September 11 or 9/11 was a coordinated attack where four planes were supposed to crash into targets. Two hit the Twin Towers and the third crashed into the Pentagon. However, the fourth crash landed in Pennsylvania, after the passengers of the flight revolted against the hijackers. 

On the 21st anniversary of the Al-Qaeda mounted a terrorist attack against the US, here’s remembering Flight 93 and how US civilians fought terrorism mid-air. 

United Airlines Flight 93 took off from Newark International Airport – now Liberty International Airport- in Newark, New Jersey. It was headed to San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California. Forty-four people were on board, including 2 pilots, 5 flight attendants, 33 passengers, and 4 hijackers. Six passengers and four hijackers were flying first class while 27 were in coach. The plane’s total capacity was 182, meaning the day’s load was 20%. Authorities have noted that hijackers might have chosen planes with lesser passengers to ensure minimal chances of hostility from those onboard. 

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The plane flew normally for 46 minutes, but when it neared Cleveland, Ohio, hijackers broke into the cockpit and took control of the plane, incapacitating the pilot and first officer. They turned the flight southeast, towards Washington DC. Cleveland air traffic control became aware of the situation, and an attendant on Flight 93 called United Airlines to report the hijacking. 

Ziad Jarrah, the terrorist trained to fly the plane, was from Lebanon. He arrived in the US in June 2000 and started training in Venice, Florida. The other three, Saeed al Ghamdi, Ahmad al Haznawi, and Ahmed al Nami, were from Saudi Arabia. They used box-cutters and homemade weapons like metal wrapped in tape, to take control of the plane. 

Flight 93 might have been headed for one of two targets in DC. One could be the White House and the second could be the Capitol. The date of the attack coincides with when both House and Senate were returning to session after the summer break and an attack would have maximised impact. 

Passengers and crew were sent to the back of the aircraft and told to keep quiet. They used Airfones to communicate with friends, family, and authorities to inform them of the hijacking. This is when they learnt that three other plans have been hijacked and crashed. Realizing Flight 93 was part of a larger attack against the US, the passengers revolted. 

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Passengers started their assault on the cockpit when the plane was over Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, east of Pittsburgh. The hijackers started rolling the plane from right to left, attempting to throw revolters off balance. The 9/11 commission found terrorists remained in control of the plane and had crashed to prevent the revolting passengers from gaining control of the craft. 

It crashed in a wooded area in Stonycreek Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania. If the plane had stayed its course, it would have reached DC in another 20 minutes, approximately.