The full audio recordings of communications between military and civilian air traffic controllers from the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 have been made public for the first time.
(Hear audio transcripts below.)
The recordings were originally intended to be part of the Sept. 11 Commission’s 2004 report, but other parts had not been heard before they were transferred to the National Archives after the commission ended its work, raising questions about why they are being released now.
Some of the recordings are truly horrifiying:
“We have a problem here. We have hijacked aircraft headed towards New York and we need you guys to, we need someone to scramble some F-16s or something up here to help us out,” a worker at Boston Center's Traffic Management Unit said at 8:37 a.m., according to the recordings.
The official asked whether this was a test.
“No, this is not an exercise, this is not a test,” the worker said.
In another, later recording, a worker in a New York radar control center says, “Another one just hit the building.”
Someone responds: “Oh, my God.”
“Another one just hit it hard. ... Another one just hit the World Trade,” the worker said, and then: “The whole building just, ah, came apart.”
In the background: “Oh, my God.”
In a speech for the Knight Batten awards for Innovation in Journalism yesterday, Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth said that it would have been “horrifying” if Twitter, and YouTube had been around for 9/11.
Yet as the 10th anniversary of the attacks approach, more and more information about the attacks is being released. The Washington Post is telling the stories of nine people whose lives changed in the attacks. Many are calling for 9/11 commission records, which are inside the National Archive, to be made public. And now, these tremendously personal audio tapes are out.
Mount Holyoke College Professor Karen Remmler, an expert on the remembrance of tragedies, said on the Mt. Holyoke site that the recuperation of the nation after the 9/11 attacks “requires a collective experience” in order to “bring catharsis.”
Remmler says that memorials are important because they respect the individuality of each victim, and that museums are important because they “historicize the event.”
One recording, at least, was conspicuously absent in those released today — the recording from the last half hour in the cockpit of United Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania instead of its intended target in Washington, D.C.
Although the recording played at the trial for one of the 9/11 plotters, the families of the passengers who overtook the hijackers asked that the audio not be made public.
Hear clips from the transcript:
Listen: United 93 may have crashed
Listen:Flight attendant Betty Ong: “Someone is stabbed”
Betty Ong:Number 3 in the back. Um, the cockpit’s not answering. Somebody’s stabbed in business class, and um I think there is Mace that we can’t breathe. I don’t know, I think we’re getting hijacked.
American Airlines operations:Which flight are you on?
Operations:And what seat are you in? [Silence] Ma’am, are you there?
Operations: What seat are you in? Ma’am, what seat are you in?
Ong:We just left Boston. We’re up in the air.
Operations: I know.
Ong: We’re supposed to go to L.A. and the cockpit’s not answering their phone.
Operations: Okay, but what seat are you sitting in? What's the number of your seat?
Ong: OK. I'm in the jump seat right now. That's 3R.
Operations: Okay, are you the flight attendant? I’m sorry, did you say you’re the flight attendant?
Operations:Hello, what is your name?
Ong:Hi, you’re going to have to speak up. I can’t hear you.
Operations:What is your name?
Ong: My name is Betty Ong. I'm Number 3 on Flight 11.
Ong: The cockpit is not answering their phone. There's somebody stabbed in business class, and we can't breathe in business. Um, I think there is some Mace or something. We can't breathe. I don't know, but I think we're getting hijacked.
Operations: Can you describe the person, that you said someone is shot in business?
Ong: I'm sitting in the back. Somebody's coming back from business. If you can hold on for one second here, they're coming back.
Ong: Our Number 1 got stabbed. Our purser is stabbed. Nobody knows who stabbed who. We can't even get up to business class right now because nobody can breathe. Uhhh, our number one is stabbed right now.
Ong: (garbled) Our Number 5, our first class passenger, er, our first class galley flight attendant and our purser have been stabbed. And we can't get into the cockpit. The door won't open.
Operations: This is operations. What flight number are we talking about?
Operations: At this point we are talking about Flight 12.
Operations: Flight 12. OK.
Ong: No, we're on Flight 11 right now. This is Flight 11.
Operations: This is Flight 11. I'm sorry, Nadine.
Ong: Boston to Los Angeles.
Ong: Our Number 1 has been stabbed, and our 5 has been stabbed.
Operations: Can anybody get up to the cockpit? Can anyone get up to the cockpit?
Ong: We can't even get into the cockpit. We don't know who's up there.
Operations:Well if they were shrewd, they would keep the door closed and
Operations:Would they not maintain a sterile cockpit?
Ong:I think the guys are upt here. They might have gone there — jammed their way up there or something. Nobody can call the cockpit. We can’t get inside.
Ong:Is anybody still there?
Operations: Yes, we’re still here.
Ong:Okay, I’m staying on the line as well
(Dial tone, call lost)
Listen:United 93 may have crashed
Herndon Center: United 93.
FAA headquarters: Yes.
Herndon Center: Was waiving his wings as he went past the V, the VFR aircraft, they don’t quite know what that means. Rockin’ his ring—wings.
FAA headquarters: Okay.
Herndon Center: Okay, there’s now on that United 93.
FAA headquarters: Yes.
Herndon Center: There is a report of black smoke in the last position I gave you, 15 miles south of Johnstown.
FAA headquarters: Uh, from the airplane or from the ground?
Herndon Center: Uh, they’re speculating it’s from the aircraft, ah, who, it hit the ground. That’s what they’re, that’s what they’re speculating. It’s speculation only.
FAA headquarters: Ok.
FAA headquarters: We’re getting a preliminary report that United 93 hit the ground about 15 miles south of Johnstown, or thereabouts.
Listen:Mohammed Atta: 'We have some planes'
(Indistinct. Microphone keyed three times)
Boston Sector: Is that American 11 trying to call?
Mohammed Atta: (Indistinct) we have some planes. Just stay quiet and we’ll be ok. We are returning to the airport.
Boston Sector: And, uh, who’s trying to call me, here?
Boston Sector: American 11 are you trying to call?
Atta: Nobody move, everything will be ok. If you try to make any moves, you will injure yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet.
Listen: 'It looks like that aircraft crashed into the Pentagon'
Gofer 06: And, uh, Washington, this is Gofer zero six.
Regan National Tower Controller: Gofer zero six, go ahead.
Gofer 06: Yes sir, that aircraft is down, he’s in our twelve o’clock position, ah, look’s like it’s just to the northwest of the airfield at this time, sir.
Regan National Tower Controller: Gofer eight six, thank you. Descend and maintain two thousand.
Gofer 06: Ok.We are down to two thousand. And, uh, this is Gofer zero six, it looks like that aircraft crashed into the Pentagon, sir.
Regan National Tower Controller: Gofer eight six, Gofer zero six, thank you.
Listen:'Another one just hit the building'
New York Center Unknown: Hey, can you look out your window right now?
New York TRACON:Yeah.
New York Center: Can you, can you see a guy at about four thousand feet, about five east of the airport right now, look’s like he’s—
TRACON: Yeah, I see him.
New York Center: Do you see that guy, look, is he descending into the building also?
TRACON: He’s descending really quick too, Yeah
New York Center: Well that’s—
TRACON: Forty five hundred feet now, he just dropped eight hundred feet in like, like one, one sweep.
New York Center: That’s another situation. What kind of a plane is that, can you guys tell?
TRACON: I don’t know. I’ll read it out in a minute.
[Background] TRACON: (Indistinct).
TRACON: Another one just hit just hit the building.
New York Center: Wow.
[Background] TRACON: (Indistinct). Oh my god.
TRACON: Another one just hit it hard.
New York Center: Another one just hit the World Trade.
TRACON: The whole building just, ah, came apart.
[Background] TRACON: (Indistinct). Oh my god.
New York Center: Holy smokes. Alright. I guess you guys are going to be busy.
Listen: ‘We need to get the military involved’
Mulligan: Check with your NOM, do you know if any one down there has done any coordination to scramble fighter type airplanes?
Bell:(Indistinct) still think the airplane’s in the air?
Mulligan: No, we have several situations goin’, goin’ on here. It is escalating big big time, and we need to get the military involved with us.
Bell:Why, what’s goin’ on?
Mulligan: Just get me somebody who has the authority to get military in the air, now.
Bell:Alright. I’ll go tell ‘em.