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U.S. News
Planning starts on Flight 93 memorial

Project scope, look yet to be decided

Sunday, March 02, 2003

By Tom Gibb, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

SHANKSVILLE, Pa.--Three to five years before it rises, this is what the public can assume about the permanent Flight 93 memorial: The spot where the United Airlines jetliner crashed will get the sanctified standing of a cemetery, and the tranquil, empty hills nearby will remain that way.

Paula Nacke Jacobs, left, whose brother, Louis Nacke II, died on Flight 93, greets Karen Model, director of victims services for Network of Victim Assistance, before the Flight 93 Memorial Task Force's first meeting in Shanksville yesterday. The ground where the jetliner hit will probably have the sanctified standing of a cemetery, and the surrounding tranquil, empty hills nearby will remain tranquil, empty hills. (John Beale, Post-Gazette)

Beyond that, just about everything -- appearance, scope, cost, funding and more -- will come from consensus of a group comprising mostly of victims' families and area residents.

According to the people gathered here yesterday to begin what is expected to be 2 1/2 years of planning, the process is likely to be, at turns, wrenching, therapeutic, contentious, harmonious, and, according to Lawrence Catuzzi, group co-chairman and father of 38-year-old Flight 93 victim Lauren Grandcolas --- ultimately triumphant.

"At times ... we'll be at each other's throats, and at other times, we'll be in each other's arms," Susan Hankinson, Somerset County's point person for the Flight 93 aftermath, told the crowd.

Yesterday's meeting drew about 60 people -- 14 of them Flight 93 victims' kin -- to little Shanksville-Stonycreek High School for an all-afternoon session carried by conference call to another 20 victims' survivors from across the country.

It wasn't a session planned as much to stride ahead as it was a meeting to give planners -- the newly-impaneled, 84-member Flight 93 Memorial Task Force -- a preview of what's coming and what topics they'll mull, starting with their next meeting in May.

Barbara Black, curator at the Somerset Historical Center, holds a flag that was signed and left at the Flight 93 crash site by members of the Derry Volunteer Fire Department. "It's important to preserve what's being left at the site, because, overall, it's a reflection of how America felt about this action," Black said. (V.W.H. Campbell Jr, Post-Gazette)

And there's plenty to consider, said Ed Linenthal, a University of Wisconsin Religious Studies faculty member who has become an expert on memorials, advises the National Park Service and worked in the process that produced the memorial to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Should there be a monument there? Should the countryside be frozen in time? Is it a burial site, a site of violence, a tourist destination?

"I believe it must be responsive first and foremost to family, then speak to national and international visitors," Linenthal told the crowd. "It is a living memorial ... a memorial that doesn't pretend to resolve something ... to answer unanswerable questions."

The task force is expected to appoint a 14-member commission to offer a final plan to the federal Interior Department. Then, built with a yet-undetermined mix of private and public money, the process will yield a memorial overseen by the National Park Service.

"But this task force is where this memorial is really going to be put together," said Somerset County Judge Kim Gibson, panel co-chairman.

There's something redemptive in that challenge, said Jennifer Price, daughter of Jean Peterson and stepdaughter of Donald Peterson, a Spring Lake, N.J. couple killed in the crash. Instead of surrendering to the distress that followed Sept. 11, "you feel like you're doing something," she said.

"Just because it hurts sometimes," said Sandra Felt, wife of Flight 93 victim Edward Felt, "doesn't mean we shouldn't do it."


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

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