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Flight 93 crash inspires book list

Book donations will help school library

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

By Tom Gibb, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Even at 70, after hip replacement and a triple bypass, Patrick "Joe" Driscoll was the stalwart outdoorsman.

When he and 60-year-old pal Bill Cashman booked seats on United Airlines Flight 93 last September, they were off on a pilgrimage from New Jersey to meet friends and to hike in Yosemite National Park.

The flight ended in a field near Shanksville.

 
 
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Months later, when asked what book might be added in Driscoll's honor to the library in little Shanksville-Stonycreek School District, daughter Pamela Gould offered tribute to her father's love for nature and suggested "Dear Children of the Earth," a youngster's-level view of environmental stewardship.

Flight 93 pilot LeRoy Homer Jr.'s wife recommended Charles Lindbergh's "We" and "Jane's American Fighting Aircraft of the 20th Century."

Passenger Todd Beamer's wife, Lisa Beamer, proffered the children's entry "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel."

"She mentioned how it was a favorite of one of their little boys, one he read over and over for his little boy," said Rae McKee, 1991 National Teacher of the Year who is helping to pull together suggestions, books and the school district for a corporately-financed Flight 93 memorial project.

Book shipments have begun arriving at the Shanksville-Stonycreek school complex, where students watched through classroom windows as smoke burst skyward when Flight 93 crashed two miles away.

By the time the last books arrive, Shanksville-Stonycreek will have more than 69 new titles -- multiple copies of each, and enough copies for a classroom, in some cases. All the titles were suggested by Flight 93 families, public officials and McKee herself.

"It's going to be awesome ... everything from Dr. Seuss to some of the greater literature for older students," said school board member Clara Hinton, who is currently seeing the last three of her 11 children work their way through the local grades. "It's mostly a theme of courage and patriotism."

Former President George Bush and wife Barbara Bush, friends of McKee since she was named national teacher of the year back in tiny Slanesville, in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle, offered their autobiographies.

Former President Clinton suggested "To Kill a Mockingbird."

From the state Legislature came a variety. Senate Minority Leader Robert Mellow offered "Maus," cartoonist Art Spiegelman's enduring telling of the Holocaust in a graphic novel. House Minority Leader William DeWeese's choice was David McCullough's biography of John Adams. Rep. Dick Hess, R-Bedford, selected "The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh."

Flight 93 families' nominations ranged from Dr. Seuss' "Horton Hatches the Egg" to "Huckleberry Finn" to four volumes on Eleanor Roosevelt.

To that, McKee added her own suggestions, from "Fifty American Heroes Every Kid Should Meet" to Time Life Books' compilation "Portraits 9/11/01" to "100th Day Worries," a bit of reassurance for anxious children.

And she added titles such as "Appalachia: Songs of Sleeping Birds," a children's book by Cynthia Rylant.

McKee, now living in Houston, suggested the book project when the people at Cornell Cos., an operator of correctional and treatment facilities for which her husband, Paul Doucette, works as spokesman, sought a memorial effort that came to include a sculpture and memorial garden at Shanksville-Stonycreek.

She acknowledged that some Flight 93 families, already besieged by attention, and some public officials, notably President Bush, didn't respond to the request for book titles. But she was pleased with those that she received.

"Some sent notes, some sent only recommendations," McKee said.

All told, what the school got from the project, Hinton said, was a valuable literary bonanza it otherwise couldn't have bankrolled

"Children normally will take fantasy books down from the shelf," McKee said. "This is a chance to build these values."


Tom Gibb can be reached at tgibb@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1601.

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