"A group of us are going to do something." - Thomas E. Burnett Jr., Thoratec Corporation senior vice president and passenger on United Airlines Flight 93, cell phone call to his wife, 11 September 2001.
Questioning the Story:
Did the families of the passengers and crew of Flight 93 support
the making of the film?
Yes. Quite remarkably, according to United 93 director Paul Greengrass, all of the
family members wanted the film to be made. Before making the film, Greengrass
visited with all of them to discover their feelings toward the idea. "Our loved ones continue
to live within-side of us, so we continue to be their voices," says Kenny Nacke, brother of
passenger Louis Nacke. "I would hope someone would walk away from hearing the feats of the passengers
and crew of Flight 93 and feel empowered. That's why I chose to be involved with the film, not only
for my brother, but so that all forty of those individuals are remembered." Watch: A Look
What lengths did director Paul Greengrass go to in order to make
the film as factual as possible?
In addition to reportedly interviewing more than 100 family members and friends, director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy, 2004)
hired flight attendants and commercial airline pilots to play those roles in the film, and he cast several civilian and military
controllers on duty on Sept. 11, 2001, including the FAA's Ben Sliney (right), to play themselves.
"What we did on this film was to gather together an extraordinary array of people wanting to get this film right, aircrew from
United Airlines, pilots, the families of the people who were onboard, who gave us a sense
of what their family member might have done given the type of person he or she was in any
given situation; controllers and members of the military. We had a lot of expertise that
in the end allows you to get a good sense of the general shape of events," Greengrass said. -emanuellevy.com
Did the filmmakers really build the set from an old commercial airliner?
Yes. The plane interior portrayed in the film was reconstructed from a retired Boeing 757
commercial airliner that had been disassembled and shipped to suburban London's
Pinewood Studios. Set designers and engineers meticulously reconstructed
the airplane using a 9,600 page manual from Boeing that was specific to every last nut and bolt. (aerial view of the United 93 set)
Once completed, computer-controlled motion gimbals were used to simulate the pitch and roll of the aircraft in order to give
the actors and the audience an almost exact sense of what the flight was like, based on FAA records of its movements. Everything from the magazines on board to
what was on the in-flight TV was recreated exactly. -united93movie.com
How many people were on board United Flight 93?
There were 37 passengers (including the hijackers) and 7 crew members, including Captain Jason Dahl (shown near page top), and his
first officer, LeRoy W. Homer Jr. The passengers ranged in age from 20 to 69 and included one married couple - Crash Site Tour.
Early accounts indicated that there were 38 passengers on board, apparently due to one passenger
booking two seats. The aircraft was only at 20% capacity, able to seat up to 182 passengers. -wikipedia.org
How do we know that exactly four terrorists were on board United Flight 93?
Phone calls from the passengers and DNA evidence have revealed that exactly four terrorists (shown here) were on board the airplane, seated in first class.
They were Ziad Jarrah (shown at left), Ahmed Al Haznawi, Saeed Al Ghamdi, and Ahmed Al Nami (American Morning with Paula Zahn).
Many believe that the suspected terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, tried in 2006, was supposed to have
been on board Flight 93. Moussaoui had received flight training in Minnesota in August of 2001 (freerepublic.com).
Also, given that the other three hijacked flights all had five terrorists on board, suggests that
Flight 93 was missing someone.
How long was Flight 93 delayed before taking off?
United 93 was scheduled to takeoff at 8:01am, but the plane did not
actually depart from Newark International Airport, N.J. until 8:42am (post-gazette.com). This
41 minute delay was due to heavy plane traffic at the airport. The terrorists' original plan
was to have the four hijacked aircraft hit their targets within ten minutes of each other (Crash Site Tour). The delay and the
courage of the passengers made this impossible.
Did the four terrorists really have a bomb on board?
9/11 Commission Report concludes that the terrorists did not
have a real bomb on board the plane. During cell phone calls, some
of the passengers also indicated that they did not believe that the
terrorists had a real bomb, even though one of the terrorists carried
a red box that supposedly contained a bomb.
How did the filmmakers know that the hijackers had killed several people on the plane before it crashed?
At 9:41am, passenger Marion Britton called her friend. She told him that two people had been
killed and that the plane had been turned around. At least one of the mortally wounded passengers had
been stabbed. Authorities believe that this was Mark Rothenberg, the only first-class passenger
not to make a phone call. This likely happened before the terrorists herded everyone to the back
of the plane. Flight attendant Debra Welsh, who was the purser, may have been the other early victim
of the hijackers. Some believe that she was stabbed in the cockpit for refusing to stop CPR on
Mark Rothenberg. -(wikipedia.org)
Was Captain Dahl really stabbed to death in the cockpit as the film depicts?
Likely not. In the film United 93,
Captain Jason Dahl (shown near page top) is stabbed to death in the cockpit, and then his body is dragged
into the first-class cabin by the terrorists. Due to the then forthcoming Zacarias Moussaoui trial, Jason Dahl's
wife Sandy Dahl (right) was unable to tell the film's director, Paul Greengrass, what really happened regarding her husband.
When Sandy Dahl attended the premiere of United 93 at the Tribeca Film Festival in April of 2006, she was shook up
by what she was seeing. Although, she understood that the filmmakers hadn't known the full story regarding
her husband. During the Moussaoui trial, the jury heard moans and terrorist shouts for someone (believed to be the captain) to stay on the
cockpit floor. It is believed that these ongoing moans are coming from a still alive Captain Dahl.
Did the passengers really use pitchers of hot water against the terrorists?
We don't know if the Flight 93 passengers actually used the pitchers of hot water, but
we do know that they prepared them. At 9:50am, flight attendant Sandra Bradshaw called her husband.
She told him that they were in the rear galley filling pitchers with hot water to use against
Is it true that there was a passenger on board who may have been able to land the airplane?
Yes. Donald F. Greene, 52, of Greenwich Connecticut was the Executive Vice President of The Safe Flight Instrument Corporation, and he was also
a licensed pilot of small aircraft. There is no conclusive evidence that the plan to take over the plane
involved Donald Greene piloting the Boeing 757. It is suspected that Greene was the
passenger who attempted to call an emergency operator after locking himself in one of the plane's
bathrooms. Based on his personality, it is very probable that Greene may have subsequently played a key role in
the planned takeover of the aircraft, quite possibly as its new pilot. -(nytimes.com)
Do we know if the passengers ever made it into the cockpit, as depicted in the film?
It is not known for sure if the passengers of United Flight 93 ever actually made it into the
cockpit of the airplane. Black box recordings revealed that it is possible the passengers broke
into the cockpit only after the pilot (hijacker) began aiming the plane down for a crash. On the
recording, one of the hijackers can be heard saying "pull it down, pull it down." A
desperate physical struggle would have then ensued. The plane never recovered from its descent.
How fast was the plane traveling when it crashed?
When Flight 93, a Boeing 757, struck the ground on September 11 near Shanksville,
Somerset County, Pennsylvania, it was traveling at more than 500mph. It crashed upside-down
at a forty-five degree angle (Crash Site Tour). The 128,730+ pound
Boeing 757 gouged a 50-foot-deep pit in a reclaimed strip mine (wikipedia.org). The
ferocious force of this impact disintegrated metal, bone and flesh. It took investigators
more than three months to identify the remains of the 40 passengers and crew, and, by process
of elimination, the four hijackers.
Is it possible that the government shot the plane down?
There is no substantial evidence to suggest that Flight 93 was shot down. When asked this question during an
Entertainment Weekly interview, director Paul Greengrass responded by saying the following:
"The simple truth is that it wasn't shot down, and it's very unlikely that it could have been. I actually
find the disturbing truth to be the absolute worst — that that plane, given the state of confusion [on the ground],
probably would have reached its target. The thing about the theories is that they tend to be quite comfortable in a funny
sort of way because they reduce the world to a series of simple propositions of bad guys changing world history. Wouldn't
it just be easier if conspiracies were true? But they're not. The world is actually frighteningly complex."
Was Flight 93's black box ever found?
The black box containing the flight data and cockpit voice recorders was recovered by
investigators two days after the crash on September 13, 2001. The black box was found in the
main crater at the crash site, located near Shanksville, Pa (post-gazette.com, 9/13/01). The plane's fuselage
burrowed straight into the earth with such force that one of the "black boxes" was recovered at a depth of 25 feet under the ground. -(biblenetworknews.com)
Were any pieces of the plane ever found?
addition to the flight recorders, several recognizable pieces of the Boeing 757 were recovered in Shanksville, Somerset County, Pa.
On an April 28, 2006 episode of Larry King Live, Pa State Police Sgt. Anthony Deluca said
that when he arrived on the scene of the crash on September 11, he saw plane tires burning and
he found three plane seats not far from nearby houses. He pulled out a card from the back
of one of the seats, which identified the plane as a Boeing 757 commercial airplane.
See Flight 93 Debris Photos: Wreckage #1 |
Wreckage #2 | Wreckage #3
Were any items that belonged to the people on board ever found?
Yes. Personal items, miscellaneous debris and human remains were found as far away as
six miles from the crash site. Nearby residents and businesses outside Shanksville, Somerset County,
reported finding books, clothing, papers and what appeared to be human remains. Several residents said that they
collected bags-full of items that they turned over to investigators. Marina workers at Indian Lake (6 miles from the
impact crater) said that they saw a cloud of confetti-like debris descend over the lake after hearing the 10:06am impact
explosion (post-gazette.com, 9/13/2001).
Numerous other items were found amongst the debris. Two Bibles were recovered, a white one and a black Bible of unknown origin. The black Bible belonged to
a twenty-year-old Japanese man, Toshiya Kuge (Crash Site Tour). At the 2006 trial of terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, several items belonging
to the passengers were presented. They included personal effects of flight attendant CeeCee Lyles, which were found at the scene in
Somerset County (shown above).
At the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, one of the exhibits presented was a red bandana (shown at left) recovered from the United Flight 93 crash site.
Evidence from passenger cell phone calls suggests that the bandana was worn by one of the terrorists on board the plane. Other exhibits included John Talignani's driver's license (shown here). Talignani, 74, from
Staten Island, N.Y., was on his way to California to claim the body of his stepson, Alan Zykofsky, who had died in a car crash.
Watch The Heroes of Flight 93 Video:
Hear transmissions between the hijackers and air traffic controllers, then watch
an informative presentation put on by Mary Alice Mankamyer, a volunteer Ambassador at the Flight 93 memorial and crash site near Shanksville,
Somerset County, Pennsylvania.
The Heroes of Flight 93 (crash site talk) - Google Video, 33:18
United Flight 93 Air Traffic Controller Audio - 4:31
United 93 / Roger Ebert Movie Review
9-11 Flight Map and Timeline
Flight 93 Cockpit Recorder Transcript
Moussaoui Trial Exhibits and Documents (Includes Photos)
Online Thank You Card to the Flight 93 Victims
United 93 Director Paul Greengrass Interview On Rush Limbaugh
Photo Assemblage of 9/11 Victims
Flight 93 Memorial Fund at honorflight93.org
Official United 93 Universal Pictures Web Site
Online Movie Forums - Moviegoers Discuss the Film
the United 93 Movie Preview: