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Profile: Paula Pluta

Paula Pluta was a participant or observer in the following events:

Paula Pluta, a resident of Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania, sees Flight 93 crashing behind some trees about 1,500 yards from her home and then calls 9-1-1, becoming the first person to call the emergency services to report the crash. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 9/12/2001; East Bay Times 9/10/2005) Pluta is at her home, watching television, unaware of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon. Everything has been quiet and normal. Suddenly, though, her house starts to vibrate, and things in it start rattling and shaking. She hears a roar coming from the skies above her that gets louder and louder. “I heard this noise like a dive bomber; you know, one of those planes they use in war,” she will later recall. When she looks out the living room window, though, she sees nothing unusual outside. She then goes out onto the front porch. From there, she sees a “silver streak” plummeting toward the ground at an angle of about 45 degrees. “It looked like a silver bullet,” she will describe. (Braun and Zitner 9/12/2001; McMillan 2014, pp. 106; Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial 3/17/2016) Flight 93 crashes into the ground at 10:03 a.m. (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Seelye 9/9/2011; National Park Service 5/2013, pp. 13 pdf file) Pluta is unable to see the impact, since the plane disappears behind a line of trees before hitting the ground, but she feels the ground shaking when the plane crashes. “It hit so hard that it almost took my feet out from underneath me,” she will recall. (Braun and Zitner 9/12/2001; McMillan 2014, pp. 106; Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial 3/17/2016) She also sees a huge fireball about 150 feet up in the air and a plume of smoke coming from behind the trees. (Keller and Yates 9/12/2001; National Park Service 3/2017, pp. 15 pdf file) The explosion damages the outside of her home. Pluta notices that a garage door has buckled and a latched window has been sucked open. She immediately calls 9-1-1 to report the incident. “Oh my God!” she tells the operator. “There was an airplane crash here!” She is the first of about 20 local residents to report the crash of Flight 93 to the authorities. She will promptly head to the site where the crash occurred and be surprised at the lack of wreckage there (see (After 10:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 9/12/2001; McMillan 2014, pp. 106-107; Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial 3/17/2016)

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)


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