A quiet, grassy field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, was crowded with thousands of mourners today on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Memorial services were held to honor the 40 passengers and crewmembers of United Airlines Flight 93, who died last year while trying to take back the hijacked plane.
The field is the site where Flight 93 crashed. Investigators believe that some people on board the plane attacked the four hijackers and were able to take control of the flight long enough to crash the plane in an open area, where no one else would be hurt. Experts believe that the hijackers planned to fly the plane to Washington, D.C., and crash it into an important government building, such as the White House or the Capitol.
Flight 93 was one of four planes hijacked as part of the terrorist attacks on the United States last year. These attacks led to the destruction of New York City's World Trade Center and a section of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
Remembering the Heroes
Relatives and others wishing to honor the passengers and crewmembers gathered at the field at sunrise. During the ceremony, which began at 9:30 a.m. EDT, a bell tolled 40 times, once for each victim. Reading of the victims' names accompanied the ringing of the bells. A moment of silence was held at 10:06 a.m., which is when the plane crashed.
Tom Ridge, who was Governor of Pennsylvania at the time of last year's terrorist attacks, spoke at the memorial service held at the crash site Wednesday morning.
"These 40 amazing, extraordinary people had character in abundance," said Ridge, who now serves as the Director of Homeland Security for President Bush. "They were heroes….Today is not just to mark their tragic and honorable deaths, but to celebrate their lives and mark a nation's gratitude for their actions."
President Bush arrived at the site after his appearance at another memorial service at the Pentagon. He has regularly referred to Flight 93's passengers and crewmembers as the first heroes in the U.S. war on terrorism. The President bowed his head and stood with the relatives of the victims, while a Marine laid a wreath on the site. Later, the President met and spoke privately with the families.
Some of the victims' relatives shared their feelings about the tragedy and how they have coped with it.
"The most important thing to me is that we do not forget," said Hamilton Peterson of Bethesda, Maryland, whose father and stepmother were killed in the crash.
"It helps me a lot to know it's such a beautiful place," said Alice Hoglan, of Los Gatos, California, of the field where her son, Mark Bingham, died.