The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Ralph Couey

December 3, 2010

RALPH COUEY | Help preserve the legacy of Flight 93

— The most elaborate memorial ever constructed

can only be an empty vessel

unless it is filled with meaning,

by those with aching hearts;

Those who will Never Forget.

For the most important message to the ages

Is not how a memorial was built, or where, or when;

But why.

 

Friendship is vital to life. It provides meaning and purpose, and most importantly, support.

It is just as important to a cause as it is to people.

Near Shanksville, a dream is rapidly becoming a reality.

What was the subject of plans and paintings is now taking shape upon the land. This long and sometimes rocky journey walked by people of vision and dedication will end on Sept. 11, 2011. On that day, the Flight 93 Memorial will come alive.

Sept. 11 shook the world and rocked America to its very soul.

Almost 3,000 people fell that day, victims to an inconceivable act of violence and hatred. But in the skies over the Laurel Highlands, a light broke the darkness. Aboard United Airlines Flight 93, a group of people, strangers all, made a decision. They stood together and fought back. Their courageous actions saved perhaps hundreds of lives, and spared us from the visage of our nation’s capitol building, the symbol of our government, reduced to rubble.

In the nine and a half years since, the memory of that event has manifested itself in the structure rising out of a reclaimed strip mine. When the first phase of that memorial is dedicated on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, many will feel that a finish line of sorts will have been crossed.

But for the Friends of Flight 93, the work is just beginning.

Friends groups are volunteers who assist the National Park Service through a variety of supporting activities at NPS sites across the country. The Flight 93 Friends began as a nascent group of individuals who donated their time, talents and energy to the task of preserving the memory for the future.

About a year ago, that group of volunteers became the Friends of Flight 93.

The group, now 109 members strong, has been busy, mostly behind the scenes.

But in August when the Memorial Task Force was unsettled, the Friends moved to center stage.

So what does a Friends group do? For this group, the committees tell the story. September 11th Ceremony committee, Special Events, Fundraising, Finance and Audit, Education, Membership, Memorial and Lands Stewardship, Nominating and Communications.

These committees were established this past summer, but they have already completed a number of projects, with many more on the way. Now a 501(c)3 organization, it has a formal management structure including a board and that host of committees staffed by volunteers.

It is a special group of people. Not because of their positions in the community. But because they have stepped up to the cause of preserving the memory of 9/11 and Flight 93. Their talents are many and varied, but the one thing all share in common is a willing heart.

The Friends group will hold their annual meeting at the Historic Somerset Trust Building at the corner of West Union Street and North Center Avenue on Monday at 6 p.m.

The public is invited to attend. There is no minimum or maximum commitment.

Whether you have only a couple hours each month, or more than 50, you are welcome. And if you have specific talents to offer, or nothing more than your time and effort, all contributions are welcome.

It is an opportunity to participate in something of great meaning locally and across the world.

Time dims memory. As the years pass, events become shrouded in the mists of the past. As old generations pass and new generations are born, memories become history. The Friends of Flight 93 will be there to support the memorial; to pass the memory forward and keep this story of courage alive.

The Friends of Flight 93 will work to ensure that America will honor, for generations to come, the sacrifice of forty courageous people.

And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not,

shall come to this field to ponder and dream;

and the power of the vision will pass into their souls."

 – Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

Come. Listen. And consider joining.

Help preserve this legacy.

Ralph Couey is a freelance writer living in Somerset.

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