SOMERSET COUNTY — As we remember and honor the lives lost on 9/11, we also want to pay tribute to all those people who have worked to keep the memories of the victims in the forefront of our history and for the next generation. A Somerset community started doing just that 20 years ago when Flight 93 crashed in their community, and they are making us proud to be from Pittsburgh.
“When you hear the story, and you know what act actions they took that day, it makes you proud to be an American,” said Donna Gibson. “It also makes you step back to think what (if) I have done the same thing had I been in that position.”
Donna Gibson wonders that often. She’s now the president of Friends of Flight 93, a nonprofit that was officially formed in 2009, shortly after the crash community members gathered to honor the lives lost and support the family members who visited this area.
“Our mission is to support the mission of Flight 93,” said Gibson. “That mission is to continue to tell the story of the 40 passenger and crew members.”
The Flight 93 crash site evokes strong emotions in rural Pennsylvania, and the goal of the group now is to preserve and educate people. One of the biggest events each year, a tree planting, happens in the spring. When they open the website registration for tree planting events, Gibson says they sell out quickly and have 500 volunteers come over two days. Since 2012, volunteers have planted nearly 130,000 seedlings at the memorial. The group also helps educate younger generations about that dark day 20 years ago by working with the park and funding a bus service for school tours.
“75 million Americans have been born since Sept. 11,” said Gibson. “So about a third of our country wasn’t alive. So it’s really important. As I see it, it’s very important to make sure that we continue to tell the story — so that America never forgets.”
The Friends of Flight 93 are Making us Proud to Be From Pittsburgh.
Friday night the group is hosting an event at the memorial. 40 luminaria candle lanterns will be lit and carried by family members, and friends will then place them below the names of each of the passengers and crew member along the Wall of Names.