Sunday, August 1, 2010

Widow: 9/11 passengers planned to resist

From Phil Hirschkorn
CNN
Wednesday, March 10, 2004 Posted: 4:44 PM EST (2144 GMT)


NEW YORK (CNN) -- Passengers on one of the planes terrorists crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, planned to resist the hijackers, according to the widow of one of the passengers.

About three-and-a-half minutes before the doomed United Airlines Flight 175 struck the trade center's south tower, Brian David Sweeney, a 38-year-old former U.S. Navy pilot from Barnstable, Massachusetts, made two phone calls.

Sweeney left a message for his wife, Julie, on his home answering machine, then he called his mom.

"We assume he was calling from the back of the plane, because he said, 'They might come back here. I might have to go. We are going to try to do something about this,' " Julie recalled.

The calls came to light in a January statement from the independent commission investigating the attacks.

Louise Sweeney confirmed that her son called, but said the details were too personal for her to discuss. Julie Sweeney, who has since remarried, was willing to describe the call Brian Sweeney made to his mom.

"Whether he was doing something or whether they [the hijackers] were coming back, I don't know that," she said. "It was more speculative than fact as far as why he hung up the phone quickly -- whether it's because they were charging the cockpit or whether they were coming back to where he was and he didn't want to be seen on a phone.

She said he then told his mother he loved her and hung up the phone. His mother switched on her television to see live pictures of her son's plane crashing, Julie Sweeney said.

"Do I believe Brian went down swinging?" she said. "Absolutely. Do I believe it was too late? Absolutely. Regardless of 'what if, what if, what if,' it won't change the outcome."

The message Brian Sweeney left his wife on their answering machine was a farewell, she said.

"If things don't go well, and it's not looking good, I want you to know I absolutely love you," Julie Sweeney recalled him saying.

Julie Sweeney said she thinks the main reason Brian made the calls was to "let us know where he was, what was happening, and to give us his final love and wishes for our lives, because he knew he was on a doomed flight," she said

The Sweeneys described the two phone calls to FBI agents who visited them the day of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Brian Sweeney's flight, from Boston, Massachusetts, to Los Angeles, California, crashed about 15 minutes after hijackers crashed American Airlines Flight 11, with 87 passengers and crew, into the trade center's north tower.

Sweeney, who flew an F-14 in the Persian Gulf War and was a U.S. Navy flight instructor for the Navy in Miramar, California, was working for a Defense Department contractor, Brandes Associates.

United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed into the ground in rural Pennsylvania, was believed to be the only September 11 flight in which passengers were able to battle the hijackers.

Informed of the earlier crashes, several passengers aboard rose to the rallying cry "Let's Roll," the final known words uttered by Todd Beamer, and tried to overtake the hijackers.

The plane, which was headed to the nation's capital, most likely aiming for the White House or U.S. Capitol, crashed in an empty coal field in Shanksville.

The independent commission investigating the September 11 attacks disclosed in a January staff statement that Sweeney was one of three people aboard Flight 175 who made phone calls. Fellow passenger Peter Burton Hanson and flight attendant Robert Fangman were the others.

"Reports from Flight 175 included one passenger predicting the hijackers intended to fly an aircraft into a building," the commission staff statement said. "Another said the passengers were considering storming the cockpit."

The statement did not indicate who made the calls. There is no mention of such calls in Congress' report of its investigation into the attacks.

Telephone calls from two flight attendants from Flight 11 and one passenger and one flight attendant from American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon, have also been reported to investigators, according to the commission.

CNN's Abigail Brigham contributed to this story