Flight 93 advisory board dissolves, says mission complete

Mary Pickels
| Friday, Aug. 30, 2013, 2:57 p.m.

Fifteen people from around the country and from all walks of life dutifully gathered quarterly in Somerset for 10 years, leading the efforts to create the Flight 93 National Memorial and pondering what it could and must include.

On Sept. 10, Flight 93 Advisory Commission members will hold a final meeting at 10 a.m. in the Glades Court Mall.

While it is bittersweet, the commission's dissolution marks a sense of accomplishment, national park Superintendent Jeff Reinbold said on Friday.

“Since the project began, this is how all of our work has been done, through these partnerships,” he said.

Along with the advisory commission, the National Park Service, the National Park Foundation, the Families of Flight 93 and the Flight 93 Memorial Task Force all worked with the goal of bringing to fruition a fitting memorial.

The memorial was dedicated in 2011, 10 years after the 40 passengers and crew fought terrorists aboard hijacked United Flight 93, which crashed near Shanksville in Stonycreek Township. Those who died are credited with thwarting an attack on the nation's capital.

“We worked together and presented different points of view and really found ways to take the best of the ideas and come together,” said commission Chairman John Reynolds of Charlottesville, Va. “To go out and stand at the site, it is far better than I ever imagined in the beginning. ... I'm so deeply satisfied at the outcome. I marvel all the time at all the different kinds of people who came together and lent their abilities and commitment.

“It's how you like to think about America when it's at its best,” Reynolds said.

The task force raised money and weighed in on memorial designs, site interpretation and land acquisition. The members agreed to dissolve in 2010 as the $60 million memorial began construction.

But advisory members invited the task force members to stay active by helping the Friends of the Flight 93 National Memorial.

“The beauty of it is that the Friends of Flight 93 was created to be the successor of all of these partnerships. They will raise money, provide volunteers and, most importantly, will uphold the legacy of public participation with the memorial,” Reinbold said.

Congress chartered the 15-member advisory commission, which President George W. Bush signed into law in 2002. The 15 members are appointed by the Secretary of the Interior.

Benn Wainio, father of Flight 93 passenger Honor Elizabeth Wainio, participated in the recommendation of advisory board members.

“I think they have been outstanding. John Reynolds was an outstanding choice. When we interviewed him, we said, ‘Boy, he's going to be great. He should be the chairman.' Our thoughts were rewarded. I think he brought so much to the families and to the country,” Wainio said.

“We knew we needed to put together the best people we could for the families. I think we did that. They have had to deal with the constraints of the government, the personalities of all of the families, even some people who really rallied against the memorial and the commission,” he said.

“And look at what we got out there. That memorial is outstanding. ... It's hard to believe it's been 12 years. But we accomplished so much in 12 years. The people on the commission, they have become family to us, just like the people in Somerset and Shanksville,” he said.

Wainio's wife and Honor Wainio's stepmother, Esther Heymann, said her family has a lot of respect for the commission members.

“They were very dedicated and did a responsible and helpful job for all of us. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. But I ... want to mention what a wonderful job (commission member) Donna Glessner has done,” Heymann said.

Glessner served as an ambassador at the early, temporary memorial site and works on a Flight 93 oral history project.

The advisory commission's meeting on Tuesday will precede a 3 p.m. groundbreaking for new construction at the Flight 93 site, which is part of the National Park Service.

A 6,800-square-foot visitors center and multi-purpose learning center, parking space and pedestrian bridge are expected to open in 2015, Reinbold said. The centers' combined space is planned for teleconferences, panel discussions and displays of memorabilia left at the temporary memorial.

“The bridge will cross wetlands and allow visitors to walk from the visitors center around the memorial grove and to the memorial plaza,” Reinbold said.

Funding for the projects has been secured, he said. Exact figures were not available on Friday, but estimates last fall put the cost for the two buildings and parking area at $15 million.

The final feature yet to be completed is the Tower of Voices, 40 wind chimes that will serve as a reminder of the voices silenced on 9/11. Many crew members and passengers used their cellphones to relay information about the hijacking and leave final good-byes for loved ones.

“That is not yet in the design phase,” Reinbold said. “We probably will do some fundraising for that, depending on (submitted) designs.”

The annual observation will include the traditional luminary display the evening of Sept. 10.

“Volunteers and family members will bring out 40 candle lanterns to place at the Wall of Names. This is one of the few times people can visit the park after dark. If you haven't seen the memorial at night, it's really something to see,” Reinbold said.

Memorial observation plans will be updated and available at www.nps.gov/flni.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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