Special Presentation to 9-11 Victim Families
Once the Seventh Hearing concluded in late January, 2004, the families of those murdered on September 11, 2001 were very upset with the lack of information presented. What was the government hiding? Why couldn’t that hearing have gone into more detail about what the brave crew members’ actions had accomplished? Did their actions save other flights from the same horrific fate? They needed closure! So when more than 100 family members were told that the FBI would hold a special presentation with more detailed information, they were encouraged that they would finally be able to start connecting the events of that morning.
On June 4, 2004, in Princeton NJ families gathered at the Radisson Hotel with great expectations. They needed to know who knew what and when and what the FBI, FAA, and the airlines did with that information. (Note 1) These were families that were not part of the 7 billion dollar settlement funded by the government that was offered to nearly 3,000 people by the end of 2003.
Once inside the hotel, they realized FBI agents were there to restrict items such as cameras, phones, recorders and any material that could be used to take notes. The agents were also there to keep civil attorneys and the media out. Those in charge explained some of the material they would cover would be about Zacarias Moussaoui who was thought at that time to be the 20th hijacker and whose case had yet to be heard in the courts. With that being said, nondisclosure agreements had to be signed, and bathroom visits would need an FBI escort. After the rules had been explained, they went into the ballroom where the PowerPoint presentation was to be given. Sadly, the three and a half hour briefing spent much of the time on Zacharias Moussaoui -- a topic which was irrelevant to the concerns of the families. They did, however, hear some tape recordings from passengers and inflight crew members on their phones.
What was really upsetting was hearing the tape of two American managers at headquarters in Systems Operations Control (SOC) saying, “Do not pass this along. Let’s keep it right here. Keep it among the five of us.” However in the Seventh Hearing, the top executive for American, Mr. Arpey, testified that at 8:40 they knew there had been stabbings on the plane and it was headed south from Boston toward New York and that the cockpit was not responding to calls from American headquarters. This timeline seems a bit off because flight attendant Amy Sweeney had been on the airline phone at least 15 minutes earlier relaying the grim details of the scene on board AA Flight 11. Flight attendant Betty Ong was also relaying information even earlier to Reservations in Raleigh, NC which was forwarded to the SOC. That center was at the heart of the whole American operations system, but instead of sharing the information with the airborne crews, they held back. If only the words that that had been given to the flying crews after the two Tower crashes had been, “Unusual hijackings, protect your cockpits.” But instead, both American and United kept their information to themselves. Jane Allen, the vice president of American’s 2400 flight attendants and who was responsible for their operations at their 22 bases kept her information within the headquarters walls, and even said to one of her subordinates, “I really am not interested in helping or participating.”
As the families departed the hotel on that late spring day, “extreme upset” would have been an understatement. Yet there was still a glimmer of hope because in less than two weeks the last hearing was supposed to cover the 9-11 timeline. Unfortunately, the families would be disappointed again as that hearing was changed to “The Plot” and how the terrorists got away with their attack.
- Sheehy, Gail. Observer.com/2004/o6/911-tapes-reveal-ground-personnel-muffled-attacks, 6/21/04