New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: It has been 19 years since the United States of America witnessed the deadliest terror attack on its soil. On September 11, 2001, 19 terrorists, belonging to Islamist extremist group Al-Qaeda took over four passenger planes and wreaked havoc at the heart of the world's largest economy.

The entire world watched in disbelief as two passenger planes plowed into the World Trade Centre (WTC) towers in New York while the third passenger plane crash-landed on the Pentagon, where the US State Dept of Defence is housed. Another plane, which was believed to be headed for the White House in Washington DC, crash-landed in Pennsylvania.

Some 2,750 people were killed in New York, 184 died at the Pentagon, and 40 in Pennsylvania. Hundreds of policemen and firefighters who rushed to the spot were also killed. The sheer scale of devastation sent shockwaves across the world.

Had it not been the bravery of 40 odd passengers, who were aboard the United Airlines Flight 93 on that fateful day, we might have witnessed even a greater tragedy. The Boeing 757 was loaded with more than 11,000 gallons of jet fuel when the four terrorists took over the plane. As investigators collated evidence through the mobile conversation intercepted in the last moments, it emerged that the terrorists wanted to hit a target in Washington, likely the White House or the US Capitol. Nearly 30 minutes after they took over the plane, the passengers decided to thwart their plan and take control of the plane using brute force.

"I know we're all going to die - there's three of us who are going to do something about it," One passenger, Thomas Burnett told his wife, The Guardian reported quoting his family priest Rev. Frank Colacicco.

As a group of passengers charged the cockpit door, terrorist hijacker Ziad Jarrah started rolling the plane to the left and right, "attempting to knock the passengers off balance.", according to 9/11 report commission report released in 2004. The report says Jarrah intended to fly the plane into the White House or the US Capitol. "He was defeated by the alerted, unarmed passengers of United 93." The report also mentions the story of one passenger, Todd Beamer, who used an onboard phone to call the FBI. At the end of his call, the operator overheard him say to other passengers, "Let's roll."

Though hijackers remained at the controls but realised that the passengers were only seconds from overcoming them, says the report. With the sounds of the passenger counter-attack continuing, they decided to crash the plane midway. The aircraft crashed into an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at 580 miles per hour. Those 40 bravehearts showed exemplary courage in their last moments and averted another tragedy.

A national memorial was built at the crash site to honor the sacrifices of the passengers and crew. It serves as a pilgrimage, a patriotic rite of passage and an educational experience for visitors.

Posted By: Rakesh Kumar Jha