More than half a million messages, released by whistleblower site Wikileaks, reveal the panic, horror and pain of what happened that morning in the words of those who experienced it.
On September 11, 2001, 19 hijackers commandeered four commercial jetliners, loaded with fuel for cross-country flights. Two were flown into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in New York, one crashed into the Pentagon, and another, headed for an unknown location, crashed in Pennsylvania when it was disrupted by passengers.
A total of 2,976 people — not including the hijackers — were killed in the attacks.
Some people witnessing the attacks reached out to loved ones out of fear there might have been more attacks coming and they might die.
“The only thoughts I have are of Nicholas, Ian and you,” read one text message. “I am terrified. I needed to tell you that I truly love you. always, diane.”
“I want to hold you now,” one text message a minute later reads.
“I know you have a new relationship and do not care about me. But just in case anything happens know I love you hon. Missed Ya good bye.”
The first indication of a problem comes at 8:50 a.m., five minutes aft.er the first plane hit the World Trade Center.
“An aloha call is starting. This is for a fire at 2wt …”
Another text message references “a bomb detonation” in the World Trade Center and asks recipients of the message to report back assessments of their areas.
A minute later, firsthand reports started flooding in.
“The world trade center has just blow up, we seen the explosion outside our windows. Teresa …”
At 8:53 a.m. a message from the New York Police Department’s operations division mobilizes officers toward the World Trade Center, telling them to meet at Church and Vessey streets.
At 9:03 a.m. the second plane hit the World Trade Center.
“It’s a deliberate attack … a second plane just few into the second tower,” a message said 52 seconds later.
By 9:25 a.m. the personal messages have grown more frequent and more frantic.
Companies begin sending out messages asking for head counts on all employees.
People begin sharing reports of what they are seeing and hearing on TV, including early reports of people jumping from the World Trade Center.
Family members panicked, struggling to get through jammed phone lines to find out if their loved ones were OK.
“Please call my work as soon as you get in the office. Need to know you’re safe.”
“Wondering where you are. Are you okay. Give me a call back asap. I just need to know these things. Even if it’s collect. Call me. Darryl”
“if i do not hear from you by high noon, i am going to pick laura up at school and tell her her father is dead.”
“goodbye my sweety…..im going to miss yo,” another said.
“Honey wanted to tell you how much i love you,” one sender wrote. “I was a little worried. I Don’t want to lose you now that I got you back. You mean everything to me. You have my whole heart and life. I love you so much.”
Some texts brought relief.
“My dad survived! I got a call from stepmom’s coworker saying my dad is alive, although that is all the info I have. I do not know if he is injured or unscathed.”
“Abroer’s father is alive,” one text proclaims. “survived WTC collapse. I am trying to contact family members to find out more.”
“urgent. It’s tim. I’m okay. Call me at home…i was outside the building when it exploded, but i’m fine.”
Others have to wait and worry. Numerous messages simply read: “Are you okay?” “Where are you?” or “CALL ME NOW!”
“pete is ok. He can’t find his brother who works in the world financial center next to the trade center…..” one message read.
The messages also give insight to the federal government’s scramble to evacuate buildings, bases and high-level officials.
“Jim: DEPLOY TO MT. WEATHER NOW! Tom” reads one message, referring to Mount Weather, the underground bunker where high-level officials are taken in a national emergency and a command facility for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
A message at 10:24 a.m. appears to show authorities working to secure the first family.
“TWINKLE AND TURQ ARE ACCOUNTED FOR AND SAFE,” the message says. Twinkle and Turquoise were the code names used for then-president George W. Bush’s twin daughters Jenna and Barbara.
At 10:32 a.m. a Secret Service message said “ANONYMOUS CALL TO JOC REPORTING ANGEL IS TARGET” — referring to a call to the Joint Operation’s Center refering a threat made against Air Force One, which used a code name of Angel.
A message from FEMA at 12:37 p.m. notes “we have no mission statements yet.”
A message from the Secret Service’s New York field office sent conflicting messages about where agents should report.
The messages also frantically pass along reports of more attacks. Some turned out to be rumors, others real.
Rumors were rampant:
“There is a hijacked plane circling dulles airport. Please call me!”
“unconfirmed reports of plane crash at camp david now.”
“think one more plane may have been hijacked and headed toward the capitol building…not sure.”
Wikileaks says it has verified some of the texts and says they all appear to be authentic.
“I fully understand that this is very emotional material, but this does not mean that this is not part of our historic record,” said spokesman Daniel Schmitt.
“And from the publishing perspective of the Wikileaks perspective, that is what counts. We are helping to maintain an uncensorable part of this day’s record in more detail than has ever been provided before.”
Wikileaks will not say if the source was in government, law enforcement, industry or was a private citizen with the capability to intercept messages.