9/11 Response | Declassified

On September 11th 2001, the United States suffered the worst terrorist attack in its history Four domestic flights were hijacked and crashed across the North East

How did the US react to such an attack? This is the 9/11 Response: Declassified On 9/11, American Airlines flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Centre at 846 United Airlines flight 175 crashed into the South Tower at 903

American Airlines flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon at 937 United Airlines flight 93 crashed into a field in Pennslyvania at 1003 All those aboard, including the 19 hijackers, were killed instantly

On 9/11, the Boston Flight Centre failed to recognise the hijacking of American 11 It took another 13 minutes for the military to be alerted The North East Air Defense Sector (NEADS) – the regional HQ of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) – managed to scramble F15 fighter planes at 846 but American 11 had disappeared off radar NEADS spent the next 4 minutes trying to locate the plane despite the fact that it had already crashed into the North Tower

The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) controller in charge of United 175 was also assigned to American 11; distracted by American 11, they didn’t notice United 175’s changing transponder code The controller alerted their superiors but the message didn’t reach the military until 903; the same time that United 175 hit the South Tower of the World Trade Centre It was only after the twin towers had been hit that the FAA confirmed American 11 had transmitted, ‘we have some planes’ and New York airspace was consequently shut down American 77 disappeared from radar for 8 minutes, so the controllers never saw the plane change direction

However the military weren’t told about the missing plane; they were told that American 11 was still in the air and headed for Washington despite American 11 having crashed into the North Tower 40 minutes earlier United 93 was also not reported to the military until 1007; by which point it had already crashed NEADS were unaware it had crashed until 1015

American 11 hit the North Tower at 846, cutting through floors 93 – 99 All stairwells from the 92nd floor became completely impassable; trapping people in the floors above The 911 emergency phone system was not sufficiently equipped to cope with the volume of calls Many callers received ‘all circuits busy’ messages or were disconnected

Those who got through, were told to remain where they were and wait for assistance The impact of the plane also damaged the intercom system in the North Tower Many civilians did not hear the evacuation order or connect to emergency phones At 857, the New York Fire Department ordered an evacuation of the South Tower

This decision wasn’t relayed to 911 and people were still told to stay put Another second public announcement over the intercom told civilians in the South Tower to remain in their offices; causing some people to reverse the evacuation At 903 United 175 hit the South Tower; crashing through 77 – 85th floors The plane was turning left as it hit the tower, leaving Staircase B completely intact from at least the 91st floor

Civilians began to descend 911 operators were continuing to advise civilians to remain where they were until help arrived They also were not told that rooftop rescues were impossible, meaning some civilians climbed the stairs instead of descending At 937, a 911 call from the 106th floor of the South Tower reported that a lower floor was collapsing

But this message was not accurately conveyed to rescue forces At 959, the South Tower collapsed in 10 seconds killing everyone inside Within one minute of the collapse a fire chief ordered all firefighters in the North Tower to evacuate immediately But he didn’t use the standard ‘Mayday, Mayday, Mayday’ alarm, causing confusion

Some firefighters refused to abandon their rescue mission and remained inside the North Tower until its collapse at 1028 The response at the Pentagon was much more effective: the evacuation was ordered at 955 and it occurred at 957 with no first responders being injured

Meanwhile, United 93 crashed in Pennsylvania Many people believe the original target was either the White House or the Capitol NORAD consistently argues that had United 93 not crashed, they would have been able to stop the aircraft However, it is estimated that United 93 would have reached Washington between 1013 and 10

23am, and NORAD only learnt of the hijacking at 1007 This would give NORAD 6-16 minutes to find the aircraft, get the shoot down order and relay this order to their pilots, who would then have to carry it out Whilst the pilots were armed at 1007, they did not have the shoot down order at 10

10 The shoot down order was received at 1031; 8 minutes after the plane would have crashed into its target It is estimated there were between 16 and 18 thousand civilians in the World Trade Centre complex at 846am on 9/11

Of the nearly 3 thousand who died, 95% of them worked above the impact sites and couldn’t descend to safety That morning, President George W Bush was visiting a school in Florida He didn’t learn of the attack until 855

He stayed in the classroom until 915 despite learning of the second impact at the South Tower Whilst the response to the 9/11 saved many lives, it revealed the tragic shortcomings in military and civilian protocols across the US If a similar attack were to happen again, we hope the victims, emergency services and leaders would be much, much better prepared This has been The 9/11 Response: Declassified, but stay tuned as we discover the lasting legacy of September 11th

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