Memories, Tears, Hopes

A lone boulder sits in a southwestern Pennsylvania field, marking the spot where Flight 93 fell to the ground.

Leading up to that boulder –– about 100 yards away –– is a white stone memorial, tracing the path taken by United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001.

On Saturday Sept. 10, thousands of people gathered in that same field in Shanksville, to remember the 40 lives that were lost 10 years ago as the memorial was unveiled to loved ones of those lost, and eventually to the public.

“A lot of people don’t realize how far we’ve come in such a short time, because when you talk about building a memorial to an incident, it’s usually hundreds of years,” said U.S. Congressman Mark Critz, D-Johnstown. “To move this along as fast as it’s happen is really a miracle in itself.”

The first phase of the project to honor the men and women who fought on United Flight 93 is a granite, white wall, 40 panels long spanning the distance of the path that the plane took before it finally rested.

After all is said and done the national park will consist of two other phases, which will include a learning center and a 93-foot Tower of Voices. The tower is planned to be made up of 40 large wind chimes at the entrance of the memorial, according to the memorial’s website.

Those who spoke at the dedication ceremony compared the ground in Shanksville to the likes of Gettysburg and Antietam, saying the ground is just as hallowed as the grounds of the great American wars. They also urged the completion of the national park, encouraging those to donate money toward the project.

“There has always been a special place in the common memory for people who willingly, knowingly and certainly lay down their lives for others to live,” Clinton said.

Former President Bill Clinton announced a bipartisan effort that will take place in Washington D.C. with House Speaker John Boehner to help raise the addition $10 million that is needed to finish the two phases.

Remembering the lives of those lost were the main focus of the speeches gave by former president George W. Bush and vice president Joe Biden. Bush, who was in office at the time of the attacks and recalled the morning of the attacks.

“When the sun rose in the sky 10 years ago tomorrow, it was a peaceful morning,” said Bush. “By the time it set, 3,000 American lives were gone.”

Bush spoke on how the attacks changed history and the way of life for all of Americans. But he called those on Flight 93 courageous in fighting back, and potentially saving the nation’s capital from greater terror.

“Evil is real,” he said. “But so is courage.”

Biden spoke directly to the families, taking from his own experience of loss. He said he knows that it’s life to receive the “call out of the blue, that the dearest thing in your life in gone,” referring to the call he received when his wife and daughter were killed in a car crash in 1972.

To the loved one in attendance, he said the names of those etched into the wall were etched into history, but also noted that no memorial could fill the void left in their hearts.

“My prayer to you is that, 10 years later, their memory can bring a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye,” Biden said.

After the speeches were given, the memorial was finally unveiled, first to the families, who were able to stand infront of their loved one’s stone, and look upon their name etched in the white granite. An hour later, the public could do the same.

Family and friends took pictures of the names, laid flowers and took impressions, coming all over the world to pay their respects.

Amy Corey, 49, of Indianapolis, Ind., came to honor Thomas Burrnett Junior, a friend of hers. She said it was a blessing so many people were at the service on Saturday.

“It still hurts, and it’s been an extremely emotional day,” said Corey. “But we always talk about him. He comes up in every conversation we have.”

Corey said she and three other friends of Burrnett have been friends since 1987, and though they moved apart during those years, they stayed close and came to the dedication service to see his name etched in the white stone.

Saturday’s events were ended with a luminaria displayed of nearly 3,000 candles lit on the plaza of the memorial site in remembrance of all the lives lost 10 years ago.

Sunday morning brought sunny skies, much of like those of ten years ago, but a different tone of the day. Many of the speeches revolved around not forgetting the loved ones that were lost or the events that happened.

Former Gov. Tom Ridge used the poem “To Those I Love,” to convey his message to the families to not forget those that were lost. He said that everyone still grieves, and they would rather have their loved ones around. “But with you besides us here this Sept 11,” he said, refereeing to those lost “we continue to celebrate your lives and legacy.” Gordon Felt, president of the Families for Flight 93, spoke on how time doesn’t always heal all wounds. “Do we want our memoires eroded by the passage of time,” he said to the families.

Sunday’s events concluded with a visit from the President and First Lady. Obama laid a wreath at the memorial site, and spoke to just the families.

by Lynn Ondrusek

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