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Thousands Drawn to Pa. Crash Site

March 13, 2002

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SHANKSVILLE, Pa. (AP) _ So many out-of-towners have been wandering through this tiny village in search of the United Flight 93 crash site that residents have formed a corps of volunteers to lead them to the barren hilltop and makeshift memorial.

Unlike the World Trade Center site, there is no viewing platform at the spot where the Boeing 757 went down on Sept. 11. Still, in the six months since the attacks, thousands have visited the open field where a steady, cold wind stirs yellow dirt into the air.

Hand-stenciled, cardboard signs lead people to the site, where members of Shanksville’s volunteer ``ambassador program,″ created by resident Donna Glessner, take over.

``We were waiting for some official types to do it, but it’s kind of a no-man’s land and it became apparent that nobody else was going to do it,″ Glessner said.

One of the program’s 20 volunteers stands watch at the site during daylight hours Wednesday through Sunday. Visitors hang mementos on a 30-foot-long fence that stands near a brass plaque inscribed with the names of the 40 victims.

Glessner said at least 1,000 people visit the site every weekend, even during harsh winter days when winds can reach 60 mph and snow cuts visibility to 100 yards. The 260-resident community near the site _ a former strip mine now owned by a coal company _ is about 80 miles east of Pittsburgh.

In November, a group from Japan arrived in limousines, said Barbara Black, curator of the Historical and Genealogical Society of Somerset County.

``They performed some sort of Buddhist ceremony, left a picture and a Japanese flag and some other things and then they were gone,″ Black said.

Rep. John Murtha said he will ask Congress to authorize a permanent memorial at the site under the auspices of the National Park Service.

Karl Rickman, 76, of Salem, Ohio, said the people aboard Flight 93 showed heroism he could not fathom. A native of Jamaica, Rickman joined the Royal Air Force as a teen-ager and flew combat missions over Germany during World War II.

``I was quite humbled _ it gives you a chill,″ he said after visiting the site. ``Those people in Shanksville are doing a bang-up job telling us what happened in their town. It’s something every American should see.″

Officials say the hijackers probably planned to hit a target in Washington. Todd Beamer was heard saying, ``Let’s roll!″ on an in-flight phone just before he and other passengers apparently fought back.


On the Net:

Flight 93 Memorial: http://www.flt93memorial.org

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