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Ranger gives Greencastle residents a closer look into Flight 93

September 29, 2011|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com
  • National Park Service Ranger Brendan Wilson, assigned to the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., gave a presentation Thursday on the recently dedicated Flight 93 Memorial in the barn at the Allison-Antrim Museum in Greencastle, Pa.
By Roxann Miller, Staff Writer

GREENCASTLE, Pa. — As the faces of the 33 passengers and seven crew members of Flight 93 flashed across the screen, Brendan Wilson made a point to stop on each face.

Wilson, a National Park Service ranger assigned to the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., spoke to community members at the restored German bank barn at the Allison-Antrim Museum in Greencastle, Pa., on Thursday night.

"They (passengers of Flight 93) were traveling to business meetings and conferences, pairs of friends were going on vacation, others were returning from spending time with family and friends," Wilson said.

"The chain of events that took place in that common field on Sept. 11 is the story of action, time and a diverse group of people coming together."

Thirty-seven phone calls were placed from Flight 93, Wilson said. But, they were not made from cell phones.

Wilson said the calls were made from air phones behind each passenger's plane seat requiring a credit card to operate.

"They (passengers) found out what was happening in New York and at the Pentagon and they passed out information," Wilson said.

From the calls that were made, Wilson said the passengers voted, as a group, to take action and fight the terrorists.

He said they also waited until they were over a rural area to make a counter attack.

"In the final moments, we believe it was a group effort," Wilson said.

While the exact target of the terrorists is not known, Wilson said Flight 93 was 18 to 20 minutes flying time away from Washington, D.C.

He said there were two witnesses that saw the commercial 757 crash into the field, formerly an old strip mine.

The plane crashed going 563 miles an hour, Wilson said and was almost inverted. He said they had to bore 40 feet into the earth to find debris.

The cockpit voice recorder was found 20-25 feet in the crater, Wilson said.

From people visiting the crash site and leaving temporary tributes, Wilson said the idea for a permanent memorial grew.

The first phase of the three phase Flight 93 National Memorial was dedicated on Sept. 10, 2011.

"So, now we have a permanent memorial plaza that's actually built down at the crash site area itself. So, people are able to visit a formal memorial now and be able to come and pay their respects closer to the crash site than the public has ever been allowed before," Wilson said.

Phase two, which includes a visitors center, memorial groves and a walking path through the groves, is slated for completion in 2014, according to Wilson.

Phase three includes a 93-foot tower containing 40 wind chimes. The tower will be built near the entrance to U.S. 30. He said there is no completion date set for phase three.

"We wanted to ensure that this story is not forgotten," Wilson said.

Wilma Wehrle-Irvin, who lives in Quincy (Pa.) Village, was one of about 45 who attended the Flight 93 presentation.

She said she visited the Shanksville crash shortly after 9/11.

"It was just a hole in the ground then. You were quite a distance away from it. It was just so touching to see the memories, the names and what people had written in tribute," Wehrle-Irvin said.

Now that the memorial is open, she said she would like to return to pay her respects to those who lost their lives.

Bonnie Shockey, president, Allison-Antrim Museum, said the museum's 9/11 exhibit, Remembering September 11th — 10 Years Later, has received tremendous response.

"If you're 15 or older, you remember that day. I compare it to the day President Kennedy was killed for my generation — to Pearl Harbor for my parent's generation," Shockey said.

She said that people are just drawn to the Sept. 11 exhibit. The exhibit remains open through today at 4 p.m.

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"Remembering September 11th — 10 Years Later"

The exhibit, "Remembering September 11th — 10 Years Later," continues today until 4 p.m. in the south bay of the barn at Allison-Antrim Museum in Greencastle, Pa.

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