Previously unreleased audio files detailing the unfolding horror of the Sept. 11 attacks have been made available to the public.
This is the first time the complete communications recordings between military and civilian air traffic controllers as they were dealing with the hijackings have been released.
“We have a problem here. We have hijacked aircraft headed towards New York and we need you guys to, we need someone to scramble some F-16s or something up here to help us out,” a worker at a Boston control center says at 8:37 a.m., according to the recordings. No planes had struck any targets yet.
The official on the other end of the line asks if it is all a test.
“No, this is not an exercise, this is not a test,” the worker says.
The recordings show the confusion that ran rampant among air traffic controllers after the hijackers turned off their aircraft transponders, making it difficult for radar to track them.
In another excerpt, after the first plane had struck the North Tower World Trade Center, an official in a New York center sees a second plane.
“Hey, can you look out your window right now?… Can you see a guy at about 4,000 feet, about five East of the airport right now?… Do you see that guy — look — is he descending into the building also?” the official asks.
Seconds later, the plane explodes inside the South Tower of the World Trade Center.
Someone is heard saying: “Another one just hit the building. Wow. Another one just hit it hard. Another one just hit the World Trade.”
“The whole building just, ah, came apart,” someone says.
Someone utters: “Oh my God.”
The complete audio files and transcripts were published on the Rutgers Law Review website. The 9/11 Commission staff had started compiling the recordings into a single document but did not finish in time for it be released with the commission’s report. John Farmer, dean of Rutgers Law School, served as senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission and assisted a team of law school students in completing it. He previously published many of the transcripts in his 2009 book, “The Ground Truth.”
According to the New York Times, which first reported on the files, one tape remains unreleased: The recording from the last half hour in the cockpit of United Flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville, Pa. instead of its intended target in Washington, D.C. The families of the passengers who died on that flight have requested it not be made public.