The primary source material from 9/11 – the contemporaneous logs, other records, and tapes obtained by the Commission largely through subpoena and set forth at length in this monograph – reveal a sequence of events that had never been made public prior to the Commission’s June 17, 2004 hearing. That sequence reveals that the military received hijack notification on American 11 nine minutes prior to its crash, and no hijack notification on any of the other flights prior to their crashes. The FAA’s failure to notify NORAD or NEADS on United 175 is explained by its preoccupation with American 11; its failure to notify NORAD or NEADS on American 77 is explained by its loss of radar and radio contact with the aircraft. More difficult to understand is the failure to notify the military or request assistance on United 93, when FAA headquarters knew about the hijacking within six minutes of its occurrence and twenty-nine minutes prior to its crash. See Summary Tables.
At 10:02 that morning, [with one of the Trade Center Towers having collapsed and the other in flames, with the Pentagon burning and confusion reigning at the highest levels of government and command, and with a desperate struggle taking place, unbeknownst to the military, in the skies over Pennsylvania,] an officer on the floor at NEADS was recorded observing, “This is a new type of war.”
He was right. America’s air defense system was unprepared for the 9/11 attacks. FAA controllers and managers and the NEADS air defenders struggled, under difficult circumstances, to improvise a homeland defense against an unprecedented challenge they had never encountered and had never trained to meet.
[At the end of the day, however, although the decisions they had made that morning ran counter to the existing training and rules, and were made under the most intense pressure, the NORAD air defenders were well aware of the historical significance of those decisions. Prepared or not, they had ushered all of us into a new era.]