President, dignitaries and families honor Flight 93 victims

September 13, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |
  • Mist clears from the Flight 93 crash site in Shanksville, Pa., on Sunday morning, the 10th anniversary of terrorists' attempted hijacking of the aircraft.
By Jennifer Fitch/Reporter

SHANKSVILLE, Pa. — As the sun rose Sunday morning in Somerset County, Pa., mist rolled over the meadow where Flight 93 crashed 10 years earlier.

Thousands of people passed the impact site on their way to a ceremony marking the events of Sept. 11, 2001. They observed moments of silence at 8:46 a.m., 9:03 a.m. and 9:37 a.m. in tribute to the times hijacked planes hit U.S. landmarks that day.

According to the Associated Press, 2,977 people were killed in the attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and in the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 in Shanksville.

At 9:50 a.m., often through tears, dignitaries and victims’ families read the names of Flight 93’s passengers and crew. The flight made a rapid descent and was only 50 feet above the ground behind where the stage was erected this weekend.

“This location, this place, is like no other because the deeds on Flight 93 were like no other,” Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said when talking about passengers fighting for control of the aircraft.

“The passengers on Flight 93 charted a new course, set a new standard for American bravery,” Corbett said.

President Obama visited the site at noon to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony and speak with Flight 93 family members. People stood on chairs and fences jockeying for better camera angles of the president.

One man who talked with the president said he found him to be very genuine.

Sunday’s commemoration ceremony mixed prayer, music and remarks from dignitaries. Among the dignitaries was Somerset County Coroner Wally Miller, whose tears flowed and breath caught as he tried to gain his composure while reading a poem.

Two speakers mentioned Honor Elizabeth Wainio, a 27-year-old passenger who called her stepmother in her final moments. Her colleague, John Hendricks, said Wainio and others on the flight represented the best of humanity.

“The citizens on Flight 93 found themselves on a deadly missile aimed at the heart of the nation and thousands of lives,” he said.

“They couldn’t have known what it’d mean to all of us,” said U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, D-Pa.

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., said the families of Flight 93’s passengers and crew continue to inspire him every day.

“This is the place where America said ‘no,’” he said.
Gordon Felt is president of Families of Flight 93. His brother, Edward Porter Felt, was on the plane.

“This is not an easy morning,” Felt told the crowd.
Felt spoke of pain and healing, saying a person can be too deeply affected by tragedy to never be considered whole or healed again. He said a person can choose instead to be inspired by what happened.

“Our painful remembrance honors them and keeps them alive in our hearts,” he said.

Flowers, cards, pictures and other mementos piled up in Memorial Plaza as the day continued. Visitors fell into silence as they approached the Wall of Names, where some people wept openly or touched the gray granite.

The Wall of Names, where those killed are listed, is at the far end of Memorial Plaza, which also includes a walkway bordering the impact site. Now a meadow, the wildflowers and tall grasses cover scars left in the ground from burning debris.

Future plans for the Flight 93 National Memorial include a “Tower of Voices” with aluminum wind chimes reaching 93 feet into the sky.

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