Remembering Flight 93: the anniversary of 9/11
“I hope to be able to see your face again.”
Those were the last words United Airlines flight attendant CeeCee Lyles said to her husband before Flight 93 went down at 10:03 a.m. Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The crash site is in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, just two hours west of Elizabethtown. Lyles, according to the 9/11 Commission Report on the National Park Service Website for the Flight 93 National Memorial, called her husband on an air-phone just moments before the flight’s 40 passengers and crew members made the decision to stand up and take back the airplane from their hijackers.
They hoped to stop it from reaching its probable final target–the United States Capitol. The events on that day, and days to follow, created heroes, victims and survivors of what became one of the largest attacks on American soil.
Flight 93 was a bright light on a very dark day.”
These are moments many Americans will remember for the remainder of their lives. These memories create a responsibility to inform and educate about the importance of peace and understanding. This was part of Elizabethtown College’s decision to hold the panel discussion, “Remembering 9/11 and Flight 93,” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8, at the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies.
“[It] coincides with the 15th anniversary. The timing is good for a bit of reflection,” said David Kenley, associate professor of history and director of the Center for Global Understanding and Peacemaking, which cosponsors the program with the Young Center. “It aligns with our mission to promote peace. It is imperative we understand the motives and structures that have led to violence so we improve the prospects for peace.” The actions taken by those 40 passengers and crew members are historically considered heroic. They made what some consider an unusual decision to stand up against their odds and fight back.
Mal Fuller, who was watch supervisor of Pittsburgh International Airport air traffic facilities on the day of the attacks, believes it is imperative, more than ever, to keep alive the memory of Flight 93.
Fuller notes that our world knows less and less about 9/11 each year. “We have reached the first generation of children who were either too young to remember it or were not born yet, and it is important to teach them about it.”
He reminisced about starting his normal day at the airport before coming to the realization the nation was about to catastrophically change. “Then, I was in total bewilderment by the attacks and full of anger,” he said. “Looking back, I still don’t understand anything about these [people who] wanted to take us back to the dark ages.”
Now, just days before the 15-year anniversary of the world-changing events, the College is preparing to discuss what the attack near Shanksville meant, then, and how it still affects us today. Tim Lambert, journalist for WITF, a public broadcasting service of the central Pennsylvania, owned some of the land on which Flight 93 crashed in 2001. Wanting to do right by the families, he donated a portion of his acreage to create the Flight 93 National Memorial. Lambert now sees a younger generation visiting the park, knowing very little about Flight 93 or the events of 9/11 as a whole.
“More than ever it’s important to talk about [the passengers] and start looking at Flight 93 as more than just a field,” Lambert said in a phone interview. “The park is a wonderful place to visit; it is a natural memorial. It really captures the feelings and emotions of what transpired.”
Lambert reflected on what his response might have been to the mid-air terrorist situation. Inspired by those brave men and women, Lambert said he hopes a lot of students come to the discussion at E-town and others across the country to continue bringing awareness about that day. “Flight 93 was a bright light on a very dark day,” Lambert said. “They came together against the odds and deserve to be talked about and remembered.”
This theme is echoed by Kristen Waughen, an Elizabethtown College adjunct professor of computer science who attended a similar discussion.
She and her daughter, went to the last 9/11 discussion held on campus a few years ago, and she was deeply moved by the entire experience. Waughen has a personal connection to the 9/11 events.. She attended school with Flight 175’s First Officer Michael Horrocks, and her brother was a first responder firefighter in New York City. Flight 175 hit the south tower of the World Trade Center. While her brother survived, she related how her personal connection has touched her. “No one asked for what happened that day, and no one should forget it. I know someone who died and someone who is always stressed about that day ….”
The theme of keeping alive the memory of the fallen, the heroes and survivors tends to be the strongest mission of many involved. According to a Reading Eagle article, after a 36-year career as an air traffic control officer, Fuller decided to retire just after the tragedy of September 11th, but still speaks of hope. During a phone interview, he recalled the Winston Churchill quote, “Americans will always do the right thing-after exhausting all the alternatives,” as his reminder of the courage and strength of those aboard Flight 93. “They had two decisions: sit down and wait, or stand up and do something. And they did something.”