Hastert donates Capitol flag to Flight 93 memorial
SHANKSVILLE, Pa. (AP) — Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert gave the flag that flew atop the U.S. Capitol on 9/11 to the Flight 93 National Memorial on Thursday, saying the building might not still be standing if the plane’s passengers and crew had not rebelled against four hijackers.
Hastert spoke to hundreds of family members, dignitaries and spectators at a ceremony in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the United Airlines plane crashed on Sept. 11, 2001.
Hastert, who was speaker of the House on that day, said the donated Stars and Stripes has smoke smudges from the fire caused by another hijacked plane flown into the Pentagon.
“Today that flag would not have been in existence ... if not for the great heroes who we’ll hold in our hearts for ever and ever,” he said.
Flight 93 was traveling from Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco when al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists took control, with the likely goal of crashing it into the White House or Capitol. The 9/11 Commission concluded the hijackers downed the plane in southwestern Pennsylvania as the 33 passengers and seven crew members revolted. Two other hijacked planes destroyed the World Trade Center in New York.
The 13th anniversary of the attacks comes as the National Park Service marks progress on a $17 million to $23 million phase of the Flight 93 memorial. Official hope the project, which includes a visitors’ center and learning space, will boost the number of annual visitors to the site from 300,000 to more than 500,000.