- SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) -
Passengers killed in the hijack crash of United Airlines Flight 93 have
become heroes of the Sept. 11 attacks -- everyday Americans who apparently
fought back, sacrificing themselves to stop yet another plane being used
as a weapon of terror.
- But family members of some of those lost on Flight 93
are now pushing for more complete accounting of what actually occurred
on the aircraft, asking the FBI to release the cockpit voice recording
of the plane's final minutes.
- "I lie awake at night wondering what he thought
and what he felt and what his experience was," Deena Burnett, whose
husband Thomas was among those aboard the plane, said on Monday.
- "I think that by hearing what happened in the last
moment of his life perhaps that would provide a little bit more of a
- United's Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco was one
of four jets hijacked on Sept. 11. But while two were sent crashing into
New York's World Trade Center and the third slammed into the Pentagon,
Flight 93 crashed in a Pennsylvania field, apparently brought down by a
- The Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of
have so far declined to release even an edited transcript of Flight 93's
cockpit voice recorder, saying that it is evidence in a criminal
- But Burnett and at least one other family member say
they deserve to hear the recording -- if only to answer once and for all
what happened as the last hijacked jet veered off course and crashed,
all 45 people aboard.
- "We might be able to shed some light for
Alice Hoglan, whose son Mark Bingham was aboard Flight 93, told the San
Francisco Chronicle. "We might be able to identify, for example,
voice. Some of the other family members might be able to do that as well.
We'd welcome that chance."
- The public already has a picture of what many believe
happened on Flight 93: a band of heroic passengers, after learning of the
hijack attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, stormed the
cockpit to prevent their hijacked jet from hitting another target and
causing even greater damage.
- The story has been pieced together through bits of
conversations that passengers had with people on the ground and cockpit
communications overheard by air traffic controllers.
- In one exchange just before the Boeing 757 crashed, Todd
Beamer, a passenger, called from a phone on board and told the air phone
operator a group of passengers was going to try to stop the hijackers.
He recited the Lord's Prayer with the operator and was then heard saying
"Let's roll" -- words President Bush later quoted as a battle
cry for the nation as it wages its war on terrorism.
- LAST WORDS -- LAST CLUES
- Grieving family members like Burnett and Hoglan, both
of whom believe their family members were among those who made the
assault on the cockpit, say the voice recorder could shed important light
on what happened as the aircraft streaked through the sky. "I expect
my husband's voice to be on (the tape), and for that reason I believe that
it would put one more piece in the puzzle, for me," Burnett told one
- Victims rights groups concur, saying that family members
often need to assemble as much information as possible as they come to
grips with their loss.
- "There is this tremendous need to know, and if a
family members wants to have the information, then I believe that they
should get it," said Gail Dunham, president of the National Air
Alliance/Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group.
- Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, who represents Burnett's
California district, has joined the fight, writing to FBI Director Robert
Mueller urging him to allow Burnett to listen to the cockpit recorder
respect and honor the family of this American hero."
- Dunham said tapes from earlier crashes had been released
upon court order, or after prosecutors conclude that there is no
in them crucial to building a criminal case.
- "There is a character to each crash, and Flight
93 will always be the heroes," Dunham said. "This could give
the family members a sense of peace, that under these horrific
their loved ones were still making the right decisions."
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