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'They faced their future like citizen soldiers'

Shanksville honors the courage of those aboard Flight 93

By Vicki Rock, Globe Correspondent, 9/12/2002

SHANKSVILLE, Pa. - A bell tolled 40 times, once for each person who died on board United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed near here one year ago.

The final bell rang out yesterday at 10:06 a.m., the exact time of the crash. Three C-130s from the 911th Airlift Wing of the Pittsburgh Air Reserve, flew over the site in the missing man formation. Marines of the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, Site Support Element, Johnstown, held a 21-gun salute, and 40 white doves were released.

In the Appalachian highlands 70 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, between 5,000 and 7,000 people, including about 550 relatives and friends of those on the flight, gathered for the outdoor ceremony on a cool and gray morning, huddled in blankets, many of the holding small American flags.

President Bush later visited the site, speaking to members of the victims' families. The site has been referred to as the forgotten ground zero by residents who feel it has been overshadowed by tragedies in New York and Washington.

Authorities say they believe that Flight 93 was headed for either the Capitol or the White House.

Passengers and crew had used their cellphones to call loved ones and, after hearing about the hijacked planes that had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City, rushed the cockpit in an attempt to foil the hijackers. The plane crashed in a rural area, and no one on the ground was killed.

''Let's roll!'' - believed to be the last words of Todd Beamer, a passenger aboard Flight 93, has since become a rallying cry for the nation's war on terrorism.

Former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, now Bush's director of homeland security, said the passengers' and crew's courage continues to ripple across the nation, spurring Americans to work and fight harder against terrorism.

''We are grateful,'' said Ridge, accompanied by more than 100 of his White House colleagues. ''Our hearts are heavy with grief, but our spirits are lifted with pride.

''They faced their future like citizen solders and said to the terrorists, `No.' One message at the temporary memorial says it best: `Thank-you for saving my life.' I have no doubt thousands of Americans were saved by that crash and America is grateful. They had faith they were doing the right thing, faith they were doing the honorable thing. We need that faith now.''

Sandy Dahl, wife of Flight 93's pilot, Captain Jason Dahl, said, ''In the air, a wave of courage made its way from the cockpit to the rear of the aircraft and back again, with all persevering to the end.''

Governor Mark Schweiker said he feels humbled one year later.

''Our peace was shattered by cowards who sought to destroy our way of life,'' Schweiker said. ''In the skies above us, the terrorists got their answer. America will always fight for freedom and never surrender our way of life. I look at this field as a battlefield unlike others in our nation's history.

''They decided their fate wasn't in the hands of the terrorists, it was in their own.''

In one of the most touching moments of the morning, Murial Borza, 11, whose sister, Deora Bodley, died in the crash, asked for one minute of silence for world peace. ''During this period, people could make a pledge to do a good deed that will help mankind in some small way - even if it's a hug, kiss, smile or... a prayer,'' she said.

''It would make people feel good, and the remembrance of our loved ones would not be forgotten.''

Information from Reuters was used in this report.

This story ran on page A22 of the Boston Globe on 9/12/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.





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