A Reflection on the Flight 93 Observance on September 11


18 years ago, the September 11th attacks were carried out in an effort to diminish the prosperity, hope, power, and freedom of the United States. What came out of it was a United States more united than it has ever been before. America was able to overcome fear and mourning and turn it into hope and unity.


I wasn’t born when the attacks occurred, so I don’t have the same connection as people who remember where they were and what they were doing when the twin towers fell and the plane crashed in a field in Shanksville. That said, I find it important to familiarize myself with the events that occurred on that fateful day because it is something that we can’t forget about as concerned citizens of our country.


I had the opportunity, for the second year in a row, to attend the observance at the Flight 93 Memorial to remember the forty heroic Americans who lost their lives just to save the lives of thousands of other Americans. 


This year, the speakers included Pastor Paul M. Britton of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Author and Journalist, Mitchell Zuckoff, author of Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11, David Bernhardt, Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Stephen Clark, Superintendent of the National Parks of Western Pennsylvania, Gordon Felt, President of Families of Flight 93, and Mike Pence, Vice President of the United States.


From attending the ceremony last year, I remembered who Gordon Felt was, but his speech didn’t make a huge impact on me. This year was different. His speech was teeming with rhetorical questions of  self reflection and he kept repeating a phrase from the Broadway musical Hamilton, which goes like this: “When my time is up, have I done enough?” He managed to turn this quote into something that everyone was able to reflect upon by directly questioning himself, the families of the victims, the people watching on TV, and the audience intently listening right in front of him. Felt went on to say, “I can’t imagine asking anymore of the forty heroes that perished on this sacred ground fighting for their lives and in the process, saving our country from an even darker end on September 11, 2001.” Gordon Felt’s compassionate, sincere, and healing words deeply resonated with me and so many others.


 Following Felt, David Bernhardt even said, “I want to say, there have been many great speeches in American history given outside in the state of Pennsylvania. Gordy, I think your speech was one of the most eloquent set of remarks I’ve ever seen.”


 As an American citizen, I couldn’t agree more because of the fact that he called for unity in our country which is something that we could all use at this time.


The keynote speaker at the ceremony was Vice President Pence whose remarks were sincere and unapologetically pro-American, but what moved me more than his speech were his gracious actions. Pence traveled to Shanksville with the Second Lady, Karen Pence. When they arrived and were being escorted to their seats, they took the time to shake the victims’ families hands, give them hugs, have a conversation, and comfort them during this time of grievance eighteen years later. Then, they sat with the families during the ceremony. I then realized through their actions and words that they really do care about not just the families of the victims of Flight 93, but the American people as a whole.  Just looking at the photos of Mike and Karen Pence with the families, anyone can see that they are genuinely caring people. And if we set politics aside for just one moment, we can truly appreciate the sincerity and affection that the second family has for the mourning families and all those affected by the 9/11 tragedies.


Attending the Flight 93 Memorial exactly eighteen years after the plane crashed in an empty field in an effort to save thousands of American lives is an experience that I will never forget. Just as we should never forget the nearly 3,000 heroes who lost their lives on that horrific day. One thing that I have learned from listening to the stories of the people who experienced September 11 is that we should cherish every day because you never know when it could be the last. 

The Vice President and Second Lady greeting the victims’ families and offering them their condolences.
Jace O’Barto standing in the press pool waiting for the speakers to arrive and the ceremony to begin.