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line.
Others also began calling loved ones. Back in the coach galley, flight
attendant Sandy Bradshaw called her husband, Phil, in Greensboro,
North Carolina. "Have you heard?" she said. "We've been hijacked."
Passenger Jeremy Glick called his wife, Lyz, and she told him of the
hijacked planes that hit the World Trade Center. "Is that where we're
going, too?" he wondered out loud. But Lyz doubted it. There was nothing
left to destroy. Then she questioned him about whether the hijackers
were using machine guns. "No machine guns, just knives," he said.
Todd Beamer managed to get through to an Airfone operator at the
GTE Customer Center in Oakbrook, Illinois, and he described the tense
situation. Hearing about the hijacking, the operator switched him to her
supervisor, Lisa Jefferson. "He told me that there were three people
taking over the flight," she said. "Two of them have knives and they
locked themselves in the cockpit. One had a bomb strapped around his
waist with a red belt. He [Beamer] was sitting in the back of the plane,
and he could see in the front of the plane there were two people down on
the floor. He couldn't tell whether they were dead or alive." The two were
likely the captain and first officer.
As word spread through the plane of the World Trade Center crashes,
a number of the passengers began discussing taking matters into their
own hands. One of those was Jeremy Glick, a six-foot one-inch, 220-
pound former NCAA judo champion. He told his wife that he and several
others were talking about "rushing the hijackers." Among the passengers
were a former paratrooper, a brown belt in karate, a rock climber, and a
former Scotland Yard prosecutor. One woman, a sky diver, had a note
stuck to her refrigerator at home. "Get busy living," it said, "or get busy
dying."
At about 9:45, Tom Burnett again checked in with his wife, Deena.
Now she had even worse news. Sobbing, she told him of the plane that
had crashed into the Pentagon. "My God!" he said. Deena added, "They
seem to be taking planes and driving them into designated landmarks all
over the East Coast. It's as if hell has been unleashed." The hijackers had
claimed that they had a bomb on board. But Tom Burnett was now
skeptical. "I think they're bluffing," he said. "We're going to do
something," he said. "I've got to go."
Using everything they could muster as improvised weapons” plastic
knives, broken dishes, boiling water”a number of passengers began
rushing the cockpit, where the hijackers had, apparently, barricaded
themselves in. With the angry mob on the other side of the door, they
may have realized that they had waited too long to take over the plane.
As Flight 93 began slowly making its way back toward the East Coast
from Cleveland, the passengers had had time to organize.
In the cockpit there was frantic discussion of how to fight back. One
of the hijackers suggested turning off the oxygen”they themselves could
breathe through their face masks. As the confusion increased, the plane


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began to wobble and then lose altitude.
Soon after, people for miles around could see a cloud of gray smoke
rising above the trees and low-rise buildings of Shanksville,
Pennsylvania. This cloud, billowing from a fifty-foot crater, was all that
remained of United Flight 93. One hundred and ten minutes after taking
over American Airlines Flight 11, the terrorist attacks of September 11 at
last came to an end amid the red barns, white churches, and copper
pastures of rural Somerset County.

By 9:30, the situation in Tower Two had grown even more critical and
the calls to fire rescue more desperate. At 9:36 a woman called from an
elevator saying she and others were trapped inside. Another was from a
woman named Melissa. The floor was very hot, she said. There were no
available doors. She was going to die, she said, but first wanted to call
her mother. Still another call transmitted only the sound of people
crying.
The jet fuel had now been burning for more than half an hour,
reaching temperatures exceeding the 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit needed to
melt steel, the same kind of steel on which the floors sat.
People were continuing to jump out of windows in even greater
numbers”heart-wrenching attempts to shorten their suffering. "People
still jumping off the tower," said a fire rescue report at 9:42. "A man
waving a jacket," said another, followed a few seconds later by, "Man just
jumped."
Among those who rushed to Tower Two was Captain James Grillo, a
veteran of the New York City Fire Department. "It was terror, sheer
terror,'" he said. "Bodies were falling out of the sky. They were jumping
off the 105th floor, and they were landing all over the street and the
sidewalk. I was trying to avoid looking up and watching it. ... It was
horrible. I saw dozens of people jumping."
Many of those jumping off the 105th floor worked for Aon, a
worldwide insurance and risk management company. In Gaelic, "aon"
means "oneness," and at the time, more than 170 of the company's
employees were trapped together”between the fire below and no escape
above. At 9:38 Kevin Cosgrove, the company's forty-six-year-old vice
president of claims, called fire rescue once again trying to get help. "Can't
find staircase to get out!" he said. "People need help on 105th floor!"
In a nearby office, fellow Aon employee Sean Rooney had just returned
from the last of several futile attempts to escape to the floor above. But
as before, the door was locked, and there appeared no way out. Now the
smoke was becoming heavy and he passed out briefly on the way back.
He touched the office window, and the glass was hot.
Back in his office, Rooney called his wife, Beverly Eckert. She could
hear her husband was having tremendous difficulty breathing. "How bad
is the smoke?" she asked. "Pretty bad," said Rooney. By now she knew
there was little hope left. "Sean," she said with great sadness, "it doesn't


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seem to me that they are going to be able to get to you in time. I think we
need to say good-bye." For the next few minutes, the two talked about
their love and the happy years they had spent together. Eckert said she
wished she was there with him. Rooney asked her to give his love to
everyone. "I love you," he said.
The time was getting very short. At 9:47, in a nearby office, a woman
called fire rescue with an ominous message. The floor underneath her,
she said, was beginning to collapse.
Over the phone, Eckert suddenly heard an enormous explosion
followed by a roaring sound. "It sounded like Niagara Falls," she recalled.
"I knew without seeing that he was gone." With the phone cradled next to
her heart, she walked into another room, and on the television she could
see Tower Two collapsing”the first tower to go down.
"I will always be grateful that I was able to be with him at the end and
that we had a chance to say good-bye," Eckert said. "He was so calm. It
helped me in those final moments. So many people missed the last phone
call. So many are saying, 'If only I had a final chance to say good-bye.'"

* * *

It was nearly ten o'clock when the eleven exhausted, blackened, but
alive employees of the American Bureau of Shipping at last reached the
bottom of Tower One, having started down from the ninety-first floor
nearly an hour before. "I was thinking, 'Okay, great, we're safe,'" recalled
Steve Mclntyre. "But outside I could see all this falling debris flying
around. I thought, 'We've been coming down for an hour, what the hell is
this?'"
Mclntyre was helping a fellow employee named Ruth, who had
sprained her ankle. Having made it to the lobby, the two managed to get
across the plaza to an exit on the eastern side where there was an
escalator up to Church Street. "We're okay," Mclntyre said to Ruth. "We
get up this escalator and we're okay."
"And then there was a big rumble and a huge roar," recalled Mclntyre.
"Everybody shouted 'run,' and then a huge wind came through there. I
remember distinctly being lifted off my feet and blown down the hall, I
don't know how far. Ruth was holding onto me, but we were ripped
apart. I had no conception of what was happening. It went through my
mind that a bomb had gone off in the subway. Then the plume came
through and there was an opaque blackness. It was not an absence of
light. It was opaque. My glasses were gone. I put my hand in front of my
face and I couldn't see it. "I thought, 'A bomb has gone off and I'm going
to die right here of smoke inhalation.' Then I realized that it wasn't
smoke, that it was just very heavy air. There was all this stuff on the
floor, but it was light stuff. I was coated in it, as if I'd been immersed in a
vat of butter. And the exposed skin on my arm was all pocked from tiny
glass shards, maybe a hundred of them. We must have been on the very


536
edge of the blast field when Number Two came down." In the darkness,
Mclntyre ran into a glass storefront, but eventually he saw a flashlight
beam and heard someone yelling, "Come to me." A short time later,
Mclntyre again saw daylight and freedom. Less than a half hour later,
Tower One also collapsed.
At 9:55, almost the same moment that Tower Two collapsed, President
Bush, his photo op now over, finally departed Sarasota, Florida, aboard
Air Force One for the bunker in Nebraska.

* * *

In the hours and days following the attacks, NSA quickly began
mobilizing nearly every man, woman, and machine to detect any further
terrorist activities and to find Osama bin Laden and other members of
his organization. Almost immediately after the incidents began, black-
ninja-suited members of the Emergency Reaction Team, armed with Colt
9 mm submachine guns, took up posts around Crypto City. The number
of bomb-sniffing dogs was also increased; the NSA Museum was shut
down; and the Executive Protection Unit, the director's bodyguards,
beefed up.
The National Security Operations Center (NSOC), which directs the
agency's worldwide eavesdropping activities, was converted into a war
room. Superfast CRITIC messages”"critical intelligence" reports of the
highest importance”began going out to field stations around the world
every time a new piece of the puzzle was discovered, such as the names
of the hijackers obtained from the passenger manifest lists. These
CRITICs were distributed almost instantly throughout the intelligence
community over the agency's on-line National SIGINT File. Whenever a
new CRITIC appeared, officials were notified by a flashing message in the
top left corner of their computer screen.
A crisis management team moved into Room 8020, the director's large
conference room, an elaborate minitheater just down the hall from the
General Hayden's office. Another group began meeting continuously in
the NSOC conference room. Old intercept tapes were pulled out of
storage and checked for clues that might have been missed. Every new
piece of information was fed into the organization's massive computer
database to see if there would be a hit.
Room 3E132, the Special Support Activity, became a hub of activity.
The group provides cryptologic assistance to military commanders
around the world. Units known as Cryptologic Service Groups (CSGs)
bring NSA in microcosm to the national security community and forces
in the field. Soon after the attacks, hundreds of NSA cryptologists
supplemented the small CSG assigned to the U.S. Operations Command
at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. Others CSGs were activated
and eventually sent to liaise with the units in the Near and Middle East.
Another group that shifted into high gear was the Special Collection


537
Service, the clandestine joint NSA”CIA organization that covertly travels
around the world attempting to tap into difficult communications
channels.
All over the world and in space, listening posts and satellites quickly
shifted from their other targets and began concentrating on Afghanistan
and the Middle East.
But despite the valiant human effort and the billions of dollars spent
on high-flying hardware and super-complex software, for at least two
years before the attacks and (as of this writing) three months after the
attacks, NSA had no idea where Osama bin Laden and his key associates
were”or even if they were still in Afghanistan.
As tens of millions of communications continue to be vacuumed up by
NSA every hour, the system has become overwhelmed as a result of too
few analysts. "U.S. intelligence operates what is probably the largest
information processing environment in the world," recalled former NSA
director William O. Studeman. "Consider this: Just one intelligence
collection system alone can generate a million inputs per half-hour." That
enormous volume, according to John Millis, the former staff director of
House Select Committee on Intelligence and a former CIA officer, is
exactly the problem. "We don't come near to processing, analyzing, and
disseminating the intelligence we collect right now," he said. "We're
totally out of balance."
According to NSA's director, Lieutenant General Hayden, the problem
is in the numbers. "Forty years ago there were five thousand standalone
computers, no fax machines, and not one cellular phone. Today, there
are over one hundred eighty million computers”most of them
networked. There are roughly fourteen million fax machines and forty
million cell phones, and those numbers continue to grow. The
telecommunications industry is making a one trillion-dollar investment
to encircle the world in millions of miles of high bandwidth fiber-optic
cable. They are aggressively investing in the future." Thus, adds Hayden,
"Osama bin Laden has at his disposal the wealth of a three trillion-
dollars-a-year telecommunications industry." At the same time, he said,
"the National Security Agency is lagging behind."
The numbers only get worse. According to a 2001 Congressional
report on NSA, the agency is "faced with profound 'needle-in-the-
haystack' challenges" as a result of "telephone service that has grown by
approximately 18 percent annually since 1992," and the explosion in
worldwide telephone service to some eighty-two billion minutes by 1997.
The problem of system overload went from bad to critical in February
2000 when NSA's entire computing system crashed for nearly four days.
"NSA headquarters was brain dead," Hayden candidly admitted. "This
was really bad." Then, not mincing words, he said, "NSA is in great peril,"
adding, "We're behind the curve in keeping up with the global
telecommunications revolution. In the previous world order, our primary
adversary was the Soviet Union. Technologically we had to keep pace


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with an oligarchic, resource-poor, technologically inferior, over-
bureaucratized, slow-moving nation-state. Our adversary
communications are now based upon the developmental cycle of a global
industry that is literally moving at the speed of light . . . cell phones,
encryption, fiber-optic communications, digital communications."
Simply sending e-mail, Hayden discovered, was a major problem. It
takes "an act of God," he said, to send an e-mail message to all of the
agency's 38,000 employees because of NSA's sixty-eight separate e-mail
systems. Nor can the three computers on his desk communicate with one
another.
Even if the system could pick up and process all the critical
communications, most of it would go unread for days or weeks, if at all,
as a result of an enormous lack of specialists in many key languages,
including those used in Afghanistan. By September 10, the number of
NSA language specialists expert in the Afghan languages”Pashtun and
Dari”was almost nonexistent. According to one senior intelligence
official, they could be counted on one hand with fingers left over. "There's
simply too much out there, and it's too hard to understand," said
Hayden. Congressional analysts agreed. "NSA is," said a report issued in
2001, "not well positioned to analyze developments among the
assortment of terrorist groups."
To deal with the growing language problems, Hayden turned to agency
veteran Renee Meyer and appointed her the agency's first senior

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