- (Photo: AP Images / Keith Srakocic)
SHANKSVILLE, Pa. - As hundreds of firefighters bowed their heads in prayer, a cross made out of steel from the World Trade Center was dedicated Sunday near where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into the ground on Sept. 11.
The 2-ton, 14-foot high cross sits on a concrete base shaped like the Pentagon at the Shanksville Volunteer Fire Co., just a few miles from where the plane crashed into a field. The cross made a 311-mile journey from Brooklyn on Saturday, accompanied by hundreds of motorcyclists, many of them current or retired New York firefighters.
"We wanted to find a home for this steel," said Paddy Concannon, a retired lieutenant from the Fire Department of New York. "This is an effort on our part to tie the three events together: the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Shanksville."
The cross is not part of the official $58 million Flight 93 National Memorial. That memorial will be built in phases and is expected to about 40 percent complete by the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
Shanksville Chief Terry Shaffer said the cross dedicated Sunday would serve as inspiration whenever his department responds to a call.
"I couldn't have dreamed this would turn out any better, all the brotherhood coming down from New York and New Jersey and showing up here today to pay their respect to this piece of steel," Shaffer said.
Gary Sims, a firefighter with New York's Ladder 22, was among those in the motorcycle escort and said he took part "to help carry the word," of Flight 93. The crash killed the 40 passengers and crew members onboard.
Among those attending the ceremony was Patty Sumner, of Martinsburg, whose firefighter brother, Joseph Girard Leavey, died in the south tower. He had been on the 78th floor and his body was recovered more than a month later, on the day he was to take his captain's test, she said.
"I'm in heaven," she said after the ceremony, during which the names of the victims were read aloud. "I was very happy that everyone was able to get together."
Flight 93, which was en route from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco, was the only one of the four planes hijacked that day that did not reach its intended target, believed to be in Washington, D.C.
Investigators believe the hijackers crashed the plane into a field near rural Shanksville, about 65 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, as passengers rushed the cockpit.