Remembering Flight 93

By on September 13, 2017

 

Pleasant View provides ‘Food for Thought’ with 9/11 program

Tim Lambert, a WITF’s multimedia news director, who owned some of the land where Flight 93 crashed on 9/11, spoke at Pleasant View Retirement Community about his experience, and the memorial. (Photo by Rochelle Shenk)

Pleasant View Retirement Community’s “Food for Thought” series kicked off on Monday, Sept. 11. Appropriately, the topic involved 9/11. Tim Lambert, WITF multimedia news director, shared a unique perspective of the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Somerset County.

“When everyone thinks of 9/11, they think about the World Trade Center and the Pentagon; the Flight 93 Memorial is sort of the forgotten site,” Lambert said. “That could be because it’s mostly out of the way. But it’s a very powerful memorial; they (National Park Service) really tried to preserve the sanctity of the site.”

Amanda Hall, Pleasant View sales and marketing director, said Lambert’s story is “eye opening” He has a personal connection to the Shanksville site — the veteran journalist was one of the handful of landowners affected when Flight 93 crashed in Somerset County.

“We all remember where we were and what we were doing on 9/11. I was living in Gettysburg and sleeping after working a late shift,” Lambert told the crowd. “A friend of mine called; the first time I ignored it, but the second time I heard him say ‘Tim, you have to get up, a plane hit the World Trade Center in New York City’, and I got up. I turned on the news, and then called my boss, who said they could use me at the station.”

Lambert made the trip to Harrisburg in record time. Listening to NPR on the way in, he heard mention of a plane going down in Johnstown. More details were reported throughout the day about the crashes.

A giant metal trash bin containing items recovered at the crash site. This photo was taken in October 2001. (Photo by Tim Lambert)

 

Taken in 2006, spray paint tattoos the trunks of Hemlock trees on Lambert’s property, just yards from the crash site. Recovery crews used the paint to mark trees they have climbed and searched for debris. (Photo by Tim Lambert)

“One TV news report caught my attention,” he said. “The reporter said she was standing at the corner of Lambertville and Shanksville Road near Shanksville; my grandmother lives near there.”

When he got home about 2 a.m. his dad had left a message on his answering machine about the crash.

“He said the trees that they showed in the background on TV were our trees; he grew up there and knew that land,” Lambert said.

Lambert’s grandfather had purchased nearly 200 acres of land near Shanksville in the 1930s.

“He built several cabins that he rented out. That’s what helped get the family through the Depression,” Lambert said, adding that his dad has transferred the property to him about five years earlier.

Lambert’s first visit to the crash site was in October 2001. It was still closed to the public, but Lambert was invited by the county coroner, who knew he was also a journalist, to visit and discuss plans for the site.

“I was a journalist and had exclusive access to the story. But that also came with a lot of responsibility. The story wasn’t about me and how it affected me as a landowner. I wanted to be respectful of the families of the passengers,” he stressed.

Since he had not been to the family’s property for a year or so, his dad met him at the Somerset exit of the Turnpike.

“I knew were heading in the right direction, because I began to see American flags along the road,” he said, “At the site itself, there was debris everywhere — bits of metal, pieces of paper from books, and the mail the plane was carrying. (The largest piece of debris found at the site was a piece of the fuselage with four windows in it). When the wind kicked up you could still smell the jet fuel.”

Tim Lambert (center) interviews Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller (left) on his first visit to the crash site in October 2001. (Photo by David Nicholson)

One of the cabins built by his grandfather was just yards away from the crash site and was blown off its foundation. Lambert said that for a while he visited the site once or twice a month. The path from a crash site to a memorial was a long one, and throughout the process he got to know several of the passenger’s families.

Lambert said that in spring 2002 a cleanup of the site was held in preparation for the first anniversary.

“We were there with first responders, and we walked arm-in-arm combing the site,” he said, “At the event marking the year anniversary, you could see that the families had turned the corner and were beginning to heal.”

The Flight 93 Memorial

In July 2006, the families met onsite to discuss what they would like to see happen to the site, and in spring 2009 the National Park Service began acquiring property from six of the seven landowners. Lambert said he was seeking to donate 64-acres, but the National Park Service purchased it instead. He donated the proceeds to the foundation set up by the Flight 93 families. Eventually the balance of his property was sold, and became part of the 1,000-acre national memorial site.

“To this day, you’ll still find debris from the plane,” he said. “To this day, I still look down when I’m at the site, especially if I’m with one of the family members and am allowed in the crash area itself.”

He pointed out that the memorial does justice to the passengers.

“If you haven’t been to the Flight 93 Memorial, you should go,” Lambert said. “It’s a beautiful drive into the site.”

Lambert stressed that we can all learn lessons from Flight 93 and its passengers.

“These were people who came together in a time of crisis,” he said. “They didn’t know one another, but they worked together to stop the terrorists; they weren’t going to be used as a bomb.”

Rochelle Shenk is a correspondent for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your comments and questions at RAASHENK@aol.com.

Tim Lambert talks with family members at the crash site, ahead of the five-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks. From this interview session, Lambert produced a story that was honored with a Radio Television Digital News Association National Edward R. Murrow Award. (Photo by Amy Lambert)

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