Victims' families hail bipartisan effort to complete Flight 93 memorial

Torrey AndersonSchoepe and Allison Louie-Garcia

Lisa Linden, spokesperson for the Families of Flight 93, has been to the memorial multiple times. But an image from a year ago sticks out in her mind: While leaving the site at dusk, she saw two parties arriving. The first, a roughneck group of motorcyclists. Behind them, an Amish family in a horse-drawn carriage.

"The heroes aboard Flight 93 are truly inspirational," she said.  "And when I think of all those who visit, I think of everything from elegant automobiles to motorbikes to the horse-drawn carriage."

Though the first phase of the memorial was opened and dedicated in a ceremony on Sept. 10 this year, $10 million is needed to complete the $62 million project. Former President Clinton announced during the ceremony that he and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) would launch a fundraising effort to finance the rest of the memorial's construction. Upon hearing this, former President George W. Bush, who was also at the ceremony,  said he would join in.

[ How to help: Donate to the Flight 93 National Memorial ]

For the past 10 years, more than 1.4 million people have made the pilgrimage to Shanksville, Pa., to honor the 40 lives lost on Flight 93. Soon after Sept. 11, 2001, a temporary memorial was created. By the following year, a congressional bill was passed to establish a national memorial. In September 2004, a competition began to select the design; and a year later, a design by Paul Murdoch Architects, located in Los Angeles, Calif. was chosen as the winner.

"To get that kind of public commitment from President Clinton and Speaker Boehner was just great news, [and] really encouraging," Paul Murdoch said. "We've been hoping for that kind of help for years."

Phase one, which included the plaza along the crash site, the wall of names on the flight path, and the ceremonial gate is the heart of the memorial, but the last two phases will complete the experience.  The second phase will include the visitors' center, the main entrance to the memorial, the grove of trees around the bowl-shaped field and a pedestrian bridge across the wetlands. The final phase will include a "Tower of Voices," reforestation and a return road that would allow visitors to exit the park with a slightly different perspective.

[ Photos: Future developments at the Flight 93 National Memorial ]

For Murdoch, the bipartisan gesture means more than just raising money. It sets an example of unity and perseverance, similar to the actions of those on Flight 93.

"You had 40 people with very diverse backgrounds, come together and take action together," Murdoch said. "It's an example of some of the best qualities of America at work, and we sure can use that as an example facing the kind of challenges we have today that need that kind of unity and cooperation and action. So to see that being manifested in terms of support for the project is a great example."

The promise to help fully fund the memorial brings solace to family members of those who died on Flight 93.

[ Related: Unexpected legacy of Flight 93 hero ]

"President Clinton's heartfelt offer to raise funds for the memorial brings enormous comfort to and deep appreciation from the families of Flight 93," Linden said.

Jack Grandcolas, whose pregnant wife, Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas and their unborn child were lost on Flight 93, said it brought him great comfort to see the memorial on its way to completion.

"This is a collective memorial: they all fought as one, they all died as one, they all scored a victory together," he said. "This is an American memorial. It strikes people in many different ways and it's nice we're getting the recognition and support…I'm proud of the bipartisan action."

Alice Hoagland the mother of Mark Bingham, who helped lead the revolt against the plane's hijackers, said she was excited and appreciative to hear Clinton and Boehner's pledge to raise money to complete the memorial. "I'm very grateful to Bill Clinton for getting the ball rolling again and I admire his funding push," she said. "It's exactly what it needs at this point."

Just as the members of Flight 93 worked together, the memorial honoring them has brought people together — from the motorcyclists and Amish who come to pay their respects, to the Democrats and Republicans who are working to get the site fully funded.

"This is a project that transcends political partisan differences," Murdoch said. "That Republicans and Democrats alike can step up and support this project together…to see that kind of support and commitment happen is really fulfilling one of the opportunities that this project can provide to America."

To donate to the Flight 93 memorial fund, click here.