Crews Begin Investigation Into Somerset County 757 Crash
"We (were) literally surrounded by debris, and there's a very strong odor of
scorched earth," Parsons reported. "It doesn't smell like jet fuel,
it smells like ... How do you describe it? Burned earth. It smells like
A witness told WTAE-TV's Paul Van Osdol that she saw the plane overhead. It
made a high-pitched, screeching sound. The plane then made a sharp,
90-degree downward turn and crashed.
Officials said that they believed that the plane took a dip and
nose-dived into an abandoned strip mine.
WTAE-TV's Michelle Wright toured the crash scene and said that a crater
of about 30 to 40 feet long, 15 to 20 feet wide and 18 feet deep was created
by the crash.
Officials told WTAE's Marcie Cipriani that it looked like the plane was
headed south when it hit the ground. Most of the plane's debris kept
traveling after the plane hit and landed in the woods past the mine. Most of
the debris is small." -
Pittsburgh Channel (09/11/01)
American Heroes Changed the Course of United Flight 93
"For Lee Purbaugh, 31, of Listie, the
thought of seeing a plane crash right before his eyes still seemed
unbelievable to him when interviewed a half-hour later.
"I never in my life thought I would see a plane crash right before my very
eyes," said Purbaugh, who was at the wreckage within minutes after the
Purbaugh’s second day on the job at Rollock Inc., a scrap metal company
which owns the Diamond T mine, a former PBS Coals dig directly about the
crash site, came with a shocking surprise. The crash happened within
200 yards of Purbaugh’s view.
"I happened to hear this noise and looked up," said Purbaugh, who
indicated the plane was about 40 to 50 feet above him. "I didn’t know if
I should duck or what because this plane was so low but then in a split
second it hit."
Purbaugh thought at first it was just a cargo plane carrying some mail
because when he ran up to the actual scene, he didn’t notice any carnage,
just some mail around. He also noticed a bookbag. He said the pine
trees next to the site were on fire from the explosion and the fire was
also spreading through the woods.
"I knew about the World Trade Center at the time but I never expected
something like this," said Purbaugh. "There was scattered debris
everywhere, some in large chunks, but nothing you could identify. I’m
just shocked it happened here."
Mark Stahl of Somerset, who went to the scene immediately afterwards,
says, "There’s a crater gorged in the earth, the plane is pretty much
disintegrated. There’s nothing left but scorched trees."
Michael R. Merringer was out on a mountain bike ride with his wife,
Amy, about two miles away from the crash site.
"I heard the engine gun two different times and then I heard a loud
bang and the windows of the houses all around rattled," Merringer said. "I
looked up and I saw the smoke coming up."
The couple rushed home and drove near the scene.
"Everything was on fire and there was trees knocked down and there
was a big hole in the ground," he said.
Purbaugh, Stahl and the Merringers were at the site before state police
crews and the Federal Bureau of investigation (FBI) arrived to secure
the entire site as a crime scene immediately or be arrested. Police
helicopters circled overhead every few minutes.
Morrison said everything recovered from the crash site must be thoroughly
documented. He says that is why the FBI and state police, in addition to
firefighters and other crews, are working together in a "methodical way."
- Daily American
Cell calls from planes reveal horror
"At 10 a.m., the plane suddenly went down,
crashing into rural western Pennsylvania, where it created
crater 30 feet across and 20 feet deep, and scattered debris for
half a mile." -
The crash in Somerset: 'It dropped out of the clouds'
"The United Airlines Boeing 757 came in low,
its engines screaming.
A handful of people working near or driving through a rural area of
Somerset County watched as the plane flipped over and disappeared
with a smoky boom at 10:06 a.m. yesterday, between the tiny communities of
Lambertsville and Shanksville.
A few miles north of Lambertsville, yard man Terry Butler, 40, was toiling
away at Stoystown Auto Wreckers.
He thought it was odd that a plane was in the area. He'd heard that all air
traffic nationwide had been halted after the World Trade Center disaster
about an hour earlier.
"It dropped out of the clouds," too low for a commercial flight,
Butler said. The plane rose slightly, trying to gain altitude, then "it
just went flip to the right and then straight down."
He radioed back to his office, telling coworkers Homer Barron, 49, and Jeff
Phillips, 30, what he had seen.
"I told them a plane crashed. At first they didn't believe it, because you
know, we do joke around."
Then Barron saw smoke and called 911.
The plane came down on farmland reclaimed from a coal-mining operation.
Barron and Phillips drove to the crash scene and found a smoky hole in the
ground. A few firefighters had already begun pouring water onto the
"It didn't look like a plane crash because there was nothing that looked
like a plane," Barron said.
"There was one part of a seat burning up there," Phillips said. "That
was something you could recognize."
"I never seen anything like it," Barron said. "Just like a big pile of
The sound of the jet's engines also stuck in the minds of other
Lee Purbaugh, 32, working just his second day at Rollock Inc., a scrap
yard next to the reclaimed strip-mine land, looked up from operating a
burning torch to see the jetliner just 40 feet above him.
"I heard it for 10 or 15 seconds and it sounded like it was going
full bore," said Tim Lensbouer, 35, Purbaugh's coworker.
The ground shook and the air thundered as the jetliner slammed into the
ground about 300 yards away, Purbaugh said.
A mushroom of flame rose 200 feet and disappeared. Then there was a
curtain of black smoke and finally a trail of fire as pieces of the fuselage
shot hundreds of yards into the woods.
"My instinct was to run toward it, to try to help" said Nina Lensbouer,
Tim's Lensbouer's wife and a former volunteer firefighter. "But I got
there and there was nothing, nothing there but charcoal. Instantly, it was
Three-quarters of a mile away, at Shanksville-Stonycreek High School,
ninth-grader Rose Goodwin, 14, and her classmates had been watching coverage
of the World Trade Center catastrophe on a classroom television.
"When the plane hit, it sounded like something just fell on the roof.
Everybody sort of panicked," she said. "I went to the window and saw all
this smoke coming up and I just pointed and screamed."
Charles Sturtz, 53, who lives just over the hillside from the crash
site, said a fireball 200 feet high shot up over the hill. He got to the
crash scene even before the firefighters.
"The biggest pieces you could find were probably four feet [long]. Most
of the pieces you could put into a shopping bag, and there were clothes
hanging from the trees."
Ten miles away, at a warehouse near Berlin, employee Don Miller and
co-workers felt their building shake.
Later in the afternoon, state police allowed reporters to enter the crash
area. It was incongruously serene. Under a bright sun, the site where
all 45 aboard the plane were killed was most remarkable for how
unremarkable it appeared.
The apparent point of impact was a dark gash, not more than 30 feet wide,
at the base of a gentle slope just before a line of trees.
There were few recognizable remnants of the plane or the passengers and
crew. The trees beyond were still faintly smoldering but largely intact.
"If you would go down there, it would look like a trash heap," said
state police Capt. Frank Monaco. "There's nothing but tiny pieces of
debris. It's just littered with small pieces."
Gov. Tom Ridge arrived later in the
Day of Terror:
Outside tiny Shanksville, a fourth deadly stroke
"United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757-200
en route from New Jersey to San Francisco, fell from the sky near
Shanksville at 10:06 a.m., about two hours after it took off, leaving a
trail of debris five miles long.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command
(NORAD) issued a statement denying that United Flight 93 had been shot
down by U.S. military aircraft.
Some witnesses reported that the plane was
flying upside down for a time before the crash; others said they
heard up to three loud booms before the jetliner went down.
Rep. John Murtha, D-Johnstown, said last night
he could only guess that the plane's likely target was "a second shot at the
Pentagon or the Capitol or the White House itself."
"The destination sure wasn't an open field," he said. "It's fortunate it
didn't come down sooner, on Johnstown."
Flight 93 may have gotten as far west as Ohio
before turning around. The Cleveland mayor's office told The Associated
Press that an airplane in distress had passed through Cleveland-area
airspace before being handed off to Toledo, although it was not clear
that the plane was Flight 93.
As the plane neared Pittsburgh, Mayor Tom
Murphy stayed in contact with the FBI and the Federal Aviation
"We were in communication with the FBI and the FAA about the jet as to where
it was," Murphy said. "They had the jet coming out of Cleveland and losing
it when it came into Pittsburgh airspace, and there was no communication
with it, and we were concerned."
At the John P. Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County
Airport near Johnstown, a call from air traffic controllers in Cleveland set
off 10 minutes of high tension before the plane crashed 14 miles southeast
of the airport.
Dennis Fritz, the air traffic manager, got a
call from controllers in Cleveland warning the Johnstown airport -- which
has no radar of its own -- that a large aircraft was 20 miles south and had
suddenly turned on a heading for Johnstown.
"It was an aircraft doing some unusual maneuvers at a low level, which is
unusual for an aircraft that size," Fritz said last night. "It happened
He said workers in his own tower scanned
south, toward the horizon, with binoculars, but couldn't see any aircraft,
leading Fritz to believe that the plane was flying somewhere in the 2,800
foot high ridges in that part of the Allegheny front.
Then, somewhere within the air zone, about 15 miles south of Johnstown, the
plane turned again toward the south.
Shortly before it went down, another call was made to the Westmoreland
County 911 center from a Mount Pleasant Township resident who said he could
see a large plane flying low and banking from side to side.
The impact "sounded like dynamite," said Lucy
Menear, 83, who lives less than a half-mile from the crash site. "It seems
as though everything was falling apart."
Eric Peterson, 28, was working in his shop in the Somerset County village of Lambertsville yesterday morning when he heard a plane, looked up and saw
one fly over unusually low.
The plane continued on beyond a nearby hill, then dropped out of sight
behind a tree line. As it did so, Peterson said it seemed to be turning
Then Peterson said he saw a fireball, heard an explosion and saw a
mushroom cloud of smoke rise into the sky.
Peterson rushed to the scene on an all-terrain vehicle and when he arrived
he saw bits and pieces of an airliner spread over a large area of an
abandoned strip-mine in Stonycreek Township.
"There was a crater in the ground that was
really burning," Peterson said. Strewn about were pieces of clothing
hanging from trees and parts of the Boeing 757, but nothing bigger than
a couple of feet long, he said. Many of the items were burning.
Peterson said he saw no bodies, but there also was no sign of life.
Throughout the day, as a plume of smoke
hung in the sky, a steady stream of firefighters, police cars, emergency
management crews, national guard members and local volunteers swarmed over
the crash site.
Jeff Killeen, an FBI spokesman from
Pittsburgh, said the main thrust of the agency's investigation will begin
today when authorities divide the crash scene into grids and comb the
area for evidence.
Yesterday, the priority of the FBI and
state troopers was to protect the scene.
Gov. Tom Ridge arrived about 6:15 p.m.,
flying over the crash scene in a National Guard helicopter before being
briefed on the ground by state police.
Joseph McKelvey, executive director of the
Johnstown-area airport, said he didn't know whether it would be an
operations headquarters or serve as a morgue.
But as he spoke, one of the few planes in the skies over America, a United
Airlines 727 arrived carrying what McKelvey said was equipment for the
recovery, and a half dozen rental trucks pulled into the airport to carry
the equipment to the crash scene.
"This is the one airport [in the region] that can handle about any
aircraft in the world," McKelvey said. Normally, the Johnstown
airport handles five commercial passenger flights a day."" -
Alleged Partial Flight 93 Cockpit Transcript Obtained
"A partial transcript has been obtained by
CNN of talk heard by air traffic controllers via an open microphone in the
cockpit of United Flight 93, which crashed in Somerset County, Pa.
The first phrase was "There is a bomb on
Then there's a shout: "Get out of here!" followed by the sounds of
scuffling. And then again, someone says, "Get out of here."
Then, a voice in broken English, acting as the pilot, says, "There
is a bomb on board. This is the captain speaking. Remain in your seat.
There's a bomb on board. Stay quiet. We are meeting with their demands. We
are returning to the airport."
The plane departed from Newark and was headed
to San Francisco, but diverted from its flight pattern and crashed
nose-first in a large field about 60 miles outside Pittsburgh. All 38
passengers and seven crew members were presumed dead.
Anywhere from 130 to 150 troopers would guard
the area at one time, according to Lt. Col. Robert Hickes.
Finding any substantial evidence from the plane will be difficult. Any
remaining debris is very small. WTAE-TV's Paul Van Osdol also reports that
some debris has been spotted up to two miles away from the crash scene.
Some has been washing up on shore at nearby Indian Lake.
Several residents gathered debris, placed it in a plastic bag and carried it
to police. Officials do not want residents to touch any possible debris.
They should contact police, instead.
At least four witnesses who were at the crash scene within five
minutes of the crash told WTAE's Paul Van Osdol that they saw another
plane in the area.
Somerset County resident Jim Brandt said that he saw another plane in the
area. He said it stayed there for one or two minutes before leaving.
Another Somerset County resident, Tom Spinello, said that he saw the
plane. He said that it had high back wings.
Both men said that the plane had no markings on it, either civilian or
military. The FBI said that it does not think that it was a military
plane, but it would not rule out the possibility of it being a civilian
Cellular telephone calls placed from the doomed plane led to suggestions
Wednesday that a group effort to crash the craft and stop the attackers from
reaching whatever may have been their intended target may have taken place.
The plane first flew near Cleveland but quickly turned around, reportedly
flying erratically and losing altitude.
One passenger who called Westmoreland County 911 said he was
inside a locked bathroom. Dispatcher Glenn Cramer said the unidentified
man repeatedly said, "We're being hijacked!"
"He heard some sort of explosion and saw white smoke coming from the
plane and we lost contact with him," Cramer said.
FBI officials had a tape of that call in custody. They would not
comment on its contents or the speculation of a struggle on board.
Witnesses reported seeing military aircraft in the air just after the
crash, and there were rumors that Flight 93 was shot down. Secretary of
State Donald Rumsfeld said that was not the case, according to Murtha.
As Flight 93 approached Cleveland, radar showed the plane banked left and
headed back toward southwest Pennsylvania. Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White
said air traffic controllers reported hearing screams on a plane with which
they had communicated.
John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport tower chief Dennis Fritz said
his tower, located about 20 miles from the crash site, got a warning call
from Cleveland Air Traffic Control.
The Cleveland tower said the plane had done some unusual maneuvers,
including a 180-degree turn away from Cleveland, and was flying at a low
altitude. Johnstown tower controllers also could not see the plane from
their tower, leading them to believe the plane was already very low and
perhaps obscured by the surrounding topography."
Homes, neighbors rattled by crash
"Betty Rhoads thought her furnace had
exploded. When she “mostly felt” the blast Tuesday morning, she had
no idea a Boeing 757 had crashed less than a mile from her rural Somerset
County home, killing all 45 people aboard.
The windows of her home were latched shut, but the explosion
blasted them open. When the elderly couple looked outside, they saw
smoke billowing from the abandoned strip mine behind their house where
United Airlines Flight 93 had crashed, carving a crater in the earth.
There were no survivors.
Eric Peterson, 28, an off-duty corrections officer, was an eyewitness to the
“It was burning when it hit the ground,” Peterson said. “When it went
down, it was in one piece. It was flying low, real low.
“We couldn’t see past the tree line, but we knew it crashed. I didn’t think
it was going to clear these places. It looked like it tumbled.”
Mark Stahl of Somerset, a 32-year-old petroleum salesman, was working
on his office computer when he heard the crash. He followed plumes of
billowing smoke to the scene. Carrying a digital camera, Stahl
arrived at the site 15 minutes after the plane fell from the sky.
He began taking photographs of the still-smoking scene. Later, he showed
them to people who crowded around his car in a cornfield filled with
reporters, photographers and large television trucks spouting giant
“I heard the boom, followed the smoke and came up on this,” Stahl said as he
displayed an 8-by-10-inch photo of the crash site.
About 30 firemen were at the scene when he arrived, Stahl said. He didn’t
realize a passenger jet had crashed until a firefighter told him.
Ron Delano, who lives about two miles from the crash site, also rushed to
the scene after hearing about the crash.
Delano said the plane hit a wooded area near a strip mine where he
frequently hunts. He was stunned by what he saw.
“If they hadn’t told us a plane had wrecked, you wouldn’t have known. It
looked like it hit and disintegrated,” Delano said.
Georgetta Guynn and her husband, Alvin, of Vanderbilt, Fayette County, had
been out with relatives when they heard about the attack on the World Trade
“We looked up and there was this big jet going overhead and it was
pretty low and we could not hear the engines. It was like they were
off. And then about a minute or two later, we got some binoculars and we
were looking through them and there was all this smoke in the air and we
knew it crashed.
Rosemary Tipton, principal of Shanksville-Stonycreek Elementary School, was
in her office when the building shook. From her window, she could see
smoke rising from the ridge.
Jim Stop of Somerset was fishing at the Indian Lake marina, about three
miles from the crash site, when he looked up and saw the plane overhead.
“I heard the engine whine and scream,” Stop said.
He then heard an explosion and saw a fireball.
Barry Lichty, the mayor of Indian Lake Borough, said the ground shook and
the town’s electricity went out. He called the utility company to find
out the cause.
Later, Lichty learned that a plane crash had disrupted service to the
At least two witnesses in Shanksville said they saw a large plane
circling the crash site following the explosion. About two or three
minutes after the explosion, the airplane climbed into the sky almost
vertically, the witnesses said.
“It sure wasn’t no puddle jumper,” said Bob Page, general sales manager at
Page said he could not see if there were any markings on the plane or
what kind it was. State and federal officials could not confirm reports of a
possible second plane in the area." -
Frantic 911 call preceded crash outside Pittsburgh
"Moments before United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a grassy southwestern
Pennsylvania field, a passenger on the plane apparently called 911 to report
The FBI confirmed yesterday that it had confiscated and was analyzing the
emergency phone call, which was recorded by the Westmoreland County 911
center, several miles west of where the plane exploded into the ground,
killing all 45 people aboard.
''We are being hijacked! We are being hijacked!'' the man said, according to
a transcript. The call was received at 9:58 a.m., and the caller said he
was locked in a lavatory on Flight 93.
Witness Joe Wilt, 63, said he heard a whistling like a missile, then
a loud boom as he stood in the doorway of his Shanksville home across the
road from the site. His view was blocked by a group of trees, but he said
he saw a fireball rise 800 feet into the air, then give way to black smoke.
''It exploded and you could see flames and debris everywhere, right over
that tree over there,'' Wilt said, pointing. He heard from a relative who
worked at a small business less than one mile to the west that the plane had
passed low overhead, heading southeast before crashing.
The Boeing 757 passenger plane hit the ground in a large open field,
creating a crater nearly 20 feet wide and 15 feet deep before slamming into
the forest line. It left a charred image burnt into the tall grass, but
nothing recognizable as an airplane. Captain Frank Monaco, commanding
officer of the Pennsylvania State Police, said nothing larger than a
telephone book remained. There were no survivors.
Gay Wilt, 63, said the impact shattered a basement window and sent things
flying around her living room. She and her husband had been watching
television coverage of the crashes in New York and near Washington.
''I was doing my hair in the bathroom, and I ran up and started screaming,''
she said of her reaction upon catching sight of the plume of black smoke.
Another neighbor, Lu Ray Rhoads, 23, said, ''It was right behind our
house.'' She had also been watching the news. ''Obviously, being here I
didn't expect it had to do with anything else that was going on,'' in New
York or Washington." -
Boston Globe (09/12/01)
Jetliner Was Diverted Toward Washington Before Crash in Pa.
"United Flight 93, originating in Newark, followed a seemingly normal course
until it reached Cleveland, where it suddenly made a sharp turn south,
followed by another turn toward the southeast, according to Federal Aviation
Administration radar tracking reports. The reports were published on the Web
by Flight Explorer at www.flightexplorer.com.
North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) issued a statement
denying that United Flight 93 had been shot down by U.S. military
Eyewitnesses near the crash scene said the plane, a Boeing 757-200 loaded
with more than 11,000 gallons of fuel for the six-hour flight, flew low and
then suddenly fell from the sky, producing a huge fireball and a
10-by-20-foot crater in a field near this rural Pennsylvania town, about
80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
"When it decided to drop, it dropped all of a sudden -- like a stone,"
said Tom Fritz, 63. Fritz was sitting on his porch along Lambertsville Road,
about a quarter-mile from the crash site, when he heard a sound that "wasn't
quite right" and looked up in the sky.
"It was sort of whistling," he said. "It was going so fast that you
couldn't even make out what color it was."
The ensuing firestorm lasted five or 10 minutes and reached several
hundred yards into the sky, said Joe Wilt, 63, who also lives a
quarter-mile from the crash site.
"The first thing I thought it was, was a missile," Wilt said. The
impact shattered a window in his basement and knocked down household objects
from a shelf.
Westmoreland County emergency dispatchers said they received a last-ditch
911 cell phone call from a passenger at 9:58 a.m., just minutes before the
crash. Dispatch supervisor Glenn Cramer told the Associated Press that the
call came from a passenger who had locked himself inside one of the plane's
lavatories. "We are being hijacked, we are being hijacked," Cramer quoted
the caller from a transcript of the call.
The caller described the plane as "going down," Cramer told AP. "He heard
some sort of explosion and saw white smoke coming from the plane, and we
lost contact with him."
FBI agents quickly took possession of the tape of that 911 call, which
constitutes the only public evidence so far of what went on during the
doomed plane's last moments. The FBI declined to provide any information
about the tape's contents or the identity of the caller. At the crash site,
FBI Special Agent Jeff Killeen said he was unaware if there had been any
communication from the pilot.
Authorities late today recovered the plane's flight-data and
cockpit-voice recorders, government sources said. These should permit
authorities to reconstruct what went on in the cockpit during the flight.
The woods surrounding the crash site was strewn with body parts, said
local resident Fred Waugh, who was among the first on the scene. Waugh "got
scared and left," he said. "I couldn't help nobody. I couldn't hear nobody."
United Flight 93 would have arrived at San Francisco International Airport
at 11:14 a.m. Pacific time, after six hours and fourteen minutes in the air.
Today's flight -- with 38 passengers, five flight attendants and two
pilots on board -- was relatively empty; the Boeing 757-200's full
capacity is 182 passengers. At the time of the crash, passengers should
have been just finishing their breakfast, one of two meals they were to
receive on board." -
Washington Post (09/12/01)
Scene of utter destruction
"Two Somerset County men rushed to the scene of Tuesday’s plane crash hoping
to help with the rescue effort. They found a scene of devastation.
“You couldn’t see nothing,” said Nick Tweardy, 20, of Stonycreek
Township. “We couldn’t tell what we were looking at. There’s just a huge
crater in the woods.”
Little remained of United Airlines Flight 93, which had departed from
Newark, N.J., at 8:42 a.m. yesterday on its way to San Francisco with 45
people aboard. It crashed in what FBI agents are calling a “terrorist act,”
likely linked to yesterday’s attacks on the World Trade Center in New York
City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
FBI Special Agent Jeff Killeen said air traffic controllers had no
communication with the pilot of the Boeing 757 before the crash.
he said the investigation will be slow because the impact of the plane
left “scant” evidence that will require “painstaking collection.”
“The tail was a short distance from the rest of the wreckage,” said
would-be rescuer Brad Reiman, 19, who lives near Berlin in Somerset
County. “It looked like the plane hit once and flopped down into the
The largest piece of wreckage he could identify looked like a section of
the plane’s tail, he said.
The crash site is a former strip mine owned by PBS Coal Co. and is known
locally as the Diamond T. Mine. The impact left a blackened crater at
least 45 feet in diameter, said Mark Stahl of Somerset, who
arrived at the scene carrying a digital camera just minutes after the
Paula Pluta of Stonycreek Township was watching a television rerun of
“Little House on the Prairie” when the plane went down about 1,500 yards
from her home along Lambertsville Road at Little Prairie Lane.
“I looked out the window and saw the plane nose-dive right into the
ground,” she said, barefoot and shaken just 45 minutes after the crash.
The explosion buckled her garage doors and blasted open a latched window on
her home, she said.
“It was just a streak of silver. Then a fireball shot up as high
as the clouds. There was no way anybody could have survived. I called
911 right away.
“There was no way anything was left,” Pluta added. “There was just
charred pieces of metal and a big hole. The plane didn’t slide into the
crash. It went straight into the ground. Wings out. Nose down.”
Bits of metal were thrown against a tree line like shrapnel, said
state police spokesman Trooper Thomas Spallone of Troop A in Greensburg.
“Once it hit, everything just disintegrated,” he said. “There are just
shreds of metal. The longest piece I saw was 2 feet long.”
Hours after the crash, teams of crime scene analysts from the FBI and Bureau
of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, plus state police, the Pennsylvania
National Guard, and state agencies — Department of Emergency Management and
the Department of Environmental Protection — cordoned off the area within
a 4-mile radius of the crash and began the painstaking task of
“We’re finding more debris in various locations,” Spallone said.
“Over 100 state troopers secured the area. Our job is not to let
anybody in here until the federal accident reconstruction teams from the FBI
and (Federal Aviation Administration) can get in here and examine the shreds
of evidence left,” said Capt. Frank Monaco, commander of Troop A.
“All that is left is small pieces of the airplane.”
FBI Agent Bill Crowley in Pittsburgh said the bureau has classified the
crash as a terrorist act and “not so much as a hijacking.”
Not long before the crash, the plane approached the Johnstown/Cambria
County Airport, descending from 6,000 feet, airport director Joe
McKelvey said. Airport controllers had no verbal contact with the pilots,
McKelvey said officials at the Cleveland En Route Air Traffic Control Center
in Oberlin, Ohio, ordered Johnstown controllers to abandon the tower and
close the airport.
Coroners from Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver and Cambria counties arrived at
the scene yesterday afternoon to help Somerset County Coroner Wallace
Miller. Joanne Bytheway, a forensic pathologist from the University of
Pittsburgh, was brought in to help identify the remains.
As the investigation began, police and federal agents began utilizing
abandoned buildings at the strip mine. Verizon installed phone lines, and
GPU Energy powered lights.
A local motorcycle dealer provided all-terrain vehicles to transport
Somerset County officials scrambled to coordinate a makeshift morgue and
establish a command center and counseling sites for relatives who may come
to the crash scene." -
Fourth crash 75 miles from Morgantown
"The Pennsylvania State Police received the call shortly after 10 a.m.,
trooper Tom Spallone said, and Capt. Frank Monaco added that “there were
people here in minutes.”
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge described the crash site as a large, gaping
hole, and Killeen stated that the crash “appears to be a very high
impact into the earth.”
Capt. Monaco stood at the scene as he described the black earth
“where the plane initially struck and continued on into the south,”
disappearing into the woods. Monaco stated that there was a lot of
debris, although little was larger than the size of a phone book.
Given the minuscule size of most debris, Monaco said, as far as survivors
or bodies are concerned, “none have been seen at this point.”
Downed power lines, blackened trees and yellow police tape also
marked the scene, secured by state police.
The only structures on the site are small hunting cabins, none of which
were damaged by the impact, according to Monaco.
“The FBI and state police consider this a criminal investigation site,”
Gov. Ridge said after flying over the scene by helicopter.
“Our goal right now is to preserve everything as it is for tonight,”
Killeen said, adding that further investigation would continue in the
A second United Airlines plane flew over the crash site in midafternoon
to photograph the scene, Spallone said. Hazmat crews called to the site
were standard operating procedure, and there was no reason to believe
hazardous materials were on board, according to Ridge.
Indian Lake residents Alex and Louise Majesky said their house shook from
“It just kind of rattled,” Alex Majesky said. “I thought a tree fell on the
house. I figured, what else could it be?”
Jim Patrick, a Johnstown resident, believed the crash to be “nothing out of
the ordinary and just a coincidence.” -
Athenaeum/West Virginia Univ. (09/12/01)
Cities Knew Plane Was Coming, But Not Where
Tower Had No Communication With Doomed Flight
"Officials in the Pittsburgh and Johnstown metro areas knew United Airlines
Flight 93 was heading their way, but didn't know where it was for 10
Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy was on the phone with officials from the FBI and
the Federal Aviation Administration, who could only say the plane was
heading east from Ohio.
"They had the jet coming out of Cleveland and losing it when it came into
Pittsburgh airspace. There was no communication with it, and we were
concerned," Murphy said.
Cleveland air traffic controllers called John P. Murtha Johnstown-Cambria
County Airport to alert them about the situation. Air traffic manager
Dennis Fritz was told that a large aircraft 20 miles south of the airport
was bearing down on the facility, which does not have a radar system.
Air traffic managers in the airport's tower began scanning the horizon
for the Boeing 757 that had taken off from Newark International airport
about two hours earlier carrying 38 passengers, two pilots and five flight
"It was an aircraft doing some unusual maneuvers at a low level, which is
unusual for an aircraft that size," Fritz said.
Seeing nothing, air control tower workers began to think the aircraft was
flying below the 2,800-foot-high ridges in the Allegheny front.
The plane veered south somewhere within 15 miles of Johnstown, Fritz said.
A witness on the ground called the Westmoreland County 911 center to
report a large aircraft flying low and banking from side to side.
Around 10 a.m., the plane slammed nose-first into the ground and
exploded over an abandoned strip mine.
Witnesses who arrived shortly afterward said only small pieces of the
"There was a crater in the ground that was really burning," said Eric
Peterson, 20, who was working in his nearby shop when the United Airlines
jet passed low overhead.
Peterson said he saw no bodies at the scene, but saw no signs of life,
Flight 93 Passenger Said He Planned Action
"Several people were able to make calls from the plane before the Boeing 757
slammed into a grassy field about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Rescue
crews who reached the scene shortly after 10 a.m. found a deep V-shaped
gouge filled with smoldering rubble. Forty-five people had been on
U.S. officials told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that
the Secret Service had alerted the White House that the hijackers may have
been headed for Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland.
Fearing the White House might be a target, the Secret Service diverted
President Bush, who had been in Florida, to Louisiana and then Nebraska.
Flight 93 left Newark at 8:01 a.m. EDT headed for San Francisco. As it
approached Cleveland, radar showed the plane banked left and headed back
toward southwest Pennsylvania. Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White had said
that air traffic controllers said they could hear screaming on a plane they
The caller who reached emergency dispatchers said he was inside a locked
bathroom on the plane.
Dispatcher Glenn Cramer said the man repeatedly said, "We're being
hijacked!" and that his call was not a hoax.
"He heard some sort of explosion and saw white smoke coming from the
plane and we lost contact with him," Cramer said. The man never
Tuesday night, FBI agents and forensic archeologists began picking through
tiny pieces of rubble. Neither the cockpit voice recorder nor the flight
data recorder had been recovered, and it was expected to be days before the
victims could be identified.
In Pennsylvania's Richland Township, Cambria County, on Tuesday morning,
police Chief Jim Mock said air traffic control coordinators reported a large
aircraft heading toward the John Murtha Johnstown Cambria County Municipal
Airport. The controllers said the aircraft would not identify itself.
Minutes later, the plane crashed in rural Somerset County, about 20 miles
"It was like an atomic bomb hit," said John Walsh, 72, who heard the crash
and drove to the site while still in his bathrobe. "When I got there, the
plane was obliterated. You couldn't see the cockpit or the wings or nothing."
'Black box' from Pennsylvania crash found
"Searchers Thursday found one of the so-called
black boxes from United Airlines Flight 93, the hijacked airliner that
crashed Tuesday in western Pennsylvania.
The flight data recorder was found in the crater the plane created
when it slammed into the ground Tuesday morning, according to FBI spokesman
They are still searching for the voice data
No evidence of 'military
involvement' in Pittsburg crash
"Bill Crowley, FBI, has told reporters in
Pittsburg, that debris from the hi-jacked plane which crashed there
found six miles away.
He also stated that there was "absolutely no
evidence of military involvement."
Revering to earlier speculations that the US military brought the plane down
by force to prevent it reaching it's target." -
TCM Breaking News (09/13/01)
America Under Attack:
FBI and State Police Cordon Off Debris Area Six to Eight Miles from
Crater Where Plane Went Down
"DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, we want to take our viewers live to
Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Our Brian Cabell is standing by. This of
course is the site where United Airlines flight 93 crashed on its way
from Newark to San Francisco, crashed on Tuesday, and I understand, in this
investigation, there's some breaking news. Brian, what can you tell
BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Daryn, in the last hour or so,
the FBI and the state police here have confirmed that have they
cordoned off a second area about six to eight miles away from the crater
here where plane went down. This is apparently another debris
site, which raises a number of questions. Why would debris from the plane --
and they identified it specifically as being from this plane --
why would debris be located 6 miles away. Could it have blown that
far away. It seems highly unlikely. Almost all the debris found at
this site is within 100 yards, 200 yards, so it raises some question. We
don't want to overspeculate of course. But there were some cell phone
callers, one cell phone caller in particular, who said saw a bomb, or
something that looked like a bomb with one of the hijackers. Also, the
man who took over the plane apparently announced at one point, he had --
there was a bomb on board the plane.
Again, we don't want to speculate, we don't want to jump to conclusions. But
what we do know is that there's a site about half mile behind me, where the
plane went down, where most of the debris is, and then about six miles
away up by a lake, there is another area that's been cordoned off,
and state police and the FBI have said definitely there is debris from
the plane located there. We have a crew on the way right now. We should
have pictures of that a little bit later on.
KAGAN: Which was first question, so I'll move on to my next one,
WE don't want to speculate about this large debris field. But it seems to me
from covering a number of plane crashes on the scene, that if nothing else,
this is not typical for a plane crash to be spread across an area this
CABELL: It's certainly doesn't make sense, because most of the
debris has been found in a very compact area, within 100 yards, 200 yards,
maybe a little bit beyond that. Then all of a sudden they're telling us
six miles away, they have another concentration of debris, very small
pieces. Most peoples here no bigger than the size of briefcase. The debris
six miles away may be smaller. We have talked to a number of individuals
here. They say they have talked to people who saw this plane during the
final moments. They haven't confirmed whether they saw -- whether they
talked to anybody who saw this plane actually land, or crash rather, and as
to whether it broke up on the way, we don't know that. The FBI being very
tight-lipped about that.
But again, at It leads to that possibility. It certainly leads to
a number of questions.
KAGAN: You mentioned they have yet to find the black box. It would
seems to me when you compare the four plane crashes of Tuesday, this would
be the site where they would be most likely to find a black box.
CABELL: That's what they told us initially, and I think they're
somewhat disappointed they haven't found it. It's been 48 hours, but they
are still hopeful they will find it. There is a pond nearby this particular
site. They may have to send divers into the pond. They haven't done that
yet, but conceivably, it could be in the pond, it could be anywhere, it
could be at this other debris side. They've also found some other debris
scattered around this area. They say in fact some individuals have been
collecting it. Again, we're talking about very, very tiny parts. The
biggest part they found at this site is an engine, an engine part,
and most of the other pieces are probably no bigger than this particular
So again, very small pieces. They had hoped to find the black box by now.
They're still voicing optimism they will find it." -
Investigators locate 'black box' from Flight 93; widen search area in
"Investigators this afternoon discovered
the "black box" containing flight data recordings from United Flight 93
at the crash site in rural Somerset County.
Pittsburgh FBI spokesman Bill Crowley said
the flight data recorder was found about 4:50 p.m. in the main crater at
the crash site, located near Shanksville. Crowley said he didn't know
whether the recorder was operable, or whether officials would be able to
gather information from it.
Finding the flight data recorder had been the focus of investigators as they
widened their search area today following the discoveries of more debris,
including what appeared to be human remains, miles from the point of impact
at a reclaimed coal mine.
Residents and workers at businesses outside Shanksville, Somerset County,
reported discovering clothing, books, papers and what appeared to be human
remains. Some residents said they collected bags-full of items to be
turned over to investigators. Others reported what appeared to be crash
debris floating in Indian Lake, nearly six miles from the immediate crash
Workers at Indian Lake Marina said that they saw a cloud of confetti-like
debris descend on the lake and nearby farms minutes after hearing the
explosion that signaled the crash at 10:06 a.m. Tuesday.
Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller said that, at the same time, the
first human remains have been removed from the site in a prelude to the
somber challenge of identifying the 45 victims of the crash.
Whether that search will yield usable information was one of the key
questions hanging over this stage of the investigation. If it does, it could
provide insight into what may have been a terrifying struggle between
hijackers and passengers that kept the Boeing 757 from hitting an intended
target in a populated area.
Cell phone calls from passengers have fueled the speculation about such a
scenario, along with the fact that this was the only one of the four
planes that crashed Tuesday that did not hit a populated, high-profile
He also said the National Transportation Safety Board has told investigators
that the plane, which began its flight in Newark, N.J., was flying east
when it crashed but could provide no other information about its path or
In a morning briefing, state Police Major Lyle Szupinka confirmed that
debris from the plane had turned up in relatively far-flung sites, including
the residential area of Indian Lake. Investigators appealed to any
residents who had come across such debris, in the surrounding countryside or
even in their yards, to contact them, emphasizing that even the smallest
remnants could prove to be important clues.
In response to a question on recurring rumors that the plane might have been
shot down, Crowley said that at this stage of the investigation, no
possibility was being ruled out. He stressed, however, that no evidence had
surfaced to support that theory.
Rep. John Murtha, D-Johnstown, noted and discounted the same speculation
here Tuesday, saying that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield had assured
him that the government had not shot down the hijacked plane to prevent it
from hitting a potential target." -
Pittsburg Post Gazette (09/13/01)
Passengers Thwarted Hijackers
"Evidence mounted Wednesday that the fate of
United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed into the cornfields of rural
Western Pennsylvania Tuesday, was determined by a group of passengers who
apparently attacked the plane's hijackers.
U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said Wednesday he has "no doubts"
passengers heroically struggled with terrorists to stop the plane from
reaching a target in Washington.
"I personally believe there was a struggle on that plane and some people
made a heroic effort to make sure that plane didn't hit a populated area,"
said Murtha, who served as an intelligence officer in the Vietnam War.
"I think those heroic people said to themselves, 'We know we are going to
die, so let's make sure they can't get to anyone else.'?"
Flight 93 was the only one of four hijacked planes Tuesday that did not
hit a major target. Two struck the World Trade Center's Twin Towers and
another hit the Pentagon. Flight 93 left Newark, N.J., at 8:01 a.m. headed
for San Francisco. It crashed about 10 a.m., roughly an hour or so after the
trade center was hit. All 45 on board were killed.
According to the news report, Glick told his wife the plane had been
taken over by three Middle Eastern men wearing red headbands. The
hijackers, wielding knives and brandishing a red box they claimed
contained a bomb, ordered the passengers, pilots and flight attendants
toward the rear of the plane, then took over the cockpit.
Bingham, a 31-year-old public relations executive, also said he plane had
been taken over by "three guys who say they have a bomb," said Hoglan,
who is a United Airlines flight attendant.
The accounts from these relatives, indicating possible turmoil in the
cockpit, dovetail with the account of one witness from the ground, who saw
the plan rollover shortly before the crash.
"It came in low over the trees and started wobbling," said Tim Thornsberg, a
resident of Somerset County, who was working near an old strip mine when he
saw the plane.
"Then it just rolled over and was flying upside down for a few seconds
... and then it kind of stalled and did a nose dive over the trees. It
was just unreal to see something like that."
Thornsberg has given his account to FBI agents.
These accounts refute speculation that the plane might have been shot down
to prevent another suicide attack on Washington -- a theory Rep. Murtha also
Charles Sturtz, who lives about a half-mile from the crash site, said he
saw the plane in the air for a few seconds, and saw no smoke, heard no
explosions before the crash and saw no other planes in the sky.
The plane was heading southeast he said, and had its engines running.
"It was really roaring, you know. Like it was trying to go someplace, I
guess, " the 53-year-old carpenter said.
Murtha said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told him directly the plane
not been shot down, and Westmoreland County Public Safety spokesman Dan
Stevens reacted strongly to such talk.
"No, that's false. That's false," Stevens said. "There was contact with the
plane through the whole thing and there's radio transmissions that people
could have been listening to that know what was going on. So that
information was not true."
The crash impact left a crater estimated to be 10-feet deep and 20-feet
wide. The site was still smoldering Wednesday afternoon and
investigators said "hot spots" caused by jet fuel had flared up in the early
morning hours. Small patches of smoke could be seen billowing into the
trees next to the crater." -
Pittsburgh 11 News (09/13/01)
Human remains recovered in Somerset
"Evidence collection teams late Wednesday
recovered the first recognizable human remains from the crash of United
Airlines Flight 93 in Somerset County.
High-ranking law enforcement officials confirmed that an arm and other
body parts from victims have been found by investigators who are combing
an abandoned strip mine in Stonycreek Township near Lambertsville.
Meanwhile, investigators also are combing a second crime scene in nearby
Indian Lake, where residents reported hearing the doomed jetliner flying
over at a low altitude before "falling apart on their homes."
"People were calling in and reporting pieces of plane falling," a
state trooper said.
Jim Stop reported he had seen the hijacked Boeing 757 fly over him as he
was fishing. He said he could see parts falling from the plane.
As yet, there have been no official reports of any human remains recovered
from the lake area.
The remains from the main crash site have been taken to a makeshift
morgue at the Pennsylvania National Guard Armory near the Somerset
County Airport. State police escorted a tractor-trailer truck into the back
of the armory late yesterday evening, according to a resident who lives
The lights were turned off briefly as the truck was directed to the rear
of the armory. A short time later, the lights were turned on as the police
cars and the truck left, said the man, who declined to be identified.
Investigators made the discovery while walking shoulder-to-shoulder in a
search that is expected to take as long as five weeks. The crash site has
been divided into grids where evidence collection teams will mark and
photograph every piece of debris and any human remains before anything is
removed from the location.
By late yesterday evening, the area surrounding the crash scene was
relatively quiet as federal investigators and state police, who had been
working since daybreak, changed shifts with colleagues assigned to guard the
area through the night.
State Police Lt. Col. Robert Hickes said there are 280 state troopers
protecting the crash site, which FBI investigators consider a crime
scene. Using horses and helicopters, state police have created a double
ring of security around the area that spans several miles.
Searchers still have not found the voice data recorder for the doomed
Investigators and the families of the dead wondered if the recorder had
captured a heroic tale of passengers turning on their hijackers, refusing to
go down without a fight.
Before the plane crashed Tuesday morning, killing all 45 on board,
several passengers called loved ones, telling them that their plane had been
hijacked and that their captors said they had a bomb. At least two of
the callers said they would fight back.
If they did, it makes the hunt for the so-called ``black box'' all the more
important, because it might tell why the aircraft -- apparently intended as
a jet-powered missile like those that smashed into the World Trade Center
towers and the Pentagon -- crashed into a previously insignificant field 80
miles southwest of Pittsburgh.
Some surmised that, upon learning the hijackers intended to slam the plane
into a significant structure in a much more populated area, some of the
passengers or crew gave their lives to ditch the plane.
The plane left Newark, N.J., bound for San Francisco about 8 a.m. But before
it reached Cleveland, it abruptly turned back east, losing altitude and
flying erratically across Pennsylvania, veering toward Maryland and
CNN reported obtaining a partial transcript of chatter from the plane
recorded by air traffic controllers as the jetliner approached Cleveland.
The network said tower workers heard someone in the cockpit shout, "Get out
of here,'' through an open microphone.
A second transmission from the plane is heard amid sounds of scuffling with
someone again yelling, "Get out of here.''
Next to be heard is a voice saying:
"There is a bomb on board. This is the captain speaking. Remain in your
seat. There is a bomb on board. Stay quiet. We are meeting with their
demands. We are returning to the airport.''
CNN said an unidentified source who heard the tape claimed that transmission
was of a voice speaking in broken English. The microphone then went dead,
United spokeswoman Liz Meagher had no comment on the transcript.
"Somebody made a heroic effort to keep the plane from hitting a populated
area,'' said Rep. John Murtha, a Johnstown Democrat. "I would conclude there
was a struggle and a heroic individual decided 'I'm going to die anyway; I
might as well bring the plane down here.'''
Murtha said finding the cockpit voice recorder might tell the tale of what
happened on Flight 93. But after touring the site yesterday, he said he has
his doubts it will be found, given that the plane was pulverized into a
10-foot-deep V-shaped gouge." -
Pittsburg Tribune-Review (09/13/01)
Victims Remembered As Black Box Search Resumes
"Volunteers led a prayer service Friday as investigators resumed searching
for United Flight 93's second "black box" at a Somerset County crash site.
Bill Crowley of the FBI's Pittsburgh branch said that a box which records
flight data was recovered from the crater left by Tuesday's terrorist
hijacking and fatal crash in Somerset County, Pa. The item was taken to
Washington, D.C. for analysis by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Crowley said investigation was suspended Thursday night to give federal
and state investigators, forensic anthropologists and other scientists
some time to rest. They returned to the heavily guarded area Friday and
continued searching mapped-out 20-by-20-foot grids.
A light rain fell Thursday night and Friday morning. Crowley said that may
turn out to be a good thing, because it may help settle the massive
amounts of dust that were created when the plane crashed.
The dust had risen in clouds, then settled and covered much of the evidence.
As a result, search crews have had difficulty determining the actual depth
of the crater.
Crowley said a robotic helicopter developed by Carnegie Mellon University in
Pittsburgh had not been used to find the black box. The copter, which can
create 3-D color images of the terrain, may be used at some point in the
search, Crowley said.
WTAE's Jim Parsons reported Wednesday that debris had been found miles
off-site and removed by non-search party members. Crowley confirmed
that debris was found in New Baltimore, Pa., which is 8 miles away from the
crash scene, as well as Indian Lake, which is 2 1/2 miles away from the
NTSB officials said the debris in New Baltimore is probably from the crash,
according to Crowley.
The debris found in New Baltimore include paper and nylon, Crowley
said. He said that the items are lightweight and can easily be carried by
wind. At the time of the crash, there was wind speed of 9 knots per
hour heading to the southeast, where both Indian Lake and New Baltimore
Jim Brant, owner of Indian Lake Marina, said he rushed outside Tuesday
morning when he heard the roar of jet engines overhead, then saw a fireball
rise into the air. The wind was strong that morning, Brant said, and
within minutes debris from the crash was "falling like confetti."
Also on Thursday, the Pennsylvania State Police arrested two photographers
for breach of security. A police officer said that two stringers from New
York City were given permission to take pictures of one portion of the crash
scene, but they went into a restricted area and immediately were arrested.
State Police Maj. Lyle Szupinka said anyone who took debris would be
prosecuted if the evidence is not returned.
United Airlines has set up a command post in the lodge of the ski resort,
about 40 miles southeast of Pittsburgh and 25 miles west of the crash site.
A morgue has been established at the Pennsylvania National Guard Armory
in Friedens, Pa., about 10 miles southwest of the crash site. Experts
from as far away as Texas will help identify the bodies, using X-ray and DNA
and dental analysis.
The equipment was hauled to the armory in a tractor-trailer. The equipment
includes high-tech mortuary equipment.
WTAE's Ellen Gamble reported that the nation's airlines reopened Thursday on
a limited basis.
The FAA ban was lifted at 11 a.m. Planes were taking off from Pittsburgh
International Airport at 12:18 p.m. Partial domestic service is to resume by
Data box found from
plane downed in Pa.
"Federal investigators yesterday found the flight data recorder of
the hijacked plane that crashed near Pittsburgh, a discovery that could
yield important clues in understanding the plane's final moments.
The other so-called black box, the cockpit voice recorder, still hasn't
been found. But the recovery of the data recorder, which contains
information on the mechanical workings of the jet, shows that the
investigation of the Pennsylvania crash has advanced far beyond the
inquiries for the three other planes that were hijacked Tuesday.
Of the four crashes, this was the only one that occurred outside a
As the authorities piece together the story of United Airlines Flight 93,
which reportedly tore into a southwestern Pennsylvania field at a 45-degree
There have been rumors that the plane was shot down by the military, which
the Pentagon has vehemently denied. But the FBI is investigating eyewitness
reports that an F-16 fighter jet was flying near Flight 93, Newsday
A congressional aide who attended a briefing in Washington yesterday by
Federal Aviation Administration head Jane Garvey confirmed that the Defense
Department was watching the flight, but did not say whether a fighter jet
"It dug a deep crater, so it had to be coming in at a steep angle. I
think at that point, somebody was struggling with the hijackers, and nobody
really had control of that plane,'' said Barnes McCormick, a pilot and an
aeronautical engineering professor emeritus at Pennsylvania State
recovered at Shanksville site
"Federal investigators hope the flight data
recorder recovered from United Airlines Flight 93 will reveal what caused
the Boeing 757 jetliner to crash into an abandoned Somerset County strip
mine in a deadly sequence of terrorist attacks.
FBI Agent William Crowley announced Thursday afternoon that investigators
using heavy equipment found the recorder in a crater at the crash site
near Lambertsville in Stonycreek Township.
Searchers yesterday also found one of the
hijacked jetliner’s engines. But by evening, the cockpit voice recorder
had not been recovered.
Crowley confirmed that there were two other
aircraft within 25 miles of the United flight that were heading east when
it crashed, scattering debris over 8 miles.
Crowley said the recorders from Flight 93
did not send out any emissions. It was discovered by an “integrated
search team” of state police and federal investigators using heavy equipment
to unearth the device from the crater cut into the ground on impact.
A passenger, Mark Bingham, 31, of San
Francisco, Calif., was able to call Westmoreland County 911 and tell a
communications officer that the plane had been hijacked and the terrorists
had a bomb.
There was a sound of an explosion before 911 lost contact with Bingham.
Forensic archaeologists and anthropologists
were among experts who came to the site yesterday to aid investigators in
searching the wide debris field to help retrieve potential evidence and
Crowley said the FBI and NTSB have not determined whether a bomb exploded
inside the aircraft before it crashed. Residents of nearby Indian Lake
reported seeing debris falling from the jetliner as it overflew the area
shortly before crashing.
State police Maj. Lyle Szupinka said
investigators also will be searching a pond behind the crash site looking
for the other recorder and other debris. If necessary, divers may be brought
in to assist search teams, or the pond may be drained, he said.
Szupinka said searchers found one of the large engines from the aircraft
“at a considerable distance from the crash site.”
“It appears to be the whole engine,” he added.
Szupinka said most of the remaining debris, scattered over a
perimeter that stretches for several miles, are in pieces no bigger than
“If you were to go down there, you wouldn’t
know that was a plane crash,” he continued. “You would look around and
say, ‘I wonder what happened here?’ The first impression looking around you
wouldn’t say, ‘Oh, looks like a plane crash. The debris is very, very small.
“The best I can describe it is if you’ve ever been to a commercial
landfill. When it’s covered and you have papers flying around. You have
papers blowing around and bits and pieces of shredded metal. That’s probably
about the best way to describe that scene itself.” -
Will black box reveal Flight 93's last moments?
"Search crews yesterday found the flight data recorder about 4:45 p.m.
at the hilltop crash site outside Shanksville, Somerset County. It was in
a crater gouged by the plane when it crashed Tuesday morning. The box
was turned over to the National Transportation Safety Board. Officials on
the scene would not say whether the box was intact.
Following a tour of the crash site Wednesday,
investigators and U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Johnstown, noted that one or both
of the boxes might have been crushed by the impact of the crash or
incinerated by the jet fuel-fed inferno it ignited.
Also in the tail section is the flight data
recorder, which monitors airplane functions such as speed, heading,
altitude and the position of directional surfaces such as the rudder,
elevators and flaps." -
Flight Data Recorder Is Found at Pa. Site
Federal Investigator Says Military Was Not
Involved in United Airlines Crash
"Investigators uncovered the flight data
recorder today from the crater left here by United Airlines Flight 93, a
discovery that could provide the first solid evidence into what happened on
board before it crashed.
Investigators also found small pieces of wreckage today as far as eight
miles from the southwestern Pennsylvania crash site -- much farther than
Crowley declined to comment on the possible significance of the widely
dispersed wreckage and said investigators have not ruled out the possibility
of an explosion. He did, however, comment on questions as to whether the
military was involved in the crash.
"There was no military involvement in what happened here," he said. He
also said there were two other planes within 25 miles of the United flight
when it crashed but said neither was involved.
The first refrigerated truck of human remains recovered from the crash site
arrived today at a makeshift morgue at the Pennsylvania National Guard
Armory about 15 miles away.
Dennis Dirkmaat, a forensic pathologist from Mercyhurst College in Erie,
Pa., said the remains had suffered "extreme fragmentation" and most would
have to be identified through DNA analysis. He said experts also would
use dental records, X-rays, and fingerprints and footprints.
Only small pieces of the plane were found at the crash site, an old
coal strip mine surrounded by farms and some homes. "If you were to go down
there and you did not know this was a plane crash you would say, 'I wonder
what happened here,' " said Maj. Lyle Szupinka of the Pennsylvania State
Police. "The debris is very, very small."
One of the Boeing 757's engines, nearly intact, was recovered, but
aside from that, the largest piece of debris was no larger than a briefcase,
Witnesses have said they saw an intact plane with wobbling wings that dipped
to the right before it nose-dived into the ground.
Linda Shepley, 47, of Stoystown, Pa., said she saw the plane fly over her
back yard as she hung laundry on her clothesline. "I could see there was
no landing gear down," she said.
Witnesses also reported seeing another plane pass above the crash site
shortly after Flight 93 went down.
Robert Blair, 41, also of Stoystown, was driving his coal-hauling
route when he saw the plane crash a few miles away. He noticed the second
plane because he had heard on his truck radio earlier that the FAA had
grounded all aircraft, and he said it was flying east -- the same
direction as Flight 93. He said the FBI asked him whether it looked
like a military plane, but Blair remembered only that it was "a big
jet flying low."
Crowley said tiny pieces of debris were found in a residential area near
New Baltimore, about eight miles away. He said it would not be unusual
for light debris such as paper and thin nylon to blow that far
because the wind was blowing in that direction when the plane crashed.
A layer of dirt and dust has settled on the crash site, further hampering
the search for plane debris and remains, Szupinka said.
Reporters and photographers have been driven by bus to the crash site but
are kept several hundred yards from the crater.
Pennsylvania State Police said they arrested two free-lance photographers
from New York this afternoon after a trooper saw them trying to enter the
cordoned-off crash site. The FBI's twice-daily briefings have become
increasingly controlled. One agent said any details concerning the
criminal investigation are "very tightly controlled by the attorney general
and even higher." -
Washington Post (09/14/01)
Second Black Box Found At Somerset Site; Governor Leads Vigil
"The cockpit voice recorder from the hijacked United Flight 93 that
crashed in Somerset County was found late Friday, WTAE-TV's Mike
It was found at 8:25 p.m., about 25 feet within the crater created by
the crash, according to FBI spokeswoman Linda Vizi.
It was sent to the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington.
FBI spokesman Bill Crowley said the recorder appears to be "in fairly good
shape," citing descriptions by those who found it.
On Thursday, the flight data recorder was found. It notes speed,
altitude, engine activity and how other aircraft systems are operating.
The voice recorder is designed to capture at least the last 30 minutes of
The Boeing 757 went down Tuesday in rural Shanksville, after leaving Newark,
N.J., for San Francisco. Radar showed the plane on route and heading over
Cleveland when it abruptly turned back east, began losing altitude and
flying erratically toward Maryland before it crashed.
Teams of federal and state investigators, as well as forensic
anthropologists and other scientists, continue combing 20-by-20-foot grids
at the heavily guarded Somerset County site.
Santorum said there is no indication of the plane having been shot down.
"From what we've observed on the ground, there was no airplane debris
subsequent to the crash site," said Santorum.
He said that it confirmed the FBI's observation that there wasn't a
Santorum said that the plane was flying at a low altitude, 7,000 feet, and
at a high rate of speed, 450 mph.
He said, based on the reports, a plane flying that low and fast could crash
with a slight alteration.
Mystery Plane Revealed?
There has been speculation about a plane seen near the site of the
Somerset County crash on Tuesday.
On Friday, WTAE-TV reported that the mystery pilot in the white plane may
have been an area farmer.
James K. Will, a Berlin, Pa., farmer who pilots a white Cessna with red
stripes (pictured at right) and who has an airstrip near his farm, told Team
4 reporter Paul Van Osdol that he circled the scene about 45 minutes
after the crash.
Will said he had just returned from Altoona and, when he'd heard about the
crash, flew to the site to take photos of the wreckage. Pennsylvania State
Police said that his plane may have been the one that many saw.
Will's flight was intercepted by a state police helicopter and was escorted
to the Johnstown-area airport. His plane was searched and he was released.
However, the presence of a military plane has still not been ruled out.
Van Osdol cited discrepencies in relation to the color and the timing of
the mystery plane.
Witnesses said the plane was only white and that it was spotted within 10
minutes of the crash." -
Flight 93 crash shook his house like a tornado
"His windows all are shattered and blown out
of their frames, his garage door has disappeared and his ceilings have
crumbled and fallen onto floor tiles that have been blasted loose from their
He's not sure when he'll be able to return to what's left of the once-cozy
stone cottage nestled in a thick stand of trees with a view of the
sun-dappled cornfields below and the rolling hills beyond. But Barry
Hoover said his sorrow at seeing his home nearly destroyed is dwarfed by
his grief and sympathy for the 45 people who died Tuesday when United
Airlines Flight 93 slammed into the hilltop that he calls home.
No people on the ground were killed in that crash. But the shock waves
set off by the impact of that crash heavily damaged Hoover's home, which
lies, literally, a stone's throw from the crater gouged into the earth by
the doomed plane.
"Obviously, I was upset when I saw my house. Who wouldn't be?" said Hoover,
34, whose home off Lambertsville Road is believed to be the local structure
most seriously damaged by the crash. "But you know, it's a house and there's
nothing there that can't be replaced. The people who died can't be
Hoover, who was at work at a lumber yard 10 miles away in Somerset when the
Boeing 757 crashed Tuesday morning, said he rushed home after friends
telephoned him and told him they believed the plane came down dangerously
close to his property.
Already jumpy and heartsick from news reports he'd heard about the morning's
other plane crashes at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Hoover said
he didn't realize at first that the downed plane near his home was also an
airliner and that its fall from the sky was linked to those other
Wreckage was still burning and emergency workers were still speeding to the
scene when Hoover neared his house. While it was still standing, every
window and door had been blown off and obliterated, its ceilings and floor
tiles had been blasted loose and much of the interior was wrecked.
"It looked like what you see after a tornado or hurricane goes through -- a
total ruin," he said.
Hoover spent a few minutes unsuccessfully searching for his cat, Woody, but
then walked back outside because he was afraid the house might collapse on
him. Police then told him he'd have to leave because the house was
considered to be part of the crash crime scene.
He hasn't been permitted to return or retrieve belongings since then, so
he's been staying in a Somerset hotel and making do with newly purchased or
borrowed clothes and toiletries. But he said he understands why the FBI and
state police have barred him from his home and property and doesn't mind
staying away until their work is finished there. -
Flight 93 voice recorder found in Somerset County crash site
"Investigators last night found the cockpit voice recorder from United
Flight 93, a discovery that could help authorities determine what
happened in the final seconds before the hijacked Boeing 757 crashed in
The cockpit voice recorder, one of two
black boxes aboard the plane, was found 25 feet below ground in the
crater created when the plane struck the ground in Stonycreek.
FBI spokesman Bill Crowley said the recorder was found about 8:25 p.m.
and was being flown to the National Transportation Safety Board offices in
The plane's other black box, the flight data recorder, which records
information about the aircraft's speed, altitude, position and other
information, was found in roughly the same spot on Thursday.
It was not known how soon investigators would
learn whether the recorder survived the crash and if so, when anything might
be obtained from the device, which records conversations and radio
transmissions from the plane's cockpit.
"It appeared to the investigators to be in fairly good condition,"
The jetliner went down Tuesday in rural
Shanksville, after leaving Newark, N.J., for San Francisco. Radar showed the
plane on route and heading over Cleveland when it abruptly turned back east,
began losing altitude and flying erratically toward Maryland before it
Setback over Pittsburgh black box
"The cockpit voice recorder recovered from the
crash site of the hijacked airliner which came down in Pennsylvania has been
sent to the manufacturer to try to extract information.
Federal Bureau of Investigation officials had hoped to gain valuable clues
into how the hijackers took over United Airlines Flight 93, saying the
recorder had been found in "fairly good condition."
However, initial attempts to extract information from the tapes have proved
fruitless, and the unit has been sent to the manufacturer, a Justice
Department official told reporters in Washington.
Investigators had hoped that the recorder from
the Pennsylvania crash might yield the most clues, as it was the only one
from the four downed airliners which was not subjected to a prolonged fire.
All 45 passengers and crew members on board Flight 93 that took off
from Newark, New Jersey, bound for San Francisco were killed.
Investigators hoped that the voice recorder, and the data recorder,
recovered a day earlier, could reveal whether passengers tried to gain
control of the airliner before it crashed.
Black boxes - an aircraft's flight data
recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorder (CVR) - are two of the most
important contributions to air safety since the beginning of the era of
The data collection devices - which are actually orange - are mounted in the
tail of an aircraft.
Under internationally agreed regulations, commercial aircraft must carry the
equipment to record the performance and the condition of the aircraft in
The recorders are housed in immensely strong
materials, such as titanium, and insulated to withstand a crash impact many
times the force of gravity and temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees
The recording material is itself insulated against accidental deletion.
Modern black boxes record up to 300 factors of flight including:
* speed and altitude
* aircraft pitch
* cockpit conversations
* radio communications." -
FBI Explains Other Planes At Flight 93 Crash
"Hoping to dispel rumors that United Airlines
Flight 93 might have been shot down by military aircraft, the FBI
Saturday said that two other planes were in the area but had nothing to
do with the hijacked flight crashing in western Pennsylvania.
The FBI said that a civilian business jet
flying to Johnstown was within 20 miles of the low-flying airliner, but at
an altitude of 37,000 feet.
That plane was asked to descend to 5,000 feet -- an unusual maneuver
-- to help locate the crash site for responding emergency crews.
The FBI said that is probably why some witnesses say they saw another
plane in the sky shortly after Flight 93 crashed at 10:10 a.m. Tuesday
in a grassy field near Shanksville, about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
The FBI said there was also a C-130
military cargo aircraft about 17 miles away that saw smoke or dust near the
crash site, but that plane wasn't armed and had no role in the crash.
That plane was flying at 24,000 feet.
Earlier in the week, witnesses described seeing more planes to WTAE-TV
reporters. Click here for video of those accounts.
On Friday, WTAE-TV reported that the mystery pilot in the white plane may
have been an area farmer.
James K. Will, a Berlin, Pa., farmer who
pilots a white Cessna with red stripes (pictured at right) and who has
an airstrip near his farm, told Team 4 reporter Paul Van Osdol that he
circled the scene about 45 minutes after the crash.
Will said he had just returned from Altoona and, when he'd heard about
the crash, flew to the site to take photos of the wreckage. Pennsylvania
State Police said that his plane may have been the one that many saw.
Will's flight was intercepted by a state police helicopter and was escorted
to the Johnstown-area airport. His plane was searched and he was released."
Another Hijacked 9/11 Plane Threatened D.C.; Officials Saw Few Options
"On the ground in Shanksville, Pa., Assistant
Volunteer Fire Chief Rick King, the proprietor of Ida's Country Store, was
talking by phone with his sister Jody about the New York and Washington
He recalled: "She said to me, 'Rick, I hear a plane,' and I said, 'Yeah,'
and she said, 'It's really loud.'"
Just outside Shanksville, Valencia McClatchey was startled by the noise
and looked out her window to catch a glimpse of "a reflection of the sun
hitting on something."
"I could hear the engines screaming," King said. "Seconds later it hit, and
I remember, the ground just shook. Everything underneath my feet just
"It almost jolted me to the point of losing my balance," McClatchey said.
She grabbed her camera and snapped a photo of what she saw.
"It was very startling against the clear blue sky to see that, a huge ball
of smoke coming up," McClatchey said.
Shanksville Fire Chief Terry Shaffer called the local 911 center and
headed for the scene, where he recalled "a smell that you'll never forget
— a smell of jet fuel, burned flesh."
"Pulling into the crash site, I remember just seeing vehicles everywhere,
firefighters' vehicles, other fire department vehicles, just a lot of
confusion," Shaffer said.
"When I got there," King said, "I wondered to myself, 'What is
it?' … The plane was just totally disintegrated.
"After about the first five or 10 minutes, we realized that we didn't
have any survivors," King added.
Soon, Wallace Miller, the Somerset County coroner, arrived.
"You could see all kinds of stuff hanging out of the trees, like socks
and pieces of suitcase, and luggage, and seat covers and seat belts,"
"The only thing we didn't see were people," King said.
"Nothing to indicate that there was even anybody on the plane,"
Miller said." -
ABC (09/15/01) (Wayback)
2 planes had no part in crash of Flight 93
Business jet, military cargo plane were in
area of hijacked United Flight 93
"Two other airplanes were flying near the
hijacked United Airlines jet when it crashed in Somerset County, but
neither had anything to do with the airliner's fate, the FBI said yesterday.
In fact, one of the planes, a Fairchild Falcon 20 business jet, was
directed to the crash site to help rescuers. The request for the jet to fly
low and obtain the coordinates for the crash explains reports by people in
the vicinity who said a white or silver jet flew by moments after the crash.
A C-130 military cargo plane was also within 25 miles of the
passenger jet when it crashed, FBI spokesman Bill Crowley said yesterday,
but was not diverted.
"There was a hole in the ground -- that was it," said Yates Caldwell, the
pilot who was at the controls of the 10-passenger corporate jet for
Greensboro, N.C.-based apparel maker VF Corp. "There was no way to know what
it was .... I didn't know there had been a crash until I landed, until I was
on the ground in Johnstown."
The voice recorder would have picked up the last 30 minutes of
conversation in the cockpit, unless the hijackers turned it off or it was
too severely damaged in the crash. It was found around 8:25 p.m.
Thursday, 25 feet below the ground in the crater gouged out by the
doomed jet. It appeared to be in good condition.
Debris from the crash has been found up to 8 miles from the crash site,
but searchers are concentrating on the crater where most of the remains are
located. Papers and other light objects were carried aloft by the explosion
after impact of the plane and they were transported by a nine-knot wind.
Crowley said investigators have found no evidence of a bomb.
According to news reports, a crew member keyed a cockpit microphone so that
air traffic controllers could hear conversations. One voice, in broken
English and Arabic accent said, "There is a bomb on board."
One part of the recovery effort involves about 100 volunteers from the
federal Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team. The team includes
specialists such as anthropologists, pathologists, radiologists, and
dentists who have been trained in disaster recovery procedures.
The team, led by Paul Sledzik of the Armed Forces Institute of Technology,
set up and began working on Friday.
As agents find items -- bones, jewelry, clothing -- they
hand-deliver them to deputy coroners stationed at the perimeter of the
crime scene. The deputies deliver the items to a temporary morgue.
Each unique item is numbered, photographed, X-rayed, and described in
writing. Items are separated by categories and sent to stations of
Although the items collected are "extremely fragmentary," Dirkmaat said,
he is 100 percent certain that individuals will be identified. So far,
none have been identified.
As remains and personal affects are identified, that information will be
turned over to Somerset Coroner Wallace Miller. He will work with
families to determine what becomes of the remains.
Miller said it might take quite some time before remains are identified. DNA
evidence, he said, will be one of the most useful tools. But the labs
capable of analyzing that evidence will be overwhelmed by DNA evidence from
the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Families will be taken to the viewing area over the next few days. They will
not be allowed at the crater itself, because that is still considered a
crime scene. State police, the FBI and United Airline officials plan to keep
the families away from reporters, "to ensure their privacy once they get
there," Capt. Frank Monaco said.
More than 200 people are working at the site, from the FBI, Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, National Transportation Safety Board, Federal
Aviation Administration, Pennsylvania State Police, Pennsylvania
Emergency Management Agency, and local volunteer fire departments.
Cooler weather has made the work a bit easier. Searchers are wearing
Hazmat suits that are sealed." -
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (09/16/01)
Somerset Crash Site
other investigators at the scene have excavated the crash site down to a
depth of about 45 feet looking for clues. Digging a trench that deep
requires special care to avoid cave-ins and constant monitoring to ensure
any fumes from soil contaminated with jet fuel and hydraulic fluid do not
present a hazard to emergency workers." -
Bound by fate,
determination; The final hours of the passengers aboard S.F.-bound Flight 93
"Marcin took her seat on a jetliner that
was practically empty. Just 37 passengers had tickets on a plane that could
hold about 200.
Los Gatos native Todd Beamer, 32, had just come back last Monday night
from a week in Italy with his wife, Lisa, to their home in Cranbury,
N.J. But there was no time to rest -- Beamer had to catch Flight 93 to
make a meeting of sales representatives at Oracle Corp. headquarters in
Deora Bodley, 20, was eager to start her junior year at Santa Clara
University after visiting friends in Newark. She was supposed to take
United Flight 91, but decided the night before to take one an hour earlier
so she could get home sooner to her family and boyfriend, Ryan Lindow.
"They had changed the gate, and she didn't hear it because she had her
headphones on, listening to music," Vera Lindow said. In the end, she
decided to go to Newark because she didn't want to stand up her old friends.
Like Bodley, Thomas Burnett was leaving New Jersey early to be with
his family. The 38-year-old San Ramon resident was supposed to have flown
out that afternoon on Delta, but switched to Flight 93 to get home to
his wife, Deena, and their three daughters.
Jeremy Glick, a 31-year-old New Jersey resident who worked for a San
Francisco Internet company, had been booked on a flight the night before,
but it was canceled.
Nicole Miller's flight last Monday had also been canceled. The
21-year-old college student and waitress at a Chili's in San Jose had gone
back East at the urging of her boyfriend, who wanted her with him when he
visited his family. Because she had agreed to go at the last minute,
Miller and her boyfriend had to make return reservations on different
Mark Bingham, 31, was also supposed to have flown to San Francisco last
Monday. But he hadn't recovered sufficiently from the 30th birthday
celebration of his roommate in Manhattan, so he decided to wait until
He overslept a 6 a.m. alarm and just made his flight when his friend
Matt Hall of Denville, N.J., rushed through traffic to get him there.
Hall remembered the 6-foot-5 Bingham running to the terminal. The
former rugby star at the University of California at Berkeley was lugging
his old team canvas bag, emblazoned with his name and number. Flying on a
companion pass from his aunt, a flight attendant, Bingham was the last to
Driving to work, Hall got a call from Bingham to say he had made the
flight and was sitting in seat 4D in first class.
No one had an inkling about the attack on New York's World Trade Center. The
first plane hit the North Tower at 8:45 a.m. EDT. Twenty minutes later, the
South Tower was struck. At 9:39 a.m., a third plane smashed into the
Pentagon -- and Flight 93 suddenly made a U-turn.
Air traffic control picked up a transmission from the San Francisco-bound
flight as it neared Cleveland. A stuck microphone revealed something
wrong in the cockpit. "Get out of here," controllers heard.
The microphone cut off but then came back on, with the sounds of an apparent
scuffle. "Get out of here!" someone yelled.
Eventually, a man speaking in broken English announced: "There is a bomb
on board. This is the captain speaking. Remain in your seat. There is a bomb
on board. Stay quiet. We are meeting with their demands. We are returning to
The captain, Jason Dahl, found himself under siege.
Dahl, 43, who lived in Littleton, Colo., with wife Sandy and 15-year-old son
Matthew, had tried the day before to find another pilot for Flight 93
so he could spend time with his family.
With no takers, Dahl called his mother in San Jose on Monday night
to let her know he would be flying in and would have time to visit her
The four men who are suspected of having hijacked the plane had trained for
years, authorities believe, learning to fly, practicing martial arts and
procuring some of the information they needed over the Internet.
Passengers saw men with red headbands, holding a red box that they said
contained a bomb. They were armed with ceramic knives and box cutters.
Minutes after the plane turned, passengers and a flight attendant called the
outside world to tell authorities and family members of the unfolding
When Tom Burnett phoned his wife, Deena, she was getting their twin
daughters ready for school.
When Tom phoned Tuesday morning, he spoke quickly but quietly.
"I'm on the airplane. They've already knifed a guy. Call the authorities,"
Tom told his wife over his cell phone.
Deena called 911 and was patched through to the FBI. A few minutes later,
Tom's second call came through.
"They are talking about flying the airplane into the ground," Tom
said to his wife, who in turn told him what she knew about the two jets that
had slammed into the World Trade Center towers.
Tom asked several questions. Suddenly, he had to go.
Tom called back to tell her the man who had been stabbed, possibly the
pilot, was dead.
Deena, a former flight attendant, remembered her own training and
urged Tom to keep a low profile. "Please sit down and don't call attention
to yourself," she begged.
He refused. In his final call, he told her that he and two other passengers
had decided to act rather than face certain death. "We're going to try to do
something," he said.
Jeremy Glick called his wife, Lyzbeth, who was staying with her parents in
upstate New York.
Glick asked whether there had been such an attack. His wife hesitated, then
told him. In the ensuing 20-minute conversation, he calmed his wife as best
he could, joking that he and his fellow passengers might assault the
hijackers with butter knives from the in-flight breakfast.
Lyzbeth's mother, JoAnne Makely, got on the cell phone with 911, and with
state troopers taking down information, Glick described the hijackers and
mulled over the situation. The troopers asked whether the plane was over
water, was it banking, could he see anything below.
Lyzbeth's father, Richard Makely, said the call ended when the 6-foot-4
Jeremy told his wife about the plan to "jump the hijackers."
About the same time, Todd Beamer was on an Airphone to a GTE supervisor.
He, nine other passengers and five flight attendants had been herded to the
back of the plane, said Beamer's friend Doug MacMillan, who heard a
transcript of the call. The rest of the passengers were in first class.
The pilot and co- pilot had been taken from the cockpit and were nowhere to
"It doesn't seem like they know how to fly the plane," Beamer said of the
His group was being guarded by a man who claimed to have explosives
strapped to his midsection. Beamer, a basketball and baseball player in
college and a take-charge guy, said he thought he and the others could "jump
the terrorist with the bomb."
In the background, the supervisor could hear screaming. But Beamer's
voice never wavered.
Beamer, a devout Christian, and the GTE supervisor recited the Lord's
Prayer. He made the supervisor promise she would call his wife, who is
five months' pregnant, and his sons Andrew, 3, and David, 1. He wanted them
to know he loved them dearly and that he didn't think he'd make it.
Beamer dropped the phone and was heard saying: "God help me. Jesus
help me. Are you ready? Let's roll."
At the Beamer home, the phone rang twice, stopped, then moments later, rang
"When I picked it up, it was dead air," Lisa Beamer said. "I feel
fairly confident that it was Todd. It would be on his mind to call me, to
At her parents' house, Lyzbeth Glick couldn't stand it anymore and handed
the phone to her father.
"I'm waiting, hoping Jeremy or somebody will come back and say it worked,"
Richard Makely recalled. The silence lasted two minutes, then there was
screaming. More silence, followed by more screams.
Finally, there was a mechanical sound, followed by nothing. The family held
the phone line open for two hours.
Then, at 9:58 a.m., a Westmoreland County emergency dispatcher fielded a
call from a passenger barricaded inside a bathroom aboard Flight 93: "We're
Authorities have assumed Flight 93 was heading for a Washington landmark
such as the White House or the Capitol. President Bush had given the
military the order to shoot down any plane headed into the city.
Shortly after 10 a.m., workers on farms and scrap yards in Somerset County
looked up to see an airliner flying low and erratic at an estimated 450 mph.
Bob Blair of Stoystown was driving a coal truck on state Route 30
when he saw the jet plummet "straight down." Barn windowpanes for
half a mile around shattered as the jet dived into a reclaimed strip
mine and exploded at 10:10 a. m.
"I just watched with my mouth open as this yellow mushroom cloud rose up
just like an atomic bomb over the hill where I like to go hunting," said
72- year-old John Walsh.
Barefoot and in his bathrobe, he drove up the dirt road to rescue anyone he
could find. There would be nothing he could do.
Debris, including photographs and other papers that survived the
fireball, was strewn over a wide area. Residents have spent days
Among the remnants may be the treasured family photos and records that Hilda
Marcin packed for her trip. She had carefully swathed them with clothes in
The toll of terror Estimates of casualties as
Dead: 44" -
Local WTC Survivor Describes Escape
"Workers Search 30 Feet Into Crash Crater
One week after United Flight 93 crashed in Somerset County, workers
continued to search through the debris in hope of finding answers to why the
plane, allegedly on target for Washington, D.C., fell to earth in
Workers have now gone 30 feet into the crater created by Flight 93
and are finding larger pieces of debris. Originally, all that could
be seen were tiny pieces of evidence that the plane went down Sept. 11
in the rural community near Shanksville, Pa.
Last week, the largest items found were no bigger than a briefcase.
Even though workers have been searching for about a week, officials said
that the work is still weeks away from completion." -
Support of strangers in Somerset County a boost to survivors of Flight 93
"Earlier reports put the number of people aboard the plane at 45, but
United officials said one passenger apparently had purchased two tickets and
had been counted twice.
The area surrounding the impact was barely recognizable as a crash site in
the first day or two after the attack. Yesterday, the impact crater was
flanked by mounds of excavated dirt and heavy equipment. As clouds
gathered, workers draped the new hills of dirt in blue and yellow tarps
as protection against the threat of rain.
FBI spokesman William Crowley said that rain would not halt operations but
could complicate tasks such as sifting the material removed from the crater.
The excavated area within the wedge-shaped crater is now some 30 feet
deep, and Crowley said investigators did not plan to go much deeper.
He said that about 80 percent of the immediate crash site had been searched
but emphasized that that was not suggesting that the work here was 80
Recovery experts believe that the remaining 20 percent may yield an
increasing concentration of evidence, human remains and effects.
As investigators have delved deeper below the impact point the material
unearthed has become increasingly larger and more recognizable than the
extremely fragmented debris found nearer the surface.
Crowley would not be more specific about the size or nature of any newly
found items , but said, "As they go deeper, they're finding material
that's more significant, I'll leave it at that."
In the investigation of a normal plane crash, the National Transportation
Safety Board will often attempt to reconstruct a fallen aircraft from the
recovered parts. As this is a criminal investigation, however, the NTSB will
not attempt to piece together the Boeing 757 unless the FBI, the lead investigative agency, asks them to. Crowley said his agency had not asked for a
reconstruction effort up to this point.
"If it becomes of investigative interest, we will," he said." -
Their own words #2: Tom Fallon
From: Tom Fallon [email@example.com]
Sent: Thur 09/13/01 10:01 a.m.
To: Lorraine Mutschler [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Subject: My God. What happened?
"By pure chance, I was passing within several hundred yards of the crash on
Lambertsville Road less than a minute after it happened. An hysterical
housewife, running from her house, flagged me down, pointed in the direction
of the crash and screamed, "My God. What happened?"
Looking to my left I saw an enormous ball of smoke rising from the ground.
I couldn't envision a giant airplane crashing in our remote part of the
world and presumed it was an equipment blowup.
Trying to get to the source of the smoke, I joined dozens of others in
pickup trucks who told me a plane had crashed. Like the others, I kept
circling the area until it dawned on me to go to the source of all local
knowledge, the Grines Brothers' Garage in nearby Shanksville.
Sure enough, the Grines boys had watched the plane and informed me that it
was surely hijacked because they heard about a 911 cell phone call from the
I rushed back to the scene, but too late, the road was blocked.
A good friend, farmer Joe Klotz with his wonderful wife, Janie, lives on
Lambertsville Road about a half-mile from the crash. When the explosion
rocked his house, Joe rushed to the ghastly crash site. From the hill above,
he looked down on the horrible scene. Joe couldn't look for long and turned
He told me of a strange coincidence. Friends of his, Kathy and Jack
Blades, have a beautiful cabin sitting in the woods only about 350 feet from
the wreckage. Joe was greatly concerned because Kathy's husband, Jack,
had just survived 21 days in intensive care in Montefiore Hospital in
Suffering from gallstones and pancreatitis, Jack had just yesterday
returned to Montefiore Hospital when the giant plane created a monstrous
crater in front of their cabin.
As Loretta was getting out of her car at home, she felt the vibration of the
crash and heard the sounds of things rattling around her. She heard sirens
blaring but had been listening to the car radio, was aware of what was
happening in New York and Washington and began to suspect the entire country
was under attack. Her only connection to the outside world was her car
radio, complicated by having no cell phone reception in our valley."
Pilot Witnesses Flight 93's Final Moments
"A pilot of a single-engine Piper might have been the last person to see
United Flight 93 before it crashed in Somerset County on Sept. 11.
Local pilot Bill Wright told Team 4 investigator Paul Van Osdol that
he thinks that he witnessed a struggle for control of the plane.
Wright was flying over Youngwood, Westmoreland County, and was getting ready
to land in Latrobe under order from air traffic control.
Then, an air-traffic controller asked him and his passenger to look out the
Wright was flying a Piper Arrow when he spotted a jet crossing behind
him -- about three miles away. It was close enough for him and his
photographer to see the United Airlines colors.
Wright was flying over Youngwood for about 20 minutes before Flight 93
crashed in Stonycreek Township.
Wright said that he knew that there was a problem when air traffic
controllers asked him to give them Flight 93's altitude.
Wright thinks there's only one reason air traffic controllers in Cleveland
would have been asking him about the altitude. He said that it was probably
because the terrorists had cut off all radio transmissions to air traffic
"We figured there was a hijacking in progress, and we were seeing it
happening, but that's all we knew," Wright said.
Wright got another clue when he and his passenger saw the path that the
plane was taking.
"(It) went behind us. (We) lost sight for a while and when it came back (the
passenger) said, 'It's turning toward us. Now it's turning away. Now turning
back toward us.' So it was rocking its wings.
"It would bank hard left, bank hard right and then back to hard left. We saw
it bank three or four times before we got away from it."
Wright said that may have been when several passengers were fighting back
against the terrorists.
"The story of the plane being taken over, that fits," Wright said.
Within moments controllers ordered Wright to land immediately.
"That's one of the first things that went through my mind when they told
us to get as far away from it as fast as we could -- that either they were
expecting it to blow up or they were going to shoot it down, but that's pure
speculation," Wright said.
Witness accounts have the plane flying over Johnstown, Pa., before
crashing in Stonycreek Township.
Wright said that he wishes that he could have done something about Flight
93, but there wasn't much more he could do in a single-engine Piper." -
Stoic father visits Somerset crash site of Flight 93 to say thanks
"The plane crash, into a stretch of reclaimed strip mine idle for more
than two decades, cost no lives on the ground and caused none of the
structural damages left when terrorists used jetliners laden with passengers
and fuel as bombs to strike the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon.
But Pennsylvania is running up costs on efforts ranging from posting 400
state troopers here to paving dirt roads over which heavy rescue
equipment must travel.
Recovery work, which officials estimate could last another two to
four weeks, is yielding larger parts of the jetliner as teams sift deeper
into the crater left by its impact." -
Flight 93 crash site touted as memorial to victims
"Until last week, it was a few remote acres
that, like a lot of this part of Somerset County, had been farmed,
strip-mined, back-filled and planted over with grass.
Then, nine days ago, in the final nightmarish episode of America's morning
of horror, United Flight 93 crashed nose-first into that stretch of
ground, killing all 44 people aboard.
The landowners, a pair of coal companies, said yesterday that they
are inclined to donate the ground to become a permanent memorial to the
passengers and crew of the Boeing 757.
"If we have a say about it, there's no problem with it," John Weir, land
PBS Coals Inc., said yesterday.
"I'd be willing to cooperate in whatever way I could," said Michael
Svonavec, secretary-treasurer of the local coal company
Svonavec Inc. "It's a site of national interest -- certainly, the
way I see it, where we as Americans fought back against terrorism."
Precisely which parts of the site PBS Coals and Svonavec own has yet to
be determined. It is hidden from nearby roads, and officials from
the companies have not been allowed to examine the well-guarded site.
For now the land is a crime scene, marked by a 40-foot crater and
tarp-covered piles of earth. The FBI is overseeing the search for human
remains and airplane fragments, a painstaking hunt-and-dig process that
could continue for more than a month." -
Four Flight 93 victims identified
"Investigators have identified remains of four of the 44 people aboard
Flight 93, the jetliner that crashed here 11 days ago, the Somerset
County coroner said yesterday.
But the attempt to identify the rest -- a process that involves using DNA
testing to confirm the conclusions -- could go on for a year, Coroner
Wallace Miller said.
Miller reported the first identifications
yesterday as investigators continued to dig through the crash site seven
miles northeast of Somerset, shoveling out mounds of earth, then sifting
through that soil for remains, personal belongings and bits of the Boeing
"I can't guarantee identifying remains of all the passengers," Miller said,
"but I'm hopeful."
Miller would not name the people identified beyond saying that all the
people were passengers or crew, not hijackers. He said that the first
identification came two days ago, when a tooth was matched to dental
"The identifications we have made for now have been mostly through dental
records and fingerprints. We're also using radiology (records), and we
can find surgical work such as hip replacements," he said.
For now, the remains are being taken to a
temporary morgue set up by investigators at Friedens, five miles from the
crash site. From there, they will be transferred to the Armed Forces
Laboratory at Dover, Del., part of a process in which the FBI has
mandated DNA matches as final confirmation.
Victims' families have been asked to provide items such as the victims'
hairbrushes and toothbrushes, so that medical investigators can glean
samples from which to draw final DNA matches. The DNA matches, in turn,
probably will be the link that investigators use to identify most of the
remains, Miller said.
But the FBI's demand for DNA links could serve another purpose, offering one
clue for identifying the hijackers from the Sept. 11 morning of terror,
since investigators have suggested that the air pirates' real identities
lie buried under layers of fake IDs.
If all goes according to a tentative schedule,
the FBI -- overseeing recovery workers clad in white suits to protect them
from jet fuel and possible biological hazards posed by human remains --
could turn the site over to Miller.
That would mean the pullout of the 100-member federal Disaster Mortuary
Operations Response Team, which has aided in handling remains.
Yesterday, investigators drained a two-acre
pond about 1,000 feet from the crater where the jetliner slammed into
the ground, just another step in hunting airliner parts, personal belongings
and remains, Miller said.
Officially, the land is an FBI crime scene. When the FBI leaves, it
becomes a coroner's crime scene." -
Coroner identifies seven more victims of Flight 93 crash
"Seven victims of the Sept. 11 United Airlines
Flight 93 crash in Somerset County were positively identified over the
weekend, bringing the number of identified bodies to 11.
But Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller said that additional
identifications could take months. There were 44 passengers and crew
members on the flight.
The coroner's office was able to identify victims with help from FBI
fingerprint experts, but Miller said they did not release identifications
until investigators were all "comfortable" with the identity of each victim.
Four bodies had been identified as of Friday.
Miller would not name the victims, or say whether they were crew or
passengers, saying his "No. 1 priority" was protecting the privacy of
"The identifications up to now were not [based on] DNA," said Miller.
"The method now will be [to use] DNA [testing]."
Most evidence from the site has been taken away, he said.
"Everything's been collected from the site that's going to be," he said.
The coroner also said he was working as hard as he could to return remains
to family members.
It is a difficult task, he said, in part because Somerset, a sixth-class
county with only 78,000 people, has little support staff.
"We don't have staff doing it; I'm doing it," said Miller.
That made the help of outside investigators, including pathologists from
Honolulu and Washington, D.C., all the more valuable.
"I've accumulated a wealth of information," said Miller." -
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (09/24/01)
FBI finished with Pennsylvania crash site probe
"The FBI announced Monday that its
investigation of the site where a hijacked jet slammed into a field here is
complete and that 95 percent of the plane was recovered.
Evidence-gathering was halted Saturday afternoon and the pieces of United
Airlines Flight 93 that had been recovered were turned over Sunday to the
airline, with the exception of the flight data recorder and the voice
recorder, which are being held and analyzed by the FBI, according to FBI
agent Bill Crowley.
Crowley said the biggest piece of the plane that was recovered was a
6-by-7-foot piece of the fuselage skin, including about four windows.
The heaviest piece, Crowley said, was part of an engine fan, weighing
about 1,000 pounds. " -
America's New War: Aaron Brown Reports
"The FBI says its investigation of the crash site of United Airlines flight
93, the one in western Pennsylvania, is now complete. Ninety five percent
of the plane has been recovered and turned over to the airline except for
the flight data and voice recorders. They are still being analyzed by
the FBI. Forty-four people died in that crash." -
FBI Completes Flight 93 Investigation
"FBI investigators have concluded that no
explosive was involved in the crash of United Airlines Flight 93, the
only one of four aircraft hijacked Sept. 11 which did not claim a life on
Passengers on the flight, in cell phone
calls made before the crash, said one of their captors had what appeared to
be a bomb strapped to him. At least three of the passengers said they
planned to confront the hijackers just before the plane crashed in Somerset
County, Pa., killing all 44 on board.
At a news conference, FBI agent Bill Crowley said that the field near
Shanksville, Somerset County, has been turned over to the county coroner and
that 95 percent of the plane found at the site has been turned over to
Crowley said the FBI has determined from the
on-site investigation that no explosive was involved in the crash.
He said that no bomb residue was found at the crash site and that there
was no evidence that the plane broke up before it hit the ground.
"Nothing was found that was inconsistent with the plane going into the
ground intact," Crowley said.
He said that Somerset County Coroner Wallace
Miller will take over responsibility for the crash site, which will be
enclosed with a fence and patrolled. Eventually, the hole where the plane
crashed will be filled in and replanted.
After the crash about 10 a.m. Sept. 11, FBI officials said they expected the
work at the site to take three to five weeks. On Monday, Crowley said good
weather and a large number of workers -- as many as 1,500 in less
than two weeks' time -- allowed the work to go more quickly.
Meanwhile, seven more victims of Flight 93
that crashed in Pennsylvania were identified using fingerprints and dental
records, a coroner said Sunday, bringing the total of those confirmed
dead to 11.
The remaining 33 victims will likely require
DNA testing, which could take months, Miller said." -
FBI: No Bomb In Pennsylvania Plane Crash
"The FBI says the hijacked United Air Lines jetliner that crashed in
Pennsylvania did not have a bomb aboard.
Passengers on United Flight 93, using cell phones before the plane went
down, said one hijacker had what appeared to be a bomb strapped to him.
At least three passengers said they planned to rush the terrorists.
The crash killed all 44 aboard, but no one on
the ground. Speculation is that the jetliner was headed toward a target in
FBI special agent Bill Crowley says no explosive was involved in the crash.
He released no information about the aircraft's cockpit voice recorder and
flight data recorder.
Crowley says the FBI has finished its investigation at the site,
collecting about 95 percent of the Boeing 757 from a field near Shanksville,
80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
Crowley says the biggest piece found was a six-by-seven foot section of
the fuselage, including four windows.
Possible Tie Between Crop Dusters, Suspects
The FAA has grounded agricultural flights for another day.
This, amid reports that a suspected suicide hijacker was in a group that had
been asking a lot of questions to a Florida crop-dusting company about its
Authorities are concerned about the possibility of chemical and biological
The owner of the Florida company said today that groups of Middle Eastern
men came to his airfield every weekend for several weeks before the Sept. 11
He says they were persistent in questions about the capabilities of the
aircraft and how difficult they were to fly. One of the men has been
identified as Mohamed Atta, believed to be one of the suicide hijackers.
The FAA grounded flights yesterday while the FBI investigated. Today's
grounding was due to what officials say is an abundance of caution and "in
reaction to every bit of information and threats received during the course
of this investigation."
Zacarias MoussaouiThe Washington Post reported that investigators found a
crop-duster manual among the possessions of Zacarias Moussaoui (pictured),
who is now in federal custody.
Moussaoui was enrolled in a flight training school in Norman before dropping
out earlier this year. He was later detained in Minnesota." -
FBI ends site work, says no bomb used
"The FBI said yesterday that it has finished its work at
the crash scene of United Flight 93 after recovering about 95 percent of the
downed airliner and concluding that explosives were not responsible for
bringing it down.
At the same time, the Somerset County coroner said that he has ended his own
search for remains of the 44 people aboard the airliner.
The inventory of
jetliner debris gives testimony to the devastation of the Boeing 757 when it
hit a Somerset County field at somewhere between 400 and 580 mph, the last
of four domestic flights to crash that morning after being seized by
FBI spokesman Bill Crowley said that the largest piece of plane recovered
was a shred of fuselage skin that covered four windows -- a piece seven feet
long from a jetliner that was 155 feet long.
The heaviest piece, he said, was a half-ton section of engine fan.
The jetliner exploded in a fireball, witnesses said -- but not a fireball
caused by a bomb, according to Crowley.
He said that the remains of 11 of the 44 people aboard the jetliner
been identified through fingerprints and dental records. Among the tasks
left for Miller is to get DNA identification of the remains of the other 33
passengers and crew." -
Searchers to return to Flight 93 crash site
"About 250 workers will make another search today in the area where United
Flight 93 crashed, believing high winds and heavy rains may have shaken
additional evidence out of the trees.
Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller said the search would begin early
today around the crater where the Boeing 757 crashed near Shanksville on
Miller said consultants with United Airlines suggested another search
because bad weather this week might have shaken additional airplane parts
out of the trees in a wooded area near the crash site. The coroner said
the workers would also be looking for any human remains not already
Some pieces of the aircraft -- most no larger than one square foot --
have already been found because of the bad weather, he said.
The FBI, which had treated the site as a crime scene, turned over
control of the field where the plane crashed to Miller on Monday.
Miller said he had identified 12 of the victims through dental records and
fingerprints. He is refusing to release the names of those victims, saying
he does not want to upset their families.
He said DNA testing would be used to identify the other victims, a process
that could take months." -
Volunteers scour Somerset County crash site, woods to remove debris
"More than 300 volunteers gathered yesterday at the site in Somerset County
where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed during the Sept. 11 terrorist
Members of Southwestern Pennsylvania Emergency Response Group
scoured a wooded area near the crash scene for airplane fragments and human
remains. They found some of both.
State Trooper Joseph Grove said the searchers, from 13 counties, worked
shoulder to shoulder as far as a mile from where the plane slammed into the
ground near Shanksville.
Mark Tsantes, a supervisor with Salvation Army
Disaster Services, said the volunteers parted underbrush with their hands
and hauled debris from the woods in 5-gallon pails.
Yesterday's search focused on an area where
debris may have fallen from trees because of recent rain and wind. Major
pieces of the wreckage already have been removed by federal investigators.
Miller said searchers now are recovering pieces of airplane too small to
Witnesses Recall Plane Crash
"Shortly after 10 a.m., workers on farms and scrap yards in Somerset County
looked up to see an airliner flying low and erratic at an estimated
Larry Williams, a former state police trooper who is now a private
investigator, was golfing on the 17th green at Oakbrook Golf Course about
eight miles away when he heard the engines "roar real loud and shut off."
Bob Blair was completing a routine drive to Shade Creek just after 10
a.m. Tuesday, when he saw a huge silver plane fly past him just above the
treetops and crash into the woods along Lambertsville Road.
Blair, of Stoystown, a driver with Jim Barron Trucking of Somerset, was
traveling in a coal truck along with Doug Miller of Somerset, when they saw
the plane spiraling to the ground and then explode on the outskirts of
"I saw the plane flying upside down overhead and crash into the
nearby trees. My buddy, Doug, and I grabbed our fire extinguishers and ran
to the scene," said Blair.
"I saw the mushroom cloud and we called 911 right away," added Blair.
"I knew with that crash that it wasn't likely there were survivors, but we
had to go anyways. The plane was coming in on a slant and really hit the
treeline at an angle."
Lambertsville resident George Beckett was going to visit his mother-in-law
Lucy Menear, when the accident occured. "I had been planning to go in those
woods (where the plane crashed) and start looking for some hunting sites. I
was going to start right where the plane came down."
Menear, who lives across from the Lambertsville Road at the intersection
where a graveled road leads to the crash site near the strip mine, said,
"I felt the ground shake with the impact. I didn't know the plane had
crashed. It was just a big jolt."
Laura Temyer of Hooversville RD1 was hanging her clothes outside to dry
before she went to work Tuesday morning when she heard what she thought was
"Normally I wouldn't look up, but I just heard on the news that all the
planes were grounded and thought this was probably the last one I would see
for a while, so I looked up," she said. "I didn't see the plane but I
heard the plane's engine. Then I heard a loud thump that echoed off the
hills and then I heard the plane's engine. I heard two more loud thumps and
didn't hear the plane's engine anymore after that."
She thinks it might have been the plane that went down near Indian Lake in
A plane going over Shanksville wasn't anything unusual because it is a
military flight corridor, said Kelly Leverknight, who lives in
Shanksville, just a couple miles from the crash scene.
"I was sitting in my living room when I heard a plane. I ran out to the
front porch and watched it go down," she said. "There was no smoke, it
just went straight down. I saw the belly of the plane."
She said she heard the explosion, felt the blast, then saw smoke and fire
"I thought it hit the school," she said.
She didn't have a car, so she ran to the neighbor's house and the two drove
to where the plane had crashed and went into the trees.
"The grass was burned. We saw a bunch of paper and pieces no bigger than
a foot around scattered all over the place," she said. "We didn't
think there were people on the plane because we didn't see anybody."
Kim Custer, 15, a tenth grader at Shanksville Stonycreek High School, said
she was on the second floor of the school, located only a few miles from the
crash site, when the plane went down.
"I looked up and saw the ceiling tiles jump up and down, then I felt the
whole building shake," she said. "Then we heard a big boom, and a few
minutes later the fire alarm system went off, so we all got out of there,"
Custer and other classmates had been following the events unfolding in New
York City and Washington, DC when the plane went down.
"I was very scared," she said.
Crowley related that 95 percent of the
airplane had been recovered. The biggest piece of aircraft found was a
fuselage skin measuring about 6 to 7 feet. The heaviest piece was from one
of the engines and weighed 1,000 pounds." -
American (2001) [Reprinted:
Environmental Restoration Begins At Somerset Site, Residents Concerned About
"Three groundwater monitoring wells show no
evidence of groundwater contamination and nearly 6,000 cubic yards of
dirt sifted for human remains and aircraft debris will soon be returned to
the crater left Sept. 11 by United Airlines Flight 93.
Environmental Resources Management of Wexford,
Pa., will fill in the crater caused by the crash, which was dug 50
feet deep by recovery workers.
Betsy Mallison, a spokeswoman for the
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, said that
investigators still don't know how much jet fuel was spilled at the crash
site. But whether it burned away or evaporated, much of it seems to
have dissipated, Mallison said." -
The Pittsburgh Channel (10/02/01)
Latest Somerset crash site
findings may yield added IDs
"Over the weekend, about 300 volunteers combed
a half-mile square around the crash site and found enough debris from the
Boeing 757 to fill about one-third of a trash container.
Most of it was little more than thumbnail
size -- "no bigger than a pop rivet holding two pieces of aluminum,"
Miller said yesterday -- that last week's rains washed from trees bordering
the stretch of strip mine where the airliner crashed nose-first Sept. 11.
No significant evidence turned up, Miller said, and there probably won't be
a repeat of anything the size of last weekend's search.
The FBI has mandated DNA testing to confirm
the identities of remains, a process just beginning that Miller said could
take four to six months. But using mostly dental records, Miller and
staff have identified remains of 12 passengers -- a number that the
coroner said might grow with last weekend's recovery of additional remains.
Remains, like the aircraft wreckage itself, were scattered when the jet hit
the ground at as much as 575 mph, then exploded in a fireball of fuel.
With those of 12 people identified, Miller and his team have identified the
remains of 27 percent of the people on the plane, more than the 20
percent match he said that experts predicted at the outset.
By today, Environmental Resources Management
Inc. of Pine, a contractor hired by United, expects to return 5,000 to 6,000
cubic yards of soil to the 50-foot hole dug around the crater left by the
The soil is being tested for jet fuel,
and at least three test wells have been sunk to monitor groundwater,
since three nearby homes are served by wells, Betsy Mallison, a state
Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman, said.
So far, no contamination has been discovered, she said." -
Flight 93 probe involved trooper with local
"I found a lot of parts," said Marshall, who
was awarded a 2000 Law Enforcement Agency Directors award for identifying a
man nearly four years after he was found murdered.
"The biggest part I found was one of the plane's engines. It was about
600 yards from the crash site itself. I think they took it out with a
winch on a bulldozer."
Marshall, who served four years in the Air Force, said he found many
parts that he couldn't specifically identify.
Whenever he found a suspected part, he would notify the FBI or United
sharon-herald.com (10/08/01) [Wayback]
Newsmaker: Coroner's quiet unflappability helps
him take charge of Somerset tragedy
"Even in the middle of it all, where trees were
scorched and the Boeing 757's fuselage disintegrated in a crater that collapsed
on itself to leave a gouge maybe 14 feet across, the destruction was so complete
that it was hard to imagine what happened.
"It was as if the plane had stopped and let the passengers off before it
crashed," Miller said.
The FBI took control of the crash scene. Miller had charge of a provisional
morgue six miles away." -
Pittsburg Post Gazette (10/15/01)
Another 14 victims of Flight 93 identified
"Investigators have positively identified the remains of another 14 persons
aboard United Airlines Flight 93 and Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller
said the investigation could conclude more quickly than expected.
At the same time, the high winds that buffeted the area over the last few
days have dislodged additional airplane parts -- seat cushions, wiring, carpet
fragments and pieces of metal -- from trees near the crash site.
"It's all aircraft parts, no human remains," Miller said. "We've
collected them in 10 recycling bin-sized containers and eventually we'll
turn them all over to United."
Yesterday's confirmation of victims' identities by the Armed Forces Institute
of Pathology DNA lab in Rockville, Md., means that 34 of the 44 people who
were aboard the jetliner crashed Sept. 11. have been identified.
Miller said the lab is continuing to test DNA material to verify the deaths of
the last six crash victims.
He said DNA tests won't be able to identify the four hijackers on board.
"To make a DNA identification we need something from the victims or their family
members -- personal effects, or blood samples -- to match," Miller said. "We
don't have that kind of information about the terrorists."
Identification of the victims through DNA testing allows the coroner to issue
death certificates and return the fragmented remains to the families.
Miller said he will identify as many of the remains as he can. Remains that
can't be identified will be interred at a grave in Somerset County.
"We already have issued presumptive death certificates so families could begin
to take care of the affairs of those persons we haven't identified," Miller
said. "Now we can say for sure on 34 of the victims and that gives the families,
some of whom have held memorial services, more of a sense of closure." -
Flight 93: Forty lives, one destiny
"Late. They were late. United Airlines Flight
93 had been scheduled to take off at 8:01 a.m. Now it was sitting on the
tarmac, waiting for clearance to depart for San Francisco.
Tucked into a flatland from which the New York skyline shone in the distance,
Newark International Airport was ringed with new construction. Two days
earlier, a fire had started at one of the sites, briefly closing the airport.
Flights already delayed by construction around an overtaxed airport had backed
up even further.
The Flight 93 passengers had walked down the concourse of Terminal A,
where they breezed past the security gate, then walked the 100 yards to a long
circular hallway from which the boarding ramps jutted out like spokes.
At Gate 17, they strode another 70 feet down the jetway, made a left
turn, and were inside the Boeing 757.
The plane pulled away from the gate on time. Then it sat.
Also on board were four men from an entirely different world. Ziad Jarrah, their
leader, had been born in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon in 1975. Outwardly, it
would have been hard to know the turmoil that boiled inside him. Born into an
apolitical and secular family of Sunni Muslims, Jarrah attended Christian
schools as a youth, studied aviation in Europe and told the man in Florida
who had taught him close-quarters hand-fighting that he loved living in
"Find ways to blend in with your opponent and control him," the instructor, Bert
Rodriguez, had told Jarrah back in May, when he walked into US-1 Fitness, a
gymnasium in Dania Beach, Fla., and paid $500 cash for the course.
Now, settling into a seat in first class, Jarrah had blended in.
No one on board would have guessed that back in the Florida apartment he'd left
four days earlier, Jarrah had set up a full-size, cardboard replica -- three
panels in all -- of the cockpit of the airplane they had just boarded.
Nobody could have known he was carrying a global positioning satellite
receiver to help him track the plane's course. No one could have known that
he and his three companions, seated throughout the plane, had stayed in the
same hotel as some of the passengers the night before, eating at the best of
its three restaurants, paying cash for seven rooms, meeting with other men who
would depart on missions investigators are still trying to figure out.
United Flight 93 groaned down Runway 4-Left, pulled up and banked to the
west. From the right side of the plane, passengers would have seen lower
Manhattan where, on overcast days, the only thing poking above the clouds were
the twin pillars of the World Trade Center. On this day, everything was clear.
No one could have known that, in the skies over Pennsylvania, the worlds of
Hilda Marcin, of Thomas Burnett, of Christine Snyder, of Ziad Jarrah, would meet
in a cataclysm of cool rage and desperate courage, as passengers tried to take
back their airplane, all the time unaware that an Air Force jet, scrambled
from a base in Virginia, was closing in with orders to shoot the plane down
before it got to Washington, D.C.
By the time United Flight 93 was in smoldering pieces in a field outside the
Somerset County village of Shanksville, the F-16 was 14 minutes from the
range at which it could have brought down the 757 with heat-seeking missiles.
Flight 93 became an asterisk to a day of horror that claimed almost 5,000 lives,
toppled buildings that stood like a twin Colossus on the New York shore, took
down one side of the Pentagon, and ushered in a war without rules against an
enemy without a state.
What made Flight 93 different was a decision reached somewhere over the skies of
Western Pennsylvania, after passengers learned on cell phones that they were
likely to be flown into a building as the fourth in a quartet of suicide
They decided to fight.
They became the first casualties in a strange new combat against an enemy as old
as hatred and as unclear as the muffled shouts and groans investigators would
later hear on the cockpit voice recorder dug out of a reclaimed strip mine
on a Pennsylvania hillside.
Pilot LeRoy Homer Jr. was living life as a newlywed.
In the town of Abha, Saudi Arabia, a skinny, 21-year-old student of Islamic law
-- it is called Sharia -- was leaving on a religious trip. Under the rules of
Islam, every man must, once in his life, travel to the city of Mecca. Then there
were the other trips, the optional, minor pilgrimages known as "Umra." It was on
Umra that Ahmed Al Nami left for Mecca.
Before entering the city, Al Nami would stop, perform the rituals of purity,
then enter, pray, and walk on holy ground.
But he was supposed to come home.
For almost two years his family would hear nothing from him. His religious
journey was about to take him several stops beyond a holy city.
Melodie Homer doesn't know if her husband kissed her goodbye. She had spent most
of Monday, Sept. 10, sick in bed. LeRoy Homer stayed up late watching
television. By the time he got to bed, she was drifting off to sleep.
The alarm sounded at 4:45 Tuesday morning. She could hear the shower running,
the sounds of a man dressing quietly in the bathroom, trying not to awaken his
wife, or their 11-month-old daughter, Laurel, who slept in another room. LeRoy
Homer put on dark blue trousers, a white shirt, blue tie, and a United Airlines
jacket with epaulets. He was now First Officer LeRoy Homer, who would sit in
the righthand seat of the cockpit of a Boeing 757. He was starting the day
in Marlton, N.J., and was to end his morning in San Francisco.
As LeRoy Homer was traveling north on the New Jersey Turnpike, Christine Snyder
and Mary Steiner were in a limousine, going south, from a friend's apartment in
Manhattan. The pair had slipped up to New York after attending the American
Forestry Conference in Washington. The day before they left Manhattan, they took
in a Broadway show, rode the Staten Island Ferry and drank Diet Cokes at the top
of the tallest buildings on the East Coast. The view from the World Trade Center
had been astonishing.
When they reached the airport they split up. Steiner was flying on Northwest.
Snyder wanted to build up frequent flier miles on her United account. That
morning, she called to check on her flight, Flight 91, due to leave after 9 a.m. She moved up to Flight 93 for an earlier start.
Ziad Jarrah had come to the hotel a day earlier and paid cash for seven rooms.
He and his companions ate the night before at Priscilla's, the hotel's upscale
restaurant, where prime steak sells for $34, baby New Zealand lamb goes for $30,
and cream of watercress soup starts at $10.
"They paid cash for everything," said one hotel waiter.
With Jarrah was his roommate from Florida, Ahmed Al Haznawi, a 20-year-old
student from Baljurshi, Saudi Arabia, along with Al Nami, the man who
disappeared on his visit to Mecca, and Saeed Al Ghamdi, a young man about whom
almost nothing is known.
Since arriving in the United States in late 1999, Jarrah had studied at two
south Florida flight schools. His family in Lebanon told investigators they
regularly sent him money -- sometimes as much as $2,000 a month. Before moving
to the United States, Jarrah studied aeronautical engineering in Hamburg,
Germany, where he became close to another Muslim student named Mohamed Atta,
later identified as the man who flew American Airlines Flight 11 into the World
Atta was fiery, religious, almost fearfully disdainful of women.
It changed Jarrah, who had received a largely non-religious upbringing.
Jarrah's Turkish girlfriend, Aisle Senguen, told German investigators
that Jarrah sometimes criticized her for becoming "too westernized," although he
himself had attended Christian schools as a youngster, drank and fancied
After moving to Florida, Jarrah and his companions were regularly in touch with
Atta, who dispensed thousands of dollars in living expenses through postal
orders. Jarrah moved from apartment to apartment, rarely leaving a forwarding
On Sept. 5, Jarrah and Al Haznawi, the son of a Muslim prayer leader,
visited Mile High Travel in Fort Lauderdale and booked two one-way tickets to
Newark. Two days later, Al Ghamdi and Al Nami stopped at another Fort
Lauderdale travel agency, Passage Tours, and paid $140 each for budget airline
flights to Newark.
The night before boarding Flight 93, in their hotel rooms, Jarrah would have
opened a list of instructions, kept in a notebook that apparently was written by
his old friend Atta.
It instructed them to bathe, wear cologne, shave excess hair from their bodies
and check the knives they carried.
"You must make your knife sharp and you must not discomfort your animal during
the slaughter," it read.
"Completely forget something called 'this life.' The time for play is over and
the serious time is upon us."
It instructed them to turn to two Suras -- chapters -- of the Koran, al Tawba
and al Anfa, which translate to "Repentance" and "The Spoils of War." In Al-Anfa,
the 32nd verse reads:
Remember how they said:
"O Allah! If this is indeed
The Truth from Thee,
Rain down on us a shower
Of stones from the sky,
Or send us a grievous Penalty."
The crew of United Flight 93 gathered one hour before the scheduled take-off.
Such meetings are routine. Pilot and first officer decide who will handle the
takeoff and landing, who will work the radio and computers.
Flight attendants go over the passenger manifest and decide who will work what
sections of the cabin.
The pilot was Jason Dahl, 43, of Denver. Homer would fly alongside him as
Dahl was planning to take his wife Sandy to London for their fifth wedding
anniversary Sept. 14, and by moving up his flight schedule, they would have more
time together overseas. Sandy, a United flight attendant, went onto United's
computer system and shifted him to Flight 93.
Wanda Green wasn't originally supposed to be on Flight 93. The
49-year-old divorced mother of two grown children had been scheduled to fly
Sept. 13, but Green, who also worked as a real estate agent, realized she had to
handle the closing of a home sale Sept. 13. She'd phoned her best friend, fellow
flight attendant Donita Judge, who opened United's computerized schedule and
shifted Green to the Sept. 11 flight.
The crew boarded its flight 35 minutes ahead of the scheduled departure.
The attendants began preparing the in-flight breakfast.
One passenger was late. Mark Bingham had overslept and his friend,
Matthew Hall, drove madly from Manhattan to Newark. They screeched to a halt
outside Terminal A at 7:40. Bingham leapt from the car, lugging the old,
blue-and-gold canvas bag he'd used as a rugby player at the University of
California at Berkeley a decade earlier.
United attendants reopened the door to the boarding ramp and let him on the
Between lessons, Jarrah, who carried a German passport and claimed to be
Saudi, and Rodriguez, a 53-year-old Cuban-American, talked about the world.
"We talked about business and leadership. We talked about employees," Rodriguez
said. "He told me that he loved it here and that he had a girlfriend in
Germany and he was planning to return there."
Flight 93 was near cruising altitude when a system-wide message came over its
monitor. United control warned pilots in the air of potential "cockpit
intrusion" -- meaning some passenger might try to seize a plane.
They acknowledged the message.
At some point -- the best estimation is about 40 minutes into the flight west
-- at least three of the hijackers stood up and put red bandanas around their
heads. Two of them forced their way into the cockpit. One took the
loudspeaker microphone, unaware it could also be heard by air traffic
controllers, and announced that someone had a bomb onboard and the flight
was returning to the airport. He told them he was the pilot, but spoke with an
Deena Burnett was waking up at her home in San Ramon, Calif. She'd gone
down to the kitchen to fix breakfast for her three daughters. The phone rang.
She recalls it was around 6:20 a.m. -- 9:20 Eastern time.
It was Tom.
"No. I'm on United Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco. The plane has been
hijacked. We are in the air. They've already knifed a guy. There is a bomb on
board. Call the FBI."
Jeremy Glick picked up a GTE Airfone just before 9:30 a.m. and called his
in-laws in the Catskills. His wife, Lyz, and daughter, Emerson, were
visiting. The family had been transfixed in front of a television, watching news
coverage of airliners smashing into the World Trade Center in New York.
Glick's mother-in-law, JoAnne Makely, answered.
"Jeremy," she said, "Thank God. We're so worried."
"It's bad news," Glick replied. He asked for Lyz.
Lyz recalls no background noise. No commotion. He described the men as
Arabic-looking, wearing red headbands, carrying knives. One told passengers he
had a bomb. Most passengers had been forced to the rear of the cabin. Glick's
mother-in-law went to another phone and dialed 911. As Jeremy and Lyz spoke, New
York state police patched in on the call.
Glick asked his wife: Was it true that planes had been crashed into the World
Yes, she said. Glick thought so. Another passenger had been on the phone home
and heard the same thing.
Around 9:30, Deena Burnett's phone rang again. It was Tom.
"He didn't sound frightened, but he was speaking faster than he normally would,"
she said. He told her the hijackers were in the cockpit.
"I told him a lot of planes had been hijacked, that they don't know how many,"
"You've got to be kidding," he replied.
"No," she said.
Were they commercial planes, airliners, he asked her. She didn't know.
"OK," he said, "I've got to go." He hung up.
Deena looked at the television. The Pentagon suddenly appeared, a hole torn into
its side by an oncoming airplane. She wondered if it was her husband's flight.
Deena Burnett started crying.
Alice Hoglan was visiting her sister-in-law, Kathy Hoglan, in Saratoga, Calif.,
when the phone rang. It was 9:42 Eastern time. Kathy's nephew, Mark Bingham was
on the line.
"Alice, talk to Mark," Kathy said, handing her the phone. "He's been hijacked."
"Mom? This is Mark Bingham," the voice said. It sounded strange for her son to
introduce himself by his full name. She knew he was flustered.
"I want to let you know that I love you. I'm on a flight from Newark to San
Francisco and there are three guys who have taken over the plane and they say
they have a bomb," he said.
"Who are these guys?" Alice Hoglan asked.
There was a pause. Hoglan heard murmurs of conversation in English. Mark's voice
"You believe me, don't you?" he asked.
"Yes, Mark. I believe you. But who are these guys?"
There was a pause. Alice heard background noise. The line went dead.
Todd Beamer was near the rear of the plane, trying to use his company's Airfone
account. For some reason, he couldn't get authorization for the call. Finally,
he was routed to a Verizon customer service center in Oakbrook, Ill.
He told the operator his airliner had been hijacked. He was patched through
immediately to Lisa Jefferson, a Verizon supervisor.
It was 9:45 a.m.
Somewhere outside Cleveland, United Flight 93 had made a sharp turn and began
flying east, toward Washington, D.C.
Beamer told Jefferson he was sitting next to a flight attendant. He could see
three hijackers, armed with knives. One insisted he had a bomb. Twenty-seven of
the passengers had been herded to the rear of the plane, where the hijacker with
the bomb was guarding them, he said. Two hijackers were in the cockpit. A fourth
was in first class.
He asked Jefferson to promise to call his wife, and their two sons, David, 4,
and Drew, 2.
"Oh! We're going down!" Beamer shouted. There was a pause. Then, calmly: "No,
we're OK. I think we're turning around."
While Beamer was on the phone with Lisa Jefferson, Deena Burnett's phone rang
Tom was still alive.
"They're taking airplanes and hitting landmarks all up and down the East Coast,"
she told him.
"OK," he replied. "We're going to do something. I'll call you back."
In Fort Myers, Fla., Lorne Lyles didn't hear the phone ringing. He'd worked the
night shift and had lain down to sleep at 7:30. At 9:47 a.m., the answering
machine picked up a call from his wife, CeeCee, stranded in the back of the
When the tape was played back hours later, CeeCee Lyles could be heard praying
for her family, for herself, for the souls of the men who had hijacked her
"I hope I'll see your face again," she said.
Lyz Glick was still on the phone with Jeremy. She stood in her parents' living
room while the television screen filled with the sight of two burning towers.
"You need to be strong," she said.
State police, on the other line with Glick's mother-in-law, relayed a question:
Did Glick know where his plane was? Glick didn't know, but he sensed they had
Lyz and Jeremy spoke of their love for each other.
"I need you to be happy," he told her, "and I will respect any decisions that
Then he told her the passengers were taking a vote: Should they try to take back
"Honey, you need to do it," Lyz told him.
Glick wondered what to use for a weapon. "I have my butter knife from
breakfast," he joked.
Phil Bradshaw was home in Greensboro, N.C., on the telephone, talking with a
friend about the horrors on television. The line clicked. He asked his friend to
It was Sandy Bradshaw, his wife, the flight attendant.
"Have you heard what's going on? My flight has been hijacked. My flight has been
hijacked by three guys with knives," she said.
Who was flying the plane? Phil asked his wife.
"I don't know who's flying the plane or where we are," she said.
Sandy Bradshaw, who was trained never to spill hot coffee on a paying customer,
slipped into the airplane's galley and began filling pitchers with boiling
Some calls from Flight 93 arrived at hours people can no longer recall.
Marion Britton, 53, assistant director of the Census Bureau's New York office,
phoned a longtime friend, Fred Fiumano. All he can remember is that it was
"sometime after 9:30."
Britton was crying. She had been hijacked, she told Fiumano, and two people on
the plane already had been killed.
"I was trying to console her," Fiumano said. "I said 'Don't worry, they're only
going to take you for a ride. You'll be all right.' "
Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas, 38, phoned her husband Jack in San Rafael, Calif.
She'd been scheduled to take a later flight that day, but rebooked to get home
sooner. Jack hadn't heard the message. He'd seen the madness on television, and
when Jack's sister-in-law phoned to ask if he'd heard from Lauren, he checked
the phone machine.
"Sweetie," the voice came over the tape, "pick up the phone if you can hear me."
There was a brief pause. "OK, I love you. There's a little problem with the
plane. I'm fine and comfortable for now." She told Jack she loved him. She asked
him to tell her parents and family how much she loved them, too. Then she passed
the Airfone to the woman seated next to her.
"Now you call your people," Grandcolas told her.
Honor Elizabeth Wainio, 27, took the phone from Grandcolas and dialed her
stepmother, Esther Heymann, in Baltimore.
"Mom, we're being hijacked. I just called to say good bye," she said.
"Elizabeth, we don't know how this is going to turn out. I've got my arms around
you," Heymann said.
Wainio told her stepmother she could feel them.
"Let's look out at that beautiful blue sky. Let's be here in the moment,"
Heymann told her. "Let's do some deep breathing together."
They passed a few quiet moments.
"It hurts me that it's going to be so much harder for you all than it is for
me," Wainio said.
"I see a river." Sandy Bradshaw couldn't name it. It suggested, though, that
Flight 93 was somewhere over Western Pennsylvania.
"I just told her to be safe and come home soon," Phil Bradshaw said. "She said
she hoped she would."
Sometime shortly before 10 a.m., Tom Burnett called home one last time.
"A group of us is going to do something," he told Deena.
"I told him, 'No, Tom, just sit down and don't draw attention to yourself,' "
"Deena," he told her, "If they're going to crash the plane into the ground, we
have to do something. We can't wait for the authorities. We have to do something
The authorities, at that moment, had scrambled three F-16 fighter jets from
Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Va. The planes, armed with heat-seeking,
Sidewinder missiles, were authorized to knock down any civilian aircraft that
appeared headed toward a target on the ground.
The fighter jets were 14 minutes out of range and closing in.
"Pray, just pray, Deena. We're going to do something," Tom Burnett told his
Still on his own phone call, Todd Beamer was pouring out his heart to his family
through Lisa Jefferson, the Verizon supervisor he'd reached on his Airfone.
They prayed the 23rd Psalm:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures
He leadeth me beside the still waters ...
Sometime shortly before 10 a.m., the direct line from Cleveland Air Traffic
Control rang inside the control tower at Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, 70
miles east of Pittsburgh.
Did Johnstown tower have any radio contact with a large aircraft about 20 miles
to its south? Supervisor Dennis Fritz and controller Thomas Hull picked up
binoculars -- the tower has no radar -- and scanned the horizon to the south.
The day was clear and, from the highest point in the area, they could spot radio
towers in neighboring Somerset County. A large plane would have stood out.
"We didn't see a thing," Fritz said.
Hull went on the radio and broadcast an open message: "Aircraft 20 South of the
field, contact Johnstown tower ... ."
Ninety seconds later, Cleveland called back. The plane was now 15 miles south
and heading directly for the Johnstown tower.
"We suggest you evacuate," they told him.
Fritz ordered trainees and custodial staff out of the 85-foot tower. He and Hull
stayed at their posts and scanned the south with binoculars. It occurred to
Fritz that the plane must be flying below the level of the mountain ridges
From the back of Flight 93, CeeCee Lyles finally reached her husband, Lorne.
"Babe, my plane's been hijacked," she said.
"Huh? Stop joking," he said.
"No babe, I wouldn't joke like that. I love you. Tell the boys I love them."
The pair prayed. In the background, Lorne Lyles could hear what he now believes
was the sound of men planning a counterattack.
"They're getting ready to force their way into the cockpit," she told him.
When he had finished talking with Lisa Jefferson, finished relaying his love for
his family, finished praying the Psalm that asked for green pastures and still
waters, Todd Beamer put down the phone, still connected with the outside world.
"Are you guys ready? Let's roll," he said.
Honor Wainio was still on the line with her stepmother.
"I need to go," she said. "They're getting ready to break into the cockpit. I
love you. Goodbye."
"Everyone's running to first class," Sandy Bradshaw told her husband. "I've got
to go. Bye."
CeeCee Lyles let out a scream.
"They're doing it! They're doing it! They're doing it!" she said. Lorne Lyles
heard a scream. Then his wife said something he couldn't understand. Then the
line went dead.
Forty-five seconds after telling Fritz to evacuate the Johnstown tower,
Cleveland Air Traffic Control phoned again.
"They said to disregard. The aircraft had turned to the south and they lost
radar contact with him."
It was 10:06 a.m.
Fritz and Hull studied the horizon to the south. They couldn't see a thing.
United Airlines has confirmed one of its flights has crashed near Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania. United Flight 93, a Boeing 757 aircraft, is the flight number
involved. The flight originated in Newark and was bound for San Francisco.
United is deeply concerned about a further flight, United Flight 175, a Boeing
767, which was bound from Boston to Los Angeles. On behalf of the airline, CEO
James E. Goodwin said, "The thoughts of everyone at United are with the
passengers and crew of these flights. Our prayers are also with everyone on the
ground who may have been involved in today's tragic events. United is working
with all the relevant authorities, including the FBI, to obtain further
information on these flights. In the meantime, in line with FAA directives, a
worldwide groundstop on all our flights continues. For further information,
friends and relatives who may be concerned about a passenger on United Flight 93
should call 1-800-932-8555."
After the crash, Lorne Lyles discovered CeeCee's first message on the answering
He couldn't force himself to listen to it. He will. Someday.
Christine Fraser, who dropped off her sister, Colleen, at the airport that
morning, reproached herself for not getting out to hug her sibling.
It was only after she worked up the courage to finally enter Colleen's room that
Christine found her sister's turquoise, flower ring. Colleen had worn it for
most of her life. It was her signature item. For some reason, she hadn't done so
"It was in her room, like she'd left it for me. I'm wearing it now," said
Christine Fraser. "It's a comfort." -
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (10/28/01)
We know it
crashed, but not why; FBI is silent, fueling "shot down" rumors
"Ernie Stuhl is the mayor of this tiny farming
borough that was so brutally placed on America's psychic map on the morning of
Sept. 11, when United Airlines Flight 93 slammed nose-down into the edge of a
barren strip-mine moonscape a couple of miles outside of town.
A 77-year-old World War II veteran and retired Dodge dealer, he's certainly no
But press the mayor for details, and he will add something surprising.
"I know of two people - I will not mention names - that heard a missile,"
Stuhl said. "They both live very close, within a couple of hundred yards. . .This
one fellow's served in Vietnam and he says he's heard them, and he heard one
that day." The mayor adds that based on what he knows about that morning,
military F-16 fighter jets were "very, very close."
No one has fully explained why the plane went down, or what exactly happened
during an eight-minute gap from the time all cell phone calls from the plane
stopped and the time it crashed.
And the FBI, which assumed control of the probe from the National Transportation
Safety Board, refuses to release data from either of the critical "black boxes,"
the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder.
Citing the ongoing war on terrorism, the FBI says it can't say when it will
release the data - or indeed, if it ever will.
Last week, the nation was rocked by another jetliner crash - American Airlines
Flight 587 in New York - and the difference in the way the probes have been
handled is remarkable. In the latest crash, federal officials released detailed
information about the cockpit voice recorder in less than 36 hours.
In the case of Flight 93, both the FBI and the nation's air-defense agency -
NORAD - have said the aircraft was not shot down.
Already, there is a Web site (www.flight93crash.com) that summarizes everything
known about the crash. And while much of the mainstream media has lost interest
in the story, articles suggesting that the government shot down Flight 93 and
has lied about it have flourished on left-wing Internet sites and publications.
What is surprising is this: Go to Shanksville and the surrounding farm fields
where people actually saw or heard the jetliner go down at roughly 10:06 that
morning and there are a number of people - including witnesses - who also think
that Flight 93 was shot down, or at least aren't ruling it out.
Laura Temyer, who lives several miles north of the crash site in
Hooversville, was hanging some clothes outside that morning when she heard an
airplane pass overhead. That struck her as unusual since she'd just heard on TV
that all flights were grounded.
"I heard like a boom and the engine sounded funny," she told the Daily
News. "I heard two more booms - and then I did not hear anything."
What does Temyer think she heard? "I think the plane was shot down,"
insists Temyer, who said she has twice told her story to the FBI. What's more,
she insists that people she knows in state law enforcement have told her the
same thing, that the plane was shot down and that decompression sucked
objects from the aircraft, explaining why there was a wide debris field.
But an eyewitness, Linda Shepley, said she had an unobstructed view of
Flight 93's final two minutes and has reached the opposite conclusion. She
recalls seeing the plane wobbling right and left, at a low altitude of roughly
2,500 feet, when suddenly the right wing abruptly dipped straight down, and the
Boeing 757 plunged into the earth.
"It's not true," said Shepley of the persistent rumors. "If it had
been shot down, there would have been pieces flying, but it was intact - there
was nothing wrong with it."
So what are the clues that have prompted the crash of Flight 93 to remain a
* THE 911 CALL. At 9:58 a.m., roughly eight minutes before impact, a 911
emergency dispatcher in neighboring Westmoreland County took a call from a
frantic passenger who said he was locked in the bathroom of Flight 93 and that
the plane had been hijacked. The caller said there had been an explosion
aboard the plane and there was white smoke. Authorities have never explained
the report, and the 911 tape itself was immediately confiscated by the FBI.
* THE DEBRIS FIELD. The reclaimed mine where the plane crashed is
composed of very soft soil, and searchers say much of the wreckage was found
buried 20-25 feet below the large crater. But despite that, there was
also widely scattered debris in the immediate vicinity and further afield.
Considerable debris washed up more than two miles away at Indian Lake, and a
canceled check and brokerage statement from the plane was found in a deep valley
some eight miles away that week.
* THE MYSTERY PLANE. Many people in the Shanksville area,
including some interviewed by the Daily News, saw a fast-moving, unmarked
small jet fly overhead a very short time after Flight 93 crashed. Several
days later, authorities said they believe the plane was a Falcon 20 private jet
that was headed to nearby Johnstown but was asked to descend and survey the
crash site. Yet officials have never identified the pilot nor explained why
he was still airborne roughly 30 minutes after the government ordered all
aircraft to land at the closest airport.
* THE ENGINE. While the FBI and other authorities have said the plane was
mostly obliterated by the roughly 500 mph impact, they also said an engine -
or at least a 1,000-pound piece of one - was found "a considerable distance"
from the crater. Stuhl, the Shanksville mayor, said it was found
in the woods just west of the crash. That information is intriguing to
shoot-down theory proponents, since the heat-seeking, air-to-air Sidewinder
missiles aboard an F-16 would likely target one of the Boeing 757's two large
* LOCATION OF F-16S. From Day 1, the government has given conflicting
accounts about the exact whereabouts of three North Dakota Air National Guard
F-16s, assigned to national air defense, based at Langley Air Force base in
Virginia and scrambled at the height of the attacks.
Just a few days after the crash, a federal flight controller told a Nashua, N.H.,
newspaper that an F-16 was "in hot pursuit" of the hijacked United jet,
following so closely that it made 360-degree turns to stay in range. "He must
have seen the whole thing," an unnamed aviation official said.
Based on the plane's general course, the conventional wisdom is that Flight 93
was headed toward Washington and a strike on the White House or the Capitol. But
last month, the widely respected Times of London, quoting U.S. intelligence
sources and noting the plane's low altitude and erratic course, suggested the
real target might have been one of the state's nuclear power plants. At 500
mph, the Three Mile Island plant, near Harrisburg, was about than 10 or 15
Whether it was hero passengers or an F-16 fighter pilot who wanted the hijacked
jetliner to come down away from a populated area, they did an amazing job in
The nearest sizable town, Somerset, is 10 miles away on winding back-country
roads - where a visitor encountered as many dead raccoons as vehicles.
Nestled along a creekbed in the rolling Allegheny foothills, Shanksville is a
small cluster of red-brick homes and flag-draped front porches.
The only commercial enterprise, a convenience store called Ida's, also rents
videos and has the only ATM for miles around.
But the cell phone calls from the passengers all stopped about 9:58 a.m. -
roughly the same time that the caller to 911 in Westmoreland County stated there
had been an explosion.
The plane didn't come down until 10:06 - leaving an 8-minute gap of
unaccounted for air time, and thus a great mystery.
When Flight 93 came down, the eyewitnesses seem to agree on a few basic
facts - that the Boeing 757 was headed south or southeast very fast, that
it was flying erratically or banking from side to side, that its right wing
dipped steeply down and that the jetliner came down at close to a 90-degree
angle. A number of people quoted right after the crash said there were
strange noises, that the engine seemed to race but then went eerily silent as
the plane plummeted.
The plane seemed to be fully, or largely, intact. "I didn't see no smoke,
nothing," said Nevin Lambert, an elderly farmer who witnessed the crash from
his side yard less than a half-mile away.
Lambert also said he also later found a couple of pieces of debris, one a piece
of metal, less than 12 inches across, with some insulation attached. To those
who are debating the causes of the crash, the debris is particularly significant
because heavier farflung debris would suggest that something happened to cause
the plane to break up before it hit the ground.
Authorities also sought to explain why a number of residents saw a small,
unmarked jet circling over the crash site shortly after. Workers at a marina saw
it, and so did Kathy Blades, who was in her small summer cottage about a
quarter-mile from the impact site.
Blades and her son ran outside after the crash and saw the jet, with sleek
back wings and an angled cockpit, race overhead. "My son said, 'I think
we're under attack!' " She said she was so shocked by the crash she can't say
exactly how long after the impact it was.
A few days later, the FBI offered a possible explanation for what the
witnesses saw. Authorities said that a private Falcon 20 jet bound for nearby
Johnstown was in the vicinity and was asked by authorities to descend and help
survey the crash site. But the authorities didn't identify the owner of the
jet, nor explain why it was airborne some 40 minutes after the Federal Aviation
Administration ordered all planes to land at the nearest airport.
So where was the U.S. air defense at 10 a.m. - 72 minutes after the first plane
struck the World Trade Center and about a half-hour after air controllers and
United started to suspect that Flight 93 had been hijacked?
At 9:24 that morning, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)
ordered three F-16s from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia to scramble. They
were airborne at 9:30. It's not clear how close any of the planes were to Flight
93, although Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said a few days later
on TV that "we were already tracking that plane that crashed in
Vice President Dick Cheney said later that President Bush authorized the
military to shoot down any civilian plane that did not respond to
air-traffic control and appeared to be a threat. The order is said to have
come before Bush left Florida, which was at 9:58 a.m.
The commander of the North Dakota Air National Guard, which was handling air
defense out of Langley that morning, later told the New York Times that the
unidentified pilots received a harrowing order.
"A person came on the radio," Major Gen. Mike Haugen said, "and identified
themselves as being with the Secret Service and he said, 'I want you to protect
the White House at all costs.' "
"I think it was shot down," said Dennis Mock, who was not an eyewitness but
lives closest to the crash site on the west side. "That's what people around
here think." -
Philadelphia Daily News (11/18/01)
Flight 93 remains yield no evidence
"United Airlines Flight 93's crash into rural
Somerset County decimated all human remains so badly that investigators can't
say if any of the 44 people aboard were killed before the aircraft went down,
the FBI has told the county coroner.
That leaves it up to the jet's cockpit voice recorder to offer support for
widely held assumptions that the four hijackers began killing passengers before
or during a fight for control of the jetliner. For now, federal investigators
holding that recorder, one of two pieces commonly dubbed the black box, are
Investigators who recovered remains from the Shanksville-area crash site brought
possible stab wounds and lacerations to the attention of FBI pathologists,
Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller said yesterday. But the FBI has responded
that "the catastrophic nature of the crash and fragmentation" left them unable
to draw conclusions, Miller said.
The coroner's assessment came yesterday as he confirmed that the Armed Forces
DNA Identification Laboratory has used DNA samples to match recovered remains
with the last of 40 crew members and passengers aboard the hijacked jetliner
14 weeks ago when it slammed into a recovered strip mine at around 500 mph.
Miller has kept control of the crash site, under watch by security guards
hired by United Airlines, expecting a possible final search for remains in
Remains of passengers and crew identified so far should be released in February
to families or for burial, entombment or cremation in the Somerset County area,
depending on families' preferences, Miller said. Unidentified remains, yielding
no DNA information, will be "treated properly," probably interred or entombed in
the county, according to the coroner.
This is where hijackers and victims get different treatment.
Death certificates for the 40 victims list their deaths as homicides. The
hijackers' death certificates, not released yet, call their deaths suicides.
The four hijackers' remains will stay in FBI custody in case they prove
important to the evolving investigation.
Investigators segregated remains which yielded DNA samples that did not match
DNA profiles of the 40 passengers and crew. Those, by process of elimination,
are the hijackers, and their remains are being grouped by common DNA.
The air pirates have been identified as Ziad Jarrah, Ahmed Al Haznawi,
Saeed Al Ghamdi and Ahmed Al Nami -- but not so positively identified that
officials will list the names in official records.
"The death certificates will list each as 'John Doe,' " Miller said." -
Pittsburg Post-Gazette (12/20/01)
A NATION CHALLENGED: THE PENNSYLVANIA CRASH; Cockpit Tape Offers Few Answers
but Points to Heroic Efforts
"Families of passengers and crew members aboard
United Flight 93, the hijacked plane that crashed outside Shanksville, Pa., on
Sept. 11, will hear nothing to resolve crucial questions about their loved ones'
last minutes when they listen to the cockpit voice recorder next month, say
officials who have heard the tape or read transcripts of it.
Officials said the tape, a loop that records the last 30 minutes of a flight,
did not record the moments when the hijackers got into the cockpit and does not
resolve how they took over or whether the pilot and co-pilot were then killed.
It also does not make clear whether the passengers were able to force their
way into the cockpit in an effort to regain control of the plane or whether
the hijackers crashed the Boeing 757 deliberately or just lost control of it.
But the tape seems to confirm that the passengers acted heroically in trying to
overtake the four hijackers and keep the plane from being crashed into the White
House or other national landmark. A government transcript of the recording
shows that moments before the plane crashed, one of the hijackers shouted,
''They're coming,'' perhaps a warning as he looked at the charging passengers
through the peephole in the cockpit door, officials said.
The families are scheduled to listen to the recording on April 18 in Princeton,
N.J. A number of family members had petitioned the Federal Bureau of
Investigation to hear the tape, no matter how disturbing its contents.
After initially declining the request, F.B.I. officials say they have changed
Little but intermittent conversation and stretches of silence is on the first 20
to 25 minutes of the tape, after the hijackers gained control but before the
passengers tried to wrest it back. Much of what can be heard of the final
five to seven minutes of a desperate, fierce struggle remains open to
interpretation, officials cautioned.
A woman can be heard pleading for her life, asking not to die. At another
point, someone appears to be gurgling. Rustling and scuffling, a groan and
shouts in English and Arabic can be heard.
All this coincides with the time that four passengers, Todd Beamer, Honor
Elizabeth Wainio, Jeremy Glick and Thomas E. Burnett Jr., along with two flight
attendants, CeeCee Lyles and Sandra Bradshaw, reported in phone calls that
passengers were advancing down the 757's single aisle to take control of the
plane after learning that other hijacked planes had crashed into the World Trade
Center and the Pentagon.
At one point, someone in an accented voice said, ''No, no,'' leading
officials to speculate that the hijackers might have been arguing with each
other over the controls. The hijackers could be heard saying ''God is great''
Sounds of what seemed to be breaking glass and crashing dishes were also picked
up by the recorder, microphones located in the pilots' headsets and in the
ceiling of the cockpit. This was first reported by Newsweek in December.
Officials have theorized that plates and bottles and glasses may have been
hurled by passengers. Or they may have fallen from trays and carts as the
hijackers waggled the wings of the plane up and down in an effort to keep the
passengers from moving forward. Eyewitnesses reported seeing the wings moving
up and down in the final minutes.
''We don't have all the answers, but there is no question in my mind that the
passengers were heroes in the truest sense of the word,'' said Wells
Morrison, the deputy on-scene commander for the F.B.I., who declined to discuss
specifics of the voice recorder or evidence found at the crash site.
''Everyone should be proud of their actions.''
The tape also recorded unnerving background sounds. A two-tone alarm sounded
because the plane was flying up to 150 miles per hour faster than the instructed
limit of 425 m.p.h. for its low altitude, officials said. The air resistance as
the plane rushed so close to the ground created a constant rush of wind.
''It could have even broken the sound barrier for a while,'' said Hank Krakowski,
who was director of flight operations control at United's system control center
near O'Hare Airport in Chicago on Sept. 11.
Recent reporting has revealed other intriguing information about what was said
and done on the flight. While authorities have said that the hijackers on the
four flights had knives and box cutters, one passenger aboard Flight 93, Mr.
Burnett, told his wife in a cellphone call that the terrorists also had a gun.
On a tape of a 911 call made by Mr. Burnett's wife, Deena, to the sheriff's
department in Contra Costa County, Calif., Ms. Burnett said: ''My husband
just called me from United Flight 93. The plane has been hijacked. They just
knifed a passenger and there are guns on the airplane.'' Investigators said they
found no evidence of a gun at the crash site.
Earlier reports have said that a previously unidentified passenger, Edward
Felt of Matawan, N.J., said in a 911 call from a restroom that he saw a
puff of smoke and heard an explosion, leading some to cite this as evidence that
the plane was shot down by the military to prevent it from crashing into
sensitive targets. But the 911 dispatcher, John Shaw, and others who have
heard the tape, including Mr. Felt's wife, Sandra Felt, say he made no mention
of smoke or an explosion when he said, ''We're going down.''
Officials said the victims' remains were too badly damaged in the crash to
tell whether anyone had been stabbed or injured in the struggle.
But Patrick Welsh, the husband of Deborah Welsh, the flight's purser,
said he was told by United that one flight attendant had been stabbed early
in the takeover. It was ''strongly implied,'' he said, that his wife had
been a victim, given her position in first class and the likelihood that she
would have stood between the hijackers and the cockpit. ''Knowing Debby, she
would have resisted,'' Mr. Welsh said. ''She didn't meekly submit to anything.
She could handle herself.''
Alice Hoglan, a United flight attendant who was phoned by her son, Mark
Bingham, a passenger on the plane, while the hijacking was in progress,
called him back at 9:54 a.m. and left two messages on his cellphone, urging him
and the other passengers to rush the cockpit because the flight appeared to be a
suicide mission. Her son, who she believes helped try to retake the plane,
apparently never got the messages, but Ms. Hoglan later retrieved them from the
''Mark, apparently it's terrorists and they're hellbent on crashing the
aircraft,'' Ms. Hoglan said in the second message, urgency in her voice. ''So,
if you can, try to take over the aircraft. There doesn't seem to be much plan to
land the aircraft normally, so I guess your best bet would be to try to take it
over if you can, or tell the other passengers. There is one flight that they say
is headed toward San Francisco. It might be yours. So, if you can, group some
people and perhaps do the best you can to get control of it. I love you,
sweetie. Good luck. Goodbye.''
More than six months later, Ms. Hoglan said, she did not expect to gain any
consolation from hearing the voice recorder. Still, she wants to listen." -
New York Times (03/27/02)
"Before Miller can even unfold his lanky 6-foot-4
body from the vehicle, a deputy sheriff thrusts at him a plastic baggie
containing a handful of jagged metallic nuggets, mangled and melted into
irregular shapes, little bigger than children's marbles. They are the latest of
the shreds to be recovered -- nearly six months later -- of what remains of
United Airlines Flight 93. Miller holds up the bag and says that virtually the
entire airplane, including its 44 human occupants, disintegrated in similar
The Boeing 757 still heavily laden with jet fuel
slammed at about 575 mph almost straight down into a rolling patch of grassy
land that had long ago been strip-mined for coal. The impact spewed a fireball
of horrific force across hundreds of acres of towering hemlocks and other trees,
setting many ablaze. The fuselage burrowed straight into the earth so forcefully
that one of the "black boxes" was recovered at a depth of 25 feet under the
As coroner, responsible for returning human
remains, Miller has been forced to share with the families information that is
unimaginable. As he clinically recounts to them, holding back very few details,
the 33 passengers, seven crew and four hijackers together weighed roughly 7,000
pounds. They were essentially cremated together upon impact. Hundreds of
searchers who climbed the hemlocks and combed the woods for weeks were able to
find about 1,500 mostly scorched samples of human tissue totaling less than 600
pounds, or about 8 percent of the total.
Miller was among the very first to arrive after
10:06 on the magnificently sunny morning of September 11. He was stunned at how
small the smoking crater looked, he says, "like someone took a scrap truck, dug
a 10-foot ditch and dumped all this trash into it." Once he was able to absorb
the scene, Miller says, "I stopped being coroner after about 20 minutes, because
there were no bodies there. It became like a giant funeral service."
Thousands of people -- the locals estimate up to
1,000 a week -- have arrived at an old coal-mining access trail called Skyline
Road, where finally they can see what remains of Flight 93: nothing. "There's
not really much to it, is there?" Wally Miller often says to families and other
visitors who are bewildered by what they don't see.
Immediately after the crash, the seeming absence
of human remains led the mind of coroner Wally Miller to a surreal fantasy: that
Flight 93 had somehow stopped in mid-flight and discharged all of its passengers
before crashing. "There was just nothing visible," he says. "It was the
strangest feeling." It would be nearly an hour before Miller came upon his first
trace of a body part.
Miller says he is often asked how he copes
emotionally with the work he must do. He says he is not sure. Then he tells the
church audience that, remarkably, two heavily damaged Bibles were found in the
wreckage of the flight; a white one at the crash site that belonged to a
passenger who was a practicing Buddhist; and a second one, black, of uncertain
ownership. Miller says he ran across the second one on the floor of the
warehouse where victims' belongings were being kept. The second Bible was
scrunched up and was lying open, he says, to the 121st Psalm, which is
customarily read at funerals. He says he has no idea who left the Bible in that
Washington Post (05/12/02)
Coroner remembers Sept. 11
"Miller recalled his arrival at the crash site
about 20 minutes after the plane plummeted to the earth and described how
the aircraft came down at a 45-degree angle. He explained how the cockpit broke
off at impact, bouncing into a wooded area of about 60 acres. The resulting
fireball scorched about eight acres of trees, he said.
The remainder of the plane burrowed deep into
the ground, creating a long, narrow crater.
"When we got out there, we knew there weren't going to be any survivors.
Debris was strewn about everywhere, with nothing bigger than a large
coffee can," Miller said.
As the more than 250 FBI agents and other
federal officials descended upon the site, Miller said, it was apparent
their main objective was to search for evidence and find the plane's "black
box," the only one that was recovered from the four planes hijacked in the Sept.
11 attacks." -
Sept. 11 video,
photos might be shown at Moussaoui trial
"The pictures would be augmented by dramatic
cockpit voice recordings from United Flight 93, as passengers apparently tried
to wrest control of the aircraft from hijackers, prosecutors said Thursday. The
plane crashed in Pennsylvania, killing 44, including the attackers.
Additional recordings would be played from the cockpit of an executive jet
that tracked Flight 93 on Sept. 11, according to written proposals subject
to approval by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema.
The government said it would play the cockpit
voice recordings from Flight 93 and the executive jet in open court, but asked
Brinkema to keep both recordings and their transcripts from dissemination
outside the courtroom.
An official for NetJets, a company that sells shares in private business
aircraft, confirmed that the plane tracking Flight 93 belonged to the company.
The official, who asked not to be identified by name, said the company was
asked not to comment on the Sept. 11 flight but would not say who made the
Holland Sentinel (08/09/02) [archive]
Flight 93 Remains Returned
"The remains and belongings of 40 people who died when United Airlines
Flight 93 crashed into a western Pennsylvania field Sept. 11 will be
returned to their survivors, the county coroner said.
The remains of all but the plane's four hijackers will be placed into
caskets. The first sets of remains were shipped Monday and the rest will be
delivered when the victims' survivors are contacted, Somerset County Coroner
Wallace Miller said.
Officials identified remains through fingerprints, dental records and DNA.
They had been stored at a temporary morgue in Somerset.
The hijackers' remains will stay in the county, Miller said, and may
eventually be turned over to FBI investigators." -
"This is the place where, on Sept. 11, 2001,
United Airlines Flight 93, scene of a desperate airborne battle
pitting passengers and crew against terrorist hijackers, came hurtling out
of the sky, turning upside down and slamming into the earth
at more than 500 mph.
No bodies were recovered here, at least not as we normally think of bodies.
In the cataclysmic violence of the crash, the people on Flight 93 literally
disintegrated. Searchers found fragments of bones, small pieces of flesh, a
hand. But no bodies.
In the grisly accounting of a jetliner crash, it comes down to pounds:
The people on Flight 93 weighed a total of about 7,500 pounds. Miller
supervised an intensive effort to gather their remains, some flung hundreds
of yards. In the end, just 600 pounds of remains were collected; of these,
250 pounds could be identified by DNA testing and returned to the families
of the passengers and crew.
Wally Miller, coroner, has walked this ground hundreds of times. He spent
endless hours among those collecting human remains and picking up plane
parts. Even now, he walks with his eyes down, looking, looking. Every now
and then he reaches down and picks up a tiny piece of plane - a
thimble-sized piece of twisted gray metal, a bit of charred plastic, a shard
of circuit board, a wire. This is what Flight 93 became: millions of tiny
pieces, a vast puzzle that can never be reassembled. Despite the cleanup
effort, there are still thousands of plane parts scattered for acres around
the crash site, just under the new plant growth, reminders of what happened
The site is peaceful; no sound but birds. Miller walks from the bright
field into the hemlock woods just beyond the barren spot where Flight 93
slammed into the earth. It's mid-afternoon, but the woods are in permanent
dusk, the tall trees allowing only a dim, gloomy light to filter down to the
lush green ferns that blanket the ground. The woods look undisturbed, except
for bright "X"s painted on the trunks of dozens of hemlocks. The "X"s mark
the trees that were scaled by climbers retrieving human remains, flung high
and deep into woods by the force of the crash." -
Miami Herald (09/07/02)
Vignettes: They were there
The plane, too, was decimated. The largest pieces were the size of
suitcases, the smallest the size of dimes.
"It just looked like somebody just dropped a bunch of metal out of the
sky," Miller said.
Officially, Miller was charged with identifying the victims, returning what
remains were recovered and caring for the site of the crash. He
personally identified 12 bodies through fingerprints and teeth. The
remaining 32 bodies had to be identified with DNA testing." -
Houston Chronicle (09/08/02)
"He can remember his first time there,
10.45am, Tuesday, September 11 the stench of jet fuel, still puddled on
the ground, the smell of the burnt and smouldering trees and grass, the
silence of nature and the men who had arrived to find they could do nothing,
the overwhelming evidence that a Boeing 757, 55 metres long and
weighing 110 tonnes, had somehow been obliterated, and with it, the
44 people on board.
He stands next to a mound of wood chips, the remnants of the trees that
caught the full force of the fireball that was flight 93. The first
screams had been the sound of the tree trunks, riddled with metal
from the exploded plane.
The 8am United Airlines flight 93 was 42 minutes late in taking off from
Newark, New Jersey, for the trip to San Francisco. Its 43,000-litre fuel
tanks were brimming for the six-hour flight.
Calls from on-board and mobile phones alerted emergency and phone
company operators and families to the hijacking and the plan by the
passengers to try to retake control of the aircraft. The cockpit voice
recorder revealed seven minutes of pandemonium in English and Arabic as the
passengers, apparently led by Todd Beamer, Tom Burnett, Mark Bingham and
Jeremy Glick, stormed the front of the plane.
After its abrupt U-turn, flight 93 was tracked on radar by the control
tower at Cleveland. The jet hurtled low and erratic, south-east over
Minutes later, he rang back. A jet had just passed overhead at treetop
level, looking as though it was about to crash, before abruptly climbing.
The plane followed a highway, State Route 30, then veered south.
Terry Butler was working in the yard of Stoystown Auto Wreckers, pulling a
radiator from a junked car. Butler could see the last remnants of fog
burning off in the adjoining fields. It was 10.02am.
Butler saw the plane. "It was just above the treetops, flying straight.
Maybe a little bit wobbly, but it was flying straight. Then it went up." As
it passed overhead, Butler estimated the plane's height at no more than
100 metres, before it suddenly climbed to twice that.
At that moment, at Ida's store in Shanksville, three kilometres away, store
owner Rick King heard "a whining, screaming noise of the engines" as the
plane briefly ascended.
Terry Butler saw the plane bank right at the top of its climb,
then lost sight of it behind some trees. Within three or four seconds,
there was the impact, marked, he remembered, by four explosions.
King, the assistant fire chief of the Shanksville Volunteer Fire Department,
felt the ground shake beneath his feet.
In Kashurba's account, the ceiling tiles bounced, then settled again in the
fourth grade classroom of Shanksville-Stonycreek School.
In another class, students were ordered to hide under their desks as the
room shook from the shockwave.
Flight 93's estimated speed at the point of impact was 975kmh. In its final
moments, it spun 180 degrees, hitting the ground upside down and at a
Somerset County is dotted with mines; some still working but most abandoned.
The 20-hectare plot that Wallace Miller walked had been mined for coal on
its surface and underground for 30 years.
In 1990, the reclamation process began: 190,000 cubic metres of soil
and dynamited rock were spread over the site, then sewn with grass.
To the casual eye, it looked like solid, consolidated ground but in reality
the reclaimed expanse was loose and uncompacted. When flight 93
hit the ground, the cockpit and first-class cabin broke off, scattered into
millions of fragments that spread and flew like shrapnel into and through
the trees 20 metres away.
A section of the engine, weighing almost a tonne, was found on the bed of
a catchment pond, 200 metres downhill.
Some of the plane's cargo was found intact 200 kilograms of mail in
the hold, a Bible, its cover scorched but its pages undamaged and
later, as the excavation began, the passport of one of the four hijackers.
The rest of the 757 continued its downward passage, the sandy loam
closing behind it like the door of a tomb. Eventually these pieces and
its human cargo the heroes and the cowards, as a message left at the
nearby temporary memorial put it came to rest against solid rock, 23
metres below the surface.
The scene was captured in a picture taken soon after by a local
photographer, Mark Stahl. Published in a magazine commemorative book, the
scene is remarkable for its total absence of urgency.
The point of impact, about 10-12 metres across, is black and smoking.
According to Miller it was about three metres deep. In Stahl's
photograph it looks more like an excavation.
Other photos taken at the scene by Miller show a small furrow, like a
hand-dug drainage ditch, running back from the crater. This was the
mark left by a wing.
"It was the most eerie thing," Miller recalled. "Usually, when you
see a plane crash on TV, you see the fuselage, the tail or a piece of
something. The biggest piece I saw was as big as this (spreading his hands
less than a metre apart). It was as though someone took a tri-axle dump
truck and spread it over an acre."
Walking in his gumboots, the only recognisable body part he saw was a
piece of spinal cord, with five vertebrae attached.
"I've seen a lot of highway fatalities where there's fragmentation," Miller
said. "The interesting thing about this particular case is that I
haven't, to this day, 11 months later, seen any single drop of blood. Not a
drop. The only thing I can deduce is that the crash was over in half a
second. There was a fireball 15-20 metres high, so all of that material just
There have been other, grimmer, visitors. First the FBI evidence recovery
team members came in. They had sieves built to filter the evidence, but
especially the human remains, from the soil.
The bureau members stayed at the crash site for 16 days and recovered 230
kilograms of remains.
Searches of the area were conducted on hands and knees. Wallace Miller
remembers seeing an agent, from Mississippi, in tears as he crawled forward.
When the FBI left, it handed legal responsibility for the location to the
coroner, who was left with hell's own clean-up.
Miller and workers from the company contracted by United Airlines to clear
the site found some dental work among the piles of dirt excavated from the
crater. They used fine sieves to work through the piles again and extracted
a further 45 kilograms. When that was done, the soil went back into the
He estimated the average weight of each of the 44 people aboard flight 93
was 79.5 kilograms, for a total body mass of 3500 kilograms. "We
recovered 270 kilograms. Of that, we identified about 110. The main
thing I've been saying ever since that is the area down there is a cemetery
because 92 per cent of these people's loved ones repose there."
For now, the site is off-limits to the public.
The shovel twists and is caught among the root-ridden soil at the base of a
stand of hemlock trees. The soil is dark and rich on top, lighter
underneath. Brightly covered pieces of electrical wire are still strewn
and wrapped around the base of some of the trees." -
The Age (09/09/02)
Crash site cleanup cost $850,000
"The state Department of Environmental
Protection has approved the final cleanup report for the United Airlines
Flight 93 crash site near Shanksville in Somerset County.
"United Airlines did a thorough job in its investigation of the
environmental effects from the September 2001 plane crash," said Charles A.
Duritsa, the DEP southwest regional director.
"Site samples indicate that the site meets Pennsylvania's Act 2 statewide
health standards for soil and groundwater for the fuel known as jet "A"
fuel. We consider cleanup work at the site completed."
Betsy Mallison, a DEP spokeswoman, said it cost United Airlines $850,000
for the environmental investigation and remediation at the site of the crash
in an old strip mine.
United Airlines' site investigation
included tests on samples of soil, sediment and groundwater in the immediate
crash impact area, and also in the areas lying in the south and southeast
corners of the site. The areas tested included a sediment pond drained
during the FBI site investigation.
Soil sampling areas included the excavated pit, the area surrounding the
pit and the backfill material.
"The backfill material was made up mostly of soil and dirt excavated from
the pit during the criminal investigation," Duritsa said.
The material was in an area most likely to be contaminated by jet fuel,
"Tests showed the area is considered safe," Duritsa added.
Soil sampling was conducted in a grid pattern and samples were collected
down to 6 inches, according to the DEP. A geoprobe was used throughout the
crash site to evaluate deeper impacts. Groundwater samples were collected
from four monitoring wells installed in the zone." -
Pittsburg Tribune-Review (09/11/02)
Town embraces role it never sought
"When Flight 93 came down, eyewitnesses agreed on a few facts: the Boeing
757 was headed southeast very fast. It was flying erratically and
wobbling right and left, at a low altitude of roughly 2,500 feet. Its right
wing dipped down suddenly and the jetliner plunged into the earth
at nearly a 90-degree angle.
"I had just finished shoveling coal into the cellar (in preparation) for the
winter, and was sittin' right on this front porch when I saw the plane
coming down at a 45-degree angle," Nevin Lambert says. "I said to
myself, 'Boy, that plane's in big trouble.' It was flippin' from one side to
the other. I did not hear no engines on the plane. I didn't see no smoke.
When it went nose down straight into the ground, I looked at my
watch, and it was 10:07 a.m. Boy, I was scared."
After it stopped raining dirt and smoke and
fiery debris, he later found a couple of pieces of metal from the aircraft
in his yard.
While the FBI and other authorities have said the plane was mostly
obliterated by the 500 mph impact, they also said a 1,000-pound piece
of one of the engines was found "a considerable distance" from the crater
in the wide open spaces of the
Svonavec Coal Co.
The strip mine is composed of very soft black soil, and searchers
said much of the wreckage was found buried 20 to 25 feet below the large
crater. Debris washed up more than two miles away at Indian Lake,
and a canceled check and brokerage statement from the plane were found in
a valley 8 miles away.
Immediately following the crash, rumors surfaced that Flight 93 had been
shot down. The Pentagon categorically denies that military aircraft downed
Most Americans are quite secure in their belief that a struggle between the
passengers and the hijackers caused the crash.
Folks differ as to where the crash site actually is. Some call it
Shanksville because that's where the media were kept, a mile away from the
actual explosion. Some say it's actually in Stoystown. Others maintain it
should be called Stony Creek Township." -
day that changed America
"Dave Fox did go out to Skyline Drive, to the
old strip mine, abandoned in 1996.
He saw the smoke. He drove out in the funeral van, expecting a skid
crash, with fire and fuselage chunks, and the tail off to one side. And
a survivor or two, God willing.
They couldn't find the plane.
At about 500 feet, with the wind so loud they could barely hear, the
passengers had fought back. Several had forced their way into the cockpit,
where the hijackers had the controls. They struggled, shouting, swearing.
They grabbed at the instrument panel. Behind them, a woman cried.
The plane pitched, then rolled, belly up. It hit nose-first, like a lawn
dart. It disintegrated, digging more than 30 feet into the earth, which was
spongy from the old mine work.
The hemlocks caught fire. The jet fuel pooled. The wind played with
paper scraps: a Bible page, some bank-machine receipts, the corner of a
Fox stepped over a seat back. He saw a wiring harness, and a piston. None
of the other pieces was bigger than a TV remote.
He saw three chunks of torn human tissue.
He'd assumed it was an accident. A Cessna, maybe. A spark in the fuel
tank. A stuck rudder. He didn't connect it to the other planes, still
crashing on cable TV.
She stood there as the men hunched in
contamination suits, sifting through what was left of the plane and the 44
people on board.
The FBI arrived. The governor came. The
Smithsonian sent forensics experts, pulled off an Indian dig.
The plane hit at about 575 mph. The cockpit
and first-class cabin collapsed; the rest crumpled into it, the rivets
giving, the fireball scorching everything.
Investigators crawled through the debris
field, bagging bolts and bone fragments. They found chunks of seat cushion
foam, and honeycombed sound insulators. Then a shoelace, some shirt buttons,
and a wedding ring. Then part of a passport, and a necktie, still knotted.
Wallace Miller, the lanky, Civil
War-studying county coroner, did see it. He sat at the family funeral
home, his father, Wilbur, with him. They watched the second plane sweep
in low, from nowhere. They winced when it hit.
He couldn't believe the scene. He saw the burnt trees, and some debris
smoking in the dirt. He saw half a window frame. He saw shreds of
that white cloth they put over the headrests.
He saw things in the trees.
He takes off his glasses, cleans them with his T-shirt. "This is the most
eerie thing," he says. "I have not, to this day, seen a single drop
of blood. Not a drop."
"An extraordinary thing happened on that
airplane," says Miller, who spent five months and $500,000 and found less
than a tenth of the victims' remains."
Pittsburgh Live (09/11/02)
Families of Flight 93 victims gather at Shanksville crash site
"Hamilton Peterson had steeled himself for his
first visit to the site where his father and stepmother died a year ago in
the crash of United Airlines Flight 93.
Yesterday, he was shown where the
Newark-to-San-Francisco-bound Boeing 757 corkscrewed into the ground at
more than 507 mph. He heard how debris from the impact, including human
teeth and bone, were imbedded in nearby trees, and how bodies were
reduced to no more than swatches of skin." -
Day of remembrance
"At 10:06 a.m., the final services began on a field near Shanksville, Pa.,
where United Flight 93 burrowed into the ground when passengers thwarted
terrorists' plans to crash the plane into the Capitol or the White House." -
In the sky, a heroic struggle aboard hijacked United Flight 93
"The crash of hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 into one of
Shanksville's reclaimed strip-mining fields on September 11 has become a
defining moment in the previously understated life of this community. "To be
forever linked to one of the country's worst days is pretty overwhelming,"
says Rick King, 38, Shanksville's assistant volunteer fire chief, who was
one of the first responders to the scene.
The aircraft careened into the soft earth, just shy of the
Shanksville-Stonycreek K-12 school, where about 500 students and staff were
beginning the academic year. Those who were there moments later say the
smoking wreckage looked like a pile of scrap metal in a pit, until you
focused more closely and saw the other kinds of fragments among the debris.
The signs of change in Shanksville range from the intangible–hushed
reverence over an otherwise unremarkable field–to the obvious–unheard-of
traffic on badly paved roads. Upward of 100 cars a day rumble past Robert
Leverknight's house, heading the mile or so to the crash site. Before
September 11, only a handful passed daily. Without wanting to sound
disrespectful, he confides that the hubbub is making some "people here talk
about leaving." And Leverknight, 40, a photographer for the Air National
Guard and the county newspaper, the Daily American, has other new
worries. Strangers from who knows where now ask his 12-year-old daughter for
directions as she plays in the family's front yard, and she helps them.
It has been awhile–most agree since the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 (in which
settlers rioted against excise taxes)–that the country even knew the town
existed. "It used to be, 'Where the heck is Shanksville?' " says Valencia
McClatchey, who lives near the crash site and snapped the
oft-reproduced photo of a plume of smoke hovering over an old red barn and
staining the morning sky. It's not a place most would know about. The
town of 245 people sits nearly two hours east of Pittsburgh in the middle of
Somerset County. There are two ski resorts and two state prisons in the
county, but you don't have to go through Shanksville to reach them. Its
relative obscurity allowed residents to burrow deep into their quiet
community, and its serenity attracted people like McClatchey and her
As for the actual land at the site, it was never terribly valuable to Tim
Lambert, who owns about 164 acres of it. His grandfather bought the
parcel in 1930, and it was passed down to the 32-year-old radio reporter,
who didn't think much about it except at tax time. It had been 20 years
since he'd even been to Shanksville when he was informed that the charred
woods in all the news pictures were his woods.
Lambert (a distant relative of Nevin's) says his first trip around the site
in October was "overwhelming and heartbreaking." He was absorbing the
devastation when his escort, Somerset County Coroner Wally Miller, held
up a quarter-size piece of metal. "As soon as he did that, you saw
plane parts everywhere," Lambert says. Now, he can't help searching the
ground every time he visits. "I don't notice the trees, the beauty of the
land, the grass, or the snow," he says. "I just notice plane parts."
All that debris, and the fact that only 8 percent of the human remains
could be recovered, mean the site is, essentially, a cemetery, Miller
says. "The real story is about what those people did, deciding to rush the
[terrorists] and sell everyone else on the idea," says Miller, who spent
weeks crawling around on his hands and knees searching for remains and would
rather talk about anything else. "Where it landed is not what matters. The
most important thing is that they be properly remembered."
From the first chaotic hours after the crash, Miller has firmly kept the
media and meddling officials he calls "JAFOs" ("Just Another F---ing
Observer") from "tromping around" in the woods and among the handful of
small cabins and houses at the scene. Only the seven landowners with deeds
to various sections of the area may visit their acreage. Errant shards of
the aircraft can still be found there–twisted plates of the machine's metal
skin and swatches of patterned seat covers–but it's illegal to keep
them. They're still considered evidence, and the area a crime scene, "until
they catch [Osama] bin Laden," say many local police officers." -
WHAT DID HAPPEN TO FLIGHT 93?
"India Lake also contributes to the view there
was an explosion on board before the Newark-San Francisco flight came down.
Debris rained down on the lake - a curious feat if, as the US government
insists, there was no mid-air explosion and the plane was intact until it
hit the ground.
"It was mainly mail, bits of in-flight magazine and scraps of seat cloth,"
Tom said. "The authorities say it was blown here by the wind." But there was
only a 10mph breeze and you were a mile and a half away? Tom raised his
eyebrows, rolled his eyes and said: "Yeah, that's what they reckon."
Light debris was also found eight miles away in New Baltimore. A
section of engine weighing a ton was located 2,000 yards - over a mile -from
the crash site. Theorists point out a Sidewinder heat-seeking missile
attacks the hottest part of aircraft - the engine.
The authorities say the impact bounced it there. But the few pieces of
surviving fuselage, local coroner Wallace Miller told us, were "no bigger
than a carrier bag". -
Daily Mirror (09/13/02)
Terrorism awakened a sleepy Shanksville
"The Boeing 757 roared dangerously low over a playground in
Ligonier, 26 miles west of Shanksville, then careened east along Highway 30.
It veered upward at the last second to miss a small hill at the Stoystown
Auto Wreckers, then banked dangerously close to the dam at Indian Lake.
Shanksville Assistant Fire Chief Rick King recalled being on a mobile
phone with his sister discussing the crashes at the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon. Suddenly, he heard her shout, "Ohmigosh, here comes a
After buzzing Somerset County, Flight 93 burrowed into a secluded field that was a reclaimed strip
mine, two miles from the district’s only school and its 500 pre-kindergarten
to senior high school students.
The smoke was so thick that teachers thought
there had been an explosion adjacent to the school’s playground.
"It’s absolutely amazing to us that the
plane came down where it did. It’s the only place within a 10-mile radius"
where it could have crashed without claiming additional lives." -
Coroner completes probe of Flight 93 site; Plans to acquire land for
"A coroner has completed
his investigation of the United Flight 93 crash site, saying less than 10
percent of the human remains were recovered from the site and he
considers the land a cemetery.
Since the plane crashed on
Sept. 11, 2001, Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller has presided over the
site near Shanksville, about 60 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. He has
lead searches to recover remains of the 40 passengers and crew and the four
hijackers, their personal effects, parts of the airplane and other
Miller, who said a final search in July turned up "two or three handfuls of
aircraft debris" but no remains, announced Tuesday that he was officially
ending his investigation.
Mike Svonavec, owner of
Svonavec Inc., a coal company that owns 270 acres -- including the impact
site -- said he intends to donate the land as soon as it is appraised."
town shoulders a nation's grief
"The point of impact is near the end of a
pockmarked little lane, in a shallow basin next to a pond at the edge of a
stand of pine trees charred by the initial blast.
The site had been mined for coal, then
refilled with dirt. It was still soft when Flight 93 crashed, and
firefighters said the Boeing 757 tunneled right in.
They had to dig 15 feet to find it.
The impact was such that few human remains
were found, and the site is considered hallowed ground, a heroes'
graveyard. It is surrounded by a chain-link fence, with a single
American flag hanging from it. The Sheriff's Department added 15 deputies
to provide 24-hour security." -
St. Petersburg Times (09/10/03)
At Flight 93 crash site, family members
return; lack of hoopla welcome
"Bagpipe music drifted over a hill and into this tranquil valley as nearly
40 family members returned to weep, pray and leave flowers on the ground that swallowed their loved ones on Sept. 11, 2001." -
land donated for Flight 93 memorial
"A coal company will donate 29 acres,
including part of the site where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed on Sept.
11, 2001, and will become the third group to give away land that could be
used for a national memorial.
PBS Coals Inc., based in Friedens, Somerset County, announced
Tuesday that it was giving the land to The Conservation Fund, an Arlington,
Va.-based nonprofit group working with Somerset County landowners and
officials to preserve land for a memorial for the 40 passengers and crew who
died on the flight.
With the coal company's donation, officials have garnered 175 of the 1,500
acres that a federal panel has said it would like for a permanent memorial
around the crash site.
Last week, Pittsburgh-based
Consol Energy announced that it had donated 140 acres of company-owned
land. Last year, Tim Lambert, a Harrisburg-area resident, donated six
acres to the nonprofit Families of Flight 93 Inc.
The National Park Service will lead a federal commission in designing a
memorial to be placed at the crash site. President Bush has ordered that the
design be completed and delivered to the Interior Department and Congress by
hijacker: 'Shall we finish it off?'
"Who actually put United Flight 93 into a
death dive, causing it to slam into the Pennsylvania countryside on
September 11, 2001, is revealed in the 9/11 commission report released
The passenger revolt began at 9:57 a.m.,
nearly 30 minutes after the four terrorists aboard launched their takeover
of the Boeing 757 loaded with more than 11,000 gallons of jet fuel.
"The airplane headed down; the control wheel
was turned hard to the right. The airplane rolled onto its back..."
"...the aircraft plowed into an empty field in
Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at 580 miles per hour, about 20 minutes' flying
time from Washington, D.C."
The report says at least 10 passengers and two
crew members contacted family, friends or others on the ground. They
reported the hijackers were wearing red bandanas, forced passengers to the
back of the plane and claimed a bomb was aboard, according to the report.
Flight 93 was the only hijacked plane that day with four hijackers aboard.
All other flights had five hijackers." -
seconds of United Flight 93
"Again and again, the heroic passengers and
crew of United Flight 93 fought back against the hijackers, continuing their
assault even when
the plane was turned upside down." -
New York Daily (07/23/04)
sheds light on Flight 93 heroics
aircraft struck the earth at 580 mph outside Shanksville, 20
minutes' flying time from Washington. A passing National Guard cargo plane,
which had earlier seen American Airlines Flight 77 strike the Pentagon, was
passing over the Johnstown area at that point. It reported seeing black
smoke rising from the ground near Johnstown." -
9-11 Mysteries Remain; Three Years After Terror Attacks, Public Still Doubts
"American Free Press visited Somerset County
to look into some of the questions surrounding United Airlines Flight 93,
which allegedly turned over and crashed in a refilled strip mine between
Lambertsville and Shanksville, Pa., taking 44 lives with it.
Many local residents believe the plane was shot down, which they say would
explain why parts of the plane and its contents were found strewn over a
One question, “is what happened to the physical wreckage of the plane?”
“There was no plane,” Ernie Stull, mayor of Shanksville, told German
television in March 2003:
“My sister and a good friend of mine were the first ones there,” Stull said.
“They were standing on a street corner in Shanksville talking. Their car was
nearby, so they were the first here—and the fire department came.
Everyone was puzzled, because the call had been that a plane had crashed.
But there was no plane.”
“They had been sent here because of a crash, but there was no plane?” the
“No. Nothing. Only this hole.”
When AFP asked Stull about his comments, he disagreed about when he had gone
to the crash site. “A day or two later,” Stull said, was about when he went
to the site. But he reiterated the fact that they saw little evidence of a
Nena Lensbouer, who had prepared lunch for the workers at the scrap yard
overlooking the crash site, was the first person to go up to the smoking
Lensbouer told AFP that the hole was five to six feet deep and smaller
than the 24-foot trailer in her front yard. She described hearing “an
explosion, like an atomic bomb”—not a crash.
Lensbouer called 911 and stayed on the line as she ran across the reclaimed
land of the former strip mine to within 15 feet of the smoking crater.
Lensbouer told AFP that she did not see any evidence of a plane then or
at any time during the excavation at the site, an effort that reportedly
recovered 95 percent of the plane and 10 percent of the human remains.
While specific details vary, the explanation for the disappearance of the
plane is that the reclaimed land acted like liquid and absorbed the aircraft,
which is said to have impacted at between 450 and 600 miles per hour.
This explanation is also used to explain why there was only a brief
explosion with one short-lived smoke cloud, not unlike a bomb blast.
“I never saw that smoke,” Paula Long, an eyewitness, told AFP. Long
ran “immediately” after hearing the crash but did not see the cloud of
smoke caught in the now-famous photograph by Valencia McClatchey, she
“It [the ground] liquefied,” Bob Leverknight, an active member of the
Air National Guard and correspondent with Somerset’s Daily American, told
AFP regarding how the wreck and much of the fuel disappeared. One of the
massive engines, Leverknight said, however, bounced off the ground and was
found in the woods.
Jim Svonavec, whose company worked at the site and provided
excavation equipment, told AFP that the recovery of the engine “at least
1,800 feet into the woods,” was done solely by FBI agents using his
American Free Press (09/17/04)
Debunking The Myths - Roving Engine
"Experts on the scene tell PM that a fan
from one of the engines was recovered in a catchment basin, downhill from
the crash site. Jeff Reinbold, the National Park Service representative
responsible for the Flight 93 National Memorial, confirms the direction and
distance from the crash site to the basin: just over 300 yards south,
which means the fan landed in the direction the jet was traveling.
"It's not unusual for an engine to move or tumble across the ground," says
Michael K. Hynes, an airline accident expert who investigated the crash of
TWA Flight 800 out of New York City in 1996. "When you have very high
velocities, 500 mph or more," Hynes says, "you are talking about 700 to 800
ft. per second. For something to hit the ground with that kind of energy, it
would only take a few seconds to bounce up and travel 300 yards." Numerous
crash analysts contacted by PM concur." -
Popular Mechanics (03/05)
After Flight 93 spotlight, coroner
stays true to small-town roots
"County Coroner Wallace Miller remembers
hearing melting plastic drip from the trees, and days and weeks later,
comforting the families of doomed Flight 93.
More often than not, the 6-foot-4 Miller, who is in his second term, has
some connection to those people - Somerset County's population numbers
fewer than 80,000.
After the crash he found himself in charge of a major crime scene, releasing
the site to its owners only this past summer.
The secretary for the coroner in neighboring Cambria County was the first to
alert Miller to trouble in his own back yard. The call came shortly after
"'Hey Wally, do you need any help with your plane crash? Call me up and
we'll get everybody up here,'" Miller recalled the secretary saying.
Many coroners were at a meeting in the eastern part of the state. Miller had
planned to attend the next day.
"I was, 'What are you talking about?'
"She said, 'A jet crashed down in Lambertsville.' I said, 'No, it didn't.
911 didn't call.'
"This is a flight path, but you never see a jet around here lower than
20,000 feet," he says.
When he got to the scene, about 65 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, there
was little evidence that what crashed had been a plane.
The Boeing 757 hurtled into the ground at 580 mph, leaving a
20-by-10-foot deep gouge in the earth.
"I can just remember seeing very small bits of debris everywhere. There
really wasn't any large sections of debris or aircraft," he says. "The
thing that really struck my mind the most was hearing the melted plastic
dripping out of the trees."
Miller knew no one could have survived. In his nearly four years as coroner
at that point, he had just two homicide cases. Now, he had 40 - every
passenger and crew member aboard the plane.
Miller assembled a team that included Cambia County Coroner Dennis
Kwiatkowski and Dennis Dirkmaat, a forensic anthropologist at Mercyhurst
College. They began recovering human remains, a job that lasted weeks, with
periodic sweeps since.
Only about 650 pounds of human remains, just 8 percent of the total the
people on board would have weighed, were collected - leaving little
traditional pathology work to do, Miller says. Much of the identification
was done through DNA testing." -
Triton's Clayton White on other side of recruiting
"You might say
Clayton White's life has come full circle since February 1996.
White’s career didn’t end there, however. He
eventually made the NFL’s New York Giants as a free agent and spent three
seasons in the league, the last one in 2002 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But the most lasting memory of White’s time in
New York had nothing to do with football.
"We had played a Monday night game in Denver, and flew back home the next
morning," White said. "We landed in Newark, N.J., about 6:45 in the morning.
We usually get off the plane on the tarmac and board a bus to get to our
"I noticed another plane sitting next to ours because the people were
walking to the plane across the tarmac instead of through the
"Two weeks later, as we’re taking another plane to a game, one of the
stewardesses informed us the plane that had been boarding next to us was
Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania on 9/11. That was a very eerie
Fayetteville Observer (01/31/06)
Families of 9/11 Victims Praise 'United 93'
"KING: We are discussing the film, "United 93," which opened today. Joining
us now, Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on site where the crash occurred, is
Kevin Huzsek. Kevin is a paramedic, Somerset area ambulance area. He was
dispatched to the scene within minutes of the flight and remained on
site for nine hours.
And with him is Sergeant Anthony Deluca Pennsylvania State Police
stationed commander troop T Somerset, fourth state trooper to arrive at the
flight 93 crash site. Neither gentlemen has seen the film, both intend
to see the film.
Kevin, what happened with you that day? What do you remember about the call
and going to the site?
KEVIN HUZSEK, PARAMEDIC WHO ARRIVED AT CRASH SITE WITHIN MINUTES OF CRASH:
Well, actually, we had been working on our ambulance outside, and within
minutes of the crash actually being dispatched, we immediately left our
station en route to the scene. Of course, when we arrived on scene, it was a
little chaotic at first. There had been a lot of people within the crash
site, residents, bystanders, seeing the plane go down.
However, we immediately got those people out of the site for safety reasons.
I remember just actually pulling up on scene and seeing smoke, a large
aircraft tire burning off around the crater. And at that time it had to
have been a large aircraft that was actually down.
First instinct that we had thought about, we thought no survivors, but we
actually did go down to the crash site and do a search, just to be on the
safe side but obviously, nothing was found.
KING: Kevin, was it in a crater?
HUZSEK: Actually, right there, it was a crater, where the plane actually
went down, but the plane parts were pretty much scattered throughout a large
area, down through the trees and also where the jet fuel burned. There
was burned out trees and still smoldering. I guess when the fuel was
actually burned off, there was only small spot fires throughout the area.
KING: Sergeant Deluca, where were you? What happened to you that day?
SGT. ANTHONY DELUCA, PA STATE POLICE, 4TH TROOPER TO ARRIVE AT CRASH SCENE:
Larry, I was at my station on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. And I was in there,
and I got a phone call reference to the first plane going into the World
Trade Center. I went to my next office next door and my boss in there,
Lieutenant Schmidt (ph) and I said let's watch TV real quick, there's a
plane that went into the trade center.
When we saw the second plane go into the trade center, began to notify our
troops that something was the matter. We had planes going into the World
Trade Center. Probably around 10 minutes later, another plane went into the
Pentagon at which time I had most of them back on station.
A short while later, we received information that a plane just went down in
Shanksville, but they didn't say if it was a commercial airline or just a
plane. Myself and my boss at that time Lieutenant Schmidt responded to the
scene. We were met here. There was Trooper James Broderick, (ph) Trooper
Grove (ph) and Trooper Pat Stewart (ph) were already on scene.
We assisted to get into the command. We came in off the lower end. There are
some homes in the wooded area, just near the crater, there were some
burning tires there. was some debris. And the first thing we realized
it was a commercial airline when there was three seats from a commercial
KING: Did you -- go ahead. I'm sorry.
DELUCA: And beyond the seats, I pulled out one of the cards that showed
what type of plane it was, and we found out it was Boeing 757. And the other
seat had a "United Magazine," so we knew we had a commercial airline.
When I did some surveillance in the wooded area to look for any survivors at
one time I found a flight diary of Lorraine Bay. It was blowing in
the wind. I picked the papers up that was around there and placed it back in
there. At that time, I realize there was human tragedy in this accident.
KING: Did you associate, Sergeant Deluca -- that crash, did you immediately
associate it with the World Trade Center and Pentagon?
DELUCA: After we found out that it was a commercial airliner, we began to
think, yes, we did have a possible terrorist airplane." -
CNN LARRY KING LIVE (04/28/06)
About WITF FM 89.5 News:
Morning Edition host/reporter
"Since September 11, 2001, Tim has spent much
of his time in Shanksville, Somerset County, where he owns some of the
United Flight 93 crash site, working to assure the property will be home
to a fitting memorial." -
Email from Tim
Subject: RE: Follow-up question about engine
found in pond
Date: Thu, 3 Aug 2006
From: "Tim Lambert" <email@example.com>
To: "Killtown" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
i just checked an article i had written after my first trip to the site....it
was a piece of fuselage that was recovered from the pond.
Sacred Ground in Pennsylvania
"In front of the shelter, names of the
40 heroes of Flight 93 are prominently displayed on benches that
face the field where the plane crashed upside down at 10:03 a.m.
at an estimated speed of over 500 miles per hour. As tragic as
it was, the damage could have been much more extensive. The
Boeing 757 could have carried 182 passengers. If the plane had
remained airborne for another few seconds, a nearby school in the
path of the flight would have been hit, explains Emily.
"The F.B.I. and state police were here within 30 minutes" of the
crash, Emily notes. "The F.B.I. led the investigation."
Working With the F.B.I.
At the temporary memorial, Sally Svonavec, 64, greets her
husband, Jim, and their son, Jamie, when the men drive up in
their pickup truck. Members of St. Peter’s Parish in nearby
Somerset, they explain how the family business, J & J Svonavec
Excavating, became the only excavating company to work with the
F.B.I. at the site.
Jim, 65, and Jamie, 34, have refused all previous requests for
interviews: They wanted to tell their story to a Catholic
publication. Men of few words, they admit it’s difficult returning
to this site, where they dug through soil that contained pieces of
the aircraft, personal items that belonged to those on board and
human remains: No whole bodies were recovered.
Sally explains that she and Jim were in Hilton Head, South Carolina,
on September 11, 2001, just beginning an overdue vacation. Jim had
assured Jamie that he could handle business matters while they were
Jim and Sally followed the shocking events of that morning on the
news: They learned that two hijacked planes had hit the two towers
of the World Trade Center, then a third plane crashed into the
Pentagon and a fourth hijacked plane was being tracked over western
Later Jamie phoned them that the fourth plane had just crashed near
Shanksville (about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh) on reclaimed
strip-mined land where they had worked.
It didn’t take long for throngs of law-enforcement officers, who had
been tracking the plane’s path, and other people, including Jamie,
to reach the location where they could tell the aircraft had gone
down. But it took a while to identify the exact location of
impact because there was no plane visible. Sally remembers Jamie
phoning them from the site and saying, "There is no plane there,
The location was eventually determined because of some disturbed
ground in front of a grove of charred evergreens, explains
Jamie. The ground had swallowed up much of the wreckage.
Because of their familiarity with the property, the Svonavecs
were asked to work with the F.B.I. on recovery efforts. "We hired
some extra people and worked one long shift, seven days a week,"
says Jim, a former federal mining inspector.
Kobelco excavator, the process was slow and meticulous
because “every bucket of material that was excavated went through
screens,” explains Sally. Screening helped locate many body
fragments and debris from the plane.
The plane "went in the ground so fast it didn’t have a chance to
burn," says Jim. Authorities were especially anxious to find
Flight 93’s “black boxes” (cockpit voice recorder and flight data
recorder) in hopes of discovering what happened during the doomed
The flight data recorder was located on September 13, some 15
feet underground. The following day, the cockpit voice recorder was
unearthed at a depth of 25 feet. The cockpit recording was
played in public for the first time this past April during the trial
of Zacarias Moussaoui, who was sentenced to life in prison for his
role in the 9/11 attacks.
In honor of Jim’s role in finding the black boxes, a United Airlines
official presented him with a hat he treasures. It says, “I found
the box.” The excavators also found “a jacket that belonged to
one of the terrorists,” explains Jim. The jacket contained
the hijacker’s schedule for September 11. “We found the knives [the
terrorists] used, too.”
Although only fragments of bodies were recovered, everyone
was identified, including the hijackers, explains Emily Jerich.
Pointing to a fenced-in field about 500 yards below the shelter, she
explains that the public isn’t allowed there “because that is
their burial area.”
Inside the Secure Area
Jim and Jamie receive clearance to drive me into the secured area,
which is guarded by Somerset County deputies around the clock.
We walk up to the fence and gaze at the now peaceful-looking field
where Flight 93 crashed.
Jim points to a grove of hemlocks behind the field and explains that
the impact “burned about an acre of those trees.” From this
proximity, it’s obvious that the lower parts of the trees in front
They describe some of the memorable items they saw during the
excavation, such as a coiled snake that appeared “petrified” as
a result of the blast from the crash. Bibles that had been on the
plane were found aboveground, unburned and opened to passages that
Unlike the Svonavecs, the coroner of Somerset County has been
interviewed by reporters from around the world. “I found out what it
is to be a public figure,” says Wallace Miller, who succeeded his
father in running Miller Funeral Home and getting elected as
coroner. The likable guy everyone calls “Wally” was reelected last
November with over 82 percent of the votes.
Wally discusses his career, his marriage and his faith at the
Somerset location of the family business, where he works with his
wife, Arlene, and his father, Wilbur. The Millers manage a second
funeral home in nearby Rockwood.
Although he downplays his own role in the case of Flight 93, Wally’s
involvement was well documented by the media.
“As coroner, responsible for returning human remains, Miller has
been forced to share with the families information that is
unimaginable,” reported The Washington Post. “[T]he 33
passengers, seven crew and four hijackers together weighed roughly
7,000 pounds. They were essentially cremated together upon
impact. Hundreds of searchers who climbed the hemlocks and combed
the woods for weeks were able to find about 1,500 mostly scorched
samples of human tissue totaling less than 600 pounds, or about
eight percent of the total.”
Identification was made by using dental and medical records,
fingerprints and DNA.
A few weeks after the crash, Wally said, “I consider this site
almost like a cemetery,” reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “When
you walk through a cemetery and you see debris, you pick it up.”
He has led many searches for evidence. In July 2005, The Associated
Press reported that Wally and over two dozen volunteers “made a
final sweep of the property, looking for debris.” They found
airplane fragments and a small amount of human remains. “I now feel
it’s appropriate to close my involvement in the case,” said Wally at
John and Doreen Loiodici are among the Red Cross volunteers who
worked at the crash site during recovery efforts. As members of St.
Peter’s Parish, they know the Millers and Svonavecs.
The Loiodicis’ accent betrays the fact that they’re transplants to
Rockwood from Long Island, where many of their relatives still live.
Due to telephone problems during the period immediately following
the terrorist attacks of 9/11, “We couldn’t get hold of them and
they couldn’t get hold of us,” explains John, 45.
Working at the crash site, which became known as “The Pit,”
Doreen, 44, says she and John encountered people “from every branch
of government you could imagine,” such as “F.B.I., state police
Due to security at the crash site, workers were discouraged from
leaving during their shift each day, so volunteers attended to
their needs. “We served meals to everyone who worked in The Pit,”
The local people have become very protective of this site that some
call a cemetery and others refer to as sacred or hallowed ground.
They want to see a respectful memorial but are concerned about the
escalating size and cost, and the tourism industry that is bound
One thing that’s certain: The crash of Flight 93 in Somerset County
will continue to have a lasting impact on residents and visitors." -
St. Anthony Messenger Online (09/06)
Memories of Flight 93 crash still fresh at
"Homes shook and the earth trembled as United Airlines Flight 93 roared
out of the sky and slammed into the soft earth of a former strip mine
near this small town on Sept. 11, 2001.
Many of those first to respond to the scene were surprised to find no
corpses, no obvious wreckage -- only a smoking crater, singed trees and an
eerie silence that made it seem at first as if there had been no plane at
"My first thought was, where's the plane
crash?" says Lt. Madigan, now 53. "All there was was a hole in the
ground and a smoking debris pile."
But troopers soon began finding small but identifiable pieces of a
commercial aircraft and bits of the United Airlines in-flight magazine.
They quickly realized there would be no survivors.
The former assistant chief of the Shanksville volunteer fire department had
heard Flight 93 scream overhead, seen a massive fireball light up the sky
and felt an explosion rock the entire town of Shanksville.
But besides a burning landing-gear tire,
smoldering branches in the nearby woods and a few brush fires, there was
little to indicate a jetliner had just crashed, he says.
"Where is this plane? And where are the people?" Mr. King remembers
thinking as he stepped off the truck.
There were thousands of tiny pieces scattered around -- bits of metal,
insulation, wiring -- but no fuselage, no wings, only a smoking crater and
State police Maj. Frank Monaco remembers the crash site as a "smoking hole
in the ground."
"It didn't look like a plane crash," says Maj. Monaco, 56, from New
The plane had burrowed into the soft, reclaimed earth of the former strip
mine and crumpled like an accordion, he says.
Veteran FBI agent Michael Soohy had been to
airplane crash scenes before, and he thought he knew what to expect: chaos,
bodies, a hulking wreck of a jet.
"I don't think anyone expected to see what they didn't see," said the
50-year-old who grew up near Johnstown. "It's almost like a dart hitting
a pile of flour. ... The plane went in, and the stuff back-filled right over
Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller had
never handled a case with more than two deaths. On Sept. 11, he had to
process 44 bodies -- or at least what little was left of them.
"We only recovered about 8 percent of potential remains," he says.
"Most of the material was vaporized."
But from the fragments of bodies recovered from the site, Mr. Miller and
other investigators were able to identify everyone on Flight 93: four
hijackers and 40 passengers and crew.
The remains of the hijackers were handed over to the FBI, and those of the
passengers and crew were returned to families in caskets or cremated.
"I realized very early in the game that there
was no paramedic work needed there," he says. "I imagined a [plane], I
didn't see a [plane], I saw a hole. ... There weren't bodies."
Terry Butler was taking parts off scrapped cars at a salvage yard near
Shanksville when he saw a plane flying unusually fast and low over the
"It started to go up a little bit, made a right turn and came down,"
says Mr. Butler, 45, of Somerset.
Then Mr. Butler heard a loud explosion and felt the ground shake beneath his
feet as the plane crashed into a field about a mile away.
Soon she was receiving calls from teachers
about tiles shaken from classroom ceilings and smoke rising over the
Flight 93 had crashed about a mile from the school, and investigators later
told Ms. Hummel that the plane might have hit the school had it crashed a
few seconds later.
So in January 2002, Ms. Glessner brought
together a group of volunteers, known now as the Flight 93 ambassadors, to
point visitors to the crash site and to describe what happened aboard the
plane on Sept. 11.
Forty-five volunteers now take turns working two-hour shifts each day at the
Flight 93 Memorial. Some months they guide more than 25,000 visitors." -
Flight 93 caretakers
"Waiting to hear stories about the brave passengers and crew of doomed
Flight93, waiting to pay their respects, waiting to sit on benches and gaze
across a field decorated with white Queen Anne's lace to the spot where a streaking jet was swallowed up by the earth." -
Pennsylvania Firefighters Share Bond With
Flight 93 Families
"Dave Andolina, who drove the Central City fire engine to the crash, said it
was a hopeless feeling when he arrived. "There was nothing. There were a few
spot fires. There were no big pieces, nothing."
Shanksville Chief Terry Shaffer said the earth
literally opened, swallowed the aircraft and closed up. He said the
ground at the site was soft because it had been a strip mine.
Shaffer said it didn't take long for the FBI
and other federal officials to make it to the scene.
The local crews also were called upon to
assist with sifting through the earth looking for personal effects as well
as body and plane parts, said Central City Chief William Russian.
"When you see a plane crash in the movies or on TV, you see these big plane
parts. That's not what this was. There were no large pieces of wing.
There was nothing," Russian said.
The items found during the sifting operation were placed in buckets.
Thomas Chipchosky, a Central City
firefighter, heard Flight 93 coming. "It was loud..."
He found a charred Bible near the crater." -
Pennsylvania Firefighters Remember Flight 93
"Moments later, the lines lit up.
Although there's a small airport nearby, the callers were reporting it was a
big aircraft. "One who called was on a mobile phone and running toward the
field and the smoke."
Stoystown's mini pumper is pictured in many of the news photographs taken
There was little to do once they arrived. There were a few small fires,
but that was pretty much it." -
Future USS Somerset (LPD 25) Keel Authenticated
"LPD 25 is named in honor of the courage of the passengers of United
Airlines Flight 93.
Over the days and weeks following the Flight 93 crash, recovery
personnel retrieved more than 95 percent of the airplane's wreckage
from the crash site." -
Legionnaire found miracle in Flight 93 debris
"Like many Americans, Dick Pristas heard about a plane
hitting the first World Trade Center tower the morning of Sept. 11,
2001, and thought it was an accident. But when another plane hit the
second tower only 17 minutes later, he figured it had to be a
coordinated attack. At 9:37 a.m., a third plane flew into the
Shortly after 10 a.m., the horror struck home when a fourth plane,
Flight 93, crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pa., not far
from where Pristas lives and serves as a volunteer fireman. "At
first, we thought it was a small plane, so we didn't think it
had anything to do with the attacks," says Pristas, a Vietnam War
Army veteran and commander of American Legion Post 257. "But then
the radio reported that there were at least 200 people on board. I
knew then that we were involved."
As a first responder, Pristas was both a participant and witness to
history. And he discovered a special item on that smoldering
Shanksville field, one he sees a symbol of hope. As the nation
prepared to mark the ninth anniversary of 9/11 and the crash of
Flight 93 with a special memorial service at the crash site, Pristas
shared his memories of that day with The American Legion Magazine.
Q: What were you doing when Flight 93 crashed?
A: I'm a remodeler. I was finishing a local interior residential job
when the news hit. My wife also phoned me on my cell. I was only
a couple miles away, but I didn't hear the plane crash. I got
right into my Ford truck and headed over. The whole way over, I
was preparing myself for something gruesome. I fully expected to
find bodies scattered all over the ground. I thought about
bringing my camera out, but then thought better of it. Who'd want to
see pictures of something like this?
Q: What was the crash site like?
A: It wasn't like anything I expected. It was just a big, smoking
hole - about the size of a large, above-ground swimming pool. The
woods nearby were on fire. But there were no bodies to be found.
Thank goodness it crashed where it did. It's an empty field. It used
to be a strip-coal mine. But there are no houses or buildings there
that could have been damaged. Later, I talked to some folks who
lived nearby and saw everything. They said it just went straight
down, nose first.
Q: How did you and your fellow volunteer firefighters proceed?
A: We were there to help clean up. But when we arrived, we
realized there wasn't a lot for us to clean up. I helped keep
the trucks operating. There were about three dozen of us at first.
Q: Then you made an amazing discovery. Tell us about it.
A: I walked out in front of our fire truck and saw what looked
like a hardback book on the ground. I picked it up, and it was a
Bible. It was just a little tattered, but it was OK. I had such
mixed emotions, that a Bible would be the only thing to survive
something this awful. It served as a sign to me that these victims
were now with God. I took the Bible and put it on the front of
the bumper of our first engine to arrive. Eventually, an
investigator asked me where I found it and collected it as evidence.
instructions for the last night
"U.S. authorities found this letter
handwritten in Arabic in the suitcase of Mohamed Atta. It
includes Islamic prayers, instructions for a last night of life, and
a practical checklist of reminders for the final operation. The FBI
released an untranslated copy of the letter; the British newspaper
The Observer published this translation. Additional
copies of this letter were found at the crash site of United
Airlines Flight 93 in Pennsylvania and at a Dulles International
Airport parking lot in a car registered to one of the hijackers on
American Flight 77.
"When the confrontation begins,
strike like champions who do not want to go back to this world.
Shout, 'Allahu Akbar,' because this strikes fear in the hearts
of the non-believers." -
Let's Roll!: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage
"I didn't see a single piece of airplane
anywhere... Little could be found. Because of the reclaimed strip mine, the
ground was softer than other surrounding areas. The plane had pierced the
earth like a spoon in a cup of coffee: the spoon forced the coffee back, and
then the coffee immediately closed around the spoon as though nothing
had troubled the surface. Anything that remained of Flight 93 was buried
deep in the ground." - Author:
(July 2002, p. 231)
Courage After the Crash: Flight 93 Aftermath
"Bill Baker, the 911 Addressing Specialist for Somerset County's Emergency
Management Agency: "When they said it was a 757, I looked out across the
debris field. I said, 'There is no way there is a 757 scattered here.' At
that time, we didn't know that it was in the hole." - Author:
Glenn J. Kashurba
(Aug 2002, p. 42-43) [reprint]
Among the Heroes
"Traveling at five hundred seventy-five miles an hour, the 757 had
inverted and hit the spongy earth at a forty-five-degree angle, tunneling
toward a limestone reef at the edge of a reclaimed strip mine. Because
the plane crashed upside down, the engines and the stowed landing gear
thrust upward and forward. The ground became littered with the fractured
underbelly of the plane, electronics, shredded wiring. The cockpit and
first class shattered like the point of a pencil, and remnants sprayed into
a line of hemlock pine trees. The fuselage accordioned on itself more than
thirty feet into the porous, backfilled ground. It was as if a marble had
been dropped into water.
No more then seven minutes after the crash, Rick King arrived in his fire
truck, steering it down a dirt road within fifty feet of the crater. He
rescued people for a living, and he expected to find survivors from this
plane. The twenty-five volunteers in the Shanksville Fire Department brought
along self-contained breathing devices and hydraulic arms, known as the jaws
of life, to pry open the fuselage. As he approached the scene, adrenaline
thoughts raced through King's head. What are we going to see? Is there going
to be a fire in the fuselage? Will people be trapped? He jumped out of his
truck and noticed small fires in different places, but he could no see
Where is it?
He was sure a commercial airliner had crashed, but he saw only small
broken pieces. A 757 is composed of six hundred twenty-six thousand parts,
fastened by six hundred thousand bolts and rivets, connected with sixty
miles of wire. That's all that he could see now, fragmented parts and rivets
and wires, a catastrophic uncoiling. Other firemen and townspeople at
the scene had the same quizzical looks. Metal and plastic and paper were
everywhere, in the trees, on the ground, a shirt, a shoe, underwear, a
backless seat sitting in its aluminum track, a remnant of a seat cushion
smoking on the roof of a nearby cabin. The pine trees were peppered with
shrapnel. King saw the pushed-up earth and the crater that measured thirty
feet or more in diameter, and he knew it had been the point of impact. He
sent a crew to hose down the smoldering debris, but still he did not realize
what had plunged into the disturbed ground.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I think half the plane was down there,"
Maybe it wasn't a commercial airliner.
The rumors started. There were two hundred people on the plane, four
hundred. There were no passengers, only mail. Bewilderment prevailed.
No one knew anything for certain. King sent his men into the woods to
search for the fuselage, and they kept coming back and telling him, "Rick,
Terry Shaffer, the Shanksville fire chef, sped to the crash from his job
twenty miles away in Johnstown and found himself standing around with the
others in disbelief. "You wanted to do something and there was nothing to be
done," he said.
The force of impact had lifted heavy fieldstones and tossed them more than a
hundred yards downwind. The axle for the 757's nose wheels had broken
away and tumbled, snapping a tree that was half a foot in diameter, the
local fire chief said. A stone cabin one hundred yards from the crater
was knocked off plumb, its windows shattered, its ceiling tiles scattered
like playing cards, its garage doors blown upside down and inside out.
The nose of the jet, known as the radome, which housed a pivoting radar
system, flew thirty yards in the woods and folded on itself like a
clamshell, Shaffer said. A dog-eared Bible was found near the crater, its
cover damaged but its pages still readable. A necktie lay on the ground,
still knotted. A snake, sunning on a rock, was seared with its body
coiled, its mouth open to strike.
In the hours after the crash, Pennsylvania state troopers said that they
had seen no pieces of the plane larger than a phone book. Later, an
eight-by-seven-foot section of fuselage containing several windows would be
found. It was about the size of the hood of a car. A piece of one engine,
weighing a thousand pounds, landed more than a hundred yards from the
crater, apparently jettisoned upward in a tremendous arc. The cockpit data
recorder, one of the so-called black boxes, would be excavated fifteen feet
into the crater and the cockpit voice recorder at twenty-five feet. Ash and
paper, a canceled check, a charred brokerage statement, traveled eight miles
from the crash on a prevailing wind. Brush fires would spark up in the woods
for more than a week.
Where were the people? Where were the bodies?
King was puzzled. He hoped to save passengers, but he did not see
anyone, no one wandering dazed through the woods, no one trapped in the
fuselage, not a single person alive or dead. Wallace Miller, the Somerset
County coroner, arrived and walked around the site with King. Bits of
plastic melted and fell from the trees and sizzled in the eerie quiet. They
walked around for an hour and found almost no human remains.
"If you didn't know, you would have thought no one was on the plane,"
Miller said. "You would have thought they dropped them off somewhere."
(July 2003, p. 215-217)
"WE HAVE SOME PLANES"
"The airplane headed down; the control wheel
was turned hard to the right. The airplane rolled onto its back, and
one of the hijackers began shouting "Allah is the greatest. Allah is the
greatest." With the sounds of the passenger counterattack continuing, the
aircraft plowed into an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at 580 miles per hour,
about 20 minutes' flying time from Washington, D.C.
United 93 crashed in Pennsylvania at
10:03:11, 125 miles from Washington, D.C. The precise crash time has
been the subject of some dispute. The 10:03:11 impact time is supported by
previous National Transportation Safety Board analysis and by evidence from
the Commission staff's analysis of radar, the flight data recorder, the
cockpit voice recorder, infrared satellite data, and air traffic control
9/11 Commission [local]
11, 2001 - The FAA Responds
"Horak, along with many others, used picks and
shovels to scour the crash site for aircraft parts, including the voice and
data recorders and any other material that would help in the investigation.
At one point, searchers stopped using hand tools and brought in a backhoe to
assist with the search. Thursday night, as the backhoe was moving mounds of
a crater that was about 30 feet deep, the flight data recorder
fell to the ground. The cockpit voice recorder was found later." -
NTSB Identification: DCA01MA065.
Scheduled 14 CFR Part 121: Air Carrier operation of United Airlines
Accident occurred Tuesday, September 11, 2001 in Shanksville, PA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 3/7/2006
Aircraft: Boeing 757, registration: N591UA
Injuries: 44 Fatal.
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 are under the jurisdiction of
the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Safety Board provided requested
technical assistance to the FBI, and any material generated by the NTSB is
under the control of the FBI. The Safety Board does not plan to issue a
report or open a public docket.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of
this accident as follows:
The Safety Board did not determine the probable cause and does not plan
to issue a report or open a public docket. The terrorist attacks of
September 11, 2001 are under the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of
Investigation. The Safety Board provided requested technical assistance to
the FBI, and any material generated by the NTSB is under the control of the
Chapter III – Affected Environment
Flight 93 National Memorial Final General
Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement
The crash of Flight 93 occurred in an area about 30 to 40 feet north of the
southern highwall of the strip mine and north of an access road off
Lambertsville Road on land owned by Svonavec, Inc. This area is situated at
the base of the Bowl to the north and east of the hemlock grove. The
crash and the subsequent investigation created a depression approximately 85
feet by 85 feet with a maximum depth of 27 feet. Immediately after the
crash, investigators enclosed about 10 acres within security fencing to
prevent the public from disturbing the site and later enclosed a larger
area, approximately 47 acres that includes the hemlock grove, residences and
a passive treatment pond.
Reports of investigators and emergency response personnel indicate that
during the crash, the plane impacted the relatively soft strip-mine
backfill, plowed to a depth of 30 ft, then collided with the remaining strip
excavation rock highwall, causing the plane to explode." -
Study of Autopilot, Navigation Equipment, and Fuel Consumption Activity Based
on United Airlines Flight 93 and American Airlines Flight 77 Digital Flight
Data Recorder Information
A. SUBJECT AIRCRAFT
Location: Shanksville, PA
Date: September 11, 2001
Time: 10:03 AM Eastern Daylight Time
Flight: United Airlines Flight 93
Aircraft: Boeing 757-200, registration: N591UA
This document describes information obtained from the Digital Flight Data
Recorders (DFDRs) of the subject aircraft concerning the use of the airplane
autoflight and navigation systems both before and after the hijacking events,
and presents fuel on board calculations based on the DFDR fuel flow data.
D. AUTOFLIGHT SYSTEMS DESCRIPTION AND ACTIVITY
UAL 93 Autoflight Activity
Figure 2 shows a time history of the various autopilot and autothrottle modes
engaged on Flight 93, from takeoff from Newark to the end of the DFDR data at
impact. Also shown in the Figure are the values of speeds, altitudes, headings,
and climb/descent rates set in the MCP, along with the values of those
parameters that the airplane actually flew.
For most of the flight, until shortly after the hijackers took control of the
cockpit (at approximately 09:30), both the Captain’s and First Officer’s
Flight Directors were on. During the takeoff, the autopilot was off, and the
Flight Director was issuing roll commands based on inputs made in the MCP, and
pitch commands based on inputs coming alternatively from the FMC (when in VNAV
mode) or from the MCP (when in Altitude Hold or Flight Change modes). Once
the flight was cleared to its 35,000 ft. cruising altitude, the autopilot was
engaged in LNAV and VNAV modes, which use inputs from the FMC to guide the
airplane along the desired horizontal and vertical flight path.
The autothrottle was engaged throughout the flight. During the climb the
autothrottle mode varied between climb thrust mode, airspeed hold mode, and
flight level change mode. Upon reaching the 35,000 cruise altitude, the
autothrottle switched to a Mach number hold cruise mode, applying thrust to
achieve a Mach number of 0.82.
At about 09:33, the autoflight modes started to change. Both the Captain and
First Officer’s flight directors were turned off, and at about 09:34 the
autopilot was turned off briefly. After the autopilot was reengaged (less than a
minute later), up until the last three minutes of the flight it operated in
modes that receive inputs from the MCP (i.e., target values of altitude, speed,
heading, and descent rate set directly by the operators of the aircraft) rather
than from the FMC. The autopilot was off for the last three minutes of the
The autothrottle switched from a Mach hold mode to an airspeed hold mode at
about 9:33:30, and remained in this mode for the remainder of the flight, except
for brief periods where the airspeed was either below or above pre-set limits
and the autothrottle adjusted thrust in an attempt to correct the situation
(these are the MIN SPD and SPD LIMIT modes).
From 09:33 to the time the autopilot was turned off (about 10:00), the airplane
was maneuvered horizontally via the heading select and heading hold modes, with
the desired heading set on the MCP. The bottom graph in Figure 2 shows the
magnetic heading selected in the MCP was 120 degrees, and also shows the
airplane turning towards that heading. From the airplane’s position at this
point, a magnetic heading of 120 degrees would put the airplane on course for
Washington, D.C.. At 09:57, the heading selected in the MCP is changed to 90
degrees. About half a minute later, the autopilot switches from heading hold to
heading select modes, and the airplane turns to the 90 degree heading selected
in the MCP.
From 09:33 to the time the autopilot was turned off, the airplane was maneuvered
vertically using the vertical speed and altitude hold modes. In the vertical
speed mode, the desired rate of climb or descent is set in the MCP. In altitude
hold mode, the airplane maintains the altitude at which the altitude hold mode
button on the MCP is pressed. As shown in Figure 2, initially the vertical speed
selected was about +1,500 ft/min, and the airplane climbed accordingly.
Interestingly, at the same time, the altitude selected in the MCP was 9,600 feet
(lower than the current airplane altitude). At about 09:38 the autopilot entered
altitude hold mode at 40,700 feet. A couple of minutes later, the autopilot
re-entered vertical speed mode, with a descent rate of -4,200 feet/minute
selected in the MCP, and the airplane started to descend. At about 09:47,
this descent rate in the MCP was adjusted to about -1,300 feet/minute. At around
the same time, the altitude set in the MCP was adjusted to about 5,000 feet.
This suggests that the intent of the operators may have been to descend to 5,000
At about 10:00, the autopilot was turned off, and remained off for the
remaining three minutes of the flight.
D. NAVIGATION SYSTEMS DESCRIPTION AND ACTIVITY
UAL 93 Navigation System Activity
Figure 4 shows the VOR stations tuned to by the two VOR receivers on United
Flight 93. At the bottom of the Figure, the EFIS mode is shown. For most of the
fight, the EFIS is in “MAP” mode.
As in Figure 3, the points during the flight at which the EFIS mode switched to
MAP mode and then to VOR mode are shown on the map in Figure 4 as yellow
diamonds. The VOR stations tuned by the left and right VOR receivers are
indicated by lines from the airplane flight path to the stations. The point on
the flight path from which the lines originate are the points at which the
station was first tuned.
As with Flight 77, while the EFIS was in MAP mode, the left and right VOR
receivers were tuned to stations whose bearings from the airplane differed by
about 90 degrees, at the time at which the VOR station pairs were changed.
Again, this illustrates the method the system
uses for obtaining VOR position fixes to update the INS.
Shortly after the EFIS was switched to VOR mode, the frequency of the left VOR
receiver was set to 111.0 MHz, corresponding to the VOR station located at
Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA). At the time the DCA frequency was
selected, the station was too far away for its signals to be received by the
receiver. If DCA VOR had been in range, the display on the EHSI could have been
used to show the airplane’s position relative to an inbound radial to DCA, and
thus help navigate the airplane towards DCA. The selection of the DCA VOR
frequency in the airplane’s left VOR receiver suggests that the operators of the
airplane had an interest in DCA, and may have wanted to use that VOR station to
help navigate the airplane towards Washington.
The magnetic heading of 120 degrees selected in the autopilot MCP was the
correct heading for flying to Washington. However, even though the EFIS was in
the MAP mode at the time, it was in the 80 nautical mile range setting, and so
would not have shown DCA on the display; consequently, it is unlikely that the
hijackers used the map display on the EHSI to deduce the correct heading for
Washington. It follows that the hijackers had some other means of obtaining this
A surprising element in the navigation of flight 93 is the rapid descent from
cruise altitudes while still approximately 260 nautical miles from the
(presumed) target. If the hijacker’s destination was Washington, they
started their descent very prematurely. Figure 5 compares the descent profiles
of all four airplanes hijacked on September 11. Note that by the time AAL 11,
UAL 175, and AAL 77 descended below 5,000 feet, they were all within 10 NM of
their targets. UAL 93, on the other hand, descended to 5,000 feet
while still 135 NM from Washington.
E. FUEL CONSUMPTION AND FUEL REMAINING
UAL 93 Fuel Consumption
Figure 7 shows fuel flow and fuel remaining for UAL Flight 93, calculated
in the same way as just described for AAL Flight 77.
Based on ACARS transmissions to the airplane, the
fuel load on takeoff was 48,700 lb. This results in about 37,500 lb. of fuel
remaining upon impact (the end of the DFDR data). If instead of descending
to about 5,000 feet over Pennsylvania, Flight 93 had continued cruising at
35,000 feet to Washington, it would have arrived over Washington with about
35,500 lb. of fuel on board. -
*One pound of jet fuel =
6.84 pounds per gallon. 37,500 = approx. 5,500 gal.
September 11, 2001 Flight 93; Stonycreek
Township, Somerset County, PA
• 29 Fire Departments
• 12 EMS Services
• 21 Police Agencies
• 1 Haz Mat Team
• EMA Staff – 5 Paid
• 911 Staff – 12 Full Time, 5 Part Time
• 4 Position 911 Center
• Covering 1085 Square Miles
• Population of 78,000
• Clear Skies
• Light Wind
• Warm with temperatures in the 70s
• Quiet Day in Somerset County
• 3 Telecommunicators on duty
• Routine EMA Staff
Newark, NJ to San Francisco, Ca
• Light Passenger Load
• Full of Fuel
• Minimal Crew?
• Started on it’s Flight plan
• Data Block Lost on Radar During Flight
• Turned Southeast near Cleveland
• United Airlines Boeing 757
• 44 People on Board
• 33 passengers
• 7 Crewmembers
• 4 Terrorists -
Flight 93 stats
Somerset, Pennsylvania, USA
Pratt & Whitney
Year of Delivery:
Boeing 757 Specifications
Tail Height 44.6
Interior Cabin Width 11.7
Crew & Passengers 2 Pilots 192 Passengers
Cruise Speed 530 mph
Max Fuel Capacity 11,489 gal
Max Takeoff Weight 255,000 lb (115,680 kg) [115 tons]
3,900 - 4,520 miles
NTSB UA 93 reports
- United Airlines Flight 93 FDR Report (PDF)
- ATC Report United Airlines Flight 93 (PDF)
- Flight Path Study United Airlines Flight 93 (PDF)
- Autopilot American Airlines Flight 77 and United Airlines Flight 93 Study
- Recorded Radar Data Study all Four Aircraft (PDF)