On the morning of September 11, San Francisco-bound United Airlines Flight 93 left Newark airport 40 minutes behind schedule. As the flight began its climb to cruising altitude, the first of two hijacked planes from Boston crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

At 9:05, a second plane hit the Trade Center's South Tower. Flight 93 continued west through a cloudless sky.

It was around 9:35 when the hijackers on Flight 93 made their move, seizing control of the cockpit and herding passengers and flight attendants to the rear of the plane. Minutes later, a third plane smashed into the Pentagon. The hijackers' carefully choreographed plans seemed to be going perfectly.

But the passengers and crew of Flight 93 had a terrifying advantage not given the people aboard the other three planes. In hurried conversations with family members on the ground, they learned the fates of the earlier planes. Assuming their flight was intended for use as another suicide bomb they chose the long shot risk that, even if it didn't save their lives, might save others.

In less than half an hour, a group of sleepy, ordinary Americans somehow made the transition from a random collection of strangers into resistance fighters. Flight attendants filled containers with scalding water, business executives and vacationers traded strategies for overpowering their captors. If they could wrest control of the plane away from the hijackers, a private pilot on board might be able to land it.

We will never know precisely who did what as this unlikely team planned and executed their assault on the hijackers. What we do know is that the passengers and crew on Flight 93 fought back--and foiled one attack on America. Whatever their plane's intended target, we can be certain it was not an empty field in rural Pennsylvania.

At the moment we felt most helpless, they inspired us with their dignified farewells and their selfless bravery. At a time when the nation felt most vulnerable, they reminded us of the strength and grace of ordinary citizens. It would be hard to find any American who was not inspired by their act, who did not subsequently face the future with a new sense of courage and empowerment. If "ordinary" people could become heroes, well, then there was hope for us all.

Still Not Convinced? Visit These Related Links About the Passengers and Crew of Flight 93:
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