Family members of those aboard United Flight 93 are lobbying Congress to persuade a Republican lawmaker to lift his hold on funding for a memorial where the plane crashed in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001.
Nearly a dozen people were meeting with their members of Congress to encourage them to sign a letter Wednesday that asks Rep. Charles H. Taylor, R-N.C., to support providing $10 million for the project. It was not clear whether they would meet with Taylor, chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Interior Department.
“These public funds are critically needed in light of recent progress to raise the necessary private funding to construct the memorial,” the letter says.
Taylor has blocked millions in funding for the project in the last two years and has expressed opposition to funding it when it comes up again before his committee May 3, said John Scofield, the House Appropriations Committee spokesman.
Taylor issued a three-page statement Tuesday in which he expressed concern about the project’s size and cost.
“It would be unacceptable to the memory of the sacrifice of those aboard Flight 93 to fail to adequately provide for future operations and maintenance of this memorial,” he said. “The subcommittee is simply trying to refrain from making commitments of unrealistic support that will either discourage private fundraising efforts or fail to meet our commitment to the country and the families of the heroes aboard Flight 93.”
The White House has requested $5 million for the nearly 1,700-acre site in rural western Pennsylvania as part of a larger spending bill.
Hamilton Peterson, president of Families of Flight 93, said Tuesday he is confident the disagreement can be resolved.
“He still has time to act, so I’m extremely hopeful that he will share the patriotic views that we have relative to honoring and memorializing the courageous acts as now affirmed by the release of the cockpit recorder,” Peterson said.
Taylor said he and a Pennsylvania congressman, whom he did not identify, had worked out a cost-sharing arrangement under which the state would make a large donation, but “to my knowledge, the state of Pennsylvania has not appropriated any funds.”
“What we do not want to do is embarrass the country or the families of those aboard Flight 93 with a memorial that is only partially funded,” Taylor said.
Kate Philips, a spokeswoman for Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, said Tuesday the state has committed $10 million to the project and $250,000 has already been awarded.
Film trailer encourages donations
Earlier this month, during the trial of Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, cockpit recordings were released that vividly revealed the struggle between passengers and hijackers — confirming what had been described in the official 9/11 commission report.
Some of the family members were expected to fly to Washington from New York, where the movie “United 93” was premiering Tuesday night at the Tribeca Film Festival. Trailers for the movie encourage people to donate to the Flight 93 Memorial Fund, and some proceeds from the movie were pledged to the memorial.
The flight was en route to San Francisco from Newark, N.J., when the hijackers took over, likely with the goal of crashing the plane into the White House or the U.S. Capitol. Instead, the plane went down near Shanksville, Pa., killing the 33 passengers, seven crew members and four hijackers on board.
The memorial is estimated to cost nearly $58 million — $30 million of which is to be raised by private donations. Of the $30 million, about $7.5 million has been raised since a campaign started last year, according to a memorial spokeswoman.
The project is backed by Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., whose district includes the crash site.