Moussaoui Jury Hears Tapes of Flight 93 Crash

In an image released by the U.S. District Court, a government exhibit shows a photograph. i

In an image released by the U.S. District Court, a government exhibit shows a photograph of the cockpit voice recorder found at the scene of United Flight 93. Reuters hide caption

itoggle caption Reuters
In an image released by the U.S. District Court, a government exhibit shows a photograph.

In an image released by the U.S. District Court, a government exhibit shows a photograph of the cockpit voice recorder found at the scene of United Flight 93.

Reuters

The jury deciding the fate of Zacarias Moussaoui hears cockpit and air traffic control tapes from United Flight 93 before it crashed in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001. On the final day of their presentation, federal prosecutors urged the jury to recommend the death penalty for Moussaoui, who has confessed to being a conspirator in the al-Qaida attacks of 2001.

For this second phase of the trial, prosecutors chose to focus completely on the victims and their families—they made no mention of Zacarias Moussaoui. As defense attorneys gets started on Thursday, they must refocus attention on Moussaoui, who more or less admitted his own guilt during the first phase.

Defense attorneys have indicated they will focus on Moussaoui's rough upbringing and the mental illness his attorneys say he suffers from. They may also take up the question of whether Moussaoui's testimony was more than a boast. There is a chance Moussaoui will again testify on his own behalf.

Recording Captures Final Moments of Flight 93

Cathy Stefani

Cathy Stefani lays a teddy bear by a flag angel bearing the name of her daughter, Nicole Miller, on the one-year anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Miller was on United Airlines Flight 93 when it crashed in Shanksville, Penn. Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Getty Images
A knife attached to a lanyard was submitted as evidence in the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui.

A knife attached to a lanyard was submitted as evidence in the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui. The knife was found in his luggage when Moussaoui was arrested in Minneapolis in August, 2001. Reuters hide caption

itoggle caption Reuters

Voices from Flight 93

Read a transcript of the cockpit voice tape from the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11. The jury heard the audio recording, but it was not made available to the public out of concern for victims' families.

Jurors in the sentencing trial of Zacarias Moussaoui on Wednesday listened to the final, chaotic minutes aboard Flight 93, the United Airlines plane that crashed in a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001.

The sounds of panic and violence were captured by the plane's cockpit recorder, which was recovered from the wreckage. As they listened to the audio, jurors also watched a computerized simulation of the plane's flight path — based on a recovered flight data recorder — as the events on the tape were unfolding.

Prosecutors say the recordings demonstrate the suffering caused by the hijacking, underscoring their contention that Moussaoui should get the death penalty. He has pleaded guilty to crimes including conspiracy to commit air piracy. Moussaoui is the only person charged in this country in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks.

The recording captures the last 30 minutes of the flight. It begins just after 9:30 a.m., after the cockpit has been seized. A hijacker, probably pilot Ziad Jarrah, tells passengers, "Ladies and gentlemen. Hear the captain. Please sit down, keep remaining seating. We have a bomb on board, so sit. "

Much of the recording is more difficult to interpret. The hijackers' initial announcement is followed by sounds of a struggle, and it is difficult to decipher what is occurring. The hijackers appear to be wrestling with and perhaps beating the pilot and co-pilot, saying "go ahead, lie down."

A voice is heard from the cockpit, possibly that of a flight crew member, saying, "Please, please don't hurt me... Oh God!" A crew member appears to be groaning, and says, "I don't want to die." After that, there are sounds that seem like cries of pain.

Sounds of a struggle continue in the cockpit for a few minutes. At 9:37 a.m., a hijacker says in Arabic, "Everything is fine. I finished."

At 9:39 a.m., the hijacker continues in English, saying," Here is the captain. I would like to tell you all to remain seated. We have a bomb aboard, and we are going back to the airport, and we have our demands. So, please remain quiet."

That warning is followed by sounds of air traffic on the cockpit recording. The simulation constructed from the plane's data recorder shows the 757 making a U-turn over Ohio, as Jarrah heads the plane southeast, toward Washington, D.C.

With the hijackers reciting, "In the name of Allah. I bear witness that there is no other God but Allah," and other religious incantations, the plane continued its descent, according to the computer simulation.

At 9:58 a.m., there are signs that passengers are trying to enter the cockpit and fight back. Soon, there's a loud and violent struggle as passengers try to break the door down.

Jurors could hear the sounds of crockery breaking; passengers may have used a service cart as a battering ram. Amid the loud banging noises, one of the hijackers says in Arabic, "Is there something? A fight? Yeah?" And later, "They want to get in there. Hold from the inside." At 10 a.m., a hijacker says, "I am injured."

The battle continues, and the hijackers rock the plane violently from side to side, perhaps to throw the passengers off balance.

Just after 10 a.m., a hijacker asks in Arabic,"Shall we finish it off?" Another responds in Arabic, "No. Not yet. When they all come, we finish it off."

Finally, the hijackers give up the fight, and repeatedly say, "Down. Down. Pull it down. Pull it down," as they push the controls to the right and down. The last words heard are repeated incantations in Arabic of "Allah is the greatest" as the jet plummets earthward, rolls onto its back, and smashes into the ground.

With reporting by Larry Abramson.

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