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Flight 93: Forty lives, one destiny

Sunday, October 28, 2001

This story was written by Staff Writer Dennis B. Roddy, based on his reporting and that of Staff Writers Cindi Lash, Steve Levin and Jonathan D. Silver.

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.

Click to full description of Flight 93's path on Sept. 11

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.

It was a 110-foot-long space that different people from different worlds were meant to share for the six-hour flight across a continent filled with immigrants and their descendants.

Hilda Marcin, 79, took an aisle seat in row 17. A retired special education teacher's aide, Marcin was moving to Danville, Calif., to live with her daughter's family. Her older daughter, Elizabeth Kemmerer, had driven her to the airport, waited with her until 7:30, then seen her mother off to a new life.

Thomas Burnett Jr., 38, had been living in planes for the preceding six days. A senior vice president and chief operating officer for a medical research company in San Ramon, Calif., he had made it home at 4 p.m. Sept. 5 for dinner, left at 11 p.m. that night, stopped in Minnesota, then spent the weekend moving deer stands around on land he owned in Wisconsin. He planned to go back in November to hunt deer. He installed himself in seat 4C, first class.


Profiles of each of the crew members and passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93, who came together for a morning departure for San Francisco from Newark on the fateful morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Crew

Jason Dahl

LeRoy Homer, Jr.

Lorraine Bay

Sandra Bradshaw

Cee Cee Lyles
Wanda Green

Deborah Anne Jacobs Welsh

The Passengers

Christian Adams

Todd Beamer

Alan Beaven

Mark Bingham

Deora Bodley

Marion Britton

Thomas E. Burnett Jr.

Willam Cashman

Georgine Rose Corrigan

Patricia Cushing

Joseph DeLuca

Patrick "Joe" Driscoll

Edward Porter Felt

Jane Folger

Colleen L. Fraser

Andrew Garcia

Jeremy Glick

Lauren Grandcolas

Donald F. Greene

Linda Gronlund

Richard Guadagno

Toshiya Kuge

Hilda Marcin

Waleska Martinez

Nicole Miller

Louis J. Nacke II

Donald and Jean Peterson

Mark "Mickey" Rothenberg

Christine Snyder

John Talignani

Honor Elizabeth Wainio

Kristin Gould White

 

 

Christine Snyder's husband of two months was waiting for her back in Kailua, Hawaii, where she worked as an arborist, planting trees and landscaping public places, bringing human order to a natural paradise. On the drive to the airport she marveled at the billboards, wires, transmission lines, industrial plants -- things she didn't see back home.

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 America.

"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 attacks.

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.

This is their story.

In December 1999, 40 people were living lives as ordinary and remarkable as those doled out to anyone by fortune's hand.

John Talignani was retired after 20 years of serving drinks at a Manhattan steakhouse. He would sit in front of his 55-inch television in his Staten Island home and order things on QVC. He couldn't resist. He had two bread makers. Toasters. A pasta maker. Baseball memorabilia.

Sandra Waugh Bradshaw was juggling dual careers -- flight attendant and mother. She was home in Greensboro, N.C. with her year-old daughter, Alexandria. In the coming year, her son Nathan would arrive.

Alan Beaven was practicing law in San Francisco. Kristin Gould White was researching medical history at Ivy League schools. Richard Guadagno was photographing wildlife. 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.

Melodie Homer marked the first birthday of her daughter, Laurel, last week without her husband, United Flight 93 First Officer LeRoy Homer. Her mother, Ena Thorpe, holding Laurel in the background, came from her home in Canada to stay with her in Marlton, N.J. after her husband died in the Sept. 11 crash. (Lake Fong, Post-Gazette)

Homer got into his Toyota 4-Runner and began the 75-minute drive north to Newark International Airport.

Alan Beaven was up at 4. He had a rental car to drop off at the airport from the Catskills home he was sharing with his wife and 5-year-old daughter, Sonali. Beaven was born in New Zealand. He lived in England for a time and worked as a prosecutor for Scotland Yard. Now he was an environmental lawyer, with an office in San Francisco, and he had one last case to try before departing with his family to do volunteer work in India. His world view was summed up in a motto he'd taped to the wall of his New York office: "Fear -- who cares?"

Before he left, Beaven woke his wife, Kimi, to say goodbye.

"I'm going to win this case for you," he said.

She pulled him toward her.

"All I want from California is for you to come back safe and sound," she said.

Beaven left with a suitcase and a bag of court papers, but no cell phone. He didn't carry one.

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.

"See you tomorrow," Steiner called out to her friend.

Colleen L. Fraser, 51, dressed for comfort that morning. At 4 1/2 feet tall, a survivor of childhood surgeries for an inherited bone condition, she walked with a cane, flew with trepidation and fought for the disabled with ferocity. She was vice chairwoman of the New Jersey Developmental Disabilities Council, a woman with a flame-red, spiked crewcut who kept a small copy of the Constitution that she would brandish when confronted with anything that struck her as unjust. Her sister Christine dropped her off shortly before 7 a.m. They marveled at the clear weather.

At the Airport Marriott Hotel, visible from Terminal A, Christian Adams had said good night on Monday to Carol Sullivan, director of the German Wine Information Bureau, and Sullivan's assistant, Caroline Von Bistram. The trio were to travel the next day to San Francisco for an annual wine-tasting. Adams was deputy director of the German Wine Institute, visiting on business from Biebelsheim in southern Germany.

"My assistant and I had to leave the hotel by 6 a.m. to catch the hotel shuttle going over to the airport," Sullivan said. "He'd been joking with us the night before that, since his flight was 15 minutes later, he could sleep 15 minutes longer and probably wouldn't be seeing us in the lobby." Apparently, Adams did sleep a little longer. Sullivan and Von Bistram boarded the shuttle without seeing him.

Somewhere upstairs at the Marriott, other passengers were gathered.

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.

The Hijackers

Ziad Jarrah, 26, was born in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon just as the nation was beginning to unravel into civil war. A Sunni Muslim, he was educated in Christian schools and sent to Hamburg, Germany, to study. It was there he met Mohamed Atta, the apparent ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Ahmed Al Haznawi, who occasionally shared a home with Jarrah in South Florida, was in his early 20s. Born in Baljurshi, Saudi Arabia, he was the son of prayer leader at his local mosque.

Saeed Al Ghamdi is a cypher to authorities. They know almost nothing of the young man and are uncertain if his name -- a common one in the Middle East -- was an alias.

Ahmed Al Nami, 23, studied Islamic Law at King Khaled University in Abha, Saudi Arabia. His family said he vanished while on pilgrimage.

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 Trade Center.

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 discotheques.

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 address.

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 first officer.

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.

The night before he left Denver, Dahl took his wife downtown and told her to pick a car she liked. What he hadn't told her was, when he got back home on Friday, he also was having a baby grand piano delivered.

On Sept. 10, Dahl flew as a passenger in business class on his way to Newark. He sat next to Rob Quillen, a businessman from Lincoln, Neb., who knew he was next to someone important when an attendant brought Dahl a beer before anybody else on the plane had been served.

The pair struck up a conversation about the safety of flying.

Quillen said his biggest fear was engine failure. Dahl told him that had happened to him but that he'd made an emergency landing without trouble.

Dahl's biggest worry, as Quillen remembered it, was landing in the rain. The massive wheels could hydroplane.

The conversation moved on to stock car racing, and Quillen, who was scheduled to be a host at a NASCAR event in Kansas City a week later, got Dahl's cellphone number. He planned to send along tickets for Dahl and his 15-year-old son from a previous marriage.

"I'll talk to you next week and get those tickets out to you," Quillen told him.

Deborah Welsh was the purser -- the key attendant who stands in front, makes announcements and oversees the others.

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.

It was what attendants call a "senior trip" -- with few passengers and a layover in San Francisco where Green could visit family.

"I was feeling good about that," Judge said.

Green drew Door 2, the first row of coach, from which she would work the first-class aisles with Lorraine Bay, a 37-year veteran with United.

Sandy Bradshaw, 38, would work the back of the plane, in economy class. After the first of her two children was born two years ago -- she also had a 16-year-old stepdaughter -- Bradshaw cut back on her workload. Her husband, Phil, a US Airways pilot, urged her to quit. She was thinking about it. But after 11 years as an attendant, and a personnel file filled with complimentary letters from pleased passengers, she still loved to fly.

She was in economy because she'd picked up Flight 93 late in the planning. Ordinarily, she liked working first class. It was a good fit with her gregarious ways.

"She just liked the one-on-one that you have with people up there," Phil Bradshaw said.

CeeCee Lyles, 33, of Fort Myers, Fla., had perhaps the most unusual resume among the flight crew. She'd been a police officer and detective for six years in Fort Pierce, Fla. In late 2000, she left that job to pursue her lifetime dream: to be a flight attendant.

 
 
More on the story

Investigation pursues the missing elements of Flight 93 story

About this report

An index to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette coverage of Flight 93

   
 

The switch displeased some relatives. Air travel, they told CeeCee, seemed more dangerous than police work. Lyles laughed it off. She had married Lorne Lyles, a police officer in Fort Myers, and between them they were raising a blended brood of four boys: her sons Jerome Smith, 16, and Jevon Castrillo, 6, and Lorne's sons, Justin, 11, and Jordan, 9. When United posted her to Newark in February, CeeCee Lyles picked up an apartment with four other attendants, and commuted home to Florida when she was free. And in-between, there was the cell phone.

"We talked about everything and nothing," Lorne Lyles said. "Stuff about the kids, the list of bills I had to pay and how much we missed each other."

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 plane.

Bingham slipped into a seat in aisle 4-D, next to Thomas Burnett. Nine minutes after Hall dropped him off, Bingham picked up his cell phone.

"Hey, it's me," he said. "Thanks for driving so crazy to get me here. I'm in first class, drinking a glass of orange juice."

Bert Rodriguez thinks it was the flier that drew in Ziad Jarrah. He turned up at US-1 Fitness in Dania Beach, just north of Miami, in May after Rodriguez put out a handbill saying, "Assert yourself." It explained that Rodriguez had trained police and federal agents in close-quarters hand-fighting.

Most martial arts students don't train directly with Rodriguez, who has a staff of instructors. But Jarrah, Rodriguez said, "specifically came to train with me."

He paid $500 cash for a series of 10 lessons. Then, when those were done, he returned and peeled off $500 in cash for another 10.

At 5 feet, 11 inches and about 180 pounds, Jarrah surprised Rodriguez with his stamina. The training included flat-out fighting. At one point, the trainer went at the student with a baseball bat to teach him disarming techniques.

The young man, who told Rodriguez he was training to become a pilot, could go 10, 15 or 20 minutes in unrelenting combat. The battle techniques Jarrah came to learn involved thinking -- figuring out ways to make an opponent's moves work against him; throwing attackers off-balance; keeping composure under stress.

Jarrah, Rodriguez said, was very calm and a quick learner.

"He was in very, very good shape. He was a great person to work with," Rodriguez said. "I told him, 'If you have someone to practice with, practice these techniques.' He told me, 'Oh, yeah, I have some roommates I can train with.' "

Rodriguez told Jarrah to bring them in. He'd give a group discount.

"He said no, they travel a lot."

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."

In August, Jarrah said he was planning some more travel. Rodriguez could not have known that the young man had written home to his family -- not in Saudi Arabia but in Beirut -- asking for $700. Investigators say the family told them it was "for fun."

He planned to visit California.

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.

A few minutes after 9 a.m., with the World Trade Center hundreds of miles behind it and now in flames, Flight 93 would have reached 31,000 feet and 515 mph.

Christine Fraser, 50, sits alone in her bedroom in the house she'd shared with her older sister, United Flight 93 passenger Colleen L. Fraser, in Elizabeth, N.J. The sisters, who were born 15 months apart, were exceptionally close. "We were like twins," said Christine, who like her sister, has a bone disorder. (Lake Fong, Post-Gazette)

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 accent.

U.S. Rep. John P. Murtha, D-Johnstown, a ranking Democrat on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, described the announcement this way: "As they got toward Cleveland, the hijackers said 'Look, just be calm, we're going to land this plane.' "

By that time, though, Jarrah and his crew apparently had already drawn blood.

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.

"Are you all right?" she asked.

"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."

Deena Burnett dialed 911.

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 Trade Center?

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," she said.

"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 came back.

"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."

Deena Burnett doesn't know how she did it, but she went on with her morning rituals. She got the 5-year-old twins up and ready for school. She called a friend to get them there.

While Beamer was on the phone with Lisa Jefferson, Deena Burnett's phone rang again.

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."

Click.

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 airplane.

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 plane.

"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 changed direction.

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 you make."

Then he told her the passengers were taking a vote: Should they try to take back the plane?

"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 hold.

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 water.

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."

Gordon Felt, whose older brother Edward Felt was a passenger on United Flight 93, said he believes his brother and everyone on the plane were heroes for overpowering the hijackers to save others on the ground. Edward Felt, 41, of Matawan, N.J., was married and the father of two children. (V.W.H. Campbell Jr., Post-Gazette)

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,' " she said.

"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 now."

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 wife.

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.

Jerry and Beatrice Guadagno of Ewing, N.J. lost their only son, Richard Guadagno of Eureka, Calif., in the crash of United Flight 93. Richard Guadagno had returned to New Jersey to visit his parents and to attend the 100th-birthday party for Beatrice's mother. When his father dropped him off at the airport, he was carrying crape myrtle, Japanese maple and primrose cuttings from his parents' yard that he'd planned to transplant in his garden. (Lake Fong/Post-Gazette)

"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 around them.

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.

NEWS RELEASE
11:17AM, EST

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."

The next day, Deena Burnett gathered the three girls on her bed and tried to explain the inexplicable.

"There were some bad guys on dad's airplane," she said. "The bad guys caused the airplane to crash and everyone on board died."

"And Dad, too?" one of them asked.

"Yes," she said.

The four of them cried together for a while. They asked where their father was. Deena told them heaven.

The youngest, Anna Clare, 3, asked her, "Why does he want to be with Jesus instead of us?"

"I'm really going to miss his silly faces," said Madison, one of the twins.

"I will, too," Deena said.

"Well, can we call him on his cell phone?" Madison asked.

"No," Deena told them. "There are no cell phones in heaven."

Halley, the other twin, suggested they write a letter.

After the crash, Lorne Lyles discovered CeeCee's first message on the answering machine.

He couldn't force himself to listen to it. He will. Someday.

CeeCee's boys are with their father. Lorne's sons are with his ex-wife. He spends his days in an empty home in Fort Myers wondering when he will go to work again.

"I felt so helpless," he said. "As a police officer, I protect and serve people all day long. But there was nothing, absolutely nothing I could do to help my wife."

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 that day.

"It was in her room, like she'd left it for me. I'm wearing it now," said Christine Fraser. "It's a comfort."



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