Flight 93 National Memorial crew resurrects 19th-century family cemetery in Somerset County
At a small 19th-century gravesite in Somerset County, Lin Sorber saw relatives he never knew.
The Unity man on Tuesday got his first look at the headstones that bear his name under a canopy of trees at the Flight 93 National Memorial.
“It's something I never knew about,” he said.
Park maintenance workers completed an overhaul this summer of the Stonycreek Township cemetery that is tucked away atop a small hill near Route 30. They cleared brush and leaves and erected a fence around the tombstones, two of which were broken. All of the headstones, dating between 1856 and 1892, were cleaned and placed back on their bases. The stones mark the graves of family members Daniel Sorber, Rebecca Lewis, an infant Rebecca, 3-year-old Charles Sorber and 7-year-old Annie Jane.
Family members, historians and park employees gathered there Tuesday.
The National Park Service knew the cemetery existed when the memorial's boundaries were created, said Stephen Clark, superintendent of Western Pennsylvania Parks. The plot was at one time a farm and later on property owned by a coal mining company before United Airlines Flight 93 crashed a few miles away on Sept. 11, 2001. Forty passengers and crew aboard the airplane died there after wresting control of the plane from hijackers and thwarting an attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Mary K. Foy of Kantner was pleased to see the neatly kept cemetery. She always knew it was on her family's farm as a young girl but had never seen it.
“I think they did a fantastic job, and I'm happy there's some respect for the dead,” Foy said.
Park maintenance workers Roger Brewer, Jim Kleysk and Bob Kolson took on the project in May, said their supervisor Pat Sparks. They used donated epoxy to put the two tombstones back together, including a tall monument that was broken into several pieces.
“I felt that the camaraderie on this project was really good,” Sparks said. “I thought the guys really put their heart and soul into it.”
The cemetery's maintenance will be included, in perpetuity, in annual work plans at the memorial.
“It's not work when you do this kind of stuff,” Kolson said. “You want to do this kind of stuff.”
The project was spurred by a Foy family member who requested access to the site last year, Clark said. That created a partnership between the park service and the community to bring the cemetery from a state of disrepair into a place of honor and respect, he said.
“This is one of those (projects) that was very, very special,” he said.
Both the Foy and Sorber descendants were pleased with the end result Tuesday.
“There's just no way that we can thank you enough for doing this,” said Jean Sorber, of Unity, whose husband Lin's family is buried there. “It is just beyond everything. Thank you.”