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Flight 93 crash shook his house like a tornado

Friday, September 14, 2001

By Cindi Lash, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

STONYCREEK, Pa. -- His windows all are shattered and blown out of their frames, his garage door has disappeared and his ceilings have crumbled and fallen onto floor tiles that have been blasted loose from their moorings.

He's not sure when he'll be able to return to what's left of the once-cozy stone cottage nestled in a thick stand of trees with a view of the sun-dappled cornfields below and the rolling hills beyond. But Barry Hoover said his sorrow at seeing his home nearly destroyed is dwarfed by his grief and sympathy for the 45 people who died Tuesday when United Airlines Flight 93 slammed into the hilltop that he calls home.

No people on the ground were killed in that crash. But the shock waves set off by the impact of that crash heavily damaged Hoover's home, which lies, literally, a stone's throw from the crater gouged into the earth by the doomed plane.

"Obviously, I was upset when I saw my house. Who wouldn't be?" said Hoover, 34, whose home off Lambertsville Road is believed to be the local structure most seriously damaged by the crash. "But you know, it's a house and there's nothing there that can't be replaced. The people who died can't be replaced."

Hoover, who was at work at a lumber yard 10 miles away in Somerset when the Boeing 757 crashed Tuesday morning, said he rushed home after friends telephoned him and told him they believed the plane came down dangerously close to his property.

Already jumpy and heartsick from news reports he'd heard about the morning's other plane crashes at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Hoover said he didn't realize at first that the downed plane near his home was also an airliner and that its fall from the sky was linked to those other hijackings.

"That stuff doesn't happen here. I'd assumed it was a small plane, a Cessna or a little plane like that," he said. "I had no idea until I got home that it was this disaster, that 45 people lost their lives."

Wreckage was still burning and emergency workers were still speeding to the scene when Hoover neared his house. While it was still standing, every window and door had been blown off and obliterated, its ceilings and floor tiles had been blasted loose and much of the interior was wrecked.

"It looked like what you see after a tornado or hurricane goes through -- a total ruin," he said. "I was just so thankful that it didn't stay in the air another few seconds and hit [the nearby towns of] Lambertsville or Shanksville."

Hoover spent a few minutes unsuccessfully searching for his cat, Woody, but then walked back outside because he was afraid the house might collapse on him. Police then told him he'd have to leave because the house was considered to be part of the crash crime scene.

He hasn't been permitted to return or retrieve belongings since then, so he's been staying in a Somerset hotel and making do with newly purchased or borrowed clothes and toiletries. But he said he understands why the FBI and state police have barred him from his home and property and doesn't mind staying away until their work is finished there.

"The people who did this want to make us afraid to fly in a plane, to go out in public, to sit in a crowd at a Steelers game," said Hoover, who owns season tickets to the football team's games.

"As Americans, we can't have that. I want the people who did this to be caught and prosecuted. I don't care if I can never stay in my home again if I can help [investigators] by leaving them alone."

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