The scene aboard the hijacked airliner played out like a radio drama as passengers tried to storm the cockpit. Amid sounds of shouting, screaming and breaking dishes, one hijacker called to a partner at the jet's controls, "Pull it down! Pull it down!"
The pilot turned the control wheel hard to the right, and the jet rolled onto its back. United Airlines Flight 93 headed down.
Forty-eight seconds later, at 10:03:11 a.m., as a hijacker shouted, "Allah is the greatest" over and over in Arabic, the plane crashed nose first into a Pennsylvania field, killing the hijackers and the passengers who defied them.
In a chilling account based on tape recordings, mechanical data, FBI documents and interviews, the Sept. 11 commission assembled the most complete account yet of events inside Flight 93 and the other three jetliners that were hijacked on Sept. 11, 2001.
According to the commission's final report, issued Thursday, the Flight 93 struggle apparently took place at the closed door to the cockpit. Unarmed passengers tried in vain to fight their way inside as an increasingly frantic hijacker jerked the controls violently to throw them off balance.
On one of the flights that crashed into the World Trade Center, passengers also discussed storming the cockpit but apparently took no action in their few remaining minutes. It was aboard Flight 93 that passengers, alerted in telephone conversations that other planes had been crashed, fought back.
Flight 93, carrying 37 passengers and a crew of seven, took off late from Newark for Los Angeles at 8:42 a.m. -- four minutes before American Airlines Flight 11 ripped into the World Trade Center's North Tower and 21 minutes before United Flight 175 tore into the South Tower.
The four hijackers aboard Flight 93 sat in first class. Meal service probably started on schedule.
In the cockpit, the pilots first learned of the earlier hijackings at 9:24, when a United dispatcher named Ed Ballinger sent a text warning: "Beware any cockpit intrusion -- two a/c hit World Trade Center."
Pilot Jason Dahl responded within two minutes "with a note of puzzlement," the commission reported: "Ed, confirm latest mssg plz -- Jason."
Two minutes later, at 9:28, the hijackers attacked as the plane flew above eastern Ohio. Air traffic controllers noticed the plane suddenly drop 700 feet, and over the radio they heard one of the cockpit crew call out "Mayday!" amid sounds of struggle.
The radio shut off. Thirty-five seconds later, in another radio transmission, one crew member was heard shouting: "Hey! Get out of here. Get out of here. Get out of here."
Passengers later reported to friends and relatives by telephone that two people lay on the floor, injured or dead.
At 9:32, one of the hijackers announced: "Ladies and gentlemen. Here the captain. Please sit down. Keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb on board. So, sit."
The pilot turned the jetliner and headed east. The commission believes his target was the White House or the Capitol.
A woman, most likely a flight attendant, was held in the cockpit at one point. On the cockpit voice recorder, she could be heard struggling with a hijacker, who silenced her. A passenger soon reported in a another phone conversation that a flight attendant had been killed.
At 9:39, an air traffic controller overheard an announcement that there was a bomb on board and the airliner was returning to the airport. The fact that the controller heard it meant that the hijacker had pressed the wrong button on his radio. That also meant his words were not broadcast to the cabin.
The cockpit voice recorder, drawing from microphones in the pilots' headsets and an overhead panel, recorded the last 31 minutes of the flight. Also, at least 10 passengers and two crew members who had been forced to the back of the aircraft made calls on the plane's air phone system, learning of the World Trade Center attack.
At least five calls included word that passengers were discussing a revolt to retake the plane. One said they had voted on it.
"At 9:57 a.m.," the commission said, "the passenger assault began."
Ending a call to the ground, one woman aboard the plane said: "Everyone's running up to first class. I've got to go. 'Bye."
When the passengers charged, the hijackers' pilot, Ziad Samir Jarrah, rolled the airplane right and left, trying to knock the attackers off balance. At 9:58, he told another hijacker to block the door. A minute later, he pitched the nose of the airplane up and down for 11 seconds.
At 8 seconds past 10 o'clock, Jarrah asked a colleague: "Is that it? Shall we finish it off?"
The other hijacker replied, "No. Not yet. When they all come, we finish it off."
The recorder captured the sounds of continued fighting outside the cockpit, and Jarrah again dipped the airplane's nose.
At 26 seconds past 10, a passenger cried out: "In the cockpit. If we don't, we'll die!"
Sixteen seconds later, a passenger yelled, "Roll it!" This appears to be distinct from "Let's roll!" -- the phrase made famous after Todd Beamer used it apparently to rally fellow passengers as he ended a call with a GTE Airfone operator.
At 10:01, Jarrah stopped the maneuvers and called out twice, "Allah is the greatest!" He asked his fellow hijacker again, "Is that it? I mean, shall we put it down?" This time his colleague answered, "Yes, put it in it, and pull it down."
Eighty-three seconds later, at 10:02:23, with sounds of the passenger assault still audible, the hijacker called out, "Pull it down! Pull it down!"
"Jarrah's objective was to crash his airliner into the symbols of the American republic, the Capitol or the White House," the commission wrote. "He was defeated by the alerted, unarmed passengers of United 93."