John Farmer, dean of the Rutgers law school, and a 9/11 Commission lawyer, along with students, has finished transcribing the recordings of the conversations between civilian and military authorities who watched events unfold on September 11, 2001.
Here is the link to the full transcript and audio:
The recordings are a primary source of history, a record of that day. They are an example of a medium that will carry on the memory of the attacks for generations to come. These recordings show us how both civilian and military administrators were caught off guard by the hijackings. Gaps were revealed in their procedures and preparedness which forced them to rethink security and their response to terrorism.
Beyond the instructional value of these tapes for authorities, they display an amazing human element that a transcript alone could never reveal. With a heavy heart I listened to a number of the segments. There are flight controllers struggling to get a handle on the situation, air force officers scrambling fighter jets, people in the control towers reacting to news of planes crashing into the World Trade Center.
In one of the more sobering exchanges about Flight 93:
ID Tech: United nine three, have you got information on that yet?
Washington Center: Yeah, he’s down.
ID Tech: He’s down?
Washington Center: Yes.
ID Tech: When did he land?
Washington Center: He did not land.
ID Tech: He is down, down?
ZDC: That’s the last report, they don’t know exactly where.
Although it has already been ten years since that day, it will be many more years before we have a firm handle on the events and consequences of 9/11. To honestly assess historical events we need the separation of decades.
In time, more information will turn up and additional materials will be declassified. A couple examples of this are the only known video of smoke rising from the crash site of Flight 93 which surfaced just days ago, and at least two audio tapes, one of the cockpit recording from the last 30 minutes of Flight 93 and a high level conference call including Vice President Dick Cheney, which are still classified.
The final exchange on the recently released recordings sums it up:
Surveillance Tech 1: Is today like a national terrorist day or something that we missed out on?
Surveillance Tech 2: Actually, ah, this is a day (indistinct) for a long time.
Surveillance Tech 1: September 11th, 2001.
If you listen closely, the (indistinct) is “we won’t forget”.
We all have our memories of that Tuesday morning in September. What do you remember?