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At a Florida Walmart, the Hijacker Bought Items for a Fake Bomb to Scare Passengers

In this series, Newsweek maps the road to 9/11 as it happened 20 years ago, day by day.

Marwan Al-Shehhi went to Walmart on Copans Road in Pompano Beach, Florida, on September 3 and purchased the following items: a toggle switch, gel mate, auto tape, and a 9-volt battery. The items appear to have been used to construct a device resembling a bomb to use onboard his flight—United Airlines Flight 175—to scare and subdue the passengers.

At 9:00 a.m. on 9/11, a passenger onboard al-Shehhi's plane named Peter Hanson called his father and reported: "It's getting bad, Dad ... A stewardess was stabbed ... They seem to have knives and Mace ... They said they have a bomb ... It's getting very bad on the plane ... Passengers are throwing up and getting sick ... The plane is making jerky movements ... I don't think the pilot is flying the plane ... I think we are going down ... I think they intend to go to Chicago or someplace and fly into a building ... Don't worry, Dad ... If it happens, it'll be very fast ... My God, my God."

On American Airlines Flight 11, piloted by Mohammed Atta, the hijackers sprayed Mace, pepper spray or some other irritant in the first-class cabin to force passengers and flight attendants to the rear of the plane. They also claimed to have a bomb but there is no evidence that they had even the fake components that al-Shehhi compiled.

On American Airlines flight 77, intended for the Pentagon, none of the flight attendants or passengers who called out mentioned any stabbing or the use of Mace, nor mentioned any threat of a bomb.

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Shopping at Walmart to build a fake bomb. This photo combination shows, from left, Satam al-Suqami, Waleed Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, Abdulaziz Alomari and Mohamed Atta, who were aboard American Airlines Flight 11, which crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. REUTERS/HOME

On United Flight 93 piloted by Ziad Jarrah, he made an announcement at 9:32 a.m.: "Ladies and Gentlemen. Here the captain, please sit down keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb on board. So, sit." But there is no evidence that there was a bomb on board or that any of Jarrah's men had the same kind of fake components al-Shehhi had.

The 9/11 Commission would later report: "The FBI told us they found no trace of explosives at the crash sites. One of the passengers who mentioned a bomb [presumably Hanson] expressed his belief that it was not real. Lacking any evidence that the hijackers attempted to smuggle such illegal items past the security screening checkpoints, we believe the bombs [sic] were probably fake."

Follow the Newsweek live tweet of September 11, 2001 (based upon the new book On That Day) starting at 4:45 a.m. EST @Roadto911.

Newsweek is reconstructing the road to 9/11 as it was constructed 20 years ago, day by day. Each day a new story will be published here. On September 11 we'll live tweet the events of the day, minute by minute, starting at 4:45 a.m. EST, @RoadTo911.