warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

New 9/11 Audio Recordings Reveal Panic And Confusion

Jenny Chen |
September 8, 2011 | 1:40 p.m. PDT

Associate News Editor

World Trade Center on 9/11 (Creative Commons)
World Trade Center on 9/11 (Creative Commons)
New audio recordings from September 11 were released on Thursday, providing the public with a real-time view of military and aviation responses and a reminder of the horrific events that happened nearly a decade ago. 

A full multimedia compilation of 114 recordings covering just a little over two hours of the morning’s events is now public for the first time. It sheds some light on the mystery of 9/11, albeit offering chilling accounts of those struggling to understand the hijackings. 

At 8:37 a.m., Joseph Cooper, an air traffic controller at F.A.A.’s Boston Center, placed a call to Sgt. Jeremy W. Powell of the North American Aerospace Defense Command Northeastern sector, alerting them to a suspected hijacking, according to the New York Times transcripts. 

 “We have a problem here, we have a hijacked aircraft headed towards New-New York and we need you guys to, we need someone to scramble some F-16s or something up there to help us out,” Cooper said. 

Powell asked if his request was an exercise or test, to which Cooper quickly responded that it was happening in real time. 

Other recordings include the reactions and voices of various aviation officers, flight attendants, military officials, and two of the hijackers. 

On an early recording about twenty minutes after 8:00 a.m., Betty Ong, a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11, is heard speaking to an American Airlines reservation agent in panic. 

“Um, the cockpit’s not answering. Somebody’s stabbed in business class, and um, I think there is Mace that we can’t breathe,” she said. “I don’t know, I think we’re getting hijacked.” 

Another tape recounts the reaction of people watching the planes crash into the World Trade Center a little after 9 a.m. 

An unknown person is heard saying, “Can you, can you see a guy at about 4,000 feet, about five east of the airport right now, look’s like he’s…do you see that guy, look, is he descending into the building also?” 

The same person is heard a few seconds later detailing the plane’s 800 feet drop and a quick hit into the World Trade Center. 

Later, a hijacker on United 93 is heard telling passengers to remain seated because of a bomb on board, while fighter pilots are heard asking their commander if they have permission to shoot down civilian planes that don’t respond to their direction.  

Some recordings were played during the 9/11 Commission hearings in 2004, but several were never released. Recordings and transcripts were compiled by the 9/11 Commission staff, but a full compilation was not completed in time to be released with the commission’s final report

It is being published for the first time by Rutgers Law Review, offering vivid descriptions of the four plane crashes that took place on 9/11. 

Miles Kara, a commission investigator, found the files in the National Archives and transcribed them. 

“The story of the day of 9/11 itself is best told in the voices of 9/11,” Kara told the New York Times. 

There are two tapes that still remain unreleased, according to the New York Times, who reported on the documents first. The first tape details the last half hour in the cockpit of United Flight 93, the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania en route to Washington, D.C. It has been kept private at the request of the families of the airplane passengers. 

The second tape is a conference call, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, that began at 9:28 a.m. and continued throughout the morning, 

The taped accounts contradict some details that officials gave out for up to a year following 9/11 that military pilots were pursuing the hijackers. Various accounts by Cheney, the defense department and the FAA claimed that pilots were waiting for an order from President George Bush to shoot down the airliners. 

According to the recordings, one military aviation official had learned only thirty minutes prior that American Airlines Flight 77 had disappeared before it crashed into the Pentagon. 

Reach reporter Jenny Chen here.
Follow reporter Jenny Chen on Twitter.

Best way to find more great content from Neon Tommy?

Or join our email list below to enjoy the weekly Neon Tommy News Highlights.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.