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Context of '9:54 a.m.-11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001: White House Situation Room Is Unable to Communicate with Air Force One'

This is a scalable context timeline. It contains events related to the event 9:54 a.m.-11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001: White House Situation Room Is Unable to Communicate with Air Force One. You can narrow or broaden the context of this timeline by adjusting the zoom level. The lower the scale, the more relevant the items on average will be, while the higher the scale, the less relevant the items, on average, will be.

Mark Rosenker, the director of the White House Military Office, who is traveling with President Bush in Florida, is advised by the White House Situation Room not to bring the president back to Washington, DC. Air Force One’s flight plan currently has Washington as the destination of the president’s plane. [White House, 8/29/2002] And while he was being driven to Air Force One from the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Bush had been “itching to get back to Washington,” according to Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff, who was with the president in his limousine. [White House, 8/12/2002] But as he was traveling in the president’s motorcade, shortly before it arrived at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, Rosenker learned that a secure phone call from the Situation Room was holding for him. After the motorcade reaches the airport (see (9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001), therefore, Rosenker enters Air Force One and goes to an area at the back of the plane where he takes the call. The identity of the person in the Situation Room he speaks with is unstated. Rosenker will later recall that the person “indicated that it would be best if we did not come back to Washington, and that we should try to find some escort aircraft for us.” Rosenker then heads to the to the communications area of the plane and waits for takeoff, so he can then discuss these matters with the pilot, the president’s military aide, and Card. [White House, 8/29/2002] Air Force One will divert from its original course and head west at around 10:10 a.m. (see (10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and then at around 10:20 a.m., Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana will be chosen as its new destination (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325]

Entity Tags: Mark Rosenker

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The White House Situation Room.The White House Situation Room. [Source: Chuck Kennedy / White House]Staffers in the White House Situation Room remain where they are despite being advised to evacuate and a list of their names is sent out, in case an aircraft should crash into the White House. At 9:33 a.m., a supervisor at Washington’s Reagan National Airport called the Secret Service Joint Operations Center at the White House to report that an unidentified aircraft was heading toward the White House. The supervisor warned, “[I]f you’ve got people [at the White House], you’d better get them out of there” (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/14/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9; McClatchy Newspapers, 8/29/2011] Most personnel evacuated from the White House at around 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001]
Situation Room Personnel Decline the Advice to Leave - Meanwhile, Rob Hargis, the senior duty officer in the Situation Room, receives a call from a National Security Council official, who urges him and his colleagues to get out of the White House. Hargis turns to the others in the Situation Room and says: “We have been ordered to evacuate. If you want to go, go now.” However, everyone stays silent and no one gets up to leave. Hargis therefore tells the caller, “We’re staying.” He thinks the White House would be disconnected from the crisis if the Situation Room stopped operating at such a critical time. [McClatchy Newspapers, 8/29/2011] According to Franklin Miller, a senior aide to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, at some point Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley gives the instruction to keep the Situation Room running and there is in fact never any question about its personnel leaving. [New York Times, 3/30/2004]
Counterterrorism Chief Allegedly Asks the Staffers to Evacuate - White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke will later claim that, apparently around this time, he is concerned for the safety of those with him in the Situation Room, and so he huddles them together and asks them to leave. He tells them: “We will be the next target. It’s no shame to relocate. Some of you have kids too. Think about them.” But the staffers all decline his request. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 12] However, Miller will dispute whether Clarke makes this offer, calling his claim “a complete fiction” (see March 30, 2004). [New York Times, 3/30/2004]
List of the Staffers' Names Is Sent to the CIA - All the same, Miller is concerned for the safety of those in the Situation Room. “The White House could be hit; we could be going down,” he thinks. He therefore quietly compiles a list of the names of everyone in the room, he will recall, “so that when and if we died, someone would know who was in there.” The list is passed to Scott Heyer, a communications officer in the Situation Room, and Heyer e-mails it to the CIA operations center. [New York Times, 12/30/2001; McClatchy Newspapers, 8/29/2011] For the rest of the day, about a dozen staffers will remain in the Situation Room, working frantically to keep information flowing to President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and key White House personnel. [Daily Telegraph, 9/10/2010; McClatchy Newspapers, 8/29/2011]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Richard A. Clarke, Franklin Miller, Scott Heyer, Rob Hargis, Stephen J. Hadley

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Scott Heyer.Scott Heyer. [Source: T.J. Kirkpatrick / MCT]Scott Heyer, a communications officer in the White House Situation Room, is unable to contact Air Force One, the president’s plane, as it travels from Florida to Louisiana. [9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004] Air Force One takes off from Sarasota, Florida, with President Bush on board at 9:54 a.m. (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001) and lands at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana at 11:45 a.m. (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39, 325] Personnel in the Situation Room, meanwhile, are working hard to keep information flowing to key White House officials. [McClatchy Newspapers, 8/29/2011] Heyer tries to establish contact with Air Force One, which is equipped with state-of-the-art communications systems, over an ultra-high-frequency (UHF) data circuit. This system can be used for voice communications, faxes, and computer communications with the president’s plane while it is airborne. However, Heyer will later recall, the UHF data circuit “was failing.” Heyer tries calling the Inmarsat satellite phone on Air Force One, but the line is busy. [Inside the White House, 9/1998; Hardesty, 2003, pp. 167; 9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004] A communicator on the plane will in fact later comment that on this day, “Inmarsat was clobbered immediately after the attack.” [SpaceNews, 5/18/2011] Heyer waits to hear back from Air Force One, but receives no communications from the plane while it is flying from Sarasota to Barksdale Air Force Base. [9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004] Bush will complain to the 9/11 Commission about his inability to make communications while he is on Air Force One today (see (9:54 a.m.-2:50 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]

Entity Tags: Scott Heyer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


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