ALEXANDRIA, Va. – In the last few minutes before United Flight 93 crashed into a rural Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers aboard the plane ordered passengers to "shut up" and "sit" as they issued a terrifying message: "We have a bomb on board."
Federal prosecutors seeking the execution of Zacarias Moussaoui on Wednesday figuratively placed the jury aboard the doomed flight when they played a recording in which the hijackers were heard giving orders to the passengers.
It was the first time the cockpit voice recording was played publicly and was used as evidence as the jury decided whether to give Moussaoui, an admitted terrorist conspirator, the death sentence.
In the final minutes of Flight 93, passengers attempted an uprising and tried to retake the plane at which point the hijackers crashed it into a western Pennsylvania field. The plane had been headed for the U.S. Capitol, according to Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.
"I don't want to die," a passenger is heard to cry out in the tape. Then a hijacker says, "Shall we finish it off?"
The hijackers alternated between Arabic and English.
The recording began at 9:31 a.m. with the hijackers' voice clearly stating, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is the captain ... we have a bomb on board, so sit." For the next few minutes, passengers are repeatedly told, in English, "Don't move," "Shut up" "Sit," and "down, down, down."
As the tape proceeded, it was clear that passengers were gaining the upper hand.
A voice of a hijacker, presumably inside the cockpit, says, "They want to get in." The voice continues, "Hold from within." At 10 a.m., there is a voice that says, "I am injured." A hijacker asks in Arabic "Shall we finish it off?" The response come back: "No, not yet."
Then a voice is heard in English: "In the cockpit! If we don't, we die!"
At 10:01 a.m., a hijacker asks again: "Shall we put it down? The response: "Yes, put it down."
At that point, the plane appears to go out of control. There are sounds of the hijackers trying to shake off the passengers. The plane pitches back and forth.
A translation of the hijackers' Arabic words was provided to the jury. At one point a hijacker is heard to say "In the name of Allah, most merciful, most compassionate."
A voice in the cockpit says "Please don't hurt me. Oh God!" Then a few seconds later somebody says "I don't want to die!" three times.
In the last minute, voices could be heard in English saying "push up" and "pull down," as flight data showed the steering yoke moving wildly. Some interpreted that as a struggle for control in the cockpit between passengers and hijackers.
The hijackers for more than four minutes before that been swinging the plane wildly in an effort to throw the rebelling passengers off balance.
Then there are what sounds like groans in the cockpit. Amid sounds of a struggle, a hijacker asks, "There is something, a fight?" The response is, "Yeah." Then in Arabic a couple of minutes later, a voice of a hijacker says "Everything is fine. I finished." He said that around the time that the plane is turning back toward Washington.
As the jury heard the recording, prosecutors played a video presentation that simultaneously showed the flight path, speed and heading in a mockup similar to a flight simulator.
At 10:02 a.m., a hijacker says, "Give it to me. Give it to me." At 10:03 a.m. the plane dives amid crashing sounds and the tape stops. The last sound heard as the plane nears the ground: "Allah is the greatest."
The Flight 93 cockpit voice recording is the only such tape that investigators were able to hear from any of the four airplanes hijacked on Sept. 11.
The government rested its case just before 11:30 a.m. EDT after the judge rejected prosecutors' request to display a running presentation of the names and photos of all of the nearly 3,000 victims of Sept. 11. Prosecutors were instead allowed to show one large poster with the pictures of all but 92 of the victims.
There were three victim-impact witnesses who gave testimony following the broadcast of the Flight 93 tape in the courtroom.
The judge sent the jury home for the day and the defense will begin its case on Thursday. Just after that, Moussaoui shouted, "God curse you all!"
Moussaoui is the only person charged in this country in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks. The jury deciding his fate has already declared him eligible for the death penalty by determining that his actions caused at least one death on Sept. 11.
Even though he was in jail in Minnesota at the time of the attacks, the jury ruled that lies told by Moussaoui to federal agents a month before the attacks kept them from identifying and stopping some of the hijackers.
Now they must decide whether Moussaoui deserves execution or life in prison.
Defense lawyers say the jury should spare Moussaoui's life because of his limited role in the attacks, evidence that he is mentally ill and because his execution would only play into his dream of martyrdom.
'Two Very, Very Difficult Days'
Hamilton Peterson, who lost two family members on Flight 93, said he believes the recording provides evidence that passengers attacked and killed a hijacker guarding the cockpit door. He said although he believes the death penalty is appropriate for Moussaoui, he does not believe in martyrdom and is confident the jury will decide the proper fate.
He also praised the prosecutors and other legal experts working on the government's case.
"They also have surrendered their lives since Sept. 11, 2001 ... they've been working 24-7 and I would venture to say, they've been impacted by 9/11 as much as some of the families have," Peterson told reporters after court adjourned for the day Wednesday.
Peterson also said that something lost in the transcripts of the tape, which also were released Wednesday, are the tremors and fear in Flight 93 victims' voices, which can be heard through amplified headsets the jury and the families used to listen to an enhanced audio version that was played for family members only.
"It's been two very, very difficult days but days we know we were proud we participated, we were proud we supported and we want to ensure that America becomes safe," said Rosemary Dillard, who lost her husband on Sept. 11. "It's been pointed out clearly there were some phone calls made that should have been followed up" to possibly prevent the added, she added.
After several days of testimony related to the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the focus shifted Tuesday to the Pentagon, where the jury saw some of the most gruesome evidence in the trial.
Several photos showed badly burned bodies, facial features still discernible. Defense lawyers objected unsuccessfully to their display.
Lt. Col. John Thurman testified that when the Pentagon was hit, he thought a bomb had exploded, then later described a sensation similar to an earthquake as the plane moved under his second floor office.
Thurman crawled through the office, unable to lift his head above the carpet because the smoke was too intense. He said he felt an overwhelming need to take a nap and "that's when it hit me: I'm going to die. And I got very angry. Angry that terrorists would take my life on the same day my parents were getting their first grandchild" (from his sister).
"I realized I had to get out. I pushed file cabinets with all of my strength and found an opening," Thurman said.
Thurman left the Pentagon coughing up black soot and was taken to a hospital. He fully recovered from his injuries after a weeklong hospital stay that included a medically induced coma.
"I feel incredibly lucky," he said. "But there's guilt about getting the lucky break."
Also on Tuesday, the judge issued an order requiring an unidentified individual to be produced for testimony. The order apparently applied to would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid — defense lawyers issued a subpoena last week seeking his testimony. Prosecutors had opposed the subpoena.
Moussaoui testified previously that he and Reid were going to hijack a fifth plane on Sept. 11 and fly it into the White House. The defense lawyers, who have tried to discredit their client's credibility, have said Moussaoui is exaggerating his role in Sept. 11 to inflate his role in history.
FOX News' Mike Emanuel and Liza Porteus and The Associated Press contributed to this report.