Remembering lives in Shanksville

Megan Rozsa

Families and friends honor Flight 93 loved ones on Sept. 11 anniversary

WATCH video of the Flight 93 Memorial Service.

WATCH & HEAR people talk about their memories of 9/11.

SHANKSVILLE, Pa. – Esther Itri stood by the metal fence with her camera pointed toward the ground. Her chest was heaving. Tears rolled down her face as she wept for each passenger and crew member aboard Flight 93.

“Thank you, Jesus,” she whispered after each name. “Thank you.”

She wiped her eyes and attempted to take more pictures of the family members inside the fence.

“Thank you, Lord.”

The Flight 93 Memorial Service was held yesterday in Shanksville, Pa., where friends and family members of the passengers came together to remember the lives of their loved ones.

They gathered in the brisk morning air to hug and greet each other. The air cooled their cheeks, but their embraces warmed their souls.

They were here for the seventh year in a row to remember their courageous friends and family. They were here to honor their country and the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001.

But mostly they were here for each other, to show love.

Richard Sachs, former pilot in the Air Force, was in Queens, N.Y., when the planes hit the World Trade Center. He got the chance to experience Ground Zero, and now he was ready to experience Shanksville.

“It was quite heart wrenching to be at Ground Zero,” he said. “I can say on the part of young people that are displaced from the happening, it just does not affect them and that’s why I continually put my display up year after year.”

Sachs collected items from Ground Zero, and each year he teaches younger kids what the situation was like and how scary a time it was to be in New York.

“My goal is to get to the Pentagon in the next year or so, so I can have done all three (places),” he said. “Just to pay homage to those who passed away and are still maimed or hurt, just as an honor to them. Those folks preserved our security in this country.”

Hobbling around on crutches was 16-year-old Stephen Triol, Jr., a student at Stonycreek High School in Shanksville.

“I was in third grade when the plane crashed,” Triol said. “I was in art class. We heard a tremendously big noise and felt a shake. It rocked the entire school.”

As a third grader, Triol said he didn’t know what was happening. Parents started arriving at school to take their children home. Triol said he spent the afternoon watching the news with his mom.

“Now that I’m older, I’m thankful that the people on the plane did what they did,” he said. “It takes bravery and a lot of patriotism. I feel bad about what happened, but that’s why I’m here – to pay my respects.”

Along with memorabilia to remember Flight 93 comes its own flag. It’s shaped just like the American flag, but in the blue area is the number 93 with 50 stars circled around it.

Designed by Gene Stilp, it represents those on board.

“It’s very meaningful to these people,” he said. “It’s become an unofficial part of the proceedings here to fold and unfold the flag every hour.”

Stilp said the tradition of unfolding the flag has given everyone a chance to feel like they were a part of this service.

“The crowd changes every hour,” Stilp said. “We always unfold it at sunrise and then on the hour throughout the day. There have been tears shed around this flag.”

Syracuse native Warren Hughes came to lay a wreath on the Flight 93 temporary memorial.

“I’ve always wanted to come here and pay my respects,” Hughes said. “I wanted to do this so I would remember to never forget. People seem to forget these things happened too quickly, and it’s unfortunate that it takes something like 9/11 to wake people up.

“I think people should never take life for granted, and don’t ever think this couldn’t happen to you.”

As the ceremony progressed, Esther’s chest stopped heaving. She wiped away her final tears and smiled with the rest of the audience when it applauded the passengers who risked their lives to save others.

Contact public affairs reporter Megan Rozsa at [email protected].