“Are you guys ready? Let’s roll!” — Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer, apparently as a signal to other passengers to attack the hijackers, Sept. 11.
On September 10, 2001, four teams of 19 terrorists gathered near Boston, in Virginia and New Jersey. They plan to hijack four airplanes headed to the West Coast. The goal is to take the fuel-filled planes to use as missiles to crash them into important targets of American imperialism.
The morning of September 11, 2001, is a beautiful, late summer day with clear blue skies. Over the American east coast, four airplanes get hijacked.
At 8:46:30 AM Flight 11 hits floors 93-99 of the World Trade Center’s North Tower. At 9:03:02 AM Flight 175 crashes into the 77-85 floors of the South Tower a few minutes later.
At this point, most Americans realize the acts are deliberate acts. At 9:37:46 AM Flight 77 strikes the west facade of the Pentagon. It’s clear the attacks aren’t confined to New York City.
Flight 93 crashed into an empty Pennsylvania farm field after the brave passengers ripped the controls away from the hijackers. Their story is different.
Armed with knives, the terrorists break into the cockpits. They attack the pilots and gain control of Flight 93. Flight 93, now piloted by a terrorist, changes course and heads southeast towards Washington DC.
Over the next 35 minutes, the passengers and crew called loved ones and alerted the authorities. After learning about the earlier attacks, they know Flight 93 is part of a larger attack on the United States.
They share information and decide to act.
The passengers and crew of Flight 93 decide to charge the cockpit. The plane’s “black boxes” record the erratic flight and struggle in the cockpit.
Voices in American English and Arabic yell out with sounds of fighting are recorded before the crash. Muffled shouts with the sounds of loud thumps and breaking glass. In English, “Let’s get them!”
The cockpit recorder captures the hijackers’ decision in Arabic to crash the plane. Just before impact the cockpit voice recorder captures a native English speaking man screaming loudly, “NO!!!”
At 10:03:11 AM Flight 93 crashes with the hijackers still at the controls. The plane is about 20 minutes flying time from Washington DC.
The flight hits the ground at 563 mph carrying 5,000 gallons of jet fuel. It explodes on impact. The plane crashes with such force it’s reduced to fragments.
The explosion throws aircraft debris and fuel into a nearby hemlock tree grove. Within minutes first responders find only a smoking crater, burning trees and the ground littered with fragments of the plane.
The pictures taken only minutes after the crash are haunting. The explosion and fire destroy the plane. There is a 45-foot smoldering crater with an eerie black shadow impression outline of the wings, tail, and engines. Debris is all that’s left.
On 1,000 acres in the Pennsylvania countryside is the Flight 93 National Memorial. On a small overlook is the stark, austere white marble wall standing 20 feet tall engraved with the names of the 40 passengers and crew members killed in the attack.
Their final resting place is marked with a large, brown sandstone boulder. The last decision of the men and women of Flight 93 prevented an even greater loss to the nation. Their actions were heroic and noble.
In less than three hours, nearly 3,000 Americans are killed.
Within hours, the inspiration and cause of the hijackings are known to the world. Al Qaeda and its Taliban hosts awakened a sleeping giant. It set the stage for the American experience in Afghanistan.
By labeling the new war, “The Global War on Terror” the White House wanted to create an ideal to rally the nation in a time of tragedy and crisis.
The Global War on Terror is a unique case study.
It’s a war without borders, a war that has continued for the past sixteen years without an end. A seemingly endless conflict.
America is at war with an ideology of hatred against the ideals of Western Democracies, not a country or easily identifiable enemy. Think of men with beards in caves on mountaintops sitting around fires plotting to kill Americans. These are non-state actors, not countries.
Three weeks after 9/11 the US entered Afghanistan to finish Al Qaeda.
The terrorists reached across oceans thought to insulate the United States. 9/11 made terrorism awareness a part of our daily life. We live a “new normal” of security threat levels and taking our shoes off at the airport for security checks.
An ordinary field in the rolling hills outside of Pittsburgh is a quiet testimony to the courage of 40 brave people and a reminder to a nation at war.