New York Post
MARCH 25, 2023
“Let’s roll’: The heroic final moments of United Flight 93 on 9/11
By Michael Kaplan
September 11, 2020 7:13am Updated
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Four commercial jets were hijacked on September 11. Only one did not meet its target. As chronicled in “History 9/11: The Final Minutes of Flight 93,” airing Friday at 8 p.m. on History, the bravery of passengers and crew aboard the United Airlines flight from Newark to San Francisco prevented death, heartache, destruction. Heroic Americans, they stopped terrorists from flying into the Capitol building. Instead, as they fought for control, the plane crashed into a field near rural Shanksville, Pa., at 10:03 a.m.
Duncan Bulling, director of the documentary, worked with audio forensics specialist Ed Primeau to analyze cockpit recordings that give a fuller picture of what happened.
“What those people did was such an amazing act of courage,” Bulling told The Post. “They fought against the odds to stop an airplane from crashing into the Capitol building.”
The 40 passengers and crew members, all of whom died, will be honored Friday when President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden both pay their respects at the site of the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville.
As laid out in the documentary, here is a minute-by-minute chronicle, with freshly revealed details, of what took place aboard an airplane set on a collision course with the heart of our nation.
Four minutes after Flight 93 had taken off — at 8:42 a.m., following a 40-minute delay — the first airplane flew into the World Trade Center. In short order, all planes were grounded, but Flight 93 was already en route to San Francisco.
At 9:27, when Captain Jason Dahl checked in with Cleveland’s air traffic control, all was well. Minutes later, though, there were frantic calls of “Mayday! Mayday!”
Within 60 seconds, the audio cut out. According to Primeau, two terrorists were struggling to take control of the cockpit. “The Final Minutes” maintains that terrorists could have breached the locked cockpit with an extra key kept near the door.
“It sounds like the pilot has been moved away from the controls,” Primeau says in the doc. “And then, radio silence.”
The forcefulness of the takeover leads Bulling to believe that Saeed al-Ghamdi and Ahmed al-Nami infiltrated the cockpit. They were both trained by al Qaeda in unarmed combat.
First-class passenger Tom Burnett called home at 9:30 a.m. and told his wife, Deena, that a fellow passenger, Mickey Rothenberg, had been stabbed and murdered. He asked his wife to call authorities and report a hijacking.
“I was trying to think who you call for a hijacking,” she says in the documentary.
Five minutes into the takeover, terrorist Ziad Samir Jarrah (who had recently completed a piloting course) was in the cockpit and at the controls. Representing himself as the plane’s captain, he announced that he had a bomb. He turned the plane around, heading toward Washington, DC, and the Capitol building, which, according to Bulling, captured terrorists have identified as the target.
Meanwhile, on the ground, there was talk about sending a military airplane to “scramble” the United flight.
By 9:37, passengers were corralled past row 33. They were encouraged to call loved ones — “I suspect it was a way of showing [that the terrorists] were in control,” said Bulling. Passengers began formulating a plan as relatives despaired.
Alice Hoagland, the mother of passenger Mark Bingham, left a final voicemail message: “You’ve been hijacked by terrorists. They are planning to use the plane … to probably hit some site on the ground. Try to overpower these guys … I love you, sweetie. Good luck. Bye bye.”
At 9:41, the plane was 34 minutes from the Capitol. Jarrah shut off most mechanisms that would allow it to be tracked — save for what one air traffic controller calls “bleeps on a radar scope” that provided minimal information.
(L to R, top to bottom) Ahmed Alnami, Ahmed Ibrahim A. al-Haznawi, Ziad Samir al-Jarrah, and Saeed Alghamd.
(Clockwise from top left) Ahmed Alnami, Ahmed Ibrahim A. al-Haznawi, Saeed Alghamdi and Ziad Samir al-Jarrah
All 4,500 aircraft in flight at that moment were ordered to land immediately. A decision to scramble — in which fighter jets surround an airplane and may shoot it down — was still not reached. At 9:47, Tom called Deena a final time. She asked if he wanted to speak with their children. As Deena recalls in the documentary, Tom told her, “No. Tell them I’ll see them tonight.”
Another bid was made to scramble aircraft. But authorities remained indecisive. “Nobody was prepared for this,” Bulling said. “They were ready for a plane in distress, not for terrorists taking over a plane.”
Al Ghamdi and now Jarrah, according to the doc, were in the cockpit. The other two terrorists guarded the remaining 33 passengers and seven crew members. At 9:56, the plane was near Shanksville when flight attendant Sandy Bradshaw called her husband. She told him they were “boiling water and are about to race to the front of the plane and attack the hijackers.”
The cockpit tape of Flight 93’s final minutes remains classified by the FBI. But victims’ relatives were allowed to hear it. “It was a lot to take — listening to our loved ones die,” Elsa Strong, sister of passenger Linda Gronlund, says in the doc. “That’s hard.”
But they did not die without a fight. Recalling what she heard on the tape, Deena says, “The hijackers realized that passengers and crew were coming to get them. There was the sense that [passengers and crew] were working together.”
Todd Beamer, who would be the subject of a book co-authored by his wife, Lisa, recited the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm before famously calling out, “Are you ready? OK. Let’s roll.”
Suddenly the plane began flying erratically. Altitude was lost. Course was reversed. “Then they ran up the length of a 757 with all their improvised weapons and you can hear them coming,” says Hoagland. “It became louder and louder … They were chanting, ‘In the cockpit! In the cockpit!’ They rattled the heck out of those guys in the front. They were terrified.”
Those who heard the tape make clear that there was scuffling in the cabin. “You can hear a hijacker being hit,” says Deena. He let out a “cry and a wail as if he had been fatally struck.”
As 10 o’clock neared, the plane was rocking back and forth. Hijackers discussed “putting it in the ground” as the battle came to them. The plane went into a series of climbs and dives. Panicked terrorists hoped to disorient their attackers.
Officials examine the crater September 11, 2001 at the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Officials examine the crater on Sept. 11, 2001, at the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
AFP via Getty Images
Beamer and other passengers attacked the cockpit door with a food and drinks trolley.
They eventually broke through. Loved ones who heard the audio recall the melee in the cockpit, with pitched combat for the controls. “Jarrah,” says the doc’s narrator, “turns the plane upside down.”
Flight 93 nosedived toward the ground at more than 500 miles per hour. It crashed at 10:03 and 10 seconds.
Twenty-nine minutes later, the military was cleared to take action and “shoot down aircraft that do not respond to our direction.” But it was too late for Flight 93.
“Those heroes on United 93 averted an enormous potential catastrophe,” Ben Sliney, national operations manager, air traffic command, says in the documentary. “I don’t doubt at all that they came to the right decision and did the right thing on that day — even though it cost them their lives.”
With our present situation in the government, these people who died are the same ones who were working on that day. We should remember the bravery of all of these people and continue fighting for our freedom which they died for. We must win this fight against the left/Obama/Biden/Susan Rice – they are the radicals. Are they a part of that group?