‘They fought the first battle’

Megan Rozsa

Family members of Flight 93 victims reunite to remember their ‘soldiers’ who died Sept. 11

Deborah Borza, mother of passenger Deora Bodley, speaks with reporters last night after the service for the passengers of Flight 93. Adam Cade | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

SOMERSET, Pa. – A common field one day, a field of honor forever.

This is the part of the preamble of the Flight 93 Advisory Commission’s mission statement that Flight 93 victims’ families have come to know. The events of Sept. 11 have been forever ingrained in their memories, and last night, they came together to celebrate the courage of their fallen friends and family.

Their lives before they stepped on Flight 93 defined their actions aboard Flight 93.

Last night, the Somerset Alliance Church hosted the event “Their Courage . Our Commitment” to remember Flight 93 – its crew and passengers. Family members from all over the country reunited under one roof to talk about their “soldiers.”

“We come back here every year,” said Kristee Mitchell of Wakefield, Va., a friend of passengers Colleen Fraser, Louis Nacke II and Richard Guadagno. “These people deserve to be honored, and I don’t want them to be forgotten. You know, they fought the first battle, and as Americans, we should honor them.”

Judy and Rob Stemple, of Jeannette, Pa., remember the day like it was yesterday.

“We live really close to the crash site,” Rob said. “My wife and I were both at work and our daughters were at school, so it was a tense day until we figured out where it was at.”

Rob said he remembers his oldest daughter, who was released from college, and his middle daughter, whose school was minutes away from the site, describing their days.

“My daughter said the windows slammed and the desks jumped,” he said. “It was a scary morning. I mean, how often do planes come down in that context? It’s something our community will never forget.”

Joanne Hanley, superintendent of the Flight 93 national memorial, described the passengers of Flight 93 as full of courage.

“We remember and honor their courage – the unfathomable, the unthinkable deep reservoirs of courage that the passengers and crew of Flight 93 drew upon to save the heart and soul of our country, the very seat of our democracy,” she said.

“Their character was nurtured and cultivated through their years of living. Their lives before they stepped on Flight 93 defined their actions aboard Flight 93. Let us honor their courage this evening by honoring their lives.”

The evening’s ceremonies were highlighted with keynote speakers Pamela Tokar-Ickes, Flight 93 Advisory Commission member and Jerry Spangler, District Attorney of Somerset County and Flight 93 Advisory Commission member. Also present was the Somerset County Community Band with conductor Dan Croft.

Gordon Felt, president of Families of Flight 93 and brother to a passenger, said seven years later he still deeply feels the loss of his brother, and at times feels the anger and frustration.

“They never gave up and neither will we,” Felt said. “Nothing that we face will ever come close to the challenge faced by our loved ones on Sept. 11, 2001.”

Rob Stemple said he noticed the culture of Shanksville changing since 2001.

“Before you would say ‘I’m from Shanksville’ and people would say ‘Shanksville. Where’s that?” he explained. “Now you say Shanksville, and they say ‘Oh, that’s where that plane went down.'”

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

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