"Flight 93" the movie, why?
Jerry Mazza | May 3 2006
Why would anyone make a 9/11 movie based on a number of cell and air phone calls that might have been scientifically impossible on September 11, 2001, simply because the technology couldn’t handle calls of that distance, six to seven miles up.
Well, they made Flight 93 because the calls were used as spin-evidence that a band of brave Americans fought off a smaller vicious band of terrorists, when in fact the entire event is surrounded in a mire of questions? Like the once-quarried bog that supposedly swallowed Flight 93’s 757 in a grassy field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, leaving a smoking hole, grave deep, some 20 by 10 feet wide, and little else.
But maybe the “why” can be answered in part by “who” made Flight 93. It arrived packaged and promoted by Universal Studios, which is owned by NBC Universal, which also owns NBC, which is all owned by General Electric, media giant and major weapons contractor. What’s more according to la.indymedia.org, General Electric donated $1.1 million to GW Bush for his 2000 election “run.” MSNBC is an NBC joint venture with MS or Microsoft that kicked in $2.4 million to get GW Bush elected. Now, where do you think the movie’s point of view is coming from?
Also, Flight 93’s patriotic spin landed before the sentencing of Zaccharias Moussaoui, who has been thrust in the role of scapegoat for the entire 9/11 debacle, even though he was in jail at the time. So we have a little multi-media propaganda to stir up the jury and America’s misguided rage. There are no accidents in the world of US government spin.
Flight 93 the movie also lands in the middle of Robert DeNiro’s prestigious Tribeca Film Festival although its hangar is the uptown 1,000 seat Ambassador Theater. Spare no expense. Has DeNiro the once Raging Bull turned into one of the corporate Goodfellas? Or doesn’t he read books or surf the web?
Was it love for New York and hate of the 9/11 event blinding him to see who really sat behind the controls of the whole op? Hey, Bobby, we love you, but wise up. You’re traveling with bad faces. This gang makes the Mulberry Street guys look like Boy Scouts.
In all fairness, I realize DeNiro holds an honest commitment to Independent film-making (though this is hardly an Indy). And he has a deep commitment to Tribeca and New York, in which he lives, has his Film Center and Tribeca Grille. After 9/11 he kept it open as long as possible to preserve jobs, even though the area was devastated by the attack. As soon as he could, he reopened the expensive restaurant. He is, I believe, a stand-up if not misguided guy.
Did DeNiro realize the film he was endorsing lands story-wise right next to the government myth? That Flight 93, a United Airlines Boeing 767 departing 45 minutes late from Newark was hijacked on route to San Francisco. Somewhere near Cleveland, it made a sharp left to southeast, heading conceivably towards the White House or the Capitol (bye bye Congress, bye bye Mrs. Bush, I think I’m gonna di-ie).
But on board, as the myth goes, said brave set of passengers challenged the hijackers, fighting gallantly, but losing ultimately as the pilot lost control of the giant plane. Then its 46 passengers, including four terrorists, and more than 11,000 gallons of fuel, hit the ground that supposedly covered an old quarry. And so the plane vanished into the rabbit hole, not burning aboveground, just smoking, smoking. But you know, where’s there’s smoke there’s fire, enough to evaporate the plane, the passengers, the engines, etcetera, etcetera, bullshit.
In fact, does DeNiro know there was no plane left to see when nearby residents and first responders arrived? See at it the link above, folks. No engines, fuselage, luggage, bodies in the 20 feet long by 10 feet wide grave, not a particularly large area for such a large plane. Only this confetti-shower of itsy bitsy pieces was left.
Enter David Griffin and The New Pearl Harbor
But then we have one of the most important 9/11 books, David Griffin’s, The New Pearl Harbor – Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11. Griffin is a professor of philosophy and religion at the Claremont School of Theology in California for over 30 years. He also is the author and editor of more than 20 books, a fastidiously scrupulous and honest scholar, not a writer of blockbusters, though The New Pearl Harbor became one simply because of its amazing array of factual and logical thinking that contradicted the 9/11 myth, including Flight 93.
In Chapter Three, pages 49-55, Griffin presents us with a very different scenario. It amounts to the fact that numerous eyewitnesses saw two F-16’s tailing Flight 93 minutes before it went down, at 10:06, which time was arrived at by a seismic study. That is not 10:03, the official time, which leaves the last three minutes off the cockpit recorder tape, the most important part, what’s said as it hits. Subsequent to 9/11, Griffin also reports, the government released flight controller transcripts, except for Flight 93.
Again, according to eye-witness reports in Chapter Three, one of the F-16s moved closer and fired, once, then twice, what were probably two sidewinder missiles, thump, thump, and boom, one of them catching at least one of the huge engines and the “plane dropped,” someone said, “like a stone.”
Someone else heard “a loud bang” and then saw the plane’s right wing dip, and then 93 plunged to earth. A Vietnam vet said, he “heard a missile,” which sound he was familiar with. In fact, the multiple accounts add up to a missile strike. By our own planes, and then a fly-over the site by a smaller white plane, military-looking, with two rear engines and a spoiler tail. Is that box office, baby? I don’t think so. Or maybe it is. Maybe people would like to see the truth or an opposing view, like LooseChange2.
Also, Griffin refers to Paul Thompson’s Timeline, in which witnesses saw burning debris fall from the plane “as far as eight miles away, with workers at Indian Lake Marina saying that they saw ‘a cloud of confetti-like debris descend on the lake and nearby farms minutes after hearing the explosion.’” Also this debris, along with human remains, was found again as far as eight miles from the site. Also the debris fell from the sky, not exploded upward out of the hole.
What’s more Griffin tells us “an F-15 pilot was told that a military F-16 had shot a fourth airliner in Pennsylvania.” Even Paul “the Wolf” Wolfowitz said “the Air Force was tracking the hijacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania . . . and had been in a position to bring it down if necessary.” Apparently it was necessary to some people. Would they be Dick Cheney and Connie Rice, calling the shots in the White House and then its basement bunker?
Were those scenes in the movie, the fireball in air and the parts falling, or Cheney and Rice in the White House? And were those eyewitnesses mentioned by Griffin and Thompson considered misguided, blind or on acid? This film poses as totally “factual.” In Hollywood that may have a slightly different meaning.
Also, was it mentioned that were five parallel terror-hijacking drills going on that day that siphoned off planes to defend New York City or Washington, DC and that filled air controllers’ screens with some 22 planes? This was not an accident but an unbelievably, well planned mega-ops, with all the usual participants to round up: NORAD, DOD, Pentagon, The White House CIA, FBI, etc.
Were the ‘Good Guys” Shot Down for Winning?
And, even if one buys in to the passenger revolt on F 93, could it be that the real reason the hit was necessary was because the good guys on the plane were taking the bad guys and the plane would land safely? And maybe the bad guys then would spill the beans about whom they were working for, like the US government. Aha. Sure, boss, we made the deal with the devil. Can I go home now?
Or, we have the more patriotic reason, I mean relatively speaking, that the plane was about to leap towards the White House or the Capitol and flatten one or the other. And lord, what would we do without the White House? And what would we do without the robot Congress about to give Bush cart blanche to declare and spend, spend, spend on the War on Terror, attacking Afghanistan, eventually Iraq illegally, naming Bin Laden as Perp in Chief (and never catching him), Georgie walking away clean as a whistle with his goat book, at least for a while?
And curiously Flight 93’s demise made celebs of lots of people, including local coroner Wally Miller, flight victim Todd (Let’s Roll) Beamer, and his wife Lisa [who was on the ground], later summoned to the White House for agit prop purposes. Also elevated to star status were victims Tom Burnett, Mark Bingham and Jeremy Glick, all whose souls should rest in peace, no question, though many other victims’ families resented not being recognized nearly as much as the others.
And just like real unreal life the movie Flight 93 will now make stars out of its fairy tale actors and actresses and director. So what, right? That’s entertainment. Who’s getting hurt? Who knows, but one of my spies tells me "Flight 93" gets blasted on Universal's own blog. She adds another quote “Think this film will be the 2006 contender for some type of Leni Riefenstahl Propaganda Film Awards?” Hey, anything’s possible, especially with the goose-steppers.
I mean things were very convivial at the opening. Lots of media coverage. People had a good time, including victims' family members. I suppose they deserved to. Nobody hung their head mumbling bullshit. Well, maybe just a few guys from the 9/11 movement who knew better, and were trying to spread the word without getting their heads bashed in by security or the cops.
But hey, what do they know, scruffy sign carriers, pamphlets in hand, like flower kids sticking daisies in rifles at the Pentagon way back when. Remember grandma? Only then we had, Apocalypse Now, Marty Sheen [father of Charley Sheen], Brando, and Robert Duvall, saying, “You know what I love? The smell of napalm in the morning. It smells like . . . victory.”
Right, only Flight 93 the film and those behind its propaganda, and those behind that stink of diesel fuel and explosives they made that horrible blue morning, have more crooked angles to them than cinematographer Gregg Toland shooting Citizen Kane, the fictional portrayal of media mogul, yellow press boss, William Randolph Hearst. And you can take that to the bank, Bob. And not for nothin, my fellow Italo-American, find out what really happened, by clicking the blue words.
By William Bunch
Philadelphia Daily News
The final three minutes of hijacked United Flight 93 are still a mystery more than a year after it crashed in western Pennsylvania — even to grieving relatives who sought comfort in listening to its cockpit tapes last April.
A Daily News investigation has found there is a roughly three-minute gap between the time the tape goes silent — according to government-prepared transcripts — and the time that top scientists have pinpointed for the crash.
Several leading seismologists agree that Flight 93 crashed last Sept. 11 at 10:06 a.m. and five seconds, give or take just a couple of seconds. Family members allowed to hear the cockpit voice recorder in Princeton, N.J., last spring were told it stopped just after 10:03.
The FBI and other agencies refused repeated requests to explain the discrepancy. The cockpit voice recorder, a a roughly 30-minute tape loop, usually runs until a doomed plane’s impact — although not always. Aviation experts said there could be several explanations for the gap — all of them significant.
They said it could mean that the FBI and other government agencies either failed to properly synchronize the times, or there were other problems in the retreiving or handling of the tape from the so-called “black box” recovered from the wreckage at Shanksville, Pa.
Or, experts speculated, it could mean there was a major on-board electrical failure on the plane three minutes before Flight 93 crashed, causing the recorder to quit working.
The broader significance is that the three-minute gap points to how little is really known about how and why Flight 93 crashed over a year ago — even as the saga of the doomed jetliner and cell-phone calls from some of the 40 passengers and crew continue to captivate the nation.
“That’s part of the whole war aspect — we don’t want to tell about what we did and didn’t do,” said Vernon Grose, a former National Transportation Safety Board member who says he still has questions about the Flight 93 crash. He said he doubts there will ever be “a nice, open public hearing with eyewitnesses telling what they saw.”
However, in recent weeks two books about Flight 93 have topped the best-seller lists, while President Bush and other top government officials continue to invoke the story — based largely on the cell-phone calls — of fighting between the passengers and the hijackers as a rallying cry to continue the war against global terrorism.
But the FBI has clamped a tight lid of secrecy on the flight data recorder — which could best show how Flight 93 actually crashed — and on the cockpit voice recorder. Government officials recently turned down all requests by the Daily News to explain the three-minute gap.
“We have no comment at all on the tape issue,” said Sam Dibbley, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in northern Virginia that presented the tape to families. An FBI spokesman, Steven Berry, said the bureau continues to officially list the time of the Flight 93 crash as 10:03 a.m. The NTSB referred all questions to the FBI.
But the relatives of Flight 93 passengers who heard the cockpit tape at a Princeton, N.J., hotel last April 18 said they government officials laid out a timetable for the crash in a briefing and in a transcript that accompanied the recording.
Relatives later reported they heard sounds of an on-board struggle beginning at 9:58 a.m., but there was a final “rushing sound” at 10:03, and the tape fell silent.
“There is no sound of the impact,” said Kenneth Nacke, whose brother Lou Nacke Jr. is one of the passengers believed to have fought with the hijackers. Nacke confirmed that the government said the tape ended at 10:03 a.m. He added: “The quality of the sound is really poor.”
Vaughn Hoglan, the uncle of passenger Mark Bingham, said by phone from California that near the end there are shouts of “pull up, pull up,” but the end of the tape “is inferred — there’s no impact.”
New York Times reporter Jere Longman, who spoke with relatives of all but one of the 40 Flight 93 victims, writes in the epilogue to bestseller “Among the Heroes” that “at about three minutes after ten, the tape went silent.” Lisa Beamer, the wife of passenger Todd Beamer, who heard the tape while working on her No. 1 bestseller “Let’s Roll,” also gives 10:03 as the end of the flight.
The cockpit voice recorder is a continuous, roughly 30-minute tape loop that — in the event of an air disaster — is supposed to record the sounds inside the cockpit right up until the moment of impact.
Several leading seismologists — experts in the earth’s vibrations — who’ve studied the events of Sept. 11 have almist exactly pinpointed the time of the crash of Flight 93 at 10:06 and five seconds, give or take a few seconds.
“The seismic signals are consistent with impact at 10:06:05,” plus or minus two seconds, said Terry Wallace, who heads the Southern Arizona Seismic Observatory and is considered the leading expert on the seismology of manmade events. “I don't know where the 10:03 time comes from.”
Likewise, a written study commissioned by the Department of Defense — carried out by seismologists from Columbia University and the Maryland Geological Survey — also determined impact was at 10:06 and five seconds.
Normally, such a large discrepancy might be cleared up when the National Transportation Safety Board releases a written transcipt of the voice recorder — edited for sounds of suffering or profanity — right before holding public hearings on an air disaster. But because the Flight 93 crash was part of a criminal act, no NTSB hearings are expected.
The Justice Department has also insisted that the cockpit tape can’t be released because it will be played to the jury at the trial of admitted Al Qaeda terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, now slated for January. Although Moussaoui is often referred to in the media as “the 20th hijacker,” there’s been no evidence that he was slated to be on board Flight 93 or the three other planes hijacked on Sept. 11. Moussaoui’s court-appointed lawyers sought last week to block the use of the recording.
Last fall, as the saga of the Flight 93 passenger uprising became widely known, several relatives of the crash victims made an unusual request: They wanted to hear the actual tape. The FBI initially issued a cold refusal.
“While we empathize with the grieving families, we do not believe that the horror captured on the cockpit voice recording will console them in any way," FBI Assistant Director John Collingwood said last December. But under continuing pressure, the bureau changed its mind and agreed to the unusual April gathering at a Princeton Marriott hotel.
None of the family members interviewed for this story recalls any explanation of a discrepancy between the times on the tape recording and the actual crash at 10:06. They were, according to the relatives and published accounts, given a talk by one of Moussaoui’s prosecutors, who speculated that the passengers may have used a food cart to break into the cockpit.
But with government officials refusing to be interviewed, leading aviation experts interviewed for this story could only speculate about the tape discrepancy.
* The FBI could have bungled this part of the investigation by failing to synchronize the time stamp of clocks onboard Flight 93 — which could have been set wrong — with air traffic control tapes and other tones that make it possible to determine the exact, correct times.
Such a mistake would mean that the tape really did run until the impact, but that all the times given to the relatives on the transcript were off by three minutes.
But accident investigators typically nail down the correct times very early in their probe, experts said. Todd Curtis, who runs the Web site Airsafe.com, said the three-minute gap “does not make sense.”
“From what I have heard about the flight's CVR” — cockpit voice recorder, “there was at least one transmission from the cockpit to air traffic control that would have been captured by the ATC tapes,” Curtis said. “Those tapes should also have some kind of time reference.”
* At 10:03, the hijackers — or possibly passengers and crew who were fighting to regain control of the plane — flipped a circuit breaker, or switch, that would cut off power to the cockpit voice recorder.
Experts said this would explain why the tape ends abruptly, but they had no idea why the terrorists would do such a thing, especially so far along into their hijacking. And they noted the location of the switch in the cockpit makes it unlikely that it was struck accidentally during a struggle.
“That would be a much tougher task than turning off the transponder,” said John Hansman, an aviation professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “You would have to know exactly which circuit breaker to pull.”
* There was a major on-board electrical failure before the crash — although it’s not clear what could have triggered this.
It has happened before. On Swissair Flight 111, which crashed off the coast of Nova Scotia in September 1998, the cockpit fire that caused the crash also killed power to the plane’s two black boxes six full minutes before the crash.
New evidence that came out last week may support the electrical-failure theory.
A federal air traffic controller from Cleveland, Stacey Taylor, told “Dateline NBC” that Flight 93’s transponder, initially shut off by the hijackers, came back on briefly only to give out — at 10:03 a.m.
* There was some unknown problem either in retreiving the cockpit tape from the black box, or in its handling by government officials and contractors since last September, or in the presentation that was given in Princeton.
No one has stepped forward with any evidence of that.
But the three-minute gap is certain to fuel ongoing debates on the Internet over how Flight 93 really crashed, and whether the plane could have been shot down by military jet fighters that were sent aloft as the Sept. 11 hijackings unfolded.
The government insists there was no shootdown.
Numerous witnesses in the Shanksville area have told the Daily News and other publications since last September that a mysterious, low-flying unmarked white jet, military in nature, circled the area at the time of the crash.
The FBI has claimed this was a business jet that had been asked by air-traffic controllers to inspect the Flight 93 crater.
The debate has also been driven by the wide debris field from Flight 93 — including papers found eight miles away — and by conflicting accounts over whether a 911 caller reported an explosion and white smoke on board.
Grose, the former NTSB member, said he doubts the entire story of Flight 93 will ever be told. “I don’t think so,” he said. “It’s like David Crockett at the Alamo. We need heroes.”
John Carlin reports from Shanksville, Pennsylvania
13 August 2002
The fate of United Airlines Flight 93,
the last of the four hijacked planes to go down in the United States on 11 September,
holds no mystery for Lee Purbaugh. He saw what happened with his own eyes.
He was the only person present in the field where, at 10.06am, the aircraft hit the ground.
"There was an incredibly loud rumbling sound and there it was, right there, right above my head – maybe 50ft up," says Purbaugh, who works at a scrapyard overlooking the crash site.
"It was only a split second but it looked like it was moving in slow motion, like it took forever.
I saw it rock from side to side then, suddenly, it dipped and dived, nose first, with a huge explosion, into the ground. I knew immediately that no one could possibly have survived."
Apart from, here and there, a finger, a toe or a tooth, all that remained of the 44 souls aboard, churned into the soil or hanging from the branches of nearby trees, were small pieces of tissue and bone.
The plane was also pulverised, reduced to tiny fragments of metal. Wally Miller, the local coroner in what used to be a forgotten corner of rural Pennsylvania, was the man charged by law with collecting the human remains and establishing the causes of death.
"I issued the death certificates," says Miller, who is also the local undertaker. "I put down 'murdered' for the 40 passengers and crew; 'suicide' for the four terrorists."
But Miller, who worked closely with the FBI during the 13 days that they investigated the crash site, admits that, in the end, he cannot prove what happened; he can only infer it.
Neither he nor anybody else knows what exactly caused Flight 93 to go down and, as Miller puts it, "bring the world's troubles crashing down on our doorstep". Or, if there are people who do know, they are not telling.
The shortage of available facts did not prevent the creation of an instant legend – a legend that the US government and the US media were pleased to propagate, and that the American public have been eager, for the most part, to accept as fact.
The legend goes like this: the passengers on the hijacked United flight, alerted on their mobile phones to the news of the other three hijacked planes, decide that if they are not going to save themselves at least they will do the patriotic thing and spare the lives of those who are the terrorists' intended targets; so they charge down the aisle, storm the cockpit, where a terrorist is at the controls, and, in the ensuing struggle, force the plane down.
President George Bush, Attorney General John Ashcroft, the head of the FBI Robert Mueller, and numerous other senior government officials who have saluted the "heroes" of Flight 93, have consistently, and repeatedly, advanced this version of events. So have the big national newspapers and all the big national television stations.
The New York Times, normally a model of legalistic precision, published this extraordinarily woolly sentence on 22 September upon learning, from unnamed "official" sources, that the plane's cockpit voice-recorder had registered "a desperate and wild struggle" aboard. "And while it [the recorder] did not provide a clear or complete picture," The New York Times read, "it seemed certain that there was a chaotic confrontation that apparently led to the crash of the jet."
Vanity Fair magazine, going on little more information than was available to The New York Times, went ahead and published a highly detailed story on Flight 93, which, the magazine said, "may be remembered as one of the greatest tales of heroism ever told". Vanity Fair did recognise, though, that any suggestions as to what actually happened to force the plane down had to be, by necessity, "pure conjecture".
Two months later, Newsweek got hold of what it was told was a partial transcript of the voice-recorder and, upon that basis, narrated the story of "the Heroes of Flight 93" in even more vivid, drum-rolling, Hollywoodesque detail than Vanity Fair had done. The passengers were "citizen soldiers... who rose up, like their forefathers, to defy tyranny", intoned Newsweek. "In daring and dying, the passengers and crew of Flight 93 found victory for us all."
The transcript that Newsweek obtained did indicate that fighting had taken place aboard, curses had been uttered, prayers raised up both to the Muslim and the Christian god. But for all the drama of the story, Newsweek did not draw attention to the fact that, in truth, they were guessing as to how or why the plane had crashed; that they did not know whether the passengers had even made it into the cockpit; that they had no clue what happened during Flight 93's decisive, desperate last eight minutes.
Which is not to assert that the "hero" story is untrue, or even implausible.
Maybe the legend does indeed correspond perfectly to the facts. And certainly, based on the records of telephone calls made from the plane, there is no disputing that a number of the passengers did indeed intend to carry out actions of great courage. But what those actions actually turned out to be is not known – or known only to a small group of people with a clear picture of what happened in the skies over Shanksville on the morning of 11 September, people in the US military who tracked the plane's last moments as well as people familiar with, but unwilling to reveal, the full contents of the material gleaned from the cockpit voice- recorder, which was retrieved in perfect working order after the crash.
The absence of official information has led to lively and often well-informed debate in the unofficial medium of the internet (see www.flight93crash.com.) But there are also a number of individuals in the aviation industry convinced that there do exist other plausible interpretations of what actually happened.
Because there are, most certainly, a number of important unanswered questions – questions based on evidence, as well as on a manifest absence of candour on the part of the authorities – which the national US media, typically so sceptical and inquisitive, have shown a curious reluctance to ask.
The alternative theories, both of which have been denied by the US military and the FBI, are a) that Flight 93 was brought down by a US government plane; and b) that a bomb went off aboard (passengers had said in phone calls that one of the hijackers had what appeared to be a bomb strapped to him).
If doubts remain despite the denials, if conspiracy theories flourish, it is in large part because of the authorities' failure to address head-on questions centring on the following four conundrums.
1. The wide displacement of the plane's debris, one explanation for which might be an explosion of some sort aboard prior to the crash. Letters – Flight 93 was carrying 7,500 pounds of mail to California – and other papers from the plane were found eight miles (13km) away from the scene of the crash.
A sector of one engine weighing one ton was found 2,000 yards away. This was the single heaviest piece recovered from the crash, and the biggest, apart from a piece of fuselage the size of a dining-room table. The rest of the plane, consistent with an impact calculated to have occurred at 500mph, disintegrated into pieces no bigger than two inches long.
Other remains of the plane were found two miles away near a town called Indian Lake. All of these facts, widely disseminated, were confirmed by the coroner Wally Miller.
2. The location of US Air Force jets, which might or might not have been close enough to fire a missile at the hijacked plane.
Live news media reports on the morning of 11 September conflict with a number of official statements issued later. What the government acknowledges is that the first fighters with the mission to intercept took off at 8.52am; that another set of fighters took off from Andrews Air Force base near Washington at 9.35am – precisely the time that Flight 93 turned almost 180 degrees off course towards Washington and the hijacker pilot was heard by air-traffic controllers to say that there was "a bomb aboard".
Flight 93, whose menacing trajectory was made known by the broadcast media almost immediately, did not go down for another 31 minutes.
Apart from the logical conclusion that at least one Air Force F-16 – 125 miles away in Washington at 9.40am, meaning 10 minutes away from Flight 93 (or less if it flew at supersonic speed) – should have reached the fourth of the "flying bombs" well before 10.06am, there is this evidence from a federal flight controller published a few days later in a newspaper in New Hampshire: that an F-16 had been "in hot pursuit" of the hijacked United jet and "must have seen the whole thing".
Also, there was one brief report on CBS television before the crash that two F-16 fighters were tailing Flight 93. Vice-President Dick Cheney acknowledged five days later that President Bush had authorised the Air Force pilots to shoot down hijacked commercial aircraft.
3. One telephone call from the doomed plane whose contents do not entirely tally with the hero legend and which is accordingly omitted in the Independence Day-type dramas favoured by the US media. The Associated Press news service reported on 11 September that eight minutes before the crash, a frantic male passenger called the 911 emergency number.
He told the operator, named Glen Cramer, that he had locked himself inside one of the plane's toilets.
Cramer told the AP, in a report that was widely broadcast on 11 September, that the passenger had spoken for one minute. "We're being hijacked, we're being hijacked!" the man screamed down his mobile phone. "We confirmed that with him several times," Cramer said, "and we asked him to repeat what he said.
He was very distraught. He said he believed the plane was going down. He did hear some sort of an explosion and saw white smoke coming from the plane, but he didn't know where. And then we lost contact with him."
According to the information that has been made known, this was the last of the various phone calls made from the aeroplane. No more calls were received from the plane in the eight minutes that remained after the man in the toilet said that he had heard an explosion.
4. Eyewitness accounts of a "mystery plane" that flew low over the Flight 93 crash site shortly after impact. Lee Purbaugh is one of at least half a dozen named individuals who have reported seeing a second plane flying low and in erratic patterns, not much above treetop level, over the crash site within minutes of the United flight crashing. They describe the plane as a small, white jet with rear engines and no discernible markings. Purbaugh, who served three years in the US Navy, said he did not believe it was a military plane.
If it indeed was not, one suggestion made in the internet discussion groups is that US Customs uses planes with these characteristics to interdict aerial drug shipments. Either way, the presence of the mystery jet remains a puzzle.
How has the US government and its various agencies responded to doubts raised by the above questions? In the following ways:
1. The paper debris eight miles away, the FBI says, was wafted away by a 10mph wind; the jet-engine part flew 2,000 yards on account of the savage force of the plane's impact with the ground.
The FBI conclusion: "Nothing was found that was inconsistent with the plane going into the ground intact." Aviation experts I have contacted are very doubtful about this. One expert expresses astonishment at the notion that the letters and other papers would have remained airborne for almost one hour before falling to earth.
2. The Air Force jets were on their way but failed to make it on time, according to General Richard Myers, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.
Fighters did finally approach Flight 93, he acknowledges, "moments" before it crashed, but did not shoot it down. Which begs the question why they were unable to arrive sooner to intercept an aircraft that clearly had terrorists aboard and that was flying straight for Washington more than one hour after another United Airlines plane had crashed into the second World Trade Centre tower. The report in the New Hampshire newspaper, and the one on CBS, have not been explained, and the air-traffic controllers in Cleveland who tracked the last minutes of Flight 93 on radar have been forbidden by the authorities to speak publicly about what they saw on their screens.
3. Neither the FBI nor anyone else in authority has explained the reported 911 phone call from the plane toilet, even though it appears to be the last of the phone calls made from the plane and even though it conveys the far from insignificant claim that there was an explosion on board.
The FBI has confiscated the tape of the conversation and the operator Glen Cramer has received orders not to speak to the media any more.
4. The explanation furnished by the FBI for the mystery plane, whose existence it initially denied, serves less to reassure than to reinforce suspicions that a cover-up of sorts is under way, that the government is manipulating the truth in a manner it considers to be palatable to the broader US public.
The FBI has said, on the record, that the plane was a civilian business jet, a Falcon, that had been flying within 20 miles of Flight 93 and was asked by the authorities to descend from 37,000ft to 5,000ft to survey and transmit the co-ordinates of the crash site "for responding emergency crews".
The reason, as numerous people have observed, why this seems so implausible is that, first, by 10.06am on 11 September, all non-military aircraft in US airspace had received loud and clear orders more than half an hour earlier to land at the nearest airport; second, such was the density of 911 phone calls from people on the ground, in the Shanksville area, as to the location of the crash site that aerial co-ordinates would have been completely unnecessary; and, third, with F-16s supposedly in the vicinity, it seems extraordinarily unlikely that, at a time of tremendous national uncertainty when no one knew for sure whether there might be any more hijacked aircraft still in the sky, the military would ask a civilian aircraft that just happened to be in the area for help.
Most suspicious of all, perhaps, has been the failure of the FBI or anybody else to identify the pilot or the passengers of the purported Falcon, and their own failure to come forward and identify themselves.
There was one other plane, a single-engine Piper, in the air as Flight 93 headed to its doom.
The pilot, Bill Wright, said that he was three miles away and so close he could see the United markings on the plane. Suddenly he received orders to get away from the hijacked plane and to land immediately.
"That's one of the first things that went through my mind when they told us to get as far away from it as fast as we could," Wright later told a Pittsburgh TV station, "that either they were expecting it to blow up or they were going to shoot it down – but that's pure speculation."
Everything is speculation – that is the problem with the story of Flight 93. And unless the US government reveals more of what it knows, provides a detailed account of the last 10 minutes in the life of Flight 93 and the 44 people who were aboard, there will not only be scope but sound reasons for the conspiracy theorists to continue to speculate as to what really happened in those last few minutes before the plane plunged into the earth; to cast doubts on the soft-focus legend that the traumatised American public has seized upon so gratefully.
Some conspiracy theorists will say that the plane was shot down by a missile, perhaps a heat-seeking missile that honed in on one of the plane's engines – a theory possibly substantiated by the 2,000yd flight of the 1,000lb engine part, but arguably refuted by consistent eye-witness accounts, including Lee Purbaugh's, that when last sighted the plane was not emitting smoke.
Others might say, as they have done about a TWA flight that fell to the sea in 1996 after taking off from New York, that the plane was a victim of electromagnetic interference.
In the case of the TWA flight, the argument, put forward in a series of exhaustive articles written in the New York Review of Books by the Harvard academic Elaine Scarry, is that it happened accidentally.
However, as Scarry's articles relate, documentation abounds showing that the Air Force and the Pentagon have conducted extensive research on "electronic warfare applications" with the possible capacity intentionally to disrupt the mechanisms of an aeroplane in such a way as to provoke, for example, an uncontrollable dive.
Scarry also reports that US Customs aircraft are already equipped with such weaponry; as are some C-130 Air Force transport planes. The FBI has stated that, apart from the enigmatic Falcon business jet, there was a C-130 military cargo plane within 25 miles of the passenger jet when it crashed. According to the Scarry findings, in 1995 the Air Force installed "electronic suites" in at least 28 of its C-130s – capable, among other things, of emitting lethal jamming signals.
In decades to come, film-makers, future Oliver Stones, may come up with theories of their own, and the story of Flight 93 may come to acquire the morbid mystique of the Kennedy assassination.
None of which is to question the bravery of passengers such as Todd Beamer, who left behind a pregnant widow and two children aged two and three; or Tom Burnett, who had three small daughters and told his wife Deena over the phone, in the face of her anguished protests, that he and his fellow-passengers were "going to do something" because if not the terrorists were "going to run this plane into the ground".
Evidently, as the Newsweek article relates, there was fighting of some kind, but as to whether the terrorists held off the passengers or the passengers seized control of the plane, and perhaps even made an attempt to fly it themselves (one passenger aboard was a qualified pilot of small planes), nobody knows – or is willing to admit that they know.
If evidence does exist further substantiating the hero narrative, it would be a surprise if the authorities had not released it.
Bravery, though, there undoubtedly was. This we do know. As Lee Purbaugh says, and it would be churlish to disagree, "they were heroes on that plane".
Such a consensus has been built around this view that the crash site at Shanksville – an anonymous-looking field save for the American flags that flutter all around, the crosses, the pictures of the dead passengers, the messages of goodwill and of good cheer ("Don't mess with the US!") – that it has become a place of pilgrimage, much as has happened with ground zero in New York but on a smaller scale, attracting some 150 visitors from all over the US every day.
"In truth," said Wally Miller, who as coroner remains legally in charge of the site, "that field is a cemetery. It should be treated with due respect."
What does Miller think happened? Did he attach any credence to the stories doing the rounds, to those – including a number in Shanksville – who dissent from the official version of events?
Miller, who has seen as much evidence as anybody at the scene of the crash, does not dismiss the dissidents out of hand. He keeps an open mind.
"The order had been given to bring the airplane down," he said. "I do not rule anything out."
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