United Flight 93
At 8:01 A.M. on 11 September, United Flight 93 departed from Newark for San Francisco with 38 passengers onboard, 2 pilots, and 5 flight attendants. It crashed in Johnstown, Pennsylvania at 10:06 A.M.
Although we will never know exactly what happened, it appears, based on phone calls received, that the plane probably crashed as a result of passengers, aware that they were to be instruments of destruction, attempting to re-take the plane from the criminals who had hijacked it. We do not know how they did this; whether it was by sheer mass of attack against the lightly- armed hijackers; whether passengers used their pocket knives against those of the criminals; or whether they used any of the other options at their disposal. All we know is that their sacrifice of themselves quite probably saved countless others.
To us they appear to be heroes, and we hope that each and every one of them will be formally recognized as such.
And what of the passengers of the other planes? Ought we for some reason blame the victims in these other flights? Clearly not! It appears that while in Flight 93 there was recognition of the actual nature of the problem, it appears equally that in the other planes the criminals were telling the passengers that this was a “normal hijacking,” and that they would be landing soon. It is our belief that, had they been aware of what was happening, they, too would have fought back.
We believe that the difference between hero and victim was little more than the difference between possession of information and lack of information.
Flight 93 shows not only that the criminals were wrong in their assessment of the American character, but that, even with all the regulatory efforts made to ensure that the passengers could not possibly fight back, they still made an heroic attempt to do so. And, although it is clear that, in the future, passenger options will be more-limited still, we believe that, should there in the future be a similar circumstance, American passengers will still try to respond as did those on Flight 93.