The cockpit voice recorder of Flight 93, recovered from the wreckage.
Flight 93 Tape Is Played at Terror Trial
Transcript of the tape is available at the bottom of this page
Timeline of the transcript and the plane's flight is also at the bottom of this page
The New York Times, April 12, 2006
By David Stout
ALEXANDRIA, Va., April 12--Sounds of panic, chaos and violence filled a courtroom today as the last minutes of United Airlines Flight 93 were relived through the jetliner's cockpit voice recorder.
"Ladies and gentlemen: here the captain," a heavily accented voice begins over a constant crackle. "Please sit down, keep remaining seating. We have a bomb on board, so sit."
The 31-minute recording follows the route of the doomed plane from its hijacking over Ohio to the hills of southwestern Pennsylvania, where it crashed on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, after passengers made a heroic but futile attempt to retake it.
The recording, played before a rapt federal court jury that will decide whether the terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui should be put to death or spend the rest of his days in prison, offered a partial but still harrowing picture of what went on between 9:31 a.m. and a few minutes past 10, when it went down near Shanksville, Pa.
"No more! No more!" someone says in the background. "No, no, no, no..."
In some instances, it is hard to tell if a speaker is American or Arab, man or woman. In some cases, the hijackers' words in Arabic are accompanied by printed English translations.
But despite the confusion, and despite what is already known about the fate of Flight 93 from the dozens of calls from people on board to relatives and friends, the recording heard today reawakened the pain of a September morning.
"In the name of Allah, the most merciful, the most compassionate," a hijacker says early on.
"No, no, no, no..." someone says moments later.
"Go ahead, lie down. Lie down. Down, down, down."
"No more," someone says seconds later. "Please, please, please, " someone says. "Please, please, don't hurt me."
"I don't want to die," says one person, apparently a woman.
"No, no. Down, down, down, down, down, down," another voice says.
"No, no, please."
Moments later, about six minutes after the plane was seized, a hijacker says in Arabic, "Everything is fine. I finished."
"Yes," someone replies in Arabic.
While it may never be certain what that exchange hinted, a chilling possibility was offered on Tuesday, when information was offered about the nearly 40 telephone calls that Flight 93 passengers attempted during the ordeal. Not all calls went through. One that did was from Marion Britton, a passenger, to a friend. Ms. Britton told her the plane had been hijacked.
"Don't worry," the friend consoled. "They'll probably take you to another country."
"Two passengers have had their throats cut," Ms. Britton replied.
Near the end of the recording, as the plane is pitching up and down wildly and descending fast, there are sounds of the attempted takeover by rebellious passengers. "They want to get in here," a hijacker says in Arabic. "Hold, hold from the inside. Hold from the inside. Hold."
A minute or so later, a hijacker says in Arabic, "When they all come, we finish it off."
"In the cockpit," a passenger says. "If we don't, we'll die."
As some of the passengers are trying to break into the cockpit, the chant "Allah is the greatest!" is uttered nine times in Arabic. Moments later, the jet crashed, with such force that there was little left but ashes.
The long-awaited playing of the cockpit recorder, which has never been heard in public before, came as the prosecution neared the end of its case. On Thursday, the jury and Federal District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema are to begin hearing the defense's case as Mr. Moussaoui's lawyers try to portray him as a pathetic, unstable figure who should spend the rest of his life in prison rather than be put to death.
Mr. Moussaoui, 37, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks. Prosecutors are trying to show that, even though he was in jail by that day, he deserves to be put to death because he concealed his knowledge about Al Qaeda's plans.
Defense lawyers hope to show that Mr. Moussaoui was a terrorist hanger-on whose mental instability makes him deserving of life in prison, not execution. Judge Brinkema must pronounce whatever punishment the jurors decide upon.
On tape, passengers heard trying to retake cockpit
9/11 jury relives final minutes of hijacked United Flight 93
ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- Sounds of a 9/11 hijacking and a heroic struggle to retake the jetliner filled a courtroom Wednesday as jurors relived the final minutes of United Airlines Flight 93 through its cockpit voice recorder.
Prosecutors seeking the execution of admitted al Qaeda terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui played the tape for the first time in public, closing their case with high drama.
The 31-minute tape is punctuated by the voices of people saying they didn't want to die, cries of "No, no, no!" and "Oh, God!" and hijackers barking commands and praising Allah.
Moussaoui, a 37-year-old French citizen, is the only person tried in this country for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that claimed nearly 3,000 lives.
Every seat in the courtroom was taken as the static-filled recording was played.
The tape also was broadcast to 9/11 families at federal courthouses in six cities, including Newark, New Jersey, where Flight 93 originated with 33 passengers, seven crew members and four hijackers on board. It was bound for San Francisco.
The government's presentation included real-time graphics showing the plane's altitude, air speed and flight path. The information was retrieved from the flight recorder, also recovered from the Pennsylvania crash site.
The voices on Flight 93's cockpit recording, the only one recovered intact from the four planes hijacked on September 11, speak in English and Arabic.
The tape begins at 9:32 a.m., four minutes after the terrorists took control of the plane.
"Ladies and gentlemen: here the captain," says Ziad Samir Jarrah, the Lebanese hijacker the FBI has identified as the pilot. "Please sit down, keep remaining seating. We have a bomb on board. So sit."
Pressing the wrong button, he transmits his announcement to air-traffic controllers in Cleveland, Ohio.
"Is that United 93 calling?" a controller asks. There is no response.
At 9:34, the sounds of hijackers assaulting someone, possibly the pilot or co-pilot can be heard.
"Please, please, don't hurt me," a man says.
"Down, no more," a hijacker replies.
"Oh, God," says the man.
'I don't want to die'
The hijackers are heard shouting "sit down" many times.
At 9:35, a woman prosecutors identified as a flight attendant begs for her life.
"I don't want to die," she pleads.
"No, no, down, down," a hijacker responds.
"I don't want to die. I don't want to die," she repeats.
Loud female cries then are heard on the tape.
"Everything is fine. I finished," a hijacker says in Arabic.
Moussaoui sat serenely in court as the tape was played. He has testified that he "rejoiced" when, acting as his own lawyer in 2002, he first heard the recording.
At 9:39 Jarrah made a U-turn, reversing his course to head east toward Washington. He again made an announcement that was heard only by the air traffic controllers.
"Here's the captain: I would like to tell you all to remain seated. We have a bomb aboard, and we are going back to the airport, and we have our demands. So please remain quiet," he says.
"That's 93 calling?" a controller asks. Again, there is no reply.
Transponder turned off
One minute later, Jarrah or another hijacker in the cockpit, Saeed al-Ghamdi, a Saudi, switched off the transponder that enabled air traffic controllers to track the plane.
"This green knob?" one of the hijackers asks the other in Arabic. "Yes, that's the one."
At 9:48 Jarrah sets his course. The plane is flying level at 17,000 feet.
Herded to the back of the plane, at least eight passengers and two flight attendants make phone calls that provide detailed information about the attack, New Jersey state trooper Ray Guidetti told the jurors on Tuesday.
Passengers calling from the plane are informed by people on the ground about the synchronized suicide hijacking attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Flight 93's passengers and crew decide to storm the cockpit.
One of the more storied calls came from passenger Todd Beamer, of New Jersey, who had a long conversation with a GTE Airphone operator, Lisa Jefferson. The call was not taped.
"Are you ready?" a fellow passenger asked Beamer toward the end of the call. "Let's roll," Beamer replied, according to Jefferson's previous account.
Run on cockpit
The passengers' counterattack on the cockpit began at 9:57 a.m., the recording revealed.
"Is there something?" a hijacker asks in Arabic. "A fight?"
"Yeah," another replies.
Hijackers grab an axe in the cockpit to wedge the door shut.
Jarrah makes a hard turn to the left, banking the plane. For the next minute, he rapidly pitches the plane from side to side, left to right, over and over again.
"Oh, Allah. Oh, Allah. Oh the most gracious," an Arabic voice inside the cockpit says.
Outside the cockpit, voices are heard saying, "In the cockpit. In the cockpit."
A hijacker says in Arabic, "They want to get in here. Hold, hold from the inside. Hold from the inside. Hold."
At 9:59 Jarrah points the plane's nose down, then jerks it back up. There are sounds of shouting and breaking glass.
"Is that it? Shall we finish it off?" a hijacker asks in Arabic.
"No. Not yet. When they all come, we finish it off," another hijacker responds in Arabic.
The passengers then make another run for the cockpit.
"In the cockpit! If we don't, we'll die," a male passenger says.
Seconds later, another passenger yells, "Roll it," a possible reference to a drink cart passengers might have used to ram the cockpit door.
"Cut off the oxygen," one of the hijackers says in Arabic, repeating the order three times.
Jarrah resumes pitching the plane from side to side.
Inside the cockpit the hijackers decide to crash the plane. "Pull it down. Pull it down," an Arabic voice says. The jetliner heads downward and rolls.
"Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest!" one of the hijackers shouts over and over again.
The tape ends at 10:03 as the plane nose-dives at an estimated 580 mph into a reclaimed coal field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, about 80 miles from Pittsburgh.
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema decided last week to permit the government to play the tape for the jury. But she allowed only a written transcript to be released.
After the tape was played, Florida policeman Lorne Lyles testified that his wife, CeeCee, a 33-year-old flight attendant, called from the plane.
She told him, "Babe, I need for you to listen to me. My plane's been hijacked," he testified. "She said she hoped to see my smiling face again. I could hear the panic in her voice."
Flight 93 Recording Played at Moussaoui Trial
By Timothy Dwyer, Jerry Markon and William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
The jury in the death penalty trial of Zacarias Moussaoui today heard the gruesome sounds of Sept.11 hijackers assaulting the crew of United Airlines Flight 93, followed by a life-or-death revolt by passengers as they attacked the cockpit and tried to wrest control of the plane.
Today's court session marked the first time that the 32-minute recording from the plane's cockpit voice recorder has been played in public. It captured the sounds of the struggle in the minutes before the plane crashed in a field in western Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001, foiling the hijackers' apparent plan to fly it to Washington and crash it into the U.S. Capitol.
The recording indicates that passengers got up to or through the cockpit door twice, but that the hijackers managed to repel the attack the first time. Amid sounds of struggle as the plane was descending rapidly, a passenger can be heard shouting, "Turn it up!" Apparently intent on crashing the aircraft rather than let passengers take it over, one of the hijackers shouted in Arabic, "Down, down! Pull it down! Pull it down!"
Shortly after 10 a.m., the plane banked to the right, went upside down and crashed, according to instrument readings displayed for the jury as the voice recording was played.
Jurors and family members of Sept. 11 victims sat transfixed by the presentation in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. Moussaoui appeared bored, evidently not paying much attention to the recording or the visual presentation.
Prosecutors subsequently wrapped up their case for Moussaoui's execution.
Late in yesterday's court session, the prosecution played an air traffic control tape of the moment when hijackers took over the cockpit. A voice, apparently that of the pilot, can be heard exclaiming, "Mayday!" and then, "Get out of here!"
The cockpit recording was played for the jury today as a large screen showed the plane's path and instrument readings of its speed, altitude and heading.
At the start of the hijacking, an attacker believed by investigators to be Ziad Jarrah, the team's Lebanese pilot, announced: "Ladies and gentlemen. Here the captain. Please sit down keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb on board. So, sit." By then it was nearly 9:32 a.m., four minutes after investigators say the four hijackers started their attack.
But the noise of the struggle could still be heard, including shouts from attackers and crew members and gruesome thwacking sounds, possibly from the crew being struck or stabbed.
"No more! No more!" a voice said. "No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no." According to an investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks, a woman believed to be a flight attendant was seized and taken into the cockpit, where she was killed or otherwise silenced.
As the assault continued, the person pleaded, "No more. Please, please, please. . . . Don't hurt me. No more, no more."
One of the hijackers shouted in English, "Down, down, down! Sit down! Shut up!"
Then later, a man's voice said, "I don't want to die. I don't want to die. I don't want to die."
In Arabic, a hijacker said, "That's it. Go back." And another replied, "Everything is fine. I finished."
At that point, it was 9:37 a.m., and the plane, which took off from Newark bound for San Francisco, started banking left and turning around over the Ohio border on its way back east -- toward Washington.
Less than two minutes later, the hijacker believed to be Jarrah announced in English, "Here's the captain. I would like to tell you all to remain seated. We have a bomb aboard, and we are going back to the airport, and we have our demands. So, please remain quiet."
But Jarrah apparently pressed the wrong button and was actually talking to air traffic control, rather than the passengers. There ensued a conversation in Arabic as the hijackers tried to figure out to activate the public address system. At one point, one of them said, "Bring the pilot back."
The plane began to descend steadily, and the voice recorder continued to pick up the sounds of someone apparently being struck or stabbed, along with groaning, from the cockpit.
The passenger revolt apparently started around 9:57 a.m. One of the hijackers said in Arabic, "A fight?" And the answer came, "Yeah."
A minute later, the plane started banking wildly to the left and right, as the hijacker pilot apparently tried to throw the rebelling passengers off balance. Sounds of struggle then were heard in or just outside the cockpit.
"They want to get in there," a hijacker said in Arabic. "Hold, hold from the inside."
As the struggle continued, one of the hijackers asked, "Shall we finish it off?" Another replied, "No, not yet. When they all come, we finish it off."
"I'm injured," someone said in English. Then, seconds later: "In the cockpit. If we don't, we'll die." A person, apparently one of the passengers, said, "Roll it!"
Just after 10 a.m., a hijacker shouted in Arabic, "Allah is greatest!" Then, "Is that it? I mean, shall we put it down?" The reply came, "Yes, put it in it, and pull it down."
Sounds of the final struggle in the cockpit ensued, with passengers and hijackers shouting as they fought for control of the plane.
"Cut off the oxygen!" a hijacker yelled in Arabic repeatedly before what sounded like a last desperate tussle over the controls.
Following the presentation, the government put more relatives of Sept. 11 victims on the stand, then rested its case.
The defense is scheduled to begin presenting its case tomorrow, arguing that jurors should sentence Moussaoui to life in prison without parole, rather than execution. The case could go to the jury by late next week.
In the first phase of the sentencing hearing, jurors concluded that Moussaoui was eligible for the death penalty after he testified that he had planned to hijack a fifth airplane on Sept. 11 and fly it into the White House.
Jurors have heard from more than 35 Sept. 11 witnesses, most of them family members who lost loved ones in the attacks. The first witnesses testified about the impact of the World Trade Center attack on victims and their families. Then, yesterday, the focus shifted to the Pentagon, and prosecutors showed the jury some of the most grisly evidence so far, including photos of badly burned bodies. Defense lawyers had objected to the presentation, but U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema allowed it.
According to a commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks, four hijackers boarded Flight 93, which was piloted by Captain Jason Dahl and First Officer Leroy Homer. There were also five flight attendants and 33 other passengers on board. The hijackers all sat in the first class section, evidently so they could be close to the cockpit.
The first 46 minutes of the cross-country flight "proceeded routinely," the Sept. 11 commission reported. Then, 35,000 feet over eastern Ohio, the hijackers began their assault.
The Sept. 11 commission reported that at least 10 passengers and two crew members made calls to people on the ground, conveying word that their plane had been hijacked and receiving information that other hijacked airliners had already struck the World Trade Center in New York.
The callers reported that the hijackers were wearing red bandanas and had forced passengers to the back of the airplane, a Boeing 757. They also said that a passenger had been stabbed and that two people -- possibly the captain and first officer -- were lying on the floor of the cabin, injured or dead, the commission said in its report. "One caller reported that a flight attendant had been killed," it said.
As they prepared to assault the hijackers, several passengers terminated phone calls with loved ones or others on the ground. One passenger, Todd Beamer, a 32-year-old account manager from New Jersey, reportedly said at the end of a conversation with a GTE Airfone operator, "Are you guys ready? Let's roll!" The phrase came to symbolize the resistance that apparently prevented a far deadlier and more devastating attack on the Capitol.
Shortly before resting their case, prosecutors today played a voice mail message that one of the flight attendants, CeeCee Lyles, 33, left for her husband, Lorne Lyles, a police officer in Fort Myers, Fla.
"Tell my children I love them," she said after informing him of the hijacking and indicating she was aware of the World Trade Center attack. "I hope to be able to see your face again, baby. I love you. Bye." Then just before hanging up, she began to cry.
Final Struggles on 9/11 Plane Fill Courtroom
The New York Times, April 13, 2006
By Neil A. Lewis
ALEXANDRIA, Va., April 12 The recorded sounds of struggle and panic on United Airlines Flight 93 filled a federal courtroom here today as jurors in the sentencing trial of Zacarias Moussaoui listened raptly to the Sept. 11 hijackers seizing control of the cockpit and passengers trying to retake control, believing it was their only chance to avoid death.
Long silences in the 31-minute recording were punctuated by the cries of the hijackers at the controls, the passengers who were trying desperately to break down the cockpit door and the crashing of objects around the cabin.
There are also the sounds of what may have been the killing of a flight attendant as the hijackers took control: a woman in the cockpit moaning, "Please, please, don't hurt me." Her voice soon appears again for the last time as she is heard to say, "I don't want to die, I don't want to die" followed by one of the hijackers saying in Arabic: "Everything is fine. I finished."
The recording ends with a three-minute crescendo of noise as a passenger apparently just outside the door shouts: "In the cockpit! If we don't, we'll die!"
On the other side of the door, two hijackers are heard deliberating before deciding to end the flight to avoid being overcome.
"Is that it? I mean, shall we pull it down?" one asks in Arabic and the reply is, "Yes, put it in it and pull it down." They then both scream repeatedly "Allah is the greatest" in Arabic as the planes goes down at 10:03 a.m. into a field in Shanksville, Pa., at more than 500 miles an hour. Aboard were 33 passengers, 5 flight attendants, 2 pilots and the 4 hijackers.
It was the first time the recording, made by cockpit instruments and recovered from the wreckage, had been played in public. And it may be the last, under the trial judge's order allowing it to be heard by jurors deciding whether to order that Mr. Moussaoui be put to death.
Mr. Moussaoui, who was in jail in Minnesota at the time of the attacks, smiled broadly at times during the playing of the recording, once when a hijacker in the cockpit said in Arabic: "In the name of Allah. I bear witness that there is no other God but Allah." Mr. Moussaoui has mostly evinced an air of indifference during the trial. A 37-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan heritage, he is the only person to stand trial in the United States in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks. The jury has already unanimously ruled that he is eligible for the death penalty, finding him responsible for at least some of the deaths that day because he had lied to interrogators at the time of his arrest about his knowledge of plans by Al Qaeda to fly planes into buildings.
Judge Leonie M. Brinkema ruled that the digital recording should not be publicly released, saying that otherwise it would be broadcast repeatedly, something family members of those killed have objected to. Judge Brinkema allowed the release of a nine-page transcript, the first complete account of the recording's contents.
The recording has been heard by some family members as well as by the national commission that issued a report on the attacks and concluded that the hijackers had intended to crash the plane into the Capitol or the White House but were "defeated by the alerted, unarmed passengers of United 93."
Although the general story of Flight 93 based on such official investigations has been known for some time, listening to the audio seemed nonetheless a harrowing experience for the jurors. In this second phase of their sentencing deliberations, they are supposed to weigh the heinousness of the crime against any mitigating factors and then decide whether Mr. Moussaoui should be executed or spend the remainder of his life in prison.
After the recording, the prosecution presented two final witnesses before resting its case. One was Lorne Lyles, the husband of CeeCee Lyles, a flight attendant on Flight 93. Mr. Lyles testified about their last conversation, in which she used an airphone to proclaim her love and ask him to look after their children.
The court-appointed defense lawyers, with whom Mr. Moussaoui does not speak, are supposed to begin their effort to save him on Thursday. They are expected to offer two principal arguments: that although he was a Qaeda member, even the leaders of the organization regarded him as unreliable and had not planned on using him as part of the Sept. 11 plot; and that he has exaggerated his role in a bid for martyrdom.
Mr. Moussaoui is expected to take the stand again as he did in the first phase, in which he seemed eager to bolster the prosecution's case.
As the jurors heard the audio, they could watch on television monitors a synchronized depiction on a map that showed the location of the plane at every moment, its air speed, altitude and attitude. The jurors could see on that video how the hijacker pilot, Ziad Jarrah, tried to foil the counterattack by suddenly rolling the airplane sharply, apparently to throw the passengers off balance.
The release of the transcript comes as Universal Studios is about to release a film about the event called "United 93," the trailer of which some moviegoers found too disturbing. The transcript may provide another template against which to measure the film's accuracy.
The recording shows that Mr. Jarrah tried to calm the passengers by pretending he was conducting a more customary hijacking in which the plane would land somewhere.
"Here's the captain," he says at 9:39:11. "I would like to tell you all to remain seated. We have a bomb aboard, and we are going back to the airport, and we have our demands. So, please remain quiet."
But passengers learned from several cellphone conversations that other planes had already crashed into the World Trade Center. It is on one of those conversations that Todd Beamer, who tells a telephone operator of the plans to overpower the hijackers, is overheard saying to fellow passengers, "Let's roll."
In addition, violence in the cabin had told the passengers that something was different than an ordinary hijacking. In evidence presented Tuesday, jurors heard the phone call of Marion Britton, a passenger, to a friend on the ground. "Don't worry," the friend consoled. "They'll probably take you to another country."
Ms. Britton replied, "Two passengers have had their throats cut."
Jury Hears Cockpit Recording of Doomed Flight 93
By Richard A. Serrano
The Los Angeles Times
April 12, 2006
ALEXANDRIA, Va. The government completed its case against Zacarias Moussaoui today with its single most chilling piece of evidence the cockpit voice recording from Flight 93 as terrorists overwhelmed the pilots, slashed their throats and praised Allah before crashing the jet far short of their target in the nation's capital.
The recording, 32 minutes of terror, begins with the terrorists forcing the two pilots at knifepoint to give up the cockpit. Dragged outside the cockpit onto the flight deck, the pilots can be heard begging for their lives. "I don't want to die!" one shouts.
When the pilots are dead or dying, one of the hijackers proclaims, "Everything is fine. I finished."
With the flight controls now in the hands of terrorist Ziad Jarrah, he says in broken English that the 38 passengers and flight attendants must remain calm.
"We have a bomb aboard," he warns them. "...And we have our demands."
For the next 20 minutes the plane, originally headed west to San Francisco, turns back east and begins a sharp trajectory toward Washington. According to Al Qaeda leaders, it was meant for the U.S. Capitol building.
But as a small group of passengers slowly rises up against the hijackers, the terrorists violently rock the plane back and forth, hoping to knock them off balance as they try to rush the cockpit. They consider cutting off the oxygen in the cabin, anything to stop them.
Then, three minutes after 10 in the morning on Sept. 11, 2001, passengers seem to break through the cockpit door, fighting with the hijackers in a futile effort to take back the throttle. "Go! Go!" they encourage one another. "Move! Move!"
But now the terrorists flip the plane upside down. They spin it downward. In its final plunge, a haunting epithet from the hijackers, shouted over and over: "Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest!"
United Airlines Flight 93 had taken off about 80 minutes earlier from Newark, N.J. On board were the two pilots, 33 passengers and five flight attendants. Sitting among them were Jarrah and three "muscle" hijackers.
By the time they breached the cockpit, two other hijacked planes had slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York. In Washington, the Pentagon was about to be hit by a third plane.
In seeking the death penalty for Moussaoui, an Al Qaeda-trained operative learning to fly in this country, prosecutors showed the jury photos of the cockpit voice recorder. The red-and-white device was cracked but intact, embedded with much of the rest of the plane debris and human body parts strewn along a line of trees near the strip-mining community of Shanksville, Pa.
On Tuesday, the jury heard recordings of two ground control tapes. There, the pilots were heard screaming "Mayday!" four times, and then telling the terrorists breaking through the cockpit door to "Get out of here! Get out of here!" The cockpit voice recorder picked up from there.
Prosecutors brought to the witness stand James Cash, a National Transportation and Safety Board official, to explain how a small, open microphone sits in an overhead panel above the captain's seat. It is constantly running on a solid state memory loop, he said, recording 30 minutes at a time.
Prosecutors also wanted the jurors to feel they were inside the plane. So they displayed a computer image on television monitors throughout the courtroom. The images included the plane's altitude measurements and a small image of the plane itself, rocking back and forth whenever terrorists jerked on the throttle to keep the passengers at bay.
The entire 32 minutes was played. It picked up where the Mayday tapes left off. It began at 9:31:57 in the morning:
"Ladies and gentlemen," says the first voice, apparently the pilot hijacker Jarrah. "Here the captain, please sit down keep remaining seating. We have a bomb on board. So sit."
He is followed by shouts apparently aimed at the pilots as the three muscle hijackers force them onto the floor of the flight deck just outside the cockpit.
"Don't move. Shut up....Come on, come....Sit, sit, sit down."
In Arabic a muscleman yells: "That's it! That's it! That's it!" and then in English, "Down! Down!"
An air traffic controller interjects from somewhere on the ground, obviously confused over what he is hearing. His alarm is picked up on the cockpit voice recording. "We just, we didn't get it clear," he says. "Is that United 93 calling?"
In Arabic comes this answer: "Jassim....In the name of Allah, the most merciful, the most compassionate."
Now there is more noise from the flight deck. It is all in English, a mixture of musclemen and the two United Airlines pilots.
"No," pleads a pilot. "No, no, no, no."
"Go ahead, lie down. Lie down. Down, down, down."
"Please, please, please...Please, please, don't hurt me....Oh God."
There follow more demands.
"Down, down, down. Sit down. Shut up."
Then a pilot: "I don't want to die." And from the pilot again, or the other pilot: "I don't want to die. I don't want to die."
The pilots are not heard from again. Instead, in Arabic, someone yells, "That's it! Go back! That's it! Everything is fine. I finished."
Many of the passengers and flight attendants, aware now that the plane has been commandeered, start reaching for phones. In calls to emergency numbers and loved ones, they report that it appears that the pilots' throats have been cut, that they are dead or gravely wounded on the floor upfront.
Some say the hijackers are armed with small knives. They say the men are wearing red bandanas. They say one professes to have a bomb strapped around his waist.
The cockpit voice recorder picks up again. It is now 9:39:11.
"Ah," says a man, apparently Jarrah, speaking in English to the passengers. "Here's the captain. I would like to tell you all to remain seated. We have a bomb aboard, and we are going back to the airport, and we have our demands. So, please remain quiet."
Ground control has heard this too. "United 93. I understand you have a bomb on board. Go ahead." Other ground controllers break in, calling from Cleveland.
The terrorists, talking with each other in Arabic, consider bringing a pilot who might still be alive back into the cockpit, to talk to ground control.
It now appears the hijackers, too, are growing confused and frightened. "In the name of Allah!" shouts one. "In the name of Allah. I bear witness that there is no other God, but Allah."
They consider moving all three of the muscle hijackers into the cockpit with Jarrah to keep it secure from the passengers. They debate using an "ax ... so everyone will be scared."
Outside the cockpit door, someone says in Arabic, "Is there something?" "A fight?"
Then, "Let's go guys. Allah is greatest. Allah is greatest. Oh guys. Allah is greatest."
The time is 9:58:41. There are sounds of "ugh," of shoving and fighting.
Terrorists are shouting for the passengers to "stay back." They cry, "Oh Allah! Oh Allah! Oh the most gracious!"
A small band of male passengers is nearing. They shout, "In the cockpit! In the cockpit!"
A hijacker shouts back to Jarrah. "They want to get in there. Hold, hold from the inside. Hold from the inside. Hold."
There is a fight over the cockpit door.
"Hold the door."
The passengers are almost there, the voices louder. "Let's get them!" someone screams.
In the cockpit, Jarrah and another hijacker debate in Arabic whether it is time to ditch the plane.
"Shall we finish it off?
"No. Not yet."
"When they all come, we finish it off."
Now the passengers seem almost upon them. "In the cockpit. If we don't, we'll die."
At 10:00:42, Jarrah begins to roll the plane. Another terrorist tells "Saeed" an apparent reference to hijacker Saeed al-Ghambi to go "up, down. Up, down" in the cockpit.
Perhaps he is helping Jarrah rock the jet. Or Jarrah has risen up to help hold shut the cockpit door, and has left Ghambi alone at the controls.
Four times they shout in Arabic: "Cut off the oxygen!"
The passengers are almost there. "Go! Go! ... Move! Move!"
One hijacker tells another, "Down, down. Pull it down. Pull it down." It appears he means the throttle, to crash the plane.
Another hijacker, perhaps Jarrah trying to get back at the controls, shouts, "Hey! Hey! Give it to me. Give it to me."
Five shouts rise up in Arabic: "Allah is the greatest!"
In English someone cries, "No!"
His cry is drowned by four more shouts, louder now: "Allah is the greatest!" The time is 10:03:09. The tape goes dead.
After the tape was aired, the courtroom fell silent; the jury sat back in their seats. A few more government witnesses testified, and then the prosecution rested its case.
Their last item of evidence was a giant poster board carrying tiny, teardrop-size photos of each of the 2,972 killed that day.
Get: Transcript of the jetliner's cockpit voice recorder (The transcript is in the Adobe pdf format, and it will be downloaded to your computer as: flight93.pdf)
Timeline graphic by The New York Times, 13 April 2006
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© 2006 by Neil Mishalov