The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

March 24, 2006

Rumsfeld to visit Flight 93 crash site

SHANKSVILLE — Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld plans to make a quick visit to the Flight 93 crash site Monday morning.

Though Rumsfeld made the announcement Thursday in Washington, local officials are remaining tight-lipped about the military leader’s visit.

The National Park Service’s Flight 93 office in Somerset referred questions to the memorial’s public relations firm, Marc USA in Pittsburgh.

A spokeswoman from the Pittsburgh office said details have not been released.

“We know he has just always wanted to visit the site,” said Lisa Tristano, public relations senior account executive. “It’s more of a personal visit. He most likely will be laying a wreath at the memorial.”

Somerset County Commissioner Pam Tokar-Ickes, a member of the Federal Flight 93 Advisory Commission, did not return several calls for comment.

Rumsfeld has been embroiled in debates regarding the Iraq war and the overall war on terror. But he reportedly has wanted to visit the site and temporary memorial for some time.

All 40 passengers and crew were killed on Sept. 11, 2001, when the hijacked airliner crashed into a reclaimed strip mine near Shanksville.

The Sept. 11 Commission report said the hijackers crashed the plane as passengers tried to take control of the cockpit, and some have called their heroic efforts the first battle in the war on terror.

Shanksville fire Chief Terry Shaffer questioned why Rumsfeld is making the trip more than five years after the terrorist attacks.

“It surprises me that it takes so long for some people to pay tribute,” he said. “It’s about time.”

Somerset resident Alphonse Mascherino, who owns the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel a few miles from the crash site, gushed about the visit.

“I think it’s great – great for the military, great for the Flight 93 memorial, great for Shanksville,” he said.

A bronze plaque at the chapel bears Rumsfeld’s name alongside others such as President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

“They were names of people who impressed me most after Sept. 11,” Mascherino said. “I like people who do what they say they are going to do, and that is Rumsfeld.

“I think every public official should honor Flight 93,” he added.

A spokeswoman for Rumsfeld did not return calls for comment.



The Associated Press contributed to this report.



Kecia Bal can be reached at 445-5103 or kbal@tribdem.com.

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