- Associated Press - Monday, January 13, 2014

SOMERSET, Pa. (AP) - Staring at the framed score of “Flight of Valor” on the wall of his Jeannette home, Dan Orange can’t help but recall the chaos and sadness of Sept. 11, 2001, when United Airlines Flight 93 plummeted to the ground not far from his Somerset County vacation cottage.

The song, dedicated to the crew and passengers of the hijacked flight, takes the 75-year-old clarinetist back to that grim day when he was among the first citizens to arrive at the crash site.

Orange will perform the song on Feb. 28 in Philadelphia during a joint appearance of the Jeannette and Somerset County community bands in honor of the commissioning of the USS Somerset.

The commissioning is scheduled for March 1.

Orange had begun to spend more and more time in his Indian Lake cottage in 2001 after losing his wife, Sylvia, that spring.

On Sept. 11, he went to a neighbor’s home to borrow a tool.

“He asked me if I knew what happened in New York City,” Orange recalled.

Shortly before 10 a.m., the men were watching televised footage of the planes smashing into the World Trade Center towers in New York.

“After about 15 or 20 minutes, there was a loud explosion. It literally shook the house. We rushed outside. His wife was gardening and she said she thought it was a plane,” Orange said.

His neighbors were concerned about Orange going to the scene of a disaster so soon after his wife’s death, but the three decided to drive in the direction of the explosion anyway.

“We thought maybe we could assist in some way. We saw the plume of smoke,” Orange said, referring to the view made famous in a photograph showing smoke rising above a bright red barn.

“There was a wheel next to the crater, and lots of paper on the ground,” Orange recalled. “Trees had been scorched and blackened.”

They didn’t find any survivors among the 40 passengers and crew. The 9/11 Commission later determined that some had fought the hijackers, preventing the plane from hitting a target in Washington.

“There was debris in the trees. There was part of a structure - like a window of a plane - in the woods,” Orange said.

When state troopers arrived, they asked the people gathered at the crash scene to leave, he said.

Story Continues →