Used to Retake Cockpit on Sept. 11, Book Suggests
By MATTHEW L. WALD
WASHINGTON, July 29 - An assistant United States
attorney told relatives of people who died on
United Flight 93, the hijacked jet that crashed in
western Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, that he believed
that the passengers had broken down the cockpit
door with a food cart, a book being published on
The prosecutor gave his interpretation three
months ago at a hotel in Princeton, N.J., where
the F.B.I. had gathered the families to listen to
the cockpit voice recorder, said family members at
the event who were interviewed for the book,
"Among the Heroes" (HarperCollins).
But the prosecutor and other law enforcement
officials have refused to talk about the contents
of the recording because, they say, it could be
used as evidence in a trial. The assistant United
States attorney quoted in the book by family
members, who are not identified, is David J.
Novak, a lead prosecutor in the case of Zacarias
Moussaoui, the Frenchman who has been called the
Law enforcement officials said today that the
situation described by Mr. Novak was one of the
theories of what happened in the final minutes of
the flight. But the officials said that the words
and sounds in the recording were not definitive.
The passengers on Flight 93, a Boeing 757 from
Newark bound for San Francisco, had made clear in
telephone calls to relatives and friends on the
ground that they intended to storm the cockpit.
But whether they followed through on those
intentions or recaptured the aircraft has not been
publicly confirmed. If Mr. Novak told the
relatives that the passengers had entered the
cockpit, that would appear to be the most detailed
characterization of the events by a government
official to a broad audience.
The new book, by Jere Longman, a reporter for The
New York Times, is a minute-by-minute account of
the flight and a biography of people on the plane.
In an epilogue, it reports the recollections and
notes of some of the approximately 70 relatives
who gathered to hear the tape, which was
accompanied by a transcript projected on a video
According to the book: "At 9:58, the final
battle for control of the plane began. The
passengers were coming, trying to get into the
cockpit, the hijackers said, admonishing each
other to hold the door. `In the cockpit, the
cockpit,' was shouted in English. A thumping sound
could be heard."
The account continues: "A male voice
screamed, perhaps as one of the hijackers was
overtaken. `Hold!' was screamed in English. To
some, it sounded as if the passengers were saying
this in unison. `Stop him,' someone shouted.
`Let's get them,' one of the passengers yelled.
" `If they didn't do this,' one passenger
said in garbled words, `we'll die.' "
According to Mr. Longman's account, the hijackers
could be heard praying, "God is great,"
and one of the terrorists urged that the air
supply to the cabin be turned off. (At the plane's
low altitude, this would not have mattered.)
"One of the hijackers spoke about finishing
off the flight," according to the book.
"Not yet, another terrorist cautioned."
The book goes on: "Near the end of the tape,
muted voices seemed to grow louder, closer. The
scuffling continued. `I'm injured,' someone said
in English. More shouting: `Roll it' and `Pull it
up' or `Lift it up' or `Turn up.' A final rushing
sound could be heard, and about three minutes
after 10, the tape went silent."
The plane carried 37 passengers, including four
hijackers; five flight attendants; and two pilots
Back to the Stories &