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November 14, 2016

New 9/11 Timeline Entries: Training Exercises in New York, Fighter Jets’ Response on 9/11, Suspicious Man Arrested, and More

Filed under: Complete 911 Timeline — Matt @ 4:41 am
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Many entries have been added to the Complete 9/11 Timeline at History Commons, covering various events relating to the 9/11 attacks, including a number of anti-terrorism training exercises held in the years leading up to 9/11 and various incidents from the day of September 11, 2001, itself.

Numerous Exercises Prepared for a Terrorist Attack in New York

Many new timeline entries describe training exercises that were held in New York before 9/11. These include Operation ICE, the city’s largest ever terrorism response exercise, which was held in November 1997 and included a simulated chemical attack near the World Trade Center. Another exercise, which tested the response to a biological attack, was held in June 1999 at the city’s new emergency command center in World Trade Center Building 7.

A major exercise called CitySafe, based around the scenario of a bioterrorist attack involving anthrax, was set to take place in September 1999–possibly on September 11–but was canceled due to an outbreak of West Nile virus in the city. In the summer of 2000, top city officials attended an exercise based around the scenario of a biological warfare agent being released at a sporting event and came up with a plan for shutting down Manhattan during a crisis.

In August 2001, members of the US Marine Corps’ Chemical Biological Incident Response Force participated in an exercise with members of the New York City Fire Department, during which the Fire Department’s response to the 1993 WTC bombing was discussed. And one week before 9/11, preparations were underway for an exercise that would develop plans for restoring operations in New York’s Financial District, where the WTC was located, after a terrorist attack.

Two exercises were held just three days before 9/11 at New York’s La Guardia Airport. One of these involved the Greater New York chapter of the American Red Cross training to deal with a terrorist attack with a biological weapon. The other, called Operation Low Key, was held by the New York City Fire Department Bureau of Emergency Medical Services and was based around the scenario of a jet aircraft carrying about 150 passengers crashing at the end of the runway.

Also on September 8, 2001, an exercise was held at Inova Fairfax Hospital, just outside Washington, DC, based around the scenario of a terrorist attack with a chemical weapon.

New York Fire Chief Thought a Major Attack Was Imminent

A couple of timeline entries describe the concerns of Chief Ray Downey of the New York City Fire Department, before 9/11, about a major terrorist attack taking place in the United States. At a conference in April 1997, Downey warned that an attack was “going to happen.” And in the summer of 2001, he was reportedly certain that a major attack was imminent, which he thought would likely involve a chemical or dirty bomb going off in an urban environment.

The FBI was also concerned about terrorism. In July 2001, representatives of the bureau went to a meeting held by the New York Police Department and said a serious attack was likely to occur, which they thought would take place overseas. Around the same time, Mayor Rudy Giuliani updated a directive that was intended to eliminate conflict between agencies when they responded to emergencies, such as terrorist attacks, in New York.

Meanwhile, at a conference in San Francisco, California, which examined airport security, terrorism and hijackings were two of the main topics of discussion.

Fighters Were Controlled by an Agency That Should Not Have Communicated with Them

A number of entries describe events from the day of September 11, 2001.

Shortly after they took off, three fighter jets launched from Langley Air Force Base came under the control of a Navy air traffic control agency known as “Giant Killer,” even though controllers at Giant Killer have stated that the facility should not have been communicating with the fighters. Meanwhile, the fighters launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to the first hijacking that day were still 15 miles from the WTC when the first tower collapsed.

After their command center in WTC 7 was evacuated, personnel from the mayor’s Office of Emergency Management used the office’s special, well-equipped bus as their command post. After the first tower came down, a group of police officers tried to get into WTC 7 in order to get out of the WTC plaza, but they found the door was locked and the building was on fire.

Two entries deal with a man of Middle Eastern appearance who was found acting suspiciously in the WTC. Police officers encountered the man in the North Tower as it was being evacuated and, after he behaved in a threatening manner, arrested him. The detective who carried out the arrest passed the man on to the FBI but was told to keep quiet about what had happened by an unidentified individual who appeared to be a government agent.

Another man was questioned by the police after being noticed behaving suspiciously near the Capitol building in Washington and was found to belong to an Islamic organization with links to terrorism. And alarm was raised when a panel truck was noticed that had a drawing of a plane crashing into the WTC on its side.

Recovery Workers Searched for the Planes’ Black Boxes at Ground Zero

A few entries describe events that occurred after 9/11.

A couple of entries deal with the search for the black boxes from the planes that crashed into the Twin Towers. In the first 10 days after 9/11, recovery workers searched in locations where the Federal Aviation Administration said it had detected a signal from one of the black boxes. And a month after 9/11, workers found an object that appeared to be one of the black boxes, but FBI agents who inspected it denied that it was a black box.

A couple of months later, recovery workers unearthed an armored truck in the rubble of the WTC and discovered that over a million dollars’ worth of diamonds and bonds were inexplicably missing from it.

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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.

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