(Photo: Reuters/Jason Cohn)
America will never forget the heroism of the 40 passengers and crew who died in the crash of the United Airlines Flight 93 in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001, as they fought against the terrorist hijackers, former President George W. Bush said.
“What happened above this Pennsylvania field was among the most courageous acts in American history,” Bush said at Saturday’s dedication of a memorial in Shanksville where the flight crashed.
The most likely target of the plane was the United States Capitol, recalled Bush who was joined by former President Bill Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, Interior Secretary Ken Salazer and House Speaker John Boehner for an emotional dedication ceremony a day before the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
“We’ll never know how many innocent people might have been lost, but we do know this: Americans are alive today because the passengers and crew of Flight 93 chose to act, and our nation will be forever grateful,” Bush said.
Clinton thanked Bush and President Barack Obama for not letting America get attacked again. “I think we should also thank President Bush and those who served with him, Vice President Biden and President Obama, those who served with them, for keeping us from being attacked again,” he said.
Obama is scheduled to appear Sunday at the Flight 93 National Memorial, which is yet to be completed and includes a marble wall that follows the flight path with the names of the 40 passengers and crew etched on it.
Clinton also thanked Boehner and the members of the Congress “who are here and who have been in the Congress for the last 10 years, trying to respond to the findings of the 9/11 Commission and improve our ability to secure our homeland.”
Biden, who was accompanied by his wife, Jill Biden, also paid his tribute to the heroes. “None of them asked for what happened,” he said. “They didn’t board that plane to fight a war, but when they heard the news they knew... it was the opening shot in a new war. And so they acted. They acted as citizen patriots have acted since the beginning of our country.”
Biden alluded to his first wife’s death in a car crash years ago as he addressed the families in the audience. “I know how it is in these moments,” he said. “It brings everything back in stark detail. There was a father who tucked you in bed at night. A wife who knew your fears before you expressed them... they’re irreplaceable. I know that. We know that. But I also know that you are an inspiration.”
About $10 million more needs to be raised to finish the memorial, according to organizers. Clinton said he would help raise the money.