Widow Presses FBI to Release
Flight 93 Hijack Cockpit Tape
By Andrew Quinn

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 picture."
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 passenger revolt.
The Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation 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 investigation.
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, killing all 45 people aboard.
"We might be able to shed some light for investigators," Alice Hoglan, whose son Mark Bingham was aboard Flight 93, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "We might be able to identify, for example, Mark's 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 possibly causing even greater damage.
The story has been pieced together through bits of telephone 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.
Grieving family members like Burnett and Hoglan, both of whom believe their family members were among those who made the last-ditch 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 interviewer.
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 Disaster 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 "to 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 information 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 circumstances their loved ones were still making the right decisions."

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