Courage After The Crash
I had the great privilege and honor to lend some small bit of support to a group of incredibly strong and wonderful people, the families of the heroes of Flight 93. As we rode in the first set of buses to the crash site on Monday, September 17, 2001, those amazing people were already expressing their thanks to the citizens of Somerset County. Despite all of their grief, amidst the apprehension of seeing the crash site that claimed the lives of their loved ones, they kept repeating the mantra, “I hope the people here know how much we appreciate what they have done.” This book is a thank you to all of the thousands of people, who in ways big and small, helped in the aftermath of the crash.
At the same time, many Somerset County residents expressed to me their profound thanks towards the heroes for giving their lives to prevent an even greater tragedy. As the father of three children attending school less than sixty seconds airtime from the crash site, I understand that feeling. This book is meant to memorialize the courage of the heroes and the strength of their families.
Those of us who visited the crash site with another group of families on Thursday, September 20, 2001, witnessed a courageous incident that inspired the cover of this book. The following description of that event is excerpted from an article that I wrote for the AACAP News and is reprinted with that publication's permission.
On a wet, grey day, a 5-year-old was kneeling in her dress at the crash site. She had suddenly become intensely interested in playing with the gravel. Her mother knelt down next to her. Gently stroking her hair, she asked, “What are you doing?”
She kept on working and furrowed a rather sturdy heart in the gravel. Temporarily satisfied, she stopped and began to look around.
She spied the flowers that were entwined within the long expanse of fluorescent orange mesh fence that separated our viewing area from the September meadows that stretched 200 yards down a slope to the crater and charred trees.
She industriously collected flowers and returned to her creation. The stones were soon overlain with blossoms. She was satisfied.
Later, her nearly-adult brothers knelt in the gravel with her, arms entwined on shoulders, weeping. The legacy of a heroic father.
I thought of many ways to draw incredibly insightful psychiatric conclusions from this work. However, I settled on just being a witness for this article. Sometimes that can be our greatest function.
This book is meant to stand witness to the horror inflicted by evil and the resilience and hope that comes from good.
Flight 93 crashed in a rural area. Yet in less than forty-eight hours an incredible effort created a city to perform a multitude of functions. Several weeks later that city no longer existed. Several months later, as I stood at the temporary memorial, I had a difficult time even recollecting where it all took place. Memories fade very quickly, especially of places that no longer exist. This book is meant to serve as a permanent record of what happened in the aftermath, how it happened, and who was involved.
Many people have noted to me that the Shanksville crash, at times, seemed like a footnote to the national media. Given the higher death tolls and the proximity of the national media to New York City and Washington D.C., this is understandable. But if Flight 93 did not crash here, a far greater tragedy may have occurred. The first battle of the war on terrorism did not take place in Afghanistan, it took place in the skies over Pennsylvania. This book is meant to help people remember that. It is also meant to serve as a historical heirloom of a time that changed Somerset County and America forever.
No one received any payment for their account or photos. Out of respect for the heroes' families, I have opted to avoid graphic descriptions or photos. The term human remains is generally used without elaboration. Geographic locations are in Pennsylvania unless otherwise noted.
I will donate all of my author's royalties to September 11 or children's related charities. SAJ Publishing will also donate all of its net proceeds to similar charities.
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