Flag ceremonies at Flight 93 Memorial support fundraising, offer respects
On an unseasonably cold and rainy May afternoon, half a dozen people gather around the flagpole at the Flight 93 National Memorial office headquarters in Somerset County, each casting their eyes skyward.
Under the direction of Brooke Neel, development assistant with the Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial, several staff members of nearby SCI-Laurel Highlands unpack an American flag and hoist it high above their heads.
Standing nearby, ignoring the drizzle, Deborah Borza smiles.
Borza's daughter, Deora Bodley, 20, was the youngest passenger among the 40 passengers and crew members who lost their lives in the crash of United Flight 93 during the terrorists' attacks on 9/11.
Borza also serves as the Friends' vice president.
The group was participating in a Friends' flag program, in which volunteers, National Park Service ambassadors, service groups and Friends' members unbox, hoist and raise to full staff flags that briefly fly from the headquarters' flagpole.
The flags respect and honor those Flight 93 passengers and crew members and all who lost their lives in the day's terrorist attacks.
Participants can take a moment to pay their respects. Some recite the Pledge of Allegiance, sing the national anthem, or say the name of one of those aboard Flight 93, Neel says.
"We hoist them up and let people decide. ... Some people salute or say a person's name. ... I kind of leave it up to them," Neel says.
After being flown, each flag is issued a certificate of authenticity by the Friends' group.
Half of the flags are then sold in the Visitor Center's book store for $40, with proceeds benefitting the Friends' organization, Neel says.
"Last year in the Visitor Center we sold over 300," she says.
The other half are sent to the National Park Foundation , where the flags are distributed as gifts to donors contributing $93 to the memorial's direct mail campaign to help support its completion, Neel says.
"We are backed up on our fulfillment to the National Park Foundation. That's why we are giving such a big push for volunteers and for people to come fly (flags)," she says.
Volunteers can fly multiple flags during one visit, she adds.
"If anyone does fly 100 flags, they get their own flown flag," Neel says.
Helping to raise the flag on this day are Major Benjamin Grove, a USMC veteran and member of the administrative staff at SCI-Laurel Highlands, Michelle Houser, the institution's deputy superintendent, and counselor Jason Vello.
The correctional facility recently began a staff wellness initiative, Corrections Outreach for Veterans and Employee Restoration , a peer-based program facilitated by staff.
Over the course of their careers, many people who work in the field of corrections may find themselves dealing with post-traumatic stress, Grove says.
Many veterans enlisted because of the 9/11 attacks, and some go into the field of corrections.
"We are trying to give people coping mechanisms to, one, recognize signs and symptoms of being overcome by the stress of their jobs and, two, ways to manage and live productive lives," he says.
The program is open to all staff members.
Staff participation with Flight 93 National Memorial programs began with the annual Plant a Tree reforestation event at the site.
"Deborah Borza says, 'We do this other thing and we'd be more than happy to get you involved,'" Grove says.
The flag raising will be part of the program's closure for participants and a way to give back, he says.
Grove and Houser hope to return with a larger group and fly more flags soon.
"I think once the weather breaks and we get sunny days, it will be easier to get staff out here," Houser says.
Volunteers are always welcome to fly flags, and are encouraged to come with friends or family members to share the experience together, Neel says.
Details: 814-893-6550 or flight93friends.org
Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5401 or email@example.com or via Twitter @MaryPickels.