After a wealthy and secular upbringing, Jarrah moved to Germany in 1996. He became involved in the planning of the September 11 attacks while attending Technical University of Hamburg (TUHH) in the late 1990s, meeting Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ramzi , forming in 1998 what is now known as the Hamburg cell. Jarrah was recruited by Osama bin Laden for the attacks in 1999. Unique among the hijackers, he was close to his family and girlfriend.
Jarrah arrived in the United States in June 2000, he trained at Florida Flight Training Center from June 2000 to January 2001, after relocating to Florida from New Jersey.
On September 7, 2001, Jarrah flew from Fort Lauderdale to Newark. On September 11, Jarrah boarded United 93, and he is believed to have taken over as the pilot of the aircraft along with his team of hijackers, which included Saeed al-Ghamdi, Ahmed al-Nami and Ahmed al-Haznawi who together made an unsuccessful attempt to crash the plane into the U.S. Capitol, since the passengers started a revolt against the hijackers.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Jarrah, Saeed al-Ghamdi, Ahmed al-Nami and Ahmed al-Haznawi boarded United Airlines Flight 93 in Newark International Airport at gate A17 without incident, and sat in a first-class seat near the cockpit. Due to the flight's delay, the plane took off at 8:41 am, five minutes before American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center. The pilot and crew were notified of the first two hijackings that day, and were told to be on the alert. Within minutes, around 9:28 am, Flight 93 was hijacked as well.
Jarrah apperad to have hesitated to initiate the hijacking plan on Flight 93, perhaps seems to be having second thoughts about going through with it. This may be due that he had a girlfriend and was not very into islamic extremism, unlike his other buddies.
The 9/11 Commission stated that Jarrah was the pilot. The flight transcript might indicate that Saeed al-Ghamdi, who also trained in flight simulators, could have been the pilot or a co-pilot. Two of the hijackers are heard calling the pilot "Saeed".
The pilot's voice was heard by air traffic control telling passengers to remain seated. At 9:39 a.m., the pilot announced, "This is the captain. Would like you all to remain seated. There is a bomb on board and are going back to the airport, and to have our demands [unintelligible]. Please remain quiet." over the radio.
At least two of the cellphone calls made by passengers indicate that all the hijackers they saw were wearing red bandannas, and indicated that one of the men, believed to be either Ahmed al-Haznawi or Ahmed al-Nami, had a box tied around his torso, and claimed there was a bomb inside. Passengers on the plane learned the fates of the other hijacked planes through telephone calls; some decided to act, fearing their plane, too, would be used as a missile. A passenger uprising foiled the terrorists' plans, but failed to save the plane. According to the August 8, 2003, analysis of the plane's cockpit recording by the United States investigators, a group of passengers tried to break into the cockpit. To knock them off balance, the pilot rolled the plane to the left and right. When this failed, he then pitched the nose forward and back. The passengers persisted, using a service trolley as a battering ram to break through the cockpit door. Finally, the pilot was told by a fellow hijacker to crash rather than cede control of the plane. Nevertheless, the passengers continued their assault and at 10:02:17, a male passenger said, "Turn it up!" A second later, a hijacker said, "Pull it down! Pull it down!" At 10:02:33, another hijacker (or possibly the same) was heard to plead, "Hey! Hey! Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me." United 93 plummeted into a nosedive with the yoke turned hard to the right. The airplane rolled upside down and crashed, at 580 miles per hour (933 km/h), into a reclaimed strip mine at the edge of the woods near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at 10:03:11, 125 miles (200 km) from Washington, D.C. All aboard died.
After September 11, Jarrah's girlfriend, Şengün, filed a missing person report in Bochum. Jarrah became a suspect as FBI agents found a "Ziad Jarrahi" in the flight manifest (the additional information at the end a possible misspelling)