SHANKSVILLE – Forty times the bells rang in a rural Pennsylvania field Monday morning, once for each life lost when ordinary citizens fought — and won — the first battle in the War on Terror.
“We stand here today with pride because of heroism,” said D. Hamilton Peterson, president of Families of Flight 93. His father, Donald Peterson, and stepmother, Jean Hoadley Peterson, were two of the passengers on Flight 93.
“Heroism not only in the skies, but heroism by so many who have stepped forward to make sure that this memorial will be built and will forever serve as a reminder of the American spirit as it was evidenced on Flight 93 above this very field on Sept. 11.”
Many of the speakers who addressed a crowd numbering in the thousands Monday morning called for a day of remembrance rather than a day of mourning on this, the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11, the day 19 terrorists took control of four airplanes, crashing two into the World Trade Center in New York City and one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. A fourth, it is speculated, was destined for Washington and either the White House or the Capitol.
The passengers and crew on the flight devised a plan to overtake the hijackers, with the plane crashing into a Stonycreek Township, Somerset County, field.
The theme of the fifth anniversary ceremony was entitled “United in Courage, Community and Commitment” and paid homage to the collaborative efforts of the diverse, passionate group of family members, community leaders, citizen volunteers and other Flight 93 National Memorial partner groups that have come together to memorialize the 40 people aboard the plane.
Over the past five years, the groups have held the common goal to build a permanent Flight 93 memorial. A temporary memorial is currently in place about 500 yards from the crash site.
Retired General Tommy Franks, honorary co-chair of the Flight National Memorial capital campaign, said he was honored to speak for the crowd Monday.
“As has been said so many times, once a common field in Pennsylvania, now a field of honor forever.”
Franks called 9/11 a “dark day” that “shook America to her core,” but United Flight 93’s story is one that shines through.
“I’m inspired by the actions these men and women took,” Franks said. “Actions that have been characterized as national treasures.”