We all know the inspiring story of Flight 93, of the heroic passengers who forced the hijacked plane to the ground, sacrificing themselves to save the lives of others. The only trouble is: it may simply not be true.
The fate of United Airlines Flight 93, the last of the four hijacked planes to go down in the United States on 11 September, holds no mystery for Lee Purbaugh. He saw what happened with his own eyes. He was the only person present in the field where, at 10.06am, the aircraft hit the ground.
"There was an incredibly loud rumbling sound and there it was, right there, right above my head - maybe 50ft up," says Purbaugh, who works at a scrapyard overlooking the crash site. "It was only a split second but it looked like it was moving in slow motion, like it took forever. I saw it rock from side to side then, suddenly, it dipped and dived, nose first, with a huge explosion, into the ground. I knew immediately that no one could possibly have survived."
The shortage of available facts did not prevent the creation of an instant legend - a legend that the US government and the US media were pleased to propagate, and that the American public have been eager, for the most part, to accept as fact. The legend goes like this: the passengers on the hijacked United flight, alerted on their mobile phones to the news of the other three hijacked planes, decide that if they are not going to save themselves at least they will do the patriotic thing and spare the lives of those who are the terrorists' intended targets; so they charge down the aisle, storm the cockpit, where a terrorist is at the controls, and, in the ensuing struggle, force the plane down.