Flight 93 National Memorial to get new leader; director promoted to national position

Mary Pickels, Trib Live

Jeff Reinbold has vivid memories of one of his first visits to the Flight 93 temporary memorial.

“It was January 2003, and the temperature was hovering around zero,” he said Thursday. “There were 10 cars in the parking lot, and none were from Pennsylvania. There was a volunteer standing out in the cold, greeting people. I just knew it was a special place.”

Then stationed with the National Park Service in Washington, he returned home to Western Pennsylvania to serve as project manager for the nation’s newest national park.

Reinbold, 46, was promoted to superintendent of the National Parks of Western Pennsylvania in 2011. His oversight includes the Johnstown Flood National Memorial, where he started his career with the park service; Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site; Fort Necessity National Battlefield; and Friendship Hill National Historic Site.

In March, after spending much of the past 12 years working to bring the memorial to reality, he will return to the nation’s capital.

Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis this week named Reinbold as the bureau’s assistant director for partnerships and civic engagement.

Stephen Clark, a 29-year Park Service employee, was named as Reinbold’s successor.

“It’s been an honor to be here and an amazing experience, from the early days, working with the Flight 93 Memorial Task Force and the Federal Advisory Commission,” Reinbold said. “It was amazing that every time we needed something, it always appeared. It was wonderful to see how committed people were to see this through.”

United Airlines Flight 93 was en route from Newark to San Francisco when four terrorists hijacked it on September 11, 2001.

The 40 passengers and crew members who lost their lives in the crash in Stonycreek Township are credited with trying to wrest control of the jetliner, thwarting an attack on the Capitol.

Passenger and crew members’ families were always gracious, and the small town of Shanksville was welcoming and caring in turn, Reinbold said.

“The community didn’t ask for this to happen,” he said.

In announcing Reinbold’s new position, Jarvis said, “The National Park Service was founded on the efforts of engaged citizens and in partnership with others who share our passion for preserving, protecting and sharing America’s cultural and natural resources, and Jeff is the right person to carry on this essential part of the National Park Service’s legacy.”

The timing was right to move on, Reinbold said.

“I’m excited about the opportunity. The 100th anniversary of the National Park Service will be in 2016. A lot of programs in my portfolio will be related to that,” he said.

Reinbold readily ticked off highlights from his work on the memorial, including the international competition to select the park’s design.

“The 1,000-plus designs exhibited challenged people to think about what a memorial meant to a place like this, and what it should mean. It created this wonderful dialogue,” he said.

The first phase of the Somerset County memorial was dedicated on September 10, 2011.

Reinbold’s most recent focus has been working with the Friends of the Flight 93 National Memorial to complete a visitors center and a learning center, expected to open by September 11.

“Everything is on schedule. … The buildings are really impressive,” Reinbold said.

Gordon Felt, president of Families of Flight 93, called Reinbold’s contributions to the memorial’s creation “extraordinary.”

“His leadership enabled an unprecedented partnership of private citizens and government officials to come together to create a fitting tribute to the heroes of Flight 93. The Families of Flight 93 will forever be grateful for his commitment to honoring our loved ones with the dignity and respect consistent with their heroic actions on September 11, 2001,” Felt said.

Clark began his career at two of the parks he will now manage: Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site and Johnstown Flood National Monument.

“(Clark) is a strategic and thoughtful leader with a strong background in park operations. Those are strengths that are perfectly aligned with the long-term vision for the Parks of Western Pennsylvania,” Caldwell said.

Clark is the chief ranger for the Northeast Region.

“I look forward to working with the partners and friends as well as the dedicated employees at each of the five parks,” he said in a news release. “Each park is unique in its own right and I will collaborate and continue to foster the superb relationships that each park has with its neighbors and partners.

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