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Senators' wives are pitching in to help with Flight 93 National Memorial

| Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Kris Toomey remembers well the fear she felt on Sept. 11, 2001.

Her husband, Sen. Pat Toomey, then a member of the U.S. House, was in Washington as terrorists hijacked airplanes to attack America.

“I still can feel my emotions from that day, trying to reach Pat and make sure he was OK, and the staff trying to reassure me,” Kris Toomey said.

Toomey said she has always felt grateful to the 40 passengers and crew of United Flight 93, who thwarted terrorists' plans to crash the jet into the Capitol, where her husband would have been. The passengers and crew forced down the plane in a field near Shanksville in Somerset County.

So Toomey is doing what she can to make sure the Flight 93 National Memorial receives the $5 million in funds still needed to complete it.

“It personally touches me, so that's why I'm doing what I can,” Toomey said.

On Tuesday, Toomey and Terese Casey, wife of Sen. Bob Casey, will co-host an event for members of Congress and their spouses at the Capitol Visitors Center.

“A Day of Remembrance: A Congressional Tribute to the Heroes of Flight 93,” will feature remarks by Gordon Felt, whose brother, Edward, died aboard Flight 93, and Jeff Reinbold, superintendent of the memorial.

Toomey said the event was precipitated by her surprise that the memorial was not yet fully funded.

“I'm just trying to raise awareness to help them get the remaining $5 million,” she said.

The event is not meant to lobby for more federal funds for the memorial, but rather to get members of Congress to donate or to spread the word to constituents, Toomey said.

“They do have people that they know of that could have a personal interest and were somehow not reached by this, and hopefully they can come up with some resources,” she said.

Several family members of those aboard Flight 93 will attend the event.

“This is a great opportunity for (members of Congress) in person to say thank you for the sacrifice their family members made in protecting the Capitol,” Toomey said.

The guests will be able to record their memories of 9/11 as part of the memorial's living history project.

Toomey said the remaining dollars needed are particularly important because they will fund a learning center at the memorial.

“The kids that are coming through now have no recollection, or it didn't impact them at all,” she said. “One textbook says a plane went down in a field in Pennsylvania. That's all. It doesn't mention any bravery by anybody.”

King Laughlin, vice president for the Flight 93 National Memorial at the National Park Foundation, said the Toomeys have been passionate advocates for the memorial.

“They've been great,” he said. “They've been to Shanksville on a couple of occasions and feel a connection to Flight 93 through their personal stories.”

Laughlin said the fundraising goal is within reach, but there is still work to do.

“We would encourage anyone to contribute to the campaign,” he said. “Any gift, small or large, makes a difference and gets us closer to our goal.”

To donate, visit www.honorflight93.org.

Jennifer Reeger is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6155 or jreeger@tribweb.com.

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