|Shanksville, Pennsylvania - One Year Later|
|Peace and healing mark the one-year commemoration ceremony|
Thursday, September 12, 2002
From all across America they came, to the place where America first fought back against terrorism, the place where 40 heroes died when United Flight 93 crashed into a rural Pennsylvania field at 10:06 a.m. on September 11, 2001. They came by bus, a few dozen at a time, until over 3000 people had joined at the crash site near Shanksville, PA, united in their grief, honor and respect for the fallen heroes. A cold wind whipped hundreds of American flags, and dark grey clouds suppressed the sun, as they gathered to remember the victims and search for peace.
"I just had to come," said Frank Matthews of the one-year commemoration ceremony held in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, on September 11, 2002. He and his sister, Ellen Muse, flew in from Austin, Texas, for no other reason than to honor the heroes of Flight 93. When asked why he chose to come to Shanksville, instead of New York City or Washington, D.C., Frank, who has studied each of the Flight 93 passengers and crew and feels as if he knows them all, says, "There has been no greater act of heroism by regular people. They are the greatest heroes in my lifetime."
"A Time for Honor and Hope," the official title of the memorial service to honor the men and women who perished on Flight 93, began with selections from the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra and a U.S. Marine Corps band, including Aaron Copeland's "Fanfare for the Common Man," which brought tears to the eyes of many in attendance. During the poignant and patriotic service the somber crowd then listened, mostly in silence, to the words of two relatives of Flight 93 victims.
"Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that what does not destroy us will make us stronger," said Sandy Dahl, wife of United Flight 93 pilot, Jason Dahl. "We can depart with the gift of hope -- hope for our children, hope for our future, and hope for our everlasting freedom. Hope that carries us through tomorrow when the clouds will part, and the sun will shine on our lives again."
Murial Borza, 11-year-old sister of Flight 93 passenger Deora Bodley, asked for one minute of silence for world peace, a minute where people could pledge to do something good "even if it's a hug, kiss, smile or wave - a prayer or just silent thought of those they love." Of her beloved sister Deora, she said, "I cherish the memories of my sister and plan to work hard in school and in everything I do so she can be proud of me like I was of her."
A huge cast steel bell, dated 1860, then tolled 40 times as the name of each crew member and passenger was read aloud.
Governor Mark Schweiker summed up the feelings of the audience well when he said, "Here in Pennsylvania, today is a day of remembrance and deep reflection. Now, a year later, as we reflect on their sacrifice, I can't help but feel humbled by the courage exhibited by America on this day." The governor also called the final resting place of Flight 93 a "battlefield unlike others in our nation's history.... It was here that freedom took its first stand. Make no mistake -- they are more than remembered. They were forceful and they were proud. God bless you all."
Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, who was the governor of Pennsylvania at the time of the crash, hailed the victims as "citizen soldiers" and heroes for their actions to prevent the aircraft from hitting its intended target. "In a field in rural Pennsylvania, right prevailed over wrong and hope was born again," Mr. Ridge declared, bringing cheers from the 120+ White House employees who boarded buses at 3 a.m. to travel to Shanksville and say thanks to the heroes who may have saved their lives. "There were no survivors in this field on September 11," Ridge continued, "but I have no doubt that thousands of Americans survived that crash. And all Americans are grateful."
The passengers and crew of Flight 93 weren't the only ones honored in the quiet ceremony, however. "Today, we also honor and thank a community," Ridge said. "The people of Shanksville embraced the families of Flight 93 as their own.... As the sister of one of the passengers said, 'This sleepy little town just puts its arms around you and embraces you.'" With that, almost every one of the more than 500 family members and friends of the Flight 93 victims stood and turned to applaud the surrounding mourners. After a moment, the crowd erupted in an answering ovation.
Chuck Wagner, a Shanksville resident who operated some of the heavy equipment in the Flight 93 recovery efforts, said that while "we didn't ask for this to happen in our town... we consider the crash site to be hallowed ground and will always keep it that way." With tears in his eyes, he continued, "These folks changed the course of history, and we will always have the welcome mat out for their families."
"It's a great town... everyone here has been so welcoming," said Carol Woods, a United Airlines flight attendant - one of over 50 employees from United, American, Northwest, and US Airways who came to honor their fallen comrades. Linda Morris, a volunteer with the Salvation Army group who helped to feed and watch over the FBI, police, and recovery crews last September, then sums it up, "I don't think anyone will ever know how much they [Shanksville] gave."
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