Story in full "PLEASE, please don't hurt me," the voice says. It could be the pilot. There are other people talking. "Oh God!" the voice says. More people talking. "Sit down, shut up." "No more," the voice says. A few seconds pass: "I don't want to die." And again: "I don't want to die." And again.
The families of the 33 passengers on board the doomed United Airlines Flight 93 on 11 September 2001 had heard the tape of the aircraft's cockpit voice recorder once before, but this was the first time it had been aired in public. Those in the courtroom in Virginia yesterday listened intently as the final moments were played out before the plane plunged into a Pennsylvania field, killing everyone on board.
In the dock of the court, Zacarias Moussaoui leaned back in his chair, listened and smiled from time to time. Moussaoui has already pleaded guilty to conspiring with al-Qaeda to hijack planes and fly them into buildings. The tape, produced by the prosecution as they sought the death penalty, could seal his fate.
Flight 93 took off from Newark airport at 8:01 with Captain Jason Dahl at the controls and first officer Leroy Homer by his side. Behind them, among the passengers, were hijackers Ziad Jarrah, Ahmed Ibrahim al-Haznawi, Saeed al-Ghamdi and Ahmed al-Nami.
The cockpit recording began at 9:31am with a hijacker's voice clearly stating: "Ladies and gentlemen, this is the captain... we have a bomb on board, so sit."
An air traffic voice chipped in: "Is that United 93 calling?"
The voices switched between Arabic and English. Interspersed were attempts by puzzled air traffic controllers to establish what was happening.
At 9:39, one of the hijackers was heard to say: "Ah. Here's 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."
The voice of a controller answered: "United 93. I understand you have a bomb on board. Go ahead."
Another voice was heard: "OK. Ah. Who called Cleveland?"
The hijackers could be heard trying to work out the controls. "This green knob?" "Yes, that's the one." "Oh man." "This does not work now."
But it was also clear that they realised they had problems with the passengers. There was talk of letting other hijackers in, bringing with them the pilot.
At 9:53 a voice said: "The best thing: the guys will go in, lift up the [unintelligible]... and they put the axe into it. So everyone will be scared."
Although relatives of the passengers were allowed to listen to the tape in the aftermath of the crash, and some details had previously been published, it had never been played in public before.
Missing from the tape were the oft-quoted words of Todd Beamer as he rallied fellow passengers to retake the plane: "Are you guys ready? Let's roll."
There is nothing sinister about this: the tape recorded sounds in the cockpit and Mr Beamer was at the back of the plane when he uttered those words which were picked up by a phone operator. But what the tape did record was the sound of the passengers beginning to gain the upper hand. The voice of a hijacker, presumably inside the cockpit, said: "They want to get in." The voice continued: "Hold from within."
One passenger could be heard telling the hijackers: "Please don't hurt me." Amid sounds of a struggle, a hijacker asked: "There is something, a fight?" The response was: "Yeah."
To enable the jury to understand more fully what they were hearing, prosecutors played a simultaneous video presentation in a mock-up similar to a flight simulator. A translation of the hijackers' Arabic was also provided.
At one point a hijacker was heard to say: "In the name of Allah, most merciful, most compassionate." At 9:59, the hijackers clearly realised they had a problem: "There are some guys. All those guys," one said. "Let's get them," a voice said.
At 10am a voice said: "I am injured."
Another voice asked, in Arabic: "Shall we finish it off?" The response came back: "No, not yet. When they all come, we finish it off."
The hijackers tried to throw the passengers off balance. "Up, down. Saeed, up, down," a voice said. "Roll it."
Then a voice was heard in English: "In the cockpit! If we don't, we die!"
Much of what was heard was open to interpretation. In the last minute, voices could be heard in English saying "push up" and "pull down" as flight data showed the steering yoke moving wildly. Some interpreted that as a struggle for control in the cockpit between passengers and hijackers. At 10:01 a hijacker asked: "Shall we put it down? The reply: "Yes, put it down." A voice said: "Cut off the oxygen. Cut off the oxygen. Cut off the oxygen." At 10:02 a hijacker said: "Give it to me. Give it to me."
At 10:03am the plane dived amid crashing sounds. The last sound heard as the plane neared the ground was the voice of a hijacker: "Allahu akbar" [Allah is the greatest]. Allahu akbar. Allahu akbar. Allahu akbar. Allahu akbar. Allahu akbar. Allahu akbar."
Then only the sound of roaring static was audible. The simulation showed the plane flying nose down, rolling over and hitting the ground.
After the tape had finished, the judge sent the jury home for the day. As he did, Moussaoui shouted out: "God curse you all!"
His defence will begin its case today.
'Black box' recording of what was going on
THE following is from the transcript of the cockpit voice recorder aboard United Airlines Flight 93. It starts as passengers attempt to storm the cockpit. All times are in Eastern Daylight Time (GMT minus 4) on 11 September, 2001. Text in brackets was translated from Arabic.
09:58:52 - Stay back.
09:58:55 - In the cockpit. In the cockpit.
09:58:57 - (They want to get in here. Hold, hold from the inside. Hold from the inside. Hold.)
09:59:04 - Hold the door.
09:59:09 - Stop him.
09:59:11 - Sit down.Sit down. Sit down.
09:59:18 - (There are some guys. All those guys.)
09:59:20 - Let's get them.
09:59:25 - Sit down.
09:59:29 - (What? What? What?)
09:59:42 - (Trust in Allah, and in him.)
10:00:07 - (Is that it? Shall we finish it off?)
10:00:08 - (No. Not yet.)
10:00:09 - (When they all come, we finish it off.)
10:00:15 - I'm injured.
10:00:22 - (Oh Allah. Oh Allah. Oh gracious.)
10:00:25 - In the cockpit. If we don't, we'll die.
10:00:29 - (Up, down. Up, down, in the cockpit.)
10:00:37 - (Up, down. Saeed, up, down.)
10:00:42 - Roll it.
10:00:59 - (Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest.)
10:01:08 - (Is that it? I mean, shall we pull it down?)
10:01:09 - (Yes, put it in it, and pull it down.)
10:01:18 - (Cut off the oxygen. Cut off the oxygen. Cut off the oxygen.)
10:01:59 - Shut them off. Shut them off.
10:02:14 - Go. Go.
10:02:15 - Move. Move.
10:02:17 - Turn it up.
10:02:18 - (Down, down.)
10:02:23 - (Pull it down. Pull it down.)
10:02:25 - Down. Push, push, push.
10:02:33 - (Hey. Hey. Give it to me. Give it to me.)
10:03:02 - (Allah is the greatest, Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest ...)