BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - We’re getting a unique perspective from one of the few people inside the White House on 9/11. He’s a Birmingham native who was on the phone when a difficult decision was made to shoot down a plane that had its sights on the nation’s capital.
Moments after United Airlines Flight 175 slammed into the south tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, another plane showed up on radar. It was reportedly heading towards the White House. Vice president Dick Cheney and several white house officials were then rushed into the bunker underneath the White House.
"That was probably the first time in my career that we had actually done that,” Retired Secret Service agent Mike Williams said.
While inside the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, officials were trying to figure out if there were any more hijacked planes. United Flight 93 then came on radar. A few tense moments later, Vice President Cheney then gave the order to shoot down the plane.
Secret Service Agent Mike Williams was on that conference call helping to relay information with other agencies. Williams was the intelligence officer assigned to the White House that day.
"I was on the phone when the vice president actually gave the command to shoot down a commercial flight. It was that expression that everyone had on their face and we knew what we had to do, no one talked about it but we knew that if that plane crashed into the White House, we were not going to survive,” Williams said.
Passengers eventually took control of United 93. The plane went down in a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Fighter jets were trying to intercept it before it crashed.
Eighteen years later, Williams still reflects on that harrowing day.
"We came together as a nation and it’s a day that we should never forget. Being front and center and being at the White House, it just gives you a different perspective and the courage that the men and women that served that day had throughout that entire incident,” Williams said.
Williams spent over 30 years in the Secret Service. He served six presidents and most recently was the agent in charge of the Birmingham field office. He say 9/11 will stick with him for the rest of his life.