Flight 93 – some lesser known facts on that day

I have been enjoying going through the Wayback Machine one more time, combing more thoroughly some of Lex’s posts from all those years ago. I believe that I have come to know him, both in his thoughts and character, as he was typing on that Mac, usually before the dinner bell, most probably with a Martini (vodka martini: Ketel One, up, dry, twist – which is three adjectives, for those of you keeping score at home.) I have even come to consider him as a friend, although I don’t know what he would have to say about it.

One of those posts I recently reposted was something I faced years ago – when that movie came out. Something that Lex acknowledged at the same time as my facing it.

As he admonished 14 years ago, you had to face the beast. At the time, I really debated whether I wanted to see it at the theater. And the worst part of it was, you knew how it was going to turn out. A lot of good – and innocent – people were going to die at the hands of Evil.

So I decided at the time that I too had to face the beast. I owed it to those passengers and crew.

It wasn’t what I could call an “enjoyable” movie, but one that should be seen.

It is now available on Amazon Prime, if you want to see it.

So this evening on DirectTV they showed on the History Channel different programs on 9/11 – showing different facets. One was on Air Force One, and what they did that day and more importantly, why. Interviewed among others were the principals from President Bush to the pilot of that plane, an ABC reporter on that plane, and the Air Force Master Sergeant in charge of security for that plane.

What was at times reported as confusion at the time came into focus and I could understand why they did what they did.

The next program was on United 93. I had taken notes as I watched the program, so if there are discrepancies it is my fault. But some things that remained a mystery to me for 19 years were answered.

I might add that some of the facts I will mention came from 2 fascinating books on 9/11 that I read in years past. As far as this post is concerned, I recommend Touching History, about that day from ATC’s – Air Traffic Control – perspective. Two of the most chilling things I got from that book was the prospect of yet another hijacking from Newark, but for the quick thinking of the pilot while on the tarmac. He saw the smoke from the WTC and at the time, they still didn’t know it was terrorism. As all of this was unfolding, until that second plane hit the other tower, ATC was trying to figure out what was going on. He had a bad feeling, and decided to announce to the passengers that there was a mechanical issue, and turned back to the terminal. All of the passengers melted back into the terminal, but there was a few pieces of luggage unclaimed, all full of al-Qaeda material.

The other involved ATC and their effort to locate a missing plane, American flight 11, a Boeing 767. The transponder, a device that with numbers keyed in by the pilot that are requested by ATC, makes radar ID far easier, showing position, heading, speed and altitude. They contacted a United pilot on flight 175, another 767, asking if he had any visual ID of that plane. They were in communication with that pilot and a moment later, communication, along with his transponder, went quiet. That was the plane that hit the 2nd tower.

The other book is about the people in the WTC, those who survived and those who didn’t. 102 Minutes is the title.

Both books I highly recommend.

The question I have had for 19 years is “how did they gain access to the cockpit so easily – and quickly?”

The answer in this program was surprising. At the time, up to 9/11, the key to the cockpit was held by a flight attendant and/or there was one in a storage locker by the cockpit. Even more surprising, all of the keys to the planes had the same cut – there were thousands of them in circulation.

More than likely, the terrorists simply unlocked the cockpit doors. Whether they already had the keys or took them was unanswered.

The program dealt with the timeline of Flight 93 from takeoff to its ending, and the timing is important.

It was delayed on the ground by 42 minutes, which turned out to be critical. The terrorists – 4 of them, announced that they had a bomb and started moving passengers to the rear. They made a critical mistake – allowing the passengers to phone their loved ones, where they learned of the WTC.

Had they taken off on time, they would have crashed into their destination, the Capitol Building in Washington, without the passengers ever knowing about the other attacks. It was learned that the Capitol was the target from a captured al-Qaeda operative in the Mideast.

At the time, there were 5,000 people in the Capitol Building.

The brave actions of those passengers saved us from yet another catastrophe that probably would have killed more thousands. I can say this with near certainty because it was 29 minutes before a military fighter came unto the scene. By then they would have been in Washington. (Looking up the distance the next morning I learned that it is only 125 air miles from Shanksville, PA to Washington, DC. The plane was traveling over 500 mph).

The reason it was questioned for years whether Flight 93 had been shot down was because during the initial confusion, with President Bush in Air Force One and unable to reach his cabinet (the communications were upgraded after that day), Vice President Cheney, outside the normal chain of command, issued a “shoot down” order for all aircraft off course and not obeying ATC. So initially when Flight 93 crashed after that order, it was assumed that it had been shot down.

Some of the final moments in the recovered “black box” are still secret, but it was allowed that the families could listen to it one day without any recording devices or notes.

As one mother said in the interview she was so proud of her son for stopping them.

As well she should be.

If you haven’t seen that movie, go see it.

As Lex said 14 years ago, face the beast.

You owe it to them.



09-12-20 1234 – A few more things I found interesting from the Flight 93 program: One of the callers told his wife or mother that “we won’t attack until we are over a rural area”. It was no accident that they crashed in Shanksville, PA.

They attacked the 2 terrorists in the cabin using boiling water that a F/A had made.

Once subduing the 2 terrorists in the cabin, the passengers gained access to the cockpit using a service cart as a battering ram. They were inside fighting with the other 2 terrorists when the terrorists decided to crash it now. The plane rolled inverted, and at a steep angle and over 500 mph impacted at Shanksville, PA.

09-13-20 0116: Trent Telenko of Chicagoboyz had his own write-up on Flight 93, and had as a link some interesting information from the National Park Service on that flight, including the cockpit voice transcript. H/T to Trent.

1 Comment

Filed under GWOT, Terrorism, Valor

One response to “Flight 93 – some lesser known facts on that day

  1. mcthag

    I will face the beast when I read a synopsis of the movie without the rage I felt 19 years ago returning.

    I still think we should have responded by directing a bunker to turn their keys to the left at the same time and popped a Minuteman or Trident at Mecca at the very least and continuing the slaughter until the world KNEW that it was safer to eat a plate of white arsenic than kill even one American.

    Oh, look. My response is exactly why I am still avoiding this film. You’re right, I do owe it to them, but I just can’t. Yet.

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