, I heard him say, ‘That airplane’s gonna hit the World Trade Center.’” (The Learning Channel 8/20/2006) Flight 11 will crash into the WTC at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (National Transportation Safety Board 2/19/2002 pdf file)

The hole caused by the Flight 11 crash.The hole caused by the Flight 11 crash. [Source: Reuters]Flight 11 slams into the WTC North Tower (Building 1). Hijackers Mohamed Atta Waleed Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, Abdulaziz Alomari, and Satam Al Suqami presumably are killed instantly, and many more in the tower will die over the next few hours. Seismic records pinpoint the crash at 26 seconds after 8:46 a.m. (CNN 9/12/2001; New York Times 9/12/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; Cauchon 12/20/2001; Federal Emergency Management Agency 5/1/2002, pp. 1-10; Dwyer et al. 5/26/2002; Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002; Associated Press 8/21/2002; Adcock 9/10/2002) The NIST report states the crash time to be 8:46:30. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 19) The 9/11 Commission Report states the crash time to be 8:46:40. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7) Investigators believe the plane still has about 10,000 gallons of fuel (see 8:57 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Dwyer et al. 5/26/2002) The plane strikes the 93rd through 99th floors in the 110-story building. No one above the crash line survives; approximately 1,360 people die. Below the crash line, approximately 72 die and more than 4,000 survive. Both towers are slightly less than half full at the time of the attack, with between 5,000 to 7,000 people in each tower. This number is lower than expected. Many office workers have not yet shown up to work, and tourists to the observation deck opening at 9:30 A.M. have yet to arrive. (Cauchon 12/20/2001; National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 20-22) The impact severs some columns on the north side of the North Tower. Each tower is designed as a “tube-in-tube” structure and the steel columns which support its weight are arranged around the perimeter and in the core. The plane, which weighs 283,600 lb and is traveling at an estimated speed of around 430 mph (see October 2002-October 2005), severs 35 of the building’s 236 perimeter columns and damages another two. The damage to the South Tower’s perimeter will be similar (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 5-9, 20, 22) The perimeter columns bear about half of the tower’s weight, so this damage reduces its ability to bear gravity loads by about 7.5 percent. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 6) The actual damage to the 47 core columns is not known, as there are no photographs or videos of it, but there will be much speculation about this after 9/11. It will be suggested that some parts of the aircraft may have damaged the core even after crashing through the exterior wall. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): “Moving at 500 mph, an engine broke any exterior column it hit. If the engine missed the floor slab, the majority of the engine core remained intact and had enough residual momentum to sever a core column upon direct impact.” (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 107) According to NIST’s base case computer model, three of the core columns are severed and another ten suffer some damage. (National Institute of Standards & Technology 9/2005, pp. 189 pdf file) If this is accurate, it means that the impact damage to the core reduces the Tower’s strength by another approximately 7.5 percent, meaning that the building loses about 15 percent of its strength in total. This damage will be cited after 9/11 by NIST and others researchers as an event contributing to the building’s collapse (see October 23, 2002 and October 19, 2004). In addition, some of the fireproofing on the steel columns and trusses may be dislodged. The original fireproofing on the fire floors was mostly Blazeshield DC/F, but some of the fireproofing on the flooring has recently been upgraded to Blazeshield II, which is about 20 percent denser and 20 percent more adhesive. (National Institute of Standards & Technology 9/2005, pp. xxxvi, 83 pdf file) Photographs and videos of the towers will not show the state of fireproofing inside the buildings, but NIST will estimate the damage to it using a computer model. Its severe case model (see (October 2002-October 2005)) will predict that 43 of the 47 core columns are stripped of their fireproofing on one or more floors and that fireproofing is stripped from trusses covering 60,000 ft2 of floor area, the equivalent of about one and a half floors. NIST will say that the loss of fireproofing is a major cause of the collapse (see April 5, 2005), but only performs 15 tests on fireproofing samples (see October 26, 2005). (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 23) According to NIST, more fireproofing is stripped from the South Tower (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001).

John Odermatt.John Odermatt. [Source: Queens Gazette]New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) activates its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7. The OEM is responsible for managing the city’s response to major incidents, including terrorist attacks. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 283-284, 293) Its personnel arrived at WTC 7, where it has offices, early this morning to prepare for Tripod, a major biological terrorism training exercise scheduled for September 12 (see September 12, 2001). (Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow 9/2003, pp. 15 pdf file)
Staffer Is Told to Open the Operations Center - OEM Commissioner John Odermatt and Richard Bylicki, a police sergeant assigned to the OEM, heard the explosion when Flight 11 crashed into the WTC, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). As they look out of the window at the burning North Tower, Odermatt debriefs Bylicki and instructs him to open the EOC for a fully staffed operation. Bylicki therefore sets about activating the operations center. (Bylicki 6/19/2003)
Staffers Call Agencies and Tell Them to Send Their Representatives - EOC personnel start contacting agencies, including the New York Fire and Police Departments and the Department of Health, and instruct them to send their designated representatives to the center. They also call the State Emergency Management Office (SEMO) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which they ask to send at least five federal urban search and rescue teams. (9/11 Commission 5/18/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 293) Meanwhile, Bylicki helps the OEM’s Watch Command handle an “enormous influx” of phone calls, many of which are from senior city officials. (Bylicki 6/19/2003)
Activation Proceeds without Any Problems - EOC personnel initially struggle to make sense of what has happened at the Twin Towers. (Wachtendorf 2004, pp. 77) However, the activation apparently proceeds without any problems. Firefighter Timothy Brown, a supervisor at the OEM, is instructed by Calvin Drayton, a deputy director with the OEM, to go up to the 23rd floor of WTC 7 and make sure that personnel are getting the EOC up and running, and the Watch Command is being properly supervised. He goes up to the 23rd floor and first checks the Watch Command. He sees that its supervisor, Mike Lee, has things under control. Then, in the EOC, he sees Michael Berkowitz, a supervisor with the OEM, powering up all the computers and television screens necessary to handle the emergency, and beginning to notify the dozens of agencies that need to send representatives to the center. Berkowitz tells Brown he has the manpower he needs to get the center up and running. “I was very comfortable that OEM was beginning to do what we do in a major emergency,” Brown will later recall. Activating the EOC is something OEM personnel have “drilled for and drilled for and drilled for… and so we were very good at it,” he will comment. (Brown 1/15/2002; Brown 6/30/2002 pdf file; Brown 1/31/2003)
Center Is Designed for Managing a Crisis - The EOC, which opened in 1999 (see June 8, 1999), is a state-of-the-art facility designed to operate as a stand-alone center from which the city government can operate during a crisis. (City of New York 2/18/2001) It is one of the most sophisticated facilities of its type in the world. It includes a communications suite, a conference room, a press briefing room, and a large number of staff offices, and has numerous computer-equipped workstations. (Kendra and Wachtendorf 3/2003 pdf file) It has enough seating for 68 agencies to operate during an emergency. (City of New York 2/18/2001) However, it will be evacuated at 9:30 a.m. due to reports of further unaccounted-for planes, according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 305) Other accounts will indicate that it may be evacuated at an earlier time, possibly even before the second crash at the WTC occurs (see (Soon After 8:46 a.m.-9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly Before 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta is in a breakfast meeting with the Belgian transportation minister, to discuss aviation issues. FAA Administrator Jane Garvey is also in the meeting, which is in the conference room next to Mineta’s office at the Department of Transportation (DOT) in Washington, DC. Soon after 8:45 a.m., Mineta’s Chief of Staff John Flaherty interrupts, and takes Mineta and Garvey aside to Mineta’s office to tell them that news agencies are reporting that some kind of aircraft has flown into the WTC. While Garvey immediately goes to a telephone and contacts the FAA Operations Center, Mineta continues with the meeting. But a few minutes later Flaherty again takes him aside to tell him the plane is confirmed to be a commercial aircraft, and that the FAA had received an unconfirmed report of a hijacking. The TV is on and Mineta sees the second plane hitting the WTC live. He terminates his meeting with the Belgian minister, and Garvey heads off to the FAA headquarters. The White House calls and requests that Mineta go and operate from there, so he quickly heads out too. He will soon arrive there, and enters its underground bunker at around 9:20 a.m. (see (Between 9:20 a.m. and 9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Congress 9/20/2001; Freni 2003, pp. 62-63; 9/11 Commission 5/23/2003) Before leaving the Department of Transportation, Mineta orders the activation of the DOT’s Crisis Management Center (see 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). (US Congress 10/10/2001)

James Scott, a Secret Service special agent assigned to the vice presidential protective division, sees the television coverage of the plane crash at the World Trade Center and alerts other Secret Service agents protecting Vice President Dick Cheney to the incident. Scott is the “on-duty shift whip” for Cheney’s Secret Service detail. (United States Secret Service 10/1/2001) His current location is unstated, but he is presumably at the Joint Operations Center (JOC) at the White House. The JOC monitors the White House complex and constantly tracks the location of every “protected person,” including the president and the vice president. (Williams 12/22/1997; National Geographic 9/27/2004) After he sees “the aircraft crash on television network news,” Scott will later recall, he “alerted the working shift.” Presumably he does this in a phone call or over his radio. (United States Secret Service 10/1/2001) The “working shift” includes the “body men” around a Secret Service protectee, according to journalist and author Ronald Kessler. “The normal working shift,” Kessler will write, “consists of a shift leader or whip”—in this case, Scott—“and four shift agents.” (Kessler 2009, pp. 80-81) However, although he contacts the members of the working shift at this time, Scott will only head to the West Wing of the White House and discuss the crisis with them in person at around 9:30 a.m. (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). And he will not evacuate Cheney from his office in the West Wing until around 9:36 a.m., according to some accounts, after he learns of an unidentified aircraft flying toward the White House (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (United States Secret Service 10/1/2001; United States Secret Service 11/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39-40; Gellman 2008, pp. 115) Around the time that Scott alerts the members of the working shift to the crash in New York, a Secret Service agent posted at the door of Cheney’s office (who is presumably a member of the working shift) also receives a phone call from the Secret Service’s intelligence division, informing him that the aircraft that hit the WTC was a passenger jet, according to Cheney’s chief speechwriter, John McConnell, who is with the agent (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Hayes 2007, pp. 329-330)

Douglas Cochrane with Dick Cheney.Douglas Cochrane with Dick Cheney. [Source: David Bohrer / White House]Douglas Cochrane, Vice President Dick Cheney’s military aide, learns that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center and subsequently heads to Cheney’s office to pass on to the vice president a phone number for President Bush. Cochrane is in his office on the fifth floor of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House, when he learns a plane has hit the WTC (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). He learns about the crash when someone in the White House Situation Room calls and tells him what has happened, according to the Florida Times-Union. However, he will tell the 9/11 Commission that he learns about it from the television coverage of the incident, at about 8:50 a.m.
Military Aide Heads to the Situation Room - Cochrane leaves his office and goes to the Situation Room, seeking information, but personnel there can tell him nothing more than what is being reported on CNN. Cochrane will tell the 9/11 Commission that a supervisor informs him that Cheney got cut off while talking on the phone with Bush. He therefore takes a piece of paper with a phone number for the president on it and heads to Cheney’s office, in the West Wing of the White House. When he reaches the office, he finds National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice there with the vice president, according to the Florida Times-Union. (Aguilar 9/10/2003; 9/11 Commission 4/16/2004) However, according to other accounts, Rice will only go to Cheney’s office after 9:03 a.m., when the second hijacked plane hits the WTC (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Cheney 9/16/2001; Hayes 2007, pp. 332; Gellman 2008, pp. 114)
Military Aide Reportedly Sees Cheney on the Phone with Bush - Cochrane will tell the 9/11 Commission that while he is in Cheney’s office at this time, he sees the vice president picking up the phone and answering a call from Bush. Cheney says, “Yes, Mr. President,” he will recall. (Aguilar 9/10/2003; 9/11 Commission 4/16/2004) However, according to other accounts, including the 9/11 Commission Report, Cheney will first talk with Bush about the crashes in New York sometime after the second plane hits the WTC, apparently around 9:15 a.m. (see (9:16 a.m.-9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Cheney 9/16/2001; Sammon 2002, pp. 92-93; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39; Hayes 2007, pp. 332) Cochrane then shuts the door to Cheney’s office and heads back to the Situation Room. There, he will see the second crash at the WTC live on television (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Aguilar 9/10/2003; 9/11 Commission 4/16/2004)

A typical F-15.A typical F-15. [Source: US Air Force]Radar data will show that the two F-15s scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, are airborne by this time. (Graham 9/15/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) It is now eight minutes since the mission crew commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) ordered that the jets be launched (see 8:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Bronner 8/1/2006) It is 40 minutes since air traffic controllers had their last communication with Flight 11 (see 8:13 a.m. September 11, 2001), and 28 minutes since they became certain that the aircraft was hijacked (see (8:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center seven minutes ago (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7, 19 and 459)
Commander Wants Fighters Sent to New York - In Rome, New York, NEADS has just received news of the plane hitting the WTC (see 8:51 a.m. September 11, 2001). Major Kevin Nasypany, the facility’s mission crew commander, is asked what to do with the Otis fighters. He responds: “Send ‘em to New York City still. Continue! Go! This is what I got. Possible news that a 737 just hit the World Trade Center. This is a real-world.… Continue taking the fighters down to the New York City area, JFK [International Airport] area, if you can. Make sure that the FAA clears it—your route all the way through.… Let’s press with this.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) Yet there will be conflicting reports of the fighters’ destination (see (8:53 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001), with some accounts saying they are directed toward military-controlled airspace off the Long Island coast. (Filson 2003, pp. 56-59; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004)

An air traffic controller at the FAA’s Boston Center directs the two fighter jets that took off from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to the hijacked Flight 11 toward a new heading, based on instructions he has just received from NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS).
NEADS Gave New Heading for Fighters - The Boston Center controller, who is working at the Cape Sector radar position, has just been contacted by someone from NEADS. The caller from NEADS, referring to the two fighters from Otis Air Base, said, “The heading that we gave him on, I guess, is a bad heading.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 2004) (The original flight strip for the fighters gave a destination of New York’s JFK International Airport. (9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file) ) The caller said the fighters’ target was “now south of JFK,” and added, “Can you direct the Panta flight [i.e. the two Otis fighters] towards that now?” The controller replied: “If I’m talking to him, I don’t know where that target [is]. I don’t even see the target at all.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) The “target,” Flight 11, crashed into the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7) However, the caller explained that NEADS had just talked to Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the Boston Center, and Scoggins said the target was “south of JFK now.” The caller therefore reiterated, “We want to get [the Otis fighters] headed in that direction.” The controller confirmed, “I’ll do that.”
Controller Passes on New Heading to Pilot - Seconds later, Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, one of the pilots of the two fighters out of Otis Air Base, checks in with the Boston Center controller. Duffy says, “Boston Center, Panta 45 with you out of 13-5 for 290.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 2004) (“Panta 45” is Duffy’s call sign. (Spencer 2008, pp. 113) ) The controller tells Duffy, “Panta 45, roger, fly heading of 260.” Duffy confirms the new heading. The controller then instructs, “Maintain block 290.” Duffy confirms, “Six zero on the heading, climbing to flight level [of] 290.” The controller will then tell Duffy that Flight 11 has crashed into the WTC (see 8:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001)

One of the two fighter pilots who took off in response to the hijacked Flight 11 is told by air traffic control that Flight 11 has crashed into the World Trade Center, and yet both pilots will later claim they are unaware of this crash until after 9:03 a.m., when Flight 175 hits the WTC. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; Dennehy 8/21/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002; Nash 10/2/2002; Duffy 10/22/2002; 9/11 Commission 2004) Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy and Major Daniel Nash took off in their F-15s from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), but were unaware that at the same time, Flight 11 was crashing into the WTC (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 57; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20)
Controller Tells Pilot that Flight 11 Crashed into WTC - Duffy has just checked in with the air traffic controller at the FAA’s Boston Center who is working at the Cape Sector radar position, and the controller has given him a new heading to fly toward (see 8:54 a.m.-8:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). The controller now asks Duffy, “I understand you’re going out to look for American 11, is that correct?” Duffy replies, “Affirmative.” The controller then tells Duffy that Flight 11 has crashed. He says, “Okay, I just got information that the aircraft has been, uh, crashed into the World Trade Center, so I’m not quite sure what your intentions are, if you’re still going to head that way or you may want to talk to your operations.” Duffy responds, “Okay, we’re going to go over and talk to Huntress right now.” (“Huntress” is the call sign for NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector, NEADS.) (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 2004) Although Duffy contacts NEADS (see (8:56 a.m.-8:57 a.m.) September 11, 2001), it is unclear whether he talks about the crash, as he indicates he is going to, since, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, “there are no NEADS recordings available of the NEADS senior weapons director and weapons director technician position responsible for controlling the Otis [Air National Guard Base] scramble” (see (8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 1/7/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 459) It is also unclear whether Duffy passes on the information about Flight 11 hitting the WTC to Nash. But in later interviews, both pilots will claim they were unaware of Flight 11 hitting the WTC until they were informed that a second aircraft had hit the WTC, shortly after that second crash occurred (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:06 a.m.-9:07 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; Spencer 2008, pp. 84)
Pilots Deny Learning of First Crash - The Cape Cod Times will report that Nash “doesn’t even recall hearing that the first plane hit.” (Dennehy 8/21/2002) Nash will tell author Leslie Filson that when he and Duffy are informed of the second plane hitting the WTC, they are “still under [the] impression [that] American 11 was still airborne” and are “shocked, because we didn’t know the first one had even hit.” (Nash 10/2/2002) And Nash will tell the 9/11 Commission that he “does not remember at which point during the morning of 9/11 he heard of the first crash at the WTC.” He will say he does “remember that the FAA controller he communicated with during flight told him of the second crash,” but add that “this was strange to hear at the time, since he had not been told of the first.” (9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 pdf file) Duffy will tell ABC News that when he is informed of the second crash, “I thought we were still chasing American 11.” (ABC News 9/11/2002) He will tell Filson that when he learns of this second crash, “I didn’t know [the] first one hit” the WTC. (Duffy 10/22/2002) And he will tell the 9/11 Commission that when he “received word that a second aircraft had hit the WTC,” he “still thought they were responding to a hijacked American [Airlines] airliner.” (9/11 Commission 1/7/2004 pdf file)

In the Washington, DC, area, members of the public, emergency responders, and government officials experience serious communications problems. Telephone and cell phone services around the capital remain unavailable to members of the public for most of the day. (Verton 2003, pp. 149)
bullet Particular problems are experienced around the Pentagon. Reportedly, cellular and landline telephone communications there are “virtually unreliable or inaccessible during the first few hours of the response,” after it is hit at 9:37 (see After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (US Department of Health and Human Services 7/2002, pp. C36 pdf file)
Some senior government officials also experience communications difficulties:
bullet CIA Director George Tenet has problems using his secure phone while heading from a Washington hotel back to CIA headquarters, located about eight miles outside Washington (see (8:55 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Buncombe 11/6/2002; Tenet 2007, pp. 161-162)
bullet Secretary of State Colin Powell has to take a seven-hour flight from Peru, to get back to the capital. He later complains that, during this flight, “because of the communications problems that existed during that day, I couldn’t talk to anybody in Washington” (see (12:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (ABC News 9/11/2002)
bullet Between the time of the second WTC attack and about 9:45 a.m., Vice President Dick Cheney, who is at the White House, has problems reaching Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert at the US Capitol by secure telephone (see (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Hastert 9/11/2002; Hayes 2007, pp. 336-337)
bullet Even President Bush experiences difficulties communicating with Washington after leaving a school in Florida, and subsequently while flying on Air Force One (see (9:34 a.m.-9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006)
A classified after-action report will later be produced, based on observations from a National Airborne Operations Center plane launched near Washington shortly before the time of the Pentagon attack (see (9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to one government official, the report indicates that the nation was “deaf, dumb, and blind” for much of the day. (Verton 2003, pp. 150-151) Members of the public in New York City also experience communications problems throughout the day, particularly with cell phones (see (After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

The jet fuel that spilled from Flight 11 when it hit the North Tower (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) has mostly burned up by this time. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which investigates the collapses, will say “The initial jet fuel fires themselves lasted at most a few minutes.” (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 183) Engineering professor Forman Williams will say the jet fuel “burned for maybe 10 minutes.” (Chertoff et al. 3/2005) Flight 11, a Boeing 767, had a fuel capacity of 23,980 gallons, but was only carrying about 10,000 gallons when it hit the WTC. NIST will estimate that less than 1,500 gallons were consumed in a fireball inside the tower and a comparable amount was consumed in the fireballs outside the building. Therefore, approximately 7,000 gallons splashed onto the office furnishings and started fires on various floors. However, after the jet fuel is used up, office fires burn until the building collapses. NIST will calculate that there were about four pounds per square foot of combustibles in the office space, or about 60 tons per floor. Offices in the WTC actually have fewer combustibles than some other similar spaces due to the small number of interior walls and limited bookshelf space. NIST will later find that only three of sixteen perimeter columns it recovers reached a temperature of 250°C and neither of the two core columns it retrieves reached this temperature. NIST will also find that none of the samples it acquires reaches a temperature above 600°C (see August 27, 2003). Although steel does not melt until its temperature is about 1,600°C, it may begin to lose significant strength at over 500°C. (National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 20, 29, 24, 77) The jet fuel will also burn up in the South Tower about 10 minutes after it is hit (see 9:13 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Anthony Whitaker.Anthony Whitaker. [Source: ABC News]Sergeant Alan DeVona, an officer with the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD), calls for the evacuation of the Twin Towers over a PAPD radio channel, and his colleague, Captain Anthony Whitaker, then calls for the evacuation of the entire World Trade Center complex, but their orders are apparently not passed on (Port Authority of New York and New Jersey 11/12/2001, pp. 19 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 5/18/2004 pdf file; Dwyer and Flynn 2005, pp. 78-79; National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 200-202) DeVona, the PAPD patrol sergeant at the WTC, is currently in the lobby of the North Tower, coordinating with emergency agencies as they arrive there. (Devona 3/28/2002, pp. 24 pdf file) Whitaker, the PAPD commanding officer at the WTC, is outside the Twin Towers, looking up at the burning North Tower. (Fink and Mathias 2002, pp. 25; Murphy 2002, pp. 184)
Officers Request Evacuation of the WTC - At 8:59 a.m., DeVona calls for the evacuation of the Twin Towers. “As soon as we’re able,” he says over the PAPD radio channel, “I want to start a building evacuation, Building 1 [i.e. the North Tower] and Building 2 [i.e. the South Tower], till we find out what caused this.” Immediately after DeVona says this, at 9:00 a.m., Whitaker makes a similar request over the same radio channel. “Let’s begin an evacuation of the entire complex,” he says. “All buildings, copy?” (Port Authority of New York and New Jersey 11/12/2001, pp. 19 pdf file; National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 200-201) Unlike DeVona, Whitaker is ordering the evacuation of not just the Twin Towers, “but also the five other buildings throughout the 16-acre complex—the mercantile exchange, offices of major investment banking concerns, and government agencies, including the FBI, the Secret Service, and the CIA,” according to New York Times reporters Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn. (Dwyer and Flynn 2005, pp. 79) Whitaker has decided to evacuate the WTC complex “because of the danger posed by highly flammable jet fuel from Flight 11,” which crashed into the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), and “because of the magnitude of the calamity in the North Tower,” according to the 9/11 Commission. (9/11 Commission 5/18/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 293)
Request Is the Second Time Evacuation Is Called For - Whitaker will later say that his current request is the “second time” he has called for the evacuation of the WTC complex. He will recall making his previous request—for “a full-scale evacuation of the entire complex”—shortly after Flight 11 crashed. (Fink and Mathias 2002, pp. 23-25; Murphy 2002, pp. 180-181, 184-185) Transcripts of PAPD radio transmissions will show that an evacuation was requested at 8:49 a.m., but only for the upper floors of the North Tower (see 8:49 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Port Authority of New York and New Jersey 9/11/2001 pdf file; National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 195) And according to some accounts, that request was made by DeVona, not Whitaker. (Port Authority of New York and New Jersey 11/12/2001, pp. 16 pdf file; Devona 3/28/2002, pp. 24 pdf file; Dwyer and Flynn 2005, pp. 78)
Officer Repeats Order, for the Written Record - At 9:01 a.m., an officer at the PAPD desk in Building 5 of the WTC asks if they should evacuate their building. DeVona instructs the officer to wait, saying, “Stand by on Building 5.” Whitaker then asks the officer at the PAPD desk if they have started a “chrono log” yet. (Port Authority of New York and New Jersey 11/12/2001, pp. 19 pdf file; National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 201) A “chrono” is a written record of what the PAPD is doing. (Murphy 2002, pp. 182) The officer replies, “That’s affirmative.” At 9:02 a.m., Whitaker repeats his previous instruction, apparently to make sure it is officially recorded. He says: “For the chrono, evacuate all buildings in the complex. You copy? All building in the complex.” The officer at the PAPD desk acknowledges the instruction and then radios all PAPD units in the field, and tells them to evacuate “all tenants in the buildings… at the Trade Center.” (Port Authority of New York and New Jersey 9/11/2001 pdf file; Port Authority of New York and New Jersey 11/12/2001, pp. 19 pdf file; National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 202)
Orders Not Passed on to Other Agencies - It is unclear whether DeVona and Whitaker’s orders to evacuate the WTC are passed on. Their orders are given over PAPD radio channel W, which cannot be heard by the deputy fire safety directors in the Twin Towers, who are able to make announcements over the buildings’ public address systems. (WTC News 8/1995 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 293; National Institute of Standards and Technology 9/2005, pp. 200-202) According to the 9/11 Commission, there is “no evidence” that the orders are “communicated to officers in other Port Authority Police commands or to members of other responding agencies.” (9/11 Commission 5/18/2004 pdf file) Despite this, an announcement is made over the public address system in the South Tower, advising workers to evacuate, at 9:02 a.m. (see 9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). Attempts to order workers to evacuate the North Tower are unsuccessful because that building’s public address system was damaged by the plane crash (see (Between 8:47 a.m. and 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Prendergast 5/18/2004)

Ryan Gonsalves.Ryan Gonsalves. [Source: Institute for the Study of War]An officer in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon learns, during a phone call to the FAA, of the hijacking of Flight 11, but the FAA tells him it does not need any help dealing with this, as everything seems to be under control. (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 35)
NMCC Officer Calls FAA for Information - After those in the NMCC learned from television that an aircraft had crashed into the World Trade Center (see (8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Lieutenant Colonel Ryan Gonsalves, the senior operations officer there, began gathering up as much information as he could on the crisis. One of the phone calls he makes is to the FAA operations center at the agency’s Washington, DC, headquarters. The employee at the operations center who answers the call tells Gonsalves that the FAA has had a report of a hijacking on a plane that departed Boston. (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 5/5/2004)
FAA Says It Does Not Need Help - The FAA employee apparently does not connect the plane crashing into the WTC with the hijacked Flight 11, which they claim is still airborne and heading for New York’s JFK International Airport. The entry in the senior operations officer’s log about the call will state: “9:00 NMCC called FAA, briefed of explosion at WTC possibly from aircraft crash. Also, hijacking of American Flight 11 from Boston to LA, now en route to Kennedy.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 462) Furthermore, when Gonsalves asks if the FAA needs any assistance dealing with the hijacking, the operations center employee replies, “No,” and says the pilot “had called in and said everything was under control, and he was going to land at New York shortly.” (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 5/5/2004) The possibility of scrambling fighter jets is not discussed during the phone call. Even though military instructions state that the NMCC is to be “notified by the most expeditious means by the FAA” in response to aircraft hijackings in US airspace (see June 1, 2001), this call, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, appears to be the first time the FAA informs the NMCC of the hijacking of Flight 11. (US Department of Defense 6/1/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 35)

President Bush enters Sandra Kay Daniels’ classroom.President Bush enters Sandra Kay Daniels’ classroom. [Source: Lions Gate Films]President Bush enters the second-grade classroom of teacher Sandra Kay Daniels at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, where he is going to listen to the children reading. (Sammon 2002, pp. 43; Associated Press 8/25/2002) Bush is scheduled to observe a series of reading drills in the class and the demonstration is set to end at 9:15 a.m. (US President 9/2001) He arrived at the school shortly before 9:00 a.m. (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sammon 2002, pp. 41) Since then, he has been told that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and that the plane involved was a commercial airliner (see (Shortly Before 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Lance 8/17/2003; Rove 2010, pp. 249-250; Bohn 2015, pp. 214)
Bush Enters the Classroom Two Minutes Late - After taking a call from National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Bush enters Daniels’ classroom for the reading demonstration two minutes later than planned, at 9:02 a.m. (Sammon 2002, pp. 42-43; Sammon 10/7/2002) About 60 people are in the room, including 16 second graders and Daniels, their teacher. (Plunket 11/2001; Stein 9/11/2011) Reporters who are traveling with the president and members of the local media are assembled at the back of the room. (Associated Press 8/25/2002) Secret Service agents are lying in the trusses above the room. (Bayles 9/10/2002)
Bush Is Introduced to the Class - Gwendolyn Tosé-Rigell, the school principal, accompanies Bush into the room. She says hello to the children and then tells them, “Would you please stand and recognize the president of the United States—President Bush.” After saying, “Good morning,” Bush introduces the children to Secretary of Education Rod Paige and Florida Lieutenant Governor Frank Brogan, who come in behind him and then take their positions at the side of the room. Bush tells the children, “Good to meet you all.” Tosé-Rigell then introduces the president to Daniels. He goes over to the teacher and shakes her hand. After instructing the children to sit down, he tells the class: “It’s really exciting for me to be here. I want to thank Ms. Daniels for being a teacher. I want to thank Gwen for being a principal. And I want to thank you all for practicing reading so much. It’s really important.” Finally, a minute after he entered the classroom, Daniels and the children begin their reading demonstration.
Bush Still Thinks the Crash at the WTC Was an Accident - As he watches the children reading, Bush will start thinking about the statement he will need to make about the crash at the WTC, although he is not particularly troubled about the incident at the moment. “I was concentrating on the [reading] program at this point, thinking about what I was going to say,” he will later recall. He will add: “Obviously, I felt [the crash] was an accident. I was concerned about it, but there were no alarm bells.” (Sammon 2002, pp. 43-49; Sammon 10/7/2002) A few minutes after the reading demonstration begins, Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff, will enter the room, and whisper to the president that a second plane has crashed into the WTC and America is under attack (see (9:07 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but despite hearing this devastating news, Bush will stay in the room and listen to the rest of the demonstration (see (9:08 a.m.-9:13 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sammon 2002, pp. 83-91; Sammon 10/7/2002; Paltrow 3/22/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 38-39)

The ‘nuclear football.’The ‘nuclear football.’ [Source: Jamie Chung / Smithsonian Institute]Douglas Cochrane, Vice President Dick Cheney’s military aide, sees Flight 175 crashing into the World Trade Center live on television and, in response, goes to fetch a special briefcase that holds the codes necessary for the vice president to initiate a nuclear attack. Cochrane left his office on the fifth floor of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House, and went to the White House after he learned a plane had crashed into the WTC (see (8:50 a.m.-9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He is in the White House Situation Room at 9:03 a.m. and sees the second hijacked plane, Flight 175, crashing into the WTC live on television (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). In response, he runs back to his office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to get the “nuclear football” out of the safe. (Aguilar 9/10/2003; 9/11 Commission 4/16/2004) The nuclear football is a briefcase that contains “a variety of secure phone capabilities and options for launching nuclear strikes that [the US president] may authorize,” according to journalist and author Ronald Kessler. As well as the nuclear football that is assigned to the president, a second, identical football is assigned to the vice president, in case the president becomes incapacitated or dies. This is presumably the briefcase Cochrane now fetches. Carrying the football is the responsibility of military aides, such as Cochrane, who accompany the president and the vice president wherever they go. (Associated Press 5/5/2005; Kessler 2014, pp. 7) Once he has the football, Cochrane will return to the White House and see Cheney being evacuated from his office by his Secret Service agents (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He will subsequently join Cheney in the underground tunnel that leads to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House (see Shortly Before 9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 4/16/2004)

John Glenn.John Glenn. [Source: John Glenn Archives, Ohio State University]Despite being a potential target for terrorists, the US Capitol building in Washington is not evacuated when the second World Trade Center tower is hit and it is clear the US is under attack. (CNN 9/11/2002) Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) is in the lobby of his office at the Capitol, and some of his staff members there are watching the television coverage of events in New York. Daschle has already been told about the first plane hitting the WTC, and then sees the second one hitting the South Tower live on television. As Daschle later recalls, he now realizes, “This is an attack.” Former Senator John Glenn (D-OH), who has stopped by to say hello to Daschle, now warns him: “I’m not sure you ought to be here. This would be a logical target.” Indeed, Daschle will later comment, “I’ve heard people observe since that day what a prime target the Capitol building makes for such an air attack—this brilliant white structure perched on its own terraced hill, its dome outlined against the sky, with the broad, sprawling expanse of the Mall leading up to it like a long open runway.” (Daschle and D'Orso 2003, pp. 105-107; Daschle 5/10/2004) A bestselling 1994 novel by Tom Clancy in fact included the plotline of a suicide pilot deliberately crashing a Boeing 747 into the Capitol building (see August 17, 1994). (Buckley 10/2/1994; Pinkerton 5/20/2002) Yet Daschle is able to continue with his scheduled weekly team meeting with his senior staff, where they discuss budget issues. (Daschle and D'Orso 2003, pp. 106-107) Even by the time the Pentagon is hit, more than 25 minutes later, there will still have been no evacuation of the Capitol. (CNN 9/11/2002) The building will eventually be evacuated around 9:48 a.m., reportedly due to fears of a plane approaching it (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Associated Press 8/21/2002; Daschle and D'Orso 2003, pp. 109; Hastert 2004, pp. 8)

Pilots with the District of Columbia Air National Guard at Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, have to take time to reprogram the data disks they will need once airborne, apparently because these disks still contain the data from a training exercise their unit has just returned from. The pilots belong to the 121st Fighter Squadron. (Spencer 2008, pp. 236-237) This is part of the 113th Wing of the DC Air National Guard, which is based at Andrews. (District of Columbia Air National Guard 7/24/2001; GlobalSecurity (.org) 8/21/2005) According to author Lynn Spencer, pilots with the squadron who are preparing to take off in response to the attacks grab their gear and upload “flight data” onto computer disks. These disks “contain all the navigational waypoints, maps, and frequencies that they will need once airborne.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 236) The pilots presumably begin uploading the data after learning of the second crash in New York, and realizing this is a terrorist attack (see (9:04 a.m.) September 11, 2001). They apparently need to take the time to upload the data as a consequence of their unit’s recent involvement in a major training exercise: Three days earlier, members of the 121st Fighter Squadron returned from Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, where they had spent the previous two weeks participating in the “Red Flag” exercise (see Late August-September 8, 2001). (Vogel 4/8/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 122-123, 156) Spencer will describe one of the squadron’s pilots, Heather Penney Garcia, staying busy this morning, “reprogramming flight data disks, which still contain all the Nellis data from the Red Flag training exercise they just returned from,” before taking off at 10:42 a.m. (see 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 82; Spencer 2008, pp. 237-238)

At the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, national operations manager Ben Sliney responds to the second plane hitting the World Trade Center and orders a “first-tier ground stop” to prevent aircraft from departing, arriving at, or flying through the airspace of the FAA’s New York Center. Like many others at the Command Center, Sliney has just seen Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower of the WTC live on CNN. A manager at the center then reports to him the news just received over the Command Center’s teleconference, about the sinister radio transmissions that have been deciphered by the Boston Center, stating “We have some planes” (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to author Lynn Spencer, “The words take on a sickening significance” to Sliney “after what he has just observed.”
Sliney Orders 'First-Tier Ground Stop' - Sliney orders across the room, “Give me a first-tier ground stop!” According to Spencer, “The order stops all aircraft departing, arriving, or flying through New York Center’s airspace, effectively closing down the nation’s busiest skies.” At 9:06 a.m., an advisory is sent out to every air traffic control facility in the nation, and the skies above New York are now officially closed. Numerous flights that are in the air or preparing to take off are given “holding instructions.” Meanwhile, the large screen at the front of the room in the Command Center displays the footage of Flight 175 hitting the WTC as it is shown repeatedly on CNN. According to Spencer: “[I]t becomes sickeningly obvious to all watching that the plane was a large commercial airliner. And it was no accident.” (Marsh 11/2001; Spencer 2008, pp. 80-81) Around this same time, the FAA’s New York Center takes action similar to that of the Command Center, declaring “air traffic control zero,” which prevents all air traffic from departing, arriving at, or traveling through its airspace (see 9:05 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 24) And at around 9:25 a.m., the Command Center will order a “nationwide ground stop,” which prevents any aircraft from taking off in the entire United States (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 33)
Sliney Expands Teleconference - Also in response to the second WTC crash, Sliney decides that he needs to expand the Command Center’s teleconference (see (Between 8:48 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001) so as to include the secretary of transportation. (Spencer 2008, pp. 81) It is expanded to include the secretary of transportation’s office, FAA headquarters, and other agencies. (Bond 12/17/2001) It is unclear whether Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta participates himself, as he is told to go to the White House around this time, and subsequently heads there (see (9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003)
Military Liaison Unable to Help - Sliney also seeks out the military liaison at the Command Center to get more information about what is going on. (Spencer 2008, pp. 81) Presumably this officer is one of the three members of the Air Traffic Services Cell (ATSC) there (see (Between 9:04 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Bond 12/17/2001; Scott 6/10/2002) But, according to Spencer, it is “clear that the lieutenant colonel’s job has nothing to do with NORAD or the air defense interceptors. He is military, but his job duties at the Command Center are focused on military airspace usage. He has no place in the military chain of command that is relevant this morning.” Sliney therefore “can only assume that people much higher up than both of them are dealing with the military response. The fighters must be on their way.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 81)

Andrew Card speaks to President Bush and tells him of the second World Trade Center crash.Andrew Card speaks to President Bush and tells him of the second World Trade Center crash. [Source: Agence France-Presse]Andrew Card, President Bush’s chief of staff, enters the classroom where Bush is participating in a reading demonstration, and tells him about the second crash at the World Trade Center and that America is under attack. (ABC News 9/11/2002; Yurdakul 9/10/2009; BBC 9/9/2011) Bush learned about the first hijacked plane crashing into the WTC when he arrived at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, shortly before 9:00 a.m. (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Associated Press 11/26/2001; Rove 2010, pp. 249-250) He decided, though, to continue with the scheduled event at the school (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Associated Press 8/25/2002) Card was told about the second crash at the WTC by Deborah Loewer, director of the White House Situation Room, while he was in the “staff hold,” a room adjacent to the classroom where the reading demonstration is taking place (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (McGinn 3/16/2013; Priess 2016, pp. 240-241) He decided that he needed to tell the president what had happened and went to pass on the news to Bush. (Yurdakul 9/10/2009; BBC 9/9/2011)
Bush Is Told, 'America Is under Attack' - In the classroom, the children have just finished a spelling and pronunciation drill, and are reaching for their textbooks for the second part of the reading demonstration. Card, who was waiting at the door, takes advantage of the lull. He walks across the room toward Bush, leans down, and whispers in the president’s ear: “A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack.” He then takes a couple of steps back so the president is unable to ask him any questions. (Sammon 10/7/2002; Paltrow 3/22/2004 pdf file; Bohn 2015, pp. 214; Graff 9/9/2016) “There was no time for discussion or anything,” Bush will later comment. Card then takes up a position at the side of the room, next to Florida Lieutenant Governor Frank Brogan. (Sammon 2002, pp. 83-84) Card will explain why he gives such a brief message to Bush about the second crash, saying: “I knew that this was not the place to stand and have a conversation with the president. I just wanted to convey the situation to the president in stark reality and inviting him, then, to find the best chance to excuse himself from the classroom.” (Card 8/12/2002)
Bush Feels 'Outrage' but Continues with the Event - Bush will recall how he feels after hearing Card’s message, writing: “My first reaction was outrage. Someone had dared attack America. They were going to pay.” (Bush 2010, pp. 127) “An expression of grim sobriety spread across the president’s face” after Card speaks to him, journalist and author Bill Sammon will describe. “He raised his chin and nodded almost imperceptibly to signal that he got the message. His eyes darted nervously around the room, as if he didn’t know quite where to focus them.” (Sammon 2002, pp. 84) However, even though it is now clear that America is under attack, the Secret Service takes no action to get Bush out of the classroom. “[N]o agents were there to surround the president and remove him instantly,” author Philip Melanson will note. (Melanson 2005, pp. 330-331) Instead, perhaps 15 or 30 seconds after Card speaks to him, Bush picks up his copy of the textbook and continues listening to the children reading. (Barrs 9/1/2002)
Bush Will Be Criticized for Continuing with the Event - Intelligence expert and author James Bamford will criticize Bush for his lack of response to Card’s devastating information, writing: “[H]aving just been told that the country was under attack, the commander in chief appeared uninterested in further details. He never asked if there had been any additional threats, where the attacks were coming from, how to best protect the country from further attacks, or what was the current status of NORAD or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Nor did he call for an immediate return to Washington. Instead, in the middle of a modern-day Pearl Harbor, he simply turned back to the matter at hand: the day’s photo op.” (Bamford 2002, pp. 633) Bush, though, will explain his lack of response to the 9/11 Commission, telling it that “his instinct was to project calm, not to have the country see an excited reaction at a moment of crisis.” He will say that he “felt he should project strength and calm until he could better understand what was happening.”
Bush Remains in the Classroom for Several More Minutes - Card tells Bush about the second crash at 9:05 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 38) But ABC News reporter Ann Compton, who is in the classroom watching the reading demonstration, recognizes that something serious has happened when she sees Card interrupting the event and makes a note of the time, which her watch shows as 9:07 a.m. (ABC News 9/11/2002) Bush will stay in the classroom for at least seven minutes after Card informs him of the second crash (see (9:08 a.m.-9:13 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:13 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Paltrow 3/22/2004 pdf file)

President Bush and Sandra Kay Daniels read while the media watches.President Bush and Sandra Kay Daniels read while the media watches. [Source: White House / Eric Draper]President Bush stays in a classroom at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, and listens to the students reading a story about a pet goat for five minutes, despite having just been told that the nation is under attack. (Paltrow 3/22/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 38-39) Bush has been in the classroom since 9:02 a.m., listening to 16 second graders demonstrating their reading skills (see 9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Associated Press 8/25/2002; Sammon 10/8/2002) Andrew Card, his chief of staff, has just come into the room, and told him a second plane has crashed into the World Trade Center and America is under attack (see (9:07 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The teacher, Sandra Kay Daniels, now continues the reading demonstration, instructing the children: “At the count of three. Everyone should be on page 163.” The children then read a story called The Pet Goat, which is about a girl’s pet goat that protects the family home from a burglar. (Sammon 2002, pp. 83-85; Sammon 10/7/2002; Staff 7/2/2004; Trachtenberg 7/2/2004) Despite having just heard that the nation is under attack, Bush picks up his copy of the textbook and tries to follow along as the children read. (Barrs 9/1/2002; Sammon 10/7/2002) He will later explain why he stays where he is and listens to the rest of the reading demonstration, rather than leaving the classroom to go and respond to the attacks, writing: “I knew my reaction would be recorded and beamed throughout the world. The nation would be in shock; the president could not be. If I stormed out hastily, it would scare the children and send ripples of panic throughout the country.” (Bush 2010, pp. 127)
Bush Remains Composed - Bush is in fact surprisingly calm for the rest of the reading demonstration. He “maintained his composure and sent an image of calm to the nation,” White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who is in the classroom at this time, will comment. (Fleischer 2005, pp. 140) “He didn’t change his facial expression; he didn’t show what obviously had to be nothing but alarm and concern,” Fleischer will say. (Fleischer 8/8/2002) “It was pretty amazing to me how he could not show any sign of panic,” White House photographer Eric Draper, who is also in the classroom, will comment. (Krueger 9/10/2002) A video recording of the event will show that Bush listens to the children reading The Pet Goat for five minutes. Finally, the children read the last line of the story, saying aloud, “More—to—come.” But even then, Bush will stay in the classroom for at least two more minutes, asking the children questions and talking briefly with the school’s principal (see (9:13 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sammon 10/7/2002; Paltrow 3/22/2004 pdf file)

Major Dean Eckmann.
Major Dean Eckmann. [Source: US Air Force]The two pilots on alert at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia are put on “battle stations,” and get into their fighter jets, ready to take off if required. (Longman 2002, pp. 64; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 24) Being at “battle stations” means the pilots are in their planes’ cockpits with the engines turned off, but ready to start them and taxi out should a scramble order follow. (Filson 2003, pp. 55; Spencer 2008, pp. 27) NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) has ordered this in response to the news of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center and over concerns that the fighters launched from Otis Air National Guard base in response to Flight 11 might run out of fuel (see 9:09 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (9:09 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 460; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 88) According to journalist and author Jere Longman, the two “alert” pilots at Langley are currently “still in the dark about the gravity of the moment.” (Longman 2002, pp. 64-65)
Pilot Wonders If Order Connected to Events in New York - Major Dean Eckmann, one of the pilots on alert, will later recall: “The scramble horn goes off and we get the yellow light, which is our battle stations. So at that point I go running out to… my assigned alert airplane, get suited up, and I get into the cockpit ready to start.” (BBC 9/1/2002) He asks his crew chief, “Do you think this has anything to do with New York?” The chief replies: “I can’t imagine how. The Otis guys could handle that.”
Pilot Told 'This Is Just Precautionary' - Meanwhile, Captain Craig Borgstrom, the unit’s operations manager, is briefing the other alert pilot, Major Brad Derrig, on what he knows. He tells him: “There’s some wacky stuff happening. Some airplane just hit the World Trade Center. I don’t have any more information, but I’m sure this is just precautionary.” Borgstrom then heads out to give Eckmann the same brief, but has to stop to answer a phone call from NEADS (see (Between 9:10 a.m. and 9:23 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 118) Although the 9/11 Commission and other accounts will state that the Langley jets are placed on battle stations at 9:09, a BBC documentary will suggest this happens at 9:21, and Longman will indicate this does not occur until 9:24. (Longman 2002, pp. 64; Scott 6/3/2002; BBC 9/1/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 24) The two alert jets, along with a third jet piloted by Borgstrom, will be ordered to scramble at 9:24 a.m. (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Tyson 4/16/2002; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 16)

The operations manager with the unit at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, that is involved in NORAD’s air defense mission is instructed to prepare to launch three F-16s from the base, even though the unit only keeps two such jets on “alert.” (Tyson 4/16/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 118)
NEADS Calls Langley - Captain Craig Borgstrom is the operations manager of a detachment at Langley from the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing. In the event of an order to scramble the unit’s two alert F-16s, he would serve as the supervisor of flying (SOF), responsible for informing the pilots about their mission. (Spencer 2008, pp. 114, 116) The unit has just received the signal to put its alert jets on “battle stations,” with the pilots in the cockpits but the engines turned off (see (9:09 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Longman 2002, pp. 64; Filson 2003, pp. 55; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 24) After briefing one of the two alert pilots, Borgstrom is called by the crew chief to answer a phone call from someone at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) who wants to speak to him. In an urgent voice, the caller asks Borgstrom, “How many airplanes can you get airborne?” Borgstrom answers, “I have two F-16s at battle stations right now,” but the caller snaps: “That’s not what I asked! How many total aircraft can you launch?” Although Borgstrom is not on alert duty, he is an F-16 pilot. He responds: “Well, the only other pilot here is me—I can fly. I can give you three!” The caller instructs him: “Suit up and go fly! We need all of you at battle stations!” (Longman 2002, pp. 65; Tyson 4/16/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 118)
Third Pilot Means No Supervisor - According to author Lynn Spencer, this order “is almost unthinkable. If [Borgstrom] goes up, there will be no supervisor of flying. During a scramble, it is the SOF’s responsibility to monitor the jets—to work with local controllers to ensure priority handling and to make sure that the pilots are receiving lawful launch orders. The SOF stays in close communication with NEADS to get any and all information about the mission to pass on to his pilots, and assesses weather, airfield status, and spare alert aircraft status in case of an abort by one of the primary fighters. If Borgy flies, there not only will be no SOF, there will be no officer left at the detachment!”
Borgstrom Notifies Others, Checks with Commander - Borgstrom heads out to inform others of the instruction. He speaks to one of the alert pilots, Major Dean Eckmann, telling him, “They want us to launch all planes and all pilots if we get scrambled!” According to Spencer, this request “doesn’t make any sense to Eckmann,” and his initial response is ”What?” But “he’s a military officer and he’ll follow orders,” and points Borgstrom to the unit’s third F-16, which is not kept on alert and is therefore unarmed. Borgstrom instructs the crew chief to arm the fighter’s gun; this will be the only ammunition he has when he takes off. After fetching his harness and helmet, he places a phone call to the commander of the 119th Fighter Wing, at the wing’s home in Fargo, North Dakota. Borgstrom is uncomfortable with the unprecedented situation he is in and feels compelled to notify his immediate higher-ups. He tells the commander: “Sir, they’re launching all three of us. I don’t know what’s going on, but there’s no ops supervision here at all!” The commander knows what has happened in New York from news reports, and so is aware of the situation. He tells Borgstrom: “Go! Our thoughts are with you. Godspeed.” Borgstrom then hangs up the phone and runs to his jet. (Spencer 2008, pp. 118-119) The three Langley jets will receive a scramble order at 9:24 a.m. (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001) and are airborne by 9:30 a.m. (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 16)

Tape recordings of the operations floor at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, New York indicate that both NEADS and NORAD are experiencing significant problems communicating with other agencies:
bullet At 9:12 a.m., a member of staff at NEADS tells another military agency over the phone: “We’re trying to reach the military coordinator. We’re having a difficult time.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)
bullet At 9:22 a.m., a women at NEADS calls what is apparently an American Airlines office in New York, to ask about a report NEADS has received that Flight 11 is still airborne and headed towards Washington (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). After being given a phone number she needs to call for more information, the woman at NEADS replies: “[D]o me a favor and have them call us? We cannot call out for some reason.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)
bullet At around 10:31 a.m., someone from the 1st Fighter Wing, which is the host unit at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, calls NEADS. During the conversation, they mention, “I tried to get a hold of NORAD… and their lines are all busy.” NEADS replies, “Yeah, I can believe it,” and adds, “Right now the circuits are so busy.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)
bullet Around 11:50 a.m., someone with the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing is on the phone to NEADS. They mention, “We’re having a tough time getting hold of you guys.” NEADS responds, “We’re having problems with our phone lines as well.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)
bullet At 11:57 a.m., a member of staff at NEADS complains: “They turned off all the goddamned lines to the outside.… No, local. So you can’t make outside phone calls.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)

President Bush continues to read.President Bush continues to read. [Source: Lions Gate Films]President Bush stays in the classroom where he has been participating in a reading demonstration for at least two minutes after the demonstration has ended, asking the children questions and talking to the school’s principal, before joining his colleagues in another room and responding to the terrorist attacks. Despite being told that a second plane has crashed into the World Trade Center and America is under attack (see (9:07 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Bush has spent the last five minutes listening to some second graders reading a story about a pet goat (see (9:08 a.m.-9:13 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sammon 10/7/2002; Paltrow 3/22/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 38-39)
Bush Stays in the Classroom and Chats with the Students - After the children finish the story, rather than leaving the classroom, Bush stays seated and talks to them. “Hoo! These are great readers,” he says. “Very impressive. Thank you all so very much for showing me your reading skills.” He then says: “I’ll bet they practice, too. Don’t you? Reading more than they watch TV?” Bush, who is “notoriously punctual,” is now “openly stretching out the moment” and “lollygagging as if he didn’t want the session to end,” journalist and author Bill Sammon will comment. He asks the children: “Anybody do that? Read more than you watch TV?” The children raise their hands and he says: “Oh, that’s great. Very good. Very important to practice.” He is “smiling as if he didn’t have a care in the world,” according to Sammon. Bush then turns to the teacher, Sandra Kay Daniels, and in a relaxed manner tells her, “Thanks for having me.” He says to the children, “I’m very impressed with how you read this book.” With the reading demonstration now over, Daniels instructs the children to close their books and place them under their chairs. (Sammon 2002, pp. 89-90)
Bush Says He Will Talk about the Events in New York Later - After he learned that a second plane had crashed into the WTC, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer instructed the president’s advance team to get members of the press out of the classroom as soon as the reading demonstration ended, so they wouldn’t ask Bush about the events in New York before he had enough information to give an appropriate answer. (Fleischer 8/8/2002; Fleischer 2005, pp. 139) Following this instruction, White House assistant press secretary Gordon Johndroe now urges the reporters in the room to leave. He says to them: “Thank you, press. If you could step out the door we came in, please.” However, before exiting, one reporter calls out, “Mr. President, are you aware of the reports of the plane crash in New York?” (Sammon 2002, pp. 90; CBS 9/11/2002) During the reading demonstration, Fleischer held up a message instructing Bush to not say anything yet about the attacks (see (Shortly After 9:07 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sammon 10/7/2002) In line with this instruction, Bush tells the reporter, “I’ll talk about it later.”
Bush Talks to the Principal before Leaving the Room - The president then steps forward and shakes hands with Daniels. “He was taking his good old time,” Sammon will comment. Bush waits until all the members of the press have left the room and then pulls aside Gwendolyn Tosé-Rigell, the school’s principal, to explain to her that his plans have changed. “I’m so sorry, but a tragedy has occurred,” he says. He tells Tosé-Rigell about the second crash at the WTC and says that, instead of giving a talk about education, he will have to give a speech to the nation from the school, to comment on the terrorist attacks (see 9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Sammon 2002, pp. 90-91) He then goes to a holding room next to the classroom, where he will talk on the phone with officials in Washington, DC, and work on the statement that he wants to deliver before leaving the school (see (9:16 a.m.-9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sammon 10/7/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39) Bush was supposed to leave the classroom at 9:15 a.m., according to his original schedule. (US President 9/2001) Despite everything that has happened, he leaves the room close to this time—“shortly before 9:15,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39)

Major Kevin Nasypany, the mission crew commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), instructs a colleague of his to send a tanker plane from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey into military training airspace over the Atlantic Ocean. Ten minutes ago, NEADS contacted McGuire Air Force Base and asked if it had any tankers available to support the fighter jets that took off from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to the hijacking of Flight 11. An officer at McGuire said the base had two KC-10 tankers airborne and these planes were carrying plenty of fuel (see 9:04 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Staffer Is Told to Send a Tanker into Training Airspace - A member of staff at NEADS now discusses what to do with these tankers with Nasypany. “We’ve got McGuire offering two more tankers if we need them,” he says. Nasypany says in response, “Okay” and then instructs, “Get me that KC-10, stick him in 107.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001) “107” is “Whiskey 107,” an area over the Atlantic Ocean, about 70 miles east of Atlantic City, New Jersey, that is frequently used for military training. (CNN 2/7/1997; Wald 2/7/1997; Global Security (.org) 5/7/2011) The staffer asks Nasypany if he wants to send one or both of the tankers into Whiskey 107. Nasypany replies, “One” and adds: “Two KC-10s should do it fine. Put him in 107.”
Both Tankers Are Apparently Sent over the Ocean - Nasypany then tells another person about the tankers and what he intends to do with them. “I got two offers up from McGuire for KC-10s,” he says, adding, “I’m taking one KC-10, putting him in Whiskey 107, gonna hold him there for the Langley guys.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001) The “Langley guys” are the F-16 fighters at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia that have been put on “battle stations” (see (9:09 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and will be scrambled at 9:24 a.m. (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 24, 27) Despite what Nasypany has said, both—not just one—of the KC-10s from McGuire Air Force Base will apparently be directed into Whiskey 107. At 9:25 a.m., Nasypany will tell a colleague he has “two KC-10s” out of McGuire and he is “sticking them in Whiskey 107.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, who saw the second plane hitting the WTC on television while at the Department of Transportation, had been called to the White House (see (8:48 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). When he arrives there, as he later recalls, he sees “People… coming out of the White House, pouring out of the Executive Office Building, running over towards Lafayette Park.” As he enters the White House, Mineta is told he has to be briefed by counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke. He goes to the Situation Room where Clarke talks to him for four or five minutes, briefly informing him of what is going on. Clarke instructs him, “You have to get over to the Presidential Emergency Operation Center to be with the vice president.” The Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) is the bunker located below the White House. As Mineta does not know where it is, a Secret Service agent leads him to it. He will arrive there around 9:20-9:27, according to his own recollections (see (Between 9:20 a.m. and 9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Mineta 3/18/2002; Mineta 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 5/23/2003; Mineta 6/3/2006)

Frank Brogan.Frank Brogan. [Source: Publicity photo]The Secret Service allows President Bush to stay at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, after a reading demonstration he was participating in has ended, even though he could be in danger at the school. (Martin 7/4/2004; Graff 9/9/2016) Bush has just left the classroom where the reading demonstration was held and entered a holding room next to it. There, he talks on the phone with officials in Washington, DC, and works on a statement to the nation that he wants to deliver before leaving the school (see (9:16 a.m.-9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Members of his staff in the holding room apparently have little information about the terrorist attacks beyond what has been reported on television. They are in contact with the White House Situation Room but not the Pentagon and, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, “No one in the traveling party had any information during this time that other aircraft were hijacked or missing.” (Sammon 10/7/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 38-39) All the same, Secret Service agents and other personnel with the president are concerned that Bush could be in danger at the school, and some of them are worried that terrorists might attack the place (see (9:04 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Morell 9/2006 pdf file; Graff 9/9/2016)
Bush's Lead Agent Wants to Evacuate the President - Edward Marinzel, the head of Bush’s Secret Service detail, is “eager to get the president out of the school, to Air Force One, and airborne,” according to Karl Rove, Bush’s senior adviser. (Rove 2010, pp. 251) He therefore approaches Bush and tells him, “We need to get you to Air Force One and get you airborne.” (Graff 9/9/2016) However, his concern does not result in Bush being evacuated from the school right away. The Secret Service will later tell the 9/11 Commission that although its agents “were anxious to move the president to a safer location” while he was in the holding room, they “did not think it imperative for him to run out the door.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39)
Chief of Staff Wants Bush to Give His Speech before Leaving - Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff, suggests that Bush should be allowed to give his speech to the nation from the school before leaving. He says that “we have a whole auditorium full, waiting for the next event”—meaning Bush’s speech—and there is “no imminent threat there in Sarasota,” according to Dave Wilkinson, assistant special agent in charge of the presidential protection division. The Secret Service therefore accepts a compromise and agrees that Bush can give his speech before leaving. (Graff 9/9/2016)
Bush Should Be Taken to the 'Closest Secure Location' - Author Philip Melanson, an expert on the Secret Service, will criticize Bush’s Secret Service detail for failing to get the president away from the school immediately after the second hijacked plane crashed into the World Trade Center, at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). “With an unfolding terrorist attack, the procedure should have been to get the president to the closest secure location as quickly as possible, which clearly is not a school,” he will state. (Martin 7/4/2004) Bush himself will comment on the situation while he is in the holding room, saying, “One thing for certain: I needed to get out of where I was.” (Sammon 2002, pp. 93)
Bush Refuses to Leave - And yet the president refuses to leave the school at this time when he is urged to do so, according to Frank Brogan, lieutenant governor of Florida, who is in the holding room with him. “The Secret Service tried to get the president to return to Air Force One immediately,” Brogan will state, “but he refused, saying he was committed to staying on the ground long enough to write a statement about what was happening, read it to the nation, and lead a moment of silence for the victims.” (Frost 9/18/2003) Bush “was courageously insistent about remaining on the ground to make a statement to the people of America,” Brogan will comment. (Stein 9/11/2011) Bush will give his speech to the nation, which will be broadcast live on television, from the school library at 9:30 a.m. (see 9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). (White House 9/11/2001; Bohn 2015, pp. 215) He will finally leave the school at around 9:35 a.m. (see (9:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39)

Bush in a holding room before giving his speech. Communications director Dan Bartlett points to the TV, and the clock reads 9:25. 
Bush in a holding room before giving his speech. Communications director Dan Bartlett points to the TV, and the clock reads 9:25. [Source: White House]After leaving the Booker Elementary School classroom, President Bush returns to an adjacent holding room where he is briefed by his staff, and gets his first look at the footage of the burning World Trade Center on a television that has been set up there. He instructs his press secretary, Ari Fleischer, to take notes to create an accurate accounting of events. According to some accounts, he speaks on the phone with Vice President Dick Cheney who is at the White House, and they both agree that terrorists are probably behind the attacks. (Sammon 2002, pp. 92-93; Churcher 9/8/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39) But White House adviser Karl Rove, who is also in the holding room, will later tell NBC News that Bush is unable to reach Cheney because the vice president is being moved from his office to the White House bunker at this time. (Rove 9/11/2002) The president speaks with New York Governor George Pataki and FBI Director Robert Mueller. Bush learns from Mueller that the planes that hit the WTC were commercial American aircraft, and at least one of them had apparently been hijacked after leaving Boston. According to some accounts, Bush also speaks with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice around this time. However, Rice herself will later suggest otherwise (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sammon 2002, pp. 93-94; Churcher 9/8/2002; Adair and Hegarty 9/8/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39) Fleischer and White House communications director Dan Bartlett quickly draft a statement for the president to deliver in the school’s library, which Bush rewords, scribbling three sheets of notes. Bush will deliver this at 9:30 a.m. (see 9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). While he works on the statement, Bush briefly glances at the unfolding horror on the television. Turning to his aides in the room, he declares, “We’re at war.” (Sammon 2002, pp. 94; Krueger 9/10/2002) According to the 9/11 Commission, the focus at the present time is on the president’s statement to the nation, and the only decision made by Bush’s traveling party is to return to Washington. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39) Bush will later claim that he makes no major decisions in response to the crisis until after Air Force One takes off at around 9:55 a.m. (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002)

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. 
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. [Source: US Department of Transportation]Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta arrives at the White House bunker—the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC)—containing Vice President Dick Cheney and others. Mineta will tell NBC News that he arrives there at “probably about 9:27,” though he later says to the 9/11 Commission that he arrives at “about 9:20 a.m.” He also later recalls that Cheney is already there when he arrives. (Mineta 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 5/23/2003; Martin 7/4/2004; Mineta 6/3/2006) This supports accounts of Cheney reaching the bunker not long after the second WTC crash (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Questioned about this in 2007 by an activist group, Mineta will confirm that Cheney was “absolutely… already there” in the PEOC when he arrived, and that “This was before American Airlines [Flight 77] went into the Pentagon,” which happens at 9:37. Yet, while admitting there is “conflicting evidence about when the vice president arrived” in the PEOC, the 9/11 Commission will conclude that the “vice president arrived in the room shortly before 10:00, perhaps at 9:58.” Mineta also later claims that when he arrives in the PEOC, Mrs. Lynne Cheney, the wife of the vice president, is already there. Yet the 9/11 Commission will claim she only arrives at the White House at 9:52 (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 40; Mineta 6/26/2007) Once in the PEOC, Mineta establishes open phone lines with his office at the Department of Transportation and with the FAA Operations Center. (Mineta 6/3/2006)

According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS is contacted by the FAA’s Boston Center. Colin Scoggins, Boston Center’s military liaison, tells it: “I just had a report that American 11 is still in the air, and it’s on its way towards—heading towards Washington.… That was another—it was evidently another aircraft that hit the tower. That’s the latest report we have.… I’m going to try to confirm an ID for you, but I would assume he’s somewhere over, uh, either New Jersey or somewhere further south.” The NEADS official asks: “He—American 11 is a hijack?… And he’s heading into Washington?” Scoggins answers yes both times and adds, “This could be a third aircraft.” Somehow Boston Center has been told by FAA headquarters that Flight 11 is still airborne, but the 9/11 Commission will say it hasn’t been able to find where this mistaken information came from.
Scoggins Makes Error - Vanity Fair magazine will later add, “In Boston, it is Colin Scoggins who has made the mistaken call.” Scoggins will explain why he believes he made this error: “With American Airlines, we could never confirm if [Flight 11] was down or not, so that left doubt in our minds.” He says he was monitoring a conference call between FAA centers (see 8:28 a.m. September 11, 2001), “when the word came across—from whom or where isn’t clear—that American 11 was thought to be headed for Washington.” However, Boston Center was never tracking Flight 11 on radar after losing sight of it near Manhattan: “The plane’s course, had it continued south past New York in the direction it was flying before it dipped below radar coverage, would have had it headed on a straight course toward DC. This was all controllers were going on.” Scoggins says, “After talking to a supervisor, I made the call and said [American 11] is still in the air.” (Northeast Air Defense Sector 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; Bronner 8/1/2006)
Myers Refers to Mistaken Report - In the hours following the attacks, acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers will apparently refer to this erroneous report that Flight 11 is still airborne and heading toward Washington, telling the Associated Press that “prior to the crash into the Pentagon, military officials had been notified that another hijacked plane had been heading from the New York area to Washington.” Myers will say “he assumed that hijacked plane was the one that hit the Pentagon, though he couldn’t be sure.” (Fournier 9/11/2001)

Managers from American Airlines and United Airlines are added by the FAA to a teleconference, but they receive no guidance from top government officials on what to do. According to author Lynn Spencer, at some point after the second aircraft hit the World Trade Center, the executives from the two airlines are “quickly on the phone to FAA headquarters and the FAA Command Center.” They are brought into “a conference call that has now been set up with Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta and Vice President Dick Cheney at the White House. The airline executives inform the secretary that they are each dealing with additional aircraft that they are unable to contact. They seek guidance, but there is none.… The nation is under attack, but there is no plan in place, and no guidance is forthcoming from the top as the crisis escalates.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 109) The time when the airline executives join the teleconference is unclear. In Spencer’s account, she places it after United Airlines dispatchers have warned their aircraft to secure their cockpits (see (Shortly After 9:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001), which would mean some time after 9:21. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 37; Spencer 2008, pp. 109) But Spencer also says that, when the executives join the conference, the “president is still reading to children in a Florida school room” (see (9:08 a.m.-9:13 a.m.) September 11, 2001), which would be roughly between 9:05 and 9:15. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 38-39; Spencer 2008, pp. 109) If Norman Mineta is already participating in the teleconference when the airline executives join it, the time would have to be after around 9:20, which is when Mineta later says he arrived at the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House (see (Between 9:20 a.m. and 9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003) And Cheney, who Spencer also says is participating in the teleconference when the executives join it, arrives at the PEOC as late as 9:58, according to the 9/11 Commission, although other accounts indicate he arrives there much earlier than this (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (ABC News 9/14/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 40) According to the Wall Street Journal, American Airlines president Don Carty and United Airlines CEO Jim Goodwin are talking on the phone with Mineta (presumably over the conference call) about five minutes before the FAA shuts down all US airspace (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001), which would mean they are participating in the teleconference by around 9:40 a.m. (US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure 9/21/2001; Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001)

Major Brad Derrig.Major Brad Derrig. [Source: ABC]At Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, the pilots of three F-16s receive the order to scramble (i.e. take off immediately). A Klaxon horn sounds and the status lights in the hangars change from yellow to green, notifying them of the order. (Longman 2002, pp. 65; Filson 2003, pp. 63; Spencer 2008, pp. 141) The fighter jets belong to the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing. The wing has a small detachment at Langley that serves as one of NORAD’s seven “alert” sites around the US, responsible for defending the nation against attack. (Spencer 2008, pp. 114) The jets are already at “battle stations,” with the pilots in the cockpits but the engines off (see (9:09 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 55; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 24; Spencer 2008, pp. 117-119) The scramble order has just been issued by NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 16)
Third Pilot Launched - The unit at Langley keeps two F-16s on “alert”—armed, fueled, and ready to take off within minutes if called upon. (Hebert 2/2002; Kelly 12/5/2003; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17) But NEADS has instructed it to launch as many aircraft as it can (see (Between 9:10 a.m. and 9:23 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and so the unit’s operations manager Captain Craig Borgstrom is also preparing to take off in a third jet. (Spencer 2008, pp. 118-119) Major Dean Eckmann calls the other two pilots, saying, “Quit check,” indicating a radio check. Major Brad Derrig responds, “Two.” Borgstrom replies: “Three. I’m going with you!” This is news to Derrig. According to author Lynn Spencer, Derrig is “stunned.… [N]ot much surprises him, but this does.” Borgstrom joining them as a pilot will mean that, in the middle of this unprecedented crisis, their unit will be left without a commanding officer. (Spencer 2008, pp. 142)
Only Two Jets Fully Armed - The two jets that are kept on alert are fully armed. As Eckmann will later recall, “We can carry M9 heat seekers, Sidewinders for the M7 Sparrow, plus we have an internal 20 mm Vulcan cannon, and we were pretty much armed with all that.” (BBC 9/1/2002) However, Borgstrom’s jet has guns only, and though the six-barrel 20 mm gun can fire 6,000 rounds per minute, it requires close range.
Pilot Unqualified to Lead Three Jets - As the three aircraft taxi out to the runway, Eckmann is concerned that he has not yet qualified as a mission commander—a “four-ship”—and is therefore not authorized to lead more than one fighter jet. He calls the other pilots, saying, “Hey, I’m only a two-ship!” But Derrig, who is a full-time instructor pilot for the Air National Guard, urges him not to worry. He responds: “Press! I’m an instructor,” giving his approval for the flight to operate as a “three-ship” under Eckmann’s lead. (Spencer 2008, pp. 142) The three jets will take off and be airborne by 9:30 a.m. (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 16)

Captain Craig Borgstrom.Captain Craig Borgstrom. [Source: US Air Force / Austin Knox]The three F-16 fighter jets ordered to scramble from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001) take off and, radar data will show, are airborne by 9:30 a.m. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; Tyson 4/16/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27)
Delayed during Launch - Major Dean Eckmann will recall that, after receiving the scramble order, he and the two other pilots have “a pretty quick response time. I believe it was four to five minutes we were airborne from that point.” (BBC 9/1/2002) According to the 1st Air Force’s book about 9/11, the three fighters are “given highest priority over all other air traffic at Langley Air Force Base” as they are launching. (Filson 2003, pp. 63) But, according to author Lynn Spencer, in spite of this, the jets are delayed. As Eckmann is approaching the runway, he calls the control tower for clearance to take off, but the tower controller tells him, “Hold for an air traffic delay.” Air traffic controllers at the FAA’s Washington Center “have not had time to clear airliners out of the way for the northerly heading. Dozens of aircraft at various altitudes fill the jets’ route.” After having to wait two minutes, Eckmann complains: “We’re an active air scramble. We need to go now!” Finally, the tower controller tells him, “Roger, Quit flight is cleared for takeoff, 090 for 60,” meaning the fighters are to fly due east for 60 miles (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Taking Off - The three jets launch 15 seconds apart, with Eckmann in front and the two other jets following. (Spencer 2008, pp. 143-144) Pilot Craig Borgstrom will later recall, “[W]e took off, the three of us, and basically the formation we always brief on alert, we’ll stay in a two- to three-mile trail from the guy in front.” (Filson 2003, pp. 63) According to the BBC, the pilots get a signal over their planes’ transponders, indicating an emergency wartime situation. (BBC 9/1/2002)
Could Reach Washington before Pentagon Attack - F-16s have a maximum speed of 1,500 mph at high altitude, or 915 mph at sea level, so the three fighters could plausibly travel the 130 miles from Langley Air Force Base to Washington in just minutes. (Chant 1987, pp. 404; Associated Press 6/16/2000; Weisman 9/16/2001; Graham 9/16/2001 pdf file; US Air Force 10/2007) Major General Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental US Region, will tell the 9/11 Commission, “I think if those aircraft had gotten airborne immediately, if we were operating under something other than peacetime rules, where they could have turned immediately toward Washington, DC, and gone into burner, it is physically possible that they could have gotten over Washington” before 9:37, when the Pentagon is hit. (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003) Yet according to the 9/11 Commission, the jets are redirected east over the Atlantic Ocean and will be 150 miles from the Pentagon when it is hit (see 9:30 a.m.-9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27)
Conflicting Times - Some early news reports after 9/11 will say the Langley jets take off at the later time of 9:35 a.m. (Washington Post 9/12/2001; CNN 9/14/2001; Graham 9/15/2001; CNN 9/17/2001) But according to Colonel Alan Scott, the former vice commander of the Continental US NORAD Region, though the jets are airborne at 9:30, the report of this does not come down until 9:35, so this fact may account for the conflicting times. (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003)


FAA Administrator Jane Garvey.
FAA Administrator Jane Garvey. [Source: FAA]Time magazine later reports that Jane Garvey, head of the FAA, “almost certainly after getting an okay from the White House, initiate[s] a national ground stop, which forbids takeoffs and requires planes in the air to get down as soon as is reasonable. The order, which has never been implemented since flying was invented in 1903, applie[s] to virtually every single kind of machine that can takeoff—civilian, military, or law enforcement.” Military and law enforcement flights are allowed to resume at 10:31 a.m. (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001) A limited number of military flights—the FAA will not reveal details—are allowed to fly during this ban. (Donnelly 9/14/2001) Garvey later calls it “a national ground stop… that prevented any aircraft from taking off.” (US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure 9/21/2001) Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta later says he was the one to give the order: “As soon as I was aware of the nature and scale of the attack, I called from the White House to order the air traffic system to land all aircraft, immediately and without exception.” (US Congress. Senate. Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation 9/20/2001) According to Mineta, “At approximately 9:45… I gave the FAA the final order for all civil aircraft to land at the nearest airport as soon as possible.” (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003) At the time, 4,452 planes are flying in the continental US. A later account states that Ben Sliney, the FAA’s National Operations Manager, makes the decision without consulting his superiors, like Jane Garvey, first. It would be remarkable if Sliney was the one to make the decision, because 9/11 is Sliney’s first day on the job as National Operations Manager, “the chess master of the air traffic system.” (Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002) When he accepted the job a couple of months earlier, he had asked, “What is the limit of my authority?” The man who had promoted him replied, “Unlimited.” (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002) Yet another account, by Linda Schuessler, manager of tactical operations at the FAA Command Center where Sliney was located, says, “… it was done collaboratively… All these decisions were corporate decisions. It wasn’t one person who said, ‘Yes, this has got to get done.’” (Bond 12/17/2001) About 500 planes land in the next 20 minutes, and then much more urgent orders to land are issued at 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Donnelly 9/14/2001; US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure 9/21/2001; Adcock, Donovan, and Gordon 9/23/2001; Scott 6/3/2002; Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002; Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002; Associated Press 8/21/2002; Adcock 9/10/2002)

Gordon England.Gordon England. [Source: US Department of Defense]Secretary of the Navy Gordon England is unable to communicate with colleagues on the ground while he is being flown from Texas to Washington, DC. England, the Navy’s top civilian official, traveled to Fort Worth, Texas, the previous evening to give a speech to the Navy League. When the terrorist attacks began this morning, he was getting ready to fly back to Washington. Initially, however, the Navy plane he was going to travel on was grounded. (CNN 10/16/2001; Miles 9/7/2006) (The FAA ordered a ground stop to prevent any aircraft taking off across the US at around 9:26 a.m. (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure 9/21/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 25) ) But after a “short period,” England will later recall, the Navy secretary and his companions “got clearance to come back to Washington.” While they are flying to the capital, however, they are unable to communicate with their colleagues on the ground. When he is asked about the flight, England will recall, “Well, of course, we didn’t have any communications.” England and his companions consequently have little knowledge of what the attacks involved. “We didn’t know what was happening,” England will say. “Literally just knew some of the things that happened, knew that something had been hit in Washington, but didn’t know until we were airborne that it had been the Pentagon.” England only learns more about what has happened when his plane lands. “I really didn’t hear much until we got on the ground,” he will say. Why England and those with him have these communication problems is unknown. After arriving in Washington, England joins colleagues of his at the Naval Criminal Investigative Service headquarters, where the Navy has set up a temporary headquarters (see After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (CNN 10/16/2001; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 133) Other senior US government officials also have trouble making and receiving communications while the attacks are taking place this morning, and in the following hours (see (After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). These officials include President Bush (see (9:34 a.m.-9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Secretary of State Colin Powell (see (12:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001), CIA Director George Tenet (see (8:55 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (see (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Barrett 2002 pdf file; Hastert 2004, pp. 6; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006; Tenet 2007, pp. 162)

The National Miilitary Command Center, inside the Pentagon.The National Miilitary Command Center, inside the Pentagon. [Source: US Department of Defense]The National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon finally commences and runs a “significant event conference” in response to the ongoing crisis, 26 minutes after the second plane hit the World Trade Center and officers in the NMCC realized the US was under terrorist attack. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37; Garamone 9/7/2006)
NMCC Directors Decided to Establish Conference - After those in the NMCC saw Flight 175 hitting the WTC live on television at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), Captain Charles Leidig, the acting deputy director for operations (DDO) in the center throughout the attacks, and Commander Pat Gardner, the assistant DDO, talked about the need to convene a significant event conference so there could be a discussion of what actions were to be taken in response. The DDO and the assistant DDO are the two officers responsible for deciding what type of conference the NMCC should convene, and when it should do so. Because there is no specific procedure for dealing with terrorist attacks, Leidig and Gardner decided a significant event conference would most suit their needs, because it would have the flexibility of allowing more people to be added in as required. They also discussed who would need to be on this conference. (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file) But Major Charles Chambers, who is currently on duty in the NMCC, will give a slightly different account. According to Chambers, Staff Sergeant Val Harrison had a phone in her hand and said NORAD was asking for a significant event conference. Leidig had agreed, and so Harrison started establishing the conference.
Conference Begins with Recap of Situation - According to Chambers, “The computer does a mass dialing to connect to those command centers that are always included” in an NMCC conference call, but Harrison also had to manually call the civilian agencies that were going to be included in the conference, such as the FAA, the FBI, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). (US Department of Defense 9/2001) The conference then begins at 9:29 a.m. with a brief recap: Two aircraft have hit the WTC, there is a confirmed hijacking of Flight 11, and fighter jets have been scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). The FAA is asked to provide an update, but its line is silent as the agency has not yet been added to the call (see (9:29 a.m.-12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). A minute later, Leidig states that it has just been confirmed that Flight 11 is still airborne and is heading toward Washington, DC. (This incorrect information apparently arose minutes earlier during a conference call between FAA centers (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001).) (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37) NMCC conference calls are moderated by the DDO. (9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file) Leidig will tell the 9/11 Commission that they are conducted over “a special phone circuit, and it’s classified to be able to pass information, relay information between very senior leadership all the way over to the White House.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004)
NMCC Struggled to Convene Conference - Some officers currently on duty in the NMCC will later complain about circumstances that delayed the establishing of the significant event conference. Chambers will recall that the conference took “much longer than expected to bring up.” (US Department of Defense 9/2001) Gardner will tell the 9/11 Commission that the NMCC had been “struggling to build the conference,” which “didn’t get off as quickly as hoped.” (9/11 Commission 5/5/2004) He will describe his “frustration that it wasn’t brought up more quickly.” (9/11 Commission 5/12/2004)
Other Conference and Connection Problems Delayed Call - Preparations for the conference were disrupted as a result of the CIA convening a National Operations and Intelligence Watch Officer Network (NOIWON) conference call between government agencies in the Washington area, reportedly at sometime between 9:16 a.m. and 9:25 a.m. (see (Between 9:16 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to a 9/11 Commission memorandum, the NMCC had “abandoned its attempt to convene a [significant event conference] so its watch officers could participate in the NOIWON conference.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file) Another factor that slowed attempts to convene the significant event conference was a problem with connecting some agencies to it. According to Chambers, “A couple of the civil agencies couldn’t be reached and others kept dropping off moments after connecting.” He will recall, “We finally decided to proceed without those agencies that were having phone problems.” (US Department of Defense 9/2001) Leidig had announced that the NMCC would have to start without those agencies and add them to the conference later on. (9/11 Commission 5/12/2004)
Call Ends after Five Minutes - The significant event conference ends after only a few minutes, following a recommendation by NORAD that it be reconvened as an “air threat conference.” It is brought to an end at around 9:34 a.m., and will resume as an air threat conference at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m.-9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37)

Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, who is in the White House Situation Room, requests a fighter escort for Air Force One and authorization for the Air Force to shoot down threatening aircraft. According to Clarke’s own account, when they see President Bush starting his short speech from the Booker Elementary School library on television (at about 9:30), he and others in the Situation Room briefly discuss getting the president away from the school to somewhere safer. Clarke then telephones the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, which contains Vice President Dick Cheney and others. He speaks with Army Major Mike Fenzel and instructs him: “Mike, somebody has to tell the president he can’t come right back here [to Washington]. Cheney, Condi, somebody. Secret Service concurs. We do not want them saying where they are going when they take off. Second, when they take off, they should have fighter escort. Three, we need to authorize the Air Force to shoot down any aircraft—including a hijacked passenger flight—that looks like it is threatening to attack and cause large-scale death on the ground. Got it?” Fenzel replies, “Roger that, Dick, get right back to you.” This conversation appears to take place shortly before the Pentagon attack occurs, so roughly around 9:35 or 9:36, as soon afterwards Secret Service Director Brian Stafford slips Clarke a note stating that radar shows an aircraft heading their way (see (9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and then Ralph Seigler, the Situation Room deputy director, reports an explosion having occurred at the Pentagon. (Clarke 2004, pp. 6-7) However, it is unclear how long it takes for Clarke’s requests to be implemented. According to some accounts, fighters do not arrive to accompany Air Force One until an hour or more after it takes off (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Reports are also contradictory as to when shootdown authorization is given for the Air Force. According to Clarke’s own recollections, it is given between around 9:38 and 9:56 (see (9:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Other accounts, including that of the 9/11 Commission, state that it is not given until after 9:56, possibly as late as 10:20 (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Even after they take off, the three fighter pilots who are scrambled from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia are unaware of what is happening regarding the ongoing attacks. The three F-16s were airborne at 9:30 (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But according to the 9/11 Commission, the pilots are “never briefed about the reason” they are scrambled. “The pilots [know] their mission [is] to divert aircraft, but [do] not know that the threat [is coming] from hijacked airliners.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27 and 45) One of the pilots, Captain Craig Borgstrom, will later recall that it is only when they see the burning Pentagon that they start piecing things together: “[A]s you get closer, you start thinking, ‘OK, maybe there’s some type of attack going on.’ You start correlating Washington, DC, with New York. We still have no ‘intel’ brief of what’s going on.… We knew something terribly wrong was going on.” (Filson 2003, pp. 65-66) He says he “had no idea” that the Pentagon and World Trade Center had been hit by suicide terrorists in airplanes. (Tyson 4/16/2002) The Langley pilots will only learn about Flight 93 and a plane crashing in Pennsylvania when they return to their base at around 2:00 p.m. (Longman 2002, pp. 222)

The Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility in Virginia Beach, Virginia, takes control of the three F-16 fighter jets launched from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), even though, according to air traffic controllers at the facility, it should not be communicating with the fighters. (9/11 Commission 12/3/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 12/3/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 1/9/2004) The Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility, known as “Giant Killer,” is the Navy air traffic control agency that handles all over-water military operations. (Spencer 2008, pp. 143; US Navy 2/11/2016) The flight plan for the Langley F-16s puts the fighters into its airspace (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 12/3/2003 pdf file) The facility consequently takes over control of the aircraft from the FAA’s Norfolk Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) (see 9:31 a.m.-9:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 1/9/2004)
Fighters Shouldn't Be Switched to the Facility's Frequency, Controller Will Say - However, according to Senior Chief Petty Officer Darren Clipper, an air traffic controller at the facility, the Norfolk TRACON “should not have switched the flight to Giant Killer frequency, plain and simple.” “Giant Killer should not have been talking to the fighters,” Clipper will state. He will tell the 9/11 Commission that Giant Killer is “not expected to be [one of the] participants in active air scrambles.” If NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) scrambles fighters, he will say, the “onus is on the fighters and NEADS to go where they want to go,” and “it is Giant Killer’s responsibility to stay out of the way.” Based on the scramble order for the Langley fighters (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), Clipper will say, the FAA’s Washington Center and the Norfolk TRACON “should have made sure there was a clear path for the fighters to go direct” to the control of NEADS. (9/11 Commission 12/3/2003 pdf file)
Other Controllers Say the Facility Does Not Handle Scrambled Jets - Petty Officer Matthew Barcus, another controller at Giant Killer, will say a similar thing to what Clipper does. “Most of the time, Giant Killer does not talk to the scrambled aircraft,” he will tell the 9/11 Commission. He will say that a scrambled flight “is usually handed off to [NEADS] by Norfolk” TRACON or the FAA’s Washington Center. (9/11 Commission 12/3/2003 pdf file) And Lieutenant Commander Mary Klug, the operations officer at the facility, will tell the 9/11 Commission that Giant Killer does “not normally control scrambled aircraft.” (9/11 Commission 12/3/2003 pdf file) However, author Lynn Spencer will apparently contradict Clipper, Barcus, and Klug, writing, “Protocol dictates that Giant Killer direct the jets until they reach Washington Center’s airspace, where the FAA controllers take over.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 149)
Pilot Has Poor Experiences of Dealing with the Facility - Major Brad Derrig, the pilot of one of the fighters scrambled from Langley Air Force Base, will tell the 9/11 Commission that his experience with Giant Killer is that the facility is “not very good.” Sometimes, he will say, when Langley fighters have contacted Giant Killer, controllers at the facility “didn’t know who the air defense fighters were.” (9/11 Commission 12/1/2003)

President Bush trying to use a cell phone as his motorcade nears the Sarasota airport.President Bush trying to use a cell phone as his motorcade nears the Sarasota airport. [Source: Associated Press]President Bush has difficulty communicating with colleagues in Washington, DC, while he is being driven to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006) Bush left the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, at around 9:35 a.m. to be driven to Air Force One (see (9:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Langley 12/16/2001; Bloomberg 6/17/2004) While he is in his limousine, he tries calling colleagues at the White House over a secure telephone line, but all the secure lines are down. He ends up trying to call Washington using a borrowed cell phone. Even this doesn’t work, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006) However, he talks with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice around this time, which means he is able to make at least one call (see (Between 9:38 a.m. and 9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Bush 2010, pp. 128) Dave Wilkinson, assistant special agent in charge of the presidential protection division, will later comment on the difficulties Bush and his entourage have communicating with Washington today, saying, “Every kind of communication… was challenged” and the “communications network did not hold up.” (Graff 9/9/2016) Lee Hamilton, vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, will claim that Bush had difficulty communicating with Washington while he was being driven to the airport because members of his entourage all tried calling the capital at the same time after leaving the school, thereby causing a “communication jam.” However, the communication problems will continue after Bush takes off from Sarasota on Air Force One (see (9:54 a.m.-2:50 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006) The president’s difficulty reaching his colleagues in Washington during the drive to the airport is particularly notable since, just a few months ago, Bush instructed Joseph Hagin, his deputy chief of staff for operations, to promptly ensure that he is always able to make phone calls, after he had trouble making a call from his limousine (see Spring 2001). Hagin has apparently not yet fixed the problem. (Ambinder 4/11/2011)

The Secret Service calls for the immediate evacuation of Vice President Dick Cheney from his office after learning that a suspicious aircraft is flying toward the White House. Air traffic controllers informed the Secret Service that an unidentified aircraft was heading toward the White House at around 9:33 a.m. (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but the aircraft then turned away from the White House and so, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, the Secret Service made no attempt to evacuate Cheney from his office at that time. Now, however, the Secret Service learns that the aircraft is “beginning to circle back.” This news prompts it to order “the immediate evacuation of the vice president.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39) Someone at the Secret Service Joint Operations Center at the White House passes on the details of the suspicious aircraft to Special Agent James Scott, the “on-duty shift whip” for Cheney’s Secret Service detail, and the shift agents with him in the West Wing of the White House, where Cheney’s office is located. The agents hear the “broadcast alert” over their radios, telling them, “Unidentified aircraft coming toward the White House.” (United States Secret Service 10/1/2001; United States Secret Service 11/17/2001 pdf file) Some or possibly all of the agents will immediately go into Cheney’s office, and hurry the vice president out of there and down toward the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, a bunker below the White House (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (United States Secret Service 11/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39-40; Gellman 2008, pp. 114-116) However, a number of accounts will indicate that Cheney was evacuated from his office earlier on, at around 9:03 a.m., when the second plane crashed into the World Trade Center (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Safire 9/13/2001; Langley 12/16/2001; ABC News 9/14/2002)

Dick Cheney heading to the the Presidential Emergency Operations Center.Dick Cheney heading to the the Presidential Emergency Operations Center. [Source: David Bohrer / White House]Vice President Dick Cheney is taken by the Secret Service from his office to an underground tunnel leading to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House around this time, according to some accounts, including the 9/11 Commission Report, although other accounts will suggest he was evacuated from his office about half an hour earlier. (United States Secret Service 11/17/2001 pdf file; Thomas 12/30/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39-40; Hayes 2007, pp. 333, 335) Cheney, who is in his office in the West Wing of the White House, is aware of the two plane crashes in New York and realizes this is a terrorist attack. He is now “watching developments on the television,” he will later recall, and starting “to get organized to figure out what to do.” (Cheney 9/16/2001; Hayes 2007, pp. 330-331) The Secret Service was informed that an unidentified aircraft was heading toward the White House at around 9:33 a.m. (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Concern about this aircraft prompted it to order the evacuation of Cheney “just before 9:36,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see (9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39)
Armed Agents Enter Cheney's Office - Four or five Secret Service agents carrying submachine guns therefore enter Cheney’s office, according to Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman. One of them, Special Agent James Scott, pushes through the group of government officials who are gathered around Cheney (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and tells the vice president, “Sir, we need to move you—now.” Cheney nods, indicating that he will respond to the agent in a moment, and then turns to say something to another person. But Scott brings down the flat of his hand sharply on Cheney’s desk and commands, ”Now!” (Gellman 2008, pp. 114-115)
Cheney Propelled out of His Office - Scott then puts his hand on Cheney’s shoulder, grabs the vice president by the back of his belt, and moves him out the door. (Hayes 2007, pp. 333) Cheney will comment that Secret Service agents “practice this, I’m sure, because… whether you wanted to move or not, you’re going. They don’t exactly pick you up and carry you. It’s more like they propel you forward.” (Cheney 11/19/2001) As the Secret Service agents take Cheney through his outer office, the vice president manages to grab the latest issue of The Economist off a table. “I’m always carrying something in case I get hung up someplace,” he will explain. “I’ve got to have something to read.” (Thomas 12/30/2001; Hayes 2007, pp. 333) Carrying the magazine but nothing more, Cheney is hurried down the hallway, past the Oval Office, and down into the basement of the White House. (Cheney 11/19/2001)
Other Officials Left in Cheney's Office - The officials who were with Cheney are left in his office. Mary Matalin, one of Cheney’s senior advisers, will recall: “[S]peechwriter John McConnell and I were left behind in his office, staring at each other as if to say, ‘What are we, chopped liver?’ I think I actually said that.” (National Review 9/8/2011) Cheney will arrive in the underground tunnel leading to the PEOC about a minute after he leaves his office (see (9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). There he will learn that the Pentagon has been hit and talk over the phone with the president (see (9:45 a.m.-9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001) before heading into the PEOC (see (9:58 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 40; Hayes 2007, pp. 335-336) However, according to some accounts, Cheney was evacuated from his office a significant time earlier on, around 9:03 a.m., when the second plane crashed in New York (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Safire 9/13/2001; Langley 12/16/2001; ABC News 9/14/2002; Clarke 2004, pp. 1-2)

Barbara Riggs.Barbara Riggs. [Source: Miles B. Norman / Elmira Star-Gazette]Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke learns of an aircraft heading toward the White House. Clarke, who is in the White House Situation Room, is passed a note by Secret Service Director Brian Stafford, which says, “Radar shows aircraft headed this way.” (Clarke 2004, pp. 7) Around this time, the FAA’s Boston Center is reporting a low-flying aircraft six miles southeast of the White House (see 9:36 a.m. September 11, 2001), so this is presumably the same airliner to which Stafford’s note refers. (Bronner 8/1/2006) Clarke later comments that the Secret Service is aware of the approaching plane because it has “a system that allowed them to see what FAA’s radar was seeing.” (Clarke 2004, pp. 7) Secret Service agent Barbara Riggs, who is in the agency’s Washington headquarters, will later corroborate this, recalling: “Through monitoring radar and activating an open line with the FAA, the Secret Service was able to receive real time information about… hijacked aircraft. We were tracking two hijacked aircraft as they approached Washington, DC, and our assumption was that the White House was a target.” (PCCW Newsletter 3/2006) Stafford informs Clarke that he is going to evacuate the White House complex. (This evacuation appears to take place at around 9:45 (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001).) Those in the Situation Room are then informed that there has been an explosion at the Pentagon, and soon after that a plane has hit it. (Clarke 2004, pp. 7)

According to one account, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is given the go-ahead to authorize Air Force jets to shoot down threatening aircraft around this time. In late 2003, Clarke will recall to ABC News that, minutes earlier, he’d picked up the phone in the White House Situation Room and called Vice President Dick Cheney, who is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House. He’d told him: “We have fighters aloft now. We need authority to shoot down hostile aircraft.” (Koppel 11/29/2003) This call appears to be one Clarke also describes in his 2004 book Against all Enemies, though in that account he will describe having made his request to Army Major Mike Fenzel, who is also in the PEOC, rather than directly to Cheney. According to that account, the call occurred shortly before Clarke learns of the Pentagon attack, so roughly around 9:36 (see (Between 9:30 a.m. and 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Clarke 2004, pp. 6-7) Clarke describes to ABC News, “I thought that would take forever to get that [shootdown] authority.” But, “The vice president got on the phone to the president, got back to me, I would say within two minutes, and said, ‘Do it.’” (Koppel 11/29/2003) If correct, this would mean the president authorizes military fighters to shoot down threatening aircraft at around 9:37-9:38. However, around this time, the president and vice president are reportedly having difficulty communicating with each other, while Bush heads from the Booker Elementary School to the Sarasota airport (see (9:34 a.m.-9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Shenon and Marquis 6/18/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006) Furthermore, this account contradicts several others. In his 2004 book, Clarke will describe being told to inform the Pentagon it has shootdown authorization slightly later, some time between 9:45 and 9:56 (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Clarke 2004, pp. 8) According to journalists Bob Woodward and Bill Sammon, Bush gives the shootdown authorization in a phone call with Cheney shortly after 9:56 (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sammon 2002, pp. 102; Woodward 2002, pp. 17-18; Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002) The 9/11 Commission will say he gives it in a call at 10:18 (see 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 41)

Stacia Rountree.Stacia Rountree. [Source: Vanity Fair]Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, contacts NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and incorrectly notifies it that another aircraft, Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, is a possible hijacking. (9/11 Commission 2004; Bronner 8/1/2006) Boston Center previously called NEADS at 9:27 and said that Delta 1989 was missing (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 5/23/2003)
NEADS Technicians Respond - At NEADS, Stacia Rountree, the ID technician who takes Scoggins’s call, announces to her colleagues: “Delta ‘89, that’s the hijack. They think it’s possible hijack.… South of Cleveland.” The plane’s transponder is still on, and she adds, “We have a code on him now.” Rountree’s team leader, Master Sergeant Maureen Dooley, instructs: “Pick it up! Find it!” The NEADS technicians quickly locate Delta 1989 on their radar screens, just south of Toledo, Ohio, and start alerting other FAA centers to it. (Bronner 8/1/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 177) NEADS mission crew commander Major Kevin Nasypany will be notified by his staff of the suspected hijacking at about 9:41 or 9:42 a.m. (9/11 Commission 1/22/2004 pdf file) NEADS never loses track of Delta 1989. It will follow it on radar as it reverses course over Toledo, heads east, and then lands in Cleveland (see (10:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28) It will order Air National Guard fighter jets from Selfridge and Toledo to intercept the flight (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:01 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 178-179) But it will soon learn that Delta 1989 is not in fact hijacked. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28)
Cleveland Center, Not Boston, Handling Delta 1989 - Although Boston Center notifies NEADS of the suspected hijacking, Delta 1989 is in fact being handled by the FAA’s Cleveland Center. (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 10-12) Cleveland Center air traffic controllers suspected that Delta 1989 had been hijacked at around 9:30 a.m. (see (9:28 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but apparently only informed the FAA’s Command Center, and not NEADS, of this. (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002) To explain why Boston Center alerts NEADS to the flight, the 9/11 Commission will later comment that, “Remembering the ‘we have some planes’ remark” (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), the Boston Center simply “guessed that Delta 1989 might also be hijacked.”
Similar to First Two Hijacked Planes - Like Flights 11 and 175, the two aircraft that have crashed into the World Trade Center (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), Delta 1989 took off from Boston’s Logan Airport. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27-28) According to the New York Times, it left there at about the same time as Flights 11 and 175 did, meaning around 8:00 to 8:15 a.m. (Wald and van Natta 10/18/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 32) Like those two aircraft, it is a Boeing 767. (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27-28) But, unlike those flights, its transponder has not been turned off, and so it is still transmitting a beacon code. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Bronner 8/1/2006) It is unclear what Delta 1989’s intended destination is. According to some accounts, like Flights 11 and 175 were, it is bound for Los Angeles. (Singer 9/11/2001; Wald and van Natta 10/18/2001; Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; Velez 9/24/2007; Spencer 2008, pp. 167) Other accounts will say that its destination is Las Vegas. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Bronner 8/1/2006) Personnel at NEADS are apparently informed that Las Vegas is the intended destination. Around this time, one member of staff there tells her colleagues that the flight is “supposed to go to Vegas.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)
One of Numerous Incorrect Reports - The 9/11 Commission will comment: “During the course of the morning, there were multiple erroneous reports of hijacked aircraft (see (9:09 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001). The report of American 11 heading south was the first (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001); Delta 1989 was the second.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28)

NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) issues coordinates to the three F-16 fighter jets launched from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), sending them to Washington. However, the fighters head off in the wrong direction, reportedly because NEADS has accidentally given them incorrect coordinates. (Spencer 2008, pp. 180-181)
Communications Problems - The Langley AFB jets have already mistakenly been sent east over the ocean (see 9:30 a.m.-9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). At 9:36 a.m., the NEADS mission crew commander ordered that they be directed toward the White House (see 9:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27) However, weapons director Master Sergeant Steve Citino has been having difficulty communicating with the jets. According to author Lynn Spencer, “NEADS radio coverage east of Washington is poor, and the noise level on the [NEADS] operations floor has only been exacerbating the problem.”
NEADS Issues Wrong Coordinates - Citino now forwards coordinates to the Langley jets, telling them to establish a combat air patrol over Washington. (Spencer 2008, pp. 180) Apparently, it is Tech. Sgt. Ronald Belluscio, a senior weapons director technician, who contacts the jets at this time, although he will claim he orders them specifically toward the Pentagon. He will say: “I jumped on a frequency, per the senior director, and was told to ask the Langley birds to vector over the Pentagon. I didn’t know it had been hit.” (Filson 2003, pp. 65) However, Citino has apparently given out the wrong coordinates. According to Spencer, “He inadvertently transposed two of the coordinates, and the F-16s turned onto a flight path that would take them 60 miles southwest of Washington.”
Aircraft Instrument Malfunctioning - What is more, as soon as the Langley jets turn onto their new heading, lead pilot Major Dean Eckmann has a problem with his aircraft. The bearing pointer on its horizontal situation indicator (HSI)—the instrument that shows a plane’s position relative to its intended destination—freezes. Eckmann therefore has to get the heading from one of the other Langley pilots, Captain Craig Borgstrom. Shortly after sending the three jets in the wrong direction, Citino will contact them again with the correct coordinates (see (Between 9:41 a.m. and 9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 180-181)

A weapons director at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) notices that the three F-16s launched from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) are going in the wrong direction, and so he contacts them to get them on the correct course.
Citino Thinks FAA Has Redirected Fighters - The weapons director, Master Sergeant Steve Citino, recently forwarded coordinates to the jets, sending them to Washington, DC. However, according to author Lynn Spencer, he inadvertently gave them incorrect coordinates (see 9:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). Now, shortly afterwards, Citino notices that the jets are going in the wrong direction. However, he does not realize his mistake with the coordinates, and instead assumes that the FAA’s Washington Center has redirected the jets so as to avoid air traffic. (Spencer 2008, pp. 180-181) He makes this assumption even though NEADS recently declared AFIO (Authorization for Interceptor Operations) for Washington airspace, thereby giving the military authority over the FAA for that airspace (see 9:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 113, 150)
Fighters Given Correct Destination - Citino radios one of the three Langley AFB pilots, Captain Craig Borgstrom, and gives him the correct course heading. Citino adds: “Just to reiterate. You are under AFIO control! Take all direction from Huntress!” (“Huntress” is the call sign for NEADS.) Borgstrom acknowledges the order, but mentions that the new heading conflicts with the coordinates he has just been given. He says, “We’re showing a CAP [combat air patrol] point of 250 [heading], 20 miles.” Citino snaps back at him: “Negative! That’s incorrect! The CAP is 312, 20 miles!” Borgstrom then relays the correct coordinates to his lead pilot, Major Dean Eckmann, and the three Langley jets set off toward their new destination. (Spencer 2008, pp. 181)

Bush boards Air Force One in Sarasota, Florida, waving to people below as if the day were like any other.Bush boards Air Force One in Sarasota, Florida, waving to people below as if the day were like any other. [Source: Agence France-Presse]President Bush and his entourage arrive at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, where Air Force One is waiting, and Bush hurriedly gets onto his plane. (BBC 9/1/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39) Bush left the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, at around 9:35 a.m. to be driven to Air Force One (see (9:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Langley 12/16/2001; Bloomberg 6/17/2004)
Limousine Stops Right by Air Force One - His limousine now speeds past the airport’s main entrance, goes north, and veers down a tiny road leading to the airport, ignoring a sign that states, “No Airport Access.” It then passes through a small, unmarked gate in a chain-link fence and races across the tarmac toward Air Force One. It swings around the plane’s tail and stops behind the left wing. (Sammon 2002, pp. 98-99) The motorcade arrives at the airport between 9:42 a.m. and 9:45 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39) According to journalist and author Bill Sammon, Bush’s limousine reaches the airport at 9:43 a.m. (Sammon 2002, pp. 99; Sammon 10/8/2002)
Plane's Engines Are Already Running - Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, started two of the plane’s four engines while Bush was on his way to the airport. White House chief of staff Andrew Card will later comment that he is “struck that the engines on Air Force One [are] running” when the motorcade reaches the airport, since this is “normally a protocol no-no.” (Tillman 9/11/2011; Graff 9/9/2016) “Usually you don’t start the engine until the president is already on the plane,” he will say. (BBC 9/9/2011)
President Usually Takes His Time Saying Goodbye - Normally, when his motorcade arrives at Air Force One, the president “emerges from the limo, waves to the crowd behind barricades, thanks hosts who have accompanied him, and shakes hands with the airport personnel and guests who’ve come to see him off,” Karl Rove, Bush’s senior adviser, will write. The president then “walks alone up the steps to Air Force One at a leisurely pace, stopping to wave again to the people on the tarmac.” The other people in the motorcade usually only start to get on board once he is on the plane. (Rove 2010, pp. 252)
Bush Hurries up the Stairs onto Air Force One - Today, though, the Secret Service wants to get the president onto Air Force One as quickly as possible. (Graff 9/9/2016) Bush therefore walks briskly up the long mobile staircase behind the left wing. (Sammon 2002, pp. 99; Walsh 2003, pp. 207) He is “just trucking up the stairs” without his usual “Texas swagger,” Tillman will describe. (Graff 9/9/2016) He does find time, however, to pause at the doorway to wave to photographers before entering the plane. (Martin 7/4/2004) Once he is on board, he goes to his private cabin near the front of the aircraft. A Secret Service agent tells him, “Mr. President, we need you to get seated as soon as possible.” Bush then straps himself in, ready for takeoff. (Woodward 2002, pp. 16)
Chief of Staff Is Frustrated by the Passengers Delaying Takeoff - Meanwhile, everyone who is traveling on Air Force One apart from Bush and his senior staff boards the plane through its back stairs. But before doing so they are subjected to a strict security check (see (9:45 a.m.-9:53 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sammon 2002, pp. 99; Graff 9/9/2016) Card becomes frustrated that takeoff is being delayed due to the time it takes to get so many passengers onto the plane. (Card 8/16/2002; Adair and Hegarty 9/8/2002) Air Force One will take off unusually quickly once all the passengers are on board. (Keil 9/2004; Graff 9/9/2016) It usually takes another 15 minutes after everyone has boarded for the passengers to get seated, the doors to be closed, and the engines to power up, according to Rove. (Rove 2010, pp. 252) But today Air Force One will take off about 10 minutes after Bush’s motorcade reaches the airport, at around 9:55 a.m. (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39)

The White House mess.The White House mess. [Source: Unknown]People at the White House are ordered to go to the “mess,” the senior staff dining room. David Kuo, a special assistant to the president, and John Bridgeland, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, will later recall being ordered to go downstairs to the mess by armed Secret Service agents. Meanwhile, Anita McBride, the acting director of White House personnel, is instructed by members of the Secret Service to “go through West Wing offices and tell everyone to ‘get out’ and stay put” in the mess. (Kuo 2006, pp. 185; McBride 9/9/2011; Bridgeland 2012, pp. 3) Mary Matalin, a counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney, will recall, “Everyone still remaining in the West Wing was shepherded to the White House mess, where we were to await further instructions.” (Carville and Matalin 2014, pp. 138)
Mess Is a 'Tiny, Unsecure' Facility - The White House mess is an exclusive dining facility run by the US Navy, located in the basement of the West Wing, just under the Oval Office. (Ingle 12/1/2001; Geraghty 10/8/2013) Bridgeland will recall thinking “how odd it was” for White House staffers to all be evacuated to this “tiny, unsecure” facility. (Bridgeland 2012, pp. 4) People in the mess are watching television or just waiting. (Estes 8/29/2002) Kuo will describe: “All the tables had been tossed onto their sides to make room for as many people as possible. Fifty people stood there, shocked, quiet, confused.” (Kuo 2006, pp. 185)
People Ordered to the Mess after the Pentagon Attack - The exact time at which staffers are ordered to go to the mess is unclear. Matalin will recall being told to go there “moments” after she sees Cheney being evacuated from his office, which would be some time shortly after 9:36 a.m. (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (National Review 9/8/2011; Carville and Matalin 2014, pp. 137-138) Bridgeland and Kuo will recall being ordered to go there shortly after they learn the Pentagon has been hit, which would be some time after 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon attack occurred (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Kuo 2006, pp. 184-185; Bridgeland 2012, pp. 3)
People in the Mess Ordered to Leave the Building - People will only spend a short time in the mess before they are told to get out of the building. The Secret Service will reportedly order them to evacuate the White House at 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Associated Press 2001 pdf file; Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002) Bridgeland will describe: “[A]n alarmed police officer came into the White House mess and instructed us to leave. Another officer outside was receiving the latest communications by wire (apparently alerted that United Airlines Flight 93 was headed toward the White House or US Capitol building) and commanded us, ‘Take off your shoes and run as fast as you can.’” (Bridgeland 2012, pp. 4) Matalin will recall that the order she hears, which is delivered “in a weirdly calm manner,” is: “Run for your lives. A plane is going to hit the White House.” (Carville and Matalin 2014, pp. 138)

Shortly after boarding Air Force One, President Bush speaks by phone with Vice President Dick Cheney for approximately 10 minutes. (Hayes 2007, pp. 335-336) According to the 9/11 Commission, Cheney had reached the underground tunnel leading to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House at 9:37 a.m. (see (9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He and the Secret Service agents escorting him had paused in an area of the tunnel with a secure phone and a television. He’d then asked to speak to the president, but it had taken a while for his call to be connected. However, elsewhere in its final report, the Commission will indicate that Bush, not Cheney, makes this phone call, saying that after he’d boarded Air Force One, the president “called the vice president.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39-40) Cheney will later recall making “one phone call [to the president] from the tunnel. And basically I called to let him know that we [at the White House] were a target and I strongly urged him not to return to Washington right away, that he delay his return until we could find out what the hell was going on.” (Thomas 12/30/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 464) He will recall, “What I was immediately thinking about was sort of continuity of government.” (Hayes 2007, pp. 335-336) According to notes made by White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who is with the president on Air Force One, at about 9:45 a.m. Bush tells Cheney: “Sounds like we have a minor war going on here, I heard about the Pentagon. We’re at war… somebody’s going to pay.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39 and 463; Fleischer 2005, pp. 141) Bush instructs Cheney to call the congressional leadership and give them a briefing. (Lemann 9/25/2001) (However, around this time, Capitol Hill is being evacuated (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001).) The 9/11 Commission will state that, according to “contemporaneous notes,” at 9:55 a.m. “the vice president [is] still on the phone with the president advising that three planes [are] missing and one had hit the Pentagon.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 40) In his book Against All Enemies, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will indicate that it is around the time this call occurs that he is informed that the president has authorized the military to shoot down hostile aircraft (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Clarke 2004, pp. 8) Yet various accounts of Bush and Cheney’s call will make no mention of the president and vice president discussing any orders or making any decisions. (Sammon 2002, pp. 101; Woodward 2002, pp. 16; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39-40; Hayes 2007, pp. 335-336) Their call apparently ends around 9:56 a.m.-9:57 a.m., as, according to the 9/11 Commission, Cheney enters the PEOC “shortly before 10:00, perhaps at 9:58.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 40) (However, some accounts will indicate that he enters the PEOC significantly earlier than this (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001).) After hanging up, Bush turns to the men who are with him at his desk: his chief of staff Andrew Card, his senior adviser Karl Rove, military aide Lieutenant Colonel Tom Gould, and Fleischer. He tells them: “That’s what we’re paid for, boys. We’re gonna take care of this. When we find out who did this, they’re not gonna like me as president. Somebody’s going to pay.” (Sammon 2002, pp. 101; Woodward 2002, pp. 17) According to some accounts, shortly after finishing this call, the president and vice president will be back on the phone with each other (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between 10:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s office, and acting Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard 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 6/17/2004) Rumsfeld is apparently outside the Pentagon looking at the Flight 77 crash site (see Between 9:38 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. September 11, 2001), though counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke suggests Rumsfeld is elsewhere in the Pentagon for much of the time (see (Between 9:38 a.m. and 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Myers’ whereabouts in the period after the Pentagon crash have not been fully explained (see (Between 9:55 a.m. and 10:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Rumsfeld and Myers do not enter the NMCC until about 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Senator John Kerry looks up to the sky as he and others evacuate.Senator John Kerry looks up to the sky as he and others evacuate. [Source: CBC]The Capitol building in Washington, DC is evacuated. (Associated Press 8/21/2002) It is the first time in US history this has ever happened. (Zuckman 9/12/2001; Mitchell and Seelye 9/12/2001) Both the Senate and the House are in session at the time. (CNN 8/17/2002) Capitol Police officers go through the building and order people to leave at once. (Lancaster and Dewar 9/12/2001; CNN 9/11/2002)
Reports of Plane Approaching the Capitol - The evacuation appears to be in response to reports of a plane heading toward the Capitol. (Associated Press 9/11/2001; CNN 8/17/2002; Bamford 2004, pp. 80-81) According to CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash, “the Capitol Police were hearing, in their radio, that there was a plane—another plane in the air, likely headed for the Capitol.” (CNN 9/11/2006) When a Capitol Police officer instructs Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) to leave the building, he says: “We have word that an airplane is heading this way and could hit the building anytime. You need to evacuate.”
'Nothing Orderly' about Evacuation - However, there are problems with the evacuation. According to Daschle, “The fire alarm system, which was working in the nearby Senate office buildings, was never activated in the Capitol, so there were people who weren’t aware that an evacuation was taking place.” Also, some individuals are reluctant to leave. (Daschle and D'Orso 2003, pp. 109-110) Rep. Bob Stump (R-AZ) will recall: “They tried to throw me out three times, but they didn’t succeed. I figured I was safer in the building than out on the street.” (Associated Press 9/11/2001) Daschle will recall that there is “nothing orderly” about the evacuation. Outside the building “No one knew what to do or where to go. People congregated on the grass and in the parking lot. Senators and staff were mixed in with tourists, all staring up at the sky, wondering what might be headed our way.” (Daschle and D'Orso 2003, pp. 110) CNN will report, “[S]ome of the most high ranking officials in the United States government were just kind of scattered around this area without a gathering point.” (CNN 9/11/2006)
Sergeant at Arms Concerned over Poor Security - Al Lenhardt, the Senate’s sergeant at arms, will later say how alarmed he was “to see members of Congress and their staffs mixed in with visitors and passersby wandering in the open around the Capitol grounds. One of the tactics that terrorists have been known to employ is to create a diversion to move their intended target to the area where the actual attack will take place. Al imagined a bomb or gunfire erupting right there on the lawn outside the Capitol.” (Daschle and D'Orso 2003, pp. 111) Eventually, many of the members of Congress go to the Capitol Police headquarters, which then serves as their command center for the day (see (9:55 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001 and (10:00 a.m.-6:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (CNN 9/11/2002; Daschle and D'Orso 2003, pp. 112)

Candy Crowley.Candy Crowley. [Source: CNN]After the Capitol building in Washington is evacuated (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001), those located around it—including members of Congress—experience serious problems communicating by phone and other means. CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley will describe: “Nobody knew anything.… Nobody had any way to communicate.… The cell phones went down. Eventually… the personal BlackBerrys that bring your e-mail to you, they went down. And inside the Capitol, remember [there are] still switchboard operators there. Inside the Capitol, the phones worked only on and off.” According to Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), there is “no communication whatsoever going on.” (CNN 9/11/2002) Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) will recall: “People were punching their cell phones to no avail. The lines were jammed.” (Daschle and D'Orso 2003, pp. 110) Consequently, for more than an hour Daschle’s own staff is unable to establish where he is. (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002) House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) was experiencing communications problems even before he was evacuated from the Capitol, while trying to contact Vice President Dick Cheney by phone (see (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Hastert 2004, pp. 6; Hayes 2007, pp. 336) Whether others at the Capitol also experienced similar difficulties prior to the evacuation is unclear. What causes these problems is uncertain. However, numerous other people in the Washington area, including senior government officials, also experience serious communications problems throughout the day (see (After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers wants clear rules of engagement for military fighter pilots, according to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke. In his book Against All Enemies, Clarke will describe hearing that the president has authorized the military to shoot down hostile aircraft some time between about 9:45 and 9:56 (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). From the White House Situation Room, where he is located, he then gets the attention of those on the video conference screen for the Pentagon, and informs them of this decision. Myers asks, “Okay, shoot down aircraft, but what are the ROE [rules of engagement]?” As Clarke will comment, “It was one thing to say it’s okay to shoot down a hijacked aircraft threatening to kill people on the ground, but we needed to give pilots more specific guidelines than that.” Clarke asks his colleague Franklin Miller and Marine Colonel Tom Greenwood—a member of Miller’s staff—to ensure that the Defense Department has “an answer to that question quickly.” He tells them, “I don’t want them delaying while they lawyer that to death.” Clarke recalls that he is then informed: “CNN says car bomb at the State Department. Fire on the Mall near the Capitol.” (Clarke 2004, pp. 8-9) It is therefore unclear exactly what time he is describing, as CNN first makes the incorrect report of the State Department car bomb at 10:33, but it reports the fire on the Mall at 9:45. (CNN 9/11/2001; CNN 9/11/2001; Miller 8/26/2002) Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will tell the 9/11 Commission that he works on fashioning the rules of engagement for fighter pilots, in collaboration with Myers, after he enters the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) at around 10:30 (see (10:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 3/23/2004) Yet he does not complete and issue these rules until 1:00 p.m. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 465; Cockburn 2007, pp. 7; Myers 2009, pp. 157-158)

Controllers at the FAA’s Washington Center.Controllers at the FAA’s Washington Center. [Source: FAA]The three F-16 fighter jets launched from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) that have been directed toward Washington request and are given permission to fly at high altitude over the city. After the Langley AFB pilots are given the correct coordinates they are to head to (see (Between 9:41 a.m. and 9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001), at 9:51 lead pilot Major Dean Eckmann looks on his radar screen and sees that the area where he has been directed to set up a combat air patrol is filled with air traffic. He therefore contacts the FAA’s Washington Center and tells the controller, “I need 3,000 feet of altitude in a 20-mile ring around DC.” When the controller asks the reason, Eckmann replies, “Higher headquarters’ request!” The controller gives him an altitude range of 25,000 to 27,000 feet. Eckmann radios the other two Langley pilots and gives them their altitude assignments: he’ll fly at 25,000 feet, Major Brad Derrig will be at 26,000 feet, and Captain Craig Borgstrom at 27,000 feet. According to author Lynn Spencer, the jets then head toward Washington at 700 miles per hour, just under the speed of sound. (Spencer 2008, pp. 180-182) However, Spencer’s account of this incident conflicts with the 1st Air Force’s book about the 9/11 attacks. According to that account, several minutes before Eckmann reportedly asks for altitude clearance—at around 9:45 a.m.—he had been directed to drop to lower altitude to check out two unidentified aircraft, and was then told to inspect the Pentagon (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 66)

Lynne Cheney.Lynne Cheney. [Source: David Bohrer / White House]Lynne Cheney, the wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, enters the White House, but the Secret Service agent who accompanies her is initially confused about where he should take her. (Libby 11/14/2001; United States Secret Service 11/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 40) Cheney has been driven to the White House by her Secret Service agents after they evacuated her from a hair salon in Washington, DC (see (Shortly After 9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Cheney and her agents are met at the White House by a senior Secret Service agent—an assistant special agent in charge—who then accompanies Cheney through the building. (United States Secret Service 10/1/2001) Cheney and the agent run into I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the vice president’s chief of staff, who is on his way to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), a bunker below the East Wing of the White House. Libby will later recall that the Secret Service agent with Cheney appears uncertain about where he should be going. “The agent was a little confused about where [Cheney] should be,” he will say. “[H]e somehow had the impression that she was supposed to be in the mess area [i.e. the cafeteria in the West Wing].” Libby tells the agent, “I think we’re—Mrs. Cheney and I—are supposed to be in the PEOC.” He will comment, “I’m aware that [Cheney] would be safer if we could get her down to the PEOC.” But, according to Libby, the agent thinks “we were supposed to be somewhere else.” The agent has a wire in his ear; Libby will comment, “I think he was getting some instructions off of that.” Finally, after “probably a minute or so,” Libby will say, the problem of where to take Cheney “got clarified” and the agent receives “the proper instruction.” Cheney, the Secret Service agent, and Libby then head toward the PEOC. (Libby 11/14/2001) The three of them go downstairs and Cheney will then join the vice president in the tunnel leading to the PEOC (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Cheney 11/9/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 40)

NORAD’s Continental United States Region (CONR) is told it will not need to provide fighter jets to escort Air Force One when the plane takes off from Sarasota, Florida. (Arnold 11/19/2001) While President Bush is visiting the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Air Force One is on the ground at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. (Paltrow 3/22/2004 pdf file; Tillman 2/29/2012 pdf file) Major General Larry Arnold, the CONR commander, will later recall that around this time, CONR “knew that the president was down in Florida” but it “didn’t know what he was going to do.” “Eventually,” he will say, “we asked the question: If he takes off, do we need to escort?” Arnold will not state who CONR, which is based at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, asks this question to. But the person or agency says no. CONR will only be asked to provide fighters to escort Air Force One after 9:54 a.m., when the plane takes off from Sarasota (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). “[T]he airplane took off and we got immediate word that the Secret Service had asked us to escort [it],” Arnold will recall. (Arnold 11/19/2001) He will say that CONR “received tasking from the Secret Service through the Joint [Chiefs of] Staff and NORAD to follow the president and protect him.” (Code One Magazine 1/2002) In Florida, NORAD has two fighters on alert at Homestead Air Reserve Base and two fighters on alert at Tyndall Air Force Base. (McKenna 12/1999; Martin 7/4/2004) However, its Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS) will scramble fighters from Ellington Field in Texas to escort Air Force One (see (After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Schmidt 9/19/2001; Rosenfeld and Gross 2007, pp. 40) Furthermore, these fighters will only reach Air Force One at around 11:29 a.m., more than 90 minutes after the plane takes off (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Martin 7/4/2004)

President Bush on the phone during the flight from Sarasota to Barksdale Air Force Base.President Bush on the phone during the flight from Sarasota to Barksdale Air Force Base. [Source: White House]President Bush and his staff have difficulty communicating with colleagues in Washington, DC, while they are traveling on Air Force One, after the plane takes off from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Donnelly 9/22/2002; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006; Graff 9/9/2016) Bush had problems calling his colleagues at the White House while he was being driven to the airport, after leaving the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, at around 9:35 a.m. (see (9:34 a.m.-9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006)
Air Force One Should Have 'Outstanding Communications' - He ought to have more success after he boards Air Force One, at around 9:45 a.m. (see (9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001), since the plane has state-of-the-art communications systems. (Inside the White House 9/1998; Hardesty 2003, pp. 167) Its capabilities are “just as good as the communications from the Oval Office in terms of [the president] being able to call, in a secure way, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, the generals that might have to fight a war, or the vice president or… the national security adviser,” White House chief of staff Andrew Card will later comment. The plane has the “capacity to have… outstanding communications,” he will say. (Card 8/12/2002)
Communications Systems Are 'All Jammed' - However, Bush and his staff have great difficulty sending and receiving information about the day’s events while they are on Air Force One. (Donnelly 9/22/2002) The “multiple [communications] systems—commercial and terrestrial systems” on the plane are “all jammed,” according to Master Sergeant Dana Lark, superintendent of communications. Lark actually wonders, “Did someone sabotage our comms?” (Graff 9/9/2016)
Bush Has Problems Communicating with Vice President Cheney - Bush finds that his calls are successful only intermittently. (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006) Attempts are made to establish an open line with Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who are at the White House, but the line keeps dropping. (Bush 2010, pp. 131) “It was absolutely stunning, standing next to the president as he was talking to the vice president, then holding the phone off his ear because it cut off,” White House press secretary Ari Fleischer will comment. (Graff 9/9/2016) At one point, Bush pounds his desk in frustration and shouts: “This is inexcusable. Get me the vice president.” (Kohn 9/11/2002) He also has difficulty reaching his wife, Laura, since the line keeps dropping when he tries to call her. He eventually talks to her shortly before 11:45 a.m., when Air Force One is approaching Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana (see (Shortly Before 11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Bush 2010, pp. 132)
Officials in Washington Are Unable to Call the Plane - Some key individuals in Washington are unsuccessful when they try calling Air Force One. Scott Heyer, a communications officer in the White House Situation Room, is unable to contact the plane while it is flying from Sarasota to Barksdale Air Force Base, even when he tries calling its satellite phone (see 9:54 a.m.-11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 3/16/2004) And White House counselor Karen Hughes is unable to reach the president when she tries calling him while he is airborne (see (Between 10:31 a.m. and 11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002; NBC 4/4/2004)
Bush Has His First Teleconference Hours after Leaving Sarasota - As a result of his problems communicating from the plane, Bush will hold his first teleconference with his principal advisers at around 3:15 p.m. (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001)—more than five hours after he takes off from Sarasota—after he arrives at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, where there is sophisticated communications equipment (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001). (Donnelly 9/22/2002; Weisul 11/4/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 326) By that time, the communication problems will apparently have started to ease. Lark will recall that as Air Force One is flying to Offutt, “some of the commercial systems finally began to become available” and she actually receives a call from her chief. (Graff 9/9/2016)
Good Communications Are 'Critical' for the President - Bush’s communication problems may have a significant impact on the government’s ability to respond to the terrorist attacks. Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission, will explain why the president’s ability to communicate during a crisis is so important, saying, “In the case of any kind of attack in the United States, what you’re supposed to do is get the president off the ground and Air Force One then becomes the command center.” Once he is airborne, the president is “commanding the forces of the United States from the air,” Kean will say. (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006) “The president literally can’t function in his constitutional role unless he can communicate, so [good communications are] absolutely critical,” Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Herman, a senior presidential communications officer, will similarly comment. (Bates 10/2002) The president “is the only one who can give certain orders that need to be given,” Kean will note. (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006) However, Mark Rosenker, director of the White House Military Office, will claim that the communication problems have only a limited impact. “[F]or the most part I believe the president had the ability to do what was necessary to be in control and have command of his forces, and talk with his national security structure,” he will say. (White House 8/29/2002)
Communications Systems Are Supposedly 'Saturated' - Lark will learn at a later date that the communication problems occur because, she will say, “the commercial systems were all just saturated.” (Graff 9/9/2016) Rosenker will similarly suggest that the problems may be partly due to the fact that communications from Air Force One “have to get through a regular telephone network,” and when there is a crisis, the increased volume of communications “jam and overuse the structure.” (White House 8/29/2002) On top of their problems making and receiving calls, Bush and his staffers have difficulty monitoring the television coverage of the attacks while they are airborne, because the reception on the plane is poor and intermittent (see (9:54 a.m.-6:54 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (Kohn 9/11/2002; Donnelly 9/22/2002; Graff 9/9/2016)

Lynne Cheney, the wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, joins her husband in an underground tunnel that leads to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House. (Cheney 11/9/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 40) Cheney has been driven to the White House by her Secret Service agents after they evacuated her from a hair salon in Washington, DC (see (Shortly After 9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (United States Secret Service 10/1/2001) As they were making their way through the White House, Cheney and the Secret Service agent accompanying her ran into I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the vice president’s chief of staff, and Libby then joined them as they headed toward the PEOC (see 9:52 a.m. September 11, 2001). In the underground tunnel that leads to the PEOC, Cheney, the Secret Service agent, and Libby find the vice president. (Libby 11/14/2001) Vice President Cheney was being taken to the PEOC by his Secret Service agents (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but stopped in an area of the underground tunnel where there is a secure telephone, in order to speak to President Bush (see (9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:45 a.m.-9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39-40) He is on the phone with Bush when his wife reaches him. (Cheney 9/11/2001; Cheney 11/9/2001) Dick and Lynne Cheney will enter the PEOC at around 9:58 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see (9:58 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 40)

An air traffic controller at the FAA’s Cleveland Center enters a new flight plan for Flight 93 into the FAA computer system, giving a new destination of Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC. Flight 93 is currently flying in the airspace covered by the Cleveland Center’s Imperial Sector radar position, which is being managed by controller Linda Justice. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; Ballingrud 9/12/2001; 9/11 Commission 10/2/2003 pdf file; Lynn Spencer 2008)
Controller Enters New Flight Plan for Flight 93 - Justice changes the flight’s destination code from “SFO,” the code for San Francisco International Airport, to “DCA,” the code for Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. (Ballingrud 9/12/2001) An FAA chronology will specify that she changes the flight plan “direct HGR [the code for Hagerstown Regional Airport in Maryland] to DCA.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) Another FAA chronology will similarly state that Justice reroutes Flight 93 “direct to Hagerstown direct to Washington National.” (Federal Aviation Administration 12/6/2001) Flight 93’s tag therefore now reads, “Hagerstown—National,” according to Justice. (9/11 Commission 10/2/2003 pdf file)
New Flight Plan Not Due to Communication with Pilot - The reason Justice enters a new flight plan for Flight 93 is unclear. A minute earlier, the hijacker pilot on Flight 93 reprogrammed the plane’s navigational system for the new destination of Reagan Airport (see 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Longman 2002, pp. 182; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 457) And according to the St. Petersburg Times, controllers typically only change a plane’s destination when this is requested by the pilots. (Ballingrud 9/12/2001) But one of the FAA chronologies will state that Justice’s change to the flight plan is “not a result of any communication with the pilot.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001)
Flight Plan Changed to Aid Handoff to Washington Controllers - Justice will later explain why she changes the flight plan. She will state that Flight 93 appears to be heading toward the airspace of the FAA’s Washington Center, and so, in “an attempt to expedite the situation,” she enters the change of routing to reflect Hagerstown Airport to Reagan Airport. She will say she does this “only to forward [the] information [about Flight 93] to the sectors the aircraft appeared to be tracking toward.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/12/2001 pdf file) Justice will tell the 9/11 Commission that she changes the routing when she sees Flight 93 is heading eastbound. She will say, “The easiest way to do a handoff is to change the flight plan,” and also say she changes the flight plan “to show that Washington Center was the recipient.” According to Justice, the “controversial step” she takes is “putting in Hagerstown, because the misconception was that she had communicated with the plane and cleared it through.” (9/11 Commission 10/2/2003 pdf file) John Werth, another controller at the Cleveland Center, will tell the 9/11 Commission that Justice enters the new destination for Flight 93 “because she knew it would be easier to track the primary [radar track for the aircraft] when the computer has a flight plan to work with.” (9/11 Commission 10/1/2003 pdf file) After changing the flight plan, Justice calls the Potomac Sector radar position at the Washington Center and tells the controller there to “pull up the data block” for Flight 93. Justice will say it is clear to the Washington Center controller that she has created the new destination in order to make it easier to locate the plane. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/12/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 10/2/2003 pdf file)
New Flight Plan Causes False Reports of Plane Approaching Washington - According to author Lynn Spencer, the new flight plan creates a “coast track” of Flight 93 on the traffic situation displays at air traffic control facilities. “A coast track,” Spencer will write, “differs from a radar track in that it is not supported by radar returns but rather by a computer-generated, projected course for the flight. Although this track did not appear on controller radar screens, its presence on their [traffic situation displays] allowed Washington controllers to monitor the flight’s progression toward Washington.” According to Spencer, the presence of this coast track leads to incorrect reports of an aircraft approaching Washington in the minutes after Flight 93 crashes. She will write, “A controller in Washington, unaware that the flight had crashed, was calling position reports for the coast track of United 93 to the White House (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001)… as well as the FBI at the Pentagon (where firefighters were evacuated and the firefight suspended in anticipation of a second impact)” (see (10:15 a.m.-10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Lynn Spencer 2008)

President Bush talks on the phone to Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney recommends that Bush authorize the military to shoot down any plane that might be under the control of hijackers. “I said, ‘You bet,’” Bush later recalls. “We had a little discussion, but not much.” (Weisman 9/16/2001; Adcock, Donovan, and Gordon 9/23/2001; Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002; Kohn 9/2/2003) Bush recalls that this isn’t a difficult decision for him to make, “once I realized there was a protocol… because again, I now realized we’re under attack. This is a war.” According to journalists Bob Woodward and Bill Sammon, this call between Bush and Cheney takes place shortly after 9:56, when Air Force One took off from the Sarasota airport. (Sammon 2002, pp. 102; Woodward 2002, pp. 17-18; Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002) Consistent with this, Bush and Cheney will tell the 9/11 Commission that Bush gives the shootdown authorization during a call estimated to occur between about 10:00 and 10:15 (see (Between 10:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But the 9/11 Commission will say the authorization is given in a later call, at 10:18 (see 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 40-41) Bush later indicates that he doesn’t make any major decisions about how to respond to the attacks until after boarding Air Force One, which fits with these accounts of him approving shootdown authorization after take off. (Bush 12/4/2001; Paltrow 3/22/2004 pdf file) But according to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, the authorization is given earlier, at some point between about 9:38 and 9:56 (see (9:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Koppel 11/29/2003; Clarke 2004, pp. 8)

Lynne Cheney conferring with Dick Cheney in the early afternoon on 9/11.Lynne Cheney conferring with Dick Cheney in the early afternoon on 9/11. [Source: David Bohrer / White House]Vice President Dick Cheney, accompanied by his wife, enters the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), a bunker below the East Wing of the White House, after being evacuated from his office by the Secret Service. (Thomas 12/30/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39-40) Secret Service agents hurried Cheney out of his office in the West Wing of the White House at around 9:36 a.m., according to some accounts (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001), although other accounts will suggest he was evacuated from there at around 9:03 a.m. (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Safire 9/13/2001; ABC News 9/14/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39-40; Gellman 2008, pp. 115) Cheney paused in an underground tunnel leading to the PEOC (see (9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001), where he talked on the phone with President Bush (see (9:45 a.m.-9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and was joined by his wife, Lynne Cheney, after she arrived at the White House (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 40)
Cheney and Wife Go into Conference Room - After he finishes his call with the president, the vice president goes with his wife into the PEOC. (Cheney and Cheney 2011, pp. 2) They pass through a small communications studio and then turn left into a larger conference room. (Gellman 2008, pp. 116) There is “conflicting evidence” about when Cheney arrives in the conference room, according to the 9/11 Commission Report. The 9/11 Commission will conclude, however, that he enters it “shortly before 10:00, perhaps at 9:58.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 40)
Cheney Now in a Position to 'Receive Reports' and 'Make Decisions' - In the middle of the conference room, according to journalist and author Stephen Hayes, “is a rectangular wood table, long enough to seat 16 people comfortably. At several places around the table, drawers contain a white telephone for secure communications. A second row of chairs along the wall provides room for support staff.” The vice president takes his place at the center of the table. (Hayes 2007, pp. 337-338) Cheney will describe: “On the wall across from me were two large television screens and a camera for videoconferencing. A side wall contained another video camera and two more TV screens.” (Cheney and Cheney 2011, pp. 2) He will comment that in the conference room, he is “in a position to be able to see all the stuff coming in, receive reports, and then make decisions in terms of acting with it.” (Cheney 9/16/2001)
Cheney Starts 'Working the Problem' - Cheney will recall that shortly after he enters the conference room, he watches the first World Trade Center tower collapsing on television (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). Then, he will say, he “plugged in and start[ed] working the phones and working the problem.” (Cheney 11/19/2001) A short time after he enters the PEOC, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, Cheney will talk over the phone with the president (see (Between 10:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 40)

According to the 9/11 Commission: “An Air Force lieutenant colonel working in the White House Military Office [joins] the [NMCC’s air threat] conference and state[s] that he had just talked to Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen 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, DC.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke gave the order to implement the Continuity of Government plan a few minutes earlier, from inside the White House Situation Room (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Before that, he had requested a fighter escort for Air Force One (see (Between 9:30 a.m. and 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and combat air patrols over all major US cities (not just Washington), according to his own recollection (see (Between 9:38 a.m. and 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Clarke 2004, pp. 7-8)

Dick Cheney talking to Condoleezza Rice.Dick Cheney talking to Condoleezza Rice. [Source: David Bohrer / White House] (click image to enlarge)According to the 9/11 Commission, Vice President Dick Cheney is told that the Air Force is trying to establish a combat air patrol (CAP) over Washington. Cheney, who is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, then calls President Bush on Air Force One to discuss the rules of engagement for this CAP. Cheney later tells the 9/11 Commission that he’d felt “it did no good to establish the CAP unless the pilots had instructions on whether they were authorized to shoot if the plane would not divert.” He recalls that “the president signed off on that concept.” Bush will recall this phone call and emphasize to the 9/11 Commission that, during it, he had authorized the shootdown of hijacked aircraft. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who is in the PEOC with Cheney, will tell the Commission she recalls hearing Cheney inform the president: “Sir, the CAPs are up. Sir, they’re going to want to know what to do.” Then she hears Cheney say, “Yes sir.” However, as the Commission will later note, “Among the sources that reflect other important events that morning there is no documentary evidence for this call, although the relevant sources are incomplete” (see (Mid 2004)). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 40-41) Reportedly, some members of the Commission’s staff will not believe this call between Bush and Cheney ever took place. (Klaidman and Hirsh 6/20/2004) Cheney phones Bush at 10:18 (see 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to the 9/11 Commission, it is in fact during that call that Bush authorizes the military to shoot down threatening aircraft. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 41)

United Airlines official Sandy Rogers calls Ellen King at the FAA’s Command Center to discuss Flight 93. The timing of the call is not known specifically, although it appears to be after the Pentagon was hit and could not be long after Flight 93 is thought to have crashed, which is shortly after 10:00 a.m. (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Rogers tells King that Flight 93 has been hijacked, and King responds, “Oh God… thank you,” indicating she was previously unaware of the hijacking. However, the FAA had been aware of the situation since a few minutes after the hijacking took place (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). Rogers also says: “It’s over Hagerstown now and you’re not aware of it. It’s heading toward Washington, DC, and we are under a threat of a hijacking on board and this flight is out of our control now heading toward Washington, DC.” Rogers states that United Airlines is “advising the military” about the plane and King also says that the FAA will do the same. (Federal Aviation Administration 10/14/2003, pp. 37-39 pdf file) However, there are no other reports of Flight 93 ever being over Hagerstown, which is in Maryland. Flight 93 is said to crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and is thought never to reach Maryland. There will be some—apparently mistaken—reports that the plane is still airborne after it is thought to have crashed (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:10 a.m.-10:11 a.m. September 11, 2001), and this may be another such report.

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 6/17/2004)

Smoke rising, minutes after Flight 93 crashes in Pennsylvania.Smoke rising, minutes after Flight 93 crashes in Pennsylvania. [Source: CNN]Exactly when Flight 93 crashes is unclear. According to NORAD, Flight 93 crashes at 10:03 a.m. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001) The 9/11 Commission gives an exact time of 11 seconds after 10:03 a.m. It will 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.” It does note that “[t]he precise crash time has been the subject of some dispute.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) However, a seismic study authorized by the US Army and drafted by scientists Won-Young Kim and Gerald Baum to determine when the plane crashed will conclude that the crash happened at 10:06:05 a.m. (Kim and Baum 2002 pdf file; Perlman 12/9/2002) The discrepancy is so puzzling that the Philadelphia Daily News will publish an article on the issue, titled “Three-Minute Discrepancy in Tape.” This notes that leading seismologists agree on the 10:06 a.m. time, give or take a couple of seconds. (Bunch 9/16/2002) The New York Observer will note 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.’” (Sheehy 2/15/2004)

In response to the terrorist attacks in the United States, the Russian military cancels a major training exercise it has been holding, turning back its bomber aircraft and calling off planned missile testing. (Simmie 12/9/2001; Doscher 9/8/2011) The Russian Air Force began the exercise—which was being conducted over the North Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans—on September 10 (see September 10, 2001), and had planned for it to continue until September 14. NORAD has deployed fighter jets to Alaska and Northern Canada to monitor the exercise (see September 9, 2001).
Russians Cancel Exercise to Avoid Confusion - The Russians now call off their exercise, “to avoid misunderstandings, since US defenses were now on high alert in case of further possible terrorist attacks,” according to BBC correspondent Bridget Kendall. (BBC 2001, pp. 161; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2001; Gertz 9/11/2001) “The Russians knew NORAD would have its hands full,” the Toronto Star will report. Lieutenant Colonel William Glover, the commander of NORAD’s Air Warning Center, will say the Russians stop their exercise “because they understood the magnitude of what had happened to us in the United States. They didn’t want any questions; they didn’t want us worrying about what they would be doing or entering our Air Defense Identification Zone.”
Russia Tells US about Canceling Exercise - The Russians notify the US of their actions. Captain Michael Jellinek, the director of plans, requirements, and readiness at NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center in Colorado, will later recall: “They sent the message to the State Department clearly and unambiguously: ‘Don’t worry about our movements, we’re going to stay down for a while.’”
Russia's Actions Are 'Very Helpful' to US - It is unclear when exactly the Russians call off their exercise. According to the Toronto Star, they “immediately” cancel it “on seeing the attacks in New York and Washington.” Glover will say the Russians notify the US that they are stopping their exercise “after the United Flight 93 went into Shanksville” (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Jellinek will call the Russians’ actions in canceling their exercise “[v]ery, very useful. Very helpful.” Glover will comment, “[T]hat was amazing to me, personally, the fact that they stopped their exercise and… that they told us that they were going to stop the exercise.” (Simmie 12/9/2001; Doscher 9/8/2011) Russian President Vladimir Putin will contact the White House and inform National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice that the Russians are voluntarily canceling their exercise (see Between 10:32 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002)

The air traffic control tower at Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, DC, broadcasts regular warnings over radio that any aircraft entering the restricted airspace around the capital will be shot down, even though, according to the 9/11 Commission, the president does not authorize the shooting down of threatening aircraft until 10:18 a.m. (9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 2/17/2004; 9/11 Commission 3/11/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 41) The Andrews control tower begins broadcasting warning messages over the Air Traffic Information System (ATIS) at 10:05 a.m. (9/11 Commission 3/11/2004 pdf file) The ATIS is an automatic information system over which “[p]re-recorded airfield advisory information is automatically transmitted at timed intervals over the airways on a specific frequency.” (US Air Force 10/1/1999 pdf file)
Planes Told They Could Be 'Shot Down' - A 9/11 Commission document summarizing key transmissions from the Andrews tower will show that warning messages are broadcast about once or twice every 10 minutes. The messages, which are all quite similar, include: “No fly notice. Remain clear of Andrews Class B airspace or you will be shot down,” and, “Any aircraft monitoring Andrews Approach Control frequency: remain clear of Andrews Class B airspace or you will be shot down.” (9/11 Commission 2/17/2004) (Class B airspace is restricted airspace in which no one is supposed to fly without a working transponder and permission from an air traffic controller. The airspace around much of Washington is designated Class B airspace. (Kessler and Phillips 9/12/2001; Bumiller and Wald 9/29/2001) )
Fighter Pilots Hear Warning - At least one of the warning messages is heard by District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG) fighter pilots who launch from Andrews Air Force Base at 10:42 a.m. (see 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001) and by pilots launched from Langley Air Force Base by NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) earlier on (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). DCANG pilots Marc Sasseville and Heather Penney Garcia are flying at low altitude over Washington, while the three Langley pilots are above them at around 20,000 feet. Although they are on different radio frequencies, both sets of pilots hear a message over a shared channel: “Attention all aircraft monitoring Andrews tower frequency. Andrews and Class Bravo airspace is closed. No general aviation aircraft are permitted to enter Class Bravo airspace. Any infractions will be shot down.” (Filson 2003, pp. 82)
Officers Hear Warning - The warning messages are also heard by DCANG officers at Andrews. After hearing that violators of the Washington airspace will be shot down, Brigadier General David Wherley thinks to himself, “I guess that will be us doing the shooting.” (Vogel 4/8/2002; Vogel 2007, pp. 446) Apparently referring to the warnings from the Andrews tower, Lieutenant Colonel Phil Thompson will later recall: “We kind of winced at that, because there are plenty of hard reasons to not shoot somebody down. We were really in an ID posture—and trying to really be careful.” (Scott 9/9/2002)
Shootdown Not Authorized until 10:18 - Although the first of the warnings is broadcast at 10:05 a.m., President Bush only gives authorization for hostile aircraft to be shot down at 10:18 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission, in a phone call with Vice President Dick Cheney (see 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). Furthermore, NEADS only learns that NORAD has been given clearance to shoot down threatening aircraft at 10:31 a.m. (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). The 9/11 Commission document of Andrews tower transmissions will show that the warnings are broadcast until at least 11:05 a.m., although presumably they continue after that. (9/11 Commission 2/17/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 41-42)

Flight 93 crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside. Resue vehicles arrive in the distance.Flight 93 crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside. Resue vehicles arrive in the distance. [Source: Keith Srakocic/ Associated Press]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. Presumably, hijackers Ziad Jarrah, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ahmed Alnami, Saeed Alghamdi, and all the plane’s passengers are killed instantly. (CNN 9/12/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; Ellison 10/17/2001; Hillston 10/28/2001; Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002; Associated Press 8/21/2002; MSNBC 9/3/2002) The point of impact is a reclaimed coal mine, known locally as the Diamond T Mine, that was reportedly abandoned in 1996. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 9/12/2001; Zapinski 9/12/2001; Frederick 9/11/2002) Being “reclaimed” means the earth had been excavated down to the coal seam, the coal removed, and then the earth replaced and planted over. (Kashurba 2002, pp. 121) A US Army authorized seismic study times the crash at five seconds after 10:06 a.m. (Kim and Baum 2002 pdf file; Perlman 12/9/2002) 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.

Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is told by White House Situation Room Deputy Director Ralph Seigler, “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 crashed at 10:06 a.m., it was 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 DC 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.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; Clarke 2004, pp. 8-9) However, fighters do not meet up with Air Force One until about an hour later (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Franklin Miller, a senior national security official who is working alongside Clarke on 9/11, and another official who is also in the Situation Room, will later fail to recall hearing any warning that a plane could be only minutes away. (Sanger 3/30/2004) The time of this incident is unstated, but the Michigan fighters are not diverted until after 10:06 a.m. (see (After 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). If it takes place after 10:06 a.m., this would parallel similar warnings about Flight 93 after it has already crashed provided to Vice President Dick Cheney elsewhere in the White House (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Two senior NORAD officials, Colonel Robert Marr and Major General Larry Arnold, have to address the possibility of issuing shootdown authorization to fighter jets under their command, after a report is received about an aircraft over the White House. (Spencer 2008, pp. 224-225)
Aircraft over White House - Marr, the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, New York, is in the NEADS battle cab. On the NEADS operations floor, mission crew commander Major Kevin Nasypany has just learned of a report of an aircraft flying over the White House (see 10:07 a.m. September 11, 2001), and now talks to Marr over the phone. Nasypany asks: “Okay, did you hear that? Aircraft over the White House. What’s the word? Intercept and what else?” Marr has a phone to each ear and does not hear what Nasypany says. Nasypany therefore repeats, “Aircraft… over… the White House!” pausing on each word for emphasis. (Bronner 8/1/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 224)
Commanders Discuss Shootdown Order - The news of an aircraft over the White House forces Marr and Arnold, with whom he has been communicating, to address the issue of authorizing the shooting down of aircraft. (Spencer 2008, pp. 225) Arnold, the commander of NORAD’s Continental US Region (CONR), is at the CONR air operations center at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. (Code One Magazine 1/2002) According to author Lynn Spencer, he has not yet received any instructions from his higher-ups regarding shootdown authorization. “He talked to Major General Rick Findley,” who is at NORAD’s operations center in Colorado, “and asked him to get shootdown authority from the vice president, but he’s still heard nothing back.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 225)
Arnold Possibly Authorizes Shootdown - Arnold will later tell author Leslie Filson that he has “the authority in case of an emergency to declare a target hostile and shoot it down under an emergency condition.” (Filson 2003, pp. 75) But according to Vanity Fair, he only passes the current request for rules of engagement further up his chain of command. (Bronner 8/1/2006) However, Spencer will claim otherwise, stating, “In light of the imminent attack on the White House,” Arnold “decides he will exercise the authority he has to protect the nation in an emergency.” He tells Marr: “We will intercept and attempt to divert. If we can’t, then we’ll shoot it down.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 225)
Alleged Shootdown Authorization Not Passed On - Minutes later, though, Nasypany will tell his staff that the pilots that took off from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) have “negative clearance to shoot” aircraft over Washington (see 10:10 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 31) And according to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS only learns that NORAD has been given clearance to shoot down threatening aircraft at 10:31 a.m., and even then it does not pass this order along to the fighter pilots under its command (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 42-43)

Dick Cheney in the White House bunker, speaking to administration officials including (from left) Joshua Bolten, Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin (standing), Condoleezza Rice and I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby.Dick Cheney in the White House bunker, speaking to administration officials including (from left) Joshua Bolten, Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin (standing), Condoleezza Rice and I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby. [Source: David Bohrer / White House] (click image to enlarge)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 Dick 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 it. 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, deputy White House chief of staff Josh 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 (see 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) 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 a moot point in one sense, since the decision was made on false data and there is no plane to shoot down. (Klaidman and Hirsh 6/20/2004)

A weapons director at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) informs the fighter jets launched from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) that they do not have permission to shoot down aircraft over Washington, though he is delayed in giving this instruction due to communications problems. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2003; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 45; Bronner 8/1/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 227)
Citino Cannot Reach Borgstrom - Major Kevin Nasypany, the NEADS mission crew commander, has just told his staff that the Langley fighters have “negative clearance to shoot,” and the orders from higher headquarters are that the jets are to identify aircraft by their type and tail number, and nothing more (see 10:10 a.m. September 11, 2001). Now Master Sergeant Steve Citino, a NEADS weapons director, tries relaying these instructions to Captain Craig Borgstrom, one of the three Langley pilots. However, he cannot get through to him over the radio. According to author Lynn Spencer, this is because the “reception is weak over the Washington area, and NEADS loses the ability to communicate whenever [Borgstrom] flies below a certain altitude.” Citino complains to Major James Fox, the leader of the weapons team: “I can’t talk to ‘em. They’re too low.” (Bronner 8/1/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 227)
Citino Issues Instructions - Finally, about a minute after receiving the instructions from Nasypany, Citino reaches Borgstrom. He tells him, “Reiterating, mission is ID by type… divert if necessary.” Borgstrom acknowledges this instruction, telling Citino, “Quit 2-6 copies.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2003) When two of the Langley pilots later discuss this day’s events at a news conference, they will say they “never received explicit orders to fire on incoming planes perceived to be hostile.” (Sack 11/15/2001)

Michael Irwin.Michael Irwin. [Source: Publicity photo]Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gould, a military aide who is accompanying President Bush on his visit to Florida, makes a call requesting a fighter escort and other assets to support Air Force One as it flies away from Sarasota. Gould, who has tactical control of all the military assets that support the president, including presidential aircraft, was with Bush on Air Force One when the plane took off from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). He has talked with Colonel Mark Tillman, Air Force One’s pilot, about the plane’s ability to evade other aircraft. “At this point we don’t know the scope of this attack and what’s in front of us,” Gould will later recall. Gould will say that because he “thought there was a threat,” he makes a phone call and asks for three things: fighter jets to escort Air Force One, a refueling plane, and an AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System plane) to provide the ability to “see” around the president’s plane.
Request Relayed over Conference Call - Gould will say, in 2011, that he calls the Pentagon to make this request. (Scully 9/11/2011; Wallace 9/11/2011) However, other evidence indicates that he contacts the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House with the request, and the request is then passed on to the Pentagon over the air threat conference call. A transcript of the air threat conference call shows that at 10:14 a.m., Colonel Michael Irwin, the director of operations for the White House Military Office, who is in the PEOC, says he has “just talked to [the] mil aide” on Air Force One, and then adds: “We’d like AWACS over Louisiana. We’d like fighter escort.” (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file)
Fighters and AWACS Later Accompany Air Force One - An AWACS on a training mission off the coast of Florida is directed toward Air Force One and will accompany it all the way to Washington, DC (see Before 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Code One Magazine 1/2002) Fighters will also arrive to escort the president’s plane. However, it will be over an hour before they reach it (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001) It is unclear if and when a refueling plane reaches Air Force One.

A lieutenant colonel at the White House repeatedly relays to the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon that Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed that fighter jets are cleared to engage an inbound aircraft if they can verify that the aircraft is hijacked. The lieutenant colonel notifies the NMCC of the authorization over the air threat conference call (see 9:29 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). Cheney, who is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, said at sometime between 10:10 and 10:15 that fighters could engage an aircraft that was reportedly approaching Washington (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, it is only when Cheney calls President Bush at 10:18 a.m. that Bush confirms the shootdown order (see 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). The shootdown order will be received by NORAD, and then, at 10:31 a.m., sent out to its three air defense sectors in the continental US (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 41-42; Spencer 2008, pp. 240)

With reports of another airplane headed toward Washingon, fire and rescue workers were directed to temporarily move away from the Pentagon.With reports of another airplane headed toward Washingon, fire and rescue workers were directed to temporarily move away from the Pentagon. [Source: Jon Culberson]At around 10:15 a.m., fire and rescue workers at the Pentagon in response to the attack there are evacuated away from the site, due to a warning of another hijacked aircraft flying towards Washington, DC, currently 20 minutes away. The warning is passed on by Special Agent Chris Combs, the FBI’s representative at the Pentagon crash site. Assistant Fire Chief James Schwartz then orders the fire and rescue personnel to evacuate to a highway overpass several hundred yards from the Pentagon. Combs receives the information about the inbound aircraft from the FBI’s Washington Field Office, which is in direct contact with the FAA. He then confirms it with the control tower at Washington’s Reagan National Airport. According to a report put out by the government of Arlington County, Virginia, updates are announced of the approaching aircraft “until the last warning when [it] went below radar coverage in Pennsylvania, an estimated 4 minutes flying time from the Pentagon.” (US Department of Health and Human Services 7/2002, pp. A16 and A30 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 315) Yet if the timing of this account is correct, the approaching plane could not have been Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania considerably earlier (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Finally, Combs is informed by Jim Rice, his boss at the Washington Field Office, “You’re all clear.” Rice adds, incorrectly, “The plane hit Camp David.” (Creed and Newman 2008, pp. 131) At 10:38, firefighters and rescue workers are allowed to return to the Pentagon and resume their activities. (Eversburg 11/2002) There will be two more evacuations of the Pentagon site in the following 24 hours, also due to false alarms over reports of unidentified inbound aircraft (see (2:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:00 a.m.) September 12, 2001).

Two Pentagon police officers see people—some of them members of the military—stealing crash debris from in front of the Pentagon. After the Pentagon was hit, Lt. Robbie Turner had been helping the injured at a triage area. When, at around 10:15 a.m., reports are received of a possible second plane heading for the Pentagon (see (10:15 a.m.-10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he sets about evacuating people away from there. As this is going on, he later recalls: “[W]e had to try to collect up evidence, as much of the evidence as we possibly could. Take pictures of it or whatever.” However, some people are apparently trying to steal plane debris from the road in front of the Pentagon. According to Turner, “[W]e had to try to stop other people from pilfering the wreckage because, believe it or not, there were people—military personnel involved—you know, included, rather, that was picking up the wreckage of the plane from off the highway as we were running away.” (Turner 12/3/2001) Later on in the day, around 3:00 p.m., another Pentagon police officer, Roosevelt Roberts Jr., is called to the heliport near where the Pentagon was hit, and remains there for the next 13 hours. He will recall that, during this time, “we had a lot of people vandalizing, stealing evidence.” He does not specify who these people are, or what this “evidence” is that is being stolen and vandalized. (Roberts 11/30/2001)

A representative of the FAA finally joins an emergency teleconference being conducted by the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon, after NMCC personnel have repeatedly been unable to connect the FAA to the conference. In response to the terrorist attacks, the NMCC began a “significant event conference” at 9:29 a.m., to gather and disseminate information from government agencies (see 9:29 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001), and eight minutes later upgraded this to an “air threat conference” (see 9:37 a.m.-9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, because of “equipment problems and difficulty finding secure phone numbers,” operators at the NMCC have been unable to connect the FAA to the conference (see (9:29 a.m.-12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37)
FAA Representative Has 'No Situational Awareness' - The air threat conference is now joined by FAA employee Rayford Brooks. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 463) Brooks is on duty in the Central Altitude Reservation Function (CARF) at the FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia. This office is responsible for processing and separating altitude reservations, and coordinates military requests for priority airspace activity with FAA facilities and international agencies. (9/11 Commission 4/5/2004; 9/11 Commission 4/15/2004) However, Brooks has “no familiarity with or responsibility for hijackings, no access to decisionmakers, and none of the information available to senior FAA officials,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37) Brooks will later recall having had “no situational awareness” of the current crisis. He only arrived at the Command Center at around 9:30 a.m. and had not been listening to the radio while driving to work. Those on the Command Center floor have not given him any instructions regarding the NMCC conference or other operational matters.
Brooks on Conference instead of Military Cell Officer - Brooks will tell the 9/11 Commission that the Air Traffic Services Cell (ATSC)—a small office located next to the CARF at the Command Center, manned by military reservists (see (Between 9:04 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001)—has asked the CARF to monitor the NMCC’s air threat conference on its behalf for three or four hours, because the ATSC does not have a working STU-III secure phone. (9/11 Commission 4/15/2004) (A chronology of the ATSC’s actions on this day will state that the keys for the ATSC’s secure phones are recalibrated at some point, and these phones then “worked fine.” (US Air Force 9/11/2001) )
NORAD and FAA Leaders out of Contact - Three times before 10:03 a.m., when the last hijacked plane reportedly crashed (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001), NORAD asked for confirmation of the FAA’s presence on the NMCC’s conference, so the FAA could provide an update on the hijackings, but the FAA had not been connected at those times. As a result of the FAA’s absence from the conference, the leaders of NORAD and the FAA have effectively been out of contact with each other. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37-38)
FAA's Absence Caused Confusion over Identities of Hijacked Planes - General Richard Myers, the acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will later write that the lack of communication between the NMCC and the FAA has contributed to confusion at the NMCC over the flight numbers of the aircraft that were hijacked. However, according to Myers, the NMCC could not contact the FAA over ordinary phone lines because “[t]errorists who could hijack aircraft so readily could probably also eavesdrop on unsecured phone lines.” (Myers 2009, pp. 153)

In a phone call with Vice President Dick Cheney, President Bush authorizes the military to shoot down hostile aircraft. Minutes earlier, in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, a military aide had asked Cheney for the authority to engage what appeared to be an inbound aircraft, and Cheney had promptly given it (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). During a subsequent quiet moment, deputy White House chief of staff Josh Bolten, who is also in the PEOC, suggested to Cheney that he contact the president to confirm the engage order. Therefore at 10:18 a.m., according to White House logs, Cheney calls Bush, who is on board Air Force One, and speaks with him for two minutes. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer notes that at 10:20 a.m., Bush informs him that he has authorized the shootdown of aircraft, if necessary. According to the 9/11 Commission, “Fleischer’s 10:20 note is the first mention of shootdown authority.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 41 and 465) Bush’s senior adviser Karl Rove, who is also on Air Force One, gives a similar account, later telling NBC News that “at about 10:20,” Bush goes from his office into the private cabin in front of it, “and took a phone call, and came back in and said that he had talked to the vice president and to the secretary of defense and gave the authorization that [the] military could shoot down any planes not under control of their crews that were gearing critical targets.” (Rove 9/11/2002) But other accounts indicate the president gives the shootdown authorization earlier than this. Bush and Cheney will claim that Bush gives the authorization during a call estimated to occur between about 10:00 and 10:15 (see (Between 10:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 40) Similarly, according to journalists Bob Woodward and Bill Sammon, Bush gives it in a call with Cheney soon after 9:56, when Air Force One takes off (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sammon 2002, pp. 102; Woodward 2002, pp. 17-18; Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002) Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke says it is given even earlier. He states that, at some point between about 9:38 and 9:56, he is instructed to tell the Pentagon it has authorization from the president to shoot down hostile aircraft (see (9:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Koppel 11/29/2003; Clarke 2004, pp. 8)

President Bush’s travels on 9/11.President Bush’s travels on 9/11. [Source: Yvonne Vermillion / MagicGrapix.com]Air Force One begins heading for Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana after the base is identified as a suitable interim destination for the president’s plane. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 325) Washington, DC, was the plane’s original destination. (White House 8/29/2002; Scully 9/11/2011) But after taking off from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in Florida without a fixed destination (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), Air Force One changed course at around 10:10 a.m. and headed west (see (10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). This was because it had been determined that Washington was too unsafe for President Bush to return there (see (9:55 a.m.-10:04 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 39, 325) At that time, the plane’s new destination was undecided.
Military Base Sought for President to Make a Statement - Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff, who is with the president on Air Force One, will later recall, “And so we started looking at potential Air Force bases or Navy bases where we could land the plane.” (Card 8/16/2002) Mark Rosenker, the director of the White House Military Office, will recall that Card comes up to him in the communications area of the plane and says, “We need to find a facility, a base that we can get to in a relatively short period of time so that the president can make a statement.” (White House 8/29/2002)
Secret Service Told of Bush's Desire to Land - Card will recall: “I had a goal of landing the plane within an hour and a half. It was somewhat arbitrary, but I wanted to get the president down.” (Card 8/16/2002) Card similarly tells Edward Marinzel, the head of the president’s Secret Service detail, that Bush wants to land so he can make a statement to the press. It is also noted “that the stop would provide an opportunity for the airplane to be refueled and those on board to effect necessary communication,” Marinzel will say. (United States Secret Service 2001)
Offutt Air Base Rejected as Destination - Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gould, Bush’s military aide, quickly researches the possibilities. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 325) The first plan that is considered, according to Rosenker, is to fly all the way out to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, but this idea is dismissed because it would take too long to get there, and it is “very important to the president to address the nation and make sure that the people could see that he was safe and in total control of the situation.” (White House 8/29/2002) (Air Force One will in fact head to Offutt later in the day, landing there at 2:50 p.m. (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001).)
Barksdale Makes 'the Greatest Sense' - Instead, at around 10:20 a.m., Gould identifies Barksdale Air Force Base as “an appropriate interim destination,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 325-326) Rosenker will recall: “Barksdale made the greatest sense to us. It was a highly secure Air Force base, had B-52s there; they had the capability to do what was necessary to secure Air Force One and to make sure that the president was safe, and make sure that we could provide the appropriate communications facility so the president could make his statement.” (White House 8/29/2002)
Bush Agrees with Decision to Head to Barksdale - The final decision to head to Barksdale Air Base is made by Card, “after talking to the military and the Secret Service,” according to White House press secretary Ari Fleischer. (Fleischer 2005, pp. 142) Bush agrees with the decision and Barksdale becomes his plane’s new destination. (Bush 2010, pp. 130; Rove 2010, pp. 255) Air Force One will land at Barksdale Air Force Base at around 11:45 a.m. (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 325)

William Haynes.William Haynes. [Source: C-SPAN]Timothy Flanigan, the deputy White House counsel, and John Bellinger, senior associate counsel to the president and legal adviser to the National Security Council, discuss whether the president has the legal authority to order the shooting down of a civilian aircraft and Flanigan then consults a Pentagon lawyer to get his opinion on the issue. (C-SPAN 2/28/2009; Eichenwald 2012, pp. 35-36) President Bush authorized the US military to shoot down hostile aircraft in a phone call with Vice President Dick Cheney at 10:18 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 41) Flanigan, who is in the White House Situation Room, has heard about this and understands the reasons for Bush’s directive, but is concerned about its legality. He approaches Bellinger, mentions the shootdown order, and asks, “Do we have the legal authority nailed down for this?” Bellinger hands him an instant transcript of the conversation between Bush and Cheney. “Here’s the authority,” he says.
White House Lawyer Wants to Know the Opinion of the Military - Flanigan will later recall that he is currently certain of two things regarding the shootdown authorization. Firstly, since it has already been given, “any legal analysis was going to be woefully behind the event.” And secondly, he knows it “was completely justified as a matter of the president’s exercise of commander-in-chief authority to repel an immediate attack.” All the same, he feels uncomfortable. He realizes this is an issue for the military to consider. He therefore instructs an officer in the Situation Room to track down Defense Department General Counsel William Haynes. He is soon on the phone with the lawyer, who is at the Pentagon this morning, and tells him what he read in the transcript of Bush and Cheney’s conversation. Haynes says he already knows about the shootdown authorization. “We need the best possible rational legal basis for this,” Flanigan explains. “We’ve got commander-in-chief authority,” he continues, but adds, “Is there any other authority we can rely on?” Haynes says he will look into this.
Pentagon Lawyer Determines that Only the President Can Issue a Shootdown Order - Haynes thinks the most obvious issue with the shootdown authorization is constitutional, according to journalist and author Kurt Eichenwald. “Under the 14th Amendment, the passengers on those planes could not be deprived of their rights to life, liberty, and property without due process of law,” and “shooting them out of the sky didn’t meet that standard,” Eichenwald will write. Furthermore, Haynes thinks, the Fourth Amendment prohibits “unreasonable search and seizure,” and shooting down a commercial aircraft “would be quite a dramatic seizure” of the citizens on board. All the same, he knows that “the preamble of the Constitution spoke of providing for a common defense and promoting the general welfare,” and, “Under Article 2, the president was the commander in chief of the military.” He therefore determines that the issue of possibly shooting down a commercial aircraft is “a matter of self-defense, of protecting the citizenry, balanced against the rights of the passengers.” With this in mind, he concludes that a shootdown order “could be lawfully issued… but only by the president.” He soon returns to the phone and gives Flanigan his opinion.
Lawyer Says a NORAD Statute Authorizes Shooting Down Hostile Aircraft - However, according to Flanigan’s later recollection, Haynes gives a very different explanation why the president’s shootdown authorization was legal than the reasoning Eichenwald will describe. Flanigan will recall that Haynes tells him someone has already looked into the matter. “There is authority under…” he says, and then cites a “NORAD statute that gives the national command structure authority to deal with imminent threats in US airspace.” (C-SPAN 2/28/2009; Eichenwald 2012, pp. 35-36)

Personnel at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, New York, learn that Air Force One is airborne, around half an hour after it took off from Florida, and are told the plane is heading toward Washington, DC. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 325)
NEADS Learns President's Plane Is Airborne - Major Kevin Nasypany, the mission crew commander at NEADS, is briefed by a colleague that “Air Force One is airborne out of Florida, heading to Washington.” This is apparently the first time NEADS knows that the president’s plane is in the air. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001) But Air Force One took off from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in Florida about half an hour ago (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 325) And while some later accounts will state that the plane is indeed heading north, toward Washington, at this time (see (10:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001), according to other accounts, including the 9/11 Commission Report, it has turned west (see (10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and is now flying toward Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Sammon 2002, pp. 108; Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 325)
Commander Told Fighters Will Escort Air Force One - Nasypany’s colleague continues: “We’ve got those four F-15s coming out of Langley. They’re done rolling.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001) He is presumably referring to F-15 fighter jets belonging to the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. (Langley Air Force Base 11/2003; Airman 9/2005) He says, “Two of [the F-15s] will be diverted to escort [Air Force One] at the appropriate time.” Nasypany says, “We need a plane out of the Air Force One.” He then asks his colleague, “Is he airborne now?” The colleague says yes.
Commander Told SEADS Is Providing Fighter Escort - Nasypany then says, “We’ve identified [Air Force One] as a special one.” His colleague replies: “We haven’t got him. Southeast does,” meaning NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS) at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. Referring to SEADS, Nasypany asks, “So they’ll have fighters on him?” His colleague says yes. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001) However, fighters will only be noticed escorting Air Force One by those on the plane more than an hour later (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001)
Commander Passes on News about Air Force One - Nasypany then passes on the information about Air Force One to another colleague. He tells them: “Air Force One is airborne out of Florida, going to Washington. There should be F-15s on them by the time they hit our AOR [area of responsibility].” Nasypany restates that the president’s plane is “going to Washington. This is what I was just passed.” He says, “SEADS should be putting fighters on it,” but adds that “we’ll have to take over [in providing a fighter escort for Air Force One] once they hit our AOR.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)

United Airlines contacts American Airlines and notifies it of the crash of Flight 93. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 47) Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania shortly after 10:00 a.m. (see (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). United Airlines received confirmation of this by 10:15 (see (10:07 a.m.-10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Damage to the southwest corner of WTC 7.Damage to the southwest corner of WTC 7. [Source: Arquelio Galarza]World Trade Center Building 7 (WTC 7) suffers some damage, caused by debris from the collapse of the north WTC tower, according to later official reports. (Federal Emergency Management Agency 5/1/2002, pp. 5-16; National Institute of Standards and Technology 11/2008, pp. 16)
WTC 7 Undamaged by South Tower Collapse - WTC 7 is a 47-story office building located 370 feet north of the North Tower (WTC 1). In the final report of its investigation into WTC 7’s collapse, published in November 2008 (see November 20, 2008), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will state that although a few windows on the lower floors of WTC 7’s south face were broken when the South Tower (WTC 2) collapsed at 9:59 a.m. (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001), “None of the large pieces of debris from WTC 2 hit WTC 7, because of the large distance between the two buildings,” and there is “no evidence of structural damage to WTC 7” as a result of the South Tower’s collapse.
Debris Reportedly Damages Exterior Columns - However, when the North Tower collapses (see 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001), some fragments of debris are “forcibly ejected” from it, and travel “distances up to hundreds of meters.” According to NIST, pieces of this debris “hit WTC 7, severing six columns on floors 7 through 17 on the south face and one column on the west face near the southwest corner.” NIST will add that the debris also causes “structural damage between floor 44 and the roof,” and breaks a large number of windows on WTC 7’s south face.
Building Core Undamaged - However, NIST will state, based on “photographic evidence, witness accounts, and engineering judgment, it is likely that the structural damage (steel and floor slabs) did not penetrate beyond the perimeter of the building core. At the southwest corner, the structural damage extended only about one-third of the distance from the exterior wall to the building core.” NIST will comment, “Compared to the airplane impact damage to the WTC towers, there was relatively little damage to the interior of WTC 7.” There is also “no superficial or structural damage” to WTC 7’s north and east faces. And the sprayed fire resistive material that has been applied to the building’s steel columns, girders, and beams is only damaged in the “immediate vicinity of the WTC 1 debris impact.” NIST will admit, however, that there are “uncertainties” in its accounting of the events leading up to the collapse of WTC 7, because “the remains of all the WTC buildings were disposed of before Congressional action and funding was available for [its] investigation [of the WTC collapses] to begin” (see Shortly After September 11, 2001 and September 12-October 2001). (National Institute of Standards and Technology 8/21/2008; National Institute of Standards and Technology 11/2008, pp. 15-16)
FEMA Describes WTC 7 Damage - According to an earlier report on the collapse of WTC 7, published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in May 2002 (see May 1, 2002), at that time, the “extent and severity of the resulting damage to WTC 7” when the North Tower collapses “are currently unknown.” But based on “photographic evidence and eyewitness accounts,” it is “assumed that the south side of the building was damaged to some degree.” FEMA’s report will state: “It does not appear that the collapse of WTC 1 affected the roof, or the east, west, and north elevations of WTC 7 in any significant way. However, there was damage to the southwest corner of WTC 7 at approximately floors 8 to 20, 24, 25, and 39 to 46.” The report will add: “According to firefighters’ eyewitness accounts from outside of the building, approximately floors 8-18 were damaged to some degree. Other eyewitness accounts relate that there was additional damage to the south elevation.” (Federal Emergency Management Agency 5/1/2002, pp. 5-16, 5-20)
Structural Damage Not Responsible for Collapse - WTC 7 will collapse at 5:20 p.m. this afternoon (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (National Institute of Standards and Technology 8/21/2008) However, NIST will conclude that the structural damage the building suffers plays no role in causing it to come down. NIST will state, “Other than initiating the fires in WTC 7, the damage from the debris from WTC 1 had little effect on initiating the collapse of WTC 7.” (National Institute of Standards and Technology 11/2008, pp. xxxvii) WTC 7 suffers fires on some floors, which are reportedly initiated by debris from the collapse of the North Tower (see (10:28 a.m.-5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). According to NIST, it is these fires, “rather than the structural damage that resulted from the impacts” of debris, which “initiated the building’s collapse.” (National Institute of Standards and Technology 8/21/2008)

According to Captain Michael Currid, the sergeant at arms for the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, some time after the collapse of the North Tower, he sees four or five fire companies trying to extinguish fires in Building 7 of the WTC. Someone from the city’s Office of Emergency Management tells him that WTC 7 is in serious danger of collapse. Currid says, “The consensus was that it was basically a lost cause and we should not lose anyone else trying to save it.” Along with some others, he goes inside WTC 7 and yells up the stairwells to the fire fighters, “Drop everything and get out!” (Murphy 2002, pp. 175-176) However, other accounts contradict this, claiming that no attempt is made to fight the fires in WTC 7 (see (11:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). One report later claims, “Given the limited water supply and the first strategic priority, which was to search for survivors in the rubble, FDNY did not fight the fires [in WTC 7].” (Fire Engineering 9/2002) And a 2002 government report says, “the firefighters made the decision fairly early on not to attempt to fight the fires, due in part to the damage to WTC 7 from the collapsing towers.” (Federal Emergency Management Agency 5/1/2002, pp. 5-21) Building 7 eventually collapses late in the afternoon of 9/11 (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001).

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. (CNN 9/4/2002; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Rumsfeld later claims that he only started to gain a situational awareness of what was happening after arriving at the NMCC. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Rumsfeld was in his office only 200 feet away from the NMCC until the Pentagon crash at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). 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 9/11/2002) Winfield himself apparently only shows up at the NMCC around 10:30 a.m. as well.

After he finally arrives at the National Military Command Center in the Pentagon (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Donald Rumsfeld’s primary concern, according to the 9/11 Commission, is “ensuring that the [military fighter] pilots [have] a clear understanding of their rules of engagement.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 44) Rumsfeld later recalls, “It was clear they needed rules of engagement telling them what they should and should not do. They needed clarity. And there were no rules of engagement on the books for this first-time situation where civilian aircraft were seized and were being used as missiles.” By this time, the president has supposedly already given authorization for the military to shoot down hijacked aircraft (see (Between 10:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and Dick Cheney informs Rumsfeld of this over the air threat conference at 10:39 (see 10:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). Rumsfeld says that, “Throughout the course of the day,” along with acting Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers, he “returned to further refine those rules.” (9/11 Commission 3/23/2004) As journalist Andrew Cockburn will later remark though, Rumsfeld’s work on the rules of engagement “was an irrelevant exercise for he did not complete and issue them until 1:00 p.m., hours after the last hijacker had died.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 465; Cockburn 2007, pp. 7)

Will Chandler.Will Chandler. [Source: National Geographic]Vice President Dick Cheney phones President Bush and tells him the White House has received a credible threat against Air Force One. (Sammon 2002, pp. 106-107; Woodward 2002, pp. 18; Kohn 9/11/2002) The White House has just received an anonymous phone call in which the caller said the president’s plane would be the next terrorist target (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Woodward 2002, pp. 18; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 554) The caller referred to the plane as “Angel,” which is the Secret Service’s code name for Air Force One. (Fleischer 2005, pp. 141-142) Details of the call were passed on to government officials, including Cheney, in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House. (Cheney 11/19/2001; Thomas 12/30/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 554)
Cheney Tells Bush about a 'Credible' Threat - Cheney now tells Bush: “We’re getting reports of a threat against you. It appears credible,” Major Robert Darling of the White House Military Office, who is with Cheney in the PEOC, will later recall. Cheney says, “We’re scrambling fighter escorts and the Secret Service is taking internal precautions on board Air Force One.” (Darling 2010, pp. 61) Bush turns to Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gould, his military aide, and passes on the news, saying, “A call came into the White House switchboard saying, ‘Angel is next.’” Bush then continues talking with Cheney and says, “We’re at war, Dick, and we’re going to find out who did this and we’re going to kick their ass.” (Sammon 2002, pp. 107; Fleischer 2005, pp. 141-142)
Pilot Is Told of the Threat and Asks for a Guard at the Cockpit Door - Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, is told about the threat. (Kohn 9/11/2002) Noting that “Angel” is “a classified call sign of Air Force One,” Tillman will comment that “the only people that knew that call sign was us, [the] Secret Service, and the staff.” Therefore, he will say, “for somebody [to] call into the White House and say that Angel was next, that was just incredible.” (Tillman 2/29/2012 pdf file) “It was serious before that, but now… no longer is it a time to get the president home,” Tillman will comment. “We actually have to consider everything we say. Everything we do could be intercepted and we have to make sure that no one knows what our position is.” Tillman asks to have an armed guard at his cockpit door. Will Chandler, the chief of security, is therefore summoned to the front of the plane and stands watch at the base of the stairs leading to the cockpit. No one is then allowed up these stairs. Secret Service agents double-check the identity of everyone on the plane, while the crew reviews the emergency evacuation plan. (Kohn 9/11/2002; Graff 9/9/2016)
Threat Influences the Decision to Fly to Nebraska - White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who is on Air Force One with Bush, will say the threat against the president’s plane is what leads to the decision to take Bush to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001) and is also one of the reasons why Bush does not head back to Washington, DC, right away. (White House 9/12/2001) However, during the afternoon, the Secret Service will determine that the reported threat was unfounded. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 554) Shortly after Bush learns about the threat, Tillman will be informed that an aircraft that may have been hijacked is heading toward Air Force One (see (10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Kohn 9/11/2002; Knoller 1/17/2009) White House chief of staff Andrew Card will say he in fact learned a threat had been made against Air Force One almost an hour earlier, while he was being driven with Bush to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (see (Between 9:35 a.m. and 9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Card 8/12/2002; Card 8/16/2002; Card 8/16/2002)

A Secret Service agent at the White House calls the District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG) at Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, and asks it to launch fighter jets immediately. According to author Lynn Spencer, a report has been received at the White House from the FAA “that there are three planes unaccounted for,” and the Secret Service has therefore determined “it needs fighters up now.” It calls the DCANG to request these jets. (Spencer 2008, pp. 236) Apparently around the same time, the DCANG receives a call from someone else at the White House—presumably another Secret Service agent—declaring the Washington area “a free-fire zone.” Lieutenant Colonel Marc Sasseville, one of the DCANG pilots, will later comment, “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.” (Scott 9/9/2002) Between 10:38 a.m. and 11:11 a.m., five DCANG fighter jets will take off from Andrews to defend Washington (see (10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001, 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001, and 11:11 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 2/17/2004; Vogel 2007, pp. 446) The Secret Service contacted the DCANG several times earlier on, requesting that it launch fighters (see (Shortly After 9:04 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (Shortly After 9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and (Shortly After 9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 78; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 465) Brigadier General David Wherley, the commander of the DC Air National Guard, has been on the phone with Secret Service agents at the White House, who have told him his jets should “turn away any airplane that attempts to fly within 20 miles of the Washington area,” and the pilots can use “whatever force is necessary” to prevent another aircraft hitting a building (see (10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between 10:16 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/28/2003; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 44; Spencer 2008, pp. 218)

Billy Hutchison.Billy Hutchison. [Source: Family photo]The first fighter jet to launch from Andrews Air Force Base, 10 miles southeast of Washington, takes off in response to the attacks. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; GlobalSecurity (.org) 1/21/2006) The F-16 belongs to the 121st Fighter Squadron, which is part of the 113th Wing of the District of Columbia Air National Guard, and is piloted by Major Billy Hutchison. It is one of three F-16s that were flying on a training mission in North Carolina, over 200 miles from Andrews (see 8:36 a.m. September 11, 2001), and which have finally been recalled to the base (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Scott 9/9/2002; Miles 5/12/2005) Although the three jets met with a refueling plane, they did not fill their tanks up completely. (Spencer 2008, pp. 216-217) Hutchison’s aircraft is the only one of them with enough fuel remaining to take off again immediately, though he only has 2,800 pounds, which is equivalent to one-eighth of a tank in a car. His jet has no missiles, and only training ammunition.
Pilot Takes Off, Instructed to Protect Washington - Immediately after landing at Andrews at 10:36 a.m., Hutchison takes off again at the instruction of Brigadier General David Wherley, the commander of the DC Air National Guard. He is instructed “to intercept an aircraft coming toward DC and prevent it from reaching DC,” he will later recall. (Vogel 4/8/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 79-81; 9/11 Commission 2/17/2004) According to author Lynn Spencer, Lieutenant Colonel Phil Thompson, the supervisor of flying (SOF) at Andrews, tells Hutchison to “use whatever force is necessary to prevent [the aircraft] from getting to DC.” Thompson adds: “You are weapons free. Do you understand?” “Weapons free” means the decision to shoot at a target now rests solely with Hutchison. (Spencer 2008, pp. 219) However, according to the 9/11 Commission, the “weapons free” instruction goes out to other pilots that launch from Andrews at 10:42 and after, but apparently not to Hutchison. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 44) Thompson will tell Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine simply that he instructs Hutchison “to ‘do exactly what [air traffic control] asks you to do.’ Primarily, he was to go ID [identify] that unknown [aircraft] that everybody was so excited about” (see (10:30 a.m.-10:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Scott 9/9/2002) Hutchison takes off “without afterburner to conserve fuel, go across the White House over the Georgetown area and continue northwest up the Potomac,” he will recall (see 10:39 a.m.-10:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 81)
Conflicting Timelines - Conflicting times will later be given for when Hutchison takes off from Andrews. The pilots with the 121st Fighter Squadron will admit that their own recollection of the morning’s timeline “is fuzzy.” (Scott 9/9/2002) According to 113th Wing operations desk records, Hutchison takes off at 10:33 a.m. (Filson 2003, pp. 81, 89) Based on an interview with David Wherley, the 9/11 Commission states he is airborne at 10:38 a.m. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 44, 465) Recordings of air traffic controller transmissions confirm this time. (9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 2/17/2004) But in her 2008 book Touching History, Lynn Spencer will claim Hutchison took off significantly earlier, some time after 9:50 but before Flight 93 crashed (which was just after 10:00 a.m.). (Spencer 2008, pp. 216-220) (However, she will later amend her claim, saying instead, “Radio data indicates that Hutchison’s flight did not depart from Andrews… until just after 10:35.” (Lynn Spencer 2008) ) Two more fighters will take off from Andrews at 10:42 a.m. (see 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001) and another two take off at 11:11 a.m. (see 11:11 a.m. September 11, 2001). Due to his plane’s limited fuel, Hutchison will only be airborne for about 10 minutes, and he lands back at Andrews at 10:47 a.m. (see 10:47 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/28/2003; 9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 2/17/2004; Vogel 2007, pp. 446)
One Jet Landed Already - The first of the three F-16s to return from the training mission over North Carolina landed at Andrews at 10:14 a.m., but did not take off again to defend Washington (see 10:14 a.m. September 11, 2001). The other F-16, piloted by Lou Campbell, landed with Hutchison’s jet at 10:36 a.m. (9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 2/17/2004; 9/11 Commission 2/27/2004) The 113th Wing is not part of NORAD’s air sovereignty force and, according to the 1st Air Force’s book about 9/11, does not have an alert mission. (Filson 2003, pp. 76) According to Phil Thompson, “We’ve never been an air defense unit,” but “We practice scrambles, we know how to do intercepts and other things.” (Scott 9/9/2002)

Vice President Dick Cheney tries to bring Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld up to date over the National Military Command Center’s (NMCC) conference call (see 9:29 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001), as Rumsfeld arrived at the NMCC just minutes earlier (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Cheney explains that he has given authorization for hijacked planes to be shot down and that this has been passed on 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 about his authorization having reached the pilots (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004)

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld refuses to leave the Pentagon, despite the smoke leaking into the National Military Command Center (NMCC) where he is currently working, the danger of a second attack on the Pentagon, and a White House request to begin implementing Continuity of Government (COG) measures. (Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 132) After being out of touch with his colleagues at the Pentagon since the time of the attack there (see (9:38 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001), Rumsfeld finally entered the NMCC at around 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 43-44; Cockburn 2007, pp. 2-6) It is now noticed that smoke is seeping into the center. With people beginning to cough, aides suggest Rumsfeld should leave the building, but he is uninterested in their advice. Even when they warn that the smoke might be toxic, he still ignores them. Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, tells him he should leave the Pentagon. But Rumsfeld instead orders Wolfowitz to leave the NMCC and fly to Site R, the alternate command center outside Washington (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to journalist and author Steve Vogel, this is “contrary to the established Continuity of Government plan, which called for the secretary of defense to relocate to the alternate command center.… The secretary figured the 45 minutes to an hour it would take to evacuate to Site R would leave him out of touch for too long.” Rumsfeld will later explain: “That’s life. That’s what deputies are for.” (Vogel 2007, pp. 441)

Heather Penney Garcia.Heather Penney Garcia. [Source: Johnathon Orrell]Two F-16 fighter jets belonging to the District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG) take off from Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, but they have no missiles and only training bullets for their guns. The pilots are Lieutenant Colonel Marc Sasseville and Lieutenant Heather Penney Garcia. (Filson 2003, pp. 82; 9/11 Commission 2004; Vogel 2007, pp. 446)
Possibly Given Shootdown Authorization - Before they headed to their jets, Sasseville and Penney Garcia were given a short briefing by Brigadier General David Wherley, the commander of the DC Air National Guard. Wherley will later recall telling Sasseville that he has “weapons free flight-lead control,” meaning he is responsible for deciding whether to fire on hostile aircraft (see (Between 9:40 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 82; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 44; Vogel 2007, pp. 446) But Sasseville will say he does not recall receiving any such rules of engagement until after he has taken off. (9/11 Commission 3/8/2004 pdf file)
Jets Only Have Training Ammunition - The two pilots run out to their jets and climb into the cockpits. But their F-16s are armed only with “hot” guns and 511 rounds of non-explosive training practice (TP) ammunition. According to Sasseville: “They had two airplanes ready to go, and were putting missiles on numbers three and four. Maintenance wanted us to take the ones with missiles, but we didn’t have time to wait on those.”
Rookie Pilot 'Never Scrambled Before' - Penney Garcia, who is a rookie pilot, will later say: “I’d never scrambled before, I’d never done this. I was screaming to the maintainers to pull the chocks, and the guys were pulling the pins to arm the guns. We were going without INS [inertial navigation system].” Sasseville and Penney Garcia are airborne about six minutes after reaching their jets. They are unaware that fighters launched from Langley Air Force Base are also flying over Washington, at around 20,000 feet (see (Between 9:49 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Scott 9/9/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 82)
Told to Look for Hijacked Plane - Over their radios, Sasseville and Penney Garcia receive instructions from their squadron to look for a hijacked aircraft approaching from the northwest and heading toward Georgetown (see (10:30 a.m.-10:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But, Sasseville will later recall, “We didn’t know what we were looking for—how high he was coming, or low, or where he was going.” (Vogel 2007, pp. 446) He will say, “I don’t have the whole picture, but have word from Washington National Approach that something is coming.”
Pilot 'Making Things Up on the Fly' - The two jets will fly over Washington at low altitudes, around 5,000 or 6,000 feet. Sasseville will later say, “I didn’t want to get too low for a good radar angle, and not too high, so we could get somewhere fast.” He will admit that he is “making things up on the fly,” as he has no precedent to draw upon. (Scott 9/9/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 82) Another DCANG pilot, Billy Hutchison, launched from Andrews four minutes before Sasseville and Penney Garcia take off, but he is airborne for less than 10 minutes (see (10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:47 a.m. September 11, 2001). The next DCANG jets to take off, which will be armed with missiles, launch at 11:11 a.m. (see 11:11 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 2/17/2004; Vogel 2007, pp. 446)

The US military’s defense readiness condition is raised from Defcon 5, the lowest possible level, to Defcon 3, an intermediate level that requires a heightened alert status for US armed forces worldwide, and which is the highest the defense readiness condition has been for 28 years. (Giambastiani 7/18/2002 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 326, 554; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 131; Rumsfeld 2011, pp. 338)
Rumsfeld Recommends Raising Defcon - The decision to go to Defcon 3 is reportedly made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. (Rumsfeld 8/12/2002) Rumsfeld will later recall that after he arrives at the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he talks with General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and “[w]e discussed and I recommended raising the defense condition level from five to three.” (9/11 Commission 3/23/2004)
Teleconference Participants Told to 'Hold Off' on Defcon 3 - Rumsfeld directs that the US military go to Defcon 3. At 10:43 a.m., it is announced on the air threat conference call that the secretary of defense “has directed that we go to Defcon 3 and be prepared to go to [Defcon] 2.” However, a minute later, Rumsfeld talks to Vice President Dick Cheney on the conference call, and Cheney says he will have to run the decision to go to Defcon 3 by the president, “and let him make the call.” Therefore, at 10:45 a.m., those on the conference call are told to “hold off on Defcon 3.”
Order to Raise Defcon Reinstated - But Rumsfeld believes raising the defense readiness condition is urgent. (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 326, 554) There is therefore a “historical discussion about how the move to Defcon 3 went during previous crises, Cuba specifically [i.e. the Cuban missile crisis in 1962],” Captain Charles Leidig, who is also in the NMCC, will later recall. With their reference being “a book on the shelf,” according to Leidig, Myers is shown that he has “approval authority to go to Defcon 3.” (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file) After consulting Defense Department directives, Rumsfeld concludes that he has the authority to issue the order to raise the defense readiness condition. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 554) Therefore, at 10:46 a.m., those on the air threat conference call are told: “Override last instructions. The vice chairman [i.e. Myers] is directing we go to Defcon 3.” A few minutes later, an announcement is made on the conference call, “Emergency action message released at 14:52 [Zulu time, i.e. 10:52 a.m. Eastern time], re: Defcon 3.” (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 2004)
Raising Defcon Is a 'Huge Move' - Rumsfeld will later agree with an interviewer that raising the defense readiness condition is “a very serious step for the nation.” (Rumsfeld 8/12/2002) It was last raised to Defcon 3 during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, when Rumsfeld had been the United States ambassador to NATO. Regarding the decision to raise it, Myers tells Rumsfeld, “It’s a huge move, but it’s appropriate.” (Rumsfeld 1/9/2002; Paltrow 3/22/2004 pdf file; Rumsfeld 2011, pp. 338)
President Later Told of Decision - The decision to go to Defcon 3 will soon be communicated within NORAD (see 11:03 a.m.-11:12 a.m. September11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2003; 9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 2/3/2004 pdf file) Rumsfeld will brief President Bush on the decision (see (11:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 554; Bush 2010, pp. 133) Apparently around the time the defense readiness condition is raised, Rumsfeld and/or Myers also decide to raise the force protection condition of US military installations (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 3/23/2004; Myers 2009, pp. 153)
Defcon 3 Intended for Cold War - Some individuals will later be critical of the decision to raise the defense readiness condition at this time. John Farmer, the senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, will write that Defcon 3 is in fact “a Cold War-era designation, devised to respond to a nuclear threat.” (Farmer 2009, pp. 235) According to Farmer and other 9/11 Commission staffers, it is “suited more to a Cold War conflict than to al-Qaeda’s attack.” (et al. 9/7/2011 pdf file) General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, will similarly say that Defcon 3 is “not intended for [events like] the attacks of 9/11 and thus could have complicated the response to the attacks.” He will say he does not think that raising the condition would have “done anything for us” within the continental United States. (9/11 Commission 3/1/2004 pdf file)
Defcons Are Phased Increases in Combat Readiness - The defense readiness condition is a “uniform system of progressive alert postures for use between the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the commanders of unified and specified commands, and for use by the [armed] services,” according to the Department of Defense. (US Department of Defense 11/8/2011 pdf file) Defcons are phased increases in combat readiness and are graduated to match situations of varying military severity. They are numbered, from Defcon 5, which means “normal peacetime readiness,” down to Defcon 1, which means “maximum force readiness.” The current level, Defcon 3, represents an “increase in force readiness above normal readiness.” (Federation of American Scientists 4/29/1998) The defense readiness condition will remain at Defcon 3 until three days later, when it will be reduced one notch, to Defcon 4 (see September 14, 2001). (Balz and Woodward 1/30/2002)

Air Force One, with President Bush on board, changes course and heads west toward Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana around this time, according to some reports, significantly later than is claimed in other accounts, such as the 9/11 Commission Report. (Sammon 2002, pp. 108-109; Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 325) The president’s plane is currently flying off the coast of South Carolina and is about half way through its 900-mile journey from Sarasota, Florida (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), to Washington, DC, according to journalist and author Bill Sammon. (Sammon 2002, pp. 109) At 10:41 a.m., Vice President Dick Cheney called Bush from the White House and urged him not to come back to Washington, because, Cheney told Bush, the capital was still too unsafe for him to return there (see 10:41 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Sanger and van Natta 9/16/2001; Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002)
Air Force One Turns West - According to the 9/11 Commission Report, Air Force One changed course and headed west at around 10:10 a.m. (see (10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and it began flying toward Barksdale Air Force Base at about 10:20 a.m. (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 325) However, Sammon will write that Bush gives the order to divert his plane after receiving the 10:41 a.m. call from Cheney. (Sammon 2002, pp. 108-109) “Within minutes” of Cheney calling Bush, according to the Washington Post, “those on board the president’s plane could feel it bank suddenly and sharply to the left, its course now westerly toward Barksdale Air Force Base.” (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002) Barksdale is about 800 miles away, according to Sammon. (Sammon 2002, pp. 109) Representative Dan Miller (R-FL), who is on Air Force One, will support the claim that the plane changes course at this time, around 10:45 a.m. According to the St. Petersburg Times, Miller thought Air Force One “flew due north for about 45 minutes. Then it turned west.” (Martin 7/4/2004) Miller will tell the National Journal, “I would say 10:45, maybe 10:30 or so, the plane changed course.” (National Journal 8/31/2002)
Other Evidence Indicates Plane Is Already Flying West - However, in addition to the 9/11 Commission Report, several other accounts will indicate that Air Force One turned west and headed toward Barksdale Air Force Base significantly earlier than this. A reporter who is on Air Force One will write that the plane “suddenly veered west” within “perhaps 20 minutes of takeoff,” meaning before 10:15 a.m. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001) And Ann Compton, another reporter on Air Force One, writes in her notebook that at 10:29 a.m., “We were not en route to Washington.” (Gilbert et al. 2002, pp. 131-132) Furthermore, at 10:42 a.m., an ID technician at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) received a call about Air Force One, in which they were told, “It looks like he’s going westbound now.” The caller, someone at NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS), added that the plane was “west of Tallahassee,” which is in north Florida, and said, “We called [the FAA’s Jacksonville Center] to see if he was deviating and they said he, it’s unknown where he’s going at this time.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)

The first fighter jet that launched from Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, in response to the morning’s attacks lands at its base less than 10 minutes after taking off. (9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 2/17/2004) The F-16, which is piloted by Major Billy Hutchison, was ordered to take off immediately after arriving back at Andrews from a training mission in North Carolina (see (10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Hutchison has made two loops up the Potomac River, and flown over the burning Pentagon (see 10:39 a.m.-10:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Scott 9/9/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 235) His aircraft had only 2,800 pounds of fuel—equivalent to one-eighth of a tank in a car—remaining when he took off, and he’d subsequently noticed his fuel gauge pegged at the lowest level it can indicate, 400 pounds. He announced to the air traffic controller he was communicating with, “I’ve got to go.” (Filson 2003, pp. 79; Spencer 2008, pp. 248) Hutchison will later recall that his plane is “on vapors” when he lands. (9/11 Commission 2/27/2004) By now, two more F-16s have taken off from Andrews (see 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 82; Vogel 2007, pp. 446) Hutchison’s jet is refueled and loaded with weapons, and he will then take off again to defend Washington. (9/11 Commission 2/27/2004; Spencer 2008, pp. 249)

Pilot Mark Tillman in the cockpit of Air Force One.Pilot Mark Tillman in the cockpit of Air Force One. [Source: CBS News]Reporters accompanying President Bush on Air Force One notice their plane significantly increasing its altitude. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Tapper 9/12/2001; Gilbert et al. 2002, pp. 148) According to Ann Compton of ABC Radio, who is on Air Force One, there is “a noticeable increase in the plane’s altitude” at this time. (Sylvester and Huffman 2002, pp. 136) At 11:14 a.m., the reporters on the plane will be informed that they are flying at around 40,000 feet. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001) Compton will later recall that around the time it increases its altitude, Air Force One is heading west, instead of flying toward Washington, DC. A Secret Service agent shakes his head and whispers to her, “We aren’t going home.” (Gilbert et al. 2002, pp. 148; Sylvester and Huffman 2002, pp. 136) It is unclear if there is a specific reason for Air Force One’s increase in altitude. Around 20 minutes earlier, Colonel Mark Tillman, the plane’s pilot, was notified of a threat received by the White House indicating that Air Force One is a target (see (10:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and shortly afterwards, air traffic control alerted him to a suspicious aircraft that was flying toward his plane (see (10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sammon 2002, pp. 106-107; Kohn 9/11/2002; Knoller 1/17/2009)

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