A solemn dedication in Shanksville, Pa.

SHANKSVILLE, Pa. - The ceremony had the feel of a funeral.

At the dedication in Shanksville, Pa., are (from left) Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, former President George W. Bush, Laura Bush, former President Bill Clinton, Jill Biden and Vice President Biden.

As upward of 3,000 people convened Saturday to mark the dedication of the Flight 93 National Memorial, there was no forgetting that the fragmentary remains of 40 airline passengers lay just a hundred yards away in a wildflower meadow.

When United Airlines Flight 93 crashed on Sept. 11, 2001, the impact at close to 600 m.p.h. was so great the plane and its occupants were obliterated. Few body parts were found.

And so the meadow is a cordoned-off cemetery. And speaker after speaker Saturday could not get that out of their mind.

There was a hush in his voice as former President George W. Bush recalled the deliberate decision of the passengers and crew to take back the plane from four al-Qaeda hijackers and let it crash in rural Pennsylvania rather than hit its apparent target, the U.S. Capitol.

"With their brave decision, they launched the first counterattack of the war on terror," Bush said at the dedication, which drew the families of Flight 93 victims along with a host of dignitaries.

"Ordinary people, given no time at all to decide, did the right thing," said former President Bill Clinton.

Vice President Biden represented President Obama in officially dedicating the monument, which is still several years and $10 million short of completion.

Obama will be here Sunday on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, which - with the massive attacks on the Pentagon and New York's World Trade Center - caused more loss of life on American soil on a single day than any event since the Civil War Battle of Antietam. Nearly 3,000 people died.

Gordon Felt, president of the Flight 93 family group, called the Shanksville site hallowed ground.

The names of each passenger and crew member were read aloud as a bell sounded. The names included Louis Nacke 2d of Bucks County.

More people might have attended Saturday's ceremony if the fields around the crash site had not been flooded with 10 inches of rain in recent days. The National Park Service pumped fields and dumped tons of gravel overnight, but the resulting congestion left hundreds of people on outer roads. Many just turned back.

Even as a terrorist disaster was being remembered, much of Pennsylvania was under a flood-disaster declaration. That included Somerset County here.

Among the three sites attacked on 9/11, there has always been something special about Shanksville that has appealed especially to middle America. People who might never consider going to the Pentagon or to ground zero in New York often stop here as they cross the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

"It's rural, it's tranquil, it's peaceful; it reminds me of the 23d Psalm," said Carole Miller, a retired social worker from Delphine, Ind., a town of 2,500 people.

She and a friend had driven nine hours to get here. She said they had been planning the trip for two years.

"It's very important to be here on the 10th-anniversary weekend," she said. "Evil was launched that day, but the passengers overcame that evil."

Miller and her friend were sitting on folding chairs they had brought themselves. Up front, separated by barricades, sat the VIPs, the families of the Flight 93 victims, the local first-responders and elected officials. Dark clouds swirled with a threat of rain.

Shirley Drummond, a retiree from Kissimmee, Fla., said this was her seventh trip to Shanksville. She had also been to New York and the Pentagon.

"This means a lot to everybody," she said. "Some brave, brave people did something wonderful for us."

Her traveling companion, Melodie Parker of Meadville, Pa., said the rolling green hills gave her serenity even as they drove in.

"I feel close to it," she said of the area. "I think it's because it's a small community."

The Rev. Larry Hoover, pastor of two small Lutheran churches in the area, said he always felt this was "a piece of paradise."

This was his land 10 years ago. His house, he said, was "three football fields" from where the plane nose-dived into a field. Some of his trees were set afire.

He said that the memorial, though incomplete, should help families of crash victims find some peace.

"It's the start of a journey for the rest of their lives," he said.

2014 united copts .org
Copyright © 2023 United Copts. All Rights Reserved.
Website Maintenance by: