Flight 93 families to ask for federal funds
Family members of the passengers and crew of United Flight 93 are meeting with lawmakers and the Obama administration this week asking for money in the 2013 federal budget to help complete the Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset County.
"We continue to lose surviving family members, and it's really a shame that family members have this additional burden with this (memorial) waiting to be completed," said Patrick White. His cousin, Louis J. Nacke II, died aboard Flight 93 when it crashed into a reclaimed strip mine near Shanksville on Sept. 11, 2001.
Organizers are $10 million short of a private fundraising goal needed to complete the $62 million memorial. They have raised $52 million in state, federal and private funds and dedicated the first phase of the memorial in September.
Other aspects of the memorial, including a visitors center, cannot be completed until the rest of the money is raised. The memorial honors the 40 passengers and crew members who fought back against hijackers who likely targeted the U.S. Capitol building, forcing the plane into the ground.
Family members arrived in Washington Wednesday for a series of meetings over three days with government officials and potential donors for the project, White said.
The group will meet with officials from the Office of Management and Budget, as well as White House staff, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and National Park Service officials. Meetings also are scheduled with Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, White said.
They want lawmakers to know that if they're able to reach the fundraising goal, they will be able to complete the memorial in 2014, White said.
"Our emphasis, of course, is not only do those dollars for construction jobs bring to the local economy those additional revenues, but once the memorial is constructed, and what we've seen so far with the first phase being opened, you have tremendous dollars from tourists to the memorial that make their way into the local economy," White said. "We believe that the expenditures of public dollars makes sense."
The family members realize it's a difficult time to be asking for tax dollars.
"We certainly understand the need for fiscal responsibility, and we believe that it is more responsible to expend these types of dollars for these kinds of projects because of the return on investment," White said.
Visitation to the memorial has exceeded expectations since its opening in September, White said.
"We built it and they came. This isn't a field of dreams; this is a reality," he said. "... Our belief is if you put in the additional elements like the visitors center and other design features, those are things that will enhance the visitors' experience and even those have come once will be encouraged to come again."