When Alice Hoglan realized the deadly intent of the United Flight 93 hijackers, she called her son on the plane and gave her last words of maternal advice: Overpower the hijackers, Hoglan urged her only child.
Mark Bingham, 31, called his mother from the air phone at his seat at 9:44 a.m.ET, telling her that his plane had been hijacked and that he loved her, but the phone call was cut off after about three minutes.
It was three hours earlier in California, where Hoglan lives, and she had been asleep. When she turned on the TV and saw the World Trade Center attack on the news, Hoglan called her son back on his cell phone at 9:54 a.m.ET.
He never received the two cell phone messages that Hoglan left for him, but his mother was later able to retrieve the recordings, which included frantic messages to Bingham from friends and family.
"Mark, this is your mom," Hoglan said, sounding calm on the tape. "The news is that it's been hijacked by terrorists. They are planning to probably use the plane as a target to hit some site on the ground. I would say go ahead and do everything you can to overpower them, because they are hellbent. Try to call me back if you can."
A few minutes later she left a second message.
"Mark, apparently it's terrorists and they are hellbent on crashing the aircraft. So if you can, try to take over the aircraft," she said, urgently this time. "There doesn't seem to be much plan to land the aircraft normally, so I guess your best bet would be to try to take it over if you can, or tell the other passengers. There is one flight that they say is headed toward San Francisco. It might be yours, uh, so if you can, group some people and perhaps do the best you can to get control of it. I love you, sweetie. Good luck. Bye-bye."
One of the Heroes
Even though he didn't hear his mother's messages, Bingham was one of the passengers believed to have fought back against the terrorists on that Sept. 11 flight, which crashed in Pennsylvania, thwarting the hijacker's apparent plan to hit a national landmark — possibly the White House — in Washington, D.C.
The families of Flight 93 victims are scheduled to listen to a tape of the cockpit voice recorder on April 18 in Princeton, N.J. After initially declining the family's request to hear the tapes, the FBI has agreed to allow them to listen to a tape of the last 30 minutes of the flight.
The tapes reportedly do not include the moments when the hijackers got into the cockpit, but they do seem to offer confirmation that passengers acted heroically in trying to stop the four hijackers on board. Hoglan thinks her son was already moving toward fighting back when he called her.
"I suspect Mark knew more than he was telling me," said Hoglan, a United flight attendant. "Mark had a way about him, when he was a teenager he learned it was always wise to try to keep his mother in the dark about certain things."
'I'm Not a Bit Surprised'
Hoglan was in the kitchen with her brother and sister-in-law when they told her to call Bingham back.
"It was they who had the presence of mind to say 'Alice, get back on the phone with Mark and tell him, it's a suicide mission, and that he needs to do whatever he can to get control back'," Hoglan recalled.
She learned later that Bingham was sitting across the aisle from Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick, two other men who had spoken to their wives and had heard about the other hijackings. The three men, along with Todd Beamer, and flight attendants Sandy Bradshaw and CeeCee Lyles are among those who are believed to have teamed up to fight back against the hijackers.
"It was wonderful that there was enough time and enough composure aboard and enough talent, goodness and teamwork aboard Flight 93 that they were able to do at least what they were able to do, seize back a measure of power to themselves," Hoglan said.
Ahe downplays the courage of the phone calls she made that day, but speaks proudly of her son.
"I know my son, and I'm not a bit surprised," Hoglan said.