Mar. 5—SHANKSVILLE — Over two decades of work and an estimated $60 million in investment, the National Park Service and has created a more than 2,000 acre tribute to the 40 men and women lost on Flight 93 here on Sept 11, 2001.
Now, an effort is underway to ensure essential pieces to that memorial — its Wall of Names, Tower of Names and sacred ground they sit on — will remain a lasting tribute for decades to come.
The Families of Flight 93 made a $175,000 donation to the national park's official nonprofit partner, Friends of Flight 93, to establish a legacy fund to maintain the sprawling memorial — a move that comes as the National Park Service and its partners are preparing to mark the 20th anniversary of the crash.
Over the past two decades, the Families of Flight 93 have partnered with the National Park Service to develop the memorial as as a tribute for the 40 ordinary men and women-turned "heroes" remembered for standing up against their hijackers that day — and potentially avoiding another devastating strike on the nation's capitol.
The fact that tribute is now fully developed signals a transition — both for the Families of Flight 93 group and the memorial mission they helped spearhead nearly 20 years ago, the group's president, Gordon Felt, said.
"Now that we've been able to accomplish our original goal, its time for the Friends of Flight 93 to fade into the background," he said during a telephone interview from his central New York home.
The group is essentially transferring the remaining $175,000 from its accounts to the group responsible for keeping the Flight 93 National Memorial thriving in the future — the Friends of Flight 93. But it doesn't mean that the dedicated fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, cousins and fellow relatives of "those 40 heroes" will be less involved, he added.
Instead, they'll now be part of the larger, broader Friends of Flight 93, which can include people with a passion for the memorial from across the globe.
The "Friends" donation marks the first made to support the memorial's Wall of Names, Tower of Voices and Scared Ground, through a legacy account, Flight 93 Memorial Program Director Brooke Neel told The Tribune-Democrat on Thursday.
It will also help support the volunteer work by the memorial's local Ambassadors who dedicate their time to the park, she added.
"With the completion of the development phase of Flight 93 National Memorial, we know that the legacy of our loved ones is in good hands," Felt said. "Their lives, their actions and their passion will forever be honored and stand as a symbol of hope to inspire future generations of freedom loving people."
Three surviving family members of the passengers or crew members lost that day serve on the board.
That includes Emily Schenkel, Jody Greene and Col. Christopher Whelan.
Schenkel is the goddaughter of flight attendant Lorraine Bay. Greene lost his father, Donald, in the 2001 crash, and Whelan lost a second cousin, Richard Guadagno.
Felt said fellow family members likely will join the cause.
"I'm not going anywhere. We're all still still very committed to making sure we can carry the message of Flight 93 — their message — out to the next generation to hear," he said. "And that's why having a legacy fund is so important."