By Jackelyn Barnard, First Coast News
JACKSONVILLE, FL -- Three years ago, on September 11, 2001, America was changed forever. Months before that, First Coast News has learned one of the terrorists, Ziad Jarrah, checked into a Jacksonville hotel. On September 11th, Jarrah was on board United Flight 93. At 8:42 a.m., the jumbo jet left Newark, New Jersey, for San Francisco.
According to Federal investigators, about 45 minutes after take-off, Jarrah hijacked the plane and turned the Boeing 757 around and started heading for the White House. On recently released cockpit voice recordings, Jarrah told passengers on board, "Uh, this is the Captain....would like you all to remain seated. There is a bomb on board and we are going back to the airport."
Moments later Flight 93 crashed in a Pennsylvania field, killing all 44 people on board. First Coast News has learned that six and a half months before this flight, Jarrah was on the First Coast at the Ramada Inn on University Boulevard. He stayed on the second floor in room 250.
The First Coast News I-team obtained a hotel document, and confirmed through a U.S. official, that Jarrah checked in Sunday night, February 25, 2001, just after 7:30 p.m. The document shows, Jarrah used his own name to register and he paid $213.57 in cash to stay in the room for a week. The document also shows Jarrah paid a ten dollar cash deposit to make calls from the phone in his room. Sources confirm that while on the First Coast Jarrah frequented Wacko's strip club.
A worker at the club confirms the FBI came in asking questions and showing pictures of the 9/11 terrorists after the September attacks. Another worker says a dancer picked Jarrah out of a photo lineup for federal agents. The workers at Wacko's and the Ramada Inn did not want to be identified and would only talk to us off camera. So, why was Jarrah here and what was he doing on the First Coast? Those are some of the questions we tried asking the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
We contacted the FBI more than a month ago. The FBI refused to talk to us saying the case is open and is pending. We spent weeks investigating and turning up hard proof Jarrah was here. Then, we called the FBI again to tell them what we found. This time, the agency agreed to talk with us about Jarrah.
Right before the scheduled interview, the FBI canceled saying it was an order from higher-ups in the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. An FBI spokesman said the reason for canceling the interview is the upcoming trial of suspected terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui. Investigators believe Moussaoui was to be the 20th terrorist in the plot of the September 11th attacks. The FBI says talking with us could impact the outcome of that trial which was scheduled to begin this fall but has been put on hold.
While the FBI could not talk, the agency did provide First Coast News with various pictures of Jarrah. Questions still remain as to what Jarrah was doing in Jacksonville. Questions that may be answered in the coming months.
First Coast News