At Pa. site, Powell honors Flight 93 heroes

September 11, 2009|By VICKI ROCK / Somerset (Pa.) Daily American

o VIDEO: Colin Powell speaks at Flight 93 memorial

o VIDEO: Trace Adkins sings national anthem at Shanksville ceremony

o VIDEO: Watch speeches given during the Flight 93 memorial ceremony

SHANKSVILLE, PA. -- Former Secretary of State Colin Powell compared the passengers and crew of United Flight 93 to heroes of battles dating back to the Revolutionary War.

"We can never truly grasp the emotions that were going through their hearts and minds," he said. "Their choice was clear and daunting. There was no SWAT team, no military to come to their rescue. They had to attack to save themselves and thousands of fellow Americans."

The retired three-star general was the keynote speaker for the eighth anniversary observance of Sept. 11. The theme was "Flight 93 Courage Remembered."


Powell said the passengers on Flight 93 were citizen soldiers and worthy successors to the heroes of Concord and Bunker Hill.

"Instead of fear, they found the courage to attack," he said. "They didn't ask for this, but fate intervened in an unimaginable way. They seized the moment and lost their lives in so doing. We are here to remember that moment and to offer our proud thanks to their spirits."

Powell addressed the passengers' families and said all Americans send their thanks and prayers to them. He compared those on Flight 93 to the men who fought in the Civil War, especially those who died 146 years ago in Gettysburg, Pa. -- another field in Pennsylvania.

"We pay tribute to those who lost their lives in battle," he said. "The scale and scope of courage of the heroes of Flight 93 are equal to that. Never forget what they did when they struck the first note against terrorism. From these honored dead, we take this message: We will prevail over the forces of darkness. Let that be our solemn pledge as we stand on this sacred ground and remember the 40 heroes of Flight 93."

Powell was greeted on arrival by Gordon Felt, president of the Families of Flight 93; and Joanne Hanley, superintendent of the five national parks in western Pennsylvania, including the Flight 93 National Memorial. He shook hands with members of the families of Flight 93.

When Powell walked to the stage to speak, he received a standing ovation. He received a second, longer one at the end of his 13-minute address.

The ceremony was held under a massive tent holding the family members and invited guests. A large crowd, possibly as many as 1,000 people, stood in the field surrounding the tent. Many were wearing military uniforms.

Other speakers talked of the character of those on Flight 93.

Retired Gen. Tommy Franks said adversity does not build character, but reveals it.

"On this ground eight years ago, 40 heroes aboard Flight 93 revealed not only their individual character, but the character of America," he said. "Their lives were not taken, they were given. We will build a permanent memorial right here on this ground to remind future generations of the character displayed here."

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said he is proud that the memories of what happened on Flight 93 have not faded. The loss is as fresh as it was a few days later.

"We know that on the 10th anniversary, we will dedicate a memorial to what the 40 heroes did," Rendell said. "What happened here will always be special. The 40 heroes came from other parts of the country -- from around the world -- but on that day, they all became Pennsylvanians."

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