Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Mourning has broken," Sept. 29, 2001

HEROIC PASSENGERS MAY HAVE THWARTED A 4TH SUICIDE ATTACK; LAST WORDS CAUGHT ON CELL CALL
'Jesus, help me'
"Freedom fighters." That's how David Beamer, speaking at the packed-out Sunday memorial service for his son Todd at 1,400-member Princeton (N.J.) Alliance Church, described his son and his newfound friends who decided to move against the four hijackers on United Airlines Flight 93. Government officials believe their action averted a disastrous attack on Washington. The 757 lifted off from Newark for San Francisco at 8:43 a.m. on Sept. 11. Forty-five people, including seven crew members, were aboard the single-aisle aircraft. The plane was nearing Cleveland when air-traffic controllers heard a commotion in the cockpit through an open microphone; someone was shouting "Get out of here!" The plane made a sharp U-turn. The hijacking apparently had begun. The terrorists herded most of the passengers and flight attendants to the rear. A single hijacker with a knife and an apparent bomb strapped to his waist guarded them. He permitted his captives to make calls with cell phones and in-flight phones. At least four men placed calls to loved ones: California businessman Thomas Burnett, 38; Manhattan businessman Mark Bingham, 31; New Jersey Internet worker and national judo champ Jeremy Glick, 31; and Oracle software executive Todd Beamer, 32, a former star athlete at Wheaton College (Ill.). (Shown at right, from top to bottom.) Mr. Bingham contacted his mother; he told her hijackers had taken over. Mr. Burnett reached his wife, Deena. He said one man had been stabbed. His second call to her was patched through to the FBI. She told him about the crashes in New York. He hung up briefly to tell the others what he had learned. He called Deena again and told her the man who was stabbed, possibly the pilot, had died. He said he and two other passengers had decided to act rather than face certain death. Mr. Glick reached his wife Lyzbeth at her parents' home. Having just seen the World Trade Center collapse, she confirmed the attacks in New York. He said there were three hijackers wearing red headbands. He put down the phone briefly, then came back on and said he and some other men had voted to attack the hijackers. He left the phone connected; Lyzbeth's father took the phone from her and listened. Mr. Beamer couldn't contact his wife, Lisa; he spoke with GTE supervisor Lisa Jefferson instead, logging on at 9:45. He asked her to relay a message to his wife and two small sons: "Tell her I love her and the boys." A third child is due in January. Ms. Jefferson said later she could hear screaming in the background, but Mr. Beamer's voice never wavered. He told her he and several others were going to "jump" their guard. A teacher and sponsor of his church's high-schoolers, he asked Ms. Jefferson to join him in praying the Lord's prayer. He ended it with words of his own: "God, help me. Jesus, help me." Then she heard him say: "Are you guys ready? Let's roll." It was 9:58. At that same moment, a Westmoreland, Pa., county emergency dispatcher fielded a 911 call from an unidentified male passenger in a lavatory at the rear of Flight 93. He told of the hijacking and said some passengers were rushing the hijackers. Seconds later, the dispatcher heard a noise, and the man said an explosion had occurred in the front of the plane. Then the connection went dead. Meanwhile, Ms. Jefferson and Mrs. Glick's father could hear scuffles and screams. Then, said the father, he heard "a mechanical sound," and nothing after that. Flight 93 crashed and exploded near Shanksville, Pa., at 10:10. Air Force fighter pilots were under orders to shoot down the airliner if it had come near Washington. -Edward E. Plowman Bin Laden is like family to key Muslim governments
Ties of terror
Osama bin Laden has over 50 siblings and, at present, four wives. Those numbers only begin to explain both the philosophical divide and the dynastic fortress confronting the United States in its quest for justice after the Sept. 11 attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. The Koran allows the taking of up to four wives, and Mohammed himself is reported to have taken many more. That custom yielded Mr. bin Laden's father a dynasty that stretches from his homeland in Yemen to a prosperous construction business in Saudi Arabia. His wealth fell to his sons, including Osama, now 44, and propelled him from the Arabian Peninsula's best schools to Afghanistan, to Sudan, and back again. Along the way young bin Laden abandoned the trappings of Saudi Arabia's oil boom that made his family rich and embraced Islamic radicalism. He assembled his own politically advantageous collection of wives. His fourth wife is believed to be the daughter of Mullah Mohammed Omar, leader of Afghanistan's Taliban regime. His relations also include members of the elite ancient tribes of Pushtun in northwest Pakistan (rumored to descend from King Saul). Because of the complex bloodlines, says bin Laden expert Yossef Bodansky, "the surrender of him to outsiders, especially non-Muslims, is inconceivable." Loyalty will predate international sympathy for the United States in the wake of the attacks. In the day of battle, it may also trump pledges to assist the United States now issuing from the capitals of Pakistan, Iran, and Sudan. Recent history from those nations suggests a long allegiance in Mr. bin Laden's direction. 0In Pakistan, Mr. bin Laden is like family. Pakistan's Lashkar-I-Tuiba terrorists have long supported Mr. bin Laden. They share training camps along the Afghan-Pakistani border. Although the militant government of President Pervez Musharraf pledged to support the United States by granting use of its airspace, support for the Sept. 11 attacks in the streets of Islamabad is widespread. "Many of the common people here are happy about these attacks and celebrating the event," said a Pakistani Christian who asked not to be named. "They sincerely believe that America deserves such punishment." 0Iran has served as a forward base for mujahideen forces trained by Mr. bin Laden for a decade. The State Department's 2000 report on terrorism calls Iran the world's "most active state sponsor of terrorism." Last May Iranian supreme leader Ali Khameini met in Tehran with Cuban leader Fidel Castro and agreed that the two countries "can defeat the U.S. hand in hand." 0Sudan became Mr. bin Laden's headquarters in 1991. There he set up not only training camps but also extensive fronts for terrorism, investment companies, and other enterprises, which continue to the present. Mr. bin Laden used his construction enterprises to build a highway from oilfields in south Sudan to Port Sudan. That project sped oil pumping and revenues, aiding Sudan's war against Christians and others in the south. When Mr. bin Laden left Sudan in 1996, he left behind construction equipment and other assets. -Mindy Belz U.S.-AFGHANISTAN TENSION WORSENS OUTLOOK FOR AMERICANS HELD THERE
Final farewell?
After the 9/11 attacks in the United States, tears flowed in Afghanistan, too. Parents of jailed Americans Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer left Afghanistan in an evacuation ordered by the same Taliban regime that is holding the women. The parents wept as they boarded a plane carrying UN employees, private aid workers, and others also ordered out of the country in anticipation of U.S. military retaliation. Prospects for the release of the women-jailed along with four Germans, two Australians, and 16 Afghans in August allegedly for trying to convert Muslims to Christianity-seem more dismal than ever. "You can imagine what it must be like for a mother to leave her daughter in a situation like this," said Nancy Cassell, mother of 29-year-old Dayna Curry, after returning to Pakistan. John Mercer, father of 24-year-old daughter Heather, said he begged Taliban officials at the Afghan Embassy in Islamabad to allow him to take his daughter's place in prison. They gave him no answer. The women and their fellow humanitarian aid workers, all employed by the German Christian relief group Shelter Now, will face trial in a Taliban court completely on their own. Shelter Now spokesman Johan Jaeger told WORLD that the Taliban allowed no U.S. diplomats, aid representatives, or attorneys to remain behind on behalf of the prisoners. He said the Taliban had not issued a visa to a Pakistani attorney hired to represent the eight foreign workers, even though he is a Muslim scholar with ties to the Islamic regime. The Taliban says it will try the 16 Afghans separately and has allowed that group no representation, according to Compass Direct news service. Economists fear attacks may spook American consumers
Consumed by worry?
The outlines of the economic impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., began to materialize last week as airlines laid off workers, television networks lost millions in ad revenue, and the Dow dropped 7.1 percent in the first day of trading after the attack. But the long-term effects of the assault may lie in the hands of American consumers, said Gary Shoesmith, a professor of economics at Wake Forest University. "If consumers lose confidence in the stability of the U.S. and world economy, it could be enough to tip the economy into recession." Many economists theorize that serious military conflict demoralizes consumers, making them feel less safe and less confident about the future. During the first days of the Gulf War, consumer confidence plummeted, contributing ultimately, Mr. Shoesmith said, to the 1990-1991 recession. President Bush has warned that America's new war on terrorism will be a long one. Of course, the focus on consumption may obscure the need for people not to consume some things. For example, David Miller, president of the Toy Manufacturers of America, said, "There used to be no law in tasteless toys, but people are going to be rethinking this area." Firms not ready for losses
Missing persons
Before Sept. 11, most businesses with plans in place for recovering from disaster-related computer failures had banked on having two of everything: Two servers, two databases, two archiving systems-two of everything digitally important, it seems, except people. The staggering human losses suffered when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center rocked even companies with elaborate disaster-recovery strategies, according to New Jersey-based contingency-planning firm Comdisco. When the twin towers collapsed, many companies lost computer experts considered key to recovery efforts. At least one Comdisco client lost not only its New York City information systems, but also the entire team of employees the company had designated to handle computer emergencies. "Companies plan for the risk they think they're going to see," Comdisco's Richard Maganini told WORLD. Most "business continuity plans" revolve around natural disasters such as hurricanes or earthquakes-threats that firms operating in New York City would have considered remote compared with, say, a radical power failure. The World Trade Center attack, Mr. Maganini said, "was so incredible in scale that it was just outside the risk that you plan for." Businesses open up pocketbooks
Beyond self-interest
Financial gifts from corporate giants last week flooded relief funds set up for victims, survivors, and rescue workers in New York City and Washington, D.C. ExxonMobil pledged $20 million, Coca-Cola donated $12 million, AT&T gave $11.3 million, and DaimlerChrysler, General Electric, Microsoft, and Pfizer added $10 million each. Owners of smaller local businesses across the country also stepped up to the charity plate. For instance, when Myke Shelby, owner of San Diego Harley-Davidson, heard on 9/11 about the attack on the World Trade Center, he jumped in a company truck with his general manager Dave Finnerty and drove to New York. Once there, the two New York natives worked at a firefighter staging area, handing out to rescue workers the protective gear they'd brought from Mr. Shelby's dealership. Back in San Diego, Mr. Shelby's employees in two days sold enough patriotic T-shirts to raise $2,000 for survivors of firefighters lost in the terrorist attack. Robert Huberty, vice president and director of research at the Capital Research Center, a Washington, D.C., philanthropy watchdog group, said the post-9/11 pattern of business giving lacks the self-interest that often typifies corporate donations. "Here's an instance where corporations are stepping up to the plate and doing the right thing-making gifts not from a calculation of tax considerations or how to influence advocacy groups, but really to assist fellow citizens," Mr. Huberty said.

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