Last words of those on Flight 93 leave no dry eyes


An unidentified man looks through a window at the Flight 93 National Memorial visitors’ center near Shanksville, Pa. The window overlooks the impact site.

SENIOR LIFE Courtesy of Paul Mark Van Scyoc/

I am walking on a long black sidewalk which marks the path of United Airlines Flight 93 in its final seconds of flight on Sept. 11, 2001. The sidewalk reaches a dead end precipitously at the crash site in a field near Shanksville, Pa. What was once a simple field will now and forever be a national landmark. 

Flight 93 began its journey into history at 8:42 a.m. with 40 innocent souls having just 1 hour and 21 minutes more to live. The other four aboard were hijackers and died as they lived — in hate.

All would die when the aircraft aimed nose down at a 45-degree angle and impacted the earth at 563 mph. What was once a proud 154-foot long airliner knifed into the soil and shattered into small shards in microseconds. Of the four crashes that day, it would be the only flight data recorder recovered.

With decidedly mixed emotions, I entered the visitors’ center, knowing that what I was about to see and hear would be heart-wrenching. I was
not wrong.

I listened to the recorded messages Cee Cee Lyles, Linda Gronlund and Lauren Grandcolas left behind. The phrases I remember from their last desperate moments include, “We have a little problem” to “Our flight has been hijacked” to “It looks like they are going to take this one down, too.” And most importantly, “I love you, I love you, I love you.”

There was a foreboding knowledge in their voices, too. For example, one of the women told her family where her safe was and the combination to enter it.

Where are the tissues when you need them?

I saw fragments of the aircraft, remnants of people’s lives and video reenactments of the doomed flight. I learned about Todd Beamer whose heroic words, “Let’s roll” is now part of American lore. He and several other passengers stormed into the cockpit and saved our country from most certainly losing the Capitol building. We should be forever grateful.

Lastly, I walked closer to the crash site where the names of those lost are inscribed. On the wall beside Grandcolas’ name were the faint and small shaded words, “... and unborn child.” Another private loss comes
to light.

With this revelation and so many more, we all echo the agony of the last recorded English word from the cockpit of Flight 93: “Nooooo!”

If only words could have helped.