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Newly Revealed Video Shows Smoke Rising From Flight 93

When passengers aboard United Flight 93 fought back on Sept. 11, 2001, they prevented what could have been a devastating strike on Washington by the four terrorists who had hijacked the jet.

Now, a newly released video shows — from a distance — the smoke rising above the hills of Shanksville, Pa., where Flight 93 came down. Thirty three passengers, five flight attendants and two pilots died.

The video is the earliest known such recording of the events in Shanksville that day. It was made, as the local Tribune-Democrat reports, by Dave Berkebile of Berlin, Pa., who lived about 2 1/2 miles from the crash site. Berkebile, who died last February, can be heard talking about what he felt and saw.

According to the Tribune-Democrat, "five years ago, [Berkebile] gave the 1 minute, 38-second video to Val McClatchey, the woman who shot the only still photograph of Flight 93's haunting, skyward aftermath. McClatchey recently donated the video to the National Park Service for an oral history of 9/11."

As we said earlier, with the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks approaching, we're pointing to some of the stories being told about that day and the days since.

Related note: Some of our NPR colleagues who were working that day have reflected on "Sept. 11, Then And Now." Among them is John Ydstie, who went to Shanksville that day.

John writes that:

"I'd been stunned that morning by the scenes on television from New York as the World Trade Center towers crumbled. From my desk at NPR, I'd seen the smoke rising in the bright blue sky over downtown Washington as the Pentagon absorbed the impact of another hijacked plane. I was quickly dispatched to cover the reported crash of a fourth plane in Pennsylvania. But here I was, standing on a hill above the crash site, staring at a smoldering ditch with no recognizable sign of an aircraft: no looming tail section, no twisted wing fragments, no seats, no luggage. The aircraft had been shredded into small pieces and the passengers largely vaporized by the impact and explosion. ...

"But in the dark days and months after 9/11, the story of the passengers on Flight 93 uplifted a country trying to regain its footing. We got to know them: a former policewoman, a federal fish and wildlife agent, several emergency medical technicians, an activist for the disabled ... people not unlike each of us who, though they faced almost certain death, found within themselves the courage to act.

"We found in them the fortitude and the resilience that we needed to move forward."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.