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.
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