PA Court Reporters Lend Fast Fingers to Flight 93 Oral History Project

By Rob Stott Associations Now

Flight 93 National Memorial (National Park Service photo)

Flight 93 National Memorial (National Park Service photo)

Hundreds of hours of interviews need to be transcribed for the National Park Service’s Flight 93 Oral History Project, and the Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association is stepping up to help get the job done.

Forgive the members of the Pennsylvania Court Report[er]s Association if they’re holding their heads a little higher these days. These professional typists are gearing up to serve their country and local community in a way that only they can.

“We capture history to preserve it for the future, and this is exactly what Flight 93 needs. They need … future generations to understand what really happened to us on that day.” PCRA recently joined forces with the National Park Service (NPS) Flight 93 National Memorial in an effort to paint the full picture of what happened in the skies over Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on the morning of September 11, 2001.

“We capture history to preserve it for the future, and this is exactly what Flight 93 needs,” said Donna Cascio, a past president of PCRA who has been instrumental in the formation of the partnership. “They need to have people’s memories captured and archived for the history of our country and for future generations to understand what really happened to us on that day.”

In the years since 9/11, when United Airlines Flight 93 went down in a field just outside of Shanksville, a small town about 80 miles east of Pittsburgh, NPS has conducted more than 800 audio interviews with family members and friends of those who were aboard the plane and fought back against the hijackers—all part of the memorial’s Oral History Project.

Those interviews, NPS said in a statement, help to provide long-term preservation of both the individual and collective stories of Flight 93.

Upon learning about the project—and the fact that it was in the final year of a three-year grant, and funding was going to stop—Cascio reached out to see if her organization could help. The National Court Reporters Association, of which Cascio is a member as well, has a similar collaboration with the Library of Congress on the Veterans History Project.

PCRA and NPS have been working to hash out details of the partnership, such as formatting and confidentiality policies, but Cascio said that should be wrapped up sometime this week. The program will then be offered to court reporters on a volunteer basis at PCRA’s annual conference next month.

“The volunteer spirit of the court reporters is already evident,” she said. “As soon as we put this in our newsletter, we received calls from people wanting to volunteer that same day.”

Beyond the specific skill set that they have to offer, Cascio—who completed a test transcription for the project—said PCRA members felt an emotional connection to the project and wanted to be involved.

“Court reporters hear a lot, and we’re trained to be stoic, and we’re trained to not show our emotion,” she said. “But when I was doing this test tape, I’ll tell you, it brought back a lot of my own feelings of that day, and I felt proud—proud to be able to help in some way.”

There’s no date for when PCRA will finish the transcriptions, but Cascio said the volunteers plan to take as much time as NPS needs to get the project done right.

“Oftentimes one interview will lead to another and another and another, and so it’s going to be an ongoing thing,” she said. “When they choose to stop it is when they choose to stop it, and we’ll hang in there as long as they need us and want us.”

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