Documentary to shed light on 9/11 in Somerset County
Laura Beachy's sixth-grade teacher at Eagle View Elementary was supposed to turn off the television on Sept. 11, 2001, to keep the children from panicking after terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and just 15 miles from their school in Somerset.
Despite the district's orders, the teacher turned on the television, closed the door and drew the blinds so her students could watch as history unfolded before them.
“You didn't think it was real. You thought it was a movie or a joke at first,” said Beachy, 22. “But then you saw the adults. They are supposed to be the people who have all the answers and provide safety and comfort. That day, they didn't have the answers, and everybody needed comfort.”
Eleven years after watching the events of 9/11 unfold on a small screen in her classroom, Beachy is putting the finishing touches on a documentary she hopes to bring to the big screen at film festivals.
The documentary, “We Were Quiet Once,” looks at how the crash of United Flight 93 in Stonycreek Township affected people on the ground in Somerset County.
Beachy began the project in April 2010 while she was a student at Syracuse University majoring in television, radio and film, and anthropology.
But her interest in that day and the stories that could be told go back to her childhood in Somerset.
“I always wanted to be a reporter since I was really little,” Beachy said.
During the Quecreek mine rescue in July 2002, Beachy met a reporter from Fox News who let her hang out with his camera crew.
On the first anniversary of Sept. 11, she got to sit in the network's truck and even interview people.
“I just knew there was a story and would be for years to come,” Beachy said.
Last year, with the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaching, Beachy decided it was time to go home and tell that story.
After securing grants and equipment from Syracuse, Beachy and a fellow student, Cory Sage, began research and filming.
They looked at every story written about Flight 93 in the Somerset Daily American and tracked repeat mentions of people. Through interviews, they focused the film on three people who have memorialized the events.
The Rev. Al Mascherino, a Catholic priest, opened a non-denominational, memorial chapel dedicated to Flight 93.
Terry Butler was working in a junk yard next to the crash site that morning and saw the plane go down. Butler has tattooed his body as a memorial to the victims.
Rick Flick, a volunteer firefighter who responded to the call, now organizes an annual motorcycle ride to the three 9/11 sites.
“We realized the story is about the heart of the people in the town and their witness to the event,” Beachy said. “How do they live the rest of their lives under that veil?”
With help from another partner on the project, Ryan Balton, Beachy has been working on the final cut of the hour-long documentary.
She is in the process of raising $6,000 she needs by mid-October to pay for editing, finishing and distribution of the film. The fundraising is being done through Kickstarter, an online funding platform for creative projects.
So far, $1,300 has been raised.
The money will help pay for screenings in Somerset and in Syracuse and enter the film into festivals with hopes of finding a distributor.
“We're trying to make the best with as little money as possible,” Beachy said.
Beachy said she's gained a new appreciation for her hometown through the filming process.
“I really see how people tried to take on a new level of empathy for the victims' families,” she said. “They're like second family.”
Jennifer Reeger is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.