“Number three in the back. The cockpit’s not answering. Somebody’s stabbed in business class. And I think there’s mace—that we can’t breathe. I don’t know. I think we’re getting hijacked.”
Those were the words of Flight Attendant Betty Ann Ong as she alerted American Airlines ground personnel to a hijacking onboard Flight 11, on the fateful morning of September 11, 2001. Another Flight Attendant on that same flight, Madeline Amy Sweeney, reported the hijacking to a manager at Boston Logan International Airport.
Meanwhile, a flight attendant on Flight 175, believed to be Robert John Fangman, reported the hijacking to an airline operator in San Francisco. The plane was flown into the South Tower of the World Trade Center shortly after that call.
A similar call was made to American Airlines by Flight Attendant Renee A. May onboard Flight 77 just before the plane was crashed into the Pentagon.
The flight crew and passengers onboard San Francisco bound Flight 93 fought to regain control of the plane after disabling the plane’s automatic pilot and making several calls to officials and family members on the ground. This was the only plane to have been successfully diverted from its intended target, which was presumed to be the U.S. Capitol, and it instead crashed into a field southeast of Pittsburgh.
The story of the incredible sacrifice of the flight crew on the four flights that were hijacked on September 11, 2001 – American Airlines Flight 11, American Airlines Flight 77, United Airlines Flight 93, and United Airlines Flight 175 – is essential to the history of the day. Today we pay tribute to those 36 courageous flight crew members who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, and in doing so saved countless others.