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Context of '(9:12 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Flight 77 Attendant Calls Parents and Confirms Hijacking, but Accounts Are Contradictory'

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Charles Burlingame.Charles Burlingame. [Source: Family photo / Associated Press]The 9/11 Commission says the hijacking of Flight 77 takes place between 8:51 a.m., when the plane transmits its last routine radio communication (see 8:51 a.m. September 11, 2001), and 8:54 a.m., when it deviates from its assigned course (see (8:54 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Based on phone calls made from the plane by flight attendant Renee May (see (9:12 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and passenger Barbara Olson (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001), the commission concludes that the hijackers “initiated and sustained their command of the aircraft using knives and box cutters… and moved all of the passengers (and possibly crew) to the rear of the aircraft.” It adds, “Neither of the firsthand accounts to come from Flight 77… mentioned any actual use of violence (e.g., stabbings) or the threat or use of either a bomb or Mace.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 8-9; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 29] People who knew Charles Burlingame, the pilot of Flight 77, will later contend that it would have required a difficult struggle for the hijackers to gain control of the plane from him. [Washington Post, 9/11/2002] Burlingame was a military man who’d flown Navy jets for eight years, served several tours at the Navy’s elite Top Gun school, and been in the Naval Reserve for 17 years. [Associated Press, 12/6/2001] His sister, Debra Burlingame, says, “This was a guy that’s been through SERE [Survival Evasion Resistance Escape] school in the Navy and had very tough psychological and physical preparation.” [Journal News (Westchester), 12/30/2003] Admiral Timothy Keating, who was a classmate of Burlingame’s from the Navy and a flight school friend, says, “I was in a plebe summer boxing match with Chick, and he pounded me.… Chick was really tough, and the terrorists had to perform some inhumane act to get him out of that cockpit, I guarantee you.” [CNN, 5/16/2006] Yet the five alleged hijackers do not appear to have been the kinds of people that would be a particularly dangerous opponent. Pilot Hani Hanjour was skinny and barely over 5 feet tall. [Washington Post, 10/15/2001] And according to the 9/11 Commission, the “so-called muscle hijackers actually were not physically imposing,” with the majority of them being between 5 feet 5 and 5 feet 7 in height, “and slender in build.” [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004] Senator John Warner (R-VA) later says “the examination of his remains… indicated Captain Burlingame was in a struggle and died before the crash, doing his best to save lives on the aircraft and on the ground.” [Washington Post, 12/8/2001]

Entity Tags: Hani Hanjour, John W. Warner, Charles Burlingame

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Flight 77 from Washington begins to go off course over southern Ohio, turning to the southwest. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Newsday, 9/23/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Lori Keyton, a secretary in the office of Solicitor General Ted Olson at the Department of Justice, receives a number of unsuccessful calls, which presumably are made by Barbara Olson, the wife of the solicitor general, who is a passenger on Flight 77. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 94] Flight 77 was hijacked between around 8:51 a.m. and 8:54 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see 8:51 a.m.-8:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 8] At about 9:00 a.m., Keyton receives a series of around six to eight collect calls. Her phone has no caller identification feature, so the caller is unknown. All of the calls are automated and, in them, a recorded voice advises of the collect call and requests that Keyton hold for an operator. A short time later, another recording states that all operators are busy and so the person should please hang up and try their call later. After the last of these automated calls occurs, Keyton will answer a call from a live operator, connecting Barbara Olson to her husband’s office (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). She will answer a second call from Barbara Olson that is made directly to the office a few minutes later (see (Between 9:20 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Keyton will immediately put Barbara Olson through to her husband after answering both of these calls. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 94] A list compiled by the Department of Justice supposedly showing all of the calls made today from Flight 77 will apparently make no mention of the failed calls that Keyton answers. It will mention four calls from an unknown number, which are believed to include the two successful calls made by Barbara Olson. It will also include one call—not six to eight—that is described as being made by Barbara Olson to Ted Olson’s office, which failed to connect, but this is made just before 9:19 a.m. rather than around 9:00 a.m., when the failed calls received by Keyton reportedly occur (see 9:15 a.m.-9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/20/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 455]

Entity Tags: Barbara Olson, Lori Lynn Keyton

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

American Airlines initiates the “lockout” procedure to protect information about Flight 77. This standard procedure acknowledges an emergency on the flight and isolates information about it, so the airline’s top leadership can manage the case. A lockout safeguards information against being altered or released, and protects the identities of the plane’s passengers and crew. FAA air traffic controllers first alerted American Airlines about their loss of contact with Flight 77 at 8:58 (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001), and called the airline again about the flight at 9:02 (see 9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12-13 and 30]

Entity Tags: American Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

By this time, officials at American Airlines’ System Operations Control in Fort Worth, Texas have mistakenly concluded that the second aircraft to hit the World Trade Center might have been Flight 77. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 30] American Airlines learned that communications had been lost with Flight 77 just before 9 a.m. (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: American Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Renee May.
Renee May. [Source: Family photo]Renee May, a flight attendant on Flight 77, calls her parents in Las Vegas and reports her plane has been hijacked. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] According to author Tom Murphy, May previously tried calling the American Airlines flight services office at Washington’s Reagan National Airport, but all the lines there were busy. [Murphy, 2006, pp. 56-57] However, a summary of the phone calls made from the four hijacked planes that is presented at the 2006 Zacarias Moussaoui trial will make no mention of this earlier call. May’s first attempt at calling her parents, at 9:11 a.m., had not connected, but her second attempt a minute later is successful, and the call lasts for two-and-a-half minutes. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 31; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] According to reports shortly after 9/11 in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, May makes her call using a cell phone. [Las Vegas Review-Journal, 9/13/2001; Las Vegas Review-Journal, 9/15/2001] But at the Moussaoui trial it will be claimed she uses an Airfone. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 7 pdf file] According to most accounts, including that of the 9/11 Commission, she speaks to her mother, Nancy May. [Las Vegas Review-Journal, 9/13/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 7 pdf file] But according to Murphy, she speaks with her father, Ronald May. [Murphy, 2006, pp. 57] Renee reports that her plane is being hijacked. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 31] Although it will be officially claimed that there are five hijackers on Flight 77, she says six individuals have taken over the plane (see Between 9:12 a.m. and 9:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/27/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 2-3 and 9] Renee says the hijackers have moved people to the rear of the aircraft, though it is unclear whether she is referring to all of the passengers or just the flight’s crew. She tells her parent (either her mother or father, depending on the account) to call American Airlines and inform it of the hijacking. She gives three numbers in Northern Virginia to call. Before the time Flight 77 crashes, Renee May’s mother (or her father, according to Murphy) is able to contact an American Airlines employee at Reagan National Airport and pass on what their daughter has reported (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 31; Murphy, 2006, pp. 57]

Entity Tags: Ronald May, Nancy May, Renee May

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

In a phone call from Flight 77, flight attendant Renee May describes six hijackers on her plane, yet official accounts will state there are only five. May is able to call her parents from Flight 77 to report that her plane has been hijacked (see (9:12 a.m.) September 11, 2001). She says six individuals have carried out the hijacking. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 31] Yet, despite this, the official claim put forward by the FBI and later the 9/11 Commission will be that there are five hijackers—not six—on this flight. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/27/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 27] Apparently, the only other person to make a phone call from Flight 77 is passenger Barbara Olson, who reaches her husband (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/12/2001; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004 pdf file] But Olson does not appear to make any reference to the number of hijackers on the plane. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/14/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9]

Entity Tags: Ronald May, Renee May, Nancy May

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Toni Knisley.Toni Knisley. [Source: ReclaimingTheSky.com]At some time before the Pentagon is hit, one of the parents of flight attendant Renee May call an American Airlines employee at Reagan National Airport just outside Washington, DC, and report that their daughter has contacted them from Flight 77, which has been hijacked. May called her parents at 9:12 a.m., reported that her plane was being hijacked, and asked them to pass this information on to American Airlines (see (9:12 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 31] The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that it is May’s mother, Nancy May, who makes the call to American Airlines. [Las Vegas Review-Journal, 9/13/2001] This claim is repeated at the 2006 Zacarias Moussaoui trial. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 7 pdf file] But according to author Tom Murphy, it is her father, Ronald May, who makes the call. [Murphy, 2006, pp. 57] The parent describes the information provided by their daughter, including her flight number and her phone number on board the plane. According to the 9/11 Commission, the American Airlines employee initially thinks May’s mother (who the Commission indicates makes the call) is talking about the aircraft that crashed into the World Trade Center. But Nancy May repeats that she is referring to Flight 77, which is still in the air. (The error could possibly be because, by 9:08 a.m., officials at American Airlines’ System Operations Control in Texas mistakenly concluded that the second aircraft to hit the World Trade Center may have been Flight 77 (see 9:08 a.m. September 11, 2001).) [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 30-31] The employee, a secretary, then passes on the information about May’s call to Toni Knisley, a flight service manager at the airport. Knisley rushes to her office and enters May’s employee number into the computer to call up her schedule. This shows she was booked on Flight 77, Washington Dulles Airport to Los Angeles, scheduled to depart at 8:10 a.m. Knisley tries to log onto the flight to view its status, but the information is blocked, so she cannot see if it is still flying or where it is. [Murphy, 2006, pp. 56-57] (It is possible the information is blocked as a result of American Airlines having already initiated “lockout” procedures to protect information about Flight 77 (see 9:05 a.m. September 11, 2001).)

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Renee May, Nancy May, Ronald May, Toni Knisley

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The telephone Ted Olson used when he spoke to his wife, who called him from Flight 77.The telephone Ted Olson used when he spoke to his wife, who called him from Flight 77. [Source: US Department of Justice]Barbara Olson, a passenger on Flight 77, talks over the phone with her husband, Ted Olson, the solicitor general of the United States, for a second time and is able to give him additional details of the hijacking of her plane before the call gets cut off. She has just called him at his office at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC, and was able to say her plane had been hijacked and give him details of the hijacking before the call got disconnected (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/14/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9] Since then, Ted Olson has called the Department of Justice command center and passed on the information she provided (see (Between 9:17 a.m. and 9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 32]
Secretary Answers the Call - Shortly after making her first call to him, Barbara Olson calls Ted Olson again. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9] The call is initially answered by Lori Keyton, a secretary in Ted Olson’s office. When Keyton picks up the phone, Barbara Olson says, “It’s Barbara.” Keyton says she will put her through to her husband. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001] Ted Olson is told his wife is on the phone again and the call is put through to him.
Barbara Olson Says Her Plane Has Been Circling Around - Barbara Olson then gives her husband additional information about the hijacking of Flight 77. She says the pilot announced that the plane had been hijacked. Ted Olson asks if she has any idea of her plane’s location. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/14/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 32] She says the plane was hijacked shortly after takeoff and has been circling around for a while. [CNN, 9/14/2001; Fox News, 9/14/2001] (However, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, Flight 77 was hijacked between around 8:51 a.m. and 8:54 a.m. (see 8:51 a.m.-8:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), more than 30 minutes after it took off (see (8:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 8] ) She says it is currently flying over some houses. After consulting another person on the plane, she says she thinks they are heading northeast.
Barbara Olson Asks What She Should Tell the Pilot - Ted Olson says two aircraft, besides Flight 77, were hijacked this morning and these planes subsequently crashed into the World Trade Center. Barbara Olson “absorbed the information,” the solicitor general will later recall. The couple then try to reassure each other. Ted Olson says, “It’s going to come out okay” and Barbara Olson tells him the same thing. She then says, “I love you.” Before the call ends, the couple “segued back and forth between expressions of feeling for one another and this effort to exchange information,” Ted Olson will recall. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/14/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 32] “We exchanged the feelings that a husband and wife who are extraordinarily close—as we are—those kind of sentiments,” he will say. [Fox News, 9/14/2001] The last thing Barbara Olson says is: “What shall I tell the pilot? What can I tell the pilot to do?” This implies that either the plane’s pilot or the co-pilot is at the back of the plane, where the hijackers moved the passengers, Ted Olson will note. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/14/2001]
Call Is Abruptly Cut Off - The call then ends abruptly, with the line suddenly going dead. It has lasted “two or three or four minutes,” Ted Olson will estimate. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/14/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 32] Ted Olson will then return to watching the coverage of the attacks at the WTC on television. When he sees the reports about an attack at the Pentagon, he will immediately think his wife’s plane crashed there (see (Shortly After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001; Fox News, 9/14/2001]
Call Is Made Sometime between 9:20 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. - The exact time of Barbara Olson’s second call to her husband is unclear. A list compiled by the Department of Justice supposedly showing all of the calls made today from Flight 77 will include four “connected calls to unknown numbers” (see 9:15 a.m.-9:30 a.m. September 11, 2001) and the 9/11 Commission Report will determine that these include the two calls made by Barbara Olson. According to the information in the list, her second call must occur at 9:20 a.m., 9:25 a.m., or 9:30 a.m. and last for 4 minutes 34 seconds, 2 minutes 39 seconds, or 4 minutes 20 seconds. [9/11 Commission, 5/20/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 455; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 94]
Call Is Made Directly to Ted Olson's Office - It is also unclear whether Barbara Olson makes this call using a cell phone or an Airfone. Keyton’s phone has no caller identification feature and so she is unable to determine what kind of phone Barbara Olson uses. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001] But the Department of Justice will determine that all of the calls from Flight 77 were made using Airfones. [9/11 Commission, 5/20/2004] Barbara Olson makes the call by dialing “0,” apparently in an attempt to reach an operator, according to an FBI report. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/20/2001] But Keyton will say that, unlike the first call, Barbara Olson’s second call to her husband is made directly to his office, rather than reaching it via an operator. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001] And Mercy Lorenzo, the operator who connected Barbara Olson’s first call to Ted Olson’s office (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001), will apparently mention dealing with only one call, not two, from Barbara Olson when she is interviewed by the FBI. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: Theodore (“Ted”) Olson, Mercy Lorenzo, Lori Lynn Keyton, Barbara Olson

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The conservative lobbying and advocacy group Citizens United (CU) releases a documentary intended as a refutation of the popular documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11 (see June 25, 2004), a film by liberal documentarian Michael Moore that savaged the Bush administration’s handling of the 9/11 attacks. The CU film is entitled Celsius 41.11—The Temperature at Which the Brain Begins to Die. CU spent six weeks making the film, and is releasing it in small venues around the nation after the Federal Election Commission (FEC) denied the organization permission to broadcast it on television (see September 8, 2004). (In August, the FEC dismissed a complaint against Moore over Fahrenheit 9/11 filed by CU—see August 6, 2004.) The slogan for the movie is “The Truth Behind the Lies of Fahrenheit 9/11!” The movie was written and produced by Lionel Chetwynd, who has written and produced a number of Hollywood feature films and documentaries. Chetwynd, a vocal conservative, produced the September 2003 “docudrama” 9/11: Time of Crisis, which portrayed President Bush as a near-action hero during and after the 9/11 attacks, and took significant liberties with the actual events (see September 7, 2003). Of this film, Chetwynd says: “We could have gone wall to wall with red meat on this, but we purposely didn’t. The cheap shots may be entertaining in Moore’s film, but we wanted to make the intellectual case and go beyond lecturing to the converted.” New York Times reporter John Tierney describes the movie as overtly intellectual, sometimes appearing more as a PowerPoint presentation than a film made to appeal to a wider audience. It features a point-by-point defense of Bush’s actions during the 9/11 attacks, and features “politicians, journalists, and scholars discoursing on the legality of the Florida recount in 2000, the Clinton administration’s record on fighting terrorism, and the theory of American exceptionalism.” There are a few “red meat” moments, Tierney notes, including the juxtaposition of the Twin Towers burning as Moore says in a voiceover, “There is no terrorist threat.” It also includes a few slaps against Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (D-MA), mostly in the form of a country song where the singer Larry Gatlin sings, “John boy, please tell us which way the wind’s blowing,” a reference to the Bush campaign’s attempt to portray Kerry as a “flip-flopper” who goes back and forth in his views on various issues. The Georgetown premiere of the movie attracts some 300 viewers, almost all Republicans, according to Tierney. The audience, according to Tierney, views the film as more “thoughtful and accurate” than Moore’s film, and unlikely to make anywhere near the profits the earlier film garnered. Chetwynd says he resisted the temptation to launch an all-out assault on Kerry “the way that Moore did with Bush.” Filmgoer Jerome Corsi, who has written a bestselling book attacking Kerry’s Vietnam record, praises the film, as does Debra Burlingame, whose brother was the pilot of the airplane that was flown into the Pentagon on the morning of September 11, 2001 (see 8:51 a.m.-8:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). Burlingame, a founder of a group of 9/11 victim relatives that supports Bush, says: “Michael Moore actually used footage of the Pentagon in flames as a sight gag. It was really hard to sit there in the theater listening to people laugh at that scene knowing my brother was on that plane. I wish more people would see this film instead.” [New York Times, 9/30/2004] In October, the Washington Post’s Philip Kennicott will dismiss the film as “generat[ing] heat but no new light,” calling it “sad in a sad sort of way… dull, lazy, and inconsistent,” and suffused with an “unabashed idolatry of the Great Leader (in this case, George W. Bush)” in the same way that Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl made her documentaries (he wonders, “Has the conservative worldview really been reduced to a slavish worship of authority?”). Kennicott will ask if the film is an attempt to refute Moore’s documentary or an “overlong attack ad on John Kerry,” and concludes that the film is little more than a combination of “dreadful political advertisements and dreadful political talk shows.” [Washington Post, 10/22/2004] TV Guide’s Maitland McDonagh will call the film a “shrill, repetitive screed” obviously released just in time to influence the 2004 presidential election, and bearing “all the hallmarks of having been thrown together in a heated rush.” [TV Guide, 10/2004]

Entity Tags: Jerome Corsi, Debra Burlingame, Clinton administration, Citizens United, Bush administration (43), George W. Bush, Philip Kennicott, Lionel Chetwynd, Federal Election Commission, Larry Gatlin, Leni Riefenstahl, John Tierney (New York Times), Maitland McDonagh, John Kerry, Michael Moore

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, Domestic Propaganda, 2004 Elections

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