An emotional ceremony officially opened the Flight 93 National Memorial today in Shanksvile.
With former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton on hand, tribute was paid to the 40 passengers and crew members of the doomed flight that crashed outside of the tiny Somerset County town a decade ago as part of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Pop star Sarah McLachlan sang her hit “I Will Remember You,” in tribute to the victims who fought back against the terrorists and forced the jet to crash in an empty field instead of its intended target, which was believed to be in Washington, D.C.
Bush said the efforts of the Flight 93 passengers and crew “ranks among the most courageous acts in American history.”
Clinton said the Flight 93 heroes “denied the terrorists the symbolic victory of smashing the center of American government.”
Vice President Joe Biden delivered the keynote address.
“We aren’t here to unlive history," he said. "We are here to honor those who made history, and those will inspire Americans for generations to come.”
A letter from former President Jimmy Carter also was read.
Names of the victims were read allowed and bells tolled twice in honor of each. Then, a bagpiper played “Faith of Our Fathers” and “Amazing Grace” as he walked in front of the wall, which is adorned with the names of all 40 victims. The wall was then revealed.
Gordon Felt, president of Families of Flight 93, spoke about the 10-year process of building the national memorial.
“Only a project as worthy as this could sustain the level of dedication for so many to see us through,” said Felt, whose brother, Edward Felt, was flying from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco for a business meeting on that fateful day.
Gordon Felt said the permanent memorial, which joins the likes of those in Pearl Harbor and Gettysburg, will make sure the actions of the Flight 93 members will never be forgotten.
“As long as we continue to remember the actions of our loved ones, they continue to remain alive in our hearts and in the heart of our nation,” he said.
The start ceremony was pushed back by the late arrival of presidents Bush and Clinton, but the crowd remained stoic throughout the delay.
Heavy rainstorms soaked the parking areas around the memorial and forced major traffic delays in the early morning hours. The arrival of visiting dignitaries at the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport led to road closures and some traffic delays around Johnstown, but those roads were opened.
To see video from the Flight 93 National Memorial dedication proceedings, click here.
Keep following www.tribdem.com for more updates on the 10th anniversary services of the Sept. 11, 2001, crash of Flight 93.