Pennsylvanians remember Flight 93 passengers who perished 15 years ago

IMAGE: CNS photo/Mary Seamans, The Catholic Accent

By Elizabeth Fazzini

years after United Flight 93 crashed in an open field in southern Pennsylvania, a
small group of Catholics quietly gathered in the stillness of the site to remember
the people who sacrificed their lives so that others might live.

Msgr. Roger A. Statnick, pastor of St. Sebastian Parish in Belle
Vernon, and a board member of the Notre Dame Club of
Greensburg/Uniontown, celebrated an outdoor Mass of remembrance on a hill above
the crash site for nearly 30 fellow club members at the Flight 93 National Memorial
Sept. 10, the eve of the anniversary.

“Today we gather in this spot
where 40 people gave their lives for the sake of others,” Msgr. Statnick said.
“Forty people who stand before us as the ongoing presence of the Lord Jesus for
those of us who believe in Christ.”

Four commercial airliners were commandeered
the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, by al-Qaida-linked terrorists in a calculated
attack against the U.S. Two planes were flown into the World Trade Center’s
twin towers in New York City; a third flew into the Pentagon outside of
Washington; and the fourth, Flight 93, went down in Somerset County.

That flight, which departed from
Newark, N.J., had been bound for San Francisco when four men took over the
plane and diverted it toward Washington. Because of a delay in its departure,
the 40 passengers and crew on board had learned through cellphone calls about
the other incidents and determined that their plane was part of the planned

The calls as well as the cockpit
voice recorder recovered from the crash site revealed that passengers and crew
made a collective decision to rush the terrorists to retake control of the
plane. At 10:03 a.m., the plane crashed upside down at 563 miles per hour killing
all on board. The plane was 18 minutes from Washington.

Msgr. Statnick drew from the
story of the prodigal son in the day’s Gospel reading during the Mass. He noted
the older and younger son were alike “because they were both concerned about
themselves” and also were motivated by fear.

Likewise, “it is our fear that
we may not be taken care of,” Msgr. Statnick said.

In the sacrament of
confirmation, people of faith pray for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, he said.
One of these gifts is courage, “the gift to act beyond our fears” and “act for
others when we’re tempted to simply take care of ourselves.”

“(This is) the gift that was
given to our nation by these 40 people,” Msgr. Statnick said. “Whether or not
they were Christian, we see the spirit of God acting in their sacrifice.

“And the gift was given to each
of us here.”

Prayers of the faithful were offered
for all the men and women who perished at the site on 9/11 and for their families
to find peace and consolation. An offering basket with the names of each of the
40 passengers and crew was passed among Massgoers, who took one name with the
intention of praying for the individual and the loved ones left behind.

“This place fills our hearts
with sadness, but Christ’s spirit fills us with hope,” Msgr. Statnick said.

As attendees softly sang,
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,” Msgr. Statnick blessed a
wreath in remembrance of the victims and placed it on the hillside overlooking
the impact site — marked by a large boulder — and debris field. The fields
and wooded area beyond are the final resting place of the passengers and crew.

Joe Herbert, a member of St. Vincent Basilica Parish in Latrobe,
Pennsylvania, and vice president of the Greensburg/Uniontown club, said
members gathered not to dwell on the evil and hatred that was perpetuated on 9/11
but to honor and celebrate the 40 men and women who expressed the greatest love
for others.

“They gave their lives for their
family, friends, and nation,” he said.

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Fazzini is managing editor of
The Catholic Accent, newspaper of the Diocese of Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

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