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Context of '(September 13-27, 2001): ‘Hot Spots’ Found in the Ground at Flight 93 Crash Scene'

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The Flight 93 crash site.The Flight 93 crash site. [Source: Associated Press]Numerous individuals who see the Flight 93 crash site notice a lack of plane wreckage there:
bullet Jon Meyer, a reporter with WJAC-TV, will later describe: “I was able to get right up to the edge of the crater.… All I saw was a crater filled with small, charred plane parts. Nothing that would even tell you that it was the plane.… There were no suitcases, no recognizable plane parts, no body parts. The crater was about 30 to 35 feet deep.” (Newseum et al. 2002, pp. 148)
bullet According to Mark Stahl, who goes to the crash scene: “There’s a crater gouged in the earth, the plane is pretty much disintegrated. There’s nothing left but scorched trees.” (Associated Press 9/11/2001)
bullet Frank Monaco of the Pennsylvania State Police will comment: “If you would go down there, it would look like a trash heap. There’s nothing but tiny pieces of debris. It’s just littered with small pieces.” (Silver et al. 9/12/2001)
bullet Scott Spangler, a photographer with a local newspaper, will recall: “I didn’t think I was in the right place. I was looking for a wing or a tail. There was nothing, just this pit.… I was looking for anything that said tail, wing, plane, metal. There was nothing.” (Newseum et al. 2002, pp. 149)
bullet Paula Pluta, a local resident who headed to the site promptly after the crash occurred, will describe seeing “[j]ust a big crater that looked… like something had gone into it, and it rolled the dirt up around and buried itself.” “I’m looking around for plane wreckage and there’s nothing,” she will recall, adding: “I just stood there in amazement. Where did this thing go?” (McMillan 2014, pp. 107)
bullet Dave Berkebile, another local resident, arrives at the site shortly after Pluta does. However, he cannot see any large airplane parts there. “The biggest chunk of debris he identified,” according to journalist and author Tom McMillan, “was a cooling unit that was maybe eight inches by 12 inches.” (McMillan 2014, pp. 107)
bullet According to Ron Delano, a local who rushes to the scene after hearing about the crash: “If they hadn’t told us a plane had wrecked, you wouldn’t have known. It looked like it hit and disintegrated.” (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 9/12/2001)
bullet Gabrielle DeRose, a news anchor with KDKA-TV, views the crash site from a hill overlooking it. She will comment: “It was very disturbing to think all the remains just disintegrated…. There were no large pieces of airplane, no human remains, no baggage.” (Sylvester and Huffman 2002, pp. 160-161)
bullet Local assistant volunteer fire chief Rick King, who sees the crater at the crash site, will say, “Never in my wildest dreams did I think half the plane was down there.” King sends his men into the woods to search for the plane’s fuselage, but they keep coming back and telling him: “Rick. There’s nothing.” (Longman 2002, pp. 216)
Bob Craig of the FBI’s evidence-gathering team will explain what is supposed to have happened when Flight 93 hit the ground. “Turn the picture of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center on its side, and, for all intents and purposes, the face of the building is the strip mine in Shanksville [where Flight 93 crashed],” he will say. (Longman 2002, pp. 260) When the plane’s two black boxes are later discovered (see September 13-14, 2001), they are reportedly found 15 and 25 feet inside the crater. (Longman 2002, pp. 217; Perl 5/12/2002)

Paper debris found in New Baltimore, six miles from the crash site.Paper debris found in New Baltimore, six miles from the crash site. [Source: Steve Mellon / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette] (click image to enlarge)Despite the apparent lack of plane wreckage and human remains at the Flight 93 crash site (see (After 10:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:45 a.m. September 11, 2001), a large amount of paper debris is found there, mostly intact. Faye Hahn, an EMT who responds to the initial call for help, finds “pieces of mail” everywhere. (McCall 2002, pp. 31-32) Roger Bailey of the Somerset Volunteer Fire Department finds mail “scattered everywhere” around the site. He says, “I guess there were 5,000 pounds of mail on board.” (Kashurba 2002, pp. 38) Some envelopes are burned, but others are undamaged. Flight 93 had reportedly been carrying a cargo of thousands of pounds of US mail. (Longman 2002, pp. 213-214) Whether this is later examined as crime scene evidence is unclear: According to Bailey, over subsequent days, whenever a lot of this mail has been recovered, the post office will be called and a truck will come to take it away. Several of the first responders at the crash site also see an unscorched bible lying open on the ground, about 15 yards from the crash crater. (Kashurba 2002, pp. 43, 110 and 129; Masterson 6/13/2006) Local coroner Wallace Miller will later come across a second bible at the warehouse where the Flight 93 victims’ belongings are kept. (Perl 5/12/2002) Other paper debris rains down on the nearby Indian Lake Marina (see (Before 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to witness Tom Spinelli, this is “mainly mail,” and also includes “bits of in-flight magazine.” (Wallace 9/12/2002) Other paper items will be recovered from the crash site in the following days. These include a fragment of Ziad Jarrah’s passport and a business card linking al-Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui to the 9/11 hijackers. (MacVicar and Faraj 8/1/2002; Jackman 9/25/2002) A flight crew log book and an in-flight manual belonging to Lorraine Bay, a flight attendant on Flight 93, will also be recovered. (National Museum of American History 9/20/2003)

The Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), Germany’s federal anticrime agency, obtains a DNA sample for one of the 9/11 hijackers, alleged Flight 93 pilot Ziad Jarrah, after a search of the home of his girlfriend, Aysel Senguen. After the BKA sends the sample to the FBI, the bureau matches it with the DNA profile of one of four sets of unknown human remains recovered from the site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where Flight 93 crashed. According to an FBI report provided to the 9/11 Commission, presumably sometime between 2003 and 2004, no relatives of the alleged 9/11 hijackers provide the bureau with DNA samples for comparison. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 2003)

At the Flight 93 crash site, an excavator digs through the soil where the plane impacted. (Dangel 9/6/2006) It takes scoops of dirt and dumps them into a high-lift bucket, which takes the dirt to a flagged off area and slowly dumps it there. A couple of FBI men then search through it with their hands. Occasionally, the excavator digs into a “hot spot” in the earth, causing a small fire. The Shanksville Volunteer Fire Department has to be called in to extinguish these fires. (Kashurba 2002, pp. 56 and 128) The cause of the ‘hot spots’ is unknown.


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