SHANKSVILLE — Eighteen years after terror attacks sent two planes into the World Trade Center in New York, one into the Pentagon and one into a field near Shanksville which was believed to be heading for Washington D.C., speakers at the Flight 93 memorial memorialized those who died on the flight as heroes who represent the “utmost embodiment of true American values.”
The day which killed thousands, is held as the start of the war on terror.
The 40 passengers and crew members aboard United Airlines Flight 93 were en route from Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco that morning when they learned other planes had been hijacked.
The passengers of the plane, who later became regarded as heroes, decided to band together to take down the terrorists and to stop the plane from hitting the nation’s Capitol, which many believe saved many more lives. At 10:03 a.m., the plane crashed into an abandoned strip mine.
Each year since, the event has been marked with the ringing of a bell and the reading of the victims’ names.
Vice President Mike Pence told the families and crowd, that one of those lives was his own, which makes his visit to Shanksville personal.
“Seventeen years ago, I was serving in Congress,” he said. He said he and his family had visited the memorial the year after the attack.
“I remember that day like it was yesterday. We didn’t find this impressive memorial. We found a plywood wall painted with the names of the fallen, the timeline listed and a wooden cross in the field,” he said. “With the help of one park ranger, we learned the sequence of that day. I remember asking the ranger, if the United States Capitol was the target, at what time would the plane have reached the Capitol building, and what she told me I’ll never forget ... because I and about several hundred members of Congress were standing near the front of the House of Representatives. Before you today, I say from my heart, I will always believe that I and many others in our nation’s capital were able to go home that day and hug our families because of the courage and selflessness of yours.”
Northern Bedford County High School social studies teacher Andrew Barton was at the ceremony with his current issues class of juniors and seniors. He said he feels it’s important to bring them to the event especially when they were not alive when the events happened.
“I think having them come up here and see the families and hear the bells and listen to the speakers like the vice president, it’s a different experience for them than what they get just seeing it on television,” he said. “It’s so close to home to not take advantage of this. For kids who weren’t even born when it happened, I think it’s a really good thing to bring them to.”
He added that the course starts with a terrorism unit which covers Sept. 11.
Junior Andrew Lazor said he had been to the site twice, but never for the ceremony. He found the experience touching.
“It just makes me upset. My parents tell me stories and tell me America was different before that,” he said.
“They said it really changed. My grandma brought me to school this morning and she told me that as well, and I guess it’s the only world I’ve known, after this, but just being out here is emotional.”
Author and professor Mitchell Zuckoff, who wrote the book “Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11,” said that those aboard should be celebrated and emulated for making the greatest sacrifice of all American values.
Zuckoff said that in writing his book he named all 40 aboard the plane, which he did not do for the World Trade Center or the Pentagon.
“The fact is, in writing about Flight 93 I felt I didn’t have any other choice. In my line of work, its the goal to know exactly what happened. That way, I can convey it to readers with absolute certainty. But for the story of Flight 93, some details will be forever lost to history, lost when the plane struck the ground,” he said.
“The result is we are forced to celebrate every man and every woman aboard that plane equally and collectively. Their story, like the American story, is about more than individual achievement or individual interests; it’s about the power of what can be accomplished when people trust one another and find strength in one another. In doing so, the men and women of Flight 93 changed from strangers to partners.
“It’s my belief that the legacy of the passengers and crew of Flight 93, the work they so nobly advanced was due to the common good. In America, the stranger with different beliefs or background might become your greatest ally, your blood brother or sister, engaged along side you in the fight for survival or perhaps the eternal struggle for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he said.
“Be open to that possibility and by doing so we honor the sacrifice by the 40 heroes at flight 93 as the utmost embodiment of true American values.”
Gordie Felt, president of the Families of Flight 93, said history is full of times where ordinary people take actions to rise above pressures, and where heroism is revealed in a time of crisis.
“Those 40 individuals were private citizens on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Because of their actions on that fated blue sky morning ... their memory belongs to us all and their actions will inspire generations to come for those that choose to remember, desperation can be a salve that helps to heal an internal wound and provide solace to those that lost so much that morning,” he said. “Our lives these last 18 years have taken a new course, understanding the lessons learned leading up to this change are critical factors in ensuring history can not and will not repeat itself.”
U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said that Americans were gathering across the nation to remember the day but one thing is different this year.
“This year, Americans born after the attacks will enroll in college where they will join many peers who have no direct memory of what transpired. For them, 9/11 is a historical event, a date, like so many others that is permanently engraved in our own memory,” he said. “It forever serves a reminder of why America is the home of the brave.”
A group of students from St. Sebastian in Akron, Ohio, were visiting the crash site for the first time Wednesday.
Leo Bates, 13, said that he found being at the site and the ceremony with the families “very inspiring.”
“I heard a lot about it, but hearing it first-hand from people who were affected or could have been affected but weren’t because of people who helped and stopped the plane before it hit the Capitol was definitely interesting,” he said.
Anne Rea, 13, said there were a few things from the ceremony that she will take back with her.
“I’m probably taking back the courage and the leadership that the passengers and crew showed on board and how they faced (adversity),” she said.
Jimmy Bordenkircher, 13, said that what he learned was a little different from what he learned in the past about what had happened on that day.
“What we used to learn is that the hijackers took it to the ground but now that we’re here, we learned that it was actually the passengers that were brave and actually took over the flight and prevented a mass destruction of the capital,” he said.