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Sunday, 23 September, 2001, 01:27 GMT 02:27 UK
Flight passengers hailed as heroes
Workers place debris into bins for sorting at the crash site of United flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa
Investigators want to know what happened on Flight 93
The FBI has praised passengers who are believed to have fought with the hijackers on United Airlines Flight 93 before it crashed in Pennsylvania.

FBI director Robert Mueller said: "We believe those passengers on this jet were absolute heroes and their actions during the flight were heroic."

Mr Mueller was speaking as investigators studied the "black box" cockpit voice recorder from the plane, the fourth to be hijacked in the 11 September terrorist attacks.

"We... are in the process of transcribing and in certain cases translating what little dialogue there is on that voice recorder," Mueller said. "I can't go into the details any further."

Passenger Todd Beamer
Todd Beamer: "Are you ready? Let's roll".

The New York Times said the recorder had picked up sounds of a fight and shouts in Arabic and English.

It quoted law enforcement officials as saying the tape had shown a "definite struggle".

But they were unable to discern from the tape exactly what was happening or who among the passengers, crew members or hijackers was involved in the struggle.

Technical experts are still enhancing and transcribing the sounds, which come from microphones in the headsets of the pilots and mounted on the cockpit ceiling.

'We're all going to die'

Forty passengers and crew and four hijackers died when the plane crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

It is believed the passengers foiled an attempt to crash into the presidential retreat at Camp David or targets in Washington DC - possibly the White House.

Relatives reported that some passengers told them in mobile phone calls from the flight that they planned to fight the hijackers.

Passenger Jeremy Glick with his baby
Glick: "Thought he should fight"

A senior US intelligence official reportedly said the conversations suggested that three passengers overpowered the hijackers, but were unable to maintain control of the plane.

One passenger, Todd Beamer, reportedly told an air phone operator the plane had been taken over by three men with knives, including one who claimed to have a bomb strapped to his chest.

"Todd said he and some other passengers were going to jump on the guy with the bomb," said his wife Lisa, who also spoke to her husband during the flight.

The operator said that before Mr Beamer ended his conversation he could be heard saying to the other passengers, "Are you ready? Let's roll".

Businessman Thomas Burnett of San Ramon, California, also reportedly called his wife to say he planned to take on the hijackers.

The family's priest described how the 38-year-old father of three had said: "I know we're all going to die - there's three of us who are going to do something about it."

And Tom Crowley, the brother-in-law of passenger Jeremy Glick, said: "Jeremy and the people around them found out about the flights into the World Trade Center and decided that if their fate was to die, they should fight."

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The BBC's Humphrey Hawksley in Washington
"The fighting of the hijackers has had an enormous resonance with Americans"
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