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Flight 93 Memorial Task Force disbands

As a task force that worked to establish a memorial in honor of the heroes of United Airlines Flight 93 disbanded Saturday in Somerset, people attending its last meeting lauded the group as a shining example of democracy in action.

"When the history of the (Flight 93) memorial is written ... the work of the task force will be seen as pivotal. Not just for this site, but for the National Park Service," Brent D. Glass, a member of the Flight 93 Advisory Commission, told more than 40 people who met at the Somerset County Courthouse for the formal end of the Flight 93 Memorial Task Force.

The group formed eight years ago to create a memorial to honor the passengers and crew of the flight that was traveling from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco when hijackers took control Sept. 11, 2001. Passengers wrested control from the terrorists and are credited with preventing still another attack on a government building in the Washington area.

The task force's leaders last month agreed to dissolve the group now that the $58 million memorial is under construction near Shanksville and is scheduled to be completed on Sept. 11, 2011.

Glass, a former executive director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, said the task force was carrying on the true spirit of democracy as a voluntary association with no links to government. French historian Alexis de Tocqueville wrote about those volunteer organizations in his "Democracy in America," after visiting America in 1831, Glass said.

The effort was "a labor of love that I never wanted to do," said Patrick White of Naples, Fla., co-chairman of the task force. His cousin, Louis J. Nacke II, died in the crash. Nacke was from New Hope in Bucks County, and previously lived in Monroeville.

The group conducted fundraising, was involved in design and construction of the memorial, interpretation of the site and land acquisition. Its final act was completing the purchase Friday of 150 acres contiguous to the memorial site, just east of the area where the plane crashed, said White, a land-use lawyer in Florida.

The temporary memorial management, archiving items regarding Flight 93 and organizing volunteers, which had been handled by the task force, will become functions of the National Park Service, said John Reynolds, chairman of the Flight 93 Advisory Commission.

Rather than going off into the "sunset" or being "buried," the task force is evolving and can remain committed to the Flight 93 Memorial in a different fashion, said Calvin Wilson of Herndon, Va., a commission member. Wilson's brother-in-law, Leroy Homer Jr., was the co-pilot on Flight 93.

"We appreciate what you have done and we don't want to lose you. We're giving you a new name and a new task," said Wilson, noting that task force members can become involved in the Friends of the Flight 93 National Memorial.

Speaking of the community's support for the national memorial, Reynolds, a National Park Service retiree whose career spanned 40 years, said, "I know of no other place in the history of the National Park Service that has stayed together and evolved together."

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