Phone calls from hijacked planes played for relatives of 9/11 victims

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, N.J. — SOUTH BRUNSWICK, N.J. - In an emotional reliving of events that occurred almost three years ago, family members of the passengers and crew of the four planes hijacked to carry out the Sept. 11 attacks heard recordings yesterday of the phone calls made from the jets.

The recordings, which capture some of the most chilling moments of the attacks, were the centerpiece of a 3-hour presentation by the Department of Justice.


"Today was a very difficult day for all the families," said Debra Burlingame, whose brother, Charles, was the pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon. "I was overwhelmed by the unbelievable courage of the passengers and crews of all four of these flights."

Citing non-disclosure agreements they signed before entering the meeting, family members refused to reveal specifics about what they were told concerning the flights, which originated in Boston, Newark and Washington.


The Justice Department fears that any leak of evidence could damage its case in the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person being tried as part of the Sept. 11 conspiracy.

But family members said the calls revealed individual acts of courage on all four flights, which carried 246 passengers and crew and 19 hijackers.

"What we can categorically tell you is that there were many heroes on all four flights," said D. Hamilton Peterson, whose father and stepmother perished on United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed near Shanksville, Pa.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.