Hundreds gather at Flight 93 memorial for September 11 ceremony

By Torsten Ove Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Family members and friends linger Wednesday evening after carrying in luminaries to the victims' wall at the Flight 93 National Memorial. Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette

Family members and friends linger Wednesday evening after carrying in luminaries to the victims’ wall at the Flight 93 National Memorial. Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette

STONYCREEK — The former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives today donated the flag that flew above the U.S. Capitol on September 11, 2001, to the Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset County.

Dennis Hastert, who was speaker on that day, presented the 7-by-14-foot flag — still soiled by soot from the fire at the Pentagon caused by another hijacked airliner — at the 13th anniversary of the crash of Flight 93 near Shanksville.

Mr. Hastert, who was speaker from 1999 to 2007, was in the Capitol that day along with the rest of Congress and said the heroic people aboard Flight 93 almost certainly saved their lives.

The FBI believes the hijacked plane was headed to the Capitol when the passengers fought for control with the four terrorists on board. The plane flipped upside down and plowed into the Pennsylvania countryside at more than 500 mph, killing all 33 passengers and seven crew members.

“They, with their courage and their strength, took down that plane,” Mr. Hastert told family members and a crowd of several hundred spectators who gathered at the memorial for the annual commemoration.

In addition to the flag, a Congressional Gold Medal awarded to those who died was presented to the memorial today. The U.S. Park Service said the medal, unveiled Wednesday in Washington, D.C., will be on display temporarily at a nearby building until the visitors’ center under construction is complete in 2015.

The Park Service hopes the new center will boost annual attendance from 300,000 to 500,000.

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