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Postmasters help out in Shanksville

| Thursday, Sept. 12, 2002

Shanksville Postmaster Janine Konieczny knew her tiny, one-woman office would be overwhelmed with requests for a special Sept. 11 stamp cancellation.

So Konieczny, a native of Boswell, Somerset County, asked for help. And help came.

Twenty-five postmasters were on hand Wednesday to help Konieczny cancel more than 6,000 pieces of mail in Shanksville.

It was a special day in the borough of 245 residents just a few miles from where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into an old strip mine last year.

"Today, it's a day of coming to meet up with the emotions that were felt a year ago," Konieczny said, fighting back tears.

Federal, state and local officials attended a brief morning service at the post office, where Konieczny single-handedly cancelled some 2,000 letters since Monday.

The ceremony, held against the backdrop of shuttle buses moving participants to the Flight 93 memorial service at the crash site, included the presentation of reproductions of the Heroes 2001 stamp to Shanksville firefighters who were first on the scene when the plane went down.

Proceeds from the sale of the stamp will benefit the families of emergency rescue workers killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Volunteer fire departments are valuable assets for their communities. Unfortunately, it took the tragedy of Sept. 11 to remind us of their sense of duty," said Richard J. Cellino, district manager of customer service and sales for the Erie District.

Among the postmasters lending a hand in "canceling letters from everywhere" was Diane Aujay from the Adamsburg Post Office in Westmoreland County.

"This wasn't a day that I would have wanted to work," she said.

Chip Walakovits, president of the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Association of Postmasters of the United States, said yesterday's ceremony carried special meaning. He conceded that he "already cried a little bit today."

"This one has a different meaning. This is truly the home of heroes," he said. "It's to pay tribute to those who perished. It's for the passengers who probably saved thousands of lives.

"It's a great day to be an American."

Just down the street from the post office at Ida's Store, clerk Tammy Strohm handed a couple of empty envelopes to an elderly woman who wanted them for the Flight 93 cancellation.

"No charge," she said.

That's the way things are done in Shanksville.

"I don't even think about it. That's how I was brought up," Strohm said.

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