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Flight 93 Memorial donations top $30M; about $5M still needed

| Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, 7:33 p.m.

Donations to the Flight 93 National Memorial totaled more than $1.2 million in the first quarter of the fiscal year, leaving about $5 million in private funds still to be raised, officials said Saturday.

The money raised from October through December, the start of fiscal year 2013, brings total private fundraising dollars to more than $30 million, said King Laughlin, vice president for the Flight 93 National Memorial at the National Park Foundation, at a quarterly meeting of the Flight 93 Advisory Commission.

The final $5 million will finance construction of a learning center and the design and construction of a “Tower of Voices” that will be illuminated at night and contain 40 wind chimes at the memorial site.

The memorial honors the 40 passengers and crew aboard United Flight 93 who died on Sept. 11, 2001, when they thwarted terrorists' plans to crash the jet into the Capitol and forced the plane down in a field near Shanksville in Somerset County.

If enough funding is in place, the learning center design could be added to a bid for construction of a visitors' center complex on a ridge overlooking the crash site, said Keith Newlin, deputy superintendent of the National Park Service for Western Pennsylvania.

Construction of the visitors' center is expected to begin in late May and take about 20 months, Newlin said. The visitors' center is projected to open between September 2014 and spring 2015, he said.

While the visitors' center will house permanent exhibits, the learning center will offer changing programs, such as photography exhibits, speakers and space for school field trips, said Jeff Reinbold, superintendent of the National Park Service for Western Pennsylvania..

“It gives us the flexibility to highlight different parts of the story to remain relevant,” Reinbold said.

The memorial's first phase was dedicated on Sept. 10, 2011, in time for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Reinbold said officials hope to have all phases of the memorial completed by Sept. 11, 2016, marking the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attack and the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

Visitors soared in 2012 to 318,000, up from 265,000 in 2011. Visitation from the dedication through the end of 2012 reached 456,000, according to the park service.

Bus groups jumped 70 percent last year with 1,250 buses visiting the site.

Officials said they are encouraging bus groups to register online in advance so the park service can send a 16-minute orientation DVD to be shown on the bus and to ensure enough staff are on hand to accommodate the groups.

Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856 or kandren@tribweb.com.

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