By KIRK SWAUGER
WASHINGTON — As a member of the Flight 93 task force and advisory commission, Jerry Spangler understands the power of the crash site itself.
From the temporary memorial on a windswept knoll overlooking the point of impact to a thick stand of hemlocks in the background, the reclaimed strip mine near Shanksville carries the indescribable spirit of common passengers who fought back against terrorism.
“That’s why I’m impressed with the final design,” said Spangler, Somerset County’s district attorney. “It respects the severity of the site and the sacred aspect because of what happened there.”
Overwhelmingly, the 60 or so Flight 93 ambassadors and county dignitaries who traveled Wednesday in two buses to Washington for the memorial design’s unveiling praised the concept for its subtlety and emotional impact.
“That was the one I liked,” said Sue Strohm, 62, a Flight 93 ambassador from Lake Stonycreek. “It had a lot of nature. It fits the site.”
Ambassador Sally Ware, 61, of Lake Stonycreek pointed to the “Tower of Voices,” a beacon of 40 wind chimes honoring the heroic passengers and crew at the proposed park’s gateway.
“That was the one,” Ware said, minutes before the winning design was revealed at a ceremony inside the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hall of Flags.
“I thought it was very simple, yet pretty,” added Flight 93 ambassador Emily Jerich of Seven Springs.
While Paul Murdoch, designer of the winning “Crescent of Embrace,” said it may take 40 or 50 years for the maple trees near the crash site to reach maturity, Spangler said the idea fits in well with the community’s outreach to families of those killed on the hijacked jet.
“The local response was to embrace these families, and welcome them to the area,” he said.
Jolinda and Willie Myers of Somerset said any of the five finalists would have been worthy.
“I’m sure it was a hard decision,” said Mrs. Myers, 58, whose husband served on the original Flight 93 Task Force.
Nearly four years after being one of the first emergency responders at the scene, Shanksville fire Chief Terry Shaffer said the memorial has reached a milestone.
“It’s uplifting to see it get to this point,” he said. “This is the end of a long haul.”
Ben Wainio, whose daughter, Honor Elizabeth Wainio, was killed on the plane, said the design preserves the solemnity of the impact site by providing access only to family members.
“It’s going to give a warmth to the families,” he said. “They can feel the integrity of the crash site will stay a sacred ground.”
Larry Catuzzi, a member of the federal Flight 93 advisory commission whose daughter, Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolis, died on the hijacked jetliner, agreed.
“They found a passionate plan that I think is going to be a wonderful tribute to our loved ones,” he said.