18 YEARS LATER
VP Pence leads tribute to victims
Yachiyo Kuge walks away from the Wall of Names after seeing her son’s name Wednesday in Stonycreek, Somerset County. Her son Toshiya Kuge, from Osaka, Japan, was 20 and was returning home at the time of the Flight 93 crash. More coverage of the 18th anniversary of Flight 93 and the attacks in New York City and at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., on
STONYCREEK, Pa. — Not far from where Vice President Mike Pence stood Wednesday morning at the Flight 93 National Memorial stands its 93-foot-tall Tower of Voices, where wind chimes of different musical notes symbolize each of the 40 individuals who thwarted one of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
“When played together, the notes form a perfect harmony, just as in their final moments, the men and women of Flight 93 worked in concert to defend our nation, to defend our Capitol and defend our way of life,” Mr. Pence said.
Marking the 18th anniversary of the 2001 terror attacks, the vice president delivered remarks at the Flight 93 memorial, paying tribute to the passengers and crew members who rose up against the plane’s hijackers and “met unspeakable evil with selfless heroism and American strength,” he said.
Between sharing stories about those on the plane and recounting the morning of the attacks moment-by-moment, Mr. Pence told the families of those who perished, “We’re with you,” and said “the Bible tells us that the Lord is close to the broken-hearted.”
Many of those family members were in the audience for the memorial’s annual ceremony, honoring the group aboard Flight 93 who mounted a counter-assault against their hijackers on 9/ 11 and prevented another attack, likely at the U.S. Capitol Building.
The hundreds gathered in the field were silent at around 10:03 a.m., when memorial officials read the names of the men and women who perished — one by one — ringing bells of remembrance with each name.
The family members got to join Mr. Pence after his speech while he placed a wreath at the Wall of Names, containing 40 inscribed white marble panels of each passenger and crew member. They then walked with the vice president and second lady Karen Pence to a nearby boulder marking the general location of where the plane crashed 18 years ago.
Gordon Felt, whose brother was on Flight 93, opened remarks of his own by saying the 40 passengers and crew members displayed three characteristics that should be emulated today: Strength through diversity, a commitment to democratic principles and a willingness to make tough decisions.
“Because of their actions on that fated blue sky morning — just as we have today — their memory belongs to us all and their actions will inspire generations to come,” Mr. Felt said.
Joining the vice president Wednesday was Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. Also in attendance were state Sen. Pat Stefano, R-Fayette, German diplomat Niels von Redecker and Guinean President Alpha Condé.
Mr. Bernhardt, praising the memorial for keeping the memory alive for young Americans who were born after the attacks, said he takes comfort in knowing that “President [Donald] Trump and Vice President Pence are keeping America safe and secure.”
“President Trump knows firsthand the devastation the attacks brought to his city and this nation, and he and the vice president are committed to keeping the American people safe from forces of evil throughout the world,” Mr. Bernhardt told the crowd.
Mr. Pence also praised the president during his speech, echoing Mr. Trump’s words from earlier in the day and saying that the president asked him to be at the memorial “to pay a debt of honor” to the memory and families of the 40 passengers and crew members.
The best way to honor the 40, he said, is by “resolving here and now that we will do as they did, each of us, in all of our varied roles to prevent such evil from ever reaching our shores again” — and said that under the current president, the military won’t relent until “the earth is purged of the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism.”
Taking a page from his speech in 2017 at the memorial, Mr. Pence shared a personal story about how he would have been standing near the front of the U.S. Capitol with hundreds of others at the time the plane would have reached it, if not for the 40 on the flight.
“As I stand before you today, I say from my heart, I will always believe that I and many others from our nation’s capitol were able to go home and hug our families because of the courage and selflessness of your families,” Mr. Pence said. “Heroes.”
Pittsburgh’s River City Brass Band provided the musical selections. Musical director James Gourlay said the performance was designed to be “quite solemn but uplifting, with a patriotic flavor.”
“It’s more inward-looking, rather than the big numbers you might do on the Fourth of July,” he said.
Mr. Trump gave the keynote address at last year’s event. First lady Melania Trump was also in attendance.
Memorial officials stressed the importance of keeping the memory of the 40 alive, and using their stories as inspiration to do good.
“Ever since that moment, these special people have always been remembered as heroes, not just to Americans, but also many around the world,” said Stephen M. Clark, superintendent of the memorial. “Extraordinary citizens who showed incredible strength and resilience under extraordinary circumstances.”
Karen Pence and Vice President Mike Pence sit with the family members of the victims of Flight 93 during a ceremony Wednesday honoring the 18th anniversary of the United Airlines Flight 93 crash in Stonycreek, Somerset County.