In Pa., solemn tributes flow
Bush, Clinton attend dedication for Flight 93
SHANKSVILLE, Pa. - The 40 passengers and crew who fought their hijackers aboard Flight 93 on Sept. 11 performed one of the most courageous acts in US history, former President George W. Bush said yesterday at a ceremony dedicating the first phase of a memorial at the nation’s newest national park.
The hijackers intended to crash the plane in Washington but “never made it because of the determination and valor of the passengers and crew of Flight 93, that plane crashed in this field, less than 20 minutes by air’’ from the target, said Jon Jarvis, director of the National Park Service.
Former President Bill Clinton likened the actions of those aboard Flight 93 to the defenders of the Alamo in Texas or the Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae some 2,500 years ago, with a dramatic and telling difference: “They were soldiers. They knew what they had to do.’’
The passengers and crew were not, but they gave “the entire country an incalculable gift: They saved the capital from attack,’’ an untold amount of lives, and denied Al Qaeda the symbolic victory of “smashing the center of American government.’’
They were, he said, “ordinary people given no time at all to decide and they did the right thing. And 2,500 years from now, I hope and pray to God that people will still remember this.’’
They were among several speakers at the dedication of the Flight 93 National Memorial who told of the sacrifice and honor of the passengers and crew. The ceremony drew more than 4,000 people, including hundreds of victims’ relatives, to the rural Pennsylvania field where the hijacked plane crashed a decade ago.
Bush also pointed to what he called a shining example of democracy in action, the group’s decision to hold a vote to decide to try to overpower the hijackers.
The storming of the cockpit “ranks among the most courageous acts in American history,’’ Bush said.
The Rev. Daniel Coughlin, who was the US House Chaplain at the time of the attacks, called the sacrifices made by the passengers and crew “willing seed for freedom’s harvest.’’
Also during the ceremony, Clinton announced that he and House Speaker John Boehner will mount a bipartisan effort to raise the remaining $10 million to completely fund the memorial.
As the country prepared for today’s memorial ceremonies in New York and Washington, President Obama paid tribute to America’s resilience and the sacrifice of its war dead and summoned the nation to unity and service.
The president made a trip to Arlington National Cemetery, walking with his wife, Michelle, among graves with dead from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. And he invoked the common purpose that arose from carnage a decade ago in telling Americans that the nation cannot be broken by terrorism “no matter what comes our way.’’
Obama also visited a soup kitchen, where he and his family helped prepare trays for the needy in the nation’s capital, underscoring the call to national service that rang so loudly after the terrorist attacks.
Earlier, at Arlington, Obama and his wife hugged visitors among rows of white tombstones from the long wars that Obama is winding down after more than 6,000 American troop deaths.