Chilling call, then a crash
BY TODD SPANGLER
Sep 12, 2001
SHANKSVILLE, Pa. -- A passenger on United Airlines Flight
93 called on his cell phone from a locked bathroom and
delivered a chilling message. "We are being hijacked, we are
being hijacked!" Minutes later the jet-liner crashed in
western Pennsylvania with 45 people aboard, the last of
four closely timed terror attacks across the country.
Radar showed the San Francisco-bound Boeing 757 from
Newark, N.J., had nearly reached Cleveland, Ohio, when it
made a sharp left turn and headed back toward Pennsylvania,
crashing in a grassy field edged by woods about 80 miles
southeast of Pittsburgh. There was no sign of any
"There's a crater gouged in the earth, the plane is
pretty much disintegrated. There's nothing left but
scorched trees," said Mark Stahl of Somerset, Pa., who went
to the scene.
The Boeing 757 crash was one of four reported Tuesday by
United and American Airlines. Two jetliners crashed into
the World Trade Center in New York City and one hit the
Pentagon in Washington.
A Virginia congressman said the Flight 93's intended
target was apparently Camp David, the presidential retreat
in the mountains of Maryland, about 85 miles southeast of
the crash site.
United said Flight 93 left Newark at 7:01 a.m. CDT with
38 passengers, two pilots and five flight attendants.
Minutes before the 9 a.m. CDT crash, an emergency
dispatcher in Pennsylvania received a cell phone call from
a man who said he was a passenger locked in a bathroom
aboard United Flight 93. The man repeatedly said the call
was not a hoax, said dispatch supervisor Glenn Cramer in
neighboring Westmoreland County.
"We are being hijacked, we are being hijacked!" Cramer
quoted the man from a transcript of the call.
The man told dispatchers the plane "was going down. He
heard some sort of explosion and saw white smoke coming
from the plane and we lost contact with him," Cramer said.
Rep. James Moran, D-Va., said after a Marine Corps
briefing in Washington that Flight 93 was apparently
intended for Camp David. Michael R. Merringer was out
on a mountain bike ride with his wife, Amy, about two miles
away from the crash site.
"I heard the engine gun two different times and then I
heard a loud bang and the windows of the houses all around
rattled," Merringer said. "I looked up and I saw the smoke
The couple rushed home and drove near the scene.
"Everything was on fire and there was trees knocked down
and there was a big hole in the ground," he said.
In Chicago, United CEO James Goodwin said the airline
was sending a team to Pennsylvania to assist in the
investigation and to provide assistance to family members.
"Today's events are a tragedy and our prayers are with
everyone at this time," Goodwin said.
Without citing a death toll, United said Tuesday
afternoon that it had identified all passengers and crew
members on board the two planes and was notifying family
members. No names were released immediately.