In San Ramon, a bedroom community in the Bay Area, it was approaching 6:30 a.m. when the phone rang. Deena Burnett, who was feeding her three children breakfast, was watching television replays of the terrible destruction at the World Trade Center. Her husband, Tom, away on business for a few days, was on the other end of the line.
"Are you OK?" she asked cautiously.
"No," came the reply.
Her heart sank. Then she heard him say the other words: His plane had been hijacked.
"I'm on the airplane. They've already knifed a guy. They're saying they have a bomb. Call the authorities."
The line went dead.
Shaking, Deena Burnett fought her panic. But she dialed 911 and dispatchers put her in touch with the FBI.
So began the nightmare on Flight 93, one that had started as a routine trip for 38 passengers and a crew of seven. Before it ended, phone calls from Burnett and others on board suggested that passengers were plotting to boldly take back the plane.
As the plane took off that morning, none could have known what was about to happen. Theirs would be one of four jets hijacked Tuesday morning in the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history.
Two of the hijacked planes would slam into the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center and the third into a side of the Pentagon in Washington. Thousands would be injured and an untold number killed.
But unlike in the other three hijacked jets, no lives were lost on the ground when Flight 93 crashed into the sparsely populated Pennsylvania countryside. Some people believe that may have been the legacy of passengers like Burnett, Jeremy Glick and Mark Bingham.
Like Burnett, Glick, who was headed to San Francisco on business, called his wife, using a phone installed in a seat back. Lyzbeth Glick was at her family home in New York's Catskills with her 12-week-old daughter, Emerson, their firstborn.
Lyzbeth Glick said her husband asked about what was going on in New York. Rumors about a disaster at the World Trade Center were spreading from passenger to passenger.
Over the course of the next few minutes, Glick whispered that three men had taken over the plane. The men had knives. They had a large red box that they claimed was a bomb. They moved passengers to the back of the plane. He told his wife that he and some others were talking about "rushing" the hijackers.
"He was confused about what he should do," Lyzbeth Glick said. "I told him I didn't know. I said, 'I love you--a thousand times.' "
Lyzbeth Glick's mother contacted authorities from a separate phone, and they eventually listened in on the call, which lasted 15 or 20 minutes.
"He said I had to be strong for him, and for me, and for Emmy," Lyzbeth Glick said.
Then Jeremy Glick told her, "We decided, we're going to do it." He said he would not hang up the phone but would leave it off the hook.
She gave the phone to her father. She did not want to hear the rest, she said.
"I'm very proud of him," she said. "I think what he did gave me strength."
Bingham, a 6-foot-5-inch public relations executive and a former collegiate rugby player, called his mother in the Northern California community of Saratoga. He told her that he loved her. Then he described what was happening inside the plane. Bingham's mother, Alice Hoglan, said she heard a shuffling sound. It was as if her son was trying to hide the telephone.
In Pennsylvania, an emergency dispatcher in Westmoreland County took yet another call from the plane. The time was 9:58 a.m., and this caller said his flight was being hijacked.
Air traffic controllers in Cleveland noted that Flight 93 had electronically refiled its flight plan.
The new designation was Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
During the next 45 minutes, Burnett called home three additional times. On the second call, Deena Burnett told her husband about what had happened in New York. By the third call, she knew her husband was trying to formulate a plan. On the fourth, he told her that a group of passengers had talked it over and that the group was going to try to do something.
"I said, 'Please sit down and don't call attention to yourself,' " Deena Burnett said.
But the passengers had apparently made up their minds.
During his phone call, Glick told his wife that the people seated around him were going to stop the hijackers. "We're going to rush the hijackers," he told her. Those were his last words. Then he hung up.
In another part of the plane, flight attendant CeeCee Lyles, 33, called home to Fort Myers, Fla., to tell her husband, Lorne, that she loved him and their four children. He could hear screaming and crying in the background.
"Just hearing my wife saying she loved us through all that chaos on that plane is just embedded in my heart forever," Lorne Lyles said. Then the connection, which lasted no more than three minutes, was lost.
What happened next inside the cabin can only be guessed at.
The plane began losing altitude rapidly as it passed over Pennsylvania coal country.
Johnstown, Pa., airport director Joe McKelvey called 911 as Flight 93 passed overhead. The plane kept going lower and there was no radio contact.
The last radar hit came at 10:03 a.m., 25 minutes before the plane's projected arrival time in Washington. It had crashed.
Those who knew the people on board, however, are certain what must have happened. Among them is Deena Burnett. Her husband and the others, she said, saved that plane from even greater disaster.
"We may never know how many people helped him or what they did," she said. "But I know without a doubt that that plane was bound for some landmark and they saved many, many more lives than were lost on that plane."
Bingham's relatives believe he, too, joined in the fight.
"You'd have to know Mark--he was no wallflower, no pushover," said his aunt, Kathy Hoglan. "He wasn't the kind of guy to be pushed around. So I'm sure he and the others did something to stop this."
On Wednesday, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), said he thought the families were right. Murtha said he was convinced there was a struggle aboard Flight 93.
"The target was the Capitol, the White House, the Pentagon, something significant," he said. "Somebody made a heroic effort to keep this plane from hitting a populated area."
Times staff writers J. Michael Kennedy and John Glionna contributed to this story.