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Flight 93 memorial gets a lift

Nonprofit group accepts $1 million and six acres

Friday, December 06, 2002

By Steve Levin, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

There was breakfast, chamber music, a video, the national anthem, a check for $1 million and, of course, speeches.

Christine Homer, left, sister of United Flight 93's co-pilot, LeRoy W. Homer Jr., and Joy Stella, friend of passenger Colleen Fraser, can't hold back the tears as they listen to Kristy Jackson sing "Little Did She Know (She Kissed a Hero)" during the Hearts of Steel ceremony at the Renaissance Hotel Downtown honoring those who died in the Sept 11 crash. At right is Hamilton Peterson, son of passenger Donald Peterson. (Pam Panchak, Post-Gazette)

Sandy Dahl, with a determined smile on her face, maintained her poise through the mix of patriotism, pep rally, politics and waffles yesterday morning in the Symphony Ballroom of Downtown's Renaissance Hotel.

She and more than a dozen other family members of some of the passengers and crew from United Airlines Flight 93 were in town to accept the $1 million check from state Sen. Jane Orie, R-McCandless, whose yearlong Hearts of Steel Bracelets project raised money to help fund a permanent memorial in Somerset County.

But when a performer began singing an original song called "Little Did She Know (She'd Kissed a Hero)," Dahl, whose husband, Jason, was the pilot of Flight 93, bolted the room.

"This is tough," Dahl said of the song, which recounts a wife kissing her husband goodbye before he leaves home for a flight on Sept. 11, 2001.

A flight attendant who lives in Denver, Dahl said, "If I wasn't personally affected I'd probably have purchased [the song]. I just can't listen to it now."

She is a member of the Families of Flight 93 Inc. board of directors, and was in Pittsburgh not only to acknowledge Orie's work but also for the nonprofit board's first meeting. The board hopes to give the Flight 93 families a united voice in discussions about a permanent memorial to the flight's passengers and crew.

"It's a way that we can formally organize and have the voice of the families address our concerns so that decisions made by the National Park Service and other government agencies have the families' input," said Lloyd Glick, father of Flight 93 passenger Jeremy Glick.

President Bush signed legislation into law this year authorizing creation of a national memorial at the crash site.

Yesterday was a momentous gathering for the families for another reason.

Tim Lambert, the owner of six acres of land at the crash site off Route 30 near Shanksville, officially donated the property for a memorial.

A reporter for a Harrisburg public radio station, Lambert said Flight 93's impact hurled the plane's cockpit and first-class section onto the wooded land that has been in his family since 1930.

Lambert is one of six property owners whose land is needed for a memorial site.

He said he pledged the land to the families in February. He's in discussions now on the sale of nearly 160 additional acres to the nonprofit Conservation Fund as a buffer zone for the site.

"In the end, it wasn't a difficult decision to donate the land," Lambert said yesterday. "In my mind, it was the only decision because it's the right thing to do."

Yesterday was proclaimed Hearts of Steel Day in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and Pennsylvania.

Orie called the presentation of the $1 million check one of her proudest moments in public service.

She said the idea for the $10 Hearts of Steel bracelets was a way to organize companies in her district around the goal of establishing a permanent memorial.

Companies such as Allegheny Technologies and AK Steel donated more than 40,000 pounds of stainless steel to the project, tool-and-die maker Penn United Technologies in Saxonburg formed the bracelets, clients in a sheltered workshop packed them and people at Goodwill Industries were involved in the shipping and handling.

All told, more than 100,000 of the bracelets were sold by mail, at fairs, during rallies and by individuals. Orie, who initially thought she'd be lucky to raise $10,000, said she was shocked by the nationwide response.

About half the sales occurred in Pennsylvania, although Ohio, California and New Jersey sold substantial numbers of bracelets. Because the entire project was the work of volunteers, all money went to the memorial fund.

"I've asked myself many times," said Larry Catuzzi, whose daughter, Lauren Grandcolas, died in the crash, "How could we repay you? I guess my only answer is we left our loved ones here for you to take care of."

Steve Levin can be reached at slevin@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1919.

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