Thousands gather to dedicate Flight 93 national memorial

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SHANKSVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA (BNO NEWS) — Thousands of people on Saturday gathered in western Pennsylvania to remember the 40 people who died when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed there on Sept. 11, 2001.

Among those who gathered in Stonycreek Township, near Shanksville, were U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Republican House speaker John Boehner also attended the ceremony.


Saturday’s event was one of two this weekend to dedicate the Flight 93 National Memorial, of which the first phase was recently completed. Sunday’s ceremony will mark the 10th anniversary of the attacks which killed nearly 3,000 people in three locations.

“With the distance of a decade, 9/11 can feel like part of a different era,” Bush, who was Commander-in-Chief during the attacks, said. “But for the families of the men and women stolen, some of whom have joined us today, that day will never feel like history. The memory of that morning is fresh, and so is the pain. America shares your grief. We pray for your comfort. And we honor your loved ones.”

Flight 93, carrying 37 passengers (including the four hijackers) and seven crew members, was hijacked moments after two planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City. A fourth plane was also hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

With the hijackers in control of Flight 93, the passengers planned a revolt after learning about the planes which had been flown into the WTC. After a 6-minute fight, the Boeing 757-200 violently crashed into a reclaimed coal strip mine in Stonycreek Township, killing everyone on board.

With only 20 minutes from the nation’s capital, the actions of the passengers are believed to have saved the lives of many more as it prevented the hijackers from crashing the aircraft into a third target. It is believed the White House was the primary target, and the U.S. Capitol the alternative.

“When the passengers and crew realized the plane had been hijacked, they reported the news calmly,” Bush said. “When they learned that terrorists had crashed other planes into targets on the ground, they accepted greater responsibilities. In the back of the cabin, the passengers gathered to devise a strategy. At the moment America’s democracy was under attack, our citizens defied their captors by holding a vote. The choice they made would cost them their lives. And they knew it.”

Bush said the passengers of United 93 launched the first counteroffensive in the so-called War on Terror, and credited the passengers for saving many innocent people. “Americans are alive today because the passengers and crew of Flight 93 chose to act, and this Nation will be forever grateful,” the former president said.

Bush said the 40 passengers and crew members left a legacy of bravery and selflessness which inspires America. “For generations, people will study the story of Flight 93,” he said. “They will learn that individual choices make a difference, that love and sacrifice can triumph over evil and hate, and that what happened above this Pennsylvania field ranks among the most courageous acts in American history.”

The Flight 93 National Memorial, a decade later, is still under construction even though phase one has now been completed and dedicated. But $10 million is still required to complete the memorial, and Clinton and Boehner announced they will mount a bipartisan effort to raise the needed money.

Bush said the memorial will ensure that the United States will always remember those who died on Flight 93, but said the country has a duty beyond memory and honoring. “We have a duty to live our lives in a way that upholds the ideals for which the men and women gave their lives – to build a living memorial to their courage and sacrifice,” he said.

Biden, meanwhile, said he has recalled the incident time and again over the last 10 years. “I never fail to be astonished, literally astonished by the courage they demonstrated,” he told the audience.

“I say to you, even as we struggle with this tragedy, even as we grapple with the profound loss and devastating grief, we can look up at the heavens and think of these heroes and know, know with certitude that there is not a single, solitary tragedy that America cannot overcome,” Biden added. “There is not a single moment of hardship that cannot be transformed into one of national strength. The seeds of doubt, planted by those who wish to harm us, will instead grow into flowering meadows like this one where we stand in today, for they cannot defeat the American spirit.”

(Copyright 2011 by BNO News B.V. All rights reserved. Info: sales@bnonews.com.)

Photo Credit: Laura Ingle

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