My wife, Lisa, and I just returned from visiting my youngest brother, Dan, and his family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Dan and his wife, Bernice, suggested we take a drive about 2 hours to the site of the Memorial for Flight #93 on 9/11. The trip toward Shanksville, the location of the Memorial, allowed us to see the beautiful foliage in a windy crisp day midway into autumn. The colorful autumn day contrasted with the somber and gloomy mood that hung over us and those that attended the Memorial.
It was a calm sunny blue-sky day on that fateful day in September. There were 33 passengers and 7 crew members. They came from all walks of life. They were as different as one can be. And yet they had one thing in common: They were all Americans. None of them had an inkling of what was awaiting them. Their total lack of knowledge of what was to ensue rendered the passenger response that much more remarkable.
The flight was to take-off early in the morning from Newark, New Jersey to San Francisco. However, unusual air traffic delayed its departure by more than 25 minutes. This wasperhaps the best thing that happened that day. The terrorists had coordinated a plan to attack the twin buildings at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the Capitol building. The attack on the latter had been planned to coincide with both the House and Senate to reconvene after the summer break.
When the terrorists took over the cockpit and plane, they directed all of the travelers to the back of the plane warning them that there was a bomb on the plane and to stay calm. Fortunately, for all of us, the passengers did not comply with the command of the terrorists as some made phone calls and were warned that terrorists had seized and crashed other planes. The plane had already gone off course and was heading toward the intended bomb site in Washington D.C. that was 20 minutes away. Some of the passengers and one crew member had previous experience in handling emergency situations. It is believed that this group were able to provide the leadership necessary to avert a potential disaster with grave consequences. In the little time the passengers and crew members had to make a critical decision that they knew would cost them their lives, they acted and, it is speculated were about to seize the cockpit.
After the passengers fought back, a message in Arabic was heard saying “put it down.” The velocity of the plane at impact was 565 miles per hour creating a huge crater in a vacant field away from anyone. The delayed start at Newark along with the unified courage of 34 passengers and 6 crew members diverted what could have been a most deadly attack on the Capitol, a building that is the hallmark of what our country stands for: Democracy, that is rule by the people.