|What Happened That Day
On September 11, 2001, United Airlines Flight 93, bound for San Francisco, was scheduled to depart Newark International at 8:01 a.m. But airport construction and heavy runway traffic forced a wait of 41 minutes.
The plane did not lift off until 8:42 a.m.
News accounts and experts credit the delay as the primary reason why Fight 93 was the only one of that day’s four deadly flights to fail its appalling mission.
By the time Flight 93 was airborne, the other hijacked jets in the tightly planned attacks had already taken off and were closing in on their targets.
American Airlines Flight 11 left Boston at 7:59 and hit the north tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46. United 175 also lifted off from Boston, at 8:14, and flew into the south tower at 9:02. After taking off from Dulles at 8:20, headed for Los Angeles, American Flight 77 veered off course at 8:55. Fifteen minutes later, the plane turned back. It crashed into the west side of the Pentagon at 9:38. (All times are Eastern.)
The three initial hijackings were detected by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and reported one by one to the Air Force's North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), at 8:43, 8:53 and 9:24. NORAD's order to scramble military jets out of Otis Air Force Base in Massachusetts came at 8:46.
The Newark delay was critical. It put Flight 93 on an entirely different – and historic – course.
Once the four terrorists took over their plane, passengers and crew were able to phone friends, family and emergency officials to report the hijacking. During those calls, passengers learned about the horrific events in New York and in Washington. The news had already saturated the airwaves. It was clear that the attacks were coordinated and their plane was part of the plan. The realization motivated passengers and crew to band together and fight.
The courageous men and women aboard Flight 93 hatched a hasty, desperate plan to attack the terrorists and try to prevent them from hitting their selected target, probably the White House or the US Capitol.
The passenger leaders, including Tom Burnett, Mark Bingham, Todd Beamer, Jeremy Glick, and the rest of the passengers and crew, began making final, heartrending calls to say goodbye to loved ones and family. BY 9:58, most cell phone calls had ended. The frantic fight began.
At 10:06, Flight 93 crashed in a field near a wooded area in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, in Somerset County, a scant 20 minutes by air from the White House. All 33 passengers and 7 crewmembers were killed. Tragically, the people on board had achieved their goal.
In all, on that dreadful, dreadful morning, only one hour and fifty-three minutes elapsed from the time the first flight was hijacked at 8:13 to the moment Flight 93 crashed.
Later, when the tapes of those indelible farewell calls were released and re-played, all of America and people around the world got to hear, firsthand, the extraordinary bravery and determination of the ordinary civilians who chose to give their lives in order to save the lives of countless others.
Daring, honorable and self-sacrificing, they are true American heroes. The story of Flight 93 is a legacy for us all.