The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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February 28, 2014

Vessel shares a special connection with county



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In another emotional connection, more than 1,000 area residents requested tickets to the event. Citizens, businesses and organizations in the county collected approximately $50,000 for commissioning-related activities leading up to this weekend.

“It’s all the little donations that add up,” said Michael D. Kearney, the USS Somerset Commissioning Committee’s chief of staff.

Residents have annually held a ceremony commemorating the tragedy of Sept. 11 and supported the development of a memorial at the crash site that currently includes the Wall of Names, but will soon expand to feature an education center and other facilities.

At the commissioning, Somerset residents have been asked to wear blue ribbons so they can easily identify each other. The project was undertaken by Janet Vatavuk, wife of John Vatavuk.

“I think it’s a passion that the people of Somerset County and the families have,” said Gordon Felt, president of the Families of Flight 93, whose brother died during the attack.

USS Somerset’s crew includes at least one person from the Laurel Highlands, Quartermaster Matthew Konchan, a Richland Township native.

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at

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