Original release: January 30th, 2006
Running time: 90 minutes
Director: Peter Markle
Writer: Nevin Schreiner
Cast: Jeffrey Nordling, Brennan Elliott, Kendall Cross, Ty Olsson, Monnae Michaell, Dominic Rains
On September 11th, 2001, United Airlines Flight 93 took off from Liberty International Airport in New Jersey at 8:42am bound for San Francisco with thirty-seven passengers on board. Piloted by Captain Jason Dahl and First Officer Leroy Homer, and with five attendants, Flight 93 would never reach its destination that morning or its intended target, believed to be either the Capitol Building or the White House.
Instead, as events that day unfolded, those on board would become the first people to inhabit the post-9/11 world and the story of their heroic battle to avoid another stain on the American psyche would be adapted for a big screen movie by writer and director Paul Greengrass, United 93 (2006), a Discovery Channel docudrama, The Flight That Fought Back (2005) and this one, a television movie written by Nevin Schreiner.
Flight 93 plays out with much intensity and a genuine sense of respect for the story its handling while it focuses on a handful of those caught in the tragedies and their families. It chronicles the events starting off with the flight’s twenty-five minute late take off and it leads up those final moments where it’s brought down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Lauren Grandcolas, who was three months pregnant, checks in and tries to call her husband before boarding the flight, but he’s still asleep and doesn’t wake up to take her call. Mark Rothenberg, Tom Burnett, Lou Nacke, Lauren Grandcolas, Elizabeth Wainio, Toshiya Kuge, Todd Beamer, and Nicole Miller are all shown boarding. An out of breath Mark Bingham almost misses the flight.
As Flight 93 sits on the runway due to delays, air traffic controllers monitoring all current flights hear Mohammed Atta on Flight 11 saying “We have some planes”.
Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant on Flight 11 also calls in to say they’ve been hijacked, but at 8:42 Flight 93 takes off. Amy calls them one more time as Flight 11 begins a rapid descent “We’re flying way too low” she says just before they make impact with the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46.
Families of those on Flight 93, including Leroy’s wife Melodie, catch the morning news of what’s happening in New York. By 9.03, after Flight 175 flew into the South Tower, those fears are mercilessly multiplied. It was apparent to them, the FAA, American and United Airlines, as well as the rest of the world, that America was facing multiple hijackings.
From the 9/11 Commission Report (page 11):
Flight 93 shows the pilots trying to verify this message just as hijackers storm the cockpit but they were able to get a Mayday message out quickly before control was taken from them. From here on in, the passengers, who’d been herded to the back of the plane, began using their cell phones as well as air phones to call home and that’s when they learn about both attacks on the Towers and then the Pentagon.
Amidst the tearful goodbyes and reassurances, the plane turns south as if heading to Washington. The passengers vote on what action to take. As they get ready to storm the cockpit, Elizabeth Wainio remains on the phone with her mom who tells her she has her arms around her, holding her and that she loves her. To Todd Beamer’s battle cry of “Let’s Roll!” the counter-attack ensues but Ziad Jarrah holds tight at the controls. 10:02 and the plane flips onto its back, passing over the heads of people on the ground as it makes its way down.
At 10:03, Flight 93 ploughs into an open field in Shanksville, between ten and twenty minutes flying time from Washington. Its debris however is scattered for over eight miles. As with Flights 11, 175 and 77, Flight 93 had no survivors and those who attended the scene couldn’t believe that something so large left barely anything recognisable.
In the years that have now passed, the story of Flight 93, despite its tragic end, is one we can find hope in because it’s a testament that even during these acts of evil, there is one thing that survives and will always survive.
It’s in the phone calls made by Tom to his wife Deena, Jeremy to his wife Liz, Lauren to her husband Jack and Mark to his mother. It’s love. In those moments, nothing else matters but the ones closest to you and if there’s anything to come from days like 9/11, or the bombings in Madrid and London, it’s that you grab life with one hand and your loved ones with the other and you don’t miss a moment to let them know how much you love them.
The 9/11 Commission Report (1st Edition) W.W. Norton & Company
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .