911 trivia: Madeline Sweeney: “We are flying way too low.”

Madeline Sweeney was an American Airlines flight attendant for over a decade. On September 11, 2001, she covering…

Madeline Sweeney was an American Airlines flight attendant for over a decade. On September 11, 2001, she covering for a sick colleague on a flight from Boston to Los Angeles. Before takeoff, she called her husband from the plane. She was sad about being unable to take her daughter, who had recently started kindergarten, to school that morning.

At about 8:15am, American Airlines 11 became the flight plane hijacked that day, by a team of terrorists led by ringleader Mohamed Atta. “We have some planes”, Atta accidentally broadcast, mistakenly thinking he was using the internal address system. “Just be quiet and we’ll be OK. We are returning to the airport.”

911 trivia: Madeline Sweeney: "We are flying way too low."
911 trivia: Madeline Sweeney: “We are flying way too low.”

Sweeney and her colleague, Betty Ong, took turns calling airline security teams on the ground. Sweeney’s ability to calmly identity the hijackers’ seat numbers became some of the day’s first leads for investigators. At 8:46am, she was on the phone with manager Michael Woodward when the plane made its final run, southward over Manhattan toward the North Tower.

“I see water. I see buildings. I see buildings! We are flying low. We are flying very, very low. We are flying way too low. Oh my God we are flying way too low. Oh my God!”

“Seconds later,” Woodward said, “there was a very, very loud static on the other end.”

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