Danny Levin: September 11’s “first victim”

September 09, 2002


[Note by Tom Gross]

According to the article below, from the magazine section of this weekend's Yediot Ahronot (Israel's highest circulation daily newspaper), the first victim of the September 11 attacks was Danny Levin, a former member of Israel's elite commando unit, Sayeret Matkal.

Levin, who was sitting in the business section of Flight 11 from Boston, was killed while trying to protect one of the air stewardesses who was being attacked. Afterwards two additional flight attendants and the captain were murdered, leaving the hijackers free to crash the plane into the World Trade Center.

Levin was married with two children. His wife, Ann, still lives in Boston.

-- Tom Gross


Excerpt from "Year to the Twin Towers disaster"
Seven days magazine
Yediot Ahronot
September 6, 2002

(The translation of this article is courtesy of IMRA.)

Danny Levin was the first victim of the biggest attack in history that morning, in which almost 3,000 people died. An internal memorandum of the US Federal Aviation Administration sets that in the course of a struggle that took place between Levin, a graduate of Israel's elite commando unit, Sayeret Matkal, and the four hijackers who were assaulting that cockpit, Levin was murdered by Satam Al Suqami, a 25 year old Saudi.

Some time after the attack the Levin family in Jerusalem received a telephone call from the FBI offices in New York. On the line was the agent responsible for the investigation of the attack on Flight 11. He told Peggy and Charles Levin that there is a high degree of certainty that their son Danny tried to prevent the hijacking. The FBI relied, among other things, on the testimony of the stewardess Amy Sweeney.

Sweeney called Michael Woodward, the flight services supervisor in Boston, from the rear of the plane: "a hijacker slit the throat of a passenger in business class and the passenger appears to me to be dead." To this day the American investigators are not convinced that Danny Levin was murdered on the spot. An additional stewardess, Betty Ong, who succeeded in calling from a telephone by one of the passenger seats, said that the passenger who was attacked from business class seat 10B was seriously wounded.

The Levin family, Danny' parents and brothers, have no doubt that Danny battled the hijackers. And it is for them a tremendous consolation. "I wasn't surprised to hear from the FBI that Danny fought. I was sure that this is what he would do," Yonatan, his younger brother, said. "Danny didn't sit quietly. From what we heard from the Americans, the hijackers attacked one of the stewardesses and Danny rose to protect her and prevent them from entering the cockpit. It is a consolation to us that Danny fought. We see it as an act of heroism that a person sacrifices his life in order to save others. An act of heroism that everyone should do at such an instance and particularly suitable for Danny."

That battle in the business section ended quickly. Levin was overcome and bled to death on the floor. Two additional flight attendants were knifed and the captain was murdered. The hijackers were already inside the cockpit. They announced to the passengers to remain quiet in their seats.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.