Calls made from United Airlines Flight 93
The following analysis of the actual calls is based on text assembled by four reporters of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (Roddy et al. 2001) The calls were mostly rather brief and it must be borne in mind that, with the exception of two recorded messages, the persons called would not necessarily recollect the exact words which either they or the caller used.
Following a delay in its scheduled departure time of 8:01 am, Flight 93 reached its cruising altitude of approximately 30,000 feet about 40 minutes into the flight. At about this time the takedown would have been initiated. And at about this time, the aircraft was "hijacked," according to several cellphone calls. (Note that at this altitude the calls were flat-out impossible.)
CALL A1: A man claiming to be Tom Burnett called his wife Deena in San Ramon, CA around 9:20 to Deena's best recollection:
Deena: "Are you alright?"
Caller: "No. I'm on United Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco. The plane was hijacked. We are in the air. They've already knifed a guy. There is a bomb on board. Call the FBI."
CALL B: Just before 9:30 am, a man claiming to be Jeremy Glick called Lyz Glick, who was visiting in-laws in the Catskills of New York state. The phone was answered by Glick's mother-in-law, JoAnne Makely:
JoAnne: "Jeremy. Thank God. We're so worried."
Caller: "It's bad news. Is Liz there?"
The caller went on to describe Arabic-looking hijackers wearing red headbands and carrying knives. One had told the passengers he had a bomb. The caller asked if it was true that planes had been crashed into the World Trade Center. She confirmed this. The caller mentioned that another passenger had heard the news on his/her cell phone.
CALL A2: The man claiming to be Tom Burnett called Deena Burnett again around 9:30 am. As Deena later described his call, "He didn't sound frightened, but he was speaking faster than he normally would." He told her there were hijackers in the cockpit.
Deena: "A lot of planes have been hijacked, but they don't know how many."
Caller: "You've got to be kidding."
Caller: "Were they commercial planes or airliners?"
Deena: "I don't know."
Caller: "Okay. I've got to go."
CALL C: A man claiming to be Mark Bingham called Bingham's sister-in-law, Cathy Hoglan, who was being visited by Bingham's mother, Alice. Cathy took the call and handed the phone to Alice with the remark, "Alice, talk to Mark. He's been hijacked."
Caller: "Mom? This is Mark Bingham."
Caller: "I want you to know that I love you. I'm on a flight from Newark to San Francisco and there are three guys who have taken over the plane and they say they have a bomb."
Alice: "Who are these guys?
Caller: (after a pause) "You believe me, don't you?
Alice: "Yes, Mark. I believe you. But who are these guys?
(After another pause the line went dead.)
CALL D: A man claiming to be Todd Beamer on a United Airlines airfone had some trouble getting through to anyone but the Verizon customer service center, where the operator relayed the call to Verizon supervisor, Lisa Jefferson at 9:45 am. (Verizon is a large communications company that has the contract for airfones on United airlines equipment.) The man told Jefferson that the plane had been hijacked, that he could see three hijackers armed with knives, one of them claiming to have a bomb. He described how the passengers had been herded to the rear of the aircraft, guarded by the one with the bomb. He asked the supervisor to call the Beamer family on his behalf.
Caller: "Oh! We're going down. (pause) No. We're okay. I think we're turning around." (It was approximately around this time that the flight, then passing near Cleveland, made a hard left toward Washington, DC.)
CALL A3: The man claiming to be Tom Burnett called Deena Burnett again.
Deena: "They're taking airplanes and hitting landmarks all up and down the east coast."
Caller: "Okay. We're going to do something. I'll call you back."
CALL F1: At 9:47, the answering machine of Lorne Lyles recorded a call that he thought was from his wife, CeeCee. The woman could be heard praying for herself, her family, and even for the souls of the hijackers.
CALL B (cont'd.) State police, talking to Jeremy Glick's mother-in-law, asked her to relay a question to Jeremy. Did he know where his plane was? He didn't know, but said they had changed direction.
Caller: "I need you to be happy and I will respect any decisions that you make."
He told Ms Lyles that the passengers were about to take a vote on whether to take back the aircraft. Should they try?
Lyz: "Honey, you need to do it." They spoke of weapons. The caller joked.
Caller: "I have my butter knife from breakfast."
CALL G: About this time, Phil Bradshaw, husband of flight attendant Sandy Bradshaw, received a phone call from a woman who identified herself as his wife.
Caller: "Have you heard what's going on? My flight has been hijacked. My flight has been hijacked by three guys with knives.
Phil asked her who was flying the plane.
Caller: "I don't know who's flying the plane or where we are. I see a river."
Bradshaw: "Be safe and come home soon."
The caller then explained that she had to go. She planned to prepare boiling water in the galley - to pour on the hijackers.
CALL H: Sometime after 9:30, Fred Fiumano received a call from someone claiming to be his friend, Marion Britton. The caller was crying, stating that the plane had been hijacked and that two passengers had already been killed. Fiumano tried to console his friend, stating that the hijackers were probably going to take her for a ride. "You'll be alright."
CALL I: Jack Grandcolas in San Rafael, CA, received a call from a woman claiming to be Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas, his wife. The message, as recorded on his answering machine, was short:
Caller: "Sweetie, pick up the phone if you can hear me. (pause) Okay, I love you. There's a little problem with the plane. I'm fine and comfortable for now..."
She asked Jack to pass along her love for everyone, then passed the airfone to her seat-mate.
Caller: "Now you call your people."
CALL J: Esther Heymann received a call from a woman claiming to be her stepdaughter, Honor Elizabeth Wainio, also Grandcolas' seat-mate.
Caller: "Mom, we're being hijacked. I just called to say good bye."
Heymann: "Elizabeth, we don't know how this is going to turn out. I've got my arms around you."
Wainio said she could feel them.
Heymann: "Let's look out at that beautiful blue sky. Let's be here in the moment. Let's do some deep breathing together." (pause)
Caller: "It hurts me that it's going to be so much harder for you than it is for me."
CALL A4: Once again, just before 10:00 am, Deena Burnett received a fourth phone call.
Caller: "A group of us are going to do something."
Deena: "No, Tom. Just sit down and don't draw attention to yourself."
Caller: "Deena, if they're going to crash the plane into the ground, we have to do something. We can't wait for the authorities. We have to do something now."
Caller: "Pray. Just pray, Deena. We're going to do something."
CALL D (cont'd): The caller who had identified himself as Todd Beamer appears to have remained connected with Lisa Jefferson, the Verizon supervisor, almost to the end of the flight. At this point the caller was reciting the 23rd Psalm from the Bible
CALL F2: The caller identifying herself as CeeCee Lyles finally got through to Lorne Lyles.
Caller: "Babe, my plane's been hijacked."
Lyles: "Huh? Stop joking.
Caller: "No Babe, I wouldn't joke like that. I love you. Tell the boys I love them."
As the couple prayed together, Lorne heard sounds that he would later interpret as passengers preparing a counterattack.
Caller: They're going to force their way into the cockpit."
CALL D (cont'd): Having finished his prayer session with Lisa Jefferson, the caller claiming to be Todd Beamer left the phone connected. Jefferson recalls hearing the now famous rallying cry.
Caller: "Are you guys ready? Let's roll."
CALL J (cont'd): Esther Heymann, who believed herself to be talking with her step daughter, heard her last words.
Caller: I need to go. They're getting ready to break into the cockpit. I love you. Goodbye."
CALL G (cont'd): Phil Bradshaw heard his caller's last words to him.
Caller: "Everyone's running to first class. I've got to go. Bye."
CALL F2 (cont'd): Lorne Lyles recalls hearing the last moments of Flight 93.
Caller: (screams) "They're doing it! They're doing it! They're doing it!
The caller screamed again, said something he couldn't hear, then the line went dead.
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- Monday, 24 August 2009 10:39
Calls made from United Airlines Flight 93