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Context of '(Between 9:30-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Cockpit Voice Recording Begins'

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Key events of Flight 93 (times are based on a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette map and otherwise interopolated).Key events of Flight 93 (times are based on a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette map and otherwise interopolated). [Source: Yvonne Vermillion/ MagicGraphix.com] (click image to enlarge)Apparently, the only cockpit voice recording recovered undamaged from any of the 9/11 crashes is from Flight 93. It recorded on a 30-minute reel, which means that the tape is continually overwritten and only the final 30 minutes of any flight is recorded, though in practice sometimes the tape is slightly longer. Flight 93’s recording lasts 31 minutes and begins at this time. [Longman, 2002, pp. 206-207; CNN, 4/19/2002; Hartford Courant, 4/19/2004] According to one account, it begins seconds before the plane is hijacked. [Washington Post, 11/17/2001] However, the version of the tape later played for the victims’ relatives begins “too late to pick up the sounds of the hijackers’ initial takeover.” [MSNBC, 4/18/2002]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Deborah Welsh.
Deborah Welsh. [Source: Family photo]A woman in the cockpit of Flight 93, presumably one of the plane’s flight attendants, is apparently repeatedly given orders and then killed or otherwise silenced by the plane’s hijackers. The cockpit voice recording from Flight 93 will later reveal that, at 9:32 a.m., one of the hijackers in the cockpit starts issuing a series of strange orders. “Don’t move! Shut up! Come on, come! Shut up! Don’t move! Stop!” he says in English. About 15 seconds later, he continues, “Sit, sit, sit down!” At 9:34 a.m., he orders someone—apparently a flight attendant—to lie down. “Down! Go ahead, lie down!” he says and then continues: “Lie down! Down, down, down! Down, down, down!” He then says: “Sit down! Come on, sit down, sit! Sit down! Sit down!”
Flight Attendant Pleads with the Hijackers - About 15 seconds later, a person identified in an FBI transcript of the cockpit voice recording as a “[f]emale native English-speaking person” starts pleading with the hijackers. “Please, please, please, please, please, don’t hurt me,” she says. She then exclaims, “Oh, God!” Investigators will determine that this woman is likely one of the first-class flight attendants, either Deborah Welsh or Wanda Green.
Hijacker Orders the Flight Attendant to Sit Down - At 9:35 a.m., the hijacker will continue issuing orders. Still speaking English, he says: “No more. Down, down, down! No, no, no, no, no, no.” Apparently talking to the flight attendant, he says: “Sit down, sit down, sit down! Down! Sit down! Sit down! You know, sit down!” The flight attendant asks, “Are you talking to me?” but receives no answer. She then continues pleading with the hijackers, saying: “I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die.… No, no, please.”
Flight Attendant Struggles and Is Apparently Killed - At 9:36 a.m., the flight attendant apparently struggles with the hijackers for about 30 seconds. The FBI transcript of the cockpit voice recording will describe the “sound of a female crying and a struggle that lasted for a few seconds,” followed by the “sound of a struggle with a female.” The flight attendant is apparently killed or otherwise silenced at this time. About a minute later, one of the hijackers says in Arabic: “Everything is fine. I finished.” The flight attendant’s voice will never be picked up again by the plane’s cockpit voice recorder. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 12/4/2003; McMillan, 2014, pp. 84-85]

Entity Tags: Deborah Welsh, Wanda Green

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A hijacker in the cockpit of Flight 93 asks another hijacker if they should “let the guys in” and that hijacker then suggests that they “bring the pilot back.” The cockpit voice recording from Flight 93 will later reveal that, speaking in Arabic, one of the hijackers says: “How about we let them in? We let the guys in now.” He then repeats his question, asking, “Should we let the guys in?” He is apparently suggesting that they allow the other hijackers on Flight 93 into the cockpit. The other hijacker in the cockpit replies, “Inform them and tell him to talk to the pilot.” He then says, “Bring the pilot back.” Journalist and author Tom McMillan will comment that this reference to the pilot “underscored the notion that [Ziad Jarrah, the hijacker believed to be at the controls of Flight 93] was overmatched by the Boeing 757” and is also “apparent confirmation that at least one of the United pilots—either Captain [Jason] Dahl or First Officer [LeRoy] Homer—was still alive, and likely in the first-class cabin.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 12/4/2003; McMillan, 2014, pp. 96] However, at around this time, passenger Todd Beamer reports in a call from Flight 93 that the plane’s captain and first officer are lying on the floor of the first-class cabin, and are injured or possibly dead (see 9:45 a.m.-9:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Longman, 2002, pp. 199; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 43] Indeed, McMillan will note that “[n]o one ever was brought to the cockpit to assist with the aircraft’s operation and the hijackers never mentioned ‘the pilot’ again” on the cockpit voice recording. One of the hijackers in the cockpit, still speaking in Arabic, then whispers: “In the name of Allah. In the name of Allah. I bear witness that there is no other God but Allah.” Less than 30 seconds later, at 9:46 a.m., the cockpit voice recorder will pick up the sound of two knocks on the cockpit door followed by the sound of the door opening. A couple of minutes after that, the recorder will pick up the sound of “distinctive knocks” on the cockpit door, again followed by the sound of the door opening. What exactly is happening on these occasions is unknown. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 12/4/2003; McMillan, 2014, pp. 96]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

One of the hijackers in the cockpit asks if anything is going on, apparently meaning outside the cockpit. “Fighting,” the other says. [Longman, 2002, pp. 210] An analysis of the cockpit flight recording suggests that the passenger struggle actually starts in the front of the plane (where Mark Bingham and Tom Burnett are sitting) about a minute before a struggle in the back of the plane (where Todd Beamer is sitting). [Observer, 12/2/2001] Officials later theorize that the Flight 93 passengers reach the cockpit using a food cart as a battering ram and a shield. They claim digital enhancement of the cockpit voice recorder reveals the sound of plates and glassware crashing around 9:57 a.m. [Newsweek, 12/3/2001]

Entity Tags: Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The cockpit voice recording of Flight 93 was recorded on a 30-minute reel, which means that the tape is continually overwritten and only the final 30 minutes of any flight would be recorded. The government later permits relatives to hear this tape. Apparently, the version of the tape played to the family members begins at 9:31 a.m. and runs for 31 minutes, ending one minute before, according to the government, the plane crashes. [Longman, 2002, pp. 206-207; CNN, 4/19/2002] The New York Observer comments, “Some of the relatives are keen to find out why, at the peak of this struggle, the tape suddenly stops recording voices and all that is heard in the last 60 seconds or so is engine noise. Had the tape been tampered with?” [New York Observer, 6/20/2004]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The FBI reveals that it knows what is on the Flight 93 black boxes, but refuses to release the transcript or audio recording. Families of the victims have requested to hear the cockpit voice recording, but the FBI says, “[W]e do not believe that the horror captured on the cockpit voice recording will console them in any way.” [CNN, 12/21/2001] Accuracy in Media immediately submits a Freedom of Information Act request to have the transcript released, but the FBI turns it down because a release “could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings.” The Philadelphia Daily News asks, “What enforcement proceedings?” and suggests the FBI may be covering up a shootdown of the plane. [Philadelphia Daily News, 12/28/2001] The recordings are later played, but only in private to victims’ relatives and the 9/11 Commission.

Entity Tags: 9/11 Commission, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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