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[1] On the morning of September 11, 2001, many people across America woke up to go about their usual business – among them people going into New York City for another day at work, heading to the airport for a day of travelling, or going to Washington for a pleasant tour of our nation’s capitol. No one had any idea of the horrifying plan that Osama bin Laden and nineteen Saudi Arabian men had been planning years to cripple America. Plans to attack the United States had begun in the 1990s. In 1998, Islamic leader bin Laden declared that America had declared war against God and his messenger. Therefore, he called for the murder of every American as the duty of all Muslims anywhere on Earth. Bin Laden saw himself as following in the footsteps of the “Messenger” and serving as a starting point for a new kind of plan to destroy the American nation.

[2] The men chosen to be the hi-jackers of four planes on September 11th were funded by al Qaeda, an international Sunni Islamist extremist movement led by bin Laden that fosters terrorist movements amongst other nations. They were all sent to intense flight training programs, where they learned to fly American planes, and then a special training course in which they learned how to conduct hijackings, how to handle explosives, and how to disarm air marshals -- all of which were important in carrying out the attack on September 11. Moreover, in the spring before the attacks, terrorist threats and alerts had started to intensify, but both foreign and domestic intelligence agencies were not expecting the attack to occur within their domestic territory.

[3] The four flights that were hijacked were flights American 11 and United 175 from Boston’s Logan International Airport headed to Los Angeles, flight American 77 from Washington Dulles International Airport headed to Los Angeles, and flight United 93 from Newark Airport headed to Los Angeles. The American 11 hijack was a success, and the plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City at 8:46 A.M. United 175 was also a success, and the plane hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center at 9:03 A.M. At 9:37 A.M., American 77 crashed into the Pentagon Center in Washington, D.C. The only flight to not reach its target on this dreadful day was United 93, because the passengers and crew risked their lives to stop the hijackers from reaching their intended target of either the Capitol or the White House.

[4] Between the times of 7:03 A.M and 7:39 A.M, four men -- Saeed al Ghamdi, Ahmed al Nami, Ahmad al Haznawi, and Ziad Jarrah -- checked into the United Airlines ticket counter for flight 93 to Los Angeles. Haznawi’s bag was screened for explosives as he passed through, and nothing out of the ordinary was found. The four men passed through security checkpoints in the Newark Airport with no problems and boarded the plane between 7:39 A.M. and 7:48 A.M. By the time 8:00 A.M. rolled around, all the men involved with the four hijacked planes had successfully passed through airport securities, many of which were not prepared to prevent hijackings, and were on their way to terrorize the United States.

[5] United 93 took off at 8:42 A.M. piloted by Captain Jason Dahl and First Officer Leroy Homer, along with five flight attendants. There were only thirty-seven passengers aboard the plane, and it was expected to take off at 8:00 A.M but was delayed because of heavy air traffic. It is unclear whether the hijackers chose this plane because it was unusually under capacity for a summer morning or if they purchased more than one ticket to successfully carry out their plan. As the plane left Newark, the crew members on flight 93 were not aware of the other hijacked planes. No one in the FAA had ever dealt with multiple hijackings, since such a plot had not been successful throughout the world in over thirty years. The first forty-six minutes of Flight 93 were normal, as September 11th was a pleasant day to fly. United first sent out a message about the successful first terrorist strike to airborne planes at 9:19 A.M. when dispatcher Ed Ballinger transmitted messages to sixteen transcontinental flights. His warning was not transmitted to flight 93 until 9:23 A.M., and the message confused Dahl. He responded at 9:26 A.M., confused, and the hijackers attacked the cockpit at 9:28, two minutes later.

[6] The plane was travelling at 35,000 feet above eastern Ohio when it quickly dropped 700 feet. Eleven seconds later, the air traffic control center in Cleveland heard sounds of struggle from the radio transmission. Thirty-five seconds later, the fight was still going on. At 9:32, a hijacker made an announcement to the passengers telling them to remain seated because they had a bomb on board the plane. The plane’s autopilot then made a turn-around and started to head east. At this time, there are sounds of a woman, probably a flight attendant, struggling and being silenced by one of the men.

[7] Passengers and flight crew began to use their cell phones at this time to call family and friends and learned of the two planes that had already hit the World Trade Center towers. At 9:39, Cleveland’s air traffic control center overheard another announcement on board flight 93 that there was a bomb on board, they were returning to the airport, and needed to remain seated. This was a message to deceive both the passengers and the air traffic control center. There is later evidence by the FBI that there were no explosives at the crash site, and the announcement was probably fake. At this time, passengers began to understand the plane had been hijacked and described the hijackers as wearing red bandanas and forcing the passengers to the back of the plane. They reported that a passenger had been stabbed and two people were laying on the floor of the cabin, one possibly the captain. A flight attendant had also been reported as dead.

[8] Five phone calls from passengers described the intent of fighting against the hijackers in an attempt to take over the plane. At 9:57 A.M., the passengers acted. There are sounds from the cockpit voice recorder that capture the passenger revolt. The voices of the particular passengers can not be heard, but the assault was sustained. In response to this, the pilot, who has been identified as Ziad Jarrah, swiftly moved the plane from left to right in an order to put the passengers off balance. At 9:59, Jarrah started moving the nose of the airplane up and down to throw the passengers off more. There were recorded sounds of loud bumps and crashes coming from within the plane, and at 10:00 A.M. the plane was stabilized.

[9] It was at 10:00 A.M. that a passenger yelled out “Let’s Roll!”, the line that is infamous to this event. At 10:01, Ziad was heard saying “Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest!” and decided it was time to crash the plane. The hijackers remained at the controls but knew the passengers were overcoming them. The plane was turned upside down. With sounds of the passengers trying to overtake the plane, the aircraft crashed into an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at 580 miles per hour and only twenty minutes flying time from Washington, D.C.

[10] After the crash of United 93 occurred, there was much investigation done as to whether the FAA had handled the situation correctly. The U.S. airspace had never dealt with a hijacking situation, and the day of September 11th was not conducted as they had been previously trained. The situation on this day was being handled by civilians who had never experienced something of this sort before, and, more specifically, the military was not prepared for such an event of mass destruction happening aboard an aircraft. Also, the FAA controllers and Command Center managers did the most they could do when they sent out a nationwide alert after the first hijacked plane, stopped local ground traffic, and landed all aircrafts. Moreover, there is evidence that the military did not receive notification of the hijacking of United 93 until after the plane had already crashed.

[11] President Bush was in a classroom in Sarasota, Florida, at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School where he was to read to a class and talk about education when he learned of the planes hitting the World Trade Center. It was not until 9:05 A.M. that the President realized that a second plane had hit the second tower of the Trade Center, that the crashes were no accidents, and that America was under attack. After this, the President and Vice President Cheney stayed in contact through a series of phone calls. Bush later expressed annoyance at the poor communication he experienced on this dreadful morning.

[12] Since the Secret Service did not learn about the reports of the plane being hijacked until 10:02, the National Military Command Center did not learn about the hijack of United 93 until about 10:03 A.M. The Secret Service was receiving information from the FAA, who was tracking the progress of the plane toward Washington, but not its actual radar return. Thus, the Secret Service relied on these projections, and no one was actually aware the plane was already down in Pennsylvania. Also, at this time, the FAA had no contact with the military on a national level. The NMCC learned about United 93 from the White House, whose information was what the Secret Service heard from the FAA.

[13] There was much confusion with the instructions given about flight United 93. The Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) told of confusion regarding the order of what they were told to do. The commander did not pass on any orders to shoot down the plane because they indicated puzzlement regarding how the pilots should react to the guidance given. Moreover, leaders in Washington believed they instructed the pilots above to “take out” any hijacked aircraft, while the actual orders were to “ID type and tail.” In usual cases such as this, the orders run from the President to the Secretary of Defense to the combat commander. On this day, it is said that the President spoke to Secretary Rumsfeld a little after 10:00 A.M. and that the subject of the shoot-down orders was not addressed.

[14] On this morning, many complex things were happening all throughout the Northeast and in Washington, D.C. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) did not receive information that the plane was hijacked until it had already crashed. There was only one set of fighter pilots, the Langley F-16s, that were circling Washington around the time of United 93s crash. At one crucial point in time, the fighter planes did not even know what kind of threat they were facing, or where United 93 was located, and did not receive any shoot-down authorization from Washington. There is some speculation that United 93 could have possibly been saved if people were more prepared for an attack like this, or if communication were not so sparse, or if action were more quickly taken, but that's just speculation, and the chance of doing so was very low.

[15] The details of this day and this particular flight are complex. Basically, events proved that the FAA and NORAD were not prepared at all for what happened and struggled to defeat the enemies in a situation no one had ever faced before. Because of this dreadful day the Bush administration began the War on Terrorism, declaring September 14, 2001, on Afghanistan and the Taliban government and then again on October 16, 2001, on the nation of Iraq.

Print Resources

Beamer, Lisa. Let's Roll: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage. Wheaton: Tyndale House, 2002.
This is an autobiographical account of the wife of Todd Beamer, who is seen as an American hero aboard Flight United 93. She tells of the phone call she received from her husband as he learned the plane was being hijacked and how she was able to overhear some of the struggles the passengers were having. She also describes the normal life that her husband once lived before September 11 occurred. Todd Beamer is the infamous passenger aboard the plane who stated the line "Let's Roll," a quote that is remembered to this day. The heroes aboard this flight probably saved the lives of many individuals by doing what they did, and Beamer writes of this in this detailed account of her day.
Beyer, Lisa. "The Most Wanted Man in the World." Time 16 September 2001.,9171,1000871,00.html
Contains Osama bin Laden's response to his successful attack.
Calhoun, Craig, Paul Price, and Ashley Timmer, eds. Understanding September 11. New York: The New Press, 2002.
This book, published in association with the Social Science Research Council, compiles writings done by influential economists, historians, political scientists, and sociologists to address the situations of September 11. It includes accounts of the underlying crises of both the events that began September 11 and the way in which the United States has changed because of this day. The compilation allows the reader to understand both the culture of Islam which attacked us on this day and to make sense of the actions of the United States at the time. The effects of September 11 are addressed in this book, showing the social, economic, and personal changes that American individuals are suffering from the terrorist attacks. It offers a wide variety of information that is useful in understanding the reasons for specific things and the way in which America is handling the aftermath of this historic day in 2001.
Hanson, Victor Davis. An Autumn of War: What America Learned from September 11 and the War on Terrorism. New York: Random House Publishing, 2002.
Hanson is a well-known journalist who has written for newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Daily Telegraph, and the Washington Times. On the day of September 11, he wrote an essay that the United States would have to now respond with force against those that killed many. The book opens with this essay, and it goes on to detailed accounts of the chronology of 9/11 and the events that followed. The book goes through a detailed timeline of the early morning of September 11 and continues to account what happened in America until the month of December. It is a clear and concise depiction of the reasons for September 11 and the reasons for declaring war after the attack. The wisdom included in all of his essays in this book inspire the reader to understand the reasoning for so much that has happened in the world today and allow us all to get a perspective on how September 11 has changed so much about the world we once knew.
Life Magazine editors. One Nation: America Remembers September 11, 2001. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2001.
Through this book, the reader is able to gather an account of all of the tragedies that occurred on all the planes on September 11th. Compiled by the editors of Life Magazine, it includes photos taken on this infamous day, essays written by famous writers about the events, and an account of what happened to all of the hijacked planes on this day. The introduction is written by the mayor of New York at the time, Rudy Giuliani. He describes the events of the day through his experience and what he had to do to keep the city of New York in a safe state. This compilation of information offers different perspectives on the day through a variety of different ways, showing the reader the effects the day had on so many people throughout the world.
Longman, Jere. Among the Heroes: United Flight 93 and the Passengers and Crew who Fought Back. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2002.
This insightful book gives much information on the events of the United 93 crash that occurred on September 11, 2001. It provides a detailed account of the backgrounds and lives of the plane crew, including the captain and his flight attendant associates. It also touches upon the passengers who were aboard this flight, following them on the morning before even boarding the plane. This aspect of the book really shows the normalcy of the day, and the way in which the passengers were oblivious to the events that would ensue. It also provides the reader with a close description of the particular individuals aboard the flight and attaches a personality to the types of people who we can now consider to be heroes on this day. More, it gives a quite in-depth account of what many believed to have supposedly happened on the actual flight that day. Longman uses interviews he has had with family members of those on board the flight who made phone calls home, and after months of investigating the information needed, he factually records this day in a captivating way for the reader.
Scott, Peter Dale. The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America. Berkeley: U of California P, 2007.
This brilliant work of what happened on September 11 is precise and well-documented. Scott uses history, going back as far as the Cold War, to describe the long-term events that led up to the attacks on September 11, 2001. He addresses the role of the American government in holding responsibility for the attacks through oil, terrorism, financing, and security structures that have been ongoing for years. He parallels these historical events as a leading cause in the attacks, using well-researched information and supporting evidence. The fifteen chapters in this book provide the reader with long historical background information, pieces from the 9/11 Commission Report and Vice President Cheney, and concludes with what he believes will be the future of America. This book is highly resourceful in understanding the complete history of the attacks and the present day situation of the American government.
United States. National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States. 9/11 Commission Report. New York: Barnes and Noble Publishing, Inc., 2004.
This very large final report on the events of September 11 is extremely well put together and insightful on the entirety of the attacks. It uses interim reports, press releases, and an index of the final report researched by the National Commission to factually convey to individuals the exact reasons for the horrors of the day. It provides background accounts of each of the planes hijacked, including minute-by-minute details and interactions that happened aboard the plane and on land in Washington and at specific control centers, the FAA, the NORAD, and NEADS. It uses government resources to support all of the information included, and is extremely resourceful on all aspects of the day, including the background of it and the aftermath it caused for the United States. This detailed account is necessary for understanding the truth about this historical event.
Zarembka, Paul. The Hidden History of 9-11. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2006.
This reference volume is very useful in understanding the events that occurred before the dreadful day of September 11. Zarembka provides detailed background information of the horrors of the day and describes what still remains unknown to the general public. He also writes of details of the day that still need to be further investigated in order to better understand the logistics of the day. The book questions the evidence that the nation has about the alleged hijackers and the role of the military on this day. More, it touches upon what the 9-11 Commission has addressed, questioning what may or may not be true. Challenging the reader to think more about this day, the volume also provides plentiful facts that need to be considered and the hard evidence that is presently at hand. It is useful to the reader to see different angles of what may have actually happened on this day and to come to a conclusion about the truth of the situation.

See Also

Barrett, Jon. Mark Bingham: Hero of Flight 93. New York: Alyson, 2002.

Roddy, Dennis B. "Forty Lives, One Destiny." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 28 October 2001.

Video/Audio Resources

The 11th of September: Moyers in Conversation. New York: New Video, 2001.
"The acclaimed journalist seeks to provide insight into and solace for the horrific events of September 11, 2001 through dialogue with a diverse group of guests from terrorism experts to choreographer Bill T. Jones."
Close-up of man in window in burning tower
One example of the gruesome horror.
The first plane hits the World Trade Center (1)
The camera is a split-second too late to see the plane.
flight 93 passenger| 911 heroes|"lets roll" tribute song
A tribute to those aboard Flight United 93.
Free 9/11 Documentaries & Videos
A large collection of free 9/11 documentaries that are full-length, lectures, panels, conferences, interviews, television shows, programs, and news video clips.
George Bush in school classroom during 9/11 attacks (1)
The president first hears the news.
George Bush in school classroom during 9/11 attacks (2)
George W. Bush - 9/11 Bullhorn Speech
President Bush's speech with the fire fighters: "The people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon."
Inside 9/11. National Geographic. 2006.
This film traces the start of Osama bin Laden's reign from its start in the 1980s to the events leading up to September 11th, 2001, incorporating photos, news coverage, researched documentation, and eyewitness interviews. All of the aspects that caused September 11th to happen are included in this documentary, and it is very useful in understanding the entire background of what occurred.
Osama bin Laden on 9/11
Explaining why.
President George W. Bush's Post 9/11 Speech
President Bush's nationally televised speech ten days after the attack.
The second plane hits the World Trade Center (1)
One angle.
The second plane hits the World Trade Center (2)
Another angle.
September 11, 2001 - As It Happened - The Initial Bulletins
A series of bulletins provided by news programs as the events of September 11, 2001, occurred.
Short film following the path of flight United 93
This short film re-creates the events of what happened to the flight of United Airlines 93. It shows to the viewer details about what happened to the plane and the news casts that were shown after the crash. Gives much detail and is helpful in learning more about the flight.

Online Resources

9-11. History Channel
This History Channel website site provides detailed accounts of what happened on September 11, 2001. It is very informative on the events of the day, including pictures and video information about the attacks.
9/11 Attacks. New York Times
This website provides coverage on the 9/11 attacks and a timeline of the actual day. It is very useful with images and numerous newspaper articles from the Times, along with video archives about the events of the day.
The 9/11 Commission Report
This is the online version of the September 11th Commission Report in its entirety. It provides all the necessary information to understanding the events of the day, an outline of the actual plane attacks, and the aftermath and causes for war that the day caused.
Department of Homeland Security
The source of terror alerts.
Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa.
The site of the crash.
Quotes about the Sept 11, 2001 attack on America. The Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies (CI Centre)
Sound bites from a large variety of sources.
September 11
This website provides international archives of what happened on September 11. It includes useful news, photos, graphics, images, other websites, and newspapers from around the world.
September 11, 2001. Washington Post
Provides a detailed description of the terrorist plots on each of the four flights and the investigation that followed. It also has an interactive section where it is easy to see the flights of the four planes and the information about the terrorists involved.
Transcript: Flight 93 Cockpit Tape
"The District Court in Alexandria, hearing the sentencing case of convicted 9/11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui, released a full transcript from the cockpit voice recorder of UAL Flight #93 hijacked on that day."
Trial of Zacarias Moussaoui 2006
Lots of documents and links. "On the horrific morning of September 11, 2001, when planes crashed into buildings and fell from the sky, Zacarias Moussaoui was sitting in a jail in Minnesota facing immigration charges. Even if he had not been arrested three weeks earlier, when he raised suspicion by paying large sums to a flight training school to learn to pilot a Boeing 747 despite his never having piloted a small plane, it seems unlikely that Moussaoui would have been 'the twentieth hijacker' on one of the four doomed planes. Nonetheless, largely because of the convenient fact that he was alive and in custody, the French citizen of Moroccan descent became the only person tried in an American courtroom for involvement in the 9/11 tragedy. As such, his trial came to be much more than a proceeding to determine whether one would-be terrorist would live or die: it became an opportunity for survivors and relatives of 9/11 victims to seek that elusive 'closure,' and an occasion for evaluating--with the benefit of revealing documents released at the trial--whether thousands of innocent lives could have been saved if bureaucrats only focused more on protecting the country than advancing their careers."