Remembering Bay Area United Flight 93 victims

September 7, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is this weekend and so ABC7 takes a look at Bay Area families who lost loved ones on United Flight 93. It left Newark that morning bound for San Francisco, but crashed in Pennsylvania after passengers fought so bravely to stop the terrorists.

Cathy Stefani has saved a phone message for 10 years and it is one she'll never erase. It's of her daughter saying, "Hi Mom, it's me. Pick up the phone... Mother? Anyway, I take United Airlines tomorrow, 8 o'clock tomorrow morning, Flight Number 93..."

The message was the last time Stefani heard the voice of her 21-year-old daughter. Nicole Miller was among the 45 passengers and crew who died when Flight 93 crashed in a grassy field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

"To me, it seems like it's a dream," said Stefani.

Miller had flown out from San Jose to New Jersey to visit a friend on a last-minute trip.

"She was due to fly home on Monday night. She called my work because her plane was delayed, saying that they might cancel her flight and they rebooked her for the flight for Tuesday morning on Sept. 11," said Stefani.

Months earlier, Miller celebrated her 21st birthday with a bright smile, surrounded by family and friends. Weeks before 9/11, the college student happily danced at a family wedding.

"For her to die so young, at the age of 21, is a waste," said Stefani. "She was a very happy-go-lucky, loving, friendly person to everybody."

Another Bay Area family suffered a great loss as well.

"Just a overall, genuinely nice, personable guy," said Carol Heiderich.

Carol's brother, Jason Dahl, was the captain of Flight 93. Based in Denver, Dahl grew up in the South Bay and attended San Jose State, where he joined a club called the Flying Twenties.

"It was a love of his. I can remember him as my 13-year-old little brother that loved flying and being part of Reed-Hillview's... going out to the airport, being part of civil air patrol," said Carol.

When Carol and her husband bill learned about the hijackings the morning of 9/11, they had no idea Dahl was flying that day.

"I had hopes that he was still in Denver at the training center, what he would normally do for work," said Carol.

Then a family member called saying Dahl had gone down with Flight 93.

"I think we looked for Jason to just come through the door for months. We just thought this was some kind of horrible mistake," said Bill Heiderich, Jason's brother in law.

In the years since 9/11, there have been many tributes to Jason, including the renaming of the San Jose elementary school he attended. Now, the Heinerichs, Stefani and their families will travel to Shanksville for the 10th anniversary. They take with them hope that the next decade brings a new measure of peace without ever forgetting what happened that day.

"That is the number one thing, that we don't forget what's happened and forget all of the victims of that day," said Carol.

"There's always that thought, that fear that it is going to happen again. I tell you what? I hope it doesn't because it was? it is... a nightmare," said Cathy.

"With this terrific loss, has been also been a terrific wakening," said Bill. "We don't take anything for granted anymore."

Special Coverage:
ABC7 News will carry special coverage of the nation's commemoration of 9/11. Beginning Friday, Wayne Freedman will report live from New York City and Lilian Kim from Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

On Sunday, ABC News begins our live coverage of the September 11th ceremonies with a special edition of Good Morning America from 5 a.m. - 8 a.m. and that will be followed by ABC 7 Morning News from 8 a.m. - 10 a.m.


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