Work on Flight 93 Memorial detailed to historical society

| Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

If work continues as planned, the Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset will be completed and ready to open sometime in 2014.

Adam Shaffer of the National Park Service recently presented an update to members of the Chestnut Ridge Historical Society.

“He is a very knowledgeable fellow,” Eileen Rose of the Chestnut Ridge Historical Society said of Shaffer. “We are very honored and pleased to have him tonight to tell us about the memorial.”

A year after the fatal airliner crash on Sept. 11, 2001, government officials decided to erect a memorial at that location to replace the makeshift tributes, Shaffer said. They also wanted to have a more permanent and structured monument where the 40 passengers and crew members lost their lives while attempting to stop the terrorist attack planned that day.

“These people were true heroes,“ he said. “The Shanksville site is truly sacred ground, truly holy ground.”

Shaffer told of the attacks and briefly touched upon some personal stories related to them.

“It was all very well-planned,” Shaffer said, explaining that the terrorists apparently researched the type of airplane that had to be used, flight schedules and patterns, and even booked their seats aboard all four flights in a fashion that would give them easy access to carry out their plan.\

“They started an attack on America that then became an attack on all of humanity,” he said.

In the 30 minutes that the passengers of Flight 93 were detained prior to the crash,Shaffer said, they were able to piece together through phone calls what was happening with the other attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

“They realized through phone calls that they were a part of this suicide attack,” he said.

When it was established that a memorial should be erected, a contest was held asking people to submit their design ideas. Hundreds of entries were received. They were then judged by a panel that included family members of those who lost their lives, design architects and park officials, Shaffer said.

The new design was chosen, and work has been in progress to complete the project.

A large section of the wall was completed and dedicated last year on the 10th anniversary of the disaster, he noted.

The park is in the process of planting oak and maple trees, symbolizing the 40 lost lives.

Also, Shaffer said the park is gathering oral histories from eyewitnesses, air traffic controllers, relatives and others concerning their personal experiences that day.

“This will represent a wide group of people who were involved in some shape or form with this,” he said.

Once the visitor center, complex and walkways are completed, the new memorial will be open to the public.

Shaffer explained that the memorial was designed to complement the area.

“This memorial will be special to the landscape,” Shaffer said. “Quiet in reverence, yet powerful in form.”

Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.

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