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Flight 93 memorial work set after 4th

Mary Pickels
| Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The planned move of the Flight 93 Temporary Memorial in Somerset County will not affect visitors to the Stonycreek Township site over the Fourth of July weekend.

But by early next week, site work and preparation will begin across Skyline Road on property owned by the Families of Flight 93, said Joanne Hanley, Flight 93 National Memorial superintendent.

Soon after, tributes that include benches, flags, angels, large stones and a visitors' shelter will be moved to the new site.

The temporary memorial grew from a spontaneous outpouring of grief from visitors who took flowers and thank-you cards to the site in the days after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in a field.

Forty passengers died along with the four hijackers who took over the plane. The memorabilia swelled to include ballcaps from fire and police departments, a flight attendant's uniform, rosaries, stuffed animals, letters, license plates and other tributes.

The move of the temporary memorial stems from a property dispute between the National Park Service and Michael Svonavec. Svonavec is part-owner of Svonavec Inc., a stone quarry that owns the 273-acre property containing the temporary memorial and Flight 93's impact site.

He has been at odds with Families of Flight 93 and the park service over the value of his land. A licensing agreement between the park service and Svonavec will expire in September.

The relocation work will be weather dependent, Hanley said Tuesday. It is expected to be complete by early to mid-August.

The new temporary memorial area will closely resemble the current site, and will include a fence for tributes and flags.

Visitor access should be uninterrupted during the process, other than occasional traffic delays on Skyline Road for material and equipment delivery, park service officials said.

Week-to-week updates on the move and ongoing plans for the permanent memorial will be posted on the Web site

National Park Service staff members and volunteers will assist with the move.

"We will have contractors for the large items," Hanley said. "The tributes and smaller items will be very respectfully moved by volunteers."

"We're certainly pleased to have the land available to relocate the memorial," Patrick White, vice president of Families of Flight 93 and vice chair, Flight 93 National Memorial Task Force, said yesterday. "We certainly would have preferred to not have to move it. That said, we'll make the best of it."

"The good news is the memorial site will stay where it's moved until the 2011 dedication of the permanent memorial," he said. "It's kind of like an old friend changing houses. Everybody, I'm certain, will have adjustments to make. ... We look forward to the transition to the permanent memorial."

White, who has visited the temporary memorial site dozens of times since 2001, said he considers the move "a step along the path."

The National Park Service has to vacate the temporary memorial site by Sept. 5, and agreed in May to relocate the memorial 30 days prior.

Aug. 5 is White's birthday.

He intends to visit the new site within a few days of that date.

"It will be a very nice birthday present," White said.

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