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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 00:24 GMT 01:24 UK
Scramble for safety
Vice-president Dick Cheney (R) with other senior officials in the operations room on 11 September
Members of the administration were whisked away
By the BBC's Tom Carver in Washington

Details are emerging of how the members of the American administration first learned of Tuesday's attacks.

There has been criticism of Washington's failure to protect itself or issue an emergency evacuation order.


(The secret services) came in and said 'Sir, we have to leave immediately and grabbed me

Vice-president Dick Cheney
The Federal Aviation Authority warned the White House that a hijacked plane was heading towards it. The plane subsequently crashed into the Pentagon.

Nearly all the administration first heard about the attacks from the television.

The president was in Florida at the time, but vice-president Dick Cheney was in his White Office writing a speech when his secretary told him a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.

He turned the TV on in time to see the second plane hit.

Bundled away

He had just finished talking to the president on the phone when a group of secret service agents entered.

"They came in and said 'Sir, we have to leave immediately' and grabbed me.

"My feet touched the floor periodically but they are bigger than I am and they hoisted me up and moved me very rapidly down the hallway, down some stairs, through some doors and down some more stairs into an underground facility under the White House," Mr Cheney said.

Police patrol around the Capitol in Washington
Security has now been tightened
The secret service had been told a third plane was heading for the White House.

Local police watched helplessly as it changed course towards the Pentagon.

The police radio recorded the moment: "There is an American Airlines plane headed east for the Pentagon..."

Neither the military nor the White House had any procedure in place for shooting down an American airliner.

The nearest fighter jets were some 200km (130 miles) away.

The Washington police had no evacuation plan and the city authorities had to order their employees to leave by e-mail.

For several hours there was chaos.

See also:

16 Sep 01 | Americas
US legal chief seeks tougher laws
16 Sep 01 | Americas
Profile: Bush's fighting team
16 Sep 01 | Americas
US prepares for war
13 Sep 01 | Americas
'190 dead' in Pentagon attack
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