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Jury sees harrowing images of 9/11 terrorism

From Phil Hirschkorn
CNN

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Jurors at Zacarias Moussaoui's trial heard harrowing accounts of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon.

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ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- Jurors saw more disturbing evidence of the effects of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks as the focus of an al Qaeda plotter's sentencing trial shifted Tuesday from the World Trade Center to the Pentagon.

Prosecutors showed videos of the destruction and still photographs of charred bodies -- horrifying exhibits in a trial studded with unsettling images.

As prosecutors played the four video clips, Zacarias Moussaoui could be seen at the defense table nodding and mouthing the Arabic words "Allahu akbar," meaning "God is great."

Moussaoui, 37, a Frenchman of Moroccan descent, admitted last year that he conspired with al Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for 9/11, to hijack and crash planes into prominent U.S. buildings.

Last week, jurors agreed with federal prosecutors that Moussaoui's lies to FBI agents after his arrest resulted in 9/11 deaths. The jurors now must decide whether Moussaoui will be executed for his role in those deaths.

FBI Agent Jacqueline Maguire testified that the nose of the Boeing 757 that crashed into the Pentagon penetrated to the building's third ring, known as the "C" ring. Photos showed a blackened, gaping hole in the outer wall.

"Burn all Pentagon next time," Moussaoui stated outside the jury's presence.

Jurors also saw four photos of intact human remains, one showing a charred body under the debris. Maguire said remains were scattered across three floors. (Watch the horrific effects of terrorism --2:22)

The Pentagon attack killed 184 people -- 53 passengers and six crew members on board American Airlines Flight 77-- and 125 military and civilian personnel inside the building. The trial is taking place at the federal courthouse outside Washington, less than 10 miles from the crime scene.

Prosecutors on Wednesday will turn the jury's attention to the fourth hijacked plane, United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

'Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!'

Flight 93's cockpit voice recording will be publicly played for the first time. As a preview, jurors heard transmissions late Tuesday documenting the moment the hijackers stormed the cockpit.

"Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!" said a voice over the radio. "Mayday! Get out of here! Get out of here!"

Earlier, two families who lost loved ones in the attack on the Pentagon shared their stories.

And, two survivors and one emergency responder also gave harrowing accounts of watching office mates die and crawling in the smoky darkness to safety.

Shari Tolbert, whose husband, Vince, was a naval intelligence officer, described breaking the news of his death to the oldest of their three children, Amanda, who was 9 at the time.

"Your daddy's not coming home. He's not coming home today. He's not coming home tomorrow. He's not coming home," Tolbert said.

She maintained her composure until a prosecutor asked what her loss meant.

"I get to raise three kids alone. I never get to have a 50th anniversary. My daughter gets to go to father-daughter dances with her grandfather and uncle," Tolbert said. "I get to go to bed alone."

Dr. Rui Zheng said she felt guilty for switching her parents' return flight to China from September 10 to September 11.

"If I didn't change their flight tickets, everything would have turned our differently. They would still be alive today and enjoying their lives," she testified.

'His skin came off in my hands'

Police officer Jose Rojas told jurors he saved eight people that morning.

"You could hear people inside the building moaning, groaning, screaming," he said. The first man he rescued was badly burned, Rojas testified.

"He slid back, because his skin came into my hands," he said. Rojas said he dug his fingernails into the man's arms to hoist him over the window ledge.

Army Lt. Col. John Thurman said the impact sounded like a bombing and felt like an earthquake.

"It seemed like a curtain of fire came pouring down" into his second floor office, he said. The floor got very hot. Three of his office mates died.

"I felt this incredible sense to take a nap. That's when it hit me -- I was gonna die," Thurman said. "I just got very angry." It helped him summon the strength to make it to an emergency exit.

Navy Lt. Nancy McKeown was disoriented by the attack. She dove under her desk and, she testified, "I thanked God for my life insurance. Every time I took a breath it felt like my insides were on fire."

Before shifting to the Pentagon attack, prosecutors wrapped up testimony and evidence about the World Trade Center attacks. About 30 witnesses told jurors about the trade center losses.

Michael Williams, whose 24-year-old son, Kevin, was a bond salesman killed inside the south tower, told jurors how joyous wedding plans turned to somber funeral arrangements. Instead of raising a toast to a groom, he said, he delivered a eulogy.

Williams' wife, Pat, shed a tear as Williams described how it fell upon her to call the hotel in Hawaii to cancel the honeymoon.

"There's no drugs, there's no alcohol, there's no friend that can take that pain away," Williams said.

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