News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 6, 2011

Flight 93 video emerges 10 years later

By Arlene Johns
CNHI News Service

SHANKSVILLE, Pa. — A video shot moments after the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 into an open field near here on 9/11 has surfaced on the 10th anniversary of the tragedy.

The video does not capture the plane’s impact. But it clearly shows a mushroom cloud rising from the smoky site of the crash that killed 33 passengers, 7 crew members and the 4 terrorist hijackers.

It was taken by Dave Berkebile, who lived 8 miles from the crash scene. The hijackers intended to plunge the plane into the U.S. Capitol building but were overpowered by the passengers and crew.

Berkebile, 80, passed away last February. Five years ago, he 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. She had endured years of harassment from conspiracy theorists who believe Flight 93 was shot down by U.S. military jets and that her photo was a fake.

Donna Glessner of the National Park Service said the video authenticates the McClatchey photo and also has historic significance because of its timing and content.

“No one else has a video of that smoke cloud,” said Glessner. “As far as I know it has not been shown or broadcast anywhere.”

The video includes the voice of Berkebile. He is heard saying, “This is the remains of an airplane crash over on Lambertsville Road. Probably a terrorist bomb on board that blew it up.”

Berkebile reports the crash “shook the heck out of the house ... A great big, black cloud just mushroomed right up into the air. I wonder if there is anything left of

Lambertsville.”

The video will be available at the crash scene’s Flight 93 National Memorial, which is being dedicated Saturday as part of the 10th anniversary remembrance of 9/11.

Berkebile’s wife, Cathy, said her husband initially offered to show the video to news outlets covering the Flight 93 story, but no one was interested in looking at it.

So, she added, he kept it to himself until he read in the Johnstown, Pa., Tribune-Democrat about the conspiracy controversy surrounding McClatchey’s photo. That’s when he decided to give her the video to validate her mushroom cloud picture, dubbed “End of Serenity.”

“We never considered it might be important (until then),” said Mrs. Berkebile.

McClatchey said she only recently turned the video over to the Park Service because she did not want the Berkebiles to experience the conspiracy “fruitcakes harassing them" like they had her.

With the death of the Dave Berkebile seven months ago, she added, she decided to donate it to the oral history project.

“I think it's remarkable that Mr. Berkebile got it on video,” said McClatchey. “Now I understand why people always told me they got goose bumps when they saw my photo. That's how I feel watching the video. It is so awesome.”

Mrs. Berkebile explained the video’s background. She said the couple heard a thunderclap-like noise around 10:05 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001. She said her husband quickly rushed out the door with a video camera.

“Everything was totally visible,” she said of the sky scene.

She said the Berkebiles drove to the crash site after her husband shot the video, and were among the first there.

“We thought we would get as many survivors as we could into the car and bring them over and they could call their families and let them know they were OK,” recalled Mrs. Berkebile.

“You don’t even stop to think that when a plane crashes there usually are no survivors. There’s just that urge to help some people.”

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Arlene Johns is a reporter for the Johnstown, Pa., Tribune-Democrat. Contact her at ajohns@tribdem.com.