Monument pays tribute to 9/11 victims

September 12, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Caroline Miller walked up to the little monument carrying 3-year-old Nick on one arm and a bouquet of red roses and white mums on the other.

She put the flowers on the base of a monument dedicated to the victims of the World Trade Center, Pentagon and Flight 93 who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

She didn't know about Wednesday's dedication ceremony until she got there.

"I knew the monument was here and I decided to put flowers on it. When I think of all those people ... it was such a sad day for the country," she said.


The monument sits on a grassy knoll off Pa. 16 about 2 miles east of downtown Mercersburg. It consists of a granite stone with a plaque, a small granite park bench next to it with four smallish evergreens representing the two towers, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania plane crash.

About 50 people crowded around it Wednesday to hear prayers, speeches and a bell rung for each of the 40 victims of Flight 93.

The monument was paid for by Catalin Bonciu, 54, and his wife, Judy, owners of the Mercersburg Pub and Restaurant in town.

Bonciu came to the United States from Romania in 1981. "America means a lot to me," he said. Bonciu moved to Mercersburg 12 years ago and became a citizen in 1998.

"America," he said, "is my adopted mother. She raised me."

The monument sits near the road on Bonciu's 30-acre homesite. A dirt lane leads to the house which is not visible from the road.

"All of us lost someone on Sept. 11. Those that were lost are part of us," he said, explaining why he had the monument built.

The audience included volunteer firefighters from the Mercersburg, Montgomery, Peters and Warren departments; Mercersburg Police Chief Larry Thomas and State Rep. Patrick Fleagle, R-Waynesboro.

"I'm here out of respect for what happened on this same day a year ago," Thomas said. "That day changed our lives forever. This is very emotional."

Fleagle likened Bonciu's initiative in having the monument built to that of the steelworkers in New York City who, shortly after the World Trade Center towers collapsed, began to cut away the mangled steel. "No one told them to do it," he said.

"We're oversaturated with Sept. 11 stories, but it's important that we focus on the heroism, not the terrorism," Fleagle said.

The Rev. Don E. Creager, a retired minister, said he remembers being on a train to Toledo, Ohio, on Dec. 7, 1941. "When the train arrived at the station there was a newspaper boy yelling 'Extra, Extra, Japanese attack America.' I'll always remember that day and I'll always remember Sept. 11," he said.

The Rev. Allen Eshleman, pastor of Mercersburg Mennonite Church, spoke of Alfred Braca, a corporate bond trader who was working on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center's north tower when the plane hit.

"He knew he was going to die so he gathered about 50 co-workers around him and began to read the Bible with them," Eshleman said.

Eshleman said he read Braca's story in a religious magazine. "He read from Lamentations Chapter 3, Verses 13-26 which says, 'Great is your faithfulness.'"

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