- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 10, 2002

SHANKSVILLE, Pa. Day after day, hundreds of people are drawn to the rolling hills near this tiny town, where United Flight 93, the last of the jetliners hijacked by terrorists on September 11, slammed into the ground, sinking nearly 40 feet in the loosely packed soil.
Some don't really know why they came.
"We were passing by, not really that close at all, and just had to see it," said Michelle Lumas, 67, who was driving with her husband, Ed, from Ohio to Philadelphia. "Something about those brave people those heroes just drew us here."
For most, even the darkly curious who come just to see this place of sudden death, something comes over them when they pull into the tiny parking lot.
The first thing visitors see, even before they get out of their cars, is a metal guardrail covered every inch, every fraction of an inch with handwritten messages.
"Our nation will eternally honor the heroes of Flight 93," says one.
"Flight 93 40 reasons why I'm proud to be an American," wrote Larry Torrance of Indiana, who visited on July 11.
"I had my day, now I have my gun, now we fight," wrote another, who signed the message "the crew of the USS Donald Cook."
Every American by now knows the story of Todd Beamer, the 32-year-old devout Christian and father of two who called his wife, Lisa, from the doomed plane and, at the end of their short conversation, urged on his fellow 32 passengers with a final call to action: "Let's roll."
No one knows for sure what happened next, whether the passengers overtook the hijackers or the terrorists simply lost control of the plane. Whichever, the jet flew low over the rolling hillside, rolled upside down, and crashed almost exactly nose first into the ground. It was believed headed for the White House or the Capitol.
The hijackers on Flight 93 knew the passengers, armed with pots of boiling water, were planning a strike and tried to cut off the oxygen, Lisa Beamer wrote in her book, "Let's Roll."
"A food cart is used to ram the enemy. The cockpit voice recorder contains sounds of dishes shattering and other objects being hurled. The hijackers are heard screaming at each other to hold the cockpit door," wrote Mrs. Beamer, who has listened to the plane's cockpit recorder and conversations some passengers had with loved ones on the ground.
"Someone cries out in English, 'Let's get them!'"
To reach the crash site, visitors wind through the town of Shanksville on Huckleberry Highway, past houses with cords of firewood, past mailboxes adorned with ribbons and tiny flags, past a handmade sign on a board that reads: "God Bless Flight 93."
Just over the crest of Skyline Drive, the single road that leads to the site, the makeshift memorial comes into view.
On one side, a row of tiny wooden angels, each colored red, white and blue and labeled with the name of one of the passengers or crew that perished there, stand in a line. The angel representing Mr. Beamer wears a rosary left by a visitor.
Looking several hundred yards past the "Angels of Freedom," as they are called, visitors can see a mulch pile near the hole made by the plane, now filled in with dirt.
"The object was to return the site to the way it used to be except now its a cemetery," said Wallace Miller, Somerset County coroner, who regularly escorts victims' family members to the site.
People have left religious items of every kind, especially rosaries, which hang from every conceivable spot. One person left a crocheted sign that reads: "Angels Tread Here." Members of the military and law enforcement agencies have left hundreds of hats and patches.
"This memorial is a physical manifestation of the grieving process," said Charles Fox, historic site administrator for the Somerset Historical Center, which is collecting, cataloging and storing the items until a permanent memorial is built.
"Visitors decided the form of the memorial. It is considered a hallowed place now."
All of the items collected including, so far, 20 sheets of plywood covered with messages will be house in a permanent memorial.
But Congress has not yet completed action on where, how and when such a memorial will be built.
The House has voted to create a national memorial to commemorate the passengers and crew of Flight 93. The bill sets up a 15-member commission to advise the Interior Department on the design, construction and maintenance of a memorial to be built at the site.
The Senate has not yet voted on the bill.
Despite Congress' inaction, President Bush, who will visit the crash site tomorrow, often invokes the bravery of those on Flight 93.
"It is that spirit, it is that willingness to serve something greater than yourself in life, which is a part of this great country's soul and fabric," Mr. Bush has said.

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