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The Flight That Fought Back: United 93
September 11th, 2001. It may have been ten years ago, you may not even remember what you were doing that day, but for many the wounds are still fresh as ever. Four transcontinental flights were hijacked by the terrorist group known as Al-Qaeda that fateful day in American history. Two planes crashed into the twin towers, while another was flown into the Pentagon. The fourth and final plane, United 93, crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. All 40 people aboard, and the 4 terrorists perished.
Osama bin Ladin, the leader of the Al-Qaeda group at the time, gave orders to 19 members of the group to crash planes into certain buildings in America. Their mission, to hurt American’s pride, while killing as many as possible. There were five members in three of the four groups, while on 93 there were only four. The members of the groups were strategically placed in first class so they were between the majority of the passengers, coach, and the cockpit. Al-Qaeda chose transcontinental flights heading from east to west so they could easily turn around and hit their selected targets, and create as big of an explosion as possible using the remaining fuel in the planes. All the flights were supposed to hit simultaneously so that America would be completely blind sided by the attack.
Ziad Jarrah was the hijacking pilot of flight 93. He attended a Florida flight school, while at the same time took karate and knife training classes. At both places nobody suspected him of being out of the ordinary, let alone a terrorist.
The other three members of Al-Qaeda that were passengers on flight 93 were Ahmed al-Haznawi, Ahmed al-Nami, and Saeed al-Ghamdi. These three were present to make sure everything went smoothly, and were thus not of extreme importance like Zaid. There was however a slight mention of Ahmed al-Haznawi when he was checking in for the flight. Security chose him for random screening; he passed and therefore was not known to have and contraband in his luggage.
United transcontinental flight 93 was a Boeing 757 plane. It could seat up to 180 people when full. The day of 9/11, there were only a slim 40 people aboard. American 77, the plane that was flown into the Pentagon, was also a 757. Flight 77 was holding 58 passengers and 6 crew at the time it crashed.
American flight 11 and United flight 175, the two that crashed into the twin towers were 767 air crafts. They could seat up to 165 passengers. The day of the flight, American 11 had 81 passengers and 11 crew, while United 175 was carrying 56 passengers and 9 crew.
As the passengers of flight 93 began to check in at the airport in Newark, New Jersey, they were wished a safe flight. Boarding began at about 7:35am, and lasted until about 7:50 am. Mark Bingham was running late and boarded the plane just before it pushed back from the gate. He delayed the flight for approximately one minute, thus is why they did not arrive on the runway until 8:01am. Once on the tarmack, the plane was delayed until about 8:42am while United 175 from Boston, and American 11 from DC were both hijacked.
Minutes after flight 93 departed, flight 11 hit the World Trade Centers North Tower at 8:46am. Flight 77 was officially hijacked at 8:51am. Next came 175 hitting the World Trade Center South Tower at 9:03am. At 9:10am, Melanie Homer made the first attempt at personal contact to try to tell her husband, the pilot of 93, that the World Trade Center had been hit by air crafts. The message was officially sent at 9:22am. For reasons unknown, the message was never received.
9:15am, air traffic control informed the pilots of 93 to be on alert for possible intrusions into the cockpit. At 9:26am, before the terrorists went into the cockpit, they adorned red bandannas, and killed Mickie Rothenberg; he was the first to be attacked. Killing Mickie showed the other passengers that the hijackers were not a force to be reckoned with. At 9:28am, flight 93 was officially hijacked. This hijacking occurred last of all.
Nobody knows if the Al-Qaeda members killed the pilots of flight 93 immediatley, or knocked them unconscious, causing them to bleed to death. Either way, it was established that the pilots were dead before the flight crashed.
At 9:32am Ziad Jarrah announced to the plane that this was to be a traditional hijacking, conveying to the passengers to keep quiet and calm because there was a “bomb” on board.What he didn’t know was that he had accidentally broadcasted the message to air traffic control.
As the passengers of flight 93 began to realize they had in fact been hijacked and were not dreaming, they started to call family and friends using cellphones, which had spotty coverage at best considering they were at about 35,000 feet. Another option was to use the airline phones, but only 8 worked at a time, so a lot of people trying to use them weren’t being patched through. Passengers were apparently alowed to make phone calls considering there was an Al-Qaeda member standing guard in first class, and he didn’t seem to care.
Most of the calls home revealed that the twin towers had been hit by air planes. After hearing that, most everyone on board had figured out they were going to crash into something. Surprisingly, they were all calm.
Around 9:37 American Airlines flight 77 reached the Pentagon. By this time, all the airports were shut down, and all flights still airborne were ordered to land immediately. Air traffic control was attempting to contact flight 93. Come 9:41, Ziad Jarrah turned off the flights transponder.
Ziad Jarrah had never been taught how to fly commercial airline flights such as this. He was constantly trying to turn the auto pilot off because it kept trying to reroute him to San Francisco. As soon as he did, an alarm would blare until he turned it back on because he could not seem to keep the plane coasting at it’s set altitude of 35,000 feet.
When 9:49am came around and flight 93 was still up in the air, people on the ground were wondering weather or not to alert the military and have them scramble the jets. During the chaos, nobody knew who was going to alert the military, and it they did not get the order for quite sometime.
The Mom of one of the passengers contacted her son at 9:54am and told him to see if they could get a group together to try and overpower the hijackers. The passengers all knew it was a suicide mission, but decided it was better than doing nothing.
Passengers of flight 93 very carefully and quietly developed a plan to get to the cockpit and land the plane safely. It was difficult considering there was a guard in first class just a few rows of seats away. They quickly and quietly gathered fire extinguishers, knives, forks, boiling water, and the food cart that weighed about 300-400 lbs. They knew for a fact the terrorist had knives, but didn't know for sure if they had a bomb.
When the people aboard began to charge with the now weapon-ized food cart, Ziad Jarrah began to violently rock the plane back-and-forth, trying to fend off the attack. During this time at 9:59am, the South Tower had collapsed.
The leading passengers of the rebel group had gotten past the guard in first class, and were trying to get into the cockpit. Their plan was to gain control of the air plane, then contact the stewardesses’ husband, who was a pilot, so he could tell them how to get the plane safely landed. Unfortunately, as they gained access to the cockpit, Ziad Jarrah freaked out and crashed the plane into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The plane was inverted and moving at approximately 580mph when it crashed. Everyone aboard died on impact.
About 28 minutes after flight 93 crashed, someone gave the order to the scrambled the jets and shoot the plane down.
The recordings of phone calls and the cockpit haven’t yet been released to the public due to pending criminal investigation. However, some of the families of the brave heroes known as the passengers of flight 93 have been alowed to listen to the tapes.
*Nobody knew of the Al-Qaeda terrorist plot that was planned to unfold that day, killing thousands and injuring many more. 3 planes crashed into 3 very important buildings. If it had not been for the brave and courageous actions from the people of United flight 93, many more would have surely died. We owe them much more than a memorial, or an honor medal, many of us owe them our lives.*