Never Forget the Day: 9/11

11 09 2006

Filed Under: 9/11, Sept 11, Terrorism

We will never forget. This why go on living and this is why we fight for freedom. It is with the mixed emotions of deep anguish and pride that I commemorate the fifth anniversary of September 11, 2001.

8:46 am EST – the North Tower is struck at and at 9:03 am EST the South Tower is struck:

From the 9/11 Commission report:

The Hijacking of American Airlines Flight 11:

American Airlines Flight 11 provided nonstop service from Boston to Los Angeles. On September 11, Captain John Ogonowski and First Officer Thomas McGuinness piloted the Boeing 767. It carried its full capacity of nine flight attendants. Eighty-one passengers boarded the flight with them (including the five terrorists).22

The plane took off at 7:59. Just before 8:14, it had climbed to 26,000 feet, not quite its initial assigned cruising altitude of 29,000 feet. All communications and flight profile data were normal. About this time the “Fasten Seatbelt” sign would usually have been turned off and the flight attendants would have begun preparing for cabin service.23

At that same time, American 11 had its last routine communication with the ground when it acknowledged navigational instructions from the FAA’s air traffic control (ATC) center in Boston. Sixteen seconds after that transmis-sion, ATC instructed the aircraft’s pilots to climb to 35,000 feet. That message and all subsequent attempts to contact the flight were not acknowledged. From this and other evidence, we believe the hijacking began at 8:14 or shortly thereafter.24

Reports from two flight attendants in the coach cabin, Betty Ong and Madeline “Amy” Sweeney, tell us most of what we know about how the hijacking happened. As it began, some of the hijackers-most likely Wail al Shehri and Waleed al Shehri, who were seated in row 2 in first class-stabbed the two unarmed flight attendants who would have been preparing for cabin service.25

We do not know exactly how the hijackers gained access to the cockpit; FAA rules required that the doors remain closed and locked during flight. Ong speculated that they had “jammed their way” in. Perhaps the terrorists stabbed the flight attendants to get a cockpit key, to force one of them to open the cockpit door, or to lure the captain or first officer out of the cockpit. Or the flight attendants may just have been in their way.26

At the same time or shortly thereafter, Atta-the only terrorist on board trained to fly a jet-would have moved to the cockpit from his business-class seat, possibly accompanied by Omari. As this was happening, passenger Daniel Lewin, who was seated in the row just behind Atta and Omari, was stabbed by one of the hijackers-probably Satam al Suqami, who was seated directly behind Lewin. Lewin had served four years as an officer in the Israeli military. He may have made an attempt to stop the hijackers in front of him, not realizing that another was sitting behind him.27

The hijackers quickly gained control and sprayed Mace, pepper spray, or some other irritant in the first-class cabin, in order to force the passengers and flight attendants toward the rear of the plane.They claimed they had a bomb.28

About five minutes after the hijacking began, Betty Ong contacted the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, via an AT&T airphone to report an emergency aboard the flight. This was the first of several occasions on 9/11 when flight attendants took action outside the scope of their training, which emphasized that in a hijacking, they were to communicate with the cockpit crew. The emergency call lasted approximately 25 minutes, as Ong calmly and professionally relayed information about events taking place aboard the airplane to authorities on the ground.29

At 8:19, Ong reported: “The cockpit is not answering, somebody’s stabbed in business class-and I think there’s Mace-that we can’t breathe-I don’t know, I think we’re getting hijacked.” She then told of the stabbings of the two flight attendants.30

At 8:21, one of the American employees receiving Ong’s call in North Carolina, Nydia Gonzalez, alerted the American Airlines operations center in Fort Worth, Texas, reaching Craig Marquis, the manager on duty. Marquis soon realized this was an emergency and instructed the airline’s dispatcher responsible for the flight to contact the cockpit. At 8:23, the dispatcher tried unsuccessfully to contact the aircraft. Six minutes later, the air traffic control specialist in American’s operations center contacted the FAA’s Boston Air Traffic Control Center about the flight. The center was already aware of the problem.31

Boston Center knew of a problem on the flight in part because just before 8:25 the hijackers had attempted to communicate with the passengers. The microphone was keyed, and immediately one of the hijackers said, “Nobody move. Everything will be okay. If you try to make any moves, you’ll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet.” Air traffic controllers heard the transmission; Ong did not. The hijackers probably did not know how to operate the cockpit radio communication system correctly, and thus inadvertently broadcast their message over the air traffic control channel instead of the cabin public-address channel. Also at 8:25, and again at 8:29, Amy Sweeney got through to the American Flight Services Office in Boston but was cut off after she reported someone was hurt aboard the flight. Three minutes later, Sweeney was reconnected to the office and began relaying updates to the manager, Michael Woodward.32

At 8:26, Ong reported that the plane was “flying erratically.” A minute later, Flight 11 turned south. American also began getting identifications of the hijackers, as Ong and then Sweeney passed on some of the seat numbers of those who had gained unauthorized access to the cockpit.33

Sweeney calmly reported on her line that the plane had been hijacked; a man in first class had his throat slashed; two flight attendants had been stabbed-one was seriously hurt and was on oxygen while the other’s wounds seemed minor; a doctor had been requested; the flight attendants were unable to contact the cockpit; and there was a bomb in the cockpit. Sweeney told Woodward that she and Ong were trying to relay as much information as they could to people on the ground.34

At 8:38, Ong told Gonzalez that the plane was flying erratically again. Around this time Sweeney told Woodward that the hijackers were Middle Easterners, naming three of their seat numbers. One spoke very little English and one spoke excellent English. The hijackers had gained entry to the cockpit, and she did not know how. The aircraft was in a rapid descent.35

At 8:41, Sweeney told Woodward that passengers in coach were under the impression that there was a routine medical emergency in first class. Other flight attendants were busy at duties such as getting medical supplies while Ong and Sweeney were reporting the events.36

At 8:41, in American’s operations center, a colleague told Marquis that the air traffic controllers declared Flight 11 a hijacking and “think he’s [American 11] headed toward Kennedy [airport in New York City].They’re moving everybody out of the way. They seem to have him on a primary
radar. They seem to think that he is descending.”37

At 8:44, Gonzalez reported losing phone contact with Ong. About this same time Sweeney reported to Woodward,” Something is wrong. We are in a rapid descent . . . we are all over the place.” Woodward asked Sweeney to look out the window to see if she could determine where they were. Sweeney responded: “We are flying low. We are flying very, very low. We are flying way too low.” Seconds later she said, “Oh my God we are way too low.” The phone call ended.38

At 8:46:40, American 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.39

All on board, along with an unknown number of people in the tower, were killed instantly.

Crew and passenger list in report.

The Hijacking of United Airlines 175:

United Airlines Flight 175 was scheduled to depart for Los Angeles at 8:00. Captain Victor Saracini and First Officer Michael Horrocks piloted the Boeing 767, which had seven flight attendants. Fifty-six passengers boarded the flight.40

United 175 pushed back from its gate at 7:58 and departed Logan Airport at 8:14. By 8:33, it had reached its assigned cruising altitude of 31,000 feet. The flight attendants would have begun their cabin service.41

The flight had taken off just as American 11 was being hijacked, and at 8:42 the United 175 flight crew completed their report on a “suspicious transmission” overheard from another plane (which turned out to have been Flight 11) just after takeoff. This was United 175’s last communication with the ground.42

The hijackers attacked sometime between 8:42 and 8:46.They used knives (as reported by two passengers and a flight attendant), Mace (reported by one passenger), and the threat of a bomb (reported by the same passenger). They stabbed members of the flight crew (reported by a flight attendant and one passenger). Both pilots had been killed (reported by one flight attendant).The eyewitness accounts came from calls made from the rear of the plane, from passengers originally seated further forward in the cabin, a sign that passengers and perhaps crew had been moved to the back of the aircraft. Given similarities to American 11 in hijacker seating and in eyewitness reports of tactics and weapons, as well as the contact between the presumed team leaders, Atta and Shehhi, we believe the tactics were similar on both flights.43

The first operational evidence that something was abnormal on United 175 came at 8:47, when the aircraft changed beacon codes twice within a minute. At 8:51, the flight deviated from its assigned altitude, and a minute later New York air traffic controllers began repeatedly and unsuccessfully trying to contact it.44

At 8:52, in Easton, Connecticut, a man named Lee Hanson received a phone call from his son Peter, a passenger on United 175. His son told him: “I think they’ve taken over the cockpit-An attendant has been stabbed- and someone else up front may have been killed. The plane is making strange moves. Call United Airlines-Tell them it’s Flight 175, Boston to LA.” Lee Hanson then called the Easton Police Department and relayed what he had heard.45

Also at 8:52, a male flight attendant called a United office in San Francisco, reaching Marc Policastro. The flight attendant reported that the flight had been hijacked, both pilots had been killed, a flight attendant had been stabbed, and the hijackers were probably flying the plane. The call lasted about two minutes, after which Policastro and a colleague tried unsuccessfully to contact the flight.46

At 8:58, the flight took a heading toward New York City.47

At 8:59, Flight 175 passenger Brian David Sweeney tried to call his wife, Julie. He left a message on their home answering machine that the plane had been hijacked. He then called his mother, Louise Sweeney, told her the flight had been hijacked, and added that the passengers were thinking about storming the cockpit to take control of the plane away from the hijackers.48

At 9:00, Lee Hanson received a second call from his son Peter:

It’s getting bad, Dad-A stewardess was stabbed-They seem to have knives and Mace-They said they have a bomb-It’s getting very bad on the plane-Passengers are throwing up and getting sick-The plane is making jerky movements-I don’t think the pilot is flying the plane-I think we are going down-I think they intend to go to Chicago or someplace and fly into a building-Don’t worry, Dad- If it happens, it’ll be very fast-My God, my God.49

The call ended abruptly. Lee Hanson had heard a woman scream just before it cut off. He turned on a television, and in her home so did Louise Sweeney. Both then saw the second aircraft hit the World Trade Center.50

At 9:03:11, United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center.51

All on board, along with an unknown number of people in the tower, were killed instantly.

Crew and passenger list in report.

The Hijacking of American Airlines 77:

American Airlines Flight 77 was scheduled to depart from Washington Dulles for Los Angeles at 8:10. The aircraft was a Boeing 757 piloted by Captain Charles F. Burlingame and First Officer David Charlebois. There were four flight attendants. On September 11, the flight carried 58 passengers.52

American 77 pushed back from its gate at 8:09 and took off at 8:20. At 8:46, the flight reached its assigned cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. Cabin service would have begun. At 8:51, American 77 transmitted its last routine radio communication. The hijacking began between 8:51 and 8:54. As on American 11 and United 175, the hijackers used knives (reported by one passenger) and moved all the passengers (and possibly crew) to the rear of the aircraft (reported by one flight attendant and one passenger). Unlike the earlier flights, the Flight 77 hijackers were reported by a passenger to have box cutters. Finally, a passenger reported that an announcement had been made by the “pilot” that the plane had been hijacked. Neither of the firsthand accounts mentioned any stabbings or the threat or use of either a bomb or Mace, though both witnesses began the flight in the first-class cabin.53

At 8:54, the aircraft deviated from its assigned course, turning south. Two minutes later the transponder was turned off and even primary radar contact with the aircraft was lost. The Indianapolis Air Traffic Control Center repeatedly tried and failed to contact the aircraft. American Airlines dispatchers also tried, without success.54

At 9:00, American Airlines Executive Vice President Gerard Arpey learned that communications had been lost with American 77.This was now the second American aircraft in trouble. He ordered all American Airlines flights in the Northeast that had not taken off to remain on the ground. Shortly before 9:10, suspecting that American 77 had been hijacked, American headquarters concluded that the second aircraft to hit the World Trade Center might have been Flight 77. After learning that United Airlines was missing a plane, American Airlines headquarters extended the ground stop nationwide.55

At 9:12, Renee May called her mother, Nancy May, in Las Vegas. She said her flight was being hijacked by six individuals who had moved them to the rear of the plane. She asked her mother to alert American Airlines. Nancy May and her husband promptly did so.56

At some point between 9:16 and 9:26, Barbara Olson called her husband, Ted Olson, the solicitor general of the United States. She reported that the flight had been hijacked, and the hijackers had knives and box cutters. She further indicated that the hijackers were not aware of her phone call, and that they had put all th
e passengers in the back of the plane. About a minute into the conversation, the call was cut off. Solicitor General Olson tried unsuccessfully to reach Attorney General John Ashcroft.57

Shortly after the first call, Barbara Olson reached her husband again. She reported that the pilot had announced that the flight had been hijacked, and she asked her husband what she should tell the captain to do. Ted Olson asked for her location and she replied that the aircraft was then flying over houses. Another passenger told her they were traveling northeast. The Solicitor General then informed his wife of the two previous hijackings and crashes. She did not display signs of panic and did not indicate any awareness of an impending crash. At that point, the second call was cut off.58

At 9:29, the autopilot on American 77 was disengaged; the aircraft was at 7,000 feet and approximately 38 miles west of the Pentagon.59 At 9:32, controllers at the Dulles Terminal Radar Approach Control “observed a primary radar target tracking eastbound at a high rate of speed.” This was later determined to have been Flight 77.59

At 9:34, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport advised the Secret Service of an unknown aircraft heading in the direction of the White House. American 77 was then 5 miles west-southwest of the Pentagon and began a 330-degree turn. At the end of the turn, it was descending through 2,200 feet, pointed toward the Pentagon and downtown Washington. The hijacker pilot then advanced the throttles to maximum power and dove toward the Pentagon.60
At 9:37:46, American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, traveling at approximately 530 miles per hour.61

All on board, as well as many civilian and military personnel in the building, were killed.

List of Flight 77 crew and passengers and Pentagon victims who died in report.

9:59 am EST – South Tower collapse:

The voice on the video belongs to Kevin Cosgrove, a claims VP at Aon Corporation. He was 46 years old. Here is the transcript of his ‘911’ call from the South Tower.

10:15 am EST – The time of notification of the crash of United 93 into a field at Shanksville, PA.:

We’ll never forget Todd Beamer and his famous war cry, “Let’s Roll!”.

Beamer, an Oracle Inc. executive from Hightstown, N.J., and others are being credited with foiling hijackers bent on crashing the Boeing 757 into what authorities say might have been a second target in Washington, D.C., possibly the Capitol or the White House.

Flight 93 had left Newark, N.J., at 8 a.m. Tuesday, bound for San Francisco.

“That’s Todd,” his wife, Lisa, said yesterday of the “Let’s roll!” command, which he made over the plane’s in-flight telephone. A GTE supervisor talked with him for about 13 minutes before the plane crashed.

“My boys even say that. When we’re getting ready to go somewhere, we say, ‘C’mon guys, let’s roll.’ My little one says, ‘C’mon, Mom, let’s roll.’ That’s something they picked up from Todd.”

Beamer, 32, told the GTE supervisor, Lisa D. Jefferson, that he and others on the plane had decided they would not be pawns in the hijackers’ suicidal plot.

Jefferson told him about the other hijackings and Beamer made her promise to call his wife and their two boys, David, 3, and Andrew, 1.

Beamer’s call connected at 9:45 a.m. He told Jefferson there were three hijackers, armed with knives. He did not know their nationalities or their intentions. One of the men had what appeared to be a bomb tied to his midsection with a red belt.

Beamer said he could account for 37 of the plane’s 38 passengers. The hijackers had forced 27 of them into the first-class compartment near the front.

Beamer, nine other passengers and five flight attendants were ordered to sit on the floor in the rear of the plane.

He did not know the whereabouts of the pilot, copilot and the remaining passenger. He said a flight attendant had told him the pilot and copilot had been forced from the cockpit and may have been wounded.

Two of the hijackers were in the cockpit with the door locked behind them. The man with the bomb stayed in the back of the plane, near Beamer’s group.

With him were others who placed cell-phone calls from the plane, Jeffery Glick, 31, a sales manager for a technology firm, Thomas Burnett Jr., 38, a California businessman, and Mark Bingham, 31, a former college rugby player from California. Beamer mentioned Glick by his first name in the call to Jefferson, Lisa Beamer said.

Toward the end of his conversation with Jefferson, Beamer said the plane appeared to have changed directions a few times. Later, it would be determined that it had flown west from Newark to near Cleveland, then turned back to the southeast toward Pittsburgh.

Beamer became anxious.

“Oh! We’re going down!” he shouted at one point.

He paused, then said in a calmer voice, “No, we’re OK. I think we’re turning around.”

Beamer then told Jefferson that he and the others had decided to “jump on” the hijacker wearing the bomb.

Jefferson could hear shouts and commotion and then Beamer asked her to pray with him. They recited the 23rd Psalm.

He got Jefferson to promise that she would call his family, then dropped the phone, leaving the line open.

That’s when Jefferson heard what Lisa Beamer believes were her husband’s last words: “Let’s roll.”

Then there was silence. Jefferson hung up at 10 a.m. EST, realizing that the plane had gone down. Officials said it crashed at 9:58 a.m.

Although it’s not yet clear what Beamer, Glick and the others were able to do, they are being hailed as heroes for forcing the plane down in a remote strip mine area in Stoneycreek, Somerset County, about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

“When the plane started to fly erratically, he said he knew he wouldn’t make it out of there,” said Lisa Beamer, who is expecting their third child in January.

Lisa Beamer said reports of her husband’s heroic role had “made my life worth living again.” Jefferson kept her promise and called Lisa Beamer at 8 p.m. Friday.

“It was the best thing that I could’ve gotten [Friday]. It totally changed the mood around here,” Lisa Beamer said.

What a wonderful attitude this woman has toward life!

And because I never want to forget what happened that day:

10:29 am EST – North Tower collapse:

Never forget.

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