North Lauderdale’s 9/11 memorial adds dirt, rock from crash site

By Lisa J. Huriash Sun Sentinel

Michael Sargis displays a piece of shale from the field where hijacked UA Flight 93 crashed on Septermber 11, 2001. The rock, along with some soil, a limestone block from the Pentagon and a piece of steel from the World Trade Centers will be displayed as part of North Lauderdale's 9/11 memorial. (Mark Randall, Sun Sentinel)

Michael Sargis displays a piece of shale from the field where hijacked UA Flight 93 crashed on Septermber 11, 2001. The rock, along with some soil, a limestone block from the Pentagon and a piece of steel from the World Trade Centers will be displayed as part of North Lauderdale’s 9/11 memorial. (Mark Randall, Sun Sentinel)

When North Lauderdale holds their service to honor the victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks at the city’s memorial that displays pieces of the World Trade Center, they’ll have two new additions to share with the public.

Earlier this month, the city — at its request — received one 300-pound piece of limestone from the Pentagon building on that tragic day.

And last week it also received a first in South Florida — two scoops of sand and two pieces of shale from the area of the empty field in Shanksville, Pa., where United Flight 93 crashed after crew and passengers tried to overcome the hijackers.

Only 30 cities, fire and police departments across the country have requested samples of dirt and rock from the crash site for public memorials, said Barbara Black, the museum curator of the Flight 93 National Memorial, which is operated by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service.

North Lauderdale is the only one in the state of Florida, she said. MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa also has remnants from the field, but that is a secure location and not open to the public, military officials confirmed.

The pieces are important to preserve history, said Michael Sargis, assistant city manager.

“We think it’s important to remember what happened on September 11, and people don’t have to go to Washington to remember that,” he said.

On 9/11, a group of terrorists hijacked four commercial airplanes, deliberately crashing two of them into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York, which collapsed because of the impact and fire. The third plane was flown into the Pentagon in Arlington, Va.

Passengers on the fourth plane, Flight 93, fought back, and the plane was crashed into an empty field in western Pennsylvania before it could hit its target, which some believe might have been the White House. The attacks killed nearly 3,000 people.

Sargis said he wanted the limestone from the Pentagon to add to the memorial, and at his own cost, traveled to the Pentagon to choose the pieces. When he told a federal official that all he needed now was something from Pennsylvania, he was promptly emailed the contact information for the National Park Service.

Both pieces were free to the city, although the city paid $400 for the packing and shipping for the Pentagon limestone, and is anticipating a $50 FedEx bill for shipping the dirt and rocks.

Sargis said the items are “on loan in perpetuity,” and he had to promise both agencies that if the memorial is ever dismantled, the items had to be returned.

Black is not worried about running out of dirt and rock at the Flight 93 crash site — the site is 2,200 acres of land.

The dirt and rock actually comes from the general area, but not the crash site itself since “that’s the final resting place of the crew and passengers,” she said. “There was a great deal of burning. We regard that as a cemetery. Their remains are still there, their remains are to be protected.”

The names of the passengers and crew are “very reverently” placed on a white marble wall, which has been visited by more than two million people.

Sargis said he is still trying to figure out how to best display the pieces.

“We are still kind of working on that,” he said. “We’re going to have clear cases made to cover the piece.”

He added: “They are priceless artifacts. What we’re doing with the dirt I haven’t figured out yet.”

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