State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

“Forever grateful”: Flight 93 National Memorial opens to public

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Sep 11, 2011 12:35 AM

More than five thousand people waited hours in traffic and braved muddy fields to see the dedication of the Flight 93 National Memorial Saturday. 

 

Former President George W. Bush, former President Bill Clinton, and Vice President Joe Biden spoke at the afternoon ceremony to honor of the 40 passengers and crew who died on Flight 93 on September 11, 2001.

 

In remarks that were exceptionally bipartisan, each dignitary insisted that the country remember the men and women on Flight 93 as heroes for thwarting the four hijackers aboard their plane.  It is believed that the terrorists planned to crash the plane into the U.S. Capitol, and not a remote field in Stonycreek Township, Somerset County.

 

President Bush called the decision of the Flight 93 heroes to storm the cockpit was the first counteroffensive in the war on terror.  “What happened above this Pennsylvania field ranks among the most courageous acts in American history,” he said. 

 

President Clinton likened the struggle aboard Flight 93 to the battles of Alamo and Thermopylae.  

 

“There has always been a special place in the common memory for people who deliberately, knowingly, certainly laid down their lives for other people to live,” said Clinton.  “They saved the Capitol from attack.  They saved God knows how many lives.  They saved the terrorists from claiming the symbolic victory of smashing the center of American government.  And they did it as citizens.”

 

Vice President Biden said they began their day with no intention of fighting anyone on their way to their various locations: a family reunion, business meetings, vacations, home.   

“But when they heard the news, when they found out what happened in New York, they knew that they were going through with something more than a hijacking,” said Biden.  “They knew that it was the opening shot in a new war.  And so they acted.”

 

The names of the 40 heroes were read aloud.  A bell tolled after each name.

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