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Who issued the order to shoot down Flight 93?

Long Shadow

Long Lead & PRX & The Trace & Campside Media

Narrative, 9-11, History, Terrorism, Anniversary, America

4.81.8K Ratings

🗓️ 25 August 2021

⏱️ 40 minutes

🧾️ Download transcript


With the Capitol under attack, the President on Air Force One, and the Defense Secretary missing, Vice President Dick Cheney was the most powerful man in the country on the morning of 9/11. From a bunker beneath the White House, he gave fighter pilots flying above the Capitol permission to shoot down hijacked commercial planes.

But did Cheney actually have the authority to issue this order? Did he and President Bush connect before or after Cheney ordered the fighters into battle? And was the U.S. even ready to shoot down any hijacked flights?

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A heads up for listeners. Throughout this podcast, you'll hear original audio from 9-11,


plus recreations of the day. We feel it is important for you to hear, but it can also be disturbing.


The story of American Airlines Flight 77, the hijacked plane that struck the Pentagon,


is often overlooked in our retelling of September 11th. It's a touchy subject for witnesses and


survivors. I've often heard that they feel left out of memorials and retrospectives of 9-11 that


focus on the iconic, more visible attack on the World Trade Center, or on the heroism of


the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93. Flight 77's story shares some of the same


details as the other hijacked planes. After the plane departed, Dulles International Airport,


a group of hijackers stormed a cockpit using box cutters as weapons. Just before 9am,


they had control of the plane and turned it to the south. It looked originally like they were


heading for the White House. Air traffic controller Dan Yellow Brian watched from her radar in Dulles.


She saw the plane fly towards Washington. O'Brien spoke to ABC's Brian Ross a few weeks later.


How far out was that plane? Between 12 and 14 miles. John, our supervisor relayed verbatim.


Okay, he's 12 miles west. He's moving very fast eastbound. Okay, guys, where is he now?


11 miles west. And it was just a countdown. 10 miles west. Nine miles west.


As the plane approached the White House at 934, air traffic controllers desperately tried to get


word to the secret surface. O'Brien watched the plane on her radar. It now looked to be seven


miles away. Capital police told people to run and find shelter. The plane was closing in.


Six miles. Five, four. And I had it in my mouth to save three and all the sudden the plane turned


away. In the room, it was almost a sense of relief. And we sat back in our chairs and breathed


for just a second. It continued the right hand turn made a 360 degree maneuver. A big loop.


Correct. And we're telling the supervisor he's turning back in. He's turning back eastbound.


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