By Vicki Rock Daily American
The 12th anniversary of the crash of United Flight 93 and the terrorist attacks on America on September 11, 2001, were commemorated with a solemn ceremony at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Stonycreek Township Wednesday.
U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, the keynote speaker, quoted the well-known Bible verse John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
“We never know when we might be called upon to lay down our lives for others,” she said. “Certainly the heroes of Flight 93 had no idea that they would be heroes or that they would lay down their lives for their nation that day. But their actions likely saved the lives of untold people in Washington and protected the very symbol of liberty and democracy that fuels the hatred of terrorists: the U.S. Capitol. This memorial we are surrounded by today protects and honors the remains of these heroes and ensures that generations from now, the story of Flight 93 will still remind and inspire those who come after us.”
It is a testament to the 40 passengers and crew that 300,000 people a year visit the memorial and more than 100,000 people have donated money to build it, Jewell said. She thanked the Families of Flight 93, the Flight 93 Advisory Commission, the Flight 93 Memorial Task Force, the Friends of Flight 93 and the National Park Foundation for their “tireless work” to create the memorial.
“The National Park Service has the sacred responsibility of managing this site on behalf of the families, our partners and all the American people,” she said. “We are in the forever business and we will protect this hallowed ground, the final resting place of your loved ones, and make sure future generations know this important story.”
The National Park Service is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The event was a smaller observance, with it being the middle of the week and not being a milestone year. The day started off foggy, but it was sunny and warm by the time of the service of remembrance. A smaller crowd gathered, but they were reverent in their mannerisms.
National Park Service site Superintendent Jeff Reinbold gave the welcome and served as master of ceremonies.
Dr. Brent Glass, director emeritus of the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, was a member of the Flight 93 Advisory Commission, which held its final meeting on Tuesday. The commission members were single-minded in their commitment to the memorial, he said.
Speakers often compare the actions on Flight 93 to the Battle of Gettysburg, Glass said. Gettysburg has 1,350 monuments and memorials and Flight 93 has only one.
“Our eyes were on the goal of honoring the passengers and crew of Flight 93,” he said. “We thought long and hard of what people will want to know about it in the future. I am confident when people come here and see this memorial and park it will be an experience that educates and inspires them.”
When the aircraft was hijacked, the people on Flight 93 in the space of a few minutes acted in a democratic way by organizing a small government, taking a vote and organizing a small army. That will be the public memory of Flight 93, Glass said.
Gordon Felt, president of the Families of Flight 93 and brother of passenger Edward Porter Felt, said their loved ones made history in a period of only 22 minutes.
“We are not the same people we were 12 years and one day ago,” he said. “We have come to understand that we can evolve and move forward and honor the memories, here in southwestern Pa., in New York and at the Pentagon. We know the challenges we face each day pale in comparison to what those who died on that day faced. It is good to know that we have a common ground, a sacred ground, here at the Flight 93 National Memorial.”
The Rev. Paul Britton said the role that is of the most perfect faith is seeking of the most common good: caring for neighbors. His sister, Marion Britton, was one of the passengers.
“We remember our brothers and sisters who in this place died for the common good,” he said. Britton led those in attendance in a moment of silence.
Family members and Flight 93 ambassadors Deborah Borza, Clarence Caldwell, Christine Fraser, Bruce Fraser, Sue Strohm, Connie Stevanus and Barry Smith read the names of the 40 men and women on the flight. Those who read names of family members announced their relationship to that person when the name was read. Several people in the audience wiped away tears.
Capt. Thomas Dearborn and six members of the crew of the USS Somerset rang the Bells of Remembrance or stood as the honor guard as the names were read. Quartermaster 2 Matthew Konchan assisted Jewell with the placement of the wreath. The United States Navy Band Sea Chanters sang several selections.