America's bloodiest day
At least three doomed passengers phoned home
WASHINGTON Government and industry officials said at least one flight attendant and two passengers called from three of the planes as they were being forced down in New York and Washington each describing similar circumstances involving knife-wielding hijackers.
The callers said hijackers armed with knives, in some cases stabbing flight attendants, took control of the plane and were forcing them toward the ground, officials said.
One of the passengers was Barbara Olson, CNN commentator and wife of Solicitor General Theodore Olson, who phoned her husband as the hijacking was occurring. She was aboard American Airlines Flight 77 that left Dulles International Airport in Washington and was forced to crash into the Pentagon.
The officials said Olson told her husband the attackers had used knifelike instruments to take over the plane and forced passengers to the rear of the jet.
Theodore Olson confirmed his wife made the calls before dying.
"She called from the plane while it was being hijacked. I wish it wasn't so but it is," he said.
Separately, a businessman, his wife and young child aboard a United flight that left Boston and crashed into the World Trade Center twice called his father in Connecticut as his plane was being hijacked, a law enforcement official told the Associated Press.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the victim's father told the FBI his son made two calls, and both times the phone cut off. In the first call, the businessman said a stewardess had been stabbed. In the second call, the son said his plane was going down.
The man was identified as former Easton, Conn., resident Peter Hanson. A minister confirmed the cell phone call to his father, Lee Hanson, an official in Easton, a small town near Bridgeport.
"He called to his parents' home, and so in that way they were so together in that moment," the Rev. Bonnie Bardot said.
And a flight attendant aboard the second jetliner that struck the World Trade Center managed to call an emergency number from the back of the plane, an American Airlines source said. The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the woman reported her fellow attendants had been stabbed, the cabin had been taken over and they were going down in New York.
A San Francisco woman told KTVU-TV that her son, Mark Bingham, 31, called her from aboard United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania.
"We've been taken over. There are three men that say the have a bomb," Alice Hoglan quoted her son as saying.
The stories of these cell phone callers matched those of a call apparently made aboard a plane that crashed in rural Pennsylvania around the same time. Officials believed that plane was hijacked and was turning around from its planned West Coast destination, possibly headed toward the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland or the U.S. Capitol in Washington, officials said.
An emergency dispatcher received a cell phone call from someone saying he was a passenger locked in a bathroom aboard United Flight 93, his plane was being hijacked and it was going down. The dispatcher heard an explosion and the cell phone call ended, officials said.