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September 15, 2014

New 9/11 Timeline Entries: White House Staffers’ Actions on 9/11, President Apparently in Danger, and More

Filed under: Complete 911 Timeline — Matt @ 2:40 am
Tags: , , ,

A large number of entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons. Most of these focus on the events of September 11, 2001, including the actions of White House personnel in response to the terrorist attacks that day, and a number of apparent threats to President Bush and his plane, Air Force One.

White House Officials Visited Emergency Bunker during Exercise

A new timeline entry describes a training exercise held shortly before 9/11 in which some senior White House staffers were shown to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), a bunker below the White House where numerous government officials went on September 11. Following the first attack on September 11, Josh Bolten, the deputy White House chief of staff, was called by a former member of the Clinton administration who wanted to check that he was aware of the PEOC.

Bolten, according to his own recollection, alerted National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to the second crash at the World Trade Center after seeing coverage of it on television. Later on, he headed to the PEOC where he joined Vice President Dick Cheney and other government officials.

Also early on the morning of September 11, a sheriff in Sarasota, Florida, was surprised to find that when he contacted colleagues who were with President Bush’s Secret Service detail, shortly after he saw the TV reports of the first crash at the WTC, those colleagues were unaware of what had happened in New York.

Meanwhile, Karl Rove, Bush’s senior adviser, learned about the first crash when his assistant called him from the White House about it, and he then went to pass on the news to the president. Rove and other members of the president’s staff who assembled in the staff hold at the school in Sarasota that Bush was visiting were promptly informed when the second plane hit the WTC, but then had to locate a TV to see the news reports of the incident because, unusually, a television had not already been set up in the staff hold.

White House Staffers Headed to DaimlerChrysler Office

A number of new entries focus on the actions of government employees at the White House in response to the 9/11 attacks.

Prior to being evacuated from the White House, staffers were ordered to go to the White House mess, the exclusive dining room in the basement of the West Wing. After they were evacuated from the White House, many of the staffers went to the office of DaimlerChrysler in Washington, DC, where they were able to continue their work for the rest of the day. Around midday, though, some senior officials were allowed to leave there and return to the White House.

Before he went to the DaimlerChrysler building, David Frum, one of President Bush’s speechwriters, talked on the phone with Richard Perle, the chairman of the Defense Policy Board, and Perle said that Bush needed to say he would hold not just terrorists but also the nations that harbor them responsible for the morning’s attacks.

Security Increased around Air Force One

Air Force One, the president’s plane, features in several new timeline entries.

Although numerous government agencies contacted the plane after the second crash at the WTC, none of these agencies had called it after the first crash. In response to the second crash, though, Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, was told to assume that the plane was a target, and security around it was increased. After the president’s motorcade reached the plane, reporters accompanying the president were subjected to a strict security check by Secret Service agents before they were allowed to board.

President Appeared to Be a Terrorist Target

Other entries describe incidents in which President Bush seemed to be in danger.

Early on the morning of September 11, a Sudanese man contacted police in Sarasota to report his concerns about a friend who he feared might be a danger to Bush while he was visiting the area. Also, apparently early that morning, a group of Middle Eastern men arrived at the resort where Bush had spent the night and falsely claimed to have an interview with the president.

White House chief of staff Andrew Card has claimed he learned that a threat had been made against Air Force One while he and Bush were being driven away from the school they visited that morning, although other accounts have indicated that a threat against the plane had not been made at that time. Then, as Air Force One was preparing to take off with Bush on board, Mark Tillman was warned that a man, possibly carrying a gun, was standing at the end of the runway, but this apparent threat turned out to be unfounded.

At around 10:30 a.m., the White House received an anonymous phone call in which the caller said Air Force One would be the next terrorist target. Dick Cheney, after being alerted to the call, phoned Bush and told him about it. The apparent threat was subsequently determined to be unfounded, but government officials have given conflicting accounts of the incident in the following years.

Later in the morning of September 11, Tillman was informed that unidentified fast-moving aircraft were flying toward his plane, and he became concerned that these could be armed fighter jets piloted by foreign nationals. A short time later, he was told that an unidentified aircraft was again flying toward Air Force One, but this turned out to be just a Learjet flown by a civilian. Hours later, as Air Force One was approaching Washington, yet another unidentified aircraft was noticed flying toward the president’s plane, but this again turned out to be just a Learjet, “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Emergency Transmitter Activated in Michigan

Other new timeline entries describe some miscellaneous events from September 11.

Inexplicably, a radio transmitter carried by aircraft that is designed to go off if a plane crashes was activated in southeast Michigan shortly before 10:00 a.m. that morning. And yet it appears that no such transmitter went off when the fourth hijacked plane, Flight 93, crashed just after 10:00 a.m. Flight 93′s transponder, though, was reactivated just before the plane crashed, thereby revealing information about the flight to air traffic controllers.

And at some time during the afternoon of September 11, three senior government officials went from the White House to the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters and discussed the government’s response to the terrorist attacks with officials there.

Please consider donating to History Commons, to help it continue as a leading informational source for the 21st century. To make a donation, click here.

January 1, 2014

Fundraiser for History Commons 2.0

Filed under: community,History Commons 2.0 — Max @ 2:56 pm
Tags:

It’s officially on. :) http://www.razoo.com/story/Historycommons

The new application and paradigm for the History Commons is in development right now (currently in alpha, soon to go into private beta). But to make this happen, the History Commons needs your help.

We don’t like to solicit donations, and we have largely refrained from doing so in the past. But the History Commons 2.0 is too important not to happen because of financial shortfalls.

From the fundraising page:

A new version of the History Commons crowdsource journalism app is under development now. The app will make the History Commons an increasingly important tool in empowering the public to keep tabs on the very powerful interests that are destroying our planet and impoverishing most of its inhabitants.

The new app will make it very easy for people to collaborate with each other on investigative efforts to shine a bright light on the people and organizations most responsible for destroying the planet and impoverishing its people. The app will leverage all the advances in social media that we have seen during the last 10 years so its content can be easily embedded in other published pieces, shared across multiple platforms, and then published in a format that can easily go viral.

The new app will offer the public an API so others can leverage the History Commons data and intelligence analysis capabilities to create other activist-oriented apps.

We will develop a mobile version of the app so that people can access History Commons data and source information easily and quickly wherever they are. This is an immensely important feature for people who often find themselves in situations where they have an opportunity to educate people, but lack a means to access the facts they need at that particular moment.

Help us make this happen. We need your donations and we need your participation. Remember, anyone can contribute — some of the best material on the Commons comes from anonymous contributors who write material based on their own interests, knowledge and passions.

The direct fundraising page for the History Commons is here: http://historycommons.org/fundraiser.jsp

The personal fundraiser from executive director Derek Mitchell is here: http://www.razoo.com/story/Turn-Every-One-Into-A-Muckraker/

Thank you!

November 27, 2013

New 9/11 Timeline Entries: Aborted Plan to Assassinate Bin Laden, Dick Cheney and Family on Sept. 11, Secret Service Response to Attacks, and More


A large number of new entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons, including many that reveal details about the events of September 11, 2001, and others that describe important events from the years preceding the 9/11 attacks.

Security Chief Predicted Attacks on the WTC

Several entries relate to the actions of Rick Rescorla, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter’s vice president for security at the World Trade Center, and his friend and former Army colleague Dan Hill. In 1990, the two men wrote a report that predicted a terrorist attack at the WTC closely resembling the 1993 bombing, involving a truck bomb in the underground garage. In the aftermath of the 1993 WTC bombing, Hill and Rescorla conducted an analysis of security and predicted that terrorists would attack the towers again, probably by crashing a plane into them. Rescorla consulted his friend Fred McBee, who, by using a flight simulator program on his computer, concluded that such a scenario was “very viable.”

In 1998, Hill came up with a plan to go to Afghanistan and kill Osama bin Laden. In spring 2000, he met with an FBI agent to discuss the plan and request US military assistance. But a year later, after she consulted FBI headquarters, the agent informed Hill that his request had been rejected and so he had to drop his plan.

Some entries relate to training exercises held at the World Trade Center. In one drill, conducted in 1982, the Port Authority and other agencies actually practiced for the scenario of a plane crashing into the Twin Towers. In March 1993, during public hearings that examined the security aspects of the recent WTC bombing, Guy Tozzoli, a former director of the World Trade Department, said the Port Authority should again train for the possibility of a plane hitting the WTC, but his recommendation was ignored. However, in June 1999, September 2000, and summer 2001, the Port Authority and the New York City Fire Department held realistic exercises that simulated a major fire on an upper floor of the WTC.

Vice President Cheney Evacuated to the White House Bunker

Many new entries describe events from the day of 9/11, especially looking at the actions of Vice President Dick Cheney, his wife, Lynne Cheney, and their Secret Service agents.

James Scott, Dick Cheney’s lead Secret Service agent, learned of the first crash at the World Trade Center from television and then alerted the other members of Cheney’s Secret Service detail to the news. After the second crash, he discussed what to do in response with a supervisor. He headed to the West Wing of the White House and joined Cheney’s other agents there at 9:30 a.m.

At around 9:35 a.m., the agents learned that a suspicious aircraft was approaching Washington, DC, and consequently evacuated Cheney from his office at around 9:36 a.m., according to some accounts. (However, other accounts have suggested that Cheney was evacuated at around 9:03 a.m.) About a minute after leaving his office, Cheney reached an underground tunnel leading to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), a bunker below the White House.

Lynne Cheney Evacuated from Hair Salon to the White House

Lynne Cheney, meanwhile, was at a hair salon near the White House when the planes hit the WTC and was told what had happened by one of her Secret Service agents. But she was only evacuated from the hair salon shortly after 9:33 a.m., when the Secret Service learned of the unidentified plane approaching Washington. Furthermore, when she reached the White House, guards initially tried to prevent her car from entering the grounds. And after Cheney entered the White House, the Secret Service agent who accompanied her was initially confused about where he should take her.

Lynne Cheney finally joined her husband in the tunnel leading to the PEOC at around 9:55 a.m., and the couple went into the PEOC at around 9:58 a.m.

Liz Cheney, the eldest daughter of Dick and Lynne Cheney, phoned her father after the second crash at the WTC to tell him what was happening. Around late morning to early afternoon, Secret Service agents took her and her children to a secure government facility in rural Virginia, where she was soon joined by her husband. Later in the afternoon, the Secret Service moved Cheney, her husband, and their children to Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland.

The Secret Service’s Response to the Attacks

Some timeline entries describe other aspects of the Secret Service’s response to the 9/11 attacks. For example, following the crashes at the World Trade Center, a Secret Service agent contacted a “structural collapse team” at an Army base just outside Washington, to let it know that the Secret Service might need its assistance. And Brian Stafford, the director of the Secret Service, activated the Director’s Crisis Center (DCC) at Secret Service headquarters to manage the Secret Service’s response to the attacks. Another agent, Danny Spriggs, joined Stafford in the DCC at 9:35 a.m., but found his agency’s ability to respond was hindered by the poor quality of the information they received in the center.

Furthermore, Secret Service executives only implemented an “emergency call-up” of all agency personnel after the Pentagon attack. And members of the Secret Service emergency response team who were on the ground when President Bush’s helicopter arrived at the White House early in the evening were ordered to pull back out of camera range, which meant they were too far from the president to respond effectively if something bad had happened.

After he learned of the events in New York, Carl Truscott, the Secret Service special agent in charge of the presidential protective division, called three colleagues to his office for a meeting. During the meeting, the agents discussed “security enhancements” at the White House, and the Secret Service subsequently began implementing those security enhancements.

Sometime before 9:45 a.m., Truscott was alerted to the suspicious aircraft approaching Washington and he consequently ordered the evacuation of the White House. The Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House, was, like the White House, evacuated at 9:45 a.m.

Following his meeting, Truscott headed to the PEOC, but he stopped on the way to take National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice with him. Before going, Rice briefly spoke on the phone with President Bush. She entered the PEOC shortly before 10:00 a.m.

Please consider donating to History Commons, to help it continue as a leading informational source for the 21st century. To make a donation, click here.

July 8, 2013

New 9/11 Timeline Entries: WTC Evacuation Orders, 9/11-Style Movies, and More

Filed under: Complete 911 Timeline — Matt @ 2:54 am
Tags: , , ,

Many new entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons, covering a range of topics relating to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Contradictory Orders over Whether People Should Evacuate the WTC

Numerous entries examine the conflicting orders and announcements that were made, regarding whether people should evacuate or stay in the World Trade Center after the first plane hit the North Tower.

After the crash, George Tabeek, a WTC security manager, contacted the deputy fire safety directors in the Twin Towers with instructions to “evacuate the North Tower, but keep people inside the South Tower.” But around the same time, some people in the North Tower heard an automated announcement advising them to stay in their offices.

The deputy fire safety director in the North Tower tried telling people to evacuate, but without success, as the public address system in his building was damaged by the plane’s impact. He was contacted by his counterpart in the South Tower, who said he would wait to hear from “the boss from the fire department” before ordering people to evacuate his building. However, an announcement then went out over the public address system in the South Tower advising workers to stay in their offices. Furthermore, Port Authority officials in the South Tower instructed people who were evacuating, in person, to go back to their offices.

Fire chiefs in the North Tower were telling other agencies to evacuate the South Tower by about 8:57 a.m., six minutes before Flight 175 hit it. Furthermore, an officer with the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) actually called for the evacuation of the top floors of the North Tower over his radio just three minutes after the plane hit it. And at around 9:00 a.m., senior PAPD officers called for the evacuation of both towers and then the entire WTC complex. However, the PAPD officers’ orders were apparently not passed on.

Finally, at 9:02 a.m., a minute before Flight 175 hit, an announcement was made in the South Tower, advising workers to start evacuating.

Movies that Predicted 9/11

New timeline entries describe TV dramas and movies that were in production in September 2001, which featured storylines with surprising similarities to aspects of what happened on September 11. Many of these productions were canceled or rewritten as a result of the 9/11 attacks.

Nosebleed was a movie that would have featured Jackie Chan as a window washer who tries to stop terrorists who are plotting to blow up the WTC. A scene for the movie was going to be filmed at the top of the North Tower on the morning of 9/11, but the filming was canceled. Till Death Do Us Part, a film starring Michael Douglas and Billy Crystal, was based around terrorists targeting New York and would have included a key scene at the WTC.

The movie WW3.com would have featured cyber-terrorists causing a Boeing 767 to crash into New York’s Central Park. A 20th Century Fox movie called Deadline would have involved terrorists hijacking a commercial aircraft. And filming was originally set to begin around three weeks after 9/11 for a big-budget TV movie about a jumbo jet crash, where investigators consider the possibility that Osama bin Laden caused the crash.

TV Dramas that Predicted 9/11

A big-budget TV miniseries called Terror would have been based around al-Qaeda committing a series of terrorist attacks in New York. A group from NBC was actually near the WTC on the morning of September 11, doing preparatory work for the miniseries. And writer/producer Bryce Zabel was working on a miniseries called World War III, about a terrorist attack in the US that leads to a global conflict.

The Agency, a CBS series about the CIA, featured several notable storylines that were written before 9/11. One storyline, which was never used, involved Osama bin Laden having three American planes hijacked. The show’s pilot episode, which was originally set to air in late September 2001, involved al-Qaeda plotting to blow up a department store in London. Another episode featured a planned terrorist attack in Washington, DC, using anthrax, and was originally set to be broadcast at the time of the actual anthrax attacks in the US.

Other Day of 9/11 and Pre-9/11 Events

A few new entries describe additional events from the day of 9/11. One entry describes how, unusually, air traffic controllers failed to contact United Airlines that morning about the hijackings. Later in the morning, the FAA’s Cleveland Center–which had the last contact with Flight 93 before it crashed–received several bomb threats. Around the same time, the center was evacuated in response to a report of a suspicious aircraft flying above it.

Other entries look at various events from the years and weeks preceding 9/11. One entry summarizes the gradual reduction in the number of fighter jets kept on “alert” to defend US airspace between the 1950s and the time of the 9/11 attacks. Another entry describes how, around 1969 or 1970, an Army Ranger in officer training envisioned a 9/11-like scenario of a suicide pilot crashing a plane into the US Capitol building.

Early in 2001, an entry reveals, President Bush instructed Joe Hagin, his deputy chief of staff for operations, to fix White House communications after having problems making a phone call, but the issue was not resolved by 9/11. Around the same time, White House staffers were prohibited from using BlackBerrys, but these devices turned out to be invaluable on September 11, when many people had problems making phone calls.

A major exercise is described that was held at an Army base near the Pentagon five days before 9/11, attended by numerous agencies that would subsequently work together in response to the attack on the Pentagon on September 11.

An entry reveals that George Tabeek was discussing his concerns about an aircraft crashing into the Twin Towers in the two weeks before September 11. Tabeek has recalled that around that time, he received no warnings from US Customs or the Secret Service about possible terrorist threats to the WTC. Fortunately, the Port Authority’s command center in the North Tower was upgraded to make it more secure shortly before 9/11, and this helped save the lives of the people in the center on September 11.

Please consider donating to History Commons, to help it continue as a leading informational source for the 21st century. To make a donation, click here.

April 22, 2013

Making the Submission Process Easier

Filed under: community,Miscellanenous — Max @ 1:07 am
Tags: , ,

If you’ve ever tried to write entries for the History Commons, you’ve come up against the submission app. It’s not pretty. Even with the guideline we wrote about how to make a submission, it’s no picnic.

In fact, a lot of people have tried to wrestle with it and decided it’s just too much. The screenshot below makes MY head hurt, and I’ve used this app for years.

Yeesh! It IS very difficult, and a lot of people feel that way. There’s no shame. A lot of people have looked at it, or even tried to submit entries, and finally decided to just walk away before they broke something in frustration. It’s not the user that’s the problem. It’s the app!

So, until we finally get the money and the chops to redesign the app to meet reasonable usability standards, we’ve come up with a workaround.

If you want to submit entries to the History Commons but don’t want to fight the app to do it, here’s how. Just write an entry and e-mail it to this address:

mtuck@historycommons.org

It will come to me, Michael Tuck (“blackmax”). I’ll then submit it for you in the app, or one of the other admins will submit it. We can even submit it using your account if you prefer, so it will show up under your name and not one of ours.

More information, including guidelines and a sample entry, are available on this page:

Contributors Can Submit Entries to History Commons by E-Mail

Thanks! I look forward to being inundated with submissions!

February 16, 2013

What We’re Reading: Three by Robert Parry


Derek, our executive director, sent me three books from the Consortium News’s Robert Parry, the site’s founder and lead investigative journalist. The books are: Lost History, Neck Deep, and Secrecy and Privilege. In the coming weeks and months, you’ll see material from those books finding their way into the Civil Liberties, Iraq, Iran-Contra, Domestic Propaganda, and other projects.

Have you read any of these? Let us know what you think.

February 10, 2013

Donating via credit card

Filed under: community — Max @ 4:42 pm

The link to donate via credit card on the site is bad. It was superseded over a year ago. Why it popped up again is beyond me. I’ll blame it on the server switch, why not…?

Anyway, here’s the correct link. We’re working to make the correction now.

https://npo1.networkforgood.org/Donate/Donate.aspx?npoSubscriptionId=3552

Thanks for being patient.

Update: Fixed!

February 5, 2013

Survey Results from the February 2013 Survey

Filed under: community — Max @ 1:05 pm
Tags: , ,

These are the results from the February 2013 survey conducted by Michael Tuck (blackmax) of the History Commons.

These responses are also available at Survey Results from the February 2013 Survey on our supplementary Web pages.

Last week, we asked the History Commons community to respond to a brief survey designed to help us shape the future of our coverage.

We had a total of 82 respondents — thank you for such a strong response!

Here’s the results. All questions allowed for multiple answers, so all of the results add up to far more than 100%. (Percentages are rounded to the nearest whole number.)

The first question asked: What projects (timelines) created by the History Commons do you find most useful?

  • First: 75% found the Complete 9/11 Timeline most useful.
  • Second: the Global Economic Crisis project, with 45% choosing it.
  • Third: the US Domestic Propaganda project, with 44% choosing it.
  • Fourth: Civil Liberties, with 39%.
  • Fifth: US Domestic Terrorism at 36%.
  • Sixth: Climate Change, at 34%.
  • Seventh and last of the projects listed: Prisoner Abuse, at 28%.
  • 14% said “other.”

Second question: Which topic(s) would you most like to see the History Commons address in the future?

This question gave the respondents a chance to focus on where they’d like to see new coverage.

  • First: by far the most popular topic for new coverage is “Corporate Influence on Society and Politics,” with 76% of respondents indicating this as their choice.
  • Second: WikiLeaks, with 49%.
  • Third: Social movements (civil rights, LGBT, women’s rights, etc) at 29%.
  • Fourth: Violence against women in the US military, at 20%.
  • Last of the listed topics: Netroots Neutrality, at 19%.
  • 17% of the respondents also listed “Other.”

Third question: Which projects (timelines) on the History Commons do you think are NOT being addressed enough?

This one surprised me a bit. We’ve long wanted expanded coverage of the Global Economic Crisis and Climate Change projects, but neither of those came in first.

  • Most popular: Genetic engineering (GMO), at 44%.
  • Second: Global Economic Crisis, at 39%.
    Third: Climate Change, 38%.
  • Fourth: US Conflict with Iran, 33%.
  • Fifth: War in Afghanistan, 23%.
  • Last of the listed topics: US Electoral Politics, at 14%.
  • 19% of respondents said “other.”

Fourth question: What should the History Commons focus most on in the future? (You can add your responses from earlier questions here, or make your own observations.)

Among the topics listed that individuals want covered are:

  • “privacy and confidentiality” (expansion of the Civil Liberties coverage, presumably)
  • “the Kashmir dispute” (as part of the US International Relations project, I’m assuming)
  • a “new 9/11 investigation” and related topics
  • “corporate influence in politics,” campaign finance issues, and gerrymandering (some of which are currently being expanded as a part of the Civil Liberties project)
  • guns and weapons profiteering
  • “Employment / Work Force / Automation”
  • goverment secrecy, whistleblower prosecution, and government-sponsored assassinations
  • US relations with Israel
  • women’s rights as a human-rights issue (we’ve suggested this before as part of a larger Social Movements project)
  • the US as an imperialist national security state
  • US and global poverty, child and human exploitation
  • more coverage of the 2001 anthrax attacks
  • more Middle East coverage, using Islam and the West and A Line in the Sand by James Barr as key sources
  • cyberwarfare, drones, robotic war
  • NATO’s increasing influence on Eastern Europe; the globalization of NATO
  • overpopulation as it connects to climate change and resource depletion
  • a bigger focus on “systemic/root causes”
  • food systems, resource depletion, and GMO production
  • a request to provide “contrary views” of “CAGW,” presumably a reference to the Citizens Against Government Waste think tank
  • more coverage of climate change (this is one of the highest priorities on our “need more coverage!” list)
  • “New World Order” corruption and “global governance”
  • expanded coverage of the 7/7 London bombing attacks
  • Operation Gladio
  • the JFK assassination
  • “created weather”
  • the US “war on drugs” using The Strength of the Wolf: The Secret History of America’s War on Drugs by Douglas Valentine as a key source
  • sustainability issues
  • the “destruction of justice” under the Bush and Obama administrations

A comprehensive list, to say the least. We have some of these reflected on the History Commons New Topic Listing, where we’ve listed topics that we’d love to see covered by new contributors or existing contributors looking to shift their focus.

The fifth question indicated that 25% of respondents were interested in volunteering to write for the History Commons.

The sixth question indicated that 25% of respondents were interested in donating to keep the History Commons going.

Again, thanks to everyone for participating in this survey. I’m sharing this information with the other administrators today. You can always discuss topics for new or expanded coverage on this thread, or on any other thread on the History Commons Groups Blog. We want MORE contributors and MORE coverage. You can help write history on the History Commons. Please consider doing so.

February 1, 2013

New 9/11 Timeline Entries: Flight Attendants’ Phone Calls, American Airlines Response to Hijacking, Bush’s Military Aides, and More


A large number of entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons. Many of these examine the response of American Airlines to the hijacking of Flight 11, the first plane to hit the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Entries focus, in particular, on phone calls made from Flight 11 by two of the plane’s flight attendants: Betty Ong and Amy Sweeney.

A new timeline entry describes how Peggy Houck, a dispatcher at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Texas, received her first indication of a problem with Flight 11 when another American Airlines flight contacted her at 8:20 a.m. and said air traffic controllers had asked it to try to contact Flight 11.

Betty Ong’s Phone Call from Flight 11

Around the time Houck received this call, Betty Ong phoned the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina and began describing the emergency on her plane to employees there. After a couple of minutes, Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the reservations office, joined the call.

Ong provided many details of what was happening on Flight 11. She said the men who hijacked the plane were in the cockpit, and nobody could communicate with the cockpit. She reported that the plane was flying erratically. She passed on the seat numbers of two hijackers who had gained unauthorized access to the cockpit. She said one passenger had been stabbed and might be dead, and provided the name and seat number of the hijacker who likely carried out the stabbing. She also said there was no doctor on the plane to help the injured crew members.

Toward the end of the call, Ong said her plane was flying erratically again and descending. The reservations office employees lost contact with her shortly before Flight 11 hit the World Trade Center.

At one point during the call with Ong, Nydia Gonzalez instructed her colleagues who were participating in the call not to tell anyone what they had learned about the hijacking. And toward the end of the call, one of the participants, Vanessa Minter, was replaced by Ray Scott, a manager at the reservations office.

Gonzalez promptly contacted the American Airlines SOC after she joined the call and relayed the information provided by Ong to Craig Marquis, the manager on duty there. Shortly after Gonzalez reached him, Marquis briefed another manager at the SOC about the trouble on Flight 11, but instructed them not to spread the news of the incident “all over this office right now.” He also asked Peggy Houck to try and contact the pilot of Flight 11, but told her not to let anyone else know about the trouble on the plane. Houck called a company that provides a backup communications capability for airborne flights and asked it to try to contact Flight 11, but the company’s attempts to do so were unsuccessful. Later on, Marquis instructed Houck to calculate how far Flight 11 could travel with its remaining fuel.

Gonzalez notified Marquis when communication with Ong was lost, but Marquis then said he wanted Gonzalez and her colleagues to keep the news about the hijacking to themselves.

Amy Sweeney’s Phone Call from Flight 11

Amy Sweeney tried phoning the American Airlines flight services office at Boston’s Logan Airport, but her first two attempted calls failed to connect. She finally got through at 8:25 a.m. and talked to a passenger service agent, but the call was cut off after less than two minutes. Mistakenly thinking that Sweeney’s plane was still at the airport, two of the agent’s colleagues went to the departure gate, but found that all of American Airlines’ morning flights had already left. Around the same time, another American Airlines employee at Logan Airport called the SOC to report the possible hijacking, but the person they talked to instructed them to keep quiet about the incident.

Sweeney reached the flight services office a second time at 8:29 a.m. and talked with a staff assistant, but the call was disconnected after less than a minute. She reached the office again at 8:32 a.m. and, over the next 12 minutes, passed on numerous details of the crisis on her plane to Michael Woodward, an American Airlines flight services manager. She mentioned that the passengers were unaware of the hijacking, and instead thought there was a medical emergency at the front of the plane. Before her call got disconnected, Sweeney said that Flight 11 was flying “very low.”

Two of Woodward’s colleagues contacted the SOC and passed on the information Woodward received from Sweeney. Then, at 8:40 a.m., another of Woodward’s colleagues also called the SOC to pass on the information Sweeney was providing.

Senior American Airlines Managers Learned of Emergency on Flight 11

Gerard Arpey, American Airlines’ executive vice president of operations, learned of Betty Ong’s call from Flight 11 when he phoned the SOC at around 8:30 a.m., and he then headed to the SOC to participate in the airline’s emergency response efforts. At about 8:45 a.m., managers at the SOC began setting up the System Operations Command Center (SOCC) to handle the airline’s response to the crisis.

Some senior American Airlines managers only learned about the emergency on Flight 11 during their daily conference call, at 8:45 a.m. And a pager message to the airline’s top executives, which revealed the “confirmed hijacking” of Flight 11, was only sent out at 8:49 a.m., after the plane had crashed.

Those at the SOC learned that a plane had hit the World Trade Center when American Airlines employees at two New York airports called with the news soon after the crash occurred, but SOC personnel were uncertain at the time whether the plane involved was Flight 11. American Airlines president Don Carty called the SOCC from his home after seeing coverage of the crash on television and asked if the plane involved belonged to his airline.

New York City Ordered Crisis Management Software Shortly before 9/11

New timeline entries describe the actions of two military aides who were with the president in Sarasota, Florida, on September 11. The military aides, Paul Montanus and Thomas Gould, were promptly informed about the first crash at the World Trade Center, but initially thought it was an accident. When he learned of the second crash, Gould quickly arranged for Air Force One to leave Sarasota. After the plane took off, he made a phone call to request a fighter escort and other military assets to support it. Montanus was on a plane that left Sarasota shortly after Air Force One, and which carried equipment and personnel back to Washington.

Other entries describe events before and after the day of 9/11. One entry reveals that, in the month before the attacks, New York City’s Office of Emergency Management fortuitously bought special crisis management software that it planned to launch for use on September 17. The software was promptly put into operation following the 9/11 attacks and significantly aided the recovery efforts at Ground Zero.

An entry reveals that, almost two years before 9/11, members of the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force told best-selling author Nelson DeMille that they believed the next terrorist attack in the US would involve suicide pilots deliberately flying planes into the World Trade Center.

Another entry describes how some key White House officials went to visit New York the day before 9/11, and were therefore away from Washington, DC, when the terrorist attacks occurred. They started making their way back to the White House after the Pentagon was hit.

August 13, 2012

Books We Read….

Filed under: Books We Read — Max @ 11:06 am

I’m currently finishing Michael Goldin’s Red Cloud at Dawn, a fascinating examination of the USSR’s development of its first nuclear bomb (Joe-1) and the political aftermath. At some point, when some of the projects I’m working on are wrapped up, I intend to use some of the material from the book in the US International Relations project. It won’t make for a lot of entries, unlike, say, Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes, which I think could be the basis of an entire project, but it will add depth and breadth to the project.

Coming up on the reading list is Jason Leopold’s The Other Abu Zubaidah, which he was kind enough to donate to the History Commons in Kindle form. Leopold provides key contextual information on Zubaida that needs to be in the HC databanks.

What are you reading? Anything that might add information to the HC projects?

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