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Most passengers from flight 93 used cell phones

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Article Last Updated: 4/12/2006 01:49 AM
Moussaoui jury hears of 9/11 flight's calls

By Richard A. Serrano
Los Angeles Times

Salt Lake Tribune

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - Passengers and flight attendants aboard the hijacked plane that crashed Sept. 11, 2001, in a Pennsylvania field made more than three dozen frantic phone calls depicting chaos and fear aboard United Flight 93 and a realization by many passengers that they were about to die, according to court testimony Tuesday.
Although the phone calls described brave schemes for battling the hijackers - a flight attendant was boiling water to throw on them, another passenger was hoping to fight back with a breakfast knife - the scene suggested a fatalism at odds with the sometimes upbeat story line in books and movies about the heroic effort by a group of passengers to wrest control of the plane from the four terrorists.
The calls also showed that most of the passengers were confused about how many hijackers had commandeered the plane, where they came from or whether their weapons were knives or a bomb, or both.
And their chance at survival seemed all the more futile when they learned through the phone calls that two other planes already had been flown into the World Trade Center in New York, and so they expected that their hijackers ''were going to take this one down as well.''
The calls were summarized by a police officer testifying in the Zacarias Moussaoui sentencing trial. Prosecutors said 37 phone calls were made by 13 passengers and flight attendants, most of them using air phones.
Two of the calls were from cell phones, including one made from one of the plane's rear lavatories to a Pennsylvania county sheriff's office on the ground below. That passenger, Edward Felt, barely was able to report there was a ''hijacking in progress'' when he was suddenly disconnected.
Prosecutors plan to wrap up their case today by playing the cockpit recording tape that was recovered from the strip mining field near Shanksville, Pa., where the plane crashed.
That recording has only been played for relatives of the dead passengers and crew. Its airing for the Moussaoui jury will mark the first time the public will hear how some passengers dealt with the hijackers in the cockpit.
The prosecutors Tuesday played two other tapes from the cockpit that were picked up by ground control. In those tapes, the pilots shouted as hijackers first broke into the cockpit.
''Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!'' a pilot screamed in the first tape.
In the second tape, 30 seconds later, a pilot shouted: ''Mayday! Get out of here! Get out of here!''
At that point the plane, bound from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco, had just crossed over Ohio. But the hijacker pilot, identified as Ziad Jarrah, turned it back and headed east.
The trial has shown that top al-Qaida leaders had planned for that plane to crash into the U.S. Capitol building in Washington. Instead the fight ended in a nosedive down into the Pennsylvania field after passengers tried to overcome the terrorists.
Aboard were two pilots, five flight attendants and 33 passengers. Also along were four hijackers.

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