2011-09-15 / Local & State

Victims' Courage Praised At Flight 93 Memorial

By Joe Mandak

SHANKSVILLE, Pennsylvania (AP) – The families of the 40 passengers and crew killed when Flight 93 knifed into a rural Pennsylvania field a decade ago Sunday were praised for helping to inspire a new generation of Americans while keeping the memories of their loved ones' dedication and courage burning brightly.

At a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, nearly 5,000 people listened as the names of the passengers and crew who were killed were read aloud while bells tolled. Afterward, a choir sang as those in the crowd – including family members, first responders and politicians – listened intently.

“Over the past 10 years we have heard this place compared to many other places” including the Alamo and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said at the newly dedicated national park that marks the site where Flight 93 crashed after passengers and crew fought back against the hijackers. “But the truth is that this place is like no other because the deeds aboard Flight 93 were like no other.”

Corbett said the victims “charted a new course, set a new standard for American bravery.”

Sunday’s memorial service at the Flight 93 Memorial, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) southeast of Pittsburgh, was being held in concert with ceremonies in New York City and Washington, D.C., where other hijacked jets crashed into both towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

After attending New York City's Sept. 11 memorial at ground zero, President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, traveled to the memorial in Shanksville where they laid a wreath and visited the Wall of Names. Each of the 40 marble slabs is inscribed with the name of someone killed in the crash of United Flight 93. The crowd applauded and some chanted “U.S.A., U.S.A.”

Former Gov. Tom Ridge, the nation's first head of homeland security, thanked the people who came to the memorial for Sunday’s service.

“I think your presence today means almost as much to the families, perhaps as much as the memorial itself,” Ridge said. “Your very presence is a powerful message of comfort and understanding and love.”

The families then turned and gave the visitors a standing ovation.

Gordon Felt, brother of passenger Edward and president of the Families of Flight 93, directed some of his comments to the relatives of the other victims.

“I only wish I could have gotten to know each and every one of you under different circumstances,” he said. “We lost too much.”

Visitors to the Flight 93 service observed moments of silence at 8:46 a.m. and 9:03 a.m. – the times when two other airliners were crashed into New York’s twin towers. They did the same at 9:37 a.m., when a third airliner hit the Pentagon.

There was no moment of silence at 10:03 a.m. at the memorial, but the emotion there was evident.

Susan Stine, 52, of Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, said she has come to the Flight 93 crash site to mark the anniversary each year.

“The first time, I wanted to come here to see how it was, and it was amazing. I feel differently when I leave here every year,” she said. “I feel better in my heart.”

U.S. Rep. Mark Critz of Pennsylvania choked up as he spoke about the Wall of Names, a series of 40 marble slabs inscribed with the names of the victims.

The passengers aboard Flight 93 were hijacked after taking off from New Jersey.

Flight 93 crashed after passengers and crew, some alerted by cell phone calls from loved ones about the New York attacks, decided to try to wrest control of their plane from four hijackers.

The plane crashed during the struggle, and investigators later determined the hijackers intended to crash it into the White House or Capitol in Washington, D.C.

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