With first lady Laura Bush at his side, the president laid a wreath at the spot where Flight 93 crashed into the Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11 after an apparent struggle between passengers and crew and the flight’s four hijackers. The 40 victims of the crash have been hailed as heroes, apparently stopping the plane before it could reach its intended target, Washington D.C.
After the wreath presentation, the president stood silently for a moment with his head bowed as two trumpeters played taps. President and Mrs. Bush then joined a gathering of family members for a short prayer and a military choir’s rendition of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
The president and first lady spent over an hour shaking hands and offering condolences to family members at the site.
At a memorial ceremony earlier in the day, family members and some 5,000 mourners gathered on a grassy field near the crash site. A bell tolled as each of the names of the flight’s victims were read leading up to 10:06am, the exact time the plane crashed. Mourners observed a moment of silence for world peace and the military staged a three-plane fly-over in tribute.
Attending the morning ceremony, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, who was Pennsylvania’s governor at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, paid homage to the flight’s victims.
“There were no survivors in this field on September 11, but have no doubt that hundreds if not thousands of Americans, perhaps some who join us this day, survived that crash, and America is grateful,” Ridge said. “The heroes of Flight 93 could not know what the end result of their struggle would be, but they had faith that they were doing the right thing, they had faith that they were doing the honorable thing.”
He went on to call the people aboard the flight “citizen-soldiers” and “America’s 21st century patriots.”
A rifle salute and the release of 40 doves followed Ridge’s remarks.
On Capitol Hill, members of Congress also paid their respects to the victims of Flight 93, remembering their bravery for challenging the hijackers.
“It is a day to remember that this Capitol would have been struck a year ago today but for the heroism of the people on the flight that went down in Pennsylvania,” said House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), as he and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), led House members and workers in a moment of silence.
On Tuesday, the Senate gave final approval to a bill to erect a permanent memorial to Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.