Flight 93  page 1

 Main 9/11 links page

Go to Flight 93 page 2:-NORAD & ATC recordings, Flight data recorder readouts before impact, cockpit voice recorder transcript, Autopilot study, Crater size and debris field, Comparison crash scenes, Aircraft parts collection, Hijackers and identification. Go to Flight 93 page 3: More photos.


On this page:-Evidence summary, Phone calls from passengers and crew, Eyewitnesses to Flight 93's final moments, First responders & investigating agencies on the scene, Victim and personal effects identification, Coroner Miller's accounts, Memorial, Flight 93-related journalism and movies


Evidence Summary: 10 Points

1) The four hijackers purchased tickets under their own names and boarded the plane. One was randomly selected for and passed additional security screening. Ziad Jarrah was a licensed pilot and had recent training on professional large jet flight simulators. United flight 93 was scheduled to depart at 8:00 am, but left 42 minutes late due to airport traffic. Aboard were 33 passengers, 7 crew members, and 4 hijackers.

2) Several passengers and crew called from the plane, spoke with loved ones, described the hijackers' attack, and related their plan to try to retake the plane so that it would not be used as a suicide weapon against a populated area. All but two of these calls were made using the plane's seatback Airfones.

3) The cockpit voice recorder recorded the hijackers' attack and apparent murder of the pilots and a flight attendant. Air traffic controllers heard a radio transmission by a man with an Arabic accent, warning of a bomb on board. Passengers reported that one of the hijackers had what appeared to be a bomb strapped to him.

4) After learning about the other attacks, passengers and cabin crew attempted to retake the cockpit but were apparently unable to gain entry. The sound of their attempts was recorded on the CVR. The CVR also recorded the hijackers' decision to end the flight, followed by repeated shouts of "Allahu Akbar!" ("God is greatest.") until the plane crashed. Families of victims heard the CVR recording.

5) Flight 93 was tracked by radar until it went down.

6) Many people in Pennsylvania saw the Boeing 757, traveling at low altitude and high speed, roll to the right and plummet upside-down, nose first, towards the ground. Many people witnessed the subsequent enormous explosion and fireball. Val McClatchey photographed the mushroom cloud.

7) Hundreds of first responders (mostly volunteer firefighters) and crime scene investigators were quickly on the scene. They saw human remains, aircraft wreckage, personal effects, jet fuel, etc.
The cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder were recovered and had usable data, all of which is consistent with the other evidence.

8) The remains of every victim was positively identified. Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller personally collected many remains and made 12 identifications through fingerprints and dental records. Personal effects of most passengers and crew were recovered and returned to their families.

9) Hijacker identification documents and personal effects were recovered, along with the remains of four people identified as the hijackers through the process of elimination.

10) Nearly all of the aircraft was recovered by professional investigators and by civilians. The debris was returned to United Airlines after being examined for evidence of explosives use.


The Phone Calls

GTE Airfone recovered from flight 93 wreckage

Details of 37 phone calls made from flight 93, from the Zacarias Moussaoui trial

Graph below shows flight 93 at about 5,000 feet when the two cell phone calls at 9:58 were made.

Interview with Lisa Jefferson, the phone supervisor who took Todd Beamer's call from United Flight 93.

Operator can't forget haunting cries from Flight 93. (9/10/02)

Dispatcher honored for Flight 93 efforts (John Shaw)

Tom’s Burnett's last calls, as remembered by his wife Deena Note that Deena says she received four calls from Tom, but the chart above indicates only three. It seems likely that Tom would have used an Airfone for the 9:54 call as he did with the others.

Edward Felt's Phone Call

Conspiracists often mention a phone call placed by flight 93 passenger Edward Felt to the Westmoreland County 911 Emergency switchboard, because in one version, Felt is said to have heard an explosion and seen white smoke in the plane. This is commonly used by conspiracists to support their claim that flight 93 was shot down: a claim that is supported by no other evidence. There are numerous sources that say Felt did not mention an explosion or smoke, including Felt's family, who heard the recording of his phone call. The incorrect story apparently originated with Glenn Cramer:
"We got the call about 9:58 this morning from a male passenger stating that he was locked in the bathroom of United Flight 93 traveling from Newark to San Francisco, and they were being hijacked," said Glenn Cramer, a 911 supervisor. "We confirmed that with him several times and we asked him to repeat what he said. He was very distraught. He said he believed the plane was going down. He did hear some sort of an explosion and saw white smoke coming from the plane, but he didn't know where. And then we lost contact with him." Source

"For example, in the days following the crash, the Associated Press interviewed Glen Cramer, a Westmoreland County emergency services supervisor, who told AP and other news agencies that he had read "off a transcript" that minutes before the crash a passenger, David Felt [sic], had called and told the dispatcher that he had he had heard an explosion and that there was white smoke in the pane.

But in a phone interview, Felt's younger brother Gordon, who was played the 911 tape by the FBI when he went to hear the cockpit recordings in a special event for the victims' families, said, "There was no mention of white smoke or an explosion." Also, the dispatcher who took the call, John Shaw, confirmed that Felt had mentioned neither bomb nor white smoke. "It never happened," he stated". Source

“A male passenger, Edward Felt, did call from the bathroom of the plane, but never mentioned an explosion or puff of smoke, said John Shaw, the dispatcher who took the call. “Didn't happen,” he said. Felt's wife, who heard a tape of the call, corroborated Shaw's story.” (Among the Heroes, p. 369) (New York Times, 3/27/02)
The transcript of Ed Felt's call in the 9/11 Commission files (PDF. Thanks Mike W. of 911myths.com.)
John Shaw: received a call from Flight 93


At the JREF forum, WilliamSeger writes,
"Last summer, on a flight from Washington National to Minneapolis (which would have been near the Flight 93 flight path), I checked my cell phone to see if I was getting a signal, and I did have a signal three times out of approximately 10 attempts. The third time, I decided to call my home phone (there was nobody home but it has an answering machine). I didn't want any hassle from the flight attendant, so I just quickly punched the speed dial and held the phone out of sight, then closed it after about a minute. When I got home, I had about 10 seconds of airplane noise on the answering machine." (The plane's altitude was over 30,000 feet, says Seger.)


Some Witnesses to Flight 93's Last Moments

Bob Blair was completing a routine drive to Shade Creek just after 10 a.m. Tuesday, when he saw a huge silver plane fly past him just above the treetops and crash into the woods along Lambertsville Road.

Blair, of Stoystown, a driver with Jim Barron Trucking of Somerset, was traveling in a coal truck along with Doug Miller of Somerset, when they saw the plane spiraling to the ground and then explode on the outskirts of Lambertsville.

“I saw the plane flying upside down overhead and crash into the nearby trees. My buddy, Doug, and I grabbed our fire extinguishers and ran to the scene,” said Blair. Source


"It was low enough, I thought you could probably count the rivets. You could see more of the roof of the plane than you could the belly. It was on its side. There was a great explosion and you could see the flames. It was a massive, massive explosion. Flames and then smoke and then a massive, massive mushroom cloud." Source


Then Peterson said he saw a fireball, heard an explosion and saw a mushroom cloud of smoke rise into the sky.

Peterson rushed to the scene on an all-terrain vehicle and when he arrived he saw bits and pieces of an airliner spread over a large area of an abandoned strip-mine in Stonycreek Township.

"There was a crater in the ground that was really burning," Peterson said. Strewn about were pieces of clothing hanging from trees and parts of the Boeing 757, but nothing bigger than a couple of feet long, he said. Many of the items were burning. Source


The ensuing firestorm lasted five or 10 minutes and reached several hundred yards into the sky, said Joe Wilt, 63, who also lives a quarter-mile from the crash site. "Jetliner Was Diverted Toward Washington Before Crash in Pa." The Washington Post September 12, 2001


"I just watched with my mouth open as this yellow mushroom cloud rose up just like an atomic bomb over the hill where I like to go hunting," said 72- year-old John Walsh

Barefoot and in his bathrobe, he drove up the dirt road to rescue anyone he could find. There would be nothing he could do.

Debris, including photographs and other papers that survived the fireball, was strewn over a wide area. Residents have spent days collecting it. Source


"When the plane hit, it sounded like something just fell on the roof. Everybody sort of panicked," she said. "I went to the window and saw all this smoke coming up and I just pointed and screamed."-Source


Charles Sturtz, 53, who lives just over the hillside from the crash site, said a fireball 200 feet high shot up over the hill. He got to the crash scene even before the firefighters. Source


Tim Lensbouer, 300 yards away: "I heard it for 10 or 15 seconds and it sounded like it was going full bore." [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/12/01]


Rob Kimmel, several miles from the crash site: He sees it fly overhead, banking hard to the right. It is 200 feet or less off the ground as it crests a hill to the southeast. "I saw the top of the plane, not the bottom." [Among the Heroes, by Jere Longman, p. 210-211]


Tom Fritz, about a quarter-mile from the crash site: He hears a sound that "wasn't quite right" and looks up in the sky. "It dropped all of a sudden, like a stone," going "so fast that you couldn't even make out what color it was." [St. Petersburg Times, 9/12/01]


Terry Butler "It dropped out of the clouds." The plane rose slightly, trying to gain altitude, then "it just went flip to the right and then straight down." [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/12/01]

Terry Butler: He sees the plane come out of the clouds, low to the ground. "It was moving like you wouldn't believe. Next thing I knew it makes a heck of a sharp, right-hand turn." It banks to the right and appears to be trying to climb to clear one of the ridges, but it continues to turn to the right and then veers behind a ridge. About a second later it crashes. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/12/01]


Lee Purbaugh, 300 yards away: "There was an incredibly loud rumbling sound and there it was, right there, right above my head – maybe 50 feet up.... I saw it rock from side to side then, suddenly, it dipped and dived, nose first, with a huge explosion, into the ground. I knew immediately that no one could possibly have survived." [Independent, 8/13/02]


Linda Shepley: She hears a loud bang and sees the plane bank to the side. [ABC News, 9/11/01] She sees the plane wobbling right and left, at a low altitude of roughly 2,500 feet, when suddenly the right wing dips straight down, and the plane plunges into the earth. [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/15/01]


Kelly Leverknight in Stony Creek Township of Shanksville: "There was no smoke, it just went straight down. I saw the belly of the plane." It sounds like it is flying low, and it's heading east. [Daily American, 9/12/01, St. Petersburg Times, 9/12/01]


A witness told WTAE-TV's Paul Van Osdol that she saw the plane overhead. It made a high-pitched, screeching sound. The plane then made a sharp, 90-degree downward turn and crashed. Source


Tim Thornsberg, working in a nearby strip mine: "It came in low over the trees and started wobbling. Then it just rolled over and was flying upside down for a few seconds ... and then it kind of stalled and did a nose dive over the trees." [WPIX Channel 11, 9/13/01]


Paula Pluta of Stonycreek Township was watching a television rerun of “Little House on the Prairie” when the plane went down about 1,500 yards from her home along Lambertsville Road at Little Prairie Lane.

“I looked out the window and saw the plane nose-dive right into the ground,” she said, barefoot and shaken just 45 minutes after the crash.

The explosion buckled her garage doors and blasted open a latched window on her home, she said.

“It was just a streak of silver. Then a fireball shot up as high as the clouds. There was no way anybody could have survived. I called 911 right away.

“There was no way anything was left,” Pluta added. “There was just charred pieces of metal and a big hole. The plane didn’t slide into the crash. It went straight into the ground. Wings out. Nose down.” Source


Anna R. Fisher: After the crash, another jet went near over to look.
Anna B. Fisher: Yes, we saw it.
Anna R.: I think they knew this plane was not right.
Anna B: We were looking at the smoke cloud when we saw the jets circling up there. Source: Courage After the Crash: Flight 93" by Glenn J. Kashurba. SAJ Publishing, 2002. P. 27


Witnesses to the crash scene from the air, immediately afterwards

C-130 crew saw Pentagon attack & Shanksville crash site

2 planes had no part in crash of Flight 93(Sept. 16, 2001)

Flight 93 aftermath: Dassault Falcon 20 Witnesses(Popular Mechanics)––The Falcon 20 crew's report.



First Responders and Investigators at the Crash Scene see Aircraft Wreckage, Body Parts, Fires, Smell Jet Fuel

At Shanksville, which was by far the smallest of the three 9/11 crash scenes, over 1,100 people from 74 agencies and organizations worked at the scene. Including civilian volunteers, many of whom joined an organized effort to collect aircraft parts, the number of crash scene workers reaches well over 1,500.

On 9/11 alone, these included: • 8 Police Departments • 7 EMS Services • 8 Fire Departments • 10 Emergency Management Agencies • NTSB • ATF • FBI • CISM • Red Cross • United Airlines Source: PowerPoint presentation by Rick Lohr, Director of the Somerset County Emergency Management Agency. Download it here as a PDF (numerous photos, several shown on these pages)

Volunteer first responders on 9/11 included:

Shanksville Volunteer Fire Company, Stoystown Volunteer Fire Company, Central City Fire Department, Berlin Fire Department, Friedens Volunteer Fire Department, Listie Volunteer Fire Company, Somerset Volunteer Fire Department, Somerset Ambulance Association, Hooversville Volunteer Fire Department, and the Hooversville Rescue Squad.
"Shanksville Volunteer Fire Company Assistant Fire Chief Rick King and three firefighters were the first responders on the scene with an engine and a tanker. Shanksville Fire Chief Terry Shaffer also responded from 10 minutes away.

While enroute to the scene, there was a concern for the potential of large numbers of casualties. Chief Shaffer requested additional ambulances and EMS units dispatched to the scene. Two ambulances from outside the county were also alerted but were placed in service while responding. Upon arrival, firefighters found small pieces of the plane, spot fires, and a large quantity of fuel scattered across a wide debris field. A quick survey of the scene found no survivors. Additional resources were requested from County Control, which included additional suppression companies and the Somerset Fire Company’s hazardous materials team. Federal authorities, including the FBI and NTSB, arrived relatively quickly to secure the site and begin the evidence collection and body recovery process.

...Members of the Shanksville and Stoystown departments spent about 1500 hours at the crash site. (Source: "The Role of the Volunteer Fire Service in the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks" pp 58-60. PDF)

"We think it is fascinating that all these people from across the United States want to see the crash site. It is interesting to talk with them," said King. ...When King and his crew arrived, they saw what smoking pieces remained of the plane. “There were small pieces everywhere and small signs of human remains. It was total destruction.” Source

"After calling for backup from several area fire companies, King and the other firefighters, who had never responded to an airplane crash, surveyed the scene. None of them was prepared for what they saw. King recalls the paper strewn in the trees and clothing and shoes scattered on the ground. There were no bodies, he says. Just body parts. 'That's when the sheer destruction of the crash really hit home,' he says." Source (pdf)

Excerpts from "Courage After the Crash: Flight 93" by Glenn J. Kashurba. SAJ Publishing, 2002.

King: "We stopped and I opened the door. The smell of jet fuel was overpowering. I will never forget that smell; it is really burnt into my mind. ...I walked down the power line and got my first glimpse of human remains. Then I walked a little further and saw more."

Shanksville VFD firefighter Keith Curtis: "I walked up to where the tire was on fire, probably a hundred feet past the crater. It was a big tire. I was thinking that this is a big jet. I hit it good with the hose and put it out. I stopped and 'poof,' it just started on fire again."

Firefighter Mike Sube: "We made our way to a small pond. That's where I observed the largest piece of wreckage that I saw, a portion of the landing gear and fuselage. One of the tires was still intact with the bracket, and probably about three to five windows of the fuselage were actually in one piece lying there. ...There were enough fires that our brush truck was down there numerous times. ...I saw small pieces of human remains and occasionally some larger pieces. That was disturbing, but what was most disturbing was seeing personal effects."

Lieutenant Roger Bailey, Somerset Volunteer Fire Department: "We started down through the debris field. I saw pieces of fiberglass, pieces of airplane, pop rivets, and mail...Mail was scattered everywhere. ...the one guy who was with us almost stepped on a piece of human remains. I grabbed him, and he got about half woozy over it."

[People who were early to the scene didn't know what to expect. While some people were impressed by how small the crater was, others were impressed by how large it was.] Reporter Jon Meyer, WJAC-TV, Johnstown: "There was a spot at the end where the emergency crews were gathering. I could see that it was smoking and burning a little bit. So I ran as fast as I could towards that spot. I ran right up to the crater. I was standing a few feet away, looking down into it. I was overwhelmed by the crater's depth and size, but there was nothing that I could identify as having been an airplane, except that there was this incredibly strong smell of jet fuel."

Gerry Parry, Berlin Volunteer Fire Department: "I stopped and talked to the custodian, Don Stutzman. He and a teacher, Mike Sheeler, and I were standing in the corner of the parking lot when we felt and heard the explosion. If I had been turned the other direction, I might have seen it go down. We saw the smoke immediately. ...It felt too large to be a strip mine explosion, and usually, we have some idea when they are going to happen."

Bill Baker, Somerset County Emergency Management Agency: "There was debris everywhere. You couldn't step without walking on a piece of plane part, fabric, or some kind of debris. When they said it was a 757, I looked out across the debris field. I said, "There is no way there is a 757 scattered here. At that time, we didn't know that it was in the hole. The jet fuel smell was really strong...There were plane parts hanging in the trees."
Conspiracists who claim that there was no fire, wreckage or human remains at the crash site refuse to acknowledge or contact the volunteers and other first responders who put out the fires and viewed and collected the wreckage and remains.

When former firefighter Dave Fox arrived at the scene, "He saw a wiring harness, and a piston. None of the other pieces was bigger than a TV remote. He saw three chunks of torn human tissue. He swallowed hard. 'You knew there were people there, but you couldn't see them,' he says." Source


Local FBI agent Wells Morrison told author Glenn Kashurba what he saw when he arrived at the crash site: "We arrived in the immediate area and walked up to the crater and the burning woods. My first thought was, 'Where is the plane?' Because most of what I saw was this honeycomb looking stuff, which I believe is insulation or something like that. I was not seeing anything that was distinguishable either as human remains or aircraft debris." (Glenn Kashurba, Courage After the Crash, 2002, p. 110)


Faye Hahn, an EMT, responded to the first reports of the crash. She says: "Several trees were burned badly and there were papers everywhere. We searched. ... I was told that there were 224 passengers, but later found out that there were actually forty. I was stunned. There was nothing there." (David McCall, From Tragedy to Triumph, 2002, pp. 31-32)


"Those who were there moments later say the smoking wreckage looked like a pile of scrap metal in a pit, until you focused more closely and saw the other kinds of fragments among the debris." Source


Excerpt from Red Cross article "Pennsylvania Disaster Workers Respond to Flight 93 Tragedy"

"King said the Red Cross has been on the scene from the beginning, providing food and water to more than 600 exhausted workers from local fire departments, FBI, ATF, NTSB, FEMA, state police and coroners' offices from around Pennsylvania. "I've seen the Red Cross at the command center, down with the media crews, and around the perimeter," King said. "They're doing a great job. They've definitely got their ducks in a row in a pretty hectic situation."

Nearly 70 Red Cross staff and volunteers have been working 12-hour shifts to provide round-the-clock service to the federal and state emergency workers and investigators. Five Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles (ERVs) are on the scene to provide food and water. "It's been very warm, and the work has been slow and laborious under the hot sun," Dulashaw said. "We encouraging everyone to stay hydrated."

After FBI hazardous materials response teams examined the remains of the wreckage and determined levels of toxic and flammable materials were low enough for workers to proceed safely in protective gear, investigators fanned out — searching around the soot-rimmed crater the plane left in the ground, and walking into the gash it cut in the nearby woods.

Investigators are using yellow and red flags to stake spots around the site to mark where they had located parts from the aircraft, human remains or personal items belonging to the plane's 38 passengers and seven crewmembers. The painstaking, inch-by-inch search turned up the plane's cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder on Thursday, the "black boxes" that could explain what happened Tuesday after hijackers took control of the plane, and how apparent heroic acts of a few passengers prevented the aircraft from reaching its intended target in Washington, D.C."


Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller has spent almost every waking hour at the crash site with FBI agents, and is now in charge of identifying all of the passengers. "The FBI were the people that I really interacted with the most. I must tell you that I'm gonna feel better about paying my Federal Income Tax estimates now than I did prior to September 11th." Source

"Flight 93 crash site left most of the horror to the imagination"
Terrorism in Shanksville: A Study in Preparedness and Response
Beyond September 11th: An Account of Post-Disaster Research – The Crash of United Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania (PDF)
Homeland Security Report on Flight 93 (PDF)
Investigators on-site Shanksville "Day of Terror: Outside tiny Shanksville, a fourth deadly stroke"
FBI ends site work, says no bomb used (Sept. 25, 2001)

Contact information for some flight 93 crash scene responders
Shanksville Volunteer Fire Co, Shanksville, PA 15560. Terry Schaffer, Chief; Rick King, Ass't Chief
Somerset County Emergency Services 100 East Union Street, Somerset, PA 15501
Westmoreland County Dept. of Emergency Management 12 Court House Square Greensburg, PA 15601
Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Harrisburg, PA 17101


Victim Identification

"High impact disasters, such as airplane crashes, typically result in severe fragmentation and degradation of human remains." Forensic aspects of mass disasters: Strategic considerations for DNA-based human identification.  Budowle, Bieberb, Eisenbergc. Legal Medicine 7, 230–243, March 2005

"The remains of a number of passengers had been found in all five [search] sectors." –Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller, quoted in Jere Longman's "Among the Heroes," p. 262.

United Airlines releases names of passengers and crew members onboard UA flight 93 and UA flight 175

Summary from Flight 93 depicting: the identity of pilots and flight attendants, seat assignments of passengers, and telephone calls from the flight [PC-only Flash presentation download. Listener discretion is advised. This exhibit also includes information about the other three flights hijacked on September 11.]

Flight 93 victim identification long, arduous

Recovery workers pledge to respect dignity of victims (Sept. 14, 2001)

1500 remains found ("Hallowed Ground" Wash. Post)
Four Flight 93 Victims ID'd (Sept. 22)
Coroner identifies seven more victims of Flight 93 crash (Sept. 24)
Further four identified by DNA (October 10 )
Further fourteen identified by DNA (October 27)
Final Flight 93 Victims ID'd (December 22)

Paul Sledzik, Curator Armed Forces Institute of Pathology National Museum of Health and Medicine
Leader of flight 93 Disaster Mortuary (Team DMORT) Emil: sledzik@email.afip.osd.mil More on Sledzik

Dr. Dennis C. Dirkmaat, Chief Scientific Advisor to Somerset County Coroner's office in the flight 93 investigation; Director, Applied Forensic Sciences Department, Mercyhurst College, 501 E. 38th St. Erie, PA 16546 Email: dirkmaat@mercyhurst.edu More on Dirkmaat

DMORT Forensics January, 2002 Newsletter
Disaster Mortuary Team Main office: 1-800-USA-NDMS, ext. 205
DMORT Region 3 office (includes Pennsylvania) 410-676-4600

Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller's accounts
A few weeks ago, Wallace Miller, coroner of Somerset County, walked around the perimeter of this area with a landowner, Tim Lambert.

Their rambling disturbed a flock of wild turkeys. Amid the racket of their departure, a thought occurred to Miller: nature had finally begun to reclaim this place.

He can remember his first time there, 10.45am, Tuesday, September 11 ­ the stench of jet fuel, still puddled on the ground, the smell of the burnt and smouldering trees and grass, the silence of nature and the men who had arrived to find they could do nothing, the overwhelming evidence that a Boeing 757, 55 metres long and weighing 110 tonnes, had somehow been obliterated, and with it, the 44 people on board.

...Miller was familiar with scenes of sudden and violent death, although none quite like this. Walking in his gumboots, the only recognisable body part he saw was a piece of spinal cord, with five vertebrae attached. 'I've seen a lot of highway fatalities where there's fragmentation,' Miller said. 'The interesting thing about this particular case is that I haven't, to this day, 11 months later, seen any single drop of blood. Not a drop. The only thing I can deduce is that the crash was over in half a second. There was a fireball 15-20 metres high, so all of that material just got vaporised.'"

"We went through here on our hands and knees hundreds of times" Source


...the families of the victims deserve special care, says Miller, a 45-year-old undertaker who's known to pepper his language with profanity but calls himself "an easy touch." Miller brings them to a special viewing area–a high mound of dirt just a short walk from where the plane hit land. A stand of five battered American flags and a wreath in the United Airlines colors of blue and gray are stuck in the ground. The families must be with Miller to enter the actual crash area, which is cordoned off with a chain-link fence, but they often just stay for hours on the mound or stare through the thin bars as Miller tries to answer their questions. He'll take them just about anytime they want to go. Source


Here on this mound and elsewhere, in hundreds of face-to-face conversations and on the telephone, Miller explains to families from New Jersey to Berkeley to Japan to Germany the grisly calculus of what happened to their loved ones: The Boeing 757 still heavily laden with jet fuel slammed at about 575 mph almost straight down into a rolling patch of grassy land that had long ago been strip-mined for coal. The impact spewed a fireball of horrific force across hundreds of acres of towering hemlocks and other trees, setting many ablaze. The fuselage burrowed straight into the earth so forcefully that one of the "black boxes" was recovered at a depth of 25 feet under the ground.

As coroner, responsible for returning human remains, Miller has been forced to share with the families information that is unimaginable. As he clinically recounts to them, holding back very few details, the 33 passengers, seven crew and four hijackers together weighed roughly 7,000 pounds. They were essentially cremated together upon impact. Hundreds of searchers who climbed the hemlocks and combed the woods for weeks were able to find about 1,500 mostly scorched samples of human tissue totaling less than 600 pounds, or about 8 percent of the total.

Miller was among the very first to arrive after 10:06 on the magnificently sunny morning of September 11. He was stunned at how small the smoking crater looked, he says, "like someone took a scrap truck, dug a 10-foot ditch and dumped all this trash into it." Once he was able to absorb the scene, Miller says, "I stopped being coroner after about 20 minutes, because there were no bodies there. It became like a giant funeral service." As a funeral director, Miller says, he is honored and humbled to preside over what has become essentially an immense cemetery stretching far into the scenic wooded mountain ridge. He considers it the final resting place of 40 national heroes.

Immediately after the crash, the seeming absence of human remains led the mind of coroner Wally Miller to a surreal fantasy: that Flight 93 had somehow stopped in mid-flight and discharged all of its passengers before crashing. "There was just nothing visible," he says. "It was the strangest feeling." It would be nearly an hour before Miller came upon his first trace of a body part. Source–(Feb., '02)


But a week after the FBI closed its criminal investigation at the Somerset County site, county Coroner Wallace Miller indicated that his job has switched largely from search and recovery to a cleanup of what he deems sacred ground. "I consider this site almost like a cemetery," Miller said yesterday. "When you walk through a cemetery and you see debris, you pick it up."

Over the weekend, about 300 volunteers combed a half-mile square around the crash site and found enough debris from the Boeing 757 to fill about one-third of a trash container.

...For Miller, the focus seems to rest just as heavily on aesthetics -- from removing debris to felling charred trees that could be upsetting to relatives of Flight 93's passengers and crew. "This site won't be released until we're comfortable that we've removed as much of this debris as is humanly possible," he said.-Source (October, '01)
Somerset County Coroner's Office: 555 Tayman Avenue, Somerset, PA 15501


Personal effects found and returned to families

Flight 93 crew material - Smithsonian Institution, "September 11: Bearing Witness to History"

The personal effects of most victims were recovered and returned to the families.
Flight 93 list of unidentified personal effects – Liz Glick, Walllace Miller

"A ring and a badge"(Excerpt from Flight 93 victims' effects to go back to families)

Since receiving the personal effects of Flight 93 passengers from the FBI in early November, Douglass has been preparing the items for return. For example, about two weeks ago, FBI agents presented the wedding ring and wallet of passenger Andrew Garcia to his wife, Dorothy, in Portola Valley, Calif.

But before the FBI delivered the ring to Garcia, which was inscribed with "All my love, 8-2-69," Douglass sent it to a jeweler for cleaning and repair.

Around Thanksgiving, Jerry and Beatrice Guadagno of Ewing, N.J., received word that their son Richard's credentials and badge from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had been found by the FBI at the crash site.

"It was practically intact," Richard's sister, Lori, said of the credentials, which were returned in their wallet. "It just looked like it wasn't damaged or hadn't gone through much of anything at all, which is so bizarre and ironic.

"Everything takes on an extra special meaning, especially when there's so little that you have."

Hendrix and Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller said for most of the other families, the personal effects and the remains of the crash victims will be returned at the same time in mid-February.

"We haven't wanted to bother the families with the return of property without the return of remains," Hendrix said. "The last thing we want is confusion, with them thinking, 'Is this the last thing we're going to get back or is there more?' "
Below: Personal effects of Flight Attendants Cee Cee Lyles and Lorraine Bay




Flight 93 National Memorial




Other Journalism, Documentaries, TV and Theatrical Films

Recommended book: Among the Heroes by Jere Longman

Recommended book: Courage After the Crash: Flight 93: Aftermath an Oral & Pictorial Chronicle By Glenn J. Kashurba. SAJ Publishing, 2002.

"United 93," chosen as best picture of 2006 by the New York Film Critics Circle and the Washington, D.C., Film Critics Association.

Dylan Avery of Loose Change promises to exceed donations to families from "United 93" (oops, he claimed no money had been donated by the film studio, which had actually donated over $1.4 million to families of flight 93 victims.)

Family members and friends of flight 93 victims speak about their loved ones

Excellent article: "40 Lives, One Destiny"

Pittsburgh post-gazette issue on 9/11 (PDF)
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette serial coverage of the crash of Flight 93
"On Hallowed Ground" (Dave Barry)
"Shanksville, 1 year after"
"In the sky, a heroic struggle aboard hijacked United Flight 93" (U.S. News & World Report, 2002)

NPR audio: "Shanksville Revisited" (requires Realaudio player)

Discovery Channel: "The Flight That Fought Back"Part 1 - Part 2