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U.S. News
Bushes, Ridge to attend Flight 93 tribute

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

By Tom Gibb, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

President and Mrs. Bush will be there -- but well after tens of thousands of other people have come, paid tribute to the victims of United Flight 93 and left.

Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., left, and Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge listen to Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott at a news conference in the Capitol yesterday about the proposed Homeland Security Department. Ridge will be the keynote speaker at Sept. 11 ceremony in Shanksville, Somerset County. (AP Photo)

A throng of 20,000 to 30,000 is expected to mass a week from this morning on Somerset County fields near where Flight 93 plunged to earth a year earlier.

Tom Ridge -- then governor, now the president's director of homeland security -- will be the keynote for an hour-long service, scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m.

Military jets will fly over in formation. Sandy Dahl, widow of Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl, will speak. The Johnstown Symphony Orchestra and the Second Marine Aircraft Wing Band will play. A specially assembled array of bells will toll a year to the minute after Flight 93 hit the ground and all but vanished.

Murial Borza, 11-year-old half-sister of Flight 93 victim Deora Bodley, a 20-year-old college junior from California, will ask for a minute of silence for world peace.

Expect a theme of heroism to be woven through it all.

From the day the Boeing 757 crashed, investigators have theorized that the pirated airliner was bound for Washington and was brought down only as rebels rose from among the 40 passengers and crew to try to wrest control from the four hijackers.

"Those of us here at the White House feel strongly ... particularly as we view this as saving lives here at the White House," presidential spokesman Scott Stanzel said yesterday in announcing the schedules for Bush and Ridge.

About two hours after the memorial service ends -- by the White House plan, long after the last of the thousands have been bused away to parking lots scattered about 10 miles away -- President Bush, with wife Laura Bush, will arrive to lay a wreath at the spot where the airliner hit.

It will be the president's first visit to the site. It will be Laura Bush's second -- her first, an appearance to offer condolences to victims' families at a service the week of the crash.

Online Map:
Parking for Flight 93 memorial



This time, the first lady will see some of the same faces.

An estimated 500 people, the extended families of most of the victims, will meet with the president and first lady in a session that Stanzel said will be mostly mingling without speechmaking.

For the first couple, it will be one of six events -- sandwiched between a mid-morning observance at the Pentagon and a late-afternoon wreath-laying at the World Trade Center site -- on a day given over entirely to remembrance.

As the White House shepherds the president through a day to be capped with a 9 p.m. address to the nation, Somerset County, population 80,000, will be trying to move the largest press of humanity that the county ever has seen.

"For one day, it's a record," county Commissioner Pamela Tokar-Ickes said. Planners have posted information at www.flt93memorial.org.

During the hour-long service, there will be seating only for the handicapped.

Television stations across the region were making plans yesterday to show all or parts of the service live.

For those attending, there will be 160 buses borrowed from donors ranging from local school districts to the American Bus Association.

Even a steady flow of traffic would choke the Shanksville area's narrow roads, so the lane-and-a-half passage to the crash site will be closed. Instead, motorists will catch buses at stops scattered from three Somerset parking lots to the county airport at Friedens to Jennerstown Speedway.

One lot will be open only to the handicapped, along Route 30 near Buckstown.

By the math planners are using -- 9,200 parking spaces and 2.5 people per vehicle -- there should be enough parking to accommodate 23,000 people.

"I think it will be fine," said Capt. Frank Monaco, commander for state police Troop A at Greensburg.

"If that's off, we'll make do somehow," said Sienna Davis, a planner recruited by Susan Hankinson, chief organizer for the event.

On Sept. 11, 2002, the horror of Sept. 11, 2001, won't be far from the minds of security officials.

Monaco won't estimate how many, but he will have a small army of state troopers in his Somerset County detail that day.

To him, banning all but bus traffic from the road near the crash site is more than just a traffic flow measure. "It keeps a lot of strange cars from parking along the road," he said.

It's likely, he said, that troopers even will be riding the buses carrying the crowds.

Monaco said he knows of no threat. "But you never know when even one lone person will do something," he said.

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

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