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'We remember'

Mary Pickels
| Sunday, Sept. 12, 2004

Saturday's third anniversary observation of the crash of United Flight 93 in Somerset County was, as family members had requested, a peaceful, quiet event.

Beneath a sunny blue sky, more than 1,000 people -- family members, officials and members of the public -- gathered at the Stonycreek Township site of the temporary memorial.

Along with acknowledging the loss of the 40 passengers and crew members on Sept. 11, 2001, those attending were asked to look to the future with hope.

Joanne Hanley, superintendent, Flight 93 National Memorial, asked the crowd to "focus on words like 'hero,' 'honor,' 'dignity,' 'selflessness' and 'courage.'"

She thanked the families, many of whom traveled long distances, for attending.

"You never intended to give such a sacrifice to your country," Hanley said, "but here you are."

Flight 93 was en route from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco, Calif., when it was hijacked. The plane crashed in a reclaimed strip mine near Shanksville. The 9/11 Commission Report, released in July, said terrorists crashed the plane as passengers tried to break into the cockpit.

At 10:06 a.m., believed to be the time Flight 93 struck the earth, volunteers rang two large bells. Each somber echo followed the reading aloud of the passengers and crew members' names.

Pamela Tokar-Ickes, a member of the federal Flight 93 Advisory Commission and a Somerset County Commissioner, said the two most important words to keep in mind about Flight 93 are "We remember."

She called the story of the passengers and crew members efforts to fight back against the terrorists a "story of hope. It is a singular beacon of light."

"Their selfless act of courage," she said, turned the rural field into a national touchstone.

"It is where we come to try to make sense out of the incomprehensible," she said. "This site has captured the heart of the people. It is where the war on terrorism began. ... But people leave here with a sense of hope and inspiration, an idea that they, too, can make a difference. That is the legacy of Flight 93. We hope that someday the memorial that will be constructed here will comfort you and honor their memory."

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge also spoke at the service.

"No words, no memorials, nothing can truly take the place of all that you have lost," he said.

But because of the actions of lost loved ones, he said, "Heroes were made over the skies of Shanksville."

Design competition opens

Later, at a news conference to announce yesterday's opening of the international design competition for a permanent memorial, several family members spoke.

Gina Farfour of North Carolina is the sister-in-law of Sandra Bradshaw, a flight attendant aboard Flight 93.

"Sandy was a great friend, a great mother," she said. "She was someone that our family truly misses on a daily basis. ... We have got a long journey ahead of us. I am asking (design entrants) to pull the stops out on your creativity, so we can have a memorial that is truly befitting of our loved ones."

Jerry Bingham, father of passenger Mark Bingham, said, "It's amazing to me how everybody has worked together ... to bring the spirit of the heroes of Flight 93. ... As a family member, I want to give thanks to everybody, including the people of Shanksville, the state of Pennsylvania and everybody else."

Deborah Borza wore a picture on a pin of her daughter, Deora Bodley, yesterday. She recalled how her daughter, who was returning to California aboard Flight 93 to begin her junior year of college, loved to volunteer. She helped out in an animal shelter and worked with the America Reads program, tutoring young children.

After the program, Borza said she is looking forward to the design competition.

"It's very comforting for us to be here," she said, noting her family has visited the temporary memorial site several times. "We're very happy here and very at peace. ... I look forward to what the public is going to say to us. ... I look forward to the contributions."

Asked about the source of her daughter's unusual name, Borza said, "It's Gaelic."

Without a trace of irony, she said, "It means tears."

Gov. Ed Rendell also spoke yesterday and announced that he will try to boost the memorial's funding next year.

He said one of the memorial's most important goals is, "For America to say 'thank you' to truly 40 great civilian soldiers ... This was the first victory in America's war against terrorism."

Its other goal, he said, is "to tell the story. ... If we are truly to say we will never forget, we remember, the story has to be told here."

Yesterday, Rendell announced an immediate $250,000 grant to help the advisory commission in any way it sees fit.

"My intent," he then said, "is next year in the Commonwealth budget to seek a specific line item budget of $10 million for the memorial."

The announcements were met with hearty applause.

Donna Glessner, advisory commission vice-chair and coordinator of the volunteer ambassador program, discussed the opening of the design competition.

"One year from today," she said, "we will present a plan for the management of the site, and we will recommend a design for the memorial that is to be constructed here."

The successful design, she said, will reflect the preamble to the Flight 93 National Memorial's mission statement: A common field one day, a field of honor forever.

Finally yesterday, Calvin Wilson, brother-in-law of Flight 93 first officer LeRoy Homer Jr., and an advisory commission member, spoke.

Homer, Wilson said, "was relentless in his devotion to his belief in God, his wife, Melodie, his daughter, Laurel, his mother, his seven sisters ... his devotion to his country and his job. LeRoy loved to fly."

In time, he said, there may be depictions of the events of Sept. 11 that "may rip our hearts out. ... There will be fact and fiction. We will have to live with that and try to sort that out. ... We have an ability today, an ability with this contest, to set the story straight, to tell the truth; so that when my son and his son come here they will know the real story.

"Give us every opportunity to find the right presentation for these heroes. ... We are interested in everyone's thoughts. Help make a dream of a few a reality for so many."

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