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Laura Bush expected to attend Somerset memorial service today

Examination of crash site debris continues

Monday, September 17, 2001

By James O'Toole, Politics Editor, Post-Gazette

First Lady Laura Bush was to travel to Somerset County today to grieve with the families of the victims of United Flight 93, whose passengers, through their own tragic deaths may have averted still greater tragedy.

The victims' families, who have been staying at the Seven Springs Resort, were bused to the crash site at midday to view the hillside and woods that contain the wreckage of the Boeing 757 and the remains of its 45 passengers and crew members.

After that pilgrimage, the families were to join Mrs. Bush and Gov. Tom Ridge at a memorial service at the Indian Lake Resort, within two miles of the crash site.

The first group of relatives, in a stretch limousine and two small buses, arrived at the reclaimed coal mine shortly before noon, past a line of state troopers standing at attention and saluting amid the dust that filled the air in the wake of the small, sad caravan.

They were the vanguard for approximately 200 more family members who arrived at the site in six buses about 1:15 p.m.

After viewing the field where their loved ones ended their lives on the Tuesday that shook the nation, the family members were to go on to the memorial service and a meal at the nearby resort.

The service was to be held under tight security in a large white tent on the ninth fairway of the Indian Lakes golf course at about 3 p.m.

While the families grieved, emergency workers continued the meticulous examination of the fragmented debris left by the crash and explosion that rained down on this rural community Tuesday morning.

At the same time, investigators in Washington, D.C., were examining the flight data and voice recorders, the so-called black boxes, that were recovered within the wedge-shaped impact crater late last week.

If intact, those devices may offer insights into the final moments of the hijacked plane. In particular, the voice recorder could provide a more vivid picture of what was apparently a heroic struggle by passengers with hijackers intent on bring the plane and its explosive complement of jet fuel down on a some populated, high-profile target such as those found by the other three aircraft hijacked and crashed last week.

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