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Context of '8:59 a.m.-9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001: Port Authority Police Officers Order Evacuation of WTC Buildings, but Orders Not Passed On'

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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; USA Today, 12/20/2001; Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 1-10; New York Times, 5/26/2002; USA Today, 8/13/2002; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; Newsday, 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). [New York Times, 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. [USA Today, 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).

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Satam Al Suqami, Waleed Alshehri, Abdulaziz Alomari, World Trade Center, Wail Alshehri

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Lloyd Thompson.Lloyd Thompson. [Source: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey]Lloyd Thompson, the deputy fire safety director in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, attempts to make an announcement instructing workers to evacuate the building, but the public address system was damaged by Flight 11 hitting the tower and so no one hears it. Thompson works for OCS Security, which holds the security contract for the WTC, and is on duty at the fire command desk in the ground-floor lobby of the North Tower. There, he is responsible for watching the building’s various security and fire safety computer systems. [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 pdf file; New York Times, 5/22/2004; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 45]
Announcements Attempted, but Public Address System Is Damaged - After Flight 11 hits the North Tower (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), following protocol, Thompson initially tries issuing instructions to just the floors of the building that have generated “computerized alarms,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. In an announcement, he advises workers on those floors “to descend to points of safety—at least two floors below the smoke or fire—and to wait there for further instructions.” He then tries ordering the full evacuation of the tower over the public address system. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 286] However, Thompson’s attempts at issuing instructions to people in the building are unsuccessful. The 9/11 Commission will state, “[T]he public address system was damaged [by the impact of the plane] and no one apparently heard the announcement.” [9/11 Commission, 5/18/2004 pdf file]
Time of Attempted Evacuation Order Unclear - It is unclear when Thompson first tries ordering the full evacuation of the North Tower. He will tell the 9/11 Commission that he does so “within about 10 minutes” of Flight 11 hitting the building, meaning before 8:56 a.m. The reason for the delay, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, is that, although he was “immediately aware that a major incident had occurred” after Flight 11 hit the tower, Thompson “did not know for approximately 10 minutes that a commercial jet had directly hit the building.” However, when he is contacted by the deputy fire safety director in the South Tower at 8:49 a.m., just three minutes after the crash, Thompson tells his colleague that there has been “a major explosion” at the WTC, which, he says, “might be an aircraft” (see 8:49 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 286-287; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 27] Furthermore, George Tabeek, the Port Authority’s security manager for the WTC, will later say that “he called in to his fire safety command”—presumably referring to the fire command desks in the Twin Towers—“right after the first plane struck” and gave instructions “to evacuate the North Tower” (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 9/6/2011] Additionally, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, when fire department chiefs arrive in the lobby of the North Tower, Michael Hurley, the Port Authority’s fire safety director, tells them “that the full building evacuation announcement had been made within one minute of the building being hit.”
Automated Announcement Tells Workers to Stay in Offices - Around the time that Thompson is attempting to instruct people to evacuate the North Tower, the deputy fire safety director in the South Tower makes an announcement over that building’s public address system, advising workers to stay in—or return to—their offices, rather than evacuate (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 286-288] According to some security officers, an automated announcement was activated when Flight 11 crashed, which similarly instructs workers in the North Tower to stay in their offices, although it is unclear how many people hear that announcement (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Newsday, 9/10/2002]

Entity Tags: Lloyd Thompson

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Alan DeVona.Alan DeVona. [Source: Atlas Shrugs]An officer with the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) calls for the evacuation of the upper floors of the North Tower of the World Trade Center over a PAPD radio channel. Transcripts of PAPD radio transmissions will show that at 8:49 a.m., three minutes after Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), the PAPD officer talks to the PAPD desk, which is in Building 5 of the WTC, just northeast of the North Tower. He says: “Start doing the evac, the upper levels. Have the units put on the Scott air packs.” The officer at the PAPD desk then radios all PAPD units and tells them to “bring Scott air packs [to] One World Trade,” i.e. the North Tower. [Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 9/11/2001, pp. 2 pdf file; Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 11/12/2001, pp. 16 pdf file; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 195]
Patrol Sergeant Recalls Requesting Evacuation - It is unclear which PAPD officer requests the evacuation at this time. According to some accounts, Alan DeVona, the PAPD patrol sergeant at the WTC, makes the request. [Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 11/12/2001, pp. 16 pdf file; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 78] DeVona will later recall that he had just walked out from the PAPD desk in WTC 5 when he heard the explosion as Flight 11 hit the North Tower. Along with his colleague, Anthony Basic, he radioed the PAPD desk and reported that the top floors of the North Tower were on fire, due to a “possible aircraft collision.” He headed into the North Tower to coordinate with emergency agencies as they arrived there. DeVona will recall that he then “radios to have all WTC police units get Scott air packs and begin evacuation of [the North Tower].” He will subsequently be “approached by numerous PAPD units as they entered the lobby” of the North Tower, and he “dispatches them through the concourse to evacuate the complex.” [Devona, 3/28/2002, pp. 24 pdf file]
Police Commander Recalls Requesting Evacuation - However, Captain Anthony Whitaker, the PAPD commanding officer at the WTC, will also say that he calls for the evacuation of the WTC around this time. Whitaker was on duty in the shopping mall beneath the Twin Towers when Flight 11 hit the North Tower. [Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 78] He heard a “strange roar” and saw a “gigantic fireball” coming out of the lobby of the North Tower. He then contacts the PAPD desk in WTC 5. Whitaker will recall, “I had no idea what had just happened, but I knew it was bad.” Therefore, he will say, “I ordered the cop at the desk to begin a full-scale evacuation of the entire complex.” This will mean the evacuation of “both towers and the adjoining buildings.” Whitaker contacts one of his sergeants and then, he will recall, “we started placing Port Authority cops in strategic locations in the shopping mall to direct the evacuation.” Whitaker will say that after 9/11, he is repeatedly asked, “Why did you give that order to evacuate at that particular time?” following the first crash, but before the second plane hit the WTC. His explanation will be: “It just occurred to me that whatever was going on—and I still didn’t know what that was—was beyond my ability as a commanding officer of that facility to do anything about it. So it seemed to me that the only prudent thing to do was start a full-scale evacuation and get everybody out of there.” [Fink and Mathias, 2002, pp. 23-24; Murphy, 2002, pp. 179-181]
Evacuation Orders Cannot Be Heard by Fire Safety Directors - At 9:00 a.m., Whitaker will call for an evacuation of the entire WTC complex (see 8:59 a.m.-9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, both that instruction and the current one 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 to the buildings’ occupants over the public address systems. [WTC News, 8/1995 pdf file; Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 11/12/2001, pp. 19 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 293; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 195, 201] An announcement advising workers to evacuate will only go out over the public address system in the South Tower at 9:02 a.m. (see 9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). And 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). [New York Times, 5/18/2004]
PAPD Investigates All Reports of Fires at WTC - The WTC is a Port Authority property, which means it is patrolled by the PAPD—the Port Authority’s independent police agency. Members of the PAPD respond to “thefts, injuries, fires, all species of crisis large and small, almost always more quickly than the city emergency responders could get there,” according to New York Times reporters Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn. “By plan,” Dwyer and Flynn will write, “the PAPD checked out every report of fire” and “its officers were trained in at least rudimentary firefighting.” [Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 78]

Entity Tags: Anthony Basic, Anthony Whitaker, Alan DeVona, Port Authority Police Department

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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). [New York Times, 5/18/2004]

Entity Tags: Alan DeVona, Anthony Whitaker, Port Authority Police Department

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

An announcement is made over the public address system in the South Tower of the World Trade Center, advising workers that they can begin an orderly evacuation of the building if conditions warrant it. [New York Times, 5/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 289] A previous announcement over the public address system instructed people in the South Tower to stay in, or return to, their offices, rather than evacuate (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 287-288; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 72] The new announcement begins: “May I have your attention, please. Repeating this message: the situation occurred in Building 1 [i.e. the North Tower].” The announcer then says, “If the conditions warrant on your floor, you may wish to start an orderly evacuation.” [New York Times, 5/17/2004] The announcement is presumably made by Philip Hayes, the deputy fire safety director on duty at the fire command desk in the lobby of the South Tower. A button at the desk enables fire safety directors to deliver announcements over the public address system. [Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 26]
Identity of Person Who Ordered Evacuation Unclear - The new advice, for tenants to evacuate, does “not correspond to any prewritten emergency instruction,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 289] It is unclear who told Hayes to make the announcement giving this advice. George Tabeek, the Port Authority’s security manager for the WTC, contacted the fire command desks in the Twin Towers immediately after Flight 11 hit the North Tower, with instructions about what to do. His orders for Hayes, however, were to “keep people inside the South Tower” (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 9/6/2011]
Police Commander Called for Evacuation of WTC - Captain Anthony Whitaker, the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) commanding officer at the WTC, called for the evacuation of the WTC at 9:00 a.m. (see 8:59 a.m.-9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, his instruction was given over PAPD radio channel W, “which could not be heard by the deputy fire safety director in the South Tower,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [Murphy, 2002, pp. 184-185; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 293; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 201] Furthermore, according to the Port Authority, deputy fire safety directors do not generally take direct orders from the PAPD under the regular chain of command. Therefore, the 9/11 Commission Report will state, it is “not known if [Hayes] received the order by the PAPD to evacuate the complex.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 544]
Fire Department Responsible for Ordering Evacuations - According to New York Times reporters Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn, “The authority to order an evacuation during a fire normally rests with the fire department.” [Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 79] In a phone call with his counterpart in the North Tower, at 8:49 a.m., Hayes in fact said he would wait to hear from “the boss from the fire department or somebody” before ordering an evacuation of the South Tower (see 8:49 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 287; Dwyer and Flynn, 2005, pp. 27] But whether someone from the fire department told Hayes to order an evacuation is unknown. It is also unclear how long announcements, advising an evacuation, continue for. Hayes and his counterpart in the North Tower are “making announcements that the situation was serious and that occupants should evacuate immediately” for “[a]s long as the [fire alarm system] was still operational,” according to Fire Engineering magazine. [Fire Engineering, 11/1/2002] However, the 9/11 Commission Report will state, “Evidence suggests that the public address system [in the South Tower] did not continue to function after the building was hit.” This would mean no announcements go out after 9:03 a.m., when Flight 175 hits the tower (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 295] By the time the South Tower collapses (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001), out of around 8,540 people who were originally in the building, 7,940 (93 percent) have made it out and will survive, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005]

Entity Tags: Philip T. Hayes

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

According to a soldier at the scene, WTC Building 7 is evacuated before the second tower is hit. [Fort Detrick Standard, 10/18/2001] The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) states, “As the second aircraft struck WTC 2, a decision was made to evacuate WTC 7.” This would be just after the Port Authority Police Department called for the evacuation of the entire WTC complex (see 8:59 a.m.-9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). But by this time, “many WTC 7 occupants [have] already left the building and others [have] begun a self-evacuation of the building.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 109] All individuals in the Secret Service’s New York field office, located in WTC 7, were ordered to evacuate after the first attack, and they are in the process of doing so when the second plane hits the South Tower. [PCCW Newsletter, 3/2006] The Secret Service has a Stinger missile secretly stored in the WTC, to be used to protect the president if there were an attack on the city when he visits it. [Weiss, 2003, pp. 379] Presumably, this missile is abandoned with the evacuation. The Office of Emergency Management’s command center, on the 23rd floor of WTC 7, is not evacuated until later, at 9:30 a.m. (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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