|Wednesday, Sep 12, 2012|
Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar joined approximately 1,500 people at Flight 93 National Memorial yesterday to honor the 40 passengers and crew who foiled a planned attack on the nation’s capital on September 11, 2001.
Flight 93 National Memorial commemorates United Flight 93, which crashed into a field in western Pennsylvania only 20 minutes flying time from the U.S. Capitol, its intended target. Because of the quick and determined actions of the passengers and crew, Flight 93 was the only one of the four hijacked aircraft that failed to reach the terrorists' intended target that day.
In his remarks, Vice President Biden shared his sorrow with the families of the passengers and crew, who gave their lives in thwarting the planned attack on our nation’s capital. "We wish we weren't here. We wish we didn't have to be here. We wish we didn't have to commemorate any of this," Biden told the audience, which included families of the passengers and crew.
However, Secretary Salazar reflected on the greater meaning of their sacrifice in his comments. “Together, as we gaze out upon the hallowed ground, let us reflect upon…let us celebrate…the spirit of America as we remember and honor those who rose up to defend her on that dark day 11 years ago.”
During the ceremony, at 10:03 a.m. – the moment Flight 93 crashed – the names of the passengers and crew members were read by members of the Families of Flight 93, and Bells of Remembrance tolled in their memory. The ceremony concluded with Vice President Biden, Secretary Salazar and Patrick White, president of the Families of Flight 93, laying a wreath at the Wall of Names, forty inscribed white marble panels, arrayed along the final flight path of United Flight 93. The vice president then led the family members out to the crash site for a time of private reflection.
The ceremony concluded four days of commemorative programming at Flight 93 National Memorial. Over the weekend, the park conducted a “Learning Center Without Walls,” a series of panel discussions that explored the events of September 11, 2001 from several different perspectives, including children who experienced the event; media coverage of the Flight 93 crash; the FBI Flight 93 investigation and recovery teams; and those who were in the U.S. Capitol, the terrorists’ intended target, on 9/11. Monday evening a luminaria program was held in which an array of 40 candle lanterns were placed at the Wall of Names, a silent and moving tribute to the tragic loss of life of the passengers and crew on Flight 93.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta visited the memorial Monday afternoon for a private tour and meeting with members of the families of Flight 93. He laid a wreath at the Wall of Names and made brief remarks in which he said the passenger and crew "responded with selflessness, determination, and tremendous courage. And at the cost of their own lives, made the fateful decision to fight back, and in so doing, they successfully prevented an attack on the United States Capitol." Secretary Panetta was in the Capitol on the morning of September 11, 2001.
The commemorative events were managed by an internal incident command system, with assistance provided by the Western Pennsylvania Parks, Catoctin Mountain Park, C&O Canal NHP, Fort McHenry NM, Gettysburg NMP, Statue of Liberty NM and the WASO Office of Communications. Media interest was heavy, with 30 local, national and international outlets in attendance. There were no incidents during the four-day event.