Unforgettable Flight 93

When they got up that morning ten years ago the very last thing that the 33 passengers and the seven crew of United Flight 93 expected was to be engaged in a life and death struggle to retake an airliner that was headed to Washington DC as a terrorist missile.    All they expected the day to bring was a hum drum flight from Newark to San Francisco.  Just ordinary people living their lives.  Their occupations included pilot, first officer, flight attendant, an environmental lawyer, the owner of a public relations firm,  university students, a senior vice president of a medical development company, a sales representative for Good Housekeeping magazine, a manager of a US Wildlife animal refuge, an arborist, an account manager for a corporation, an ironworker, retirees, a computer programmer, a computer engineer, a lobbyist for the disabled, a real estate agent,  an executive vice president of a corporation and a free lance medical writer.  They were wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, all with unique histories and lives, with little in common except that they happened to be on board Flight 93 when the world changed.

The plane took off at 8:42 AM Eastern Time.  Four terrorists had boarded amidst the other 33 passengers.  The terrorists began to hijack the plane at 9:28 AM, soon after both the hijacked airliners had struck the Twin Towers in New York City, and just brief minutes before a fourth airliner was hijacked in Washington and slammed into the Pentagon.  At 9:28:17 AM a member of the cockpit crew shouted “Mayday! Mayday!” over the radio, with sounds of violence in the background.  35 seconds later someone in the cockpit shouted over the radio, “Mayday!  Get out of here!  Get out of here!”

By 9:31 AM the terrorists were in control of the cockpit.  They informed the passengers that they were in control of the plane and falsely told them they had a bomb.  Now began the final 30 minutes of Flight 93.

Passengers and crew during these final 30 minutes made 35 airphone calls and two cell phone calls.  They quickly learned of the other hijacked planes that had been flown into the Twin Towers.

Passenger Jeremy Glick managed to reach his wife.  He told her that the passengers voted whether to try to take back the plane and decided that they were going to attempt it.  He retained his sense of humor telling his wife that he still had his butter knife from the meal that had been served on board the plane.  Before he and the other passengers attacked the hijackers he wished her and their daughter a happy life, a clear indication that he did not expect to survive the effort to retake the plane.

Flight Attendant Sandra Bradshaw called her husband and told him that she was boiling water to throw on the hijackers.

Passenger Todd Beamer attempted to reach his wife, but was unsuccessful in doing so.  He ended up talking to GTE supervisor Lisa Jefferson.  He told her that one of the passengers had been killed by the hijackers, and the pilot and co-pilot were reportedly dead or dying.  He told her that the passengers were going to jump the hijackers and attempt to land the plane before the terrorists could carry out the rest of their plan.  He recited the Our Father with Jefferson before the effort to retake the plane began.  The last audible words that Jefferson could hear from Beamer were:  “Are you guys ready?  Let’s roll.”

The passengers rushed the hijackers at 9:57 AM.  They quickly subdued whichever hijackers were outside of the cockpit and began to break into the cockpit, a fact verified by a call made by Flight Attendant Cee Cee Lyles to her husband.  The terrorists in the cockpit began to rock the plane side to side in order to throw the attacking passengers off balance.  As the passengers broke into the cockpit the terrorists crashed the plane near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  The heroic passengers and crew of Flight 93 could not save their own lives, but they made certain that the terrorists with them would murder no one else that day.  As long as America lives, their memory will never be forgotten.

Crew of Flight 93

Plane Captain Jason Dahl

First Officer Leroy Homer

Flight Attendant Lorraine Bay 

Flight Attendant Sandra Bradshaw

Flight Attendant Wanda Green

Flight Attendant CeeCee Lyles

Flight Attendat Deborah Welsh

Passengers of Flight 93

Christian Adams

Todd Beamer

Alan Beaven

Mark Bingham

Deora Bodley

Marion Britton

Thomas E. Burnett Jr

William Cashman

Georgine Corrigan

Patricia Cushing

Joseph Deluca

Patrick Driscoll

Edward Felt

Jane Folger

Colleen Fraser

Andrew Garcia

Jeremy Glick

Lauren Grandcolas

Donald F. Green

Linda Gronlund

Richard Guadagno

Toshiya Kuge

Hilda Marcin

Waleska Martinez

Nicole Miller

Louis J. Nacke II

Donald Peterson

Jean Peterson

Mark Rothenberg

Christine Snyder

John Talignani

Honor Wainio

Kristin White

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. Good morning,

    I have been to Shanksville once, back in 2002. It is about 75 miles from where I live. The crash site was fenced off and there were impromptu memorials, a sheet of plywood erected with photos and many flags.

    A few years ago, I used to post at an unofficial Pittsburgh Steelers message board. It had a large section for discussing other events and affairs. I remember one board member who was feeling depressed because his birthday is 9/11, and he felt it inappropriate to celebrate anything, let alone his birthday, on 9/11. As an aside, I left that message board because of the increasingly crude behavior of far too many of its members.

    I pointed out to him that I thought we should consider the members and crew of Flight 93 as heroes. They had the ability to figure out what was going on and what their fate was – and the fate of other innocent people – if they did not stop the terrorists.

    They did stop the terrorists. These people are heroes to me.

    Mr.. McClarey, it would be interesting if you would post a piece asking how our parish pastors reflected on September 11 during Mass – if they did at all.

    Our parish priest is a retired Navy chaplain. He is a most pleasant fellow, who usually doesn’t follow the rubrics to the letter and interjects a few of his own words into the Mass. I pray for him. Our priest talked about how shaken he was and he wondered how anyone could do such a thing. He stressed the importance of forgiveness, as evidenced in the Gospel passage for Mass (St. Matthew 16:18, I think without checking it).

    I preferred Fr. Corapi’s interpretation of 9/11. It was a wakeup call.

    For a short time, we answered the wakeup call in this country. Now it has been forgotten.

    The secular media and its atheist friends took out their fury on religion less than a year later with the abuse scandal that was epicentered in Boston. They took it all out on the Catholic Church for two reasons. One reason is that the Catholic Church, through the actions and inactions of its clergy and members, often gives others the club to beat it over the head with. The other reason is that Catholics don’t call for jihad and threaten those who insult her.

    I remember that morning of 9/11 well. I was at work. We heard that a plane crashed into the WTC and thought it was someone flying a Cessna. When we heard of the second crash, I made a very uncharitable remark about Muslims and said to my supervisor that it was they who were behind this. We were told to get out of the office and go home shortly after.

    Others cried. I burned with anger and when I think about it, I still do. Does anyone remember the ABC made for TV movie about the events leading up to 9/11? The bombings of the US Embassies in Africa? The USS Cole? Al Qaeda was active for a long time before 9/11.

    This week, there are several important feast days on the Latin Catholic calendar. Tuesday, September 13, is the Feast Day of St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church. Wednesday, September 14 is the Exhaltation of the Holy Cross. Thursday, September 15 is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Sorrows. All of these were mentioned in the parish bulletin.

    September 12 is the Feast Day of the Most Holy Name of May, in honor of King John Sobieski’s entrusting of himself and his army in battle against the Ottoman Turks who were trying to conquer Vienna. Sobieski and his Polish Hussar cavalry smashed the Ottomans and sent them into retreat. Sobieski said, “Veniums, vidimus, Deus vincit.”
    In a letter to his wife, Sobieski wrote, “Thanks be to Heaven, now the Half-Moon Triumphs no longer o’re the Cross, And ’twas thrown down from St. Stephen’s Steeple in Vienna (whom it had o’retopt so long) immediately on the Defeat: Neither have the Turks any occasion to upbraid us with their Blasphemous Mahometan Proverb. Ye Christians where is Your God?”

    September 12 has no feast day mentioned on it in our bulletin. The feast day was removed in 1969, but Pope John Paul II put it back in 2002.

    Sorry for rambling.

  2. Here’s another story about that day: Heather “Lucky” Penny. She was the pilot who was going to have to take out the flight – in a suicide mission – had the passengers not done it.

    The movie “United 93” is the one of the most spectacular movies I have ever seen, and I’ve never cried as much through a movie as I have that one.

  3. “Mr.. McClarey, it would be interesting if you would post a piece asking how our parish pastors reflected on September 11 during Mass – if they did at all.

    Our parish priest is a retired Navy chaplain. He is a most pleasant fellow, who usually doesn’t follow the rubrics to the letter and interjects a few of his own words into the Mass. I pray for him. Our priest talked about how shaken he was and he wondered how anyone could do such a thing. He stressed the importance of forgiveness, as evidenced in the Gospel passage for Mass (St. Matthew 16:18, I think without checking it).”

    My parish priest sounded a similar theme but he also noted that these people had to be stopped which I think gets it about right. In our age we emphasize God’s mercy rather than His justice, and we tend to forget that He has both attributes to the full.

  4. I wish I could find this somewhere, but sometime before 9/11, I had read an essay by some Catholic writer about how the Christian idea of a “good death” means NOT necessarily a death free of suffering or fear, but one transformed from a merely passive thing that happens TO you, into a sacrificial action.

    What took place on Flight 93 is, in my mind, a quintessential example of that… instead of simply sitting back and being victims, those heroic passengers took ACTION that saved hundreds, perhaps thousands, of others.

    I believe they also set an example that others have followed in the intervening years. You may recall that the “shoe bomber” and the “underwear bomber” were both successfully subdued by other passengers aboard those flights. Untold hundreds or thousands of other lives have been saved as a result.

  5. Another interesting fact is that in 1684, to celebrate the victory of the Battle of Vienna the year before, Pope Innocent XI inserted the feast of the Holy Name of Mary in the General Roman Calendar, assigning to it the SUNDAY within the octave of the Nativity of Mary (8-15 September). There are no coincidences. And today’s Mass readings center around forgiveness.

  6. “Mr.. McClarey, it would be interesting if you would post a piece asking how our parish pastors reflected on September 11 during Mass – if they did at all.”

    One of our deacons gave the homily. Talked about forgiveness. Mentioned how we could not be pro-life if we were pro-death penalty. Said we needed to abolish the death penalty.

  7. The homily I heard (by a parish pastor) talked about how forgiveness seems impossible when faced with such atrocities, and how it IS impossible to reconcile with the need for some kind of justice or for someone to “pay the price” — until we realize that Christ Himself already paid that price. No polemics against military action, self defense or the death penalty but mostly an acknowledgement that Christ’s words are indeed very difficult to follow.

  8. Pingback: 9/11 | ThePulp.it
  9. “Brave and Valiant Gentlemen of Poland, it is not here
    only requisite to make good the Glory which your
    Ancestors Valor have aquir’d, in making us consider’d
    as the Bulwark of Christianity against the Arms of the
    Ottomans: It is not only sufficient at this present to defend
    your Country, which the loss of Vienna would expose by a
    necessary consequence to the Invasion of those Infidels, with
    whom we are to fight. Here it is necessary to defend the
    Cause of God, and to preserve the Western Empire, which
    hath done us the Honor to have recourse to our Alliance;
    an Honor which our Ancestors dust never aspire unto, and
    was reserved for your Valor. Entertain therefore no other
    thoughts at present, but either to Conquer, or Nobly to end
    your lives in this Just Cause, to which the Glory of our common
    Master is annexed: Think now that you are to Fight in the fight
    of so many Brave Commanders who are engaged in the same
    Cause and Peril; reflect also that your King Fights at the Head
    of you, whereby to have a share both in your Glory and Danger;
    and withal be confident that the God of Battles whose Cause we
    defend will undoubtedly Fight for us.”

    John Sobieski’s speech to his men before the battle of Vienna. After the battle he sent one of the captured green flags of the Sultan to the Pope with this message:

    “Veni, vidi, Deus vicit.”

    I came, I saw, God conquered.

  10. A very modern problem: mercy and justice– the shortest solution I know is that you can’t give mercy to someone who won’t take it. All you can do is the right thing, and hope they eventually accept it. Kinda what Jesus is doing since He died for us, no?

  11. Another facet to Flight 93 is that it involved “ordinary” people who were not (as far as I know) active duty or reserve military, police, firefighters or otherwise trained to be first responders.

    Of course the heroism of the professionals as displayed at the WTC and Pentagon is and should be commemorated every Sept. 11. Still, in some ways I am more impressed with the fact that a random, thrown-together group of about 3 dozen civilians who did not know one another, suddenly confronted with an unprecedented horror and with little time to spare, literally “winged it” and may very well have stopped the attacks from turning into a de facto coup d’etat (assuming that the intended target was either the Capitol or the White House).

  12. Quite right Elaine. Hard enough for a group of unarmed specially trained soldiers or Marines to take down a group of terrorists who claim (falsely) that they have a bomb. A group of random civilians, who have just met each other under the worst circumstances imaginable, to take on such terrorists takes heroism and daring of a high order indeed.

    The cops and firefighters who went into the Twin Towers to save lives, knowing that it was entirely possible that it could, as it did, collapse at any moment, is an example of the type of “professional courage” that indicates why certain occupations, where risking one’s life is a part of the job, are held high in public esteem, while others, why did the word “lawyer” just flash through my mind ?, are not. The priests who ran to give the Last Rites to the dying at the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, along with the Protestant clergy and Jewish rabbis, also distinguished themselves that dark day.

  13. I agree with Paul Z about the film “United 93.” I think it is the best movie that has been made or ever will be made about 9/11.

    When I feel pessimistic about the future of our nation and our pathetic ruling elites, I try to remember the heroism shown by the ordinary folks on United 93 and think to myself that if America is still producing citizens like Todd Beamer and co, we are not quite finished yet.

  14. I read an article on a blog some years ago about one of the guys on Flight 93. He had had dream – or premonition – that he was to be involved in some defining type event, which possibly involved the US president. He was a devout Catholic, and had a devotion to Our Lady – I think Our Lady of the Rosary (of Victories – Battle of Vienna, 9/11/1683)

    When he found himself in this predicament, he realised that this may be the event. He rang his wife and told her what he and the others had to do. The rest is history.

  15. Don, I think the man you are referring to was Thomas E. Burnett Jr. I seem to recall several stories about him in the Catholic press after 9/11, and I believe he attended daily Mass, though this is the first I have ever heard about his premonition.

  16. About Mr. Burnett:

    “Mr. Burnett phoned his wife Deena four times. In the first call he told her about the situation on the plane and asked her to call authorities. The second time he phoned, he told her that he believed their captors were going to fly the plane into the ground. “The next time he called,” Mrs. Burnett said, “I could tell they were formulating a plan.” In the last call, he reportedly said, “I know we’re going to die. There’s three of us who are going to do something about it.””


  17. The feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, also known as Our Lady of Victory (7 Oct.) was established to commemorate the naval battle of Lepanto, 1571, when a combined Christian fleet routed the Turks (and anyone who doesn’t know Chesterton’s bravura poem should look it up without delay). The Christian commander, Don John of Austria, an illegitimate son of the emperor Charles V, was born in Regensburg, that beautiful city on the Danube with which the present Holy Father has such close links.

    Ten years ago the traditional festivities of the Last Night of the Proms were replaced by an evening of solemn music, including Barber’s moving Adagio, and at the Changing of the Guard ceremony the band of the Grenadier Guards played the Star Spangled Banner in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace. Many of the spectators wept. No mention of the anniversary at Mass yesterday morning; instead we were reminded it was ‘racial justice Sunday’ and invited to pray for ‘all victims of discrimination’. I prayed for the Christians routinely persecuted in Moslem countries and for the innocent victims of 9/11.

  18. According to his wife, Thomas Burnett did have premonitions:

    “In 1998, when Deena learned that Tom was going to daily Mass she said “I was a little bit surprised, but I didn’t say anything,” she said. “He said, ‘I feel like God is calling me to do something, and I don’t know what it is. But I know it’s going to have a great impact on a lot of people.’ He said, ‘The reason I’ve been going to daily Mass is because I feel like if I can be closer to God, then I’ll know what his plan is for me.'””


  19. Hi John Nolan.

    Yes – I got mixed up between Lepanto and the Battle of Vienna.
    Quite familiar with Chesterton’s poem – In fact Don McC. posted on it a little while back.

    Good to see I’m not the only ‘demmed furriner’ commenting here on an American blog 😉

    Thanks Don, for the confirmation – I thought I had it right.

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