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Writing Entry: Flight 93 -- Devotion to a quiet field

Written by Tim Lambert, WITF Multimedia News Director | Jan 16, 2017 10:01 AM
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(NAT SOUND -- PEOPLE TALKING)


VISITOR:

"Yeah. That's where we were."

LAMBERT:

People have been finding their way to *this* spot in Somerset County, for nearly 15 years.

VISITOR:

"They knew they weren't going to make it..."

LAMBERT:

They come here to pay their respects to the 40 passengers and crew members onboard Flight 93, who died during the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks.

VISITOR:

"But, they were going to do what they could to save as many people as they possibly could."

LAMBERT:

They come here to remember the heroism shown in the final minutes before the last of the four hijacked airliners crashed in a field in Stonycreek Township. The passengers and crew had attempted to re-take the cockpit and their efforts kept the terrorists from hitting what's believed to have been their intended target -- the U.S. Capitol.

VISITOR:

"I mean they're selfless. They're brave. They're...um...they're heroes."

LAMBERT:

They refer to them as heroes. But, some of the people at the Flight 93 National Memorial also call them something else -- son or daughter or wife or  husband.

Brother or sister.

While only one of the passengers and crew hailed from Pennsylvania, family members make regular trips to the site and it's been that way since that day in September. Many just want to visit their lost loved ones and make sure the legacy of the men and women who died will not be forgotten.

(NAT SOUND WIND):

BORZA:

"Wow. The field has different flowers in it this time of year. I had forgotten."

LAMBERT:

One of them is Debby Borza, who is intimately involved with this out-of-the way place. She's been a familiar face as the crash site evolved from a scarred field into a national memorial. 

(NAT SOUND -- RANGER AND DEBBY):

"How you doing? (Ranger) Good to see you. (Debby) Nice to see you. (Ranger) What's up here at the park? (Debby)"

(NAT SOUND TALKING):

LAMBERT:

Her daughter is Deora Bodley, forever a 20-year-old college junior-to-be with a tattoo of a shooting star. 

She was the youngest person onboard the doomed jetliner. As DebbY makes her way along the Memorial Plaza with a friend, it's windy as usual here.Two smiling children go by and catch her eye...the little girl, in particular.

BORZA:

"Stanford University. Little t-shirt on her. Skipping and running. How sweet. Deora went to a basketball camp at Stanford...so, isn't it funny I see a little Stanford t-shirt on that little girl?" (LAUGHS)

(NAT SOUND WALKING)

LAMBERT:

Off to the left, in the distance, is the actual spot where Flight 93 met the earth at 560 miles-per-hour. it's now marked with a large boulder. A little bit further, the quarter of a mile walk ends in front of the eight-foot tall Wall of Names.

BORZA:

"Me...I'm going to go say hi to Deora's name. She's right there."

(KISSES WALL)

"Hi, baby girl. MMMMH...I always look through here, because I like to see the flowers, back there."

LAMBERT:

Deora made a difference everywhere she went, DebbY has said.  She remembers her as a bright light, who was dedicated to volunteer work with an animal center, the Special Olympics and tutoring elementary kids in reading.

(NAT SOUND TALKING)

BORZA:

"And Toshiya Kugay was the youngest male passenger..."

LAMBERT:

Borza walks along the memorial, gazing at the 39 other names and the tributes visitors have left behind. She unhooks a heavy black chain to step onto a gravel path that leads.....

BORZA:

"Can you step over this one okay?  Are you okay, honey?  Yeah.."

(NAT SOUND WALKING)

LAMBERT:

....to the crash site itself....as the sounds of the wind, crickets and cicadas take hold.

(NAT SOUND WIND, CRICKETS AND CICADAS):

BORZA:

"We had a lot to live up to (LAUGHS)..as next of kin to these 40 amazing people. We had a lot to live up to. So, I think we just kind of...you know...ah...dug in and..um...did the best we could do for those that we love dear and um....Always having in mind, long after we're gone, that the story lives on for those who visit here."

LAMBERT:

Borza is standing in front of locked gates, restricting access to all but family members and park service personnel. She considers what's on the other side to be sacred ground.

(NAT SOUND LOCK AND GATE OPENING)

Debby and her friend step inside.

BORZA:

"And here we have a marker."

LAMBERT:

This is where Deora's mom is most comfortable.

BORZA:

"People would say, 'Where's the crash site? We would kind of wave our hands...you know..oh...it's out there.'"

LAMBERT:

Borza wasn't always comfortable with the thought of making Deora's final resting place a national memorial. But, her views evolved over time.  After all, her grief didn't have a chance to remain very private.

BORZA:

"It's a very tough personal journey. To give up my daughter? To the public? To turn her life over to people who never really knew her? And I think what it was is then..well...if they never knew her and now they have an opportunity to know who she was...how do I want the story told and who would best.....(SOUND FADES)."

LAMBERT:

What was once a more matter-of-fact tone turns to something else -- a mix of strength and resolve.

BORZA:

"No matter how much they know about her. You know...they can never say, you know...'I was her mother.'"

LAMBERT:

Her right fist firmly taps her heart.

BORZA:

"Only I get to say that. So..so... that's what I hold dear and the rest of Deora I now gladly give her away to anybody and everybody who's interested, who wants to name their girls after her, to whoever wants to do..you know... community service work...any...anything that they learn about Deora that they want to take on for themselves...that makes me happy ..."

(NAT SOUND WIND AND CRICKETS):

LAMBERT:

Her devotion to this quiet field teeming with waist-high grass, woodlands, ferns and wildflowers has a singular focus -- the lessons of what happened here should never be diminished.

BORZA: 

"I would love for people who come here to find themselves in one of those 40 onboard. I would like them to be in the visitor center and be curious about...you know...'Who..you know..who is this Jason Dahl? Oh...'He was..you know...the pilot. Well, I was a pilot or I wish...I would love to learn how to fly. What was his life like?' Find some relationship between themselves and those onboard, so that people walk away knowing that they can be just as courageous whenever courage is needed." 

LAMBERT:

Calm. 

Peaceful.

And beautiful.

That's how Borza describes this place as she looks out into the 60 foot tall Hemlock trees -- some of which still bare the scars of the crash with visible green and red spray painted "Xs" remaining from the recovery efforts.

(NAT SOUND LOCK AND CHAINS):

Now, Debby's locking up -- like she has countless other times through the years. 

She wants to be at the dedication of 450 red Maple trees planted along the walkway encircling the site. Having at least one Flight 93 family member on hand to say thanks is important to her. But, her work on behalf of Deora -- who would be in her mid 30s today - 

(NAT SOUND FADES OUT)

and the other 39 innocent people who had their lives taken from them  - isn't quite done.

Debby is hoping to see the 93-foot tall Tower of Voices with 40 individual wind chimes built. It's the final step in making the National Memorial complete.

(MUSIC FADES UP)

Right now, September 11th, 2018, is the goal.

Then, Borza thinks, it'll be time for the next generation to watch over the legacy of Flight 93.

In Stonycreek Township, Somerset County, I'm Tim Lambert

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