Political Extremists using Hijacked Airliners
J. I. Nelson, September 2011
Part 4: The Pentagon, Pennsylvania,
Photo: Jeff Franko
- Gannett News Service
The sprawling Pentagon is not a high building (5 floors).
AA77 came in low enough to clip lampposts along Washington Blvd.
The nose was only 14 feet above the ground on impact --
not quite up to the 2nd story.
It is estimated that the plane decelerated from about 530 mph to a
standstill in eight-tenths of a second.
This liquifies jetliners.
The tail end flowed in the furthest.
The fuselage behaved like an oversized, badly-designed (too soft),
armor-piercing anti-tank weapon.
Photo: Steve Helber - AP.
It took three days after the crash of AA77 to extinguish the flames.
Blast-proof windows and a roof covered a foot thick in concrete
hampered efforts to get water in.
Photo: (left) Larry
- Reuters; (right) Will Morris
An hour and 18 minutes after an 8:20 takeoff, the Boeing 757-223 is
estimated to have been carrying 5,300 gal of fuel.
Photos: (left) Ron
-AP; (right) Steve Helber - AP.
Casualties at The Pentagon were 189, consisting of all 64 on board
Flight 77, and 125 on the ground.
The 64 on board is comprised of all 58 passengers (including 5
hijackers) & 6 crew.
IAD, INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT DULLES
business colleague picked me up for a trip to the large Internet data
center that he hoped to buy, with its strategic location on the Dulles
airport campus near the massive fiber routes
Exchanges (MAE-East) in Reston and Ashburn.
"A plane flew into a big tower in New York, did you hear?"
"Didn't have the radio on. A small plane?"
"No, a big one."
sat down with our counterparts for the conference that never
happened. The second plane struck. A younger,
came through the rear doors. Behind him stood the
racks, the isles of routers and servers, the fiber optic cables coming
in along one wall and going out on the other. "I've never seen this
much traffic. Some routes are slowing down. The
starting to go."
He went back to his buddies in the NOC, the
Network Operations Center. Someone had an "in" to
Air Traffic Control System Command Center in Herndon (it has since
moved further west to Warrenton). Soon it seemed the whole
airport knew there were more ghost planes up there, and one of them was
from our airport, a flight from Dulles Airport.
then that I learned the FAA could not track American aircraft. They had
let their primary radars fall into disrepair -- if they broke, there
was no money to repair them. The primaries are the
passives, the powerful radars that can ping a plane and hear
echo off the aluminum fuselage, whether or not the plane's
transponder broadcasts its response. After murdering the
the hijackers turned the transponders off. We had lost our
airport's plane somewhere over West Virginia.
primary radar that still worked picked up the plane in Ohio, but it was
turning around. By this time, all over the airport campus,
were coming outside and looking at the sky, as if shielding their eyes
with a hand would do what radar could not do. Then Ohio had
plane turning around, towards Pennsylvania. By now, we all
what hijacked airplanes turned around to do.
Operations Center guy came out again. "The Internet's down.
It's going down everywhere. I can't get through.
to find out anything."
It saw how the next attack would unfold --
first the virtual, then the physical. Today we were going
under traffic overload, but next time they could take down the Internet
and then strike. It multiplies the panic. Structural
problems make our computer networks inherently insecure.
lawns everywhere, people scanned the sky, looking toward Washington,
and argued over what it would try
to hit. The White House was too low, there were too
high buildings in the way, this morning's fog was still too thick along
Potomac River Valley. "They don't call if Foggy Bottom for
nothing. They won't go for the White House." The
hit the Capitol instead, just go down the Mall to the Capitol dome.
Nobody picked the Pentagon, a
building with nothing to knock over.
back!" AA77's flight path returning from Ohio to Washington
straight into town. By 9:30 it was down from 26,000 to 8,000
too far south of us to see. It circled around almost 360 deg
striking. Later, at a Christmas party, a guy said if they had
slammed in on the River Entrance side instead of swinging all the way
around to the back, it would have killed all the top brass in DoD. As
it was, the entire 7-person Naval Intelligence unit tracking the WTC
event was wiped out at their desks. In this town, it is
flight AA77 was headed for the White
House (but lost it in the morning mist) and UA93 would take out the
Capitol Dome. AA77 improvised, repositioned for the Pentagon,
and saved the Capitol for his buddies.
At Dulles, we heard that UA93 had gone off the radar but had no idea
what had happened, only that it was over. Back home, I drove
town's hardware store and bought my first American flag.
fly it every Sunday, the house already had flag holders. In
another time, flying the country's flag must have seemed normal.
Diagram The Washington Post, 20 Jan 2002.
The plane penetrated 3 of the 5 layers of corridors.
Because of recent renovations, they had new blast-proof windws and
As in the WTC Twin Towers, the plane's aluminum fuselage shredded
In the Pentagon's inner courtyard, tiny pieces of aluminum drifted down
FAA COMMAND CENTER: Uh,
do we want to think about, uh, scrambling
FAA HEADQUARTERS: Uh,
God, I don't know.
CENTER: Uh, that's a decision somebody's gonna
have to make probably in the next ten minutes.
FAA HEADQUARTERS: Uh, ya
know, everybody just left the room.
United 93 crashes in Somerset
County, western Pennsylvania.
UA93, a Boeing 757, had
left Newark, NJ bound for
San Francisco at 8:42.
UA93 was identified
as a hijacking, two F-16 fighter jets from the 121st Fighter Squadron
of the D.C. Air National Guard were scrambled and ordered to intercept
it. The pilots intended to ram it since they did not have
time to arm their planes. However, they never
reached Flight 93 and, given the nature of intergovernmental
communication, they did not learn of its crash until hours afterwards.
Photo (left or top): Photo: Franka Bruns -
Photo (right or bottom): Keith Srakocic - AP
(To see photos side-by-side, drag a side of the window to be wider.)
The crash site for flight UA93, a 757-222, in Shanksville,
By choosing flights with Boeing 757 and 767 equipment, the terrorists
could assign their pilots across the teams at will --
those two planes are similar and pilots are automatically
cross-licensed for them.
Mark Bingham (1970 –
September 11, 2001)
There were some pretty
athletic guys on Flight 93. One of
them was Mark Bingham, a successful business owner, a solid backer of
John McCain's 2000 bid for the Presidential nomination, and
former varsity Golden Bear who helped earn UC Berkeley’s rugby team
national titles in 1991 and 1993. Bingham was openly gay.
Bingham had overslept.
His friend Matthew drove like a
lunatic to get him from Manhattan to Newark, screeching to a halt
outside Terminal A at 7.40am. Bingham sprang from the car,
hauling an old blue and gold canvas duffel bag. He ran to gate 17,
boarded the Boeing 757 and sat down in seat 4D, just behind the
cockpit. Then he called Matthew: "Hey, it's me. Thanks for
driving so crazy to get me here. I'm in first class, drinking a glass
of orange juice." The hijackers did not mace the
front of the plane to keep passengers out, and they chose their flight
Besides Bingham, there was Jeremy Glick, a 6'1" judo
champion; Tom Burnett, a college quarterback sitting
next to Bingham; Louis Nacke, a weightlifter; and William Cashman, a
former paratrooper. By 9:41, when the hijacker leaned from
seat to turn off the plane's transponder, the pilots lay with their
throats slit, dead or dying, in the First Class cabin in front of
and Burnett. After a vote was taken in the back of the cabin
proceed with an attack and water had been boiled to carry it
passengers rushed the first class cabin. The hijacker
pilot pitched the nose of the airplane up and down to disrupt
the assault. At 9:59:52, the cockpit voice recorder captured the sounds
of crashing, screaming, and the shattering of glass. The tape
strongly suggests the cockpit door was broached and the passengers were
about to seize the plane's controls. The hijackers ended the
flight so violently that the plane rolled over on its back before
The memorial service for
Mark Bingham was held on 22 September 2001 in
Berkeley's Wheeler Auditorium. Family and friends spoke of
his irrepressible spirit and fierce loyalty to his country, his team
and his university.
my country, and I
take pride in serving her. But I cannot say that I love her more or as
well as Mark Bingham did, or the other heroes on United Flight 93 who
gave their lives to prevent our enemies from inflicting an even greater
injury on our country. It has been my fate to witness great courage and
sacrifice for America’s sake, but none greater than the selfless
sacrifice of Mark Bingham and those good men who grasped the gravity of
the moment, understood the threat, and decided to fight back at the
cost of their lives....
It is now believed that the terrorists on Flight 93
intended to crash the airplane into the United States Capitol where I
work, the great house of democracy where I was that day. It is very
possible that I would have been in the building, with a great many
other people, when that fateful, terrible moment occurred... I may very
well owe my life to Mark and the others ... I never knew Mark Bingham.
But I ... know he was a good son and friend, a good rugby player, a
good American, and an extraordinary human being. He supported me, and
his support now ranks among the greatest honors of my life.
Photo: Lawrence A. Martin
The original World Trade Center Tower. The lobby, including
the Mezzanine Level (here) was seven stories high.
Photo: Lawrence A. Martin
The original World Trade Center central plaza, the Austin J. Tobin
The plaza was 21,500 sq m (over 5 acres of the originally 16 acre
site). Fritz Koenig
sculpted The Sphere in center.
Over 20 tons of bronze and steel, it survived the destructive
whirlwind of 9/11.
The Towers captured everyone's imagination. The first of 3
people to parachute off them was Owen J. Quinn, 1975. When he
got to the top, there was a problem. The building does not go
straight down. A cornice covers the top floors, so you cannot see the
marble steps below. To get clear of the cornice, Quinn would need a
running start and would have to dive blindly, head first. He
ran and jumped, wearing a jersey saying "But Jesus beheld them and said
unto them, with men this is impossible, but with God all things are
possible" (Matthew 19:26:).
"It was like jumping into a glass full of pencils," says Quinn. "All
those other buildings coming up at me. And you know what I did? I
laughed. Once I was over the side I was back in my element." Fifty
floors down, level with the top of the old New York Telephone Co.
Building, he pulled the rip cord. The chute popped open, spun him 180
degrees and...Wham! He smashed into the side of the tower, face-to-face
with a very surprised secretary. A modern square parachute might have
collapsed, but Quinn had decided to use an old Navy "conical" chute,
and it bounced off in good shape. A fashion photographer and a couple
of models were at work in the plaza. "Take my picture!" he
yelled, but they just scattered. Security people closed in on Quinn as
he began stuffing his parachute back into the pack. He was handcuffed
and taken to the First Precinct, where three cops brought him into an
interrogation room and slammed the door shut. One of them handed him a
pad of paper and a pen. He said, "I want you to sign this first one to
my granddaughter...." Judged sane by two psychiatric exams,
he appeared in court 19 times to get charges of trespassing, disorderly
conduct and reckless endangerment dropped.
GROUND PLANS &
wider view is presented below.
address 1 WTC
is the North Tower. Adding the 110m TV
mast in 1979 took the tower from 417 to 512 meter height. The Windows
on the World restaurant was here. Pancake ("progressive") structural
2 WTC -- the South Tower.
Both Towers are 110 stories.
Observation decks were on the 107th and 110th floors.
3 WTC -- the 825 room Vista Marriott
-- the 40-story Bankers Trust Bldg, an office tower
prominent in many 911 WTC photos (e.g., of the South Tower fireball and
collapse) because of its black color and the fact that it
remained standing. Standing, yes, but with many
WTC-facing windows gone in a facade shredded on lower levels. Add rain,
grow mold. The owner and tenant, Deutsche Bank, declared it
unfit for habitation in 2002, spent two years convincing insurers they
wouldn't want to live there either, and then sold it in 2004 to a
company that waited 3 years to start expensive demolition by
deconstruction-in-place, all delayed by a fire which
killed two firefighters. The building
was finally deconstructed down to the basement between Nov. 2009 and
Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, founded 1916 in an 1832
will not come back. St. Nicholas is the patron saint of
sailors, which is how the congregation of recent immigrants earned
their living. The Port Authority (The Port Authority of New
York and New Jersey) promises -- partly on behalf of other units of NY
State government -- that land and money for a new church in a nearby
park will be provided once the park is created. The Greek
Orthodox Archdiocese of America agreed to hand over land rights to
allow car park excavations to begin for the extended WTC campus.
Negotiations to finalize the deal broke down in 2009. The Port
Authority continues excavation work at the site. The Greek church sued
the Port Authority in a federal court in February 2011, accusing it of
reneging on the agreement. The Orthodox Church does
not have a patron saint of lawyers.
4 WTC -- The Commodities Exchange
Bldg, home to the NY Board of Trade,
a private exchange for trading "futures" in commodities--classically,
cotton, sugar, coffee, corn. Listed as 9 stories, it looks 7
stories tall to me in the background of tourist photos of the Plaza.
Crushed under South Tower debris, 4 WTC was demolished in
the initial cleanup.
5 WTC -- Dean Witter Bldg, with an
E-train subway stop and many stores
including the largest store in New York City of the Borders Group,
which declared bankruptcy and dissolved all stores in 2011.
Morgan-Stanley and Credit Suisse / First Boston bank were
major tenants. Large hunks of the
inward-facing facade was shredded off by the Towers' falling
debris. 5 WTC was demolished in the initial cleanup. The
Federal Office Bldg ("Old Post Office") behind it survived.
6 WTC -- US Customshouse Bldg,
housing local offices of the US Dept of
Commerce, Dept. of Agriculture, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and
Firearms (ATF). Completely severed by falling debris from the
North Tower, 6 WTC was demolished in the initial cleanup.
7 WTC -- This building, across Vesey
St. from the main WTC campus, was
really a Consolidated Edison substation, with heavy transformers and
emergency generators wrapped in an office building to generate rentals
to pay for it all. Major tenants were Salomon Brothers
(Salomon Smith Barney), ITT Hartford Insurance and the
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). It is a 47-story
office tower whose reddish facade is prominent in many pictures,
whether standing or lying all over the street. Structural
collapse from fire-weakened steel occurred at 5:21 pm on 9/11.
-- going north across Vesey St, to the left of
collapsed 7 WTC, is the Verizon Bldg, restored with 3 years
work and $1.4B.
leave the main WTC campus, cross Vesey St past
collapsed 7 WTC and go on to Barclay St. On the far side of
the street is Fiterman Hall. Front facade shredded in the collapse of 7
WTC. Insurance squabbling ran until 2004, and the building
was deconstructed (taken apart piece by piece) in place.
Walkway to 7 WTC
-- The is the Vesey Street Survivors Stairway.
Many people owe their lives to this partially
covered escape out of the hell of falling bodies and debris, and have
devoted much of their lives afterward to getting the city to save and
show some honor for it. "Save?" "Honor?"
Americans renew their cities in ways Europeans do not.
But wait. The staircase will be disassembled and
moved to a park.
"World Financial Center" -- The office towers
along the Hudson River waterfront, so prominent in skyline photos from
the New Jersey side, are 2 WFC to the south with a green copper domed
roof ("Merill Lynch Bldg") and its sister, 3 WFC to the north
("American Express Tower") , whose green copper roof is folded into a
Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge. Photo: Mark Lennihan - AP.
One World Trade Center - Freedom Tower & Parking Garage,
2011. Construction began in 2006.
In mid-2011, completion was expected in late 2013.
The "Freedom Tower" name has been dropped to attract a wider spectrum
GLASS & STEEL SKYSCRAPERS
Pittsburgh Plate Glass (PPG) bid on the contract, but the blast-proof
glass for lower windows was bought from China
(Shandong Glass). At least the upper windows are Made In USA
by Viracon in
Minnesota (raw glass) and Benson Global in Oregon (finished facade
Compared to working with dirty iron ore (in blast furnaces we no longer
have), clean electric furnaces fed with salvaged steel provide the
control you need over metallurgy to convert scrap
worth $100/ton to high-strength precision alloys and tool steels worth
$600 to $1000/ton.
steel scrap from the WTC not used for monuments (e.g.,
National Iron and Steel Museum, 500 tons; Denver Babi Yar Park, 100
tons) was sold mostly to China, Malaysia, Korea and India.
The Twin Towers used 200,000 tons of steel, but the site of
many destroyed buildings yielded 350,000 tons overall.
The I-beams for both the
original and the new tower were rolled by a specialty steel mill in
Luxembourg (ArcelorMittal) running electric furnaces fed with scrap
(salvage) steel, but not ours. On a happier note, 24 tons of
salvaged steel went to Amite Foundry and Machine in Louisiana
be re-cast, of which 7.5 short tons (6.8 t) wound up in the USS New
York's "stem bar", a part of the bow. At least one man
his retirement just to be able to say his hands helped make it.
A public contest for rebuilding designs was held and largely ignored.
Perhaps the most poignant suggestion from the
country's people was to place the crowning spire off-center, in
evocation of the Statute of Liberty's lofted torch. Ignored.
Battles long and hard saved the Survivor's Staircase over
which so many escaped. So little listening, so much pushing
and shoving. I was living in Australia as that country
an over-budget, behind-schedule, impossible-to-build monument in their
largest, most important city. Today the Sydney Opera House is
unrivaled symbol of the new Australia. Perhaps we, too, will
stumble our way to proud glory. We may even get there before
is time to build dikes against this century's multi-meter rise in ocean
levels that renders futile everything you see in the photo above.
I will find the sunflower photo with its rush for life -- a better
911 - An Attack by
Political Extremists using Hijacked Airliners
Page 1: Tall
Page 2: The
Pile and the
Page 3: Taking
Charge - I give my respect and gratitude to those who took charge of how to die . . .
and jumped. Their public act saved 2000 lives in the other tower.
Page 4: The
Pennsylvania and the Freedom Tower (you
site back then
Plan & Buildings
Home page for photo
essay on Hurricane
Home page for my
Photo: J.I.Nelson. Click to enlarge.