Explore + Learn

Undelivered Mail

United Airlines Flight 93 was carrying 2,858 pounds of US mail when it took off from Newark, New Jersey on September 11, 2001. Wedding invitations, bank statements, advertisements, personal letters . . . neatly packed in sturdy plastic mail containers, destined to arrive at west coast homes and businesses once the plane landed in San Francisco at 11 am.

When hijacked Flight 93 crashed at 10:03 in rural western Pennsylvania, 2,858 pounds of mail were scattered across the fields and forests, or burned in the aircraft’s fiery explosion. First responders reported seeing so much mail on the ground at the crash site that, at first, they thought (and hoped) that the plane might have been carrying only mail. In the days following the crash personnel from the Pittsburgh Division of the US Postal Inspection Service were dispatched to review the mail that was recovered by the FBI Evidence Response Teams working at the crash site. After completing that assignment, the team was invited to stay for approximately a week to assist with the recovery and evidence gathering mission of the FBI.

Melted fragments of the plastic containers which held the mail were recovered at the crash site and are now part of the exhibit at Flight 93 National Memorial, and part of the collection at the National Postal Museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Photographs of mail at the Flight 93 crash site are a haunting reminder of the interrupted journey of the plane and its passengers and crew.