Pittsburgh, PA
August 2, 2021
    News           Sports           Lifestyle           Classifieds           About Us
Local News
Pittsburgh Map
Place an Ad
Auto Classifieds
Today^s front page
Headlines by E-mail
Home >  Local News Printer-friendly versionE-mail this story
Somerset County poised for memorial

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

By Tom Gibb, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

STONYCREEK, Pa. -- The murmurs of threats anew against the homeland have been ambiguous and unsettling, so it was reassuring to some, perhaps, to see a pair of Air Force fighter jets rushing over and over across the mid-morning sky yesterday.

The Rev. Alphonse T. Mascherino, left, director of the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel, leads a vigil of peace yesterday in the recently completed chapel. More photos from Shanksville. (John Beale, Post-Gazette)

Maybe it was heartening, too, to see a hulking C-130, roaring again and again not far above these Somerset County mountaintops.

This wasn't military chest-thumping, though.

This was dress rehearsal.

The fastidiously planned, hourlong first-anniversary memorial service for the 40 victims of United Airlines Flight 93 will be staged this morning in a field near the crash site. And the aircraft -- T-38 fighters from Shepherd Air Force Base in Texas and a C-130 from the Air Force Reserve's 911th Airlift Wing at Pittsburgh International Airport -- have to fly over right on cue.

"This is more challenging than the standard mission," Air Force Capt. Chuck Sargent, radio in hand, said as he directed the rehearsal from the ground.

For the kin of Flight 93 victims -- 535 of them are expected here -- yesterday was the day of emotional solitude, when they gathered away from all onlookers on the patch of ground where the Boeing 757 and those it carried all but vanished a year ago this morning.

"For them, this was like the interment," Pamela Tokar-Ickes, Somerset County commissioner, said yesterday.

"They are so much stronger than last year at this time," Susan Hankinson, county Flight 93 coordinator, said of the families.

This morning is when thousands are expected to gather with the grieving families for the public memorial service, titled "A Time for Honor and Hope," that will include an address by U.S. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, the tolling of bells, an address by Sandy Dahl, wife of Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl, and a request by Murial Borza, crash victim Deora Bodley's 11-year-old half-sister, for a moment of silence for world peace.

More from Shanksville:

Flight 93 temporary memorial

Families of Flight 93 victims gather at Shanksville crash site

Corporations shun funding for Flight 93 memorial rite

Photo Journal: Shanksville, a year later


Two-and-a-half hours later, when the crowd has cleared, the families will meet on the crash site with President and Mrs. Bush for a wreath-laying and what Hankinson said will be an impromptu give-and-take.

Somerset County will be the Bushes' second stop of the day, set between ceremonies at the Pentagon and at the World Trade Center, and all a prelude to an address to the nation at 9 tonight.

As for the public ceremony, it has been in the works for five months -- with painstaking planning covering everything from the movement to the care and feeding of thousands of people, the biggest logistical undertaking this county of 80,000 people has ever seen.

Hankinson yesterday forecast the crowd at 20,000 people, all bused from parking areas set up in Somerset, nearby Friedens, Jennerstown and Buckstown.

But today, those who haven't boarded buses by 8 a.m. at the latest likely will be left behind, planners say.

Meanwhile, the American Red Cross has moved into the crash site with provisions that include 60,000 snacks, 20,000 bottles of water, 225,000 gallons of coffee and 10,000 Danish pastries. And it's planned for how emotional the crowd could become, laying in 10,000 packs of tissues, Red Cross spokesman Scott Snyder said.

Among the crowd will be 60 people, some trained to offer medical care, others expert in providing emotional care, handing out tissues and brochures on handling the psychological aftermath of Sept. 11.

"I'll empty myself, pray a lot and let the Holy Spirit take over," said Susan Detrick, a volunteer coming from her job as a school guidance counselor near Akron, Ohio.

Then, sometime tomorrow, the thousands of visitors will trickle out.

And at long last, people around Shanksville say, they might start getting their community back.

There is little doubting the role Shanksville feels as guardians of the crash site and the mourners.

Last year, as recovery workers still were flooding into the site, the Shanksville area spontaneously dressed itself in red, white and blue.

As the first anniversary of Sept. 11 approached, they did it again.

On the front yard where Judi Baeckel and family set up an impromptu memorial a year ago, they've placed a 4-by-7-foot sign proclaiming: "Forty lives taken from Earth. ... Forty new stars shining in heaven."

But up the road at Shanksville Stonycreek High School, schoolmates Stephen Wilt and Keith Sale allow that they've wearied of the unending flow of tourists passing through their quiet town.

As Flight 93 memorial organizers handed out their 570th set of media credentials yesterday, good-natured Dan and Donna Beaner had posted a sign in their local marine shop: "Every third reporter will be shot, and the second one just left."

"I want the families of the victims to come. I'd like to talk to them," Donna Beaner said. "But the consensus for the other people is that we'd like this to be over."

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

Back to top Back to top E-mail this story E-mail this story
Search | Contact Us |  Site Map | Terms of Use |  Privacy Policy |  Advertise | Help |  Corrections