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February 11, 2004

9-11: This Kind Of Thing Paralyzes Me

Gail Sheehy has a comprehensive narrative account of what family members of 9-11 victims and others know about what happened that day.

Because I have an active and inquisitive mind, my mind freezes up often with this much information. Too many questions in different areas flood my brain. There are some elements to the story that raise the red flags of skepticism:

-- A bomb with wires showing on board a plane?
-- Atta's name comes up on the flight log?
-- Was the country truly acting without a plan for such a disaster?

But I think these questions have more to do with how the story is told, rather than flaws big enough to discard the whole notion.

The claim that Atta's name showed up on the flight manifest - well it only appears that is the claim on the first read. In fact, it doesn't quite say how the name Atta comes up. It could have been one of his many aliases that got connected back.

I think the multiple planes were there because no way in their wildest dreams did the terrorists think all their plans would work so effortlessly and flawlessly, without some snag and some corner of American intel. catching and stopping some aspect of it.

It's at times like these when I wish everyone in the country TRULY was after what's best for the country.


I don't need to blame Bush for how the military and intelligence and the American Government reacted on the day of September 11, 2001.

I just want answers.

In fact, I'll go so far as to say, if you've been paying attention and you still don't want more answers about what happened that day than you are a sorry excuse for an American citizen.

At 8:46 a.m., Mr. Woodward lost contact with Amy Sweeney—the moment of metamorphosis, when her plane became a missile guided into the tower holding thousands of unsuspecting civilians. "So sometime between 8:30 and 8:46, American must have known that the hijacking was connected to Al Qaeda," said Mike Sweeney. That would be 16 to 32 minutes before the second plane perforated the south tower.

Would American Airlines officials monitoring the Sweeney and Woodward dialogue have known right away that Mohamed Atta was connected to Al Qaeda?

"The answer is probably yes," said 9/11 commission member Bob Kerrey, "but it seems to me that the weakness here, in running up to pre-9/11, is an unwillingness to believe that the United States of America could be attacked. Then you’re not putting defensive mechanisms in place. You’re not trying to screen out people with connections to Islamic extremist groups."


The captain of American’s Flight 11 stayed at the controls much of the diverted way from Boston to New York, sending surreptitious radio transmissions to authorities on the ground. Captain John Ogonowski was a strong and burly man with the instincts of a fighter pilot who had survived Vietnam. He gave extraordinary access to the drama inside his cockpit by triggering a "push-to-talk button" on the aircraft’s yoke (or wheel). "The button was being pushed intermittently most of the way to New York," an F.A.A. air-traffic controller told The Christian Science Monitor the day after the catastrophe. "He wanted us to know something was wrong. When he pushed the button and the terrorist spoke, we knew there was this voice that was threatening the pilot, and it was clearly threatening."

According to a timeline later adjusted by the F.A.A., Flight 11’s transponder was turned off at 8:20 a.m., only 21 minutes after takeoff. (Even before that, by probably a minute or so, Amy Sweeney began her report to American’s operations center at Logan.) The plane turned south toward New York, and more than one F.A.A. controller heard a transmission with an ominous statement by a terrorist in the background, saying, "We have more planes. We have other planes." During these transmissions, the pilot’s voice and the heavily accented voice of a hijacker were clearly audible, according to two controllers. All of it was recorded by a F.A.A. traffic-control center in Nashua, N.H. According to the reporter, Mark Clayton, the federal law-enforcement officers arrived at the F.A.A. facility shortly after the World Trade Center attack and took the tape.

To this writer’s knowledge, there has been no public mention of the pilot’s narrative since the news report on Sept. 12, 2001. Families of the flight crew have only heard about it, but when Peg Ogonowski asked American Airlines to let her hear it, she never heard back. Their F.A.A. superiors forbade the controllers to talk to anyone else.

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