On the morning of September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorists hijack four commercial U.S. airliners that are departing from East Coast airports. The terrorists fly two jet airliners into the World Trade Center's Twin Towers in New York City and a third aircraft into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. A fourth aircraft, United Airlines Flight 93, crashes into an open field near rural Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing all on board. The four aircraft strikes kill nearly 3,000 people, the deadliest attack on American soil by any foreign nation or terrorist group.
Aboard Flight 93
Alerted to the events at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the forty unarmed passengers and crew of Flight 93 take quick and determined action. Their revolt prevents Flight 93 from reaching the terrorists' intended target.
Evidence later reveals that the target is most likely the U.S. Capitol, where the Senate and House of Representatives are in session. Flight 93 crashes less than 20 minutes flying-time from Washington, D.C.
A local resident 1.5 miles away, took this photo within minutes after Flight 93 crashes.Photo, courtesy of Valencia McClatchey
United States Capitol, Washington, D.C.The George F. Landegger Collection of District of Columbia Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America; Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
The day begins with a cloudless, bright blue sky over the mid-Atlantic states. Seven crew members assigned to Flight 93 prepare for the early morning nonstop flight from Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco, California. Thirty-three passengers are traveling for ordinary reasons. Four other passengers plan to hijack the aircraft.
The terrorists began planning their attack as early as 1999. Still, some factors are beyond their control. Three of four hijacked planes depart on schedule; however, Flight 93 is delayed more than 25 minutes due to heavy morning traffic.
America under Attack
Just four minutes after Flight 93 takes off, hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 strikes the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. At 9:03 am, a second hijacked plane, a second hijacked plane, United Airlines Flight 175, hits the South Tower.After 46 minutes of routine flight, at about 9:28 am, the terrorists on board Flight 93 take over the cockpit. Air traffic controllers in Cleveland, Ohio, hear the pilot or first officer shouting, "Mayday! Get out of here!" The hijackers gain control and turn the aircraft on a course directed toward Washington, D.C.At 9:42 am the Federal Aviation Administration orders all aircraft across the nation to land at the nearest airport. An estimated 4,500 aircraft land without incident. This is the first time such and order is given in U.S. aviation history.
[Map of the U.S. mid-Atlantic region with] Redirected flight path of United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001.]
:"We're going to do something!"
Aboard Flight 93, one terrorist claims to have a bomb strapped to his waist. The crew and Passengers are forced to the back of the plane and ordered to be quiet. Using Airfones from the seat backs in the rear of the plane and cellphones, passengers and crew call their families, friends, and authorities to report the hijacking. They soon learn the shocking news that Flight 93 is part of a larger attack, including the news that a third plane, hijacked American Airlines Flight 77, crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 am. This realization leads to a vote and a collective decision to fight back.
In little more than 30 minutes, these ordinary airline passengers and crew members, strangers to one another, develop a plan and put it into action. They rush forward from the back of the plane toward the hijackers and the cockpit. The cockpit voice recorder captures their struggle: shouts, screams, calls to action, and sounds of breaking glassware.As the passengers and crew attempt to regain control, a terrorist shouts, "Pull it down!" In the plane's final moments, it rolls upside down and at 10:03 am, plows into an empty field at a speed of 563 miles per hour. Upon impact, the 7,000 gallons of jet fuel on board explode, creating a ball of fire that rises high above the trees. People nearby report that, in the bright sunlight, the black cloud glitters with bits of metal debris.
First responders and local citizens arrive to find the crash site and adjacent trees still smoldering, and the ground littered with fragments of the plane. The crater is 15 feet deep and roughly 30 feet across.
(Photo, courtesy of Mark Stahl)
The cockpit voice recorder is recovered 25 feet down in the crater at the Flight 93 crash site, and is the only voice recorder from the four hijacked planes to yield evidence. It reveals the voices and sounds in the cockpit during the final 30 minutes of flight.
(FBI evidence photo.)
:The Crew and Passengers of Flight 93:
Captain Jason M. Dahl: Littleton, CO
First Officer LeRoy Homer: Marlton, NJ
Lorraine G. Bay, Flight Attendant
, East Windsor, NJ
Sandra Waugh Bradshaw, Flight Attendant
, Greensboro, NC
Wanda Anita Green, Flight Attendant
: Oakland CA/Linden, NJ
CeeCee Ross Lyles, Flight Attendant
: Fort Pierce, FL
Deborah Jacobs Welsh, Flight Attendant
: New York City, NY
Christian Adams, Biebelsheim, Rheinland-Pfalz [Germany]
Todd M. Beamer: Cranbury, NJ
Alan Anthony Beaven: Oakland, CA
Mark Bingham: San Francisco, CA
Deora Frances Bodley: San Diego, CA
Marion R. Britton: Brooklyn, NY
William Joseph Cashman: West New York, NJ
Georgine Rose Corrigan: Honolulu, HI
Patricia Cushing: Bayonne, NJ
Joseph DeLuca: Succasunna, NJ
Patrick Joseph Driscoll: Manalapan, NJ
Edward Porter Felt: Matawan, NJ
Jane C. Folger: Bayonne, NJ
Colleen L. Fraser; Elizabeth, NJ
Andrew (Sonny) Garcia: Portola Valley, CA
Jeremy Logan Glick: Hewitt, NJ
Kristin Osterholm White Gould: New York City, NY
Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas: San Rafael, CA
Donald Freeman Greene: Greenwich, CT
Linda Gronlund: Greenwood Lake, NY
Richard J. Guadagno: Eureka, CA/Trenton, NJ
Toshiya Kuge: Osaka, Japan
Hilda Marcin: Mount Olive, NJ
Waleska Martinez: Jersey City, NJ
Nicole Carol Miller: San Jose, CA
Louis J. Nacke, II: New Hope, PA
Donald Arthur Peterson: Spring Lake, NJ
Jean Hoadley Peterson: Spring Lake, NJ
Mark David Rothenberg: Scotch Plains, NJ
Christine Ann Snyder: Kailua, HI
John Talignani: Staten Island, NJ
Honor Elizabeth Wainio: Baltimore, MD
Minutes after the crash, first responders arrive on the scene, along with the Pennsylvania State Police. The September 11 attacks generate the largest investigation in FBI history. The primary goal of the investigation is to recover sufficient evidence to learn who committed the crime, how it was carried out, who financed the operation, and what might happen next.
Clues from Flight 93
Investigators quickly realize that of the four crash sites, the Shanksville location will likely yield the most evidence in the least amount of time. Because Flight 93 crashes in an open field, parts of the plane - including the "black boxes," personal effects, and human remains - can be recovered here more easily.
Enough remains are recovered to positively identify everyone on board the plane. Evidence recovered includes knives, passports belonging to the terrorists, and handwritten documents in Arabic describing the terrorists' plans for the attack.
Excavation of the crater reaches a depth of 40 feet where aircraft debris is no longer found. On September 24, 2001, the FBI closes its field investigation and the Somerset County Coroner later fills the crater and restores the scene to its condition before September 11.
FBI Evidence Response Teams search the crater, the adjacent field, and the grove of hemlock trees beyond the crash site for evidence. (Photo, courtesy of Dale Sparks)
Thousands of small pieces of the aircraft are found. This photo shows the largest piece of the plane recovered: a section of the fuselage measuring 6 feet by 7 feet. (FBI evidence photo)
:Since September 11th
The attacks on September 11, 2001, terrorists target prominent symbols of the United States to create fear and a feeling of vulnerability in the American people. News of the attacks is met with disbelief, sorrow, and anger, followed quickly by a renewed since of unity and patriotism that sweeps across the country. American servicemen and women deploy to Afghanistan and throughout the Middle East and along with U.S. intelligence personnel, hunt the terrorists of al-Qaeda. Though Osama bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaeda is killed in 2011, the fight against the terrorists continues.
The Flight 93 Memorial
In towns throughout the country, daily routines return, but indelible memories of that day and those lost remain. Memorials are constructed at the site of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and in cities and small towns across the nation. Here in Shanksville, people from across the United States join together to create a national memorial - a permanent tribute to the extraordinary courage of forty ordinary people. The serene fields, wooded groves and rolling hills that bore witness to such violence are now a lasting testament to the courage of the passengers and crew of Flight 93. Follow this walkway to their final resting place.
The future all?e and Memorial Groves
Paul Murdoch Architects