Flight 93 remembered: Shanksville changed forever

Michael Gorsegner

Staff reporter

6:47 AM EDT, September 12, 2011



Over 5,000 people crammed the newly dedicated Flight 93 Memorial to pay tribute to the 40 heroes lost on September 11, 2001. But as those people head home for another year, the small, rural town of Shanksville in Somerset County lives with the crash everyday.

Shanksville, PA has been described as small town personified. Most people who have been there, won't argue with that statement. Now, that small town is a part of history. The historic events of 9/11 putting this tiny town on the world map.

"This whole story is unimaginable," said Donna Glessner, resident of Shanksville in Somerset County.

The images are seared into everyone's mind, the remains of Flight 93 burning in a rural Pennsylvania field. That field is now a part of history.

"Unbelievable that you can open a Time Magazine or Newsweek map with New York, Washington, DC and Shanksville," Glessner said.

Shanksville, Pennsylvania has a population of 245. The town is a part of Somerset County. It was hardly a destination spot, until now.

"We are really just the accidental real estate where the plane ended its journey," said Glessner.

Glessner now volunteers at the Flight 93 site. September 11 changed her life forever. After hearing and feeling the crashing of the plane, she feels compelled to give her time to educate people about the passengers and crew who made the ultimate sacrifice.

"It has been a passion of many people in the area to learn all that we can learn about those final moments of the flight so that we can relate it to the visitors," she said.

"I never dreamed that we would be involved that day," said Somerset County Emergency Management Director Richard Lohr.

Richard Lohr remembers 9/11 like it was yesterday. For weeks after the crash, his crews worked side-by-side with the FBI. That help left a legacy of cooperation between emergency responders. "Because of Flight 93 it just brought everybody together as one big working group," Lohr said.

Both Glessner and Lohr agree the events of September 11 opened eyes and brough out the best in the people of Somerset County.

"Open us to world events and realize that there is no place so remote that it can`t be touched by world events," said Glessner.

"Somerset County is not a selfish county. We never have been and we never will be. We tend to lend a hand to a lot of others," Lohr said.

Today, the family and friends of Flight 93's 40 passengers and crew will be holding a private burial ceremony. Remains from all of the victims will be laid to rest. The Somerset County Coroner was able to identify at least a portion of the remains from each individual that was killed on Flight 93.