Fact Check: NO Known Transcript Exists Of Call Between 9/11 Victim Todd Beamer And Phone Operator

Fact Check

  • by: Christiana Dillard
Fact Check: NO Known Transcript Exists Of Call Between 9/11 Victim Todd Beamer And Phone Operator No Transcript

Is there a full transcript of the conversation between Todd Beamer, a passenger on United Airlines Flight 93, and GTE Airfone operator Lisa Jefferson? No, that's not true: Although Beamer did talk to Jefferson as Flight 93 was hijacked on September 11, 2001, Jefferson did not record their call. The "transcript" claiming to be a full record of their call appears to be based on information provided by Jefferson and other information known about the fateful flight.

The "transcript," which seemed to originate around the time of the event's 20th anniversary on September 11, 2021, appeared in a Facebook post (archived here) on April 15, 2022. The post, which included a picture of Beamer, purported to be a full transcript of the call between Beamer and Jefferson. It opened:

Todd: Hello... Operator...listen to me...I can't speak very loud. - This is an emergency. I'm a passenger on a United flight to San Francisco.. We have a situation here....Our plane has been hijacked.....can you understand me?
Lisa: (exhaling a deep breath to herself) I understand... Can the hijackers see you talking on the phone?
Todd: No
Lisa: Can you tell me how many hijackers are on the plane?
Todd: There are three that we know of.

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Tue Apr 19 16:26 2022 UTC)

A page titled "Phone Calls from Flight 93" on the website of the Flight 93 National Memorial did not state that Beamer's call was recorded. Without a recording of the call, there would be no full transcript. All the recorded calls featured on the Flight 93 memorial page were noted:

All information based on the best available data and evidence. Direct transcripts are noted. Quoted content is cited. Most of the quoted material comes from FBI reports and notes, but is not a direct transcript of a recording unless specifically noted as such.

The details of Beamer's call with Jefferson were gathered from interviews with Jefferson, such as those she conducted with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and with CBS News. Jefferson also briefed the 9-11 Commission, an independent commission created by congressional legislation, about the call with Beamer. The various reports of Jefferson's retelling of the call contain details that appeared in the transcript, like Beamer's request to recite the Lord's Prayer and his closing phrase "Let's roll." But one fact remains apparent: There was no known recording of the entire call.

Jefferson made this explicitly clear to Lisa Beamer, Todd Beamer's wife, when the two spoke during a recorded phone call. According to page 18 of a document uploaded to the 9/11 Document Archive that was taken from physical files gathered by Team 7 of the 9-11 Commission, Lisa Beamer asked Jefferson whether the call between her and Todd was recorded. Jefferson said that she would have had to leave her office to record the call, which she wanted to avoid because she felt it was important to keep Todd talking on the line.

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  Christiana Dillard

Christiana Dillard is a former news writer for Temple University’s Lew Klein College of Media and Communication. She received her undergraduate degree in English Writing from the University of Pittsburgh. She has been a freelance writer for several organizations including the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation, Pitt Magazine, and The Heinz Endowments. When she’s not producing or studying media she’s binging it, watching YouTube videos or any interesting series she can find on streaming services.

Read more about or contact Christiana Dillard

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