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U.S. News
Flight 93 exhibit opens at state museum

Sunday, September 01, 2002

By Martha Raffaele, The Associated Press

HARRISBURG -- An airplane made of Lego building blocks, a salt shaker decorated like an angel and other memorial tributes left at the Somerset County field where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed on Sept. 11 were put on display Wednesday at The State Museum of Pennsylvania.

Museum officials assembled "Flight 93 Remembered" with the help of the Somerset County Historical and Genealogical Society, which has been cataloging and preserving thousands of items with the hope of eventually incorporating them into a permanent memorial.

"We've watched this unfold, so it's very personal. You saw it and you felt it," museum spokesman Howard Pollman said. "We deal with a lot of history that's from years ago. This time, people are witnesses to it -- they're not having it filtered through a third party."

Seven crew members and 33 passengers died when the plane crashed in Somerset County near Shanksville, about 80 miles east of Pittsburgh. Officials believe the plane was heading for a target in Washington, D.C., when the passengers fought back against four hijackers, who also were killed.

Most of the items gathered from a temporary memorial at the site are presented in small display cases. They include a note scrawled by an 8-year-old girl in pencil on a scrap of loose-leaf paper.

"We are trying to catch the bad guys. I'm so sad. I can't believe it happened. It is so sad," the note reads, with a few misspellings.

Debra Shafer of Huntington left a message on a folded notecard with a water lily printed on the cover. The card is accompanied by a separate sheet of paper with the text typed out.

It reads, in part: "You were all the most incredible heroes this country could ask for. I only pray we do justice to your sacrifice. That our world becomes a more peaceful one."

Other items were left behind anonymously, such as a cap belonging to a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, a Pennsylvania State Police trooper's patch, and the salt shaker "angel."

The exhibit also includes a continuous audio loop with museum volunteers reading some of the memorial messages, and an excerpt from former Gov. Tom Ridge's Sept. 11 news conference at the site. An enlarged photo of the field, shot from the edge of the parking lot at the temporary memorial, dominates one wall of the exhibit area.

"Flight 93 Remembered" will be on display through Oct. 2.

The museum is located at 300 North St. in Harrisburg. For more information, call the museum at 717-787-4979 or go to www.statemuseumpa.org.

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