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Church members assist with memorial for 9/11 crash site

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
Photo courtesy of the U.S. National Park Service

A volunteer ambassador speaks to visitors at the Flight 93 crash site and temporary memorial near Shanksville, Pa.
Sept 8., 2006

A UMNS Report
By Linda Green*

Five years have passed since United Airlines Flight 93, a hijacked airliner, crashed in a remote field near Shanksville, Pa., on Sept. 11.

During that time, the field has attracted significant attention as people from across the United States and globe visit the site to show respect. More than 130,000 visited the site in 2006, and visitors have increased 46 percent this summer, according to Donna Glessner, a member of Shanksville (Pa.) United Methodist Church and coordinator of the volunteer ambassadors project at the site.

“We’ve always had significant attraction," she said. "People are there visiting the site in January and February in the snow." The recent movie, "Flight 93," has contributed to increase at the site, she added.

Four hijackers took over the plane on Sept. 11, 2001, and attempted to aim it toward the nation’s capital as part of a planned attack on the United States. Two planes crashed into New York’s World Trade Center building and another struck the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. The 40 passengers and crew aboard Flight 93 foiled their hijackers’ plan and earned a name for themselves and recognition in the form of a permanent memorial in Shanksville.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by the Rev. Thomas St. Clair

Families of victims at the site where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed visit a memorial.

More than 200 members of the crew and passengers’ families are expected to attend a public memorial service called "United in Courage, Community and Commitment," scheduled for 9:15 a.m. Sept. 11. Included in the program will be a reading of names of the passengers, a tolling of bells of remembrance, and special music and invited speakers.

On other days, ambassadors are the human point of contact for the thousands from around the world who visit the Flight 93 site and temporary memorial, Glessner said.

"We give directions, and we listen to stories about people (and what) they were doing that day," she added. Of the 42 ambassadors involved, 12 are United Methodists who help people deal with their reactions to the site.

"I am honored to serve in this way," Glessner said. "I have never been in the military and have always felt the desire to serve my country."

The responsibility of the ambassadors, she explained, is to "tell the truth as we know it" and "help people understand the significance of what those people on Flight 93 did that day."

According to the, the Web site about the National Memorial, the temporary memorial "is a place for quiet reflection and expressions of respect."

Visiting the crash site and memorial "is very spiritual" for some and "awakens feelings about other traumatic events in their lives," Glessner said.

A national memorial was signed into action by President Bush Oct. 24, 2002, to honor the crew passengers "for their courageous actions to thwart an attack on our nation’s capital." Glessner also is vice chairperson of the federal advisory commission that is working with government agencies on the national memorial’s design, boundaries and management.

A $30 million national and international campaign for the memorial has been launched "to remember, revere and reflect on the heroism of the passengers and crew of Flight 93." Information on making donations can be found at

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or

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