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A look at United Flight 93, ten years later

ATLANTA - Of all the jets hijacked on 9/11/01, we know the most about United Flight 93. CBS News transportation correspondent Mark Strassmann reports the FBI found both its cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder intact, as deep as 25 feet underground. It was the only usable cockpit recording recovered from the attacks that day.

The details of what happened are contained in the official report of the 9/11 commission.

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About 30 minutes after Flight 93's late departure, United Airlines sent a text to the pilots warning them of the other hijackings. Apparently in disbelief, the pilots asked for confirmation. Moments later, the cockpit voice recorder picked up the sound of a struggle.

Read the 9/11 Commission Report

"Mayday! Mayday! Mayday," one of the pilots radioed air traffic controllers. Someone yelled, "get out of here!" A woman, likely one of the flight attendants is heard to say "I don't want to die." The hijackers stabbed the crew with box cutters.

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Flight 93 turned towards Washington, D.C. The terrorist pilot, Zaid Jarrah, tried to speak to the passengers on the intercom but instead he hit the wrong switch and broadcast a message over the radio. "Here's the captain, I would like you all to remain seated. We have a bomb on board and we are going back to the airport and we have our demands. Please remain quiet."

But the passengers, including Tom Burnett, already knew what was really happening.

Deena Burnett talked to her husband three times. She told him about the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Deena says her husband told her, "Don't worry. We're going to do something." Then he hung up.

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The voice recorder picked up the sound of the passengers outside the cockpit door. One yelled, "...in the cockpit, if we don't we'll die!"

Then there's the sound of a flight attendant's service cart being rammed into the door, again and again.

The flight data recorder shows Jarrah, the terrorist pilot, rocked the 757 wildly side to side, in an apparent effort to throw the passengers off their feet.

"What they did in 30 minutes is amazing," says Ken Nacke. His brother Lou was among the passengers. "They were able to gain information, formulate a plan, voted on a plan and acted that plan. Put it in motion and prevented a greater tragedy all in 30 minutes. How amazing is that?"

As the passengers charged the cockpit, one of the hijackers is heard to ask in Arabic, "is that it? I mean, shall we put it down?" The other replies, "yes, put it in it and pull it down."

Flight 93 rolled onto its back and crashed into the countryside at 580 miles an hour.

It was 20 minutes from Washington D.C.

  • Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann was named CBS News Transportation correspondent in August 2011. He has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001, and is based in the Atlanta bureau.