An American-born, former Israeli commando became the first victim of terrorist hijackers on Sept. 11, when he tried to protect an American Airlines stewardess, according to a report in Israel’s top daily.
While the heroes who wrested control of United Airlines Flight 93, bringing the plane down in an empty Pennsylvania field, have been recognized from the start, the tale involving Danny Lewin has not been told.
Yediot Achronot says an internal memo from the Federal Aviation Administration details a struggle between Lewin, 31, who held dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, and a hijacker identified as Satam al-Suquami, a 25-year-old Saudi. The article contends that Lewin, who had been a captain in the elite, anti-terror Sayelet Matkal unit, rose from his seat in the business class section to confront the hijackers, but was quickly knifed to death before Flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.
Lewin was a native of Denver who moved to Israel with his parents in 1983, and later returned to the United States to live in the Boston area, where he founded Akamai Technologies, a successful computer firm. He had a wife, Anne, and two sons, Eitan and Itamar, and has been mentioned as one of the richest Israelis.
The Yediot report says a flight attendant, Ann Sweeney, phoned an airline official during the hijacking and reported that "a hijacker slit the throat of a passenger in business class and he appears to me to be dead." FBI officials later called Lewin’s family in Jerusalem to tell them that it was likely their son who tried to foil the hijacking, the paper claims.
The report also quotes Lewin’s brother, Yonatan, as saying that "from what we heard from the Americans, the hijackers attacked a stewardess and Danny rose to protect her and prevent them from entering the cockpit."
An FBI spokesman here had no comment on the report.