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Background Attack Aftermath Evidence Misinformation Analysis Memorial

Phone Calls

Missing Evidence About the September 11th Flights

There were a number of alleged voice communications from pilots, flight attendants, and passengers on the doomed flights. Prior to the publication of prosecution exhibits for the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, a recording of only one call had been released to the public. Four and a half minutes of Betty Ong's call from Flight 11, which supposedly lasted 23 minutes, was played during a public hearing of the 9/11 Commission on January 27, 2004. 1   The following list describes phone calls from flight crews and passengers reported in mainstream news sources. More information is contained in Zacarias Moussaoui Prosecution Trial Exhibit number P200055, a multimedia presentation showing details of calls of passengers and flight attendants, including seat locations, call times, and, in a few cases, recordings. 2   Most of the information in that presentation is captured in images archived on the Phone Call Detail page.

  • Flight 11
    • Madeline Sweeney's phone call: Flight attendant Sweeney placed a cell phone call to American Arilines flight services office, and reached her friend, services manager Michael Woodward, starting at 8:21 and talked for 25 minutes, until the plane crashed. Sweeney related many details such as wounds by victims of the hijackers to seat numbers of the hijackers. 3   There are conflicting reports on whether the call was recorded.
    • Betty Ong's phone call: Flight attendant Betty Ong called Vanessa Minter at American Airlines reservations at 8:21, and talked for 23 minutes, until the plane crashed. Nydia Gonzalez also listened in from 8:27. The FBI refused to release a recording of the first 4-1/2 minutes of the conversation, but during the 9/11 Commission's January 27, 2004 hearing, the recording was played. 4   5  
  • Flight 175
    • Peter Burton Hanson's phone calls: Passenger Peter Burton Hanson called his father and reported details of the hijacking starting at 8:52. Hanson made several calls as he was cut off several times. 6  
    • Brian Sweeney's phone call: Passenger Brian Sweeney attempted to call his wife but could only leave a message. 7  
    • Unnamed female flight attendant call: There appears to be no public evidence of this call.
  • Flight 77
    • Renee May's phone call: Flight attendant Renee May used a cell phone to call her mother at 9:12. May's mother then called American Airlines to inform them that the flight has been hijacked. 8   9  
    • Barbara Olson's calls: Barbara Olson allegedly placed two calls to her husband, Ted Olson, at some time between 9:16 and 9:26. The only known evidence of these calls are statements by Olson, the first on September 12th. 10   11  
  • Flight 93
    • Calls to family members and friends: at least thirteen passengers made more than 30 phone calls, most of them short and some repeated, where at least some were reportedly made from cell phones. 12  
    • The last call: At 9:58, a frantic passenger called from a bathroom to report an explosion and smoke. The tape of this 911 call was seized by the FBI. The 911 operator who took the call, Glenn Cramer, was told by the FBI not to discuss the call.

Analysis of the distribution of the calls shows Flight 93 to be the exception.


1. Betty Ong's Call from 9/11 Flight 11, TheMemoryHole.org,
2. United States v. Zacarias Moussaoui, Exhibit Number P200055, vaed.uscourts.gov,
3. FBI affidavit: Flight attendant made call to report hijacking, AP, 10/5/01 [cached]
4. Calm Before the Crash, abcnews.com, [cached]
5. Probe Reconstructs Horror, Calculated Attacks on Planes, Boston Globe, 11/23/01 [cached]
6. Investigating 9-11 -- The Doomed Flights, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/23/04
7. Another Workday Becomes a Surreal Plane of Terror, Washington Post, 9/21/01 [cached]
8. Public Hearing, 9-11commission.gov, 1/27/04
9. Investigating 9-11 ..., 7/23/04
10. Another Workday Becomes a Surreal Plane of Terror, Washington Post, 9/12/01
11. America's New War: Recovering From Tragedy, cnn.com, 9/14/01
12. Heroes of Flight 93, MSNBC, 12/8/03 [cached]

page last modified: 2011-09-18