United Airlines Flight 93

STONYCREEK TOWNSHIP, Pa.—The Flight 93 National Memorial sits on a broad green pasture. The field is remote, interrupted only by minimalist monuments standing in the distance, surrounded by vivid wildflowers.

One monument is a 93-foot high musical instrument, with 41 colossal wind chimes, making clunking sounds that sing across the meadow like a glockenspiel.

There is no other structure like this in the world.

The monument honors the 41 passengers and crewmembers from United Airlines Flight 93. The hijacked plane that crashed in this field 19 years ago.

The National Park Service runs this place today. But not so long ago this was open farmland.

It happened on a Tuesday morning. Perfect weather. Clear sky. Locals saw a Boeing 757 jerking through the air at an awkward angle.

Farmers watched in slack-jawed amazement. Commuters pulled over to see a commercial airliner bounce from the sky and slam into the Earth.

When the plane hit soil it sounded like the world had come apart at the bolts. A mile-high column of black smoke wafted into the air. The clear sky was ruined.

Earlier that morning the flight had been due for takeoff from Newark International Airport at 8:01 a.m. But, because this is America (Land of the Free and Home of the Flight Delayed) the flight was running late by 41 minutes.

The passengers and crew were chatty that morning. People made conversations over Styrofoam coffee cups. It was usual talk.

They chatted about their kids’ soccer games. Work. The new fad diet that wasn’t making their thighs any smaller.

In the cockpit, pilot Jason Dahl was going through his preflight stuff. He was 43, cobby build, with a smile that looked like he could have been your favorite uncle Lou.

Jason always carried a little box of rocks with him. They were a gift from his son. When a man carries a box of rocks simply because his kid collected them, you know this is a decent man.

After the flight, Jason was going to take his wife to London for their fifth anniversary.

In the passenger area you had folks like John Talignani (age 74), retired bartender, stocky, cotton-white hair, a World War II vet. He was one of the millions of longsuffering, anguished souls who call themselves New York Mets fans.

You had Deora Bodley (20), college junior. The vision of loveliness. They say she was one of those natural beauties that caused young men on sidewalks to crash headfirst into lampposts and incur large dental bills. Deora wanted to be a children’s therapist.

And Jean Peterson (55). She was traveling with her husband, Don (66). They were going to Yosemite for vacation.

Jean was a retired nurse. But she didn’t want to take up the rocking chair. That wasn’t her. So Jean became a crisis counselor. She was a selfless beacon who helped pregnant teenagers figure out their lives.

One of the flight attendants was Lorraine Bay (58). She’d been an attendant for 37 years. Meaning, she was either a glutton for punishment, or she loved her job.

She was a maternal figure to the other airline employees, and she was always sending letters. That morning she’d mailed a few postcards to friends. Just to say hi.

CeeCee (33), a Florida girl. She was new to the flight-attendant game. Only nine months ago she’d been a police officer in her hometown of Fort Pierce. She was a law enforcement officer to the core, unafraid of confrontation. Her last words on a phone conversation to her husband were: “We’re getting ready to do it now. It’s happening.”

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

After the plane took off, it was obvious that there were bad men on this flight. At 9:30 a.m. three aggressive men in red bandannas rushed toward the cockpit with wicked intentions.

I’m not going to tell you about them. Nor about what they planned to do. This story is about what happened after these men killed innocent people and assumed control of a commercial aircraft.

The first thing you should know is that the men in bandannas chose the wrong plane to mess with. Flight 93 was not filled with 41 passive church mice.

Onboard you had Jeremy Glick (31), a six-foot-one, national collegiate judo champion and blackbelt. Mark Bingham (31), a rugby player. CeeCee, the no nonsense former cop. And Tom Burnett (38), once a college quarterback, sturdy as a hickory stump.

Tom Burnett made his last phone call to his wife and said, “If they’re gonna run this plane into the ground, we’re gonna do something.”

And they did. Forty-one ordinary people made their countermove at 9:57 a.m. All that is known about their actions comes from the flight audio recorder. The recording merely plays sound. Difficult sounds.

Your mind’s eye can see the rest.

There is the sound of passengers storming a flimsy cockpit door. Noises from a crashing beverage-service cart. Flinging dishes. Shattering glass. Ice cold screams. Shouts. Punches. Slaps. Groans. Gags. Pleas for help.

One passenger voice shouts, “Let’s gett’em!”

Another passenger, maybe struggling for the flight controls, hollers, “Give it to me! Give it to me! Give it to me! Give it to me!”

More shouting. More fighting. Then. Click.

The recording stops. The plane goes down. The earth in Somerset County rumbled like an act of God.

Todd Beamer (32), raised in Chicago, tried to call his wife only minutes before his death. But he couldn’t reach her. So he dialed zero on the in-flight phone.

He got a customer service rep named Lisa. He was all over the map, emotionally, says Lisa. Todd kept saying, “Please call my family and let them know how much I love them.”

And in the quiet moments before Todd and the others would assault violent men, Todd asked Lisa to say the Lord’s Prayer with him. She did. Then he asked her to say the 23rd Psalm along with him. She did.

Lisa could hear dozens of voices reciting the verses with Todd. The timeworn words filled the cabin like perfume, or the smell of rain, or fresh baked bread.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

“Thou preparest a table for me in the midst of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.”

Which is where they are right now.

All 41 of them.

88 comments

  1. Lynn Thomas - September 11, 2020 7:02 am

    You’ve never made me cry from one of your articles.
    I’m glad it’s 2 AM and everyone else in the house is asleep.
    I’ll never forget that day.

    Reply
  2. ann broadway - September 11, 2020 7:32 am

    Your words recounting the heroism shown by all those brave souls choked me up. Thank you.

    Reply
  3. Linnea Miles - September 11, 2020 7:53 am

    Thank you, Sean. Your words of this fateful flight are refreshing and heart-rending. They were all everyday Americans who died as resplendent heroes. Thank you for this powerful telling.

    Reply
  4. Garson - September 11, 2020 9:29 am

    Sadly, some have forgotten about this day.

    Reply
  5. Karen Good - September 11, 2020 10:39 am

    We shall never forget. The memory of that day is so vivid in my mind, and you have put a new twist to it that is perfect. With tears in my eyes, I once again, reflect on that day and offer a prayer for the many who died, the many more who were left without their loved ones and for this nation we love. NEVER FORGET 💔

    Reply
  6. Naomi - September 11, 2020 11:16 am

    Today is also my stepson’s birthday. He is turning 65 today and just got his Social Security card. Since that horrible day, his birthday has been bittersweet. My father was born in Poland, but he grew up in New York City and his youngest sister (my aunt) still lived there. I was substitute teaching at an elementary school that day; during a break, I called my husband; he told me to turn on the TV. When the kids came back, I let them watch watch all of this on TV until the principal got on the intercom and told us to turn the TVs off. I tried to explain to the kids what was going on, but the administration didn’t want us to. Parents started coming to the school to pick up their children. There were a lot of young teachers there who had just graduated from college. I tried to explain to them that this was a terrorist attack and an act of war, but they couldn’t understand it. When I got home, I called my aunt in New York to see if she was OK. All she said was, “Look what they have done to my city”. She had called several of her friends who worked at the World Trade Center or near there that morning and told them that they needed to stay home. In July of that year, we had taken a bus load of people from our church to DC. My husband had spent 42 .in the AF and had been to DC many times, but he had never been to the Pentagon. I had gone on a tour some years before and I wanted him to go there. When we got there, they weren’t letting anymore people sign up for tours, but I showed the man my military ID and he let my husband and me go through on our own. That was in July, 2001, less than two months before these terrorists flew a plane into the Pentagon. It’s a day most of us will never forget and ended up getting us into a never-ending war in the Middle East.

    Reply
  7. Marisa Franca Stewart - September 11, 2020 11:18 am

    Thank you for the beautiful reminder.

    Reply
  8. greatgrams6 - September 11, 2020 11:23 am

    Thank you for a wonderful tribute, I will never forget that horrible day.

    Reply
  9. Jean - September 11, 2020 11:32 am

    It still brings tears to my eyes….like right now….

    Reply
  10. Sue Rhodus - September 11, 2020 11:41 am

    The only words I can say : Thank You

    Reply
  11. Nancy Hall - September 11, 2020 11:53 am

    Thank you

    Reply
  12. Melanie - September 11, 2020 11:59 am

    Never forget ❤️🇺🇸

    Reply
  13. Denise Walker - September 11, 2020 12:10 pm

    even now, 19 years later, the memory of THAT days breaks my heart. The evil intent of the hijackers, the calm resolve to those 41 decent, good hearted people. Thanks for helping us remember. #NEVERFORGET

    Reply
  14. Billy Allgood - September 11, 2020 12:20 pm

    Sean, This may be your best yet. MAY GOD BLESS THIS GREAT LAND CALLED AMERICA

    Reply
  15. Diane Toth - September 11, 2020 12:23 pm

    I will never forget that day.

    Reply
  16. Joy Slegers - September 11, 2020 12:29 pm

    The rioters & protestors of today should read your well written column & just try to think about what this country means to us as Americans. The freedoms we have that other countries don’t. We are so fortunate and we ate forgetting! We must never forget what those Americans gave up for us! Never forget!

    Reply
  17. Trilby Devine - September 11, 2020 12:33 pm

    Beauty for ashes

    Reply
  18. Martha Owens - September 11, 2020 12:43 pm

    The shock of seeing the entire event unfold on TV at work that morning will always be a horrible memory. I remember the immediate feeling of insecurity as we wondered what was next. It was hard to believe it was reality. We began to realize the number of lives likely lost that day and prayers were being said by all of us. Thanks for reminding us about the lives of some of the individuals lost that day.

    Reply
  19. Helen De Prima - September 11, 2020 12:44 pm

    Thank you for reminding us about the individuals who refuses to die passively that day. Bless them all, and their loved ones.

    Reply
  20. Carol - September 11, 2020 12:51 pm

    So beautifully recalled and shared……..WE WILL NEVER FORGET!!

    Reply
  21. Bonnie Lynn Kennedy - September 11, 2020 12:53 pm

    Sean, I have been enjoying your daily articles for awhile now. But never have I been so moved to tears as today. Thank you for such a loving and insightful tribute to a piece of all Americans history. Always loved your talent for bringing a smile to my sometimes dull life but my tears were a first for one of your articles. Thank you I needed to read this today.

    Reply
  22. Penny - September 11, 2020 1:08 pm

    Thank you.

    Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

    Reply
  23. Brenda - September 11, 2020 1:09 pm

    Thank you for your tributing reminder of the day we will never forget. Tears from the heart 💔 of this horrific tragedy.

    Reply
  24. Pat Thomason - September 11, 2020 1:17 pm

    This piece is one of your best. Thank you so very much

    Reply
  25. Dianne M Rathje - September 11, 2020 1:19 pm

    Thank you so much — I forwarded it to MANY friends

    Reply
  26. Deborah S Reece - September 11, 2020 1:19 pm

    A wonderful tribute. I cried. And we remember them and their bravery.

    Reply
  27. cajuntiger74 - September 11, 2020 1:27 pm

    Thank you for honoring 41 amazing American heroes. On the day when “somebodies did something” I am so pleased that you told the story of 41 American heroes who truly did something; gave their life for their family, friends and their fellow countrymen. May we NEVER FORGET!

    Reply
  28. katherine thomson - September 11, 2020 1:31 pm

    Amen.

    Reply
  29. Chris - September 11, 2020 1:34 pm

    I read this in the quiet early hours this morning. And just wept. Thank you for reminding us of the dear people we lost that day.

    Reply
  30. Glenn - September 11, 2020 1:39 pm

    Wow, you’ve written a lot of good columns – this is your very best. Do not ever say again you’re not a writer, this column is the most powerful tribute I’ve ever read to those who lost their lives on 9/11. What great work, what great work.

    Reply
  31. Linda Broyles - September 11, 2020 1:43 pm

    Thank you.

    Reply
  32. Dell Corley - September 11, 2020 1:47 pm

    It still leaves a raw gaping hole in my soul. Tears and triumph!

    Reply
  33. Connie Ryland - September 11, 2020 1:48 pm

    Of all the tributes I’ve read today, this just broke me. Thank you. We need to never forget. Love and hugs.

    Reply
  34. Phil (Brown Marlin) - September 11, 2020 2:24 pm

    Thanks, Sean, for this beautiful tribute. Last year my wife and I visited the Flight 77 Memorial at the Pentagon. I encourage anyone who goes to Washington to see all the memorials, but don’t miss this one. Each person killed (excluding the murderers) has a special spot there, and some were children. I hope to also visit Stoneycreek some day.

    Reply
  35. Donna - September 11, 2020 2:29 pm

    One of your very best Sean.

    Reply
  36. Cynthia Woods - September 11, 2020 2:39 pm

    😭😭😭💙🇺🇸💙😭😭😭

    Reply
  37. Hazel Barber - September 11, 2020 2:40 pm

    All heart today and no smiles. Through tears we recognize their bravery. Thankful for the hope we have in Christ to see them one day. Thanks Sean for another great one.

    Reply
  38. Lori Brown - September 11, 2020 2:44 pm

    I’m sitting at work (luckily, out of sight of my coworkers) and wiping tears away. Again. This day is always a day of hard memories. But I remember the heroes. People who never wanted to be heroes, never asked for the job, but did what they felt compelled to do. I am so thankful for the heroes that I never met, but I want to thank you for making them more than a name. They deserve that.

    Reply
  39. Patricia Gibson - September 11, 2020 2:49 pm

    Thank you🇱🇷🇱🇷

    Reply
  40. Teresa Tindle - September 11, 2020 2:54 pm

    Sean, I know I’m not the only one crying. Crying for the love of all the people on board this plane. In the twin towers and the pentagon, firefighters, police, doctors, nurses and all the other people who gave everything that we might all live. Will never forget this day. A day when all Americans came together to grieve and to begin to rebuild our nation. I wish we could have that same love, respect and standing proud to be Americans again. We need to remember

    Reply
  41. Bobby - September 11, 2020 2:56 pm

    On behalf of all of my FBI personnel who were involved in the 9/11 investigations, thank you for this touching column that puts faces on some of the victims. Sadly, there were thousands more who had their lives so cruelly cut short just like these few you identified. 🇺🇸😪

    Reply
  42. Katie G - September 11, 2020 2:59 pm

    Well done, Sean.

    Reply
  43. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - September 11, 2020 3:08 pm

    For those of us old enough to remember that day, the heroes of Flight 93, as well as the heroic first responders in New York and Washington D.C, will always be in our hearts.

    Reply
  44. bill strawn - September 11, 2020 3:12 pm

    You win. I cried again Thank you.

    Reply
  45. Diane - September 11, 2020 3:13 pm

    Again, Sean you are so soulful. Thank you for your beautiful poignant words about those brave Americans we lost that day. You brought it all home again, made me cry and gave me a lump in my throat that is still there. Such a wasteful loss. Bless you!

    Reply
  46. Ella Herlihy - September 11, 2020 3:14 pm

    this is the best I have read in 19 years. thanks for keeping each of those people real – because they are.

    Reply
  47. Jim Usery - September 11, 2020 3:15 pm

    I have been reading your daily blog messages for months and have to say, this is the best one that I have read to date. You have a gift and thank you so much for sharing with all of us. I regularly forward your stuff to at least three people and sometimes more. YOU ARE THE MAN!!!!

    Reply
  48. Paul Alge Moore - September 11, 2020 3:18 pm

    Real hero’s They don’t always wear uniforms. We are The Home of the Brave. Thanks Sean

    Reply
  49. Rebecca Fagan - September 11, 2020 3:59 pm

    Absolutely beautifully written. Epic.

    Reply
  50. Phoebe Brown - September 11, 2020 4:00 pm

    Your talent is a gift from God. You are serving Him well.

    Reply
  51. Robert Brown - September 11, 2020 4:06 pm

    Thank you for humanizing this for me. I read you on email and Facebook all the time, but this one was your best! Now give us some funny ones!

    Reply
  52. Christopher Spencer - September 11, 2020 4:07 pm

    This was the first book about Flight 93, published in 2002. See date on right.
    https://www.google.com/books/edition/Among_the_Heroes/IT1FfRDRlngC?hl=en&gbpv=1&printsec=frontcover

    Within this great book I came across this prayer and have since used it many times to honor our fallen. In 2005 I had over 100 copies of it printed and laminated and left one in front of each panel of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
    I highly recommend this book.
    Chris

    “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep” is a poem attributed to be written in 1932 by Mary Elizabeth Frye. Although the origin of the poem was disputed until later in her life, Mary Frye’s authorship was purportedly confirmed in 1998 after research by Abigail Van Buren, a newspaper columnist.[1]

    Do not stand at my grave and weep
    I am not there. I do not sleep

    I am a thousand winds that blow.
    I am the diamond glints on snow.

    I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
    I am the gentle autumn rain.

    When you awaken in the morning’s hush
    I am the swift uplifting rush

    Of quiet birds in circled flight.
    I am the soft stars that shine at night.

    Do not stand at my grave and cry;
    I am not there. I did not die.

    Reply
  53. Cindy - September 11, 2020 4:29 pm

    Wow! What a touching tribute. Thank you’

    Reply
  54. jstephenw - September 11, 2020 4:51 pm

    Damn Sean. May be one of your best ever pieces. Thank you. I’m not crying, just bad allergies. Hey to Jamie. God bless you.

    Reply
  55. jstephenw - September 11, 2020 4:54 pm

    Oh, By the way. Please never say again “I’m not a writer.” You prove that to be untrue everyday, but especially with this piece.

    Reply
  56. Marcia Lynn MacLean - September 11, 2020 4:59 pm

    I did not know a lot of these details. Knowing what Todd Beamer said in that call to Lisa is powerful to me. As soon as I read the last word of your writing I immediately thought “thank you”. Thank you for using your talents each day to cause me to see things in a new, often positive way. And thank you to all the heroes out there, past and present.

    Reply
  57. Linda Moon - September 11, 2020 4:59 pm

    I’m almost at a loss of words. Only two are present: “Ordinary Heroes”, because I see these kinds of people so often. Just a few more words, too: Thank you, Sean, for the reminder of 41 people who were just ordinary passengers on Flight 93 who became heroes.

    Reply
  58. Marge - September 11, 2020 5:00 pm

    My tears are coming in bucketfuls. Your devotion and understanding to mankind – all of us – is simply stellar! As our world today seems to be tumbling down around us, may these words, read and remembered today, bring us together. We are united by the country we live in. We had better remember that simple fact and stop with the vitriolic hatred covering our map and begin to live our lives together at long last. It’s time the foolishness in Washington,D.C. and the killing and riots that follow across our great land STOP. Thank you, as always, Sean.

    Reply
  59. Judy Cobern - September 11, 2020 5:43 pm

    Thank you Sean …. I’ll Never Forget… Really sad, but it seem that Many have forgotten

    Reply
  60. AlaRedClayGirl - September 11, 2020 6:13 pm

    This was so beautiful! Let us never forget what happened that day. The United States is not a perfect country (none are), but it is the absolute BEST country in the world!

    Reply
  61. LInda Everett - September 11, 2020 6:27 pm

    Hero’s all. “Let’s Roll” Flight 93, World Trade Center, Brave police officers, firemen, paramedics, who went up into the inferno to help those who were praying for their families. We will never forget you! God Bless the USA!

    Reply
  62. Pat - September 11, 2020 6:51 pm

    Thank you! A beautiful tribute.

    Reply
  63. Sandi. - September 11, 2020 7:00 pm

    I cried on 9-11-01 when the news broke, and cried again while reading this tribute to the brave souls on United Flight 93, as well as the other passengers and crew members on those other fateful flights that day. The terrorists involved were all crazy murderers, but the innocent victims were all heroes.

    Reply
  64. Larry Wall - September 11, 2020 7:33 pm

    Sean, I have been reading your daily and special pieces for almost five years. I have been uplifted by nearly every one of them, in one way or the other. Sometimes it is the laughter, sometimes it is the honest humanity of good-hearted people, or the stories of love that have lasted decades, or sometimes merely months, unfortunately due to tragedy.
    Every piece that you have given us has been worthy of the space and time they have taken. But this piece is a masterwork, worthy of literary award at the national level. I can not find the true words I search for. So I will just say to you, as I would also say to those of Flight 93, ‘Well Done!’.

    Reply
  65. Patricia Schwindt - September 11, 2020 8:06 pm

    Heartbreaking and beautiful. God rest those 41 souls in Light Perpetual and let their families be comforted by their heroism. But send those three wretched scums to their reward in the depths of Hell for eternity.

    Reply
  66. Susan Kennedy - September 11, 2020 8:34 pm

    Beautiful Sean. Thank you. Let’s roll…

    Reply
  67. Nela Loflin - September 11, 2020 9:40 pm

    Thank you, Sean!

    Reply
  68. Carolyn Nicholson - September 11, 2020 9:58 pm

    Thanks for that beautiful story of our heroes. May we never forget.

    Reply
  69. Barbara Barnes - September 11, 2020 10:03 pm

    Thank you for this tribute to these American heroes of 9-11.

    Reply
  70. jasmelliot1 - September 11, 2020 10:40 pm

    A wonderful article and a fitting tribute

    Reply
  71. MAM - September 11, 2020 11:00 pm

    Well done, Sean! I agree that this is an award-winning message, but most of your messages are. You bring us smiles, tears (lots today) and just well written stories that strike the heart! Thank you for appreciating the “ordinary heroes,” who did extraordinary work that day. They saved many lives, and knew the risk of what they were doing. Thank you, Sean!

    Reply
  72. Janice - September 11, 2020 11:05 pm

    Truly one of your best Sean 🙏❤️🇺🇸

    Reply
  73. Ann - September 11, 2020 11:18 pm

    Such a beautiful tribute to these heroes…😢🇺🇸❤️

    Reply
  74. Phyllis Liguori - September 12, 2020 12:13 am

    Sean, this was very moving, but I have to say that I prefer to believe that 37 are in the house of the Lord and the other 4 in hell.

    Reply
  75. Rita - September 12, 2020 12:23 am

    thank you

    Reply
  76. Susie Murphy - September 12, 2020 12:32 am

    My chest hurts. There are tears in my eyes. I still can’t read the bought I bought about Todd. It has sat on my shelf for 18 years.

    Reply
  77. Patrick Williams - September 12, 2020 3:10 am

    The Co-Pilot, Leroy Homer, was a college classmate of mine. His foundation continues to inspire and support youth preparing for an aviation career. A humble, down to earth man that always wore a smile. Godspeed Leroy.

    Reply
  78. Christina - September 12, 2020 4:58 am

    Peace that surpasses understanding!

    Reply
  79. Sandra Bölzle - September 12, 2020 5:44 am

    Such a moving tribute to some brave folks who chose to make a difference. Thank you for reminding us again of these brave folks and for writing so poignantly!

    Reply
  80. Peggy Thompson - September 12, 2020 12:56 pm

    Wow, tearful right there watching this …thank you beautiful tribute. Such a sad day but yes they are all
    with our Lord Jesus Christ in heaven…the evil men who hijacked this plane are not! Thank You!

    Reply
  81. Helen - September 12, 2020 1:44 pm

    ❤️🙏🏻

    Reply
  82. Gods grace was on that aircraft - September 12, 2020 5:34 pm

    Gods grace was on that plane

    Reply
  83. William R. Nation Jr. - September 12, 2020 10:42 pm

    Awesome!!!

    Reply
  84. Robert M Brenner - September 13, 2020 5:27 pm

    You just made a 73 year old man cry. An absolutely touching tribute…Thanks Sean 🙏

    Reply
  85. Tammy S. - September 14, 2020 12:05 am

    Thank you, Sean. A beautifully written piece about brave men & women who were hero’s, I’m pretty sure, long before this day in our country’s history. It’s just now, the whole world knows. I still pray for the families who knew it first. I will never forget!!
    ❤️🇺🇸

    Reply
  86. K.D. Kempf Jones - September 15, 2020 6:22 pm

    Sean and Jamie, THANK YOU for sharing this with all of us. Please keep on!!

    Reply
  87. Guy Reynolds - September 16, 2020 5:02 pm

    I’ve read this 3 times now. I get choked up every time. Thank you!

    Reply
  88. Peggy - September 22, 2020 6:40 pm

    This memorial is so well done and reverent, isn’t it? Very emotional.

    Reply

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