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9:20 a.m. September 11, 2001: American Airlines Manager Tells an FAA Security Inspector that a Passenger on Flight 11 Was Shot

Janet Riffe.Janet Riffe. [Source: FAA]Janet Riffe, the FAA’s principal security inspector for American Airlines, reportedly talks over the phone with Suzanne Clark, a manager of corporate security at American Airlines, and is told that a passenger on Flight 11 was shot dead by another passenger. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; General Accounting Office, 8/30/2002; 9/11 Commission, 2003] Riffe went to the aviation command center at FAA headquarters in Washington, DC, after being alerted to the hijacking of Flight 11 by a colleague sometime between 8:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., she will later recall. Since then, she has been making notes about the calls she has received providing information about the hijacking. [9/11 Commission, 9/11/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2/26/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2/26/2004]
Airline Manager Says a Hijacker Shot a Passenger - She now calls the American Airlines headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, for a status update and talks to Clark. [General Accounting Office, 8/30/2002] Clark is not her usual point of contact at the headquarters. She usually talks to Chris Bidwell, another manager of corporate security, but he is currently out of his office. After Riffe tries unsuccessfully to reach him, her call is passed on to Clark. [9/11 Commission, 9/11/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 11/18/2003 pdf file] During the call, Clark tells her about the alleged shooting on Flight 11. She says one of the plane’s flight attendants contacted the American Airlines System Operations Control center and reported that the passenger in seat 9B had been shot and killed by the passenger in seat 10B. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001] 9B is the seat of Daniel Lewin, a 31-year-old Internet entrepreneur, and 10B is the seat of alleged hijacker Satam Al Suqami. [Tablet, 9/11/2013; Slate, 9/11/2015] Just one bullet was fired, Clark says. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001] She also says the plane is heading back to JFK International Airport in New York. This is the only conversation between the two women today, according to Riffe. [9/11 Commission, 9/11/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2/26/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2/26/2004]
Alleged Shooting Will Be Mentioned in an FAA Memo - After the call ends, Riffe will fill out an event sheet, describing what was said. The event sheet will subsequently be seen by Riffe’s manager, Fran Lozito, who in turn will show it to Lee Longmire, the director of civil aviation security operations at the FAA. The details in it will later be entered into a log and the information in the log will be included in a memo that the FAA prepares this evening (see 5:13 p.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 9/11/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 5/11/2004]
Airline Manager Will Claim the Call Likely Never Occurred - Riffe will confirm to the 9/11 Commission that a conversation in which Clark told her about a shooting on Flight 11 took place. [9/11 Commission, 2003; 9/11 Commission, 9/11/2003 pdf file] Clark, though, will dispute this, claiming that the conversation probably never occurred. She will tell the 9/11 Commission that she “doesn’t remember talking to Janet Riffe” today. But “if the conversation ever took place,” she will comment, “[i]t was brief” and she “can’t remember what she said.” Furthermore, she will claim she only learned the names and seat numbers of the Flight 11 hijackers on the day after 9/11, and she doesn’t recall receiving any information about the weapons or tactics used on the hijacked flights, thereby implying she would have been unable to provide the information she was supposed to have given to Riffe. [9/11 Commission, 11/18/2003 pdf file] But Steve Jenkins, the FAA’s principal security inspector for United Airlines who is with Riffe in the aviation command center today, will corroborate Riffe’s account. He will tell the 9/11 Commission that he recalls Riffe commenting “on a report she said she received from American’s corporate offices about a gun being used on Flight 11, just after she received the report.” [9/11 Commission, 2/24/2004 pdf file]
Officials Will Dismiss the Claim of a Shooting - Other people besides Riffe have been told about a shooting on Flight 11. At 8:44 a.m., the operations center at FAA headquarters was told that a passenger on the plane had been shot over a conference call with the FAA’s New England Regional Operations Center (see 8:44 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/2001; General Accounting Office, 8/30/2002] However, FAA and FBI officials will say the report of a gun on Flight 11 was a mistake, and the 9/11 Commission will determine that a shooting on Flight 11 was unlikely to have occurred. Officials will say Lewin was probably killed with a knife. [Washington Post, 3/2/2002; 9/11 Commission, 2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 452-453] Most evidence will indicate he had his throat slashed by Al Suqami, apparently at around 8:14 a.m. when the hijackers took over Flight 11 (see (8:14 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 16-17; Raskin, 2013, pp. 218]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Chris Bidwell, Daniel Lewin, Suzanne Clark, Janet Riffe, Satam Al Suqami, Federal Aviation Administration, Steve Jenkins

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


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