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Families, strangers remember Flight 93

Sunday, September 23, 2001

By Dennis B. Roddy and Tom Gibb, Post-Gazette Staff Writers

STONYCREEK, Pa. -- Amid the solemnity and all-business demeanor of the criminal investigation into the crash of United Flight 93, families who came to the Somerset County crash site the past two weeks left behind glimpses of real lives in progress, stolen away.

The family remembrances have been joined by tributes from the residents of the surrounding towns as well as from strangers. A half mile from the recovery work is an assemblage of flags, banners, flowers, crosses and notes.

"Our Prayers Are With You," reads a banner from St. Clement School. "Westmont Supports America," reads one from a neighboring school. "Thank God Thank God Thank God for your bravery," reads a cardboard heart.

On a banner from one New Jersey town, one of any of a number of places that could have been struck by the jetliner had a cadre of passengers not fought with the hijackers, someone scrawled the briefest, most poignant of messages: "Thank you for saving my life."

Maureen Young, her husband and two small children, drove in from near Gaithersburg, Md., yesterday, looked at the small memorials and explained them to her young daughter.

"People are showing they are sad for what happened and this is how they show it," she said.

"I worked with the dad of one of the passengers. But I really can't talk about it just now," Young said.

Mary Beers, from the nearby village of Listie, and her daughter, Dawn Fetters, stopped by a few minutes later. They knew nobody on the plane, but knew how they felt.

Beers brought a small wooden plaque, lettered with "Angels Gather Here," on it.

"I don't know if I can get this into the ground," she worried. She pulled out a hammer and pounded. It went in.

State Police helicopters crossed the sky throughout the morning and afternoon while investigators and rescue workers continued to pick their way through wreckage the size of cereal boxes, searching for clues and the remains of passengers.

State Attorney General Mike Fisher yesterday said investigators do not believe any sort of bomb was used on the airplane and that witnesses said it was intact at the time it struck the hillside on Sept. 11.

He also said investigators are continuing to examine a cockpit recording from the flight for clues about what happened in the final moments before the crash.

"At this point they're not sure exactly what they have," he said. Officials said this past week that the voice recordings are being transcribed and translated.

The makeshift memorial has also drawn the attention of the victims' families.

"Uncle Joe, You are a true hero," says one slip of paper bearing a child's handwriting.

"I knew that my uncle (was) special in a way that I never knew," says another youngster's message, "and I love him more than ever."

There is the black-and-white photo of a wistful-looking, 20-something woman holding flowers, the picture of a man in a fleece jacket hugging a black dog, a snapshot of a young father with his two sons.

There is a Steelers cap and a cap with a tribute to victim William Cashman, "A hero always, Love, Debbie."

In a fence of plastic netting, a restraint between the memorial site and the crash scene, there are bouquets and 40 palm-size origami birds, each with a prayer, written in Japanese for visiting 20-year-old crash victim Toshiya Kuge.

The family of victim Alan Beaven visited on Thursday and said this gung-ho, 48-year-old father of four would have been proudest of three things.

First, would be his children. Next, would be the good he'd done, the way he'd helped his planet as an environmental lawyer.

And finally, they said, would be his final day on earth.

"I think he would have been very proud of his last day in that he went down fighting for all of us," said Kimi Beaven, who marked her eighth wedding anniversary with Alan Beaven the day before the jetliner carrying him and 43 others crashed.

Alan Beaven -- New Zealand-born, once a prosecutor for Scotland Yard, a lawyer in America for 16 years -- was 6 foot, 3 inches of zeal, a physical man who exuded love and waxed passionate about all around him, Kimi Beaven said. So, if the theories are right, if passengers indeed fought hijackers for control of Flight 93 before it crashed, Alan Beaven was in the fray, Kimi Beaven and family agreed.

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