They were the first words that presaged a changed America, an America that could no longer think of itself as invulnerable, as beyond the reach of those who hated us. They were spoken by Betty Ong, a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11, en route from Boston to a fate most Americans could not imagine.
It was 8:20 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, some loved ones recounted the final words of the doomed. Added to that, now, are the tape recordings that in the past five years have gradually been made available to the public in audio or transcript form. Originating in different settings as the calamity unfolded, the communications reflect the desperation, confusion, frustration and heroism of ordinary people coming face to face with unthinkable horror.
This is the story of Sept. 11 told in the voices of those who survived and those who did not. Integrated by The Sun, the transcripts create a
chronological narrative of a morning that continues to traumatize America and scramble its view of itself.
"It doesn't get any easier," Arline Nussbaum, whose son Jeffrey called her three times from the 92nd floor of the North Tower, said in an interview last week. "It feels like it was yesterday."
Twenty minutes after American Airlines Flight 11left Boston's Logan Airport bound for Los Angeles, flight attendant Betty Ong calls an American reservations agent to report a hijacking. She reaches Nydia Gonzalez.
ONG: Number 3 [attendant] in the back. The cockpit's not answering. Somebody's stabbed in business class and, um, I think there's Mace --
that we can't breathe. I don't know, I think we're getting hijacked.
GONZALEZ: Ma'am,what seat are you in?
ONG: OK, I'm in my jump seat right now.
ONG: At 3R.
SUPERVISOR:What is your name?
ONG: OK, my name is Betty Ong. I'm Number 3 on Flight 11.
ONG: And the cockpit is not answering their phone. And there's somebody stabbed in business class. And there's -- we can't breathe in
business class. Somebody's got Mace or something.
SUPERVISOR: Can you describe the person that you said -- someone is what in business class?
ONG: I'm sitting in the back. Somebody's coming
back from business. If you can hold on for
one second, they're coming back.
ONG: OK. Our Number 1 got stabbed. Our purser is stabbed. Nobody knows who stabbed who, and we can't even get up to business class right now 'cause nobody can breathe. Our Number 1 is stabbed right now. And who else is--
SUPERVISOR: OK, and do we --
ONG: -- and our Number 5 -- our first-class passengers are -- galley flight attendant and our purser has been stabbed. And we can't get into
the cockpit, the door won't open. Hello?
SUPERVISOR: Yeah, I'm taking it down.
The FAA's Boston Center, which lost touch with American 11 at 8:13, receives a transmission from the cockpit. The voice is believed to be
Mohammed Atta, the hijacker who took over flying the plane, speaking to the passengers.
AT TA: We have some planes. Just stay quiet and you'll be OK. We are returning to the airport.
BOSTON CENTER: And, uh, who's trying to call me here? American 11, are you trying to call?
ATTA: Nobody move. Everything will be OK. If you try to make any moves, you'll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet.
Nobody move, please. We are going back to the airport. Don't try to make any stupid moves.
Realizing American 11 has been hijacked, a controller in Boston calls the military's Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, N.Y.
BOSTON CENTER: Hi. Boston Center TMU [Traffic Management Unit]. We have a problem here. We have a hijacked aircraft headed toward New York, and we need you guys to, we need someone to scramble some F-16s or something up there, help us out.
NEADS: Is this real-world or exercise?
BOSTON CENTER: No, this is not an exercise, not a test.
Shelley Watson, a tech sergeant at NEADS, calls back Boston Center for more details.
WATSON: It's the inbound to JFK?
BOSTON CENTER:We -- we don't know.
WATSON: You don't know where he is at all?
BOSTON CENTER: He's being hijacked. The pilot's having a hard time talking to the -- I mean, we don't know. We don't know where he's going. He's heading toward Kennedy. He's -- like I said, he's like 35 miles north of Kennedy now at 367 knots. We have no idea where he's going or what his intentions are.
WATSON: If you could please give us a call and let us know -- you know, any information, that'd be great.
BOSTON CENTER: OK. Right now, I guess we're trying to work on -- I guess there's been some threats in the cockpit. The pilot --
WATSON: There's been what?! I'm sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: Threat to the
BOSTON CENTER: We'll call you right back as soon as we know more info.
Nydia Gonzalez calls American Airlines' emergency line to report the hijacking.
GONZALEZ: Hey, this is Nydia at American Airlines calling. I am monitoring a call in which Flight 11 -- the flight attendant is advising our reps that the pilot, everyone's been stabbed.
MALE VOICE: Flight 11?
GONZALEZ: Yep. They can't get into the cockpit is what I'm hearing.
MALE VOICE: OK
Have they taken anyone out of first class?
GONZALEZ: Yeah, she's just saying that they have. They're in coach. What's going on, honey? OK, the aircraft is erratic again. Flying very erratically. She did say that all the first-class passengers have been moved back to coach, so the first class cabin is empty. What's going on on your end?
MALE VOICE: We contacted Air Traffic Control, they are going to handle this as a confirmed hijacking. So they're moving all the traffic out of
this aircraft's way.
MALE VOICE: He turned his transponder off, so we don't have a definitive altitude for him. We're just going by -- They seem to think that they have him on a primary radar. They seem to think that he is descending.
MALE VOICE: Did she--
GONZALEZ: She doesn't have any idea who the other [hijacker] might be in first [class]. Apparently they might have spread something so it's--
they're having a hard time breathing or getting in that area. What's going on, Betty? Betty, talk to me. Betty, are you there? Betty? OK, so we'll like -- we'll stay open. We, I think we might have lost her.
American 11 hits One World Trade Center, the North Tower, at 8:46:40. Moments later, calls began pouring in to New York City fire dispatchers.
FDNY DISPATCHER: Fire Department 408.
POLICE OPERATOR: This is PD [Police Department]. I just got a call. I guess the caller hung up.
FDNY:What have you got, PD?
OPERATOR: The World Trade Center just blew up.
FDNY: Yeah, we got it. We're on the way.
Unaware that American 11 has already crashed, a manager at the FAA's New York Center updates the National Air Traffic Control Command Center in Herndon, Va.
NEW YORK CENTER: OK. This is New York Center. We're watching the airplane. I also had conversation with American Airlines, and they've told us that they believe that one of their stewardesses was stabbed and that there are people in the cockpit that have control of the aircraft, and that's all the information they have right now.
Word of the explosion continues to spread among New York-area police and fire personnel. Several are reminded of the 1993 Trade Center bombing.
FDNY DISPATCHER: 8695. Good morning.
POLICE OPERATOR: Good morning. 8695,
2106.World Trade Center just blew up.
FDNY: The whole center?
OPERATOR: Yeah, that's what they said.
FDNY: My God, my God. They said an airplane crashed over here.
Oh, Lord. This makes me feel so bad, I can't take it. Once again, poor babies.
Christopher Hanley, 33, attending the Risk Waters Group conference at Windows on the World on the 106th floor of One World Trade Center, calls 911.
HANLEY: We have about 100 people here. We can't get down the stairs.
OPERATOR: Hold on. Let me connect you with fire.
OPERATOR: Come on now. (PHONE RINGS)
FDNY DISPATCHER: Fire Department 408. Where's the fire?
HANLEY: Yeah. Hi. I'm on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center. We just had an explosion up here.
FDNY: OK. One-O-Sixth floor.What building are you in, sir? One or Two?
HANLEY: That's One World Trade.
FDNY: All right.
HANLEY: Yeah, there's smoke and we have about 100 people up here.
FDNY: Sit tight. Do not leave, OK? There is a fire or an explosion or something in the building. All right? I want you to stay where you are.
FDNY: All right, what's your phone number there?
HANLEY:We're on the 106th, the 106th floor.
FDNY: What's your phone number. Sir. Your phone number.
FDNY: All right, we're there. We're coming up to get you.
HANLEY: I can see the smoke coming up from outside the windows down
FDNY: All right. We're on theway.
FDNY:We're on the way, sir.
HANLEY: OK. Please hurry.
Shelley Watson, at NEADS, calls civilian controllers at the FAA's New York Center.
WATSON: Yes, ma'am. Did you just hear the information regarding the World Trade Center?
NEW YORK CENTER: No.
WATSON: Being hit by an aircraft?
NEW YORK CENTER: I'm sorry?!
WATSON: Being hit by an aircraft.
NEW YORK CENTER: You're kidding.
WATSON: It's on the world news.
Reports of people jumping or falling from the North Tower begin to reach authorities.
FDNY DISPATCHER: Yeah, we have somebody that just fell out of the window.
POLICE OPERATOR: We heard that it was a plane that crashed into the building.
FDNY: I know. But there was somebody that fell out of the windowf rom there, too.
OPERATOR: Oh, my God. You're getting hit with everything over there.
FDNY: Yeah, I guess the guy was in a helicopter and just fell out of the helicopter.
OPERATOR: It was a helicopter or a plane?
FDNY: They say helicopter.
OPERATOR: How many people dead, do you know?
FDNY: The only thing I heard about was somebody fell out the window.
OPERATOR: Oh,my God.
From the 92nd floor of the North Tower, where he works for Carr Futures, Jeffrey Nussbaum, 37, calls his mother, Arline Nussbaum, in Oceanside, N.Y.
ARLINE: Are you all right?
JEFFREY: No,we can't breathe. The room is filling with smoke and water. Mom, can you call 911?
United Airlines Flight 175, which left Boston at 8:14 bound for Los Angeles, has not responded to controllers for 20 minutes. A manager
at the FAA's New York Center contacts the Air Traffic Control Command Center in Virginia and then New York Terminal Approach in Westbury, N.Y., trying to locate the plane.
NEW YORK CENTER (to Command Center): We have several situations going on here. It's escalating big, big time. We need to get the military involved with us.
We're, we're involved with something else, we have other aircraft that may have a similar situation going on here.
TERMINAL APPROACH: I got somebody who keeps coasting but it looks like he's going into one of the small airports down there.
NEW YORK: Hold on a second. I'm trying to bring him up here and get you -- There he is right there. Hold on.
TERMINAL: Got him just out of 9,500 -- 9,000 now.
NEWYORK: Do you know who he is?
TERMINAL: We're just, we just, we don't know who he is. We're just picking him up now.
NEW YORK: All right. Heads up, man, it looks like another one coming in.
United 175 crashes into Two World Trade Center, the South Tower, at 9:03:02. At the same time, a manager at Boston Center calls the FAA's New England regional control center with confirmation of the radio communication received earlier from American 11.
BOSTON CENTER: Hey
you still there?
NEW ENGLAND REGION: Yes, I am.
BOSTON: I'm gonna reconfirm with, with downstairs, but the, as far as the tape
seemed to think the guy said that "we have planes." Now,
I don't know if it was because it was the accent, or if there's more than one, but I'm gonna, I'm gonna reconfirm that for you, and I'll get back to
you real quick. OK?
NEWENGLAND: Appreciate it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE VOICE: They have what?
BOSTON: Planes, as in plural.
BOSTON: It sounds like, we're talking to New York, that there's another one aimed at the World Trade Center.
NEWENGLAND: There's another aircraft?
BOSTON: A second one just hit the Trade Center.
NEW ENGLAND: OK. Yeah, we gotta get -- we gotta alert the military real quick on this.
Andrew H. Card Jr., White House chief of staff, informs President Bush the South Tower has been hit, as the president is sitting in a classroom of second-graders at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Fla.
CARD: A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack.
Melissa Hughes, 31, an international trade consultant, calls her husband in San Francisco from the 101st floor of the North Tower, where she is attending a conference. She gets their answering machine.
MELISSA HUGHES: Sean, it's me. I just wanted to let you know I love you and I'm stuck in this building in New York. A plane hit the building or a bomb went off, we don't know, but there's lots of smoke and I just wanted you to know I love you. Bye-bye.
The mission crew commander at NEADS learns of the second explosion at the World Trade Center and decides to change the course of
two fighter jets that have been launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Mass.
MISSION CREW COMMANDER: This is what I foresee that we probably need to do. We need to talk to FAA.We need to tell 'em if this stuff is gonna keep on going, we need to take those fighters, put 'em over Manhattan. That's the best thing, that's the best play right now. So coordinate with the FAA. Tell 'em if there's more out there, which we don't know, let's get 'em over Manhattan. At least we got some kind of play.
New York fire and rescue dispatchers, already overwhelmed with calls from the first collision, begin to realize this not an accident but an attack.
POLICE OPERATOR: 8652, we've got another one at the World Trade. It's an additional building.
FDNY DISPATCHER: I don't know why these people keep calling.
OPERATOR: This is a new one, though.
FDNY: A new one?
OPERATOR: Yeah. This is a different one, and it's confirmed.
FDNY: Another plane now?
OPERATOR: Another plane. This is a whole new thing now.
FDNY: OK. All right. What is going on?
OPERATOR: They're saying it might be a terrorist attack.
FDNY: Oh. OK.
OPERATOR: It would have to be because what are the odds of two planes crashing into the same building; OK? That is just --
FDNY: Ironic. Let me see. Now our system is down.
OPERATOR: He didn't give the exact location.
FDNY: He didn't?
OPERATOR: He said it's on the side of the building. The plane blew up on the side of the building and it blew the building up.
FDNY: All right. Second plane crashed into building, blowing up. This is -- oh, man. Blowing up. OK.
Jeffrey Nussbaum, on the 92nd floor of the North Tower, again reaches his mother on his cell phone.
JEFFREY: We had to break the windows to breathe.
ARLINE: Try to get out of there.
JEFFREY: It's almost impossible.
JEFFREY: Where are the firemen? Where are the firemen?
Melissa Doi, 32, a manager for IQ Financial Systems on the 83rd floor of the South Tower, calls 911.
MELISSA DOI: Holy Mary, mother of God.
OPERATOR: Operator, good morning. ... Ma'am, how are you doing?
DOI: Is it, is it, are they going to be able to get someone up here?
OPERATOR: Of course, ma'am, we're coming up to you.
DOI: Well there's no one here yet and the floor is completely engulfed. We're on the floor, and we can't breathe. And it's very, very, very hot.
OPERATOR: Is, are the lights still on?
DOI: The lights are on, but it's very hot, very hot. We're all the way on the other side of the Liberty, and it's very, very hot.
OPERATOR: Can you turn the lights off?
DOI: No, no, the lights are off.
OPERATOR: OK, good. Now everybody stay calm. You're doing a good job.
OPERATOR: Ma'am, listen. Everybody's coming, everybody knows. Everybody knows what happened, OK?
DOI: I'm scared.
OPERATOR: But no, they have to take time to come there, you know that. They got to be very, very careful.
DOI: It's very hot.
OPERATOR: I understand. They got to be very, very careful in how they approach you. OK, all right. So when they come upstairs it won't be
worse than it is. Now you stay calm. How many people where you're at right now?
DOI: There's like five people here with me.
OPERATOR: All from the 83rd floor, with five people. Everybody's having trouble breathing?
DOI: Everybody's having trouble breathing. Some people are worse than others.
OPERATOR: Everybody's awake, conscious?
DOI: So far, yes.
OPERATOR: It's very hot there but no fire, right?
DOI: I can't see 'cause it's too hot.
OPERATOR: Very hot. No fire for now. And no smoke, right? No smoke, right?
DOI: Of course there's smoke!
OPERATOR: Ma'am, ma'am, you have to stay calm.
DOI: There is smoke. I can't breathe.
OPERATOR: OK, stay calm with me, OK. I understand.
DOI: I think there is fire because it's very hot. It's very hot everywhere on the floor.
OPERATOR: OK, I know you don't see it, but I'm documenting what you say. It's very hot. You see no fire. But you see smoke, right?
DOI: It's very hot. I see, I don't see any air anymore. All I see is smoke.
OPERATOR: OK, dear. I'm so sorry. Stay calm with me. Listen, listen. The call is in. I'm documented. Hold on one second, please.
DOI: I'm going to die, aren't I?
OPERATOR: No, no, no, no, no, no.
DOI: I know I'm going to die.
OPERATOR: Ma'am, ma'am, say your prayers.
DOI: I'm going to die.
OPERATOR: You've got to stay positive because you've got to help each other get off the floor.
DOI: I'm going to die.
OPERATOR: Stay calm. Stay calm. Stay calm. Stay calm.
DOI: Please, God.
OPERATOR: You're doing a good job, ma'am.
DOI: No, it's so hot. I'm burning up.
OPERATOR: OK. The floor is hot. Everything is hot.
Hold on for a second
(TALKING TO ANOTHER OPERATOR)
DOI: Wait, wait, we hear voices. Help? Hello? Help!
OPERATOR: Hello, ma'am.
OPERATOR: Stay calm, stay calm. Just don't move. They're coming through to you now?
DOI: Can you find out if there's anybody here on the 83rd floor?
OPERATOR: Ma'am, don't worry, you stay on
the phone with me.
DOI: Can you find out if there's anyone on the 83rd floor, because we thought we heard somebody?
OPERATOR: I already notified the lieutenant, OK, that there's five people on the 83rd floor, right. Very hot and smoky. So they won't overlook
you, OK, dear?
DOI: Can you stay on the line with me, please?
OPERATOR: Yes, ma'am, I am gonna stay with you.
DOI: I feel like I'm dying. They're here?
OPERATOR: Are they inside with you yet?
OPERATOR: OK, stay calm until they get inside.
DOI: Can you find out where they are?
OPERATOR: Ma'am, stay calm until they get inside.
The Northeast Air Defense Sector receives a report from the FAA's Boston Center on American Airlines 11, which hit the north tower more
than 30 minutes earlier. The FAA, however, still believes the plane is airborne.
BOSTON CENTER: Military, Boston Center. I just had a report that American 11 is still in the air, and it's on its way toward -- heading toward
NEADS: OK. American 11 is still in the air?
NEADS: On itsway toward Washington?
BOSTON: That was another -- it was evidently another aircraft that hit the tower. That's the latest report we have.
BOSTON: I'm going to try to confirm an ID for you, but I would assume he's somewhere over, uh, either New Jersey or somewhere further
NEADS: OK. So American 11 isn't the hijack at all then, right?
BOSTON: No, he is a hijack.
NEADS: He -- American 11 is a hijack?
NEADS: And he's heading into Washington?
BOSTON: Yes. This could be a third aircraft.
The pilot of United Airlines Flight 93, which took off from Newark at 8:40 bound for San Francisco, makes his final transmission to air
traffic controllers in Cleveland. The controllers believe they hear screaming coming from the cockpit.
UNITED 93: Mayday! Hey, get out of here!
UNITED 93: Get out of here, get out of here.
One of the hijackers on United 93 speaks to the passengers and is overheard by an air traffic controller in Cleveland.
HIJACKER: Ladies and gentlemen, here the captain. Please sit down, keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb on board. So sit.
CONTROLLER: You're unreadable. Say again, slowly.
Still believing that American 11 is headed toward Washington , NEADS launches F-16s from Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Va. But instead of staying near Washington, the fighters follow Cold War protocol and head out to sea, to Whiskey 386, a military training airspace over the Atlantic Ocean. A staff sergeant at NEADS in Rome, N.Y., William Huckabone, asks a Navy air traffic controller to re-route them.
NAVY ATC: You've got [the fighters] moving
east in airspace. Now you want 'em to go to Baltimore?
HUCKABONE: Yes, sir. We're not gonna take 'em in Whiskey 386.
NAVY ATC: OK, once he goes to Baltimore, what are we supposed to do?
HUCKABONE: Have him contact us on auxiliary frequency 2-3-4 decimal 6. Instead of taking handoffs to us and us handing 'em back, just tell Center they've got to go to Baltimore.
NAVY ATC: All right, man. Stand by. We'll get back to you.
MASTER SGT. STEVE CITINO, NEADS: What do you mean, 'We'll get back to you'? Just do it!
HUCKABONE: I'm gonna choke that guy!
CITINO: Be very professional, Huck.
CITINO: All right, Huck. Let's get our act together here.
The FAA's Washington Center notifies the military -- for the first time -- that American Airlines Flight 77 has been missing for nearly 40 minutes. The flight took off from Dulles International Airport at 8:20 bound for Los Angeles and disappeared from radar at 8:56. Controllers, who had not been told about the other hijacks, believed the plane experienced electrical or mechanical failure.
WASHINGTON CENTER: Now, let me tell you this. I -- I'll -- we've been looking. We're -- also lost American 77--
NEADS: American 77?
NEADS:Wherewas it proposed to head, sir?
WASHINGTON: OK, he was going to L.A. also --
NEADS: From where, sir?
WASHINGTON: I think he was from Boston also. Now let me tell you this story here. Indianapolis Center was working this guy--
NEADS: What guy?
WASHINGTON: American 77, at flight level 3-5-0 [35,000 feet]. However, they lost radar with him. They lost contact with him. They lost everything. And they don't have any idea where he is or what happened.
United 93's cockpit voice recorder picks up the following exchange, and air traffic controllers begin to suspect it has been hijacked. Bolded text is translated from Arabic.
-- I don't want to die.
-- No, no. Down, down.
-- I don't want to die. I don't want to die.
-- No, no. Down, down, down, down, down, down.
-- No, no, please.
-- That's it, go back.
--That's it. Sit down.
-- Everything is fine. I finished.
--[To passengers] Uh, is the captain. Would like you all to remain seated. There is a bomb on board, and we are going back to the airport, and to have our demands [unintelligible]. Please remain quiet.
The FAA's Boston Center calls NEADS to report that a hijacked plane is closing in on the White House. The plane will ultimately change
course and head for the Pentagon. The NEADS mission crew commander, Major Kevin Nasypany, orders the Langley F-16s to the area but learns they are more than 150 miles away.
NASYPANY: OK, Foxy [Major James Fox, the Weapons Team head]. I got a aircraft six miles east of the White House! Get your fighters there as soon as possible!
HUCKABONE: We're gonna turn and burn it -- crank it up --
MALE TECH: Six miles!
HUCKABONE: All right, here we go. This is what we're gonna do --
NASYPANY: We've got an aircraft deviating eight [sic] miles east of the White House right now.
FOX: Do you want us to declare A.F.I.O. [emergency military control of the fighters] and run 'em straight in there?
NASYPANY: Take 'em and run 'em to the White House.
FOX: Go directly to Washington.
CITINO: We're going direct [to] D.C. with my guys [Langley fighters]? OK. OK.
The fighters are still about 10 minutes from Washington.
NASYPANY: Where's Langley at? Where are the fighters?
We need to get those back up there -- I don't care how many windows you break!
Goddammit! OK. Push 'em back!
American 77 crashes into the Pentagon at 9:37:46. The fighters from Langley are still 150 miles away. So controllers ask the pilot of an
unarmed National Guard C-130H cargo plane, which has just taken off from Reagan National Airport for Minnesota, to track American 77. The pilot, upon seeing the impact, radios Washington Tower.
C-130H: Looks like that aircraft crashed into the Pentagon, sir.
At NEADS, personnel see the Pentagon in flames on CNN. Nasypany is furious that the attack was not stopped.
NASYPANY: Goddammit! I can't even protect my NCA [National Capital Area].
A New York Fire Department dispatcher receives a call from a man trapped on the 86th floor of the North Tower. The caller's side of the
conversation is removed in transcripts publicly released.
FDNY DISPATCHER: They're trapped on what floor? What floor are you trapped?
OPERATOR: He said 86.
FDNY: OK. We're well aware of the 86th floor. It's the other floors that we didn't know about before. One World Trade Center, trapped on 86th
floor. And the suite number again, please?
FDNY: OK. Has trouble breathing.
FDNY: And it's a smoky condition inside?
FDNY: Smoky condition. OK. Now you stay on the line with me here.
FDNY: Get them soaking wet. Everybody get soaking wet towels.
FDNY: OK. Now you can get soaking wet towels, and you can put them at the doorways and things too if it's not too late for that.
FDNY: Soaking wet towels for everybody first. Bless you.
FDNY: We can't tell you what to do because God forbid -- I mean, I'm sorry, we're not in your situation.
FDNY: Don't go in the hallways and don't open -- they don't say don't open the windows sometimes, depends on the circumstances because you can't see. If there's heavy smoke, you don't know if smoke is around you.
FDNY: If you open the door, you might bring in more smoke.
FDNY: Then you can't get out.
FDNY: Then that's the bad part. I don't know what to tell you. I'm so sorry I don't know what to tell you to do. .... But the doors are supposed to
be covered with wet things. If you've created a spot where all of y'all can stay, there might be somewhere where you can make sure it stays
kind of clear.
FDNY: Oh, yeah, the 86th floor was the first report. You're the first ones that we're going to. But you know they've got to approach this situation
differently. God forbid -- I mean, it's sad, there are other people too in other buildings.
FDNY: Do you have a phone number to your home that you would like for us to call anybody?
FDNY (to police operator): That is so bad, you know. That's so sad. You know --
OPERATOR: It is.
FDNY: On the 83rd --
OPERATOR: I can't imagine.
FDNY: Oh, God. You be trapped, something like that -- we've got the 83rd -- on the second World Trade Center on the 83rd floor, five people were trapped, went unconscious. I don't know what they're doing. And it's an awful thing, it's an awful, awful, awful thing to call somebody and tell them you're going to die. That's an awful thing. I hope -- I hope they're all alive because they sound like they went -- they passed out because they were breathing hard, like snoring, like they're unconscious.
Mark Bingham, 31, a public relations executive from San Francisco on United 93, calls his mother, Alice Hoglan, in Saratoga, Calif.
BINGHAM: Mom, this is Mark Bingham. I want to let you know that I love you. I'm on a flight from Newark to San Francisco, and there are three guys on board who have taken over the plane, and they say they have a bomb. You believe me, don't you, Mom?
HOGLAN: Oh, Mark, I believe you.
President Bush arrives at the airport in Sarasota and speaks by phone with Vice President Cheney.
BUSH: Sounds like we have a minor war going on here. I heard about the Pentagon. We're at war.
Somebody's going to pay.
Onboard United 93, passenger Todd Beamer, 32, calls an Airfone operator, who passes him to supervisor Lisa Jefferson in Airfone's Chicago call center.
JEFFERSON: I understand your plane is being hijacked.
JEFFERSON: Can you explain to me in detail exactly what's taking place?
BEAMER: [After providing information on the flight] Do you know what they want? Money or ransom or what?
JEFFERSON: I don't know.
BEAMER:We're going down,we're going down. No, wait, we're coming back up. We're turning around.
JEFFERSON: I'm still here, Todd. I'm still here. I'm not going anywhere. I'll be here as long as you will.
BEAMER: A few of us passengers are getting together. I think we're going to jump the guy with
JEFFERSON: Are you sure that's what you want to do?
BEAMER: At this point, I don't have much choice. I'm going to have to go out on faith.
JEFFERSON: I stand behind you.
BEAMER: God help us. Help us, Jesus. [To other passengers:] You ready? OK. Let's roll.
With United 93 off its flight plan and less than 30 minutes from Washington, an official at the FAA's Command Center in Herndon, Va., asks FAA headquarters about requesting military assistance.
COMMAND CENTER: Uh, do we want to think about, uh, scrambling aircraft?
FAA HEADQUARTERS: Uh, God, I don't know.
COMMAND CENTER: Uh, that's a decision somebody's gonna have to make probably in the next 10 minutes.
HEADQUARTERS: Uh, ya know everybody just left the room.
Alice Hoglan leaves a message for Mark Bingham on his cell phone. (She would retrieve and transcribe the message weeks later, when
she accessed his cell phone voice mail.)
HOGLAN: Mark, this is your mom. It's 9:54 a.m. It's a suicide mission, and the hijackers are planning to use your plane at a target.
Kevin Cosgrove, 46, vice president of insurance claims for Aon Corp., on the 105th floor of Two World Trade Center, calls 911.
OPERATOR: What's the telephone number I can tell FD to push up? What's the telephone number you're calling from?
COSGROVE: I can barely see.
OPERATOR: You can barely see?
COSGROVE: 4-4-1... .
OPERATOR: 4-4-1... .
OPERATOR: That's on the 105th floor of the northwest corner, right?
OPERATOR: At number Two World Trade Center?
COSGROVE: Right. Lady, there's two of us in this office. We're not ready to die, but it's getting bad.
OPERATOR: I understand, sir. We're trying to get all the apparatuses there. I am trying to let them know where you are. Stay on the line.
COSGROVE: Oh, please hurry.
FIRE DEPARTMENT: Let me talk to the caller, please ... let me talk to the caller. Where is he?
OPERATOR: He's on the line.
FDNY: Let me talk to him. Where is the fire, sir?
COSGROVE: Smoke really bad. 105 Two Tower.
FDNY: All right. Sit tight. We'll get to you as soon as we can.
COSGROVE: They keep saying that, but the smoke's really bad now.
FDNY: That's all we can do.
COSGROVE: What floor are you guys up to?
FDNY:We're getting there. We're getting there.
COSGROVE: Doesn't feel like it, man. I got young kids.
FDNY: I understand that, sir. We're on the way.
OPERATOR: He's on the 105th floor in the northwest corner.
COSGROVE: He hung up on me. Hello, operator?
COSGROVE: Come on, man.
OPERATOR:We have everything we need, sir.
COSGROVE: I know you do, but doesn't seem like it. You got lots of people up here.
OPERATOR: I understand.
COSGROVE: I know you got a lot in the building, but we are on the top. Smoke rises, too. We are on the floor. We're in the window. I can barely breathe now. I can't see.
OPERATOR: OK, just try to hang in there. I'm going to stay with you.
COSGROVE: You can say that, you're in an airconditioned building. What the hell happened?
OPERATOR: OK. I'm still here, still trying. The Fire Department is trying to get to you.
COSGROVE:Doesn't feel like it.
OPERATOR: OK, try to calm down so you can conserve your oxygen, OK? Try to --
COSGROVE: Tell God to blow the wind from the west. It's really bad. It's black. It's acrid. Does anyone else wanna chime in here? We're young men. We're not ready to die.
OPERATOR: I understand.
COSGROVE: How the hell are you going to get my ass down? I need oxygen.
OPERATOR: They're coming. They're getting you. They have a lot of apparatuses on the scene.
COSGROVE: It doesn't feel like it, lady. You get them in from all over. You get 'em in from Jersey
OPERATOR: OK, sir.What's your last name?
COSGROVE: Name's Cosgrove. I must have called you about a dozen times already. C-O-S-GR-O-V-E. My wife thinks I'm all right. I called and said I was leaving the building and that I was fine and then -- bang. Hold on. Cherry. Doug Cherry. Doug Cherry's next to me. 105. Whose office? John Ostaru's office?
OPERATOR: That's where he said? That's the office?
COSGROVE: We're in John Ostaru's office. O-ST-A-R-U.
COSGROVE: Right. That's the office we're in. There are three of us in here.
OPERATOR: O-S-T-A-R-U. Hello?
COSGROVE: Hello. We're looking in ... we're overlooking the Financial Center. Three of us. Two broken windows. Oh God. Oh ...
The South Tower collapses. Shortly after, this conversation takes place over a New York Police Department radio frequency.
OFFICER: There was a major collapse in one of the towers.
DISPATCHER: Which tower?
OFFICER: The South Tower. Major collapse.
MARINE 6: Marine 6 to Manhattan, urgent.
Tower Two has had a major explosion and what appears to be a complete collapse surrounding the entire area.
DISPATCHER: Marine 6, 10-4. We were notified.
MALE OFFICER: Quiet, let me talk! Central, clear the air.
FEMALE OFFICER: Clear the air, clear the air! There's a 13 right now in front of the triage center.
MALE OFFICER: We're across the street from the towers. We have people trapped in the building on the first floor. Acknowledge!
DISPATCHER: The person transmitting the mayday: Where are you?
MALE OFFICER: I just told you. North of the World Trade Center. There's the north pedestrian bridge. I think it collapsed. A building just collapsed. I was on the street. I don't have much air. Please!
DISPATCHER: Copy that. 10-4. Manhattan to Field Com, urgent.
MALE OFFICER: I can barely breathe. Please send somebody!
DISPATCHER: The person calling for help: Listen to me. You need to calm down and relax. Stand by. We do have somebody on the way. Get
off the air.We do have somebody on the way over to you. You're to remain calm. 10-4?
MALE OFFICER: 10-4. (unintelligible)
DISPATCHER: 10-4. We do have people on the way over there.
Manhattan to Field Com, urgent.
Any unit operating at No. 2 World Trade
Center at the collapse, contact Manhattan by radio forth with.
From United 93's cockpit voice recorder, it appears that the passengers are making their move on the cockpit. Bolded text is translated
-- They want to get in here. Hold, hold from the inside. Hold from the inside. Hold.
--Hold the door.
-- There are some guys. All those guys.
--Let's get them.
-- Trust in Allah, and in him.
-- There is nothing.
-- Is that it? Shall we finish it off?
-- No. Not yet.
-- When they all come, we finish it off.
In the North Tower, Jeffrey Nussbaum hears the collapse and calls his mother, Arline.
JEFFREY: Mom, what was that explosion?
ARLINE: The other tower just went down.
JEFFREY: Oh my God. I'm getting the [expletive] out of here. I love you, Mom.
In the wake of the collapse, police and fire dispatchers try to account for their personnel. This exchange occurs over a fire radio
MALE VOICE: Central, one of the towers has collapsed. Heavy smoke conditions in entire downtown Manhattan.
MALE VOICE: It's unbelievable!
DISPATCHER: You guys keep the frequency clear. We have a 10-13, Liberty and West. Command post, go.
COMMAND POST: Major explosion, unknown, undetermined number of injuries at this time. Have the citywide commander put together a
task force at each bridge location, sowe can bring them into this operation once we figure out what's going on.
DISPATCHER: Command Post, acknowledge. Liberty Street operations, Chief Brown, are you on the air?
MALE VOICE: 32 Tom, Manhattan South, please pick up. Priority.
DISPATCHER: What's the priority message?
MALE VOICE: I'm on the West Side Highway, north of the building collapse. My partner is missing. I cannot find him. I have no idea where
he is, Central.
DISPATCHER: I understand. But I need a radio designation.
MALE VOICE: 32 Tom.
DISPATCHER: Remain where you are and we'll try to establish contact with your partner as soon as we can see something. We have to wait for some of this to lift.
MALE VOICE: Central, my ambulance is completely destroyed.
DISPATCHER: Are there any injuries to members of the department, volunteers or firefighters at your location?
MALE VOICE: There's multiple injuries. We're still trying to ascertain. Myself is injured, and Chief Brown's checking himself out now.
DISPATCHER: We need to get this under control. We still have no visibilty at the command post.
Chief Goldfarb, are you on the air?
GOLDFARB: Operations is on the air, go ahead.
DISPATCHER: What do you need available to you at this time?
GOLDFARB: We're setting up treatment and triage in the lobby of the Lehman Brothers Building. We're gathering our personnel. We're collecting resources now.
LIBERTY OPERATIONS: Liberty Operations to Command.
COMMAND: Go ahead.
LIBERTY OPERATIONS: We're trying to recoup. We've lost all units at this area. All units are deadlocked. All the equipment is destroyed. I
have several injured members of the service and, uh, I'll get back to you.
The struggle for control of United 93 intensifies. The plane's final two minutes are captured on its cockpit voice recorder. Bold text is
translated from Arabic.
-- Is that it? I mean, shall we pull it down?
-- Yes, put it in it, and pull it down.
--... engine ...
-- Cut off the oxygen.
-- Cut off the oxygen. Cut off the oxygen. Cut off the oxygen.
-- Up, down. Up, down.
--Shut them off.
--Shut them off.
--Turn it up.
-- Pull it down. Pull it down.
--Down. Push, push, push, push, push.
-- Hey. Hey. Give it to me. Give it to me.
-- Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me.
-- Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me.
-- Allah is the greatest.
-- Allah is the greatest.
-- Allah is the greatest.
-- Allah is the greatest.
-- Allah is the greatest.
-- Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest.
-- Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest.
[The plane crashes into a field near Shanksville, Pa.]
The FAA's Cleveland Center notifies NEADS of trouble aboard United 93. It is the FAA's first communication to the military about the flight,
which has already crashed.
CLEVELAND CENTER: We got a United 93 out here. Are you aware of that?
NEADS: United 93?
CLEVELAND CENTER: That has a bomb on board.
NEADS: A bomb on board?! And this is confirmed? You have a [beacon code], sir?
CLEVELAND CENTER: No, we lost his transponder.
An official at NEADS calls the FAA's Washington Center for more information on United 93.
NEADS: I also want to give you a heads-up, Washington.
FAA: Go ahead.
NEADS: United nine three, have you got information on that yet?
FAA: Yeah, he's down.
NEADS: He's down?
NEADS: When did he land? 'Cause we have got confirmation --
FAA: He did not land.
NEADS: Oh, he's down? Down?
FAA: Yes. Somewhere up northeast of Camp David.
NEADS: Northeast of Camp David.
FAA: That's the last report. They don't know exactly where.
The North Tower collapses at 10:28. A New York Police Department radio scanner records officers and dispatchers responding to the
MALE OFFICER: The tower's coming down! The second building just fell! The second building just fell!
DISPATCHER: Where are you?
SECOND MALE OFFICER: The other tower just went down! The other tower just went down! THIRD MALE OFFICER: The second tower's
DISPATCHER: You got another tower that went down?
FIRST MALE OFFICER: Another tower just went down.
The tower is down. Get away from it! Get away from it! Everybody move
away from the tower! Get away from it!
DISPATCHER: That's a 10-4. We got a 10-13. We got a second tower down.
FIRST MALE OFFICER: Everybody move away from the tower!
DISPATCHER: Everybody get away from the tower. You got another tower that just came down. 10-13. Where exactly are you?
SUPERVISOR: All nonessential personnel: Move away from that collapse.
DISPATCHER: We got another explosion on the tower. 10-13. 10-13. We got a second tower collapse at this time.
VOICE IN BACKGROUND: Get all the freakin' cops away from the building! What's wrong?
DISPATCHER: Units, remove yourselves from the location at this time. We got another tower collapse. Another tower collapse. Officers
that are on the scene over there
DISPATCHER: Stay off the air. We got a possible female officer trapped. Where are you?
FEMALE OFFICER: Help!
DISPATCHER: Come on, tell me where you are! What floor are you on?
Listen, we got a female officer down. We need a search. Where
ANOTHER MALE VOICE: What was your last location? What was your last location? Talk to us.
DISPATCHER: Excuse me, units. Let me talk to the female officer that's down. Where are you? What was your last location? Tell me: What floor are you on? (Coughing)
MALE VOICE: She said third floor.
DISPATCHER: What floor?
MALE VOICE: Third floor.
OFFICER: Where did they evacuate Stuyvesant High School?
DISPATCHER: Units, stay off the air for a second. I got a female officer down. Stand by. We got a female officer down, possibly on the
third floor of the second tower. Female officer, where are you now? Do we have any supervisors by that second tower that can start accounting for their people, please? We have one female officer down, possibly on the third floor.
New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani holds a news conference at the city police academy, one mile from Ground Zero.
GIULIANI: The tragedy that we're all undergoing right now is something that we've had nightmares about, probably thought wouldn't happen. My heart goes out to all of the innocent victims of this horrible and vicious act of terrorism, acts of terrorism. And our focus now has to be on saving as many lives as possible. We have hundreds of police officers and firefighters who are engaging in rescue efforts in Lower Manhattan.
And we will strive now very hard to save as many people as possible and to send a message that the city of New York and the United States of America is much stronger than any group of barbaric terrorists, that our democracy, that our rule of law, that our strength and our willingness to defend ourselves will ultimately prevail.
QUESTION: Do we know the number of casualties at this point, sir?
GIULIANI: I don't think we really want to speculate about that. The number of casualties will be more than any of us can bear.
Betty Ong died on American 11. Todd Beamer and Mark Bingham died on United 93. Kevin Cosgrove, Melissa Doi, Christopher Hanley, Melissa Hughes and Jeffrey Nussbaum died when the towers came down. In all, at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and onboard the four flights, 2,973 people lost their lives.
9/11-Five years later
'I think we're getting hijacked'
Woven together in real time, the conversations, calamity of 9/11 produce a narrative of desperation and anguish, foretelling a changed America
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