The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 3, 2012

Visitors center next goal at Flight 93

Patrick Buchnowski

SOMERSET — Visitors to the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville do more than pay their respects. They probe for answers as to why the airliner crashed and who was responsible.

“They want to know more about the investigation and the recovery,” said Jeff Reinbold, supervisor for the National Park Service in western Pennsylvania.

“They want to know what happened on the plane,” he said.

Reinbold’s remarks came Saturday at the quarterly meeting of the Flight 93 Advisory Commission in Somerset.

The commission reviewed developments at the site since July and discussed future work on the memorial.

Yet to be built are a visitors center and learning center that will help answer visitors’ questions, Reinbold said.

They are part of the third phase of construction totaling $67 million to $76 million.

The facility will included audio, video and photographs of the Flight 93 saga.

Groundbreaking could take place in the summer with a projected opening of the centers in September 2014.

“Our ability to tell the story will be greatly enhanced with the facility,” he said. “It’s incredibly important to have the education piece that people are looking for.”

In other topics:

More than 300,000 people have visited the site so far this year, compared with 238,000 in all of 2011, said Barbara Black, chief of interpretation and cultural resources for the park service.

 “(It’s) because this is about Flight 93,” Black said. “It’s something huge that happened in their lifetime, and they feel compelled to come here.”

Black was delighted to say that volunteers are contributing more hours.

So far this year, volunteers have logged 9,315 hours at the memorial. That compares to 6,480 volunteer hours all of 2011.

Their work includes producing a video for tour groups, distributing rack cards, organizing a Junior Ranger program, updating the Internet site and social media and helping visitors.

“We couldn’t do a fraction of what we do without the volunteers,” Black said.

Also, the “Learning Center Without Walls” is a new program sponsored by Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial.

Four hours of educational programming took place at the location of the future visitors center, reaching several hundred visitors on Sept. 8 and 9, said Jerry Spangler, president of Friends of Flight 93.

The programs were videotaped, will be used to train volunteers and will be available on the park Internet site, he said.

Spangler also asked for a moment of silence for former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter.

Specter, who was instrumental in securing federal funding for the memorial, died of complications from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer, on Oct. 14. He was 82.

The commission’s next meeting is Feb. 9.

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