9-11 memorial in Shanksville built with help of NE Ohio students
9-11 memorial in Shanksville built with help of NE Ohio students
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Eleven years ago, Drew Watkins was one of thousands of children in Northeast Ohio and across the country who collected pennies, nickels and dimes to pay for a memorial to honor the people on United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001.
Today, he is proud as he realizes that the final part of the “93 Cents for Flight 93” campaign is completed. The $6 million “Tower of Voices,” was dedicated Sunday on that windswept hill in Shanksville, about 200 miles east of Cleveland and will be lauded during today’s memorial service, which will include President Donald Trump.
Watkins, formerly of the Canal Fulton suburb of Clinton, raised funds to create the national memorial that includes a museum-like visitor’s center, a memorial wall and now the “Tower of Voices.”
The “93 cents” campaign, operated by the Halo Foundation of Akron, started in 2008 and has raised about $140,000. Even though the mission to help build the memorial in Shanksville is over, the collections continue, collecting money and goods for victims of natural disasters in honor of the people who died on Flight 93.
This morning, Trump and other national dignitaries will attend the service for the 40 passengers and crew of Flight 93, who are credited with rising up against hijackers and thwarting the a plan to crash the plane in Washington, D.C.
It was one of several terrorist attacks that occurred 17 years ago that killed nearly 3,000 people when hijackers also crashed passenger planes into the two towers of New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The “Tower of Voices” marks the final element of construction at the National Flight 93 Memorial. This is a 93-foot tall concrete tower open to the wind that contains 40 chimes, one for each of the men and women who died on Sept. 11, 2001, on the field it overlooks.
Watkins, now 25, remembers visiting the Shanksville site when there was nothing there but several eight foot high sections of a chain link fence where people left messages and precious items to honor the fallen. One woman left her engagement ring on the fence overlooking the field where her fiance died in the crash.
“I’m amazed to see what it has grown into, and to think I help build it makes me proud,” said Watkins, now living in Phoenix, Ariz. “I was there a few years ago to hear Michelle Obama speak and I was overcome looking at the welcoming center and museum. I wish I could be there to see the Tower of Voices dedicated. I feel like it was worth all the money we collected.”
Watkins was a 14-year-old student in the Northwest School District when his father came home and said the group raising money for a 9-11 memorial in Shanksville needed some help.
“They needed a website to help with marketing the 93 cents initiative, I thought it was way over my head since I had never designed a website before,” he said. “But I was interested in computers, so I worked on it and figured it out.”
Watkins said working to raise the money turned out to be the best decision he ever made.
“It took my life on a different trajectory,” he said. “I worked as a student leader, organizing other student leaders to raise money in their schools, right into the time I went to college. Because of what I did, I started working in web design and today I work as an analyst for the Cast & Hue company in Phoenix.”
The guiding force behind the 93 cents campaign is Halo founder Sharon Deitrick of Akron, who has been involved in raising money for the memorial almost since the terrorists attacks occurred.
In mid-2002 Deitrick was in Somerset, Pa., at a bed and breakfast when she overheard a woman talking about having trouble raising $500,000 for a memorial to honor the people on Flight 93.
Deitrick, who runs an interior design business in Akron, walked over to the women and started out giving fundraising advice. Before she knew it, she had agreed to take charge of the fundraising. And she never stopped.
As a member of the steering committee for the Flight 93 National campaign under the National Parks Service, she has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars toward the $40 million needed for the memorial. The federal government pitched in another $30 million for the memorial.
Deitrick’s “93 cents for Flight 93” started in 2007. In 2014, after the money was raised for the memorial, Deitrick’s campaign continued with a slight change.
Now the students raise money and materials for victims of disasters like floods, hurricanes and earthquakes in honor of the heroes of Flight 93. They have raised between $5,000 and $10,000 a year since then.
Much of the money comes from Northeast Ohio Schools. Part of that money also pays for taking Ohio students to the annual memorial on Sept. 11.
“This year we have over 80 students who worked with the ’93 cents’ campaign from Ohio schools who will attend the memorial,” Deitrick said. “This is the first time that none of the students attending were alive when 9-11 happened.”
Students from St. Sebastian Elementary School and St. Francis de Sales, both in Akron; Green Schools and the Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy will attend the services Tuesday.
Kids like Anne Rea, 12, St. Sebastian’s School in Akron, who made Flight 93 memorial bracelets out of string which they sold to raise money for disaster relief.
“We asked students to bring in 93 cents for the project last year,” she said. “Most everyone donated even more. I think now that 9-11 happened so long ago, we have to continue to remind people about it. Just like grandparents tell their grandchildren about World War II, it’s up to us and the schools to tell students about what happened on Sept. 11.”
“These students continue to raise money to help people in honor of Flight 93,” Deitrick said. “Our students go in after first responders and media have left the disaster area. They have sent multiple semi-trucks filled with supplies, construction materials and school supplies to flood victims from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Sandy, Harvey, and as recently as July, sent aid to the victims of Hurricane Irma in Immokalee, Fla.”
For further information or to donate to the cause, helping victims of natural disasters in the name of the people that died on Flight 93, contact The Halo Foundation, Hope Always Lives On, 134 Western Ave., Akron, Ohio. 44313 or at: https://thehalofoundation.org/