Was what we were told about Flight 93 a myth?
February 2, 2006 9:17 AM   Subscribe

Was what we were told about Flight 93 a myth?

I thought I had read somewhere that what we were told about the passengers of Flight 93, Todd Beamer, Jeremy Glick and dozens of others bringing the flight to the ground was in fact false.

Is anyone aware of this? Or am I mistaken?
posted by brokekid to Society & Culture (32 answers total)
 
Jeremy Glick wasn't on Flight 93.
posted by WCityMike at 9:20 AM on February 2, 2006


There was some discussion about it in this thread on the Blue.
posted by Gator at 9:21 AM on February 2, 2006


There was a Jeremy Glick on Flight 93 but obviously not the one you link to. More here.
posted by oh pollo! at 9:25 AM on February 2, 2006


From the wikipedia article oh Pollo! linked to:

"Other persons who made phone calls to relatives include passenger Honor Elizabeth Wainio and flight attendants CeeCee Lyles and Sandra Bradshaw. They all mentioned charges to the cockpit by way of final words. Reference was also made by the flight attendants to using boiling water on the hijackers. What happened afterwards is uncertain but the black box recordings revealed that, contrary to popular belief, the passengers were never able to enter the cockpit."
posted by adamkempa at 9:30 AM on February 2, 2006


What were we told?

I assumed it went down as a result of the terrorists committing suicide rather than be confronted with the possibility of being caught and not getting to heaven as martyrs.
posted by JJ86 at 9:38 AM on February 2, 2006


I stand corrected. My apologies, guys.
posted by WCityMike at 9:38 AM on February 2, 2006


The 9/11 Commission Report has a detailed account of what happened. (Search for "The Battle for United 93.")
posted by kirkaracha at 9:55 AM on February 2, 2006


I don't think it was false so much as made somewhat more heroic than it really was. Basically, it sounds like they behaved as probably many people would if in such a situation - they had gotten information through cell phone calls that the other planes had been crashed into targets which caused the death of many others, so they realized that unlike pre-9/11 hijackings, where the hijackers used the passengers as bargaining tools, attempting to get demands met by threatening destruction, these hijackers were suicide bombers, and were going to destroy the plane, everyone on board (including themselves), and whatever target they crashed it into. So they had nothing to lose by acting up - passengers in the earlier flights would probably have believed/expected that their best chance of survival was cooperation, but these people had the technology to discover the true intentions of their captors, and hence to not be cooperative.

However, obviously they weren't able to get control of the plane. But I think just as obviously, the original target was not a field in philadelphia, so the mission was aborted due to their behavior. Was it heroic of them? I think it's moderately and humanly heroic, in that they had awareness of their own impending death and were not completely paralyzed in their seats. Unfortunately there was no superman on board who could actually take control of the plane and subdue the hijackers and, you know, truly save the day. But if you imagine what it must have been like to have that knowledge and even just try to do something, I think you have to appreciate what human beings are capable of.
posted by mdn at 9:55 AM on February 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


The idea that it is certain that passengers of flight 93 brought down the Airplane is not strictly true.

They may have -- or they may not have. We don't know. And the evidence against might even be stronger than the evidence for passenger-induced take down.

The story of flight 93 is just that: a convenient story. But it's not the case that we have any evidence that the government shot down 93 or any of the other absurd crap that surrounds that crash in the tinfoil hat crowd.
posted by teece at 9:57 AM on February 2, 2006


The quote attributed to Todd Beamer, "Let's Roll," was in fact "Roll it," a reference to the drink cart. They were trying to bash the door open with the cart. This failed. The passengers never made it into the cockpit, but were close enough that the terrorists felt the need to bring the plane down.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 10:34 AM on February 2, 2006


I watched the A&E movie about flight 93 last night and teared up several times, but I didn't take it as gospel truth. I don't think they made it into the cockpit either, but they made a damn good try, and their revolt probably did thwart plans to fly into a Washington target.

From the Commission report:

The cockpit voice recorder captured the sounds of the passenger assault muffled by the intervening cockpit door. Some family members who listened to the recording report that they can hear the voice of a loved one among the din. We cannot identify whose voices can be heard. But the assault was sustained.

In response, Jarrah immediately began to roll the airplane to the left and right, attempting to knock the passengers off balance. At 9:58:57, Jarrah told another hijacker in the cockpit to block the door. Jarrah continued to roll the airplane sharply left and right, but the assault continued. At 9:59:52, Jarrah changed tactics and pitched the nose of the airplane up and down to disrupt the assault. The recorder captured the sounds of loud thumps, crashes, shouts, and breaking glasses and plates. At 10:00:03, Jarrah stabilized the airplane.

Five seconds later, Jarrah asked, "Is that it? Shall we finish it off?" A hijacker responded, "No. Not yet. When they all come, we finish it off." The sounds of fighting continued outside the cockpit. Again, Jarrah pitched the nose of the aircraft up and down. At 10:00:26, a passenger in the background said, "In the cockpit. If we don't we'll die!" Sixteen seconds later, a passenger yelled, "Roll it!" Jarrah stopped the violent maneuvers at about 10:01:00 and said, "Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest!" He then asked another hijacker in the cock-pit, "Is that it? I mean, shall we put it down?" to which the other replied, "Yes, put it in it, and pull it down."

The passengers continued their assault and at 10:02:23, a hijacker said, "Pull it down! Pull it down!" The hijackers remained at the controls but must have judged that the passengers were only seconds from overcoming them. The airplane headed down; the control wheel was turned hard to the right. The airplane rolled onto its back, and one of the hijackers began shouting "Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest." With the sounds of the passenger counterattack continuing, the aircraft plowed into an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at 580 miles per hour, about 20 minutes' flying time from Washington, D.C.

Jarrah's objective was to crash his airliner into symbols of the American Republic, the Capitol or the White House. He was defeated by the alerted, unarmed passengers of United 93.


OK, that made me tear up again.
posted by rosemere at 10:55 AM on February 2, 2006


they had gotten information through cell phone calls

It is unlikely that anyone made any cell phone calls from the plane, but they may have made calls via the airphones.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:56 AM on February 2, 2006


That's the saddest, sweetest thing I've read in a long time.
posted by muddgirl at 11:09 AM on February 2, 2006


Seeing as one of the engines was found twelve miles from the rest of the plane, I'm gonna say very little of what we were told about it was true.
posted by dame at 11:09 AM on February 2, 2006


It was flying low, signals for their cell phones may have been possible. What's interesting is nobody's chimed in yet about the Shanksville witnesses who spotted other aircraft in the vicinity. I realize that won't be mentioned in a mainstream TV show, but c'mon, this is the wwweb.
posted by Rash at 11:11 AM on February 2, 2006


Seeing as one of the engines was found twelve miles from the rest of the plane...

Um, no. I was going to let this lie but the OP is genuinely seeking to be informed about this. This is just made up.

Refer here for a sane description of the debris field.
posted by deadfather at 11:38 AM on February 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


Dame, do you have a source for that twelve mile figure?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:44 AM on February 2, 2006


It's so much nicer to believe that those people died heroically, bravely taking control of their own destiny and sacrificing their lives for the sake of others, than to think that American pilots were given orders to take down a plane full of their fellow citizens.

More scarring to the American psyche: a plane crashing into the US Capitol Building, or the knowledge that we killed more than 40 citizens to prevent a plane from crashing into the US Capitol Building?
posted by junkbox at 11:53 AM on February 2, 2006


Not an internet one, Kirth. It came from a non-tinfoiled friend of mine who knows more about this than I do. It is possible we were both mistaken. I'll have to ask.
posted by dame at 12:01 PM on February 2, 2006


mdn, minor thing, but the field wasn't in Philadelphia, it was in western PA, in Shanksville, in Somerset county. Other side of the state.
posted by drobot at 12:39 PM on February 2, 2006


Why is everyone so quick to discount the tin-foilers?! You can't believe everything you read but there is some interesting reading out there:

http://www.flight93crash.com/

http://www.oilempire.us/911.html
posted by jacobsee at 12:44 PM on February 2, 2006


More scarring to the American psyche: a plane crashing into the US Capitol Building, or the knowledge that we killed more than 40 citizens to prevent a plane from crashing into the US Capitol Building?

Not just the building, but the city. Better to crash into an empty field than into DC, don't you think?

In any case, to the question: there is nothing particularly heroic about fighting when fighting is the absolutely only chance you have of saving your own skin. From that standpoint, the story about the "brave" passengers charging the cockpit is not necessarily true. They might have been brave, but I suspect it's just as (or more) likely that they were instead (or also?) desperate, terrified, frantic, panicked, frenzied, wetting their pants. They were in a plane controlled by hijackers who meant to kill them all. Their only hope was to break into the cockpit and take over. So that's what they tried to do.

If there is a hero in this story, maybe it is the (supposed) person who (supposedly) shot them down rather than let them get into DC airspace.
posted by pracowity at 12:51 PM on February 2, 2006


Investigators locate 'black box' from Flight 93; widen search area in Somerset crash
Thursday, September 13, 2001

"Residents and workers at businesses outside Shanksville, Somerset County, reported discovering clothing, books, papers and what appeared to be human remains. Some residents said they collected bags-full of items to be turned over to investigators. Others reported what appeared to be crash debris floating in Indian Lake, nearly six miles from the immediate crash scene.

Workers at Indian Lake Marina said that they saw a cloud of confetti-like debris descend on the lake and nearby farms minutes after hearing the explosion that signaled the crash at 10:06 a.m. Tuesday.

...

In a morning briefing, state Police Major Lyle Szupinka confirmed that debris from the plane had turned up in relatively far-flung sites, including the residential area of Indian Lake. Investigators appealed to any residents who had come across such debris, in the surrounding countryside or even in their yards, to contact them, emphasizing that even the smallest remnants could prove to be important clues.

"This is not a finite [crime] scene," said Crowley. "As things are discovered, it expands and contracts."

In response to a question on recurring rumors that the plane might have been shot down, Crowley said that at this stage of the investigation, no possibility was being ruled out. He stressed, however, that no evidence had surfaced to support that theory.

Rep. John Murtha, D-Johnstown, noted and discounted the same speculation here Tuesday, saying that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield had assured him that the government had not shot down the hijacked plane to prevent it from hitting a potential target."
posted by jacobsee at 12:55 PM on February 2, 2006


In any case, to the question: there is nothing particularly heroic about fighting when fighting is the absolutely only chance you have of saving your own skin. From that standpoint, the story about the "brave" passengers charging the cockpit is not necessarily true. They might have been brave, but I suspect it's just as (or more) likely that they were instead (or also?) desperate, terrified, frantic, panicked, frenzied, wetting their pants. They were in a plane controlled by hijackers who meant to kill them all. Their only hope was to break into the cockpit and take over. So that's what they tried to do.

Brave people and heroes can also be desperate, terrified, frantic, panicked, frenzied, and wetting their pants. Going ahead and doing something, no matter how slim the chance that it will work, even while risking pain, injury and death, counts as brave in my book.

Someone truly non-heroic would have shrunk back hoping that the terrorists would have changed their minds, or that they would get a quick and clean death from impact, no matter how many other people died. But these people made a choice to act in a way that gave them an extremely slim chance of living -- there were no jet pilots on the flight, so hell, I'd say they knew they had no real chance of landing safely -- so all they were fighting for was preventing the plane from reaching Washington.

I don't know if the jet was actually shot down. I'm really agnostic about it. But these people acted in good faith that they could do something that would minimize the chances of many additional people dying. That's pretty damn heroic in my book, whether or not their specific actions actually achieved their aims or if some anonymous fighter pilot delivered the coup de grace.
posted by rosemere at 1:25 PM on February 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


There is another explanation for multiple debris fields - the terrorists claimed to have a bomb on board flight 93. If they did have a bomb, and did detonate it, the result might be similar to a missile attack.

Wikipedia also notes that "Ironically, it was at the time a violation of FAA regulations for airline personnel or passengers to resist a hijacking by force."
posted by b1tr0t at 2:02 PM on February 2, 2006


There is another explanation for multiple debris fields - the terrorists claimed to have a bomb on board flight 93. If they did have a bomb, and did detonate it, the result might be similar to a missile attack.

Too bad the debris field isn't consistent with a missile attack. Is it really so difficult to trust the NTSB and 9/11 Commission on this one instead of the Internet weirdos? I mean, honestly, I hate Bush as much as the next guy, but five years later, this is getting silly.
posted by deadfather at 2:20 PM on February 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


Is it really so difficult to trust the NTSB and 9/11 Commission on this one...?

Yes.
posted by trevyn at 4:01 PM on February 2, 2006


The NTSB just took over a year to determine that a business jet crash in snowy conditions occurred because the pilot failed to de-ice the plane.

Four airplanes apprently piloted by saudis crashed around the east coast, and it took the government less than a month to determine that the best policy was to invade Afghanistan and Iraq.

Does this not seem even a little bit odd to you?
posted by b1tr0t at 5:28 PM on February 2, 2006


Deadfeather, if it makes you feel better, I think they lied about Flight 800 too and that has nothing to do with Bush. I'm also still not sure about the flight that crashed over the Rockaways. You know, it is possible to be doubtful about the official answers and not be convinced there is a crazy conspiracy. There is a middle ground.
posted by dame at 8:56 PM on February 2, 2006


Seeing as one of the engines was found twelve miles from the rest of the plane

False. The largest part of the plane recovered was part of an engine fan weighing 1000 pounds, which was 600 yards from the main debris field. This is approximately the distance that a plane traveling 600mph would cross in one second.

Others reported what appeared to be crash debris floating in Indian Lake, nearly six miles from the immediate crash scene

The closest shore of Indian Lake is merely two miles from the crash site. In any case, this is light debris by all reports, not parts of the fuselage or engines.

They might have been brave, but I suspect it's just as (or more) likely that they were instead (or also?) desperate, terrified, frantic, panicked, frenzied, wetting their pants.

I've heard that a definition of bravery is doing what needs to be done, despire your fears. I know that the nationalistic "Let's Roll" bullshit makes some people conversely reluctant to call them heroes, but they were doing the only thing they could in that situation, knowing their chances would only improve marginally should they succeed, against an armed gang who'd already killed (a male flight attendant and an Israeli in first class, as I recall). I don't know how I'd react in that situation, but a group of 40 people can certainly stir up some groupthink courage for a temporary rally, I should think.

Four airplanes apprently piloted by saudis crashed around the east coast, and it took the government less than a month to determine that the best policy was to invade Afghanistan and Iraq.

Well, we now know they wanted any excuse to invade Iraq. As for Afghanistan, I knew it was bin Laden at 9:03am EST. I'm not sure what your implication is here -- that we should have attacked Saudi Arabia instead? What would that accomplish? Over at the Little Green Place they probably think we should have nuked Mecca the next day, so use that as a yardstick for your response.

You know, it is possible to be doubtful about the official answers and not be convinced there is a crazy conspiracy.

"I deeply resent the way this administration makes me feel like a nutbar conspiracy theorist." You can get it on a coffee cup or t-shirt.

It's unfortunate that they have such a penchant against transparency, but I simply can't subscribe to the shoot-down theory (or the WTC7 "pull" theory for that matter), let alone any of the nuttier ones like pre-placed charges. I think the incompetence of the military response was inevitable given the stand-down, and a clear result of ignorant dismissals of the intelligence that should have warned people (and post-Katrina, incompetence in all things seems very clearly the hallmark of this bunch).
posted by dhartung at 12:56 AM on February 3, 2006


Well, we now know they wanted any excuse to invade Iraq. As for Afghanistan, I knew it was bin Laden at 9:03am EST. I'm not sure what your implication is here -- that we should have attacked Saudi Arabia instead? What would that accomplish? Over at the Little Green Place they probably think we should have nuked Mecca the next day, so use that as a yardstick for your response.

My implication is that the government attacked exactly who it wanted to attack, without bothering to do an investigation and find out who it should have attacked. Perhaps Iraq and Afghanistan were the right countries to attack, perhaps not. It wasn't clear to me then, and it isn't clear to me now. Unlike the tinfoilers, I don't see any evidence that clearly points to a conspiracy. I do see a lot of evidence of VERY sloppy work on the part of the US government.

I agree that there was a complete intelligence breakdown in the FBI and CIA with respect to terrorism prior to 9/11. It looks like the two agencies had enough information to stop an attack, but they were unable to share information appropriately and take action. In response to this, we passed the US PATRIOT act which breaks down some barriers but also broadly extends the government's ability to gather information.

This makes no sense!

The government had plenty of information before 9/11, but couldn't figure out how to put it together. What we needed was the provisions that enhanced communication, then a period of time in which the agencies could learn to work together. Once the CIA and FBI are successfully working together, and taking down terrorists, THEN they could seek additional intelligence gathering authorization.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:48 AM on February 3, 2006


I just don't see what's so hard to believe about this one. We know they had contact with other family members who told them what had happened with the other planes, so why would we doubt that they would do whatever they could to try 'storming the cockpit' or whatever? As Rosemere said, I don't know for certain that the plane wasn't shot down, but even so the behavior of the people on the plane who were staring death in the face and managed to make some kind of attempt anyway is worthy of appreciation. They weren't demi gods or supermen; they were ordinary people who gave it a shot at a time when some portion of the population would have passed out, or been screaming incomprehensibly, or been praying for their own personal salvation, or otherwise unhelpful.

As for the theory that the plane was shot down, I'm doubtful because I just don't think the US gov had its act together enough to have done that, even if they wanted to. We hardly knew what was going on and Bush & co were hysterically running around seeking shelter at the time. It just seems more believable that the suicide bombers aborted the mission due to things getting out of hand on board.
(drobot, duh - sorry 'bout that, thanks for correcting)
posted by mdn at 11:51 AM on February 3, 2006


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