Among the Heroes: United Flight 93 and the Passengers and Crew Who Fought Backby Jere Longman
Of the four horrific hijackings on September 11, Flight 93 resonates as one of epic resistance.At a time when the United States appeared defenseless against an unfamiliar foe, the gallant passengers and crew of Flight 93 provided for many Americans a measure of victory in the midst of unthinkable defeat. Together, they seemingly accomplished what all the security… See more details below
Of the four horrific hijackings on September 11, Flight 93 resonates as one of epic resistance.At a time when the United States appeared defenseless against an unfamiliar foe, the gallant passengers and crew of Flight 93 provided for many Americans a measure of victory in the midst of unthinkable defeat. Together, they seemingly accomplished what all the security guards and soldiers, military pilots and government officials, could not they thwarted the terrorists, sacrificing their own lives so that others might live.
The culmination of hundreds of interviews with family members and months of investigation, Among the Heroes is the definitive story of the courageous men and women aboard Flight 93, and of the day that forever changed the way Americans view the world and themselves.
Read an Excerpt
The sky on September 11 dawned cerulean blue, one of those unblemished skies that often appeared in late summer after heavy rains or hurricanes -- rinsed, cloudless, apparently cleansed of tumult. It was a week past Labor Day. The U.S. Open tennis tournament had just concluded, school was back in session, football season had begun, baseball had entered its stretch run. Casual fashion had faded to basic black. Autumn had arrived in the New York area, if not by calendar's decree, then by the urgent feel of resumption. Summer had been shaken away like sand from a beach towel.
Dressed in his navy blue uniform, the four gold stripes on the sleeves denoting his rank as captain, Jason Dahl entered United Airlines' flight operations center in a secure area of Terminal A at Newark International Airport. It was approximately seven a.m. on this Tuesday. Check-in occurred an hour before each domestic flight. The previous day, Jason had traveled to Newark from his home in the Denver suburb of Littleton, Colorado. He would pilot Flight 93 to San Francisco, having traded a trip later in the month for this one. This was a long-awaited week. Jason would stop by and see his mother in San Jose, California, during his layover. In two days, he would return home to begin his plans for the weekend.
This would be the fifth wedding anniversary for Jason and his wife, Sandy. It was the second marriage for both, and Jason liked to do things in a big way. He had proposed to her on a cruise ship, hiring a plane to fly over with a banner that read SANDY, I LOVE YOU SO MUCH, WILL YOU MARRY ME? For their honeymoon, he told Sandy to pack for another cruise. They endedup in Tahiti. When he called on Monday night from Newark, Jason told Sandy that he had bought her a new Volvo. There would be more gifts. When it came to birthdays and anniversaries, Jason possessed the flamboyance of Monty Hall introducing a showcase on Let's Make a Deal. He and a family friend, Jewel Wellborn, had arranged for Sandy to receive a manicure, pedicure, facial and a massage on Friday afternoon. While she was distracted in her bedroom, deliverymen would arrive with a baby grand piano programmed with Jason and Sandy's wedding song. That night, Jason would cook a gourmet meal. On Saturday, he and Sandy would fly to London to celebrate their anniversary. "He was so thrilled, planning every intricate detail of surprise," Wellborn said.
In the United operations center, Jason signed onto a computer, verified his schedule, checked to see if there were any changes. From service representatives working in an open-window area, he received several printouts generated from company headquarters in Chicago. The paperwork told him of the general condition of the aircraft, whether there was a reading light out in first class, or a coffee maker on the blink in the rear galley. It gave him an update of maintenance service on the plane, a review of the weather, a manifest of the flight attendants, passenger load, an extensive flight plan, a reading of fuel levels, possible turbulence, runway data and estimated waiting times.
Flight 93 was scheduled to depart one minute after eight, but anyone who flew out of Newark regularly knew to expect delays. Planes could stack up like balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Given Newark's clogged taxiways and the crowded airspace above the three major airports in the New York City area, sometimes it seemed there was as much gridlock in the skies above Newark, LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports as there was on the streets below. After reviewing the paperwork, Jason signed a release for the plane, placing it in his control. Next to his name, he wrote "C-3," indicating that he was certified to perform landings in as little as three hundred feet visibility, the highest qualification that United offered.
In the operations center, Jason met LeRoy Homer Jr., the first officer on Flight 93. The two had never flown together, but they had one thing in common: they caught the flying bug early and this was the only job they ever really wanted.
Upon completing his paperwork, Captain Dahl boarded the plane and began his pre-flight checklist. This was performed in a precise order known as a flow, moving up one row of switches and gauges and down another. He did an overall check of the cockpit, making sure that life vests, fire ax and fire extinguisher were in place and in working order. If the plane was "cold," all systems still shut down before the early-morning flight, he brought the jetliner humming to life through an external power source or an onboard auxiliary power unit. From his seat, he reached up and flipped the switch on three laser gyroscopes. He checked the electrical system, the fuel system, the navigational system, the communications system. He ensured that the flight-data recorder and cockpit voice-recorder were functioning properly. He examined the engine instrument indicators, the fire detection system, the hydraulic system, the anti-skid brakes, the cabin-pressurization system. He programmed into the computerized flight management system his current position, his routing and his destination. Later, the first officer would double-check that the proper positioning and routing had been entered into the computer.
The 757 had a "glass cockpit," meaning that computer screens had reduced the number of dials found on older planes. The jet, manufactured by Boeing and fitted with two megaphone-shaped engines that protruded from beneath the wings, weighed a maximum of two hundred fifty-five thousand pounds, or one hundred twenty-seven tons, as much as a diesel locomotive. It was one hundred fifty-five feet three inches long and had a wingspan of one hundred twenty-four feet ten inches. The surface area of the wings was equivalent to the floor space of a three-bedroom house. This particular jet, delivered to United in 1996 and registered as N591UA, was known as a 757-200.Among the Heroes. Copyright © by Jere Longman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Jeré Longman is a sports reporter for the New York Times whose books include the national bestseller Among the Heroes: United Flight 93 and the Passengers and Crew Who Fought Back and The Hurricanes: One High School Team's Homecoming After Katrina, chosen by Slate magazine as one of the Best Books of 2008.
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