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Mt. Pleasant will long remember 9/11

| Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, 1:01 a.m.

The community of Mt. Pleasant will long remember the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when emergency messages were received that an airplane may be coming down in the small, Westmoreland County borough.

“It could have been Mt. Pleasant,” Mt. Pleasant Mayor Gerald Lucia said of United Airlines Flight 93 that flew over the town and crashed in Somerset County at 10:03 that morning. “I think that the community realizes that it could have been devastating — a tragedy that we would never have recuperated from.”

Since that first evening back in 2001, a tribute has been held in the borough every year to honor and remember those who died on that devastating day.

“That plane flew over the town and could have hit Mt. Pleasant,” Mt. Pleasant Council President and veteran Joe Bauer said. “That is something that we still don't even want to think about.”

Ironically, the town was used as an example on the evening news just a few days after the tragedy. News commentators compared the number killed, which was nearly 3,000, to the population of the borough.

The special tribute on Wednesday in Mt. Pleasant will be in honor of the thousands killed in the Twin Towers, at the Pentagon and in the four planes, but also all the brave first responders who gave their lives while trying to save those people.

“We invited area fire departments, first responders and members of local police departments to join the program,” Lucia said. “We will be honoring the first responders who died that day trying to save people. They lost their lives trying to save those people.”

Beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the gazebo in Veterans Park, rain or shine, the program will feature comments by public officials and special keynote speaker Alan Baumgarner, a longtime Somerset County 911 official.

“We have been really fortunate to have been able to get a lot of really good speakers over the years,” Lucia said of the speakers who have included first responders to the scene in Shanksville and public officials who dealt first hand with the tragedy.

The event has drawn an impressive crowd in the past and has become a tradition for the borough.

“We started having one that first September 11 and have continued it every year and will still continue it yearly as long as there is interest,” Lucia said. “It's a tribute in memory of those who lost their lives and it's something that we really hope to see continue here.”

Bauer, who will act as master of ceremonies for the event, said he hopes the bravery and selflessness shown that morning is something that will never be forgotten.

“We can't forget these people,” Bauer said. “It's important to remember them and to honor them.”

The program is open to everyone; all are welcome.

“I truly feel that 9/11 is something that people of our era will always remember. It was an event that touched everyone in some way and that tragedy will not be forgotten,” Bauer said, adding that many talk of where they were and what they were doing at the time of the crashes, very similar in nature to our ancestors who spoke of where they were when they first heard of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. “I believe 9/11 has become our Pearl Harbor.”

“It's the day that changed America,” Lucia said.

Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer.

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