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Flag ceremonies at Flight 93 Memorial support fundraising, offer respects

Mary Pickels
| Wednesday, June 13, 2018, 11:00 p.m.

On an unseasonably cold and rainy May afternoon, half a dozen people gather around the flagpole at the Flight 93 National Memorial office headquarters in Somerset County, each casting their eyes skyward.

Under the direction of Brooke Neel, development assistant with the Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial, several staff members of nearby SCI-Laurel Highlands unpack an American flag and hoist it high above their heads.

Standing nearby, ignoring the drizzle, Deborah Borza smiles.

Borza's daughter, Deora Bodley, 20, was the youngest passenger among the 40 passengers and crew members who lost their lives in the crash of United Flight 93 during the terrorists' attacks on 9/11.

Borza also serves as the Friends' vice president.

The group was participating in a Friends' flag program, in which volunteers, National Park Service ambassadors, service groups and Friends' members unbox, hoist and raise to full staff flags that briefly fly from the headquarters' flagpole.

The flags respect and honor those Flight 93 passengers and crew members and all who lost their lives in the day's terrorist attacks.

Participants can take a moment to pay their respects. Some recite the Pledge of Allegiance, sing the national anthem, or say the name of one of those aboard Flight 93, Neel says.

"We hoist them up and let people decide. ... Some people salute or say a person's name. ... I kind of leave it up to them," Neel says.

After being flown, each flag is issued a certificate of authenticity by the Friends' group.

Half of the flags are then sold in the Visitor Center's book store for $40, with proceeds benefitting the Friends' organization, Neel says.

"Last year in the Visitor Center we sold over 300," she says.

The other half are sent to the National Park Foundation , where the flags are distributed as gifts to donors contributing $93 to the memorial's direct mail campaign to help support its completion, Neel says.

"We are backed up on our fulfillment to the National Park Foundation. That's why we are giving such a big push for volunteers and for people to come fly (flags)," she says.

Volunteers can fly multiple flags during one visit, she adds.

"If anyone does fly 100 flags, they get their own flown flag," Neel says.

Peer support

Helping to raise the flag on this day are Major Benjamin Grove, a USMC veteran and member of the administrative staff at SCI-Laurel Highlands, Michelle Houser, the institution's deputy superintendent, and counselor Jason Vello.

The correctional facility recently began a staff wellness initiative, Corrections Outreach for Veterans and Employee Restoration , a peer-based program facilitated by staff.

Over the course of their careers, many people who work in the field of corrections may find themselves dealing with post-traumatic stress, Grove says.

Many veterans enlisted because of the 9/11 attacks, and some go into the field of corrections.

"We are trying to give people coping mechanisms to, one, recognize signs and symptoms of being overcome by the stress of their jobs and, two, ways to manage and live productive lives," he says.

The program is open to all staff members.

Staff participation with Flight 93 National Memorial programs began with the annual Plant a Tree reforestation event at the site.

"Deborah Borza says, 'We do this other thing and we'd be more than happy to get you involved,'" Grove says.

The flag raising will be part of the program's closure for participants and a way to give back, he says.

Grove and Houser hope to return with a larger group and fly more flags soon.

"I think once the weather breaks and we get sunny days, it will be easier to get staff out here," Houser says.

Volunteers are always welcome to fly flags, and are encouraged to come with friends or family members to share the experience together, Neel says.

Details: 814-893-6550 or flight93friends.org

Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MaryPickels.

People make their way to ad from the Wall of Names, as aflag flies in Memorial Plaza at the Flight 93 National Memorial, in Shanksville, on Monday, June 11, 2018.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
People make their way to ad from the Wall of Names, as aflag flies in Memorial Plaza at the Flight 93 National Memorial, in Shanksville, on Monday, June 11, 2018.
With the visitors center observation deck in the background, a flag flies at Memorial Plaza at the Flight 93 National Memorial, in Shanksville, on Monday, June 11, 2018.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
With the visitors center observation deck in the background, a flag flies at Memorial Plaza at the Flight 93 National Memorial, in Shanksville, on Monday, June 11, 2018.
Flags that have flown over the memorial, are for sale at the Flight 93 National Memorial, in Somerset County, on Monday, June 11, 2018.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Flags that have flown over the memorial, are for sale at the Flight 93 National Memorial, in Somerset County, on Monday, June 11, 2018.
American flags are folded, bagged and boxed at the Flight 93 National Memorial until volunteers are available to assist with hoisting them over the site. Donations and proceeds from the flags' sale go toward the costs to complete the Somerset County memorial park.
Mary Pickels
American flags are folded, bagged and boxed at the Flight 93 National Memorial until volunteers are available to assist with hoisting them over the site. Donations and proceeds from the flags' sale go toward the costs to complete the Somerset County memorial park.
Brooke Neel, left, Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial development assistant, instructs volunteers from nearby SCI-Laurel Highlands, and Flight 93 family member Deborah Borza, prior to hoisting a flag at the Somerset County park.
Mary Pickels
Brooke Neel, left, Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial development assistant, instructs volunteers from nearby SCI-Laurel Highlands, and Flight 93 family member Deborah Borza, prior to hoisting a flag at the Somerset County park.
Deborah Borza, mother of United Flight 93 passenger Deora Bodley and vice president of Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial, left, and Michelle Houser, SCI-Laurel Highlands deputy superintendent, watch as a flag hoisting begins at the Somerset County site.
Mary Pickels
Deborah Borza, mother of United Flight 93 passenger Deora Bodley and vice president of Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial, left, and Michelle Houser, SCI-Laurel Highlands deputy superintendent, watch as a flag hoisting begins at the Somerset County site.
From left, SCI-Laurel Highlands Major Ben Grove, Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial development assistant Brooke Neel, and SCI counselor Jason Vello prepare to hoist a flag at the Flight 93 National Memorial.
Mary Pickels
From left, SCI-Laurel Highlands Major Ben Grove, Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial development assistant Brooke Neel, and SCI counselor Jason Vello prepare to hoist a flag at the Flight 93 National Memorial.
SCI-Laurel Highlands Major Ben Grove hoists a box holding 50 American flags at the Flight 93 National Memorial. Volunteers can run multiple flags up the pole at the Somerset County site, and the flags are then sold to raise funds toward completion of the memorial.
Mary Pickels
SCI-Laurel Highlands Major Ben Grove hoists a box holding 50 American flags at the Flight 93 National Memorial. Volunteers can run multiple flags up the pole at the Somerset County site, and the flags are then sold to raise funds toward completion of the memorial.
SCI-Laurel Highlands counselor Jason Vello, a volunteer, joins Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial staff member Brooke Neel as she opens a storage area where American flags are kept prior to flying over the Somerset County site.
Mary Pickels
SCI-Laurel Highlands counselor Jason Vello, a volunteer, joins Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial staff member Brooke Neel as she opens a storage area where American flags are kept prior to flying over the Somerset County site.
A form letter accompanying American flags, certifying that they were raised and flown at the Flight 93 National Memorial.
Mary Pickels
A form letter accompanying American flags, certifying that they were raised and flown at the Flight 93 National Memorial.
With the Wall of Names, and Visitors Center observation deck in the background, a flag flies at Memorial Plaza at the Flight 93 National Memorial, in Shanksville, on Monday, June 11, 2018.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
With the Wall of Names, and Visitors Center observation deck in the background, a flag flies at Memorial Plaza at the Flight 93 National Memorial, in Shanksville, on Monday, June 11, 2018.
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