Jury hears tape from crashed 9-11 plane
By Deborah Charles
ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (Reuters) – The jury deciding whether
Zacarias Moussaoui should die heard the dramatic cockpit
recording on Wednesday of passengers struggling to thwart
hijackers in the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania on
September 11, 2001.
In the last five minutes of United Flight 93, a passenger
could be heard urging others to storm the cockpit and take on
the hijackers because “if we don’t we die.”
It was the first time the 30-minute cockpit recording was
played in public and the jury was transfixed by the words of
both the hijackers who were believed to be aiming for the U.S.
Capitol in Washington and the passengers who tried to stop
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema decided the recording
would only be played in court and not publicly released, though
a transcript was made available. Federal prosecutors, who had
requested it be heard, finished presenting evidence later in
the day. The defense will begin on Thursday.
Moussaoui, an admitted al Qaeda member and only person
charged in the United States in connection with the September
11 attacks, has pleaded guilty to six counts of conspiracy. The
jury is deciding whether he should spend his life in prison or
Moussaoui showed little emotion in the courtroom, and sat
back in his chair and stared at a screen where the transcript
of the tape was shown.
The tape began with a man believed to be Ziad Jarrah, the
hijacker who became the plane’s pilot, announcing “This is the
captain, please sit down, we have a bomb on board.”
What sounded like a struggle followed with the hijackers
yelling “Sit down. Sit down,” and “In the name of Allah the
merciful.” Unidentified crew members shouted “No, no, no,” and
“Please, please, please don’t hurt me. I don’t want to die.”
About six minutes after the cockpit struggle began, one of
the hijackers said, “Everything is fine. I’ve finished.”
During the flight some of the passengers learned via cell
phone calls that three other planes had crashed into the World
Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon. Believing they were
part of a fourth such plot, some of them stormed the cockpit to
fight the hijackers.
The recorded struggle began when the passengers apparently
rolled food carts down the aisle to try to force open the door.
In Arabic someone says, “Is there something? A fight?”
Another hijacker responds, “Yeah.”
“Roll it,” someone outside the cockpit yelled, apparently
referring to the cart. “In the cockpit. If we don’t we die,”
another voice said.
The pilot began rocking the plane from side to side and one
of the hijackers yelled orders to cut off the oxygen. “Allah is
the greatest” someone yelled right before the plane crashed in
a Pennsylvania field.
The tape was played in 2002 for families of the victims
aboard the doomed plane, but the families were required not to
reveal the contents.
The Boeing 757 had taken off from Newark, New Jersey bound
for San Francisco with 33 passengers, seven crew members and
four hijackers aboard.