Ligonier intern joins Flight 93 National Memorial project
Ginger Mesko once considered a career in art.
Then, during her senior year in high school, she discovered she enjoyed environmental studies and thought she might like working as a park ranger.
Later, Mesko, 19, a Ligonier resident, spent two summers working at the Loyalhanna Watershed Association as a staff member of the Youth Conservation Corps, helping oversee trail maintenance.
"If you like to get dirty and play in the mud," she said, laughing, "it's a good job."
Mesko, however, said she was frustrated by all the pollution that goes on.
This year, she has accepted a post as the Student Conservation Association intern in the Somerset office of the Flight 93 National Memorial, which will honor the 40 passengers and crew members who died when their terrorist-hijacked plane crashed near Shanksville, Somerset County, Sept. 11, 2001.
Mesko will help schedule meetings of the Flight 93 Advisory Commission and the Flight 93 Task Force and assist with the recently launched international design competition for the permanent Flight 93 memorial. She also will handle traditional intern duties: answering phone calls, opening mail and doing general clerical work.
"This opportunity came along and it just worked out perfectly," she said.
The SCA offers high school and college students conservation service internships and volunteer opportunities in national parks, forests and other public lands.
The 2003 Ligonier Valley High School graduate completed her freshman year of college at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. This year, she is taking several online and evening courses at Westmoreland County Community College, near Youngwood. And she's chosen environmental studies as her major.
"I think being busy keeps you organized," she said. "You plan so much better."
Mesko sees working with Jeff Reinbold, Flight 93 National Memorial project manager, and Joanne Hanley, Flight 93 National Memorial superintendent, as an exciting opportunity. She views the experience as more than just an entry in the experience column of a future resume.
"It's a chance for me to really see what goes on," she said.
Mesko, who has visited several national memorials, is excited about helping the Flight 93 Memorial efforts come to fruition. "I think it is going to be a lot different from other memorials," she said.
Her first day on the job was last Sept. 11, working in the press tent in Stonycreek Township as Flight 93 remembrance services were held.
"It was very symbolic," she said. "It was a good chance to meet all the family members. They're an awesome group of people."
Mesko recalled that when terrorists struck on Sept. 11, 2001, she was in a ceramics class at her high school when her mother called and said she was coming for her. Her aunt and uncle worked at the Pentagon, but were unscathed by the terrorist attack there.
"When I heard about Flight 93," she said, "it was surreal. We watched television all day."
She contacted Hanley and, after interviewing with her and Reinbold last summer, she was hired as an intern.
"Jeff and Joanne do so much," Mesko said. "Whatever I can help with ... There is a lot to do."
She expects her job to be an eye-opener.
"A year from now I'm sure I'll have a lot better feel for if this is something I will want to do," she said. "There are so many groups and types of people involved. I love the atmosphere here. It's my first office job. There is a lot of positive energy."
"I truly believe the right person will come into the right job at the right time," Hanley said. "Especially with this project, she came along right at the right time."
Hanley said she found Mesko to be poised, flexible and enthusiastic about the Flight 93 National Memorial project.
"Ginger is a true motivator," said Carole Wright, program manager at the Loyalhanna Watershed Association and Mesko's supervisor for two summers. "She is totally spunky. She worked well with the kids, and got them to work together."
In her first week on the new job, Hanley said, Mesko organized three years' worth of media clippings.
"That's important," Hanley said, "but we don't have time to do it."
She anticipated Mesko also will help burn Flight 93 Advisory Commission and Flight 93 Task Force meeting transcripts onto CDs, and work with Reinbold on the project's newsletter.
"It's going to be a very good growth opportunity for Ginger," Hanley said.