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Flight 93 ship set to honor victims

| Saturday, May 4, 2013, 5:50 p.m.

The group Families of Flight 93 continues efforts to commission a ship out of Philadelphia and have mementos of their loved ones who perished on the plane on the naval vessel, the group's president said on Saturday.

Gordon Felt, whose brother, Edward, was among the 40 passengers and crew aboard United Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001, said the letter requesting the USS Somerset be commissioned out of Philadelphia was sent to the Secretary of the Navy.

He said he knows of no final decision being made on the commissioning.

“I believe it's going to be sometime next year, but that's as definitive as I can get,” Felt added during a conference call held as part of the Flight 93 Advisory Commission's quarterly meeting in Somerset.

Families of the 40 passengers and crews have been asked to contribute a quilt square and photographs of their loved ones to be displayed on the USS Somerset, Felt said. The squares will be formed into one quilt.

“The Navy's doing a great job of personalizing the ship,” Felt said.

The USS Somerset is the ninth and newest amphibious warfare ship in the San Antonio Class. The ship joins the USS New York and USS Arlington in remembering the 9/11 heroes.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Flight 93's passengers and crew gave their lives and thwarted a planned terrorist attack on the nation's capital. They stopped the attack by overtaking terrorists on the plane, which crashed near Shanksville.

In another matter from the meeting, nearly 600 volunteers and family members planted more than 15,900 tree seedlings during a reforestation program held four days in April, said Donna Glessner, vice chairwoman of the advisory committee.

Patrick White, whose cousin, Louis J. Nacke II, was on Flight 93 said he took part on the last day of planting, April 27.

“We felt a special connection and honor,” he added via a conference call.

Deborah Borza of Annapolis, whose daughter, Deora Bodley, 20, was the youngest passenger on the plane, planted the first sapling on April 20, an Eastern Hemlock grown from the seed of a tree on the Gettysburg battlefield.

The trees eventually will form a windbreak to protect trees planted in the nearby memorial grove.

Eventually, more than 150,000 trees will be planted. Last year, hundreds of volunteers planted 15,000 seedlings.

Commission members Larry Catuzzi, Jerry Spangler and Michael Watson said they believe more emphasis needs to be placed on children learning about what happened on 9/11 and in telling them in an age-appropriate way.

“It goes beyond Flight 93,” Watson said. “It goes beyond the Twin Towers. Look at Boston. We're going to be faced with tragedy, unfortunately, in the future.”

A program about 9/11 aimed at children is being worked on, said Jeff Reinbold, superintendent of the National Park Service in Western Pennsylvania.

“One of our goals ... is that we complete that curriculum not only for the region but beyond,” he added.

The DVD produced by the Friends of Flight 93 and the memorial are other ways of educating children, members said.

As of April 21, 31,722 people had visited the memorial this year. Since its dedication on Sept. 10, 2011, nearly 500,000 people have visited the site, according to the National Park Service.

Since 2001, more than 1.9 million have toured the crash site.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622.

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