Government officials and representatives of the passengers and crew killed when United Flight 93 crashed in a rural Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001, have pledged to dedicate a memorial there by the attacks’ 10th anniversary.
Plans for a memorial at the site near Shanksville, about 60 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, have been in the works for years. But construction hasn’t begun, as arguments over the memorial’s design and problems buying land have slowed development.
On Friday, federal and state officials as well as family members of the victims signed a “letter of commitment” that they said reaffirms their goal of having the first phase of a memorial built by Sept. 11, 2011.
The plane was traveling from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco when it was diverted by hijackers with the likely goal of crashing it into the White House or Capitol. The official 9/11 Commission report said the hijackers crashed the plane as passengers tried to wrest control of the cockpit.
Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter called the site as important to 21st century America as memorials to Valley Forge, Gettysburg and Pearl Harbor are to the nation’s history in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
“Those of us who were in the Congress on Sept. 11, 2001, may well owe our lives to the heroism of those who brought down that plane,” Specter said at a signing ceremony in Somerset, not far from the crash site.
Gov. Ed Rendell said the “memorial will be a lasting tribute to the 40 heroes of United Flight 93 who courageously gave their lives to stop the terrorists from using their plane as another weapon on 9/11.”
'Standing in unison'
The letter signed Friday calls for design documents to be approved this summer and for groundbreaking in early November. The planned memorial is to cover more than 2,200 acres.
“We are standing in unison the same way the passengers and crew did to make sure that the plane did not hit the Capitol,” said Patrick White, vice president of the Families of Flight 93. His cousin, Louis “Joey” Nacke II, was a passenger.
White’s group and the National Park Service are continuing to negotiate to buy several parcels of land from private owners, and they expect to get them. Specter said Friday that the government could force them to sell if necessary.
The groups developing the memorial cleared a significant hurdle last month when Svonavec Inc. — which owns 275 acres, including the impact site — agreed to have a court determine its value. Negotiations over that parcel had been contentious.
National Park Service Flight 93 superintendent Joanne Hanley said an appraisal on another large tract of land is expected to be completed within a month.
Rendell said he would seek about $9.8 million, either through state legislation or federal funds, to pay for an access road.
C. King Laughlin, campaign manager at the National Park Foundation said it has raised more than $10 million of its $30 million goal for the project’s capital campaign. The rest of the money is expected to come from public sources, primarily state and federal government.