Tuesday, September 11, 2001 dawns warm and nearly cloudless in the eastern United States. Millions of men and women ready themselves for work. Some make their way to the Twin Towers, the signature structures of the World Trade Center complex in New York City. Others go to Arlington, Virginia, to the Pentagon. Across the Potomac River, the United States Congress is back in session. At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, people begin to line up for a White House tour. In Sarasota, Florida, President George W. Bush goes for an early morning run.1 It is an ordinary late summer day.
The day is perfect for flying, what some pilots call “severe clear”. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, “peak summer traffic demands had diminished and air traffic controllers were expecting a routine, on-time day.”2 Thousands of passengers board commercial aircraft, heading for business meetings, returning home from conferences, meeting friends or family for vacations. Among the many aircraft preparing to fly on that Tuesday morning are four flights which will be boarded by 19 passengers carrying weapons and a plan to hijack the planes and use them as missiles to destroy targets in New York City and Washington D.C. It is an attack against America. The flights are:
American Airlines Flight 11 – Boston, MA to Los Angeles, CA – a Boeing 767 with 81 passengers and 11 crew members; take-off time: 7:59 a.m.
United Airlines Flight 175 – Boston, MA to Los Angeles, CA – a Boeing 767 with a 56 passengers and 9 crew members; take-off time: 8:14 a.m.
American Airlines Flight 77 – Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles, CA – a Boeing 757 with 58 passengers and 6 crew members; take-off time: 8:20 a.m.
United Airlines Flight 93 – Newark, NJ to San Francisco, CA – a Boeing 757 with 37 passengers and 7 crew members; take-off time: 8:42 a.m.3
(Times indicated are Eastern Standard Time)
The following timeline focuses primarily on events related to United Airlines Flight 93, the plane which did not strike the terrorists’ intended target. Events on board Flight 11 and Flight 175 are identified as relating to the attacks at the World Trade Center. Events on board Flight 77 are identified as relating to the attack at the Pentagon. The events of September 11, 2001 were unprecedented and complex. The reporting of these events has been conflicting. New information about the attacks and the response to the attacks continues to be released. This timeline is based on the most complete information available at this time, and will be revised or updated as new information becomes available.
Timeline, September 11, 2001
Between 4:45 – 6:45 am:
Hijacker-Pilot Jarrah phones girlfriend in Germany
In a Newark, New Jersey hotel room, Ziad Jarrah, places five telephone calls to Lebanon (his home country), one call to France, and one call to his girlfriend, Aysel Senguen, in Germany.4 In this brief call, he tells Senguen that he loves her.5 Jarrah and three male companions check out of the Days Inn at approximately 6:48 am6 and head to Newark International Airport to board United Airlines Flight 93.
7:00 am: United Airlines crew prepares for flight
United Airlines Captain Jason Dahl enters a secure area of Terminal A at Newark International Airport and begins preparations to pilot Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco. He meets LeRoy Homer, Jr., the first officer for the flight, in the operations center. The five flight attendants assigned to Flight 93 also gather at the center for a briefing and to divide responsibilities.7
7:00 am: Ida’s Store opens in Shanksville, Pennsylvania
In this small western Pennsylvania town of 245 residents, Rick King walks a block from his home to his business and opens Ida’s Store for the day. He begins brewing coffee for his regular early morning customers.
7:03-7:39 am: Hijackers check in for flight at Newark Airport
Saeed al Ghamdi, Ahmed al Nami, Ahmad al Haznawi and Ziad Jarrah check in at the ticket counter for United Airlines Flight 93.8 Jarrah, 26, of Lebanon, has been in the United States off and on since June, 2000.9 He earned his private pilot certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) at the Florida Flight Training Center in November, 2000.10 The other three hijackers, citizens of Saudi Arabia, range in age between 20 and 25 years old.11. They entered the United States during May and June, 2001
The four men pass through the security checkpoint without incident. Only one of the four, Ahmad al Haznawi, is selected for enhanced screening. As a precaution, his bag is held off the plane until he boards.13
7:20 am: Boarding call for Flight 93
Flight 93 begins boarding at Gate 17.14 The plane is a Boeing 757-200, capable of seating 182 persons, but is only 20% filled for the early morning trip to San Francisco. The plane has a single, center aisle. It is loaded with 48,700 pounds of fuel for the
non-stop, cross country trip.15 The flight is scheduled to depart the gate at 8:00 a.m.(the same time as United Airlines Flight 175) and is expected to land in San Francisco at 11:14 a.m. Pacific Time.16
The passengers who board Flight 93 range in age from 20 to 79. They are college students, retirees, businessmen and women. Ten passengers (including the 4 hijackers) are seated in first class. The remaining 27 passengers have seats in the coach section.
7:39-7:48 am: Terrorist-Hijackers board Flight 93
The four hijackers take seats in first class. Jarrah is in seat 1B, closest to the cockpit.17 The others sit in 3C, 3D, and 6B. At least one of the hijackers carries a document entitled “The Last Night”, an instruction sheet for the hijackers which begins, “Embrace the will to die and renew allegiance. Familiarize yourself with the plan well from every aspect, and anticipate the reaction and resistance from the enemy.”18
Until 8:00 am: Passengers relay changes in travel plans
At least ten of the passengers and crew on Flight 93 had planned to take later or earlier flights or found themselves on Flight 93 due to schedule changes.19 One of these, passenger Lauren Grandcolas, phones her husband in San Rafael, California and leaves a message saying that she will arrive home an hour earlier than expected. She had been scheduled for United Airlines Flight 91, but her car service arrived at the airport early, allowing her to take Flight 93 instead. “Hey, I just want to let you know I’m on the eight o’clock instead of the 9:20,” Lauren told her husband.20
8:00 am: The Shanksville, Pennsylvania Post Office opens for the day
Judi Baeckel, acting postmaster, opens the Shanksville Post Office for the day and begins to sort the mail for the 165 box-holders.
8:01 am: Flight 93 leaves the terminal.
United Airlines Flight 93 leaves the terminal just one minute behind schedule. On board are 37 passengers and 7 crew members. Normally, planes taxi to the runway and take off within 10-15 minutes.21 A cockpit voice recorder on board the plane begins capturing sounds from pick-ups in the pilot and first officer’s headsets and in the overhead panel of the flight deck. The device has a 30 minute loop tape. 22 The aircraft’s flight data recorder begins storing thousands of pieces of information about the flight.
8:14 am: Flight 11 is hijacked
American Airlines Flight 11, en route from Boston to Los Angeles, is hijacked. Within minutes, Flight Attendant Betty Ong phones American Airlines, reporting, “The cockpit’s not answering; somebody’s been 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.” Ong continues to relay information from the flight for the next 26 minutes.23
8:16 am: Classes begin at Shanksville-Stonycreek School
It is the tenth day of the new school year at Shanksville-Stonycreek, one of the smallest public schools in Pennsylvania. There are 490 students in Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12.24
8:25 am: Flight Attendants calmly relate information
On Flight 11, Flight Attendant Amy Sweeney phones a different American Airlines facility, reporting in a calm voice that the plane has been hijacked, a passenger in first class has been killed, two flight attendants have been stabbed, the crew is unable to contact the cockpit, and there is a bomb in the plane. She and fellow Flight Attendant Betty Ong report the seat numbers of the “Middle Easterners” who have taken over the cockpit.25
8:42 am: Flight 93 takes off 25 minutes late
Air traffic is typically heavy at the Newark Airport, causing delays on the runway. When United Airlines Flight 93 finally takes off, it is running about 25 minutes late.26
8:42-8:46 am: A second plane is hijacked
United Airlines Flight 175, en route from Boston to Los Angeles, is hijacked. Its transponder code is changed and the aircraft deviates from its assigned altitude. 27
8:46 am: Flight 11 crashes into the World Trade Center
Flight Attendant Amy Sweeney, still speaking with American Airlines, reports, “We are flying low. We are flying very, very low. We are flying way too low. Oh, my God! We are way too low.” Hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 crashes into floors 93-99 of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. All on board and an unknown number in the building are killed on impact.28
8:50 am: President Bush learns of crash at World Trade Center
President George W. Bush is visiting a Sarasota, Florida classroom to speak about education and listen to children reading. Before entering the classroom, Bush is informed that “a small, twin-engine plane has crashed into the World Trade Center.”29 Five minutes later he speaks to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, who is at the White House. She tells the President that, in fact, a commercial aircraft has struck the World Trade Center.30
8:51-8:54 am: A third plane is hijacked
American Airlines Flight 77, en route from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles, is hijacked and begins making unauthorized turns to the south and east and descending. Because the transponder is turned off, Air Traffic Controllers at the Indianapolis Center are not able to locate the aircraft.
8:52 am: Flight 175 passengers phone family members; crew members call airline
A passenger on Flight 175, Peter Hanson, phones his father and tells him about the hijacking. Hanson says his son reported: “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.”31 A male flight attendant phones United Airlines, reporting the hijacking and the murder of both pilots. He believes the hijackers are flying the plane. Passenger Garnet Bailey phones his wife. Another passenger, Brian Sweeney, phones his wife, leaving this message: “Hi, Jules. It’s Brian. Listen, I’m on an airplane that’s been hijacked.” He phones his mother to report the hijacking, telling her that the passengers are considering storming the cockpit to wrest control from the hijackers.32
9:00 am: Passengers’ final moments on hijacked Flight 175
Peter Hanson phones his father again and, according to his father, reports these conditions on the hijacked plane: “It’s getting bad, Dad—A stewardess was stabbed—They seem to have knives and mace—They said they have a bomb . . . 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.”33
9:03 am: Flight 175 crashes into the World Trade Center
Millions watch on television as hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 crashes into floors 77-85 of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. All on board and an unknown number in the building are killed instantly.34
9:19 am: United Airlines dispatcher transmits warning message
United Airlines Flight Dispatcher, Ed Ballinger, aware that two hijacked airliners have crashed into the World Trade Center, takes the initiative to begin transmitting text warnings to the sixteen flights he is handling: “BEWARE ANY COCKPIT INTRUSION. TWO AIRCRAFT IN NY, HIT TRADE CNTER BLDS.”39 The message is relayed to the sixteen aircraft over the next several minutes.40
9:21 am: Flight 93 captain checks in with United Airlines dispatcher
Captain Dahl, not yet in receipt of the warning, sends a routine text message to United Airlines dispatcher, Ed Ballinger: “GOOD MORNIN’ . . . NICE CLIMB OUTTA EWR
[NEWARK AIRPORT] AFTER A NICE TOUR OF THE APT [APARTMENT] COURTS Y [AND] GRND CNTRL . . . AT 350 OCCL LT [OCCASIONAL LIGHT] CHOP. WIND
290/50 AIN’T HELPING. J.” 41
9:21 am: Confusion regarding Flight 11 leads to military action
The nation’s Air Traffic Control System and the military struggle to deal with an unprecedented multiple hijacking in which planes are used as weapons. They receive an erroneous report that Flight 11 has not crashed into the World Trade Center, but instead is still airborne and on a course for Washington, D.C. In response, fighter jets are scrambled from Langley Air Force Base, but without orders to engage. In fact, the fighter pilots are not aware of the hijackings.42
9:22 am: United Airlines transmits message from first officer’s wife
United Airlines sends a text message to First Officer Leroy Homer at the request of his wife, who is concerned about him after learning about the attacks on the World Trade Center.43
9:24 am: Routine transmission from Flight 93 cockpit
Flight 93 establishes routine radio contact with Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center: “Good morning Cleveland, United ninety-three is with you at three five oh
[35,000 feet] intermittent light chop.” The air traffic controller, John Werth, busy issuing new routes based on the events occurring on the East Coast, does not reply to Flight 93’s initial transmission.44
9:25 am: Nationwide Ground Stop
Ben Sliney, the National Operations Manager of the FAA Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, orders a nationwide ground stop which prevents all aircraft from taking off in the United States.45
9:25 am: Routine conversation between Flight 93 and Cleveland Center
Flight 93 again checks in with Cleveland: “United ninety-three checking three-five-oh
(35,000 feet)”. This time the controller replies, “United ninety-three, Cleveland, roger.”46
9:26 am: Flight 93 pilot asks United for confirmation of warning message
Flight 93 pilot, Jason Dahl, responds to the Ballinger warning he received at 9:24: “ED, CONFIRM LATEST MSSG PLZ--JASON."
9:28 am: Cleveland Center hears struggle as Flight 93 is hijacked
Hijackers wearing red bandanas around their foreheads, break into the cockpit of Flight 93 as it flies over eastern Ohio. Flight 93 suddenly drops 685 feet in altitude. Cleveland Center hears the first of two radio transmissions from an unidentified aircraft. During the first broadcast, the captain or first officer declares “Mayday” amid the sounds of a physical struggle in the cockpit. The second radio transmission, 35 seconds later, indicates that the fight is continuing. The captain or first officer is heard shouting, “Hey get out of here—get out of here—get out of here.”48 Noticing that Flight 93 has made an unauthorized altitude change, the controller, John Werth, suspects that the transmission originated with that flight. He asks, “Somebody call Cleveland?”49
9:29 am: Cleveland Center tries to reach Flight 93
Controller John Werth continues calling Flight 93, “United ninety-three, verify three-five-zero (thirty-five thousand feet).” There is no reply. Werth makes numerous attempts to contact Flight 93 without receiving any acknowledgement. Controllers at Cleveland Center move other aircraft away from Flight 93 due to the lack of acknowledgement. Several other aircraft on the frequency confirm hearing unusual sounds of an unknown origin.50
9:30 am: President addresses the nation from Florida
Before leaving the elementary school in Sarasota, Florida, the President broadcasts a brief message: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is a difficult moment for America . . . Today we’ve had a national tragedy. Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center
9:30 am: Shanksville residents feel safe
In Shanksville, as around the country, people tune into television coverage from New York City, and watch as the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers burn. Customers at Ida’s Store and the post office agree that, at a time like this, they’re glad to be living in the safety of Shanksville.
9:32 am: Hijacker’s announcement heard by Cleveland Center and other pilots
An out-of-breath hijacker, probably Jarrah, makes this announcement which was heard and recorded by Air Traffic Control: “Ladies and Gentlemen: Here the captain, please sit down keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb on board. So, sit.” Jarrah then programmed the plane’s autopilot to turn the aircraft around and head east.52 The cockpit voice recorder also captures the voice of a woman, most likely a flight attendant, who is held captive in the cockpit. Based on this overheard transmission, Cleveland Center reports to the Herndon Command Center (FAA) that Flight 93 may have a bomb on board.53
9:33 am: Controller and Dispatcher attempt contact with Flight 93
Cleveland Center, responding to the radio transmission from the hijacked plane, asks, “We just, ah, we didn’t get it clear . . . Is that United Ninety Three calling?” A new text warning message from United Airlines is sent to Flight 93 and other aircraft: “Highsecurity alert. Secure cockpit.”54
9:34 am: Flight 93 changes course. FAA Headquarters notified of hijacking Flight 93 begins climbing and turning to the southeast without air traffic authorization while Cleveland Center moves several aircraft out of its way.55 The Herndon Command Center advises FAA Headquarters that Flight 93 is hijacked.56
9:35 am: Flight Attendant pleads for her life.
In the cockpit of Flight 93, a flight attendant pleads with the hijackers not to kill her, “I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die.”57
9:35 am: Flight 93 Flight Attendant reports hijacking to United Airlines
Flight attendant Sandy Bradshaw dials the United Airlines Maintenance Facility in San Francisco from the Airfone in Row 33 (the next to the last row in the plane) to report the hijacking. The manager who takes over the call describes the flight attendant as
“shockingly calm.” Bradshaw says that the hijackers are in the first class cabin and cockpit and have announced that they have a bomb. She says they have pulled a knife and have killed a flight attendant. This begins a series of 37 phone calls made from the plane, most of them made on Airfones in the last nine rows.58
9:37 am: Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon
Hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon at a speed of 530 miles per hour, penetrating the E, D, and C rings. All on board are killed, along with 125 civilian and military personnel in the Pentagon.59
9:37 am: Passengers begin placing calls, learn of attacks at World Trade Center Passenger Mark Bingham calls his mother from an Airfone in Row 25. He tells her thathe is on Flight 93 and it is being hijacked. Bingham reports that the plane has been taken over by three guys who say they have a bomb.60 Passenger Tom Burnett makes the first of several brief calls to his wife from Airfones in Rows 24 and 25. During these calls he reports that the plane has been hijacked, the hijackers claim to have a bomb, and a passenger has been knifed. His wife tells him about the planes flying into the World Trade Center. In a later call to his wife, Burnett says the passenger that had been knifed is dead, “they” are in the cockpit, and a group of passengers is getting ready to do something.61 Passenger Jeremy Glick calls his wife from the Airfone in Row 27. He speaks first to his mother-in-law and then to his wife in a call which lasts 25 ½ minutes. Glick tells his family that the plane has been hijacked by three “Iranian-looking” males with dark skin and bandanas; one of the males stated that he was in possession of a bomb in a red box and one is armed with a knife. He said that he and other passengers are contemplating “rushing” the hijackers. The passengers are voting on whether to storm the cockpit and retake control of the plane.62
9:39 am: Cleveland Center hears Hijacker-Pilot’s announcement to passengers The FAA’s Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center overhears this announcement from Flight 93: “Ah! Here’s the captain. I would like you all to remain seated. We have a bomb aboard, and we are going back to the airport, and we have our demands.
So, please remain quiet.” Pilots of other aircraft using this same radio frequency report to Cleveland Center that they also heard the transmission about the bomb.63
9:39 am: Passenger phones husband, records message
Lauren Grandcolas calls her husband from the Airfone in Row 23 and leaves a message expressing her love and saying, “We’re having a little problem on the plane . . .I’m not uncomfortable and I’m okay, for now. It’s a little problem.”64
9:41 am: Flight 93 transponder turned off
Flight 93’s transponder, a devise which emits an identifying signal during flight, is turned off. In order to continue tracking Flight 93, Cleveland Center locates the aircraft on primary radar and matches readings with visual sightings from other aircraft, watching the flight as it turns east, and then southeast.65
9:42 am: All aircraft ordered to land
Ben Sliney at the FAA Command Center in Herndon orders all aircraft to land at the nearest airport as soon as practical.66
9:43 am: Passenger phones father
Joe DeLuca calls his father from the Airfone in Row 26 and tells him that his flight has been hijacked and to express his love.67
9:44 am: Passenger reaches Airfone operator
Passenger Todd Beamer, using the Airfone in Row 32, reaches a GTE operator. His
connection lasts for the remainder of the flight. He notes the following: the flight has been hijacked, the captain and first officer are lying on the floor of the first class cabin and are injured or possibly dead. He reports that one of the terrorists has a red belt with a bomb strapped to his waist, two of the hijackers, who had knives, entered the cockpit and closed the door behind them. He indicates that the plane is going up and down and has turned or changed direction. Beamer tells the operator that he and some other passengers are planning something. He puts the phone down.68
9:44 am: Terminal at Pittsburgh Airport receives warning
Pittsburgh Terminal Radar Approach Control North Arrival (PIT) is notified by Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center that a non-responding aircraft is on a projected flight path which will result in its passing “in close proximity if not directly overhead the Greater Pittsburgh International Airport.”69
9:45 am: Evacuations begin at White House and U.S. Capitol
Evacuations of the White House and Capitol begin in response to rumors of escalating attacks.70 Congressional leaders are taken to a secure facility. This is the first time in history that the entire United States Capitol building is evacuated.71 First Lady Laura Bush, who is at the Russell Senate Office Building adjacent to the Capitol in order to brief the Senate Education Committee, has also been taken to a secure location.72
9:45 am: Cleveland Center continues to call Flight 93
Cleveland Center continues to call Flight 93: “United ninety three Cleveland do you still hear the center? United ninety-three do you still hear Cleveland?”73 Flight 93 does not respond.
9:46 am: Passenger phones sister, records message
Linda Gronlund dials her sister from the Airfone in Row 26 and leaves a message saying her flight has been hijacked by terrorists who say they have a bomb. “Apparently, they, uh, flown a couple of planes into the World Trade Center already and it looks like they’re going to take this one down as well,” she reports. “Mostly, I just wanted to say I love you and I’m going to miss you.”74
9:46 am: FAA Headquarters updated on Flight 93’s distance from Washington, D.C.
The Herndon Command Center updates FAA Headquarters: Flight 93 is tracking toward Washington, D.C. and is 29 minutes away from the city.75
9:48 am: Flight Attendant phones husband, records message
CeeCee Lyles calls her husband from the Airfone in Row 32 and leaves a recorded message saying the aircraft is hijacked: “We’re turned around and I’ve heard that there’s planes that’s been, been flown into the World Trade Center. I hope to be able to see your face again.”76
9:49 am: Passenger phones friend
Passenger Marion Britton calls her friend from the phone in Row 33 and tells him that her plane is hijacked. Britton also says that the hijackers cut two passengers’ throats, and reveals that she knows that two planes have crashed into the World Trade
9:50 am: Dispatcher continues to send warnings
Dispatcher Ballinger continues to send text messages to the airline’s transcontinental flights, including Flight 93, advising them to “LAND ASP AT NEAREST UAL AIRPORT – ORD TERRORIST. NO ONE IN TO COCKPIT—LAND ASP”.78
9:50 am: Flight Attendant phones husband
Flight Attendant Sandy Bradshaw calls her husband from the Airfone in Row 33. In the eight-minute call she reports the emergency and seems to be aware of the other hijackings that morning. Her husband confirms to her that two planes have crashed into the World Trade Center. Bradshaw tells her husband that the plane has been hijacked by three men who carried knives and put on red headbands as they were taking over the plane. She says she thinks the plane may be over the Mississippi because they are passing over a large river. She tells him that the passengers are discussing how to overpower the hijackers, including preparing hot water to throw on the hijackers before rushing them.79
9:51 am: The Greater Pittsburgh Airport Tower is evacuated80
9:54 am: Passenger phones stepmother
Honor Elizabeth Wainio calls her stepmother from the Airfone in Row 33 and tells her that the plane has been hijacked. After about four and a half minutes of conversation, Wainio reports that the passengers and crew are getting ready to break into the cockpit. According to her stepmother she ends the call saying, “I have to go. I love you. Good-bye.” 81
9:55 am: Code for Reagan National Airport entered in flight computer
The pilot- hijacker, presumably Jarrah, enters the navigational code for Reagan National Airport into the aircraft’s flight computer in order to guide the aircraft to Washington,
9:55 am: Operator hears passenger declaration
The Airfone operator, who has been on the line with passenger Todd Beamer since
9:44, reports that someone says, “Are you guys ready? Okay! Let’s roll!”83
9:56 am: Employees at Pittsburgh Airport Tower return to work
A small contingency of controllers voluntarily return to their positions at the Greater Pittsburgh Airport facility.84
9:57 am: Passengers and crew end phone calls to begin the struggle
Passengers and crew begin their assault on the Flight 93 terrorist-hijackers. Flight Attendant Sandy Bradshaw ends the call to her husband saying that everyone’s running up to first class and she’s got to go.”85
9:58 am: Passenger dials 9-1-1
Passenger Edward Felt dials 9-1-1 from his cell phone and is connected to the Westmoreland County [PA] 9-1-1 Center. In the 70-second call Felt reports: “Hijacking in progress!” and provides the flight number, the aircraft type, and the Newark to San Francisco original flight plan.86
9:58 am: Flight Attendant phones husband, relays her final message
Flight Attendant CeeCee Lyles dials her husband on her cell phone and this time reaches him. She tells him that the plane has been hijacked and the passengers and crew are forcing their way into the cockpit.87
9:58:55 am: Cockpit Voice Recorder captures English-speaking voices:
The cockpit voice recorder captures the voice of a native English-speaking male: “In the cockpit! In the cockpit!”
9:58:57 am: Hijackers rock the plane from side to side
Jarrah tells another hijacker in the cockpit to block the door. Jarrah rolls the plane sharply left and right, but the assault by the passengers and crew continues.88
9:59 am: A struggle for control of the plane at 5,000 feet
With the plane at 5,000 feet above sea level, about 2 minutes of rapid, full left and right control wheel inputs result in multiple 30 degree rolls to the left and right.89 The cockpit voice recorder captures sounds of loud thumps, crashes, shouts and breaking glasses and plates. A native English-speaking male voice or voices says, “Stop him!” and “Let’s get them!"
9:59 am: In New York City, the South Tower of the World Trade Center, the building struck by Flight 175, collapses.90
10:00 am: Pilot of small plane sees Flight 93, wings rocking
Bill Wright, the pilot of a small, private plane in the air over Westmoreland County [PA], reports seeing a large airliner at approximately 8000 feet in the vicinity of the Latrobe, Pennsylvania airport. The aircraft’s landing gear is down, he says, the wings are rocking, and the aircraft appears to be in distress.91
10:00 am: Flight 93 makes steep climbs and dives
Terrorist-pilot Jarrah pitches the nose of the plane up and down to disrupt the assault.
10:00:05 am: Hijackers discuss final actions
One of the hijackers asks, “Is that it? Shall we finish it off?” A hijacker responds, “No. Not yet. When they all come, we finish it off.” Sounds of fighting continue outside the cockpit. Jarrah pitches the nose of the aircraft up and down.
10:00:14 am: English-speaking voices captured by cockpit voice recorder
A native English-speaking male shouts, “Ah!” A native English-speaking male says, “I’m injured.” A native English-speaking male shouts, “In the cockpit. If we don’t we’ll die.” A command is shouted, in the distance, by a native English-speaking male: “Roll it.”
10:01 am: Hijacker decision captured by the cockpit voice recorder
Jarrah stops violent maneuvers and says, “Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest.” He then asks another hijacker in the cockpit, “Is that it? I mean, shall we pull it down?” The other hijacker replies, “Put it in it, and pull it down.”92
10:02 am: The struggle continues
Passengers and crew members keep up their assault. A native English-speaking male shouts loudly, “Turn it up!” A hijacker says: “Pull it down! Pull it down!” The plane, nose down, begins a rapid descent; the control wheel is turned hard to the right. The airplane rolls onto its back. A hijacker begins shouting, “Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest.”
10:03:07 am: “No!” English-speaking voice
10:03:11 am: Flight 93 crashes in Stonycreek Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania
With sounds of the passengers and crew fighting the terrorists, Flight 93 crashes into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 563 miles per hour, about 20 minutes flying time from Washington, D.C.94 All on board are killed.
10:03 am: Area residents call 9-1-1 to report crash
Drawn onto the front porch of her house on Lambertsville Road by an unexplained loud noise, Paula Pluta sees a silver streak in the sky, followed by a massive fireball and a plume of smoke coming from behind the trees. The plane has crashed one-half mile from her house. She dials 9-1-1 and reports, “Oh, my God! There was an airplane crash here!” A few seconds later, another caller to the 9-1-1 Center reports, breathlessly, “There was an airplane just went down over by Diamond T . . . It was a big airplane, a big jet . . . it went down nose first, upside down.”95
10:03 am: Shanksville residents see, hear, and feel crash
In Shanksville, three miles from the crash site, residents feel the impact of the crash, hear the explosion, rush outdoors, and see a cloud of black smoke rising above the trees.
10:03 am: Assistant Chief hears crash, runs to fire station
Rick King, Assistant Chief of the Shanksville Volunteer Fire Company, as well as the owner of Ida’s Store, hears the sound of a large plane approaching, and then crashing just over the hill from Shanksville. King runs to the store to tell his wife and employees that a plane has crashed, then runs to the fire station to answer the radio call from Somerset County 9-1-1 Center. When he learns that only three volunteer fire companies have been dispatched, King, breathing hard, informs the dispatcher that “this is a large jetliner, probably related to what’s going on,” and requests that additional companies be dispatched for assistance.96
10:03 am: Shanksville school students feel impact
When the airliner crashes, students at Shanksville-Stonycreek School feel the building shake and hear the windows rattle. Some teachers tell their students to take shelter under their desks. Others students run to the windows and see a large cloud of black smoke rising from the crash site.97
10:04 am: 9-1-1 Centers communicate
Westmoreland County 9-1-1 Center informs Somerset County 9-1-1 that they received a call from a passenger on board the plane that has just crashed. The caller said the plane was hijacked.
10:06 am: Indian Lake resident photographs smoke cloud
From her home 1.5 miles away from the crash site, Val McClatchey, hears the sound of
the plane crash, sees a cloud of black smoke rising in the clear blue sky, and photographs the cloud from her front porch. Later she provides the memory card from her camera to the FBI.
10:06 am: Shanksville school principal considers evacuation
The principal at Shanksville-Stonycreek School calls Somerset County 9-1-1 to ask if she should evacuate the students from the building.98
10:07 am: Small jet asked to report on crash location
In response to a request from a Cleveland Air Traffic controller, a Fairchild Falcon 20 business jet, already descending to land at the Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, is instructed to drop down to 1,500 feet to look for smoke. According to the controller’s statement, the pilot spotted smoke and flames and reported the position of the crash site and a description of the area.99
10:23 am: Somerset County Coroner learns of crash
After learning that a plane may have crashed in his jurisdiction, Coroner Wally Miller calls Somerset County Emergency Management for confirmation. The EMA Director advises him, “If I were you, I’d find a place to set up a temporary morgue
10:28 am: In New York City, the North Tower of the World Trade Center, the building struck by Flight 11, collapses.106
10:31 am: Shoot-down order communicated to NEADS, but not to pilots
NORAD (North American Air Defense) broadcasts this message: “Vice President has cleared to us to intercept tracks of interest and shoot them down if they do not respond.” The NEADS commander did not pass this order along to the fighter pilots circling over New York and Washington because the commander was unsure how the pilots would, or should, proceed with this guidance. 107
12:15 pm: Airspace cleared over the continental United States
The airspace over the 48 contiguous states is clear of all commercial and private flights. More than 4,500 aircraft have been safely landed.108
3:30 pm: Bin Laden linked to attacks
From Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska where Air Force One has taken the President for security reasons, George W. Bush convenes the National Security Council by video conference. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and President Bush begin the meeting with the words, “We’re at war.”109 CIA Director Tenet reports “with near certainty” that Osama bin Laden is behind the terrorist attacks.110
6:00 pm: Governor Ridge views Flight 93 crash site, holds press conference
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, after assessing the Flight 93 crash site, holds a news conference: “It’s difficult to describe the range of emotions everyone feels when they not only learn about these incidents today, but they’ve actually seen them. The dictionary is inadequate, and there just aren’t enough words. But I guess the range of emotions goes from rage and anger to sorrow to horror to, I guess, a sense of nausea that we all feel.”111 He calls on Pennsylvanians to give their prayers, their blood and their talent. He was affected most by what he cannot see: “the most telling site is a large, gaping hole. Very little debris is visible.”112 He promised “a forceful and appropriate response” to those responsible for the “irrational, cowardly, despicable, unconscionable, and immoral” actions that caused United Airlines Flight 93 to crash near Shanksville.113
7:00 pm: Community prayer and food donations in Shanksville
As in communities across the nation, Shanksville residents gather for prayer. About 70 people meet at the United Methodist Church on Main Street. Donations of food and drink for the first responders begin to arrive at the Shanksville Fire Station.
8:30 pm: President Bush addresses the nation
President Bush addresses the nation from the White House: “Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist attacks . . . . Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve . . . . America and our friends and allies join with all those who want peace and security in the world, and we stand together to win the war against terrorism. This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace . . . . None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.”114
8:45 pm: Shanksville Volunteer Fire Company returns to station
Sixteen volunteer firefighters and three pieces of equipment, on scene for the past 10 hours, return to the fire station in Shanksville. They remain on stand-by for the next 13 days, assisting the FBI in the recovery and investigation of the crash of Flight 93.115
1 National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, the 9/11 Commission Report (with Third Monograph) (New York: Barnes and Noble, 2006), 1. This is the opening paragraph of the 9/11 Commission Report. All references to the 9/11 Commission Report in this timeline refer to the 2006 edition of the report which includes the Third Monograph, “The Four Flights and Civil Aviation Security.” This document was re-released in September, 2005 absent many of the initial redactions, following a review undertaken by the Administration at the request of the 9/11 Public Discourse Project, a non-profit organization founded by the former 9/11 Commissioners, to continue the work of the Commission.
2 Federal Aviation Administration, “Air Traffic Organization Response”, March 21, 2002, 4.
3 The 9/11 Commission Report, 32-33.
4 FBI, Hijackers Timeline (Redacted), 293.
5 FBI, Translation of the interview, conducted by German authorities, of the girlfriend of Ziad Jarrah, September 18, 2001. According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s program, “The Fifth Estate”, Jarrah mailed an incorrectly addressed farewell letter to Senguen on September 10. When the letter was returned to the United States it was discovered by FBI investigators. Translated from German, it contains the phrases, “I did not flee from you, but did what I was supposed to do. You ought to be very proud, because it is an honor and you will see the result(s) and everybody will be happy.” (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, “The Fifth Estate”, “The Pilot – The Story of Ziad Jarrah, originally aired October 10, 2001, updated January 19, 2005.
6 Department of Justice, Moussaoui Trial Prosecution Exhibit ST00001B, Final Movement of Hijack Teams, 85.
7 Jere Longman, Among the Heroes (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2002), 1-5.
8 9/11 Commission Report, 4.
10 9/11 Commission Report, 629.
11 9/11 Commission Report, 163, 231; Longman, 87.
12 9/11 Commission Report, 528.
13 John Farmer, The Ground Truth: The Untold Story of America Under Attack on 9/11 (New York: Riverhead Books, 2009), 107. John Farmer was the Senior Counsel to the 9/11 Commission. His book expands on information and research which the 9/11 Commission staff did not have time to pursue.
14 Longman, 12.
15 National Transportation Safety Board, Office of Research and Engineering, Study of Autopilot, Navigation Equipment, and Fuel Consumption Activity based on United Airlines Flight 93 and American Airlines Flight 77 Digital Flight Data Recorder Information; 15. 9/11 Commission Report, 615. The plane’s registration number is N591UA. A Boeing 757 has a wingspan of 124 feet, 10 inches and is 155 feet, 3 inches long.
16 This arrival time is noted on a Flight 93 boarding pass which was recovered at the crash site.
17 9/11 Commission Report, 4.
18 “The Last Night” document is later found at three locations relating to the September 11 attacks. The letter was found in the suitcase of Mohamed Atta which did not make the transfer from his first flight from Portland, ME to Boston, MA and therefore was not on board Flight 11 when it crashed into the World Trade Center. The letter was found in the vehicle of Nawaf Alhazmi in the parking lot at Dulles International Airport, the departure point for Flight 77 which later crashed into the Pentagon. Finally, the letter was recovered at the Flight 93 crash site.
19 Flight 93 Oral History Project, various interviews; Longman, various chapters
20 Lauren Grandcolas call audio provided to National Park Service by Jack Grandcolas
21 9/11 Commission Report, 10.
22 The Cockpit Voice Recorder on Flight 93 has a loop tape that is approximately 30 minutes long, meaning that the earliest recordings from the flight will be replaced by later recordings. When the cockpit voice recorder is recovered, investigators find that the tape begins at 9:31 a.m. and records the final 32 minutes of the flight. FBI, Summary of Penttbom Investigation, 70; 9/11 Commission Report, 456.
23 Department of Justice, Moussaoui trial exhibit BS01101T 01-455-A; 9/11 Commission Report, 587.
24 Shanksville-Stonycreek School District
25 9/11 Commission Report, 5-7.
26 9/11 Commission Report, 10.
27 9/11 Commission Report, 599-600.
28 9/11 Commission Report, 6-7, 593-594; Farmer, 124.
29 9/11 Commission Report, 35; Farmer, 155.
30 George W. Bush, Decision Points (New York: Crown Publishers, 2010),126;
31 9/11 Commission Report, 7.
32 9/11 Commission Report, 600-602; Department of Justice, Moussaoui Trial Exhibit BS01101T 01-455- A.
33 9/11 Commission Report, 8, 601-602; Department of Justice, Moussaoui Trial Exhibit BS01101T 01-455-A; Farmer, 149.
34 9/11 Commission Report, 602.
35 9/11 Commission Report, 38; Bush, 127.
36 9/11 Commission Report, 610; Department of Justice, Moussaoui Trial Exhibit BS01101T 01-455-A; Farmer, 162.
37 National Transportation Safety Board, Study of Autopilot, 4; FBI, Summary of Penttbom Investigation, 70.
38 9/11 Commission Report, 611; Farmer, 163,166.
39 9/11 Commission Report, 11; Farmer, 189; National Transportation Safety Board, “Specialists Report”, Air Traffic Control Recording, December 21, 2001. 6. United Airlines communicated with its pilots via an air-to-ground link called ACARS: Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting Systems.
40 9/11 Commission Report, 616.
41 9/11 Commission Report, 616; Farmer, 189.
42 9/11 Commission Report, 594; Farmer, 219, 240-241.
43 9/11 Commission Report, 616.
44 Federal Aviation Administration, Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events, September 2001, 16; Farmer 189; National Transportation Safety Board, “Specialist’s Report”, Air Traffic Control Recording, December 21, 2001, 6.
45 9/11 Commission Report, 612; Farmer, p. 170.
46 Federal Aviation Administration, Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events, September 2001, 17; Farmer, 189; 9/11 Commission Report, 616.
47 9/11 Commission Report, 617; Farmer, 189.
48 9/11 Commission Report, 617; National Transportation Safety Board, “Specialists Report”, Air Traffic Control Recording, December 21, 2001. 7.
49 9/11 Commission Report, 617.
50 Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events, 18.
51 Farmer, 171.
52 9/11 Commission Report, 12 and footnote 75, Chapter 1: “Jarrah apparently did not know how to operate the communication radios; thus his attempts to communicate with the passengers were broadcast on the ATC channel.”
53 9/11 Commission Report, 618.
54 9/11 Commission Report, 618.
55 Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events, 20
56 9/11 Commission Report, 618; Farmer, 191.
57 Department of Justice, Transcript of Cockpit Voice Recorder; Farmer, 191.
58 9/11 Commission Report, 619. One Airfone was located in each row of the coach section of Flight 93. These air-to-ground phones were installed in the seatback of the seat in front of the passenger. Passengers and crew used credit cards to pay for Airfone calls. The Airfones on Flight 93 were associated with GTE/Verizon.
59 9/11 Commission Report, 613.
60 9/11 Commission Report, 620.
61 9/11 Commission Report, 621.
62 9/11 Commission Report, 621; 9/11 Commission, Memorandum for the Record, Interview with Lyzbeth Glick, 9-11 family member, April 22, 2004.
63 9/11 Commission Report, 621; Cockpit Voice Recorder from UA Flight #93, Original 3/1/2002; Major review 12/04/2003, 4; Farmer, 192. The transcript of the Cockpit Voice Recorder was prepared by the FBI and the NTSB.
64 Lauren Grandcolas call audio provided to National Park Service by Jack Grandcolas; 9/11 Commission Report, 621.
65 9/11 Commission Report, 622. Air Traffic Control Recording, 9.
66 9/11 Commission Report, 29; Farmer, 185.
67 Department of Justice, Moussaoui Trial Exhibit BS01101T 01-455-A, FBI, Summary of interview with Joseph DeLuca, September 13, 2001.
68 9/11 Commission Report, 622.
69 Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events, 20; FAA, Memorandum dated September 19, 2001, Partial Transcript, Aircraft Accident, UAL93, Somerset, PA.
70 9/11 National Memorial and Museum Interactive Timeline
71 Tom Daschle, Like No Other Time: The 107th Congress and the Two Years that Changed America Forever (New York: Crown Publishers, 2003), 110.
72 Laura Bush, Spoken from the Heart (New York: Scribner, 2010),197.
73 National Transportation Safety Board, Office of Research and Engineering, Flight Path Study – United Airlines Flight 93, February 19, 2002, 7.
74 9/11 Commission Report, 623. FBI, transcripts of recorded calls. The 9/11 Commission Staff received the FBI records of the PENTTBOM investigation, including transcripts of recorded calls. These records are now with the Commission’s files at the National Archives.
75 9/11 Commission Report, 623.
76 9/11 Commission Report, 623. Department of Justice, Moussaoui Trial Exhibit BS01101T 01-455-A.
77 9/11 Commission Report, 623.
78 9/11 Commission Report, 623.
79 FBI, report of interview with Philip G. Bradshaw, September 11, 2001; 9/11 Commission Report, 623.
80 “Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events”, 22.
81 9/11 Commission Report, 623; statement by Esther Heymann.
82 9/11 Commission Report, 457, 624.
83 9/11 Commission Report, 624.
84 “Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events,” 22.
85 9/11 Commission Report, 624. The transcript of the cockpit voice recorder indicates that their struggle continues for the duration of the flight.
86 FBI, Transcripts of recorded calls, Edward Felt phone call transcribed September 11, 2001.
87 9/11 Commission Report, 624.
88 9/11 Commission Report, 624.
89 Flight Path Study – United Airlines Flight 93, February 19, 2002, 2.
90 9/11 Commission Report, 305.
91 “Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events”, 23.
92 9/11 Commission Report, 625.
93 Transcript from Cockpit Voice Recorder from United Airlines Flight #93, 10.
94 9/11 Commission Report, 625.
95 Transcription of calls to Somerset County Emergency Management Agency, September 11, 2001, Recorder 1; time is approximate. “Diamond T” is a local name for the area, referring to the job name of the surface coal mine that had operated at this site for many years but was no longer active in 2001.
96 Transcription of calls to Somerset County Emergency Management Agency, September 11, 2001, Recorder 3; time is approximate. Trip Sheet, Shanksville Volunteer Fire Company, September 11, 2001.
97 Conversation with Shanksville Stonycreek School personnel; transcription of calls to Somerset County Emergency Management Agency, September 11, 2001, Recorder 1.
98 Transcription of calls to Somerset County Emergency Management Agency, September 11, 2001, Recorder 1; time is approximate.
99 FAA, personnel statements, Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center; FAA, Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events, 23.
100 9/11 Commission Report, 46. In the course of its research, the staff of the 9/11 Commission identified inaccuracies in the official testimony given to the Commission by the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in regard to the timeline of events on September 11, 2001.
These erroneous statements first appeared in press releases, testimony before Congress, and reports compiled by the agencies in the days after the crash and were repeated in print and television interviews, books and films over the next several years, including the Air Force official history of September 11, Air War Over America. Specifically, the Commission identified the following four erroneous statements: 1.
The FAA notified the DoD at 9:16 a.m. of the United Flight 93 hijacking. The actual time was 10:07 a.m.;
101 Transcription of calls to Somerset County Emergency Management Agency, September 11, 2001, Recorder 3; time is approximate. Transcript of Flight 93 National Memorial Oral History Project interview with Rick King.
102 9/11 Commission Report, 31.
103 9/11 Commission Report, 42-43; Farmer, 225.
104 9/11 Commission Report, 315.
105 Transcription of 9-1-1 Calls, Somerset County Emergency Management Agency, September 11, 2001, Recorder, time is approximate.
106 9/11 Commission Report, 311.
107 9/11 Commission Report, 42-43; Farmer, 241.
108 9/11 Commission Report, 29; Lynn Spencer, Touching History (New York: Free Press, 2008), 269.
109 9/11 Commission Report, 326.
110 Bob Woodward, Bush at War (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003) 26.
111 Mike O’Brien, “Ridge Promises Forceful Response”, Daily American [Somerset, PA], September 12, 2001.
112 Lisa Kozleski, “In Somerset County cornfield, ‘a large, gaping hole . . . very little debris’” Allentown [PA] Morning Call, September 12 2001.
113 Mike O’Brien, “Ridge Promises Forceful Response”, Daily American [Somerset, PA], September 12, 2001.
114 Editors, National Review, We Will Prevail: President George W. Bush on War, Terrorism, and Freedom (New York: Continuum International Publishing, 2003), 3.
115 Shanksville Volunteer Fire Company, Trip Sheet, September 11, 2001.
Last updated: September 14, 2023