A MEMORIAL HAS been unveiled at Shanksville, Pennsylvania where 40 passengers and crew died on United Airlines Flight 93 on the morning of 11 September 2001.
Former US President George W. Bush was in attendance at the ceremony yesterday, along with former president Bill Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, and relatives and friends of those who died. The New York Times reports that thousands of people showed up to pay their respects.
The two-hour ceremony also kicked off a bipartisan effort to raise about $10 million to finish the memorial’s first phase and maintain it in the future.
The hijackers likely intended to crash the plane into the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., where the House and Senate were both in session, said Jon Jarvis, director of the National Park Service. But the plane “never made it because of the determination and valor of the passengers and crew of Flight 93, that plane crashed in this field, less than 20 minutes by air” from the target, Jarvis said.
Bush said the storming of the cockpit “ranks among the most courageous acts in American history.”
Former President Bill Clinton likened the actions of those aboard Flight 93 to the defenders of the Alamo in Texas or the Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae some 2,500 years ago who knew they were going to die. But Flight 93 was “something different” because those past heroes were “soldiers. They knew what they had to do.”
The remarks by Bush and Clinton, in particular, drew standing ovations and loud cheers from the ceremony, which drew about 5,000 people: 4,000 invited guests including the crash victims’ families, and about 1,000 other people who sat or stood on the surrounding grounds.
Biden, on hand to unveil the Wall of Names at the memorial — a set of 40 marble slabs, each inscribed with the name of a passenger or crew member who died — said those victims quickly realized they were involved in more than a hijacking, but rather the opening battle of a new war.
Biden said the “citizen patriots” echoed the sentiments of Revolutionary War Capt. John Parker who said in April 1775 that if war is what they want, “then let it begin here.”
Gordon Felt, president of the Families of Flight 93, whose brother Edward participated in the revolt by passengers and crew, afterward called the memorial:
…a huge accomplishment. It’s one that brings so much comfort to the families knowing, finally, that the sacred ground, the site where the flight came down and our loved ones rest in perpetuity, is finally protected and under the stewardship and care of the National Park Service.