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September 11th, 2008
05:48 PM ET

Fighting for control: The greatest heroes

Editor's Note:
We are devoting many posts today to the anniversary of 9/11, with first-hand accounts, insight, and commentary dedicated to that day seven years ago that changed our world.
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[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/11/art.flight93memorial.jpg
caption="2007 Memorial ceremony for flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001."]
David Mattingly | Bio
AC360° Contributor

I was the first network correspondent to reach the Shanksville crash site.

I had been on vacation at my mother-in-law's house in central Pennsylvania with plans to go fishing when news of the crash came in.

I remember having to talk my way through police check points using my CNN cap and my Georgia drivers license as the only proof that I was a CNN correspondent. Fortunately it was enough.

I was astonished when authorities let me view the crash site. The destruction was unlike any airline crash I had ever seen.

Faint trails of smoke were still rising from a large crater. Tiny pieces of debris were scattered about. There was nothing I could see that looked like part of an airplane.

Later that afternoon, phone calls from passengers of flight 93 revealed they had attempted to fight for control of the plane. Their last words were prayers and expressions of love to their familes.

Their actions prevented terrorists from striking a target in Washington DC. In my mind they have always been the greatest heroes in the War on Terror.

To this day, I still think about them everytime a board an airplane and I wonder if I would have had the courage to do what they did.

soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    David

    I wonder too if I would have had the courage to do what those people on that flight did. I also wonder how close they came to taking the airplane back before it crashed – if they had had another few minutes would they have been able to take it back and not crash it? They were such brave people to do what they did – they went down fighting for themselves and for the rest of us. Bravery like theirs leaves one speechless.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    September 11, 2008 at 9:32 pm |
  2. deborah, OH

    I was outside this afternoon & heard a plane flying overhead...I remember the day the planes stopped flying, & the horrifying deafening silence that came after...thanks for your post & your memories...& the passengers on flight 93 were real heroes.

    September 11, 2008 at 7:13 pm |
  3. S. Paiement

    Before 911, the airline policy was: if a plane is being hijacked, the passengers and crew must cooperate with the hijackers demands. That policy went down the drain that day. Peronally, I don't know how I would react, but if my sacrifice can save a lot more lives, it would be a small price to pay so that morons could not win.

    The passengers, crews and people on the ground who lost their live that faithful day are heros, regardless of their actions. As for the morons (I must stay polite) they can rest in Hell. As for the clowns who applauded their actions and rejoiced, I hope you won't die in your sleep...

    September 11, 2008 at 6:52 pm |