Flight 93 memorial gets
purchase of land near Shanksville, Pa., began with "a first small step"
of three acres. The park is scheduled to open in 2011.
Inquirer Staff Writer
SHANKSVILLE, Pa. - Families
of Flight 93 have sealed a deal on a postage-stamp-size parcel that
would be the first tract bought for a memorial to the 40 people on
board the United Airlines jetliner when it slammed into the ground near
here Sept. 11.
The purchase of the three acres - only a fraction
of the 2,200
planned for the Flight 93 Memorial park - is largely a symbolic
gesture. But to many it is a sign that, at long last, the acquisition
of land to honor the passengers and crew who thwarted an attack on
Washington is gaining momentum.
"This is a first small step in what will be the
larger picture of
getting the balance of the acreage," said Larry Catuzzi, whose daughter
Lauren Grandcolas was aboard the plane.
Supporters have overcome opposition to the park's
size and cost, but
federal funding has yet to flow to the National Park Service, which is
overseeing the site's creation. A powerful House member from North
Carolina blocked federal funding for the land for three years before
dropping his opposition.
But park proponents still face other hurdles -
negotiations over mineral rights, and environmental hazards from
decades of coal mining at the site.
If all goes on schedule, the park will open in
2011, the 10th
anniversary of terrorist attacks. The centerpiece is the memorial
itself, set in a 400-acre natural "bowl" atop a mountain. Plans include
a black slate plaza and a grove of 40 maples.
The park would be surrounded by 1,800 acres of
protected land, mostly woods, fields and farms.
The start-up costs are estimated at nearly $60
million, about one-third of that for the land.
"We are still awaiting the federal funding," said
superintendent of the Flight 93 Memorial. "The negotiations with
landowners are in different stages, but we have to have money to move
The $10 million federal request for land
acquisition was contested
by U.S. Rep. Charles Taylor (R., N.C.), chairman of the Appropriations
subcommittee on interior, environment and related agencies. Under
intense public pressure, Taylor dropped his opposition in June. But
Congress has yet to vote on the request for the project's first $5
The Families of Flight 93 group decided to move
forward on its own
this summer, using a portion of the $1.2 million it received from the
opening weekend box office receipts of the movie United 93 to
buy the three acres.
Patrick White, whose cousin Louis J. Nacke II died
in the crash,
said the group was on track to close on two larger parcels this fall.
"We want to demonstrate to those who are not as
willing to sell that it's real and it's happening and there's money,"
Josh First, as former Pennsylvania director of the
Fund, was among the most vocal supporters of preserving not only the
crash site but thousands of acres around it in the scenic Laurel
Highlands of western Pennsylvania, 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
First said in 2003 that he had come up with the
boundaries for the
park: a 1,200-acre central section to be purchased outright and a
1,000-acre buffer zone surrounding it. That land would remain in
private hands but be preserved through the sale of conservation
easements preventing commercial development.
Some family members said they could understand the
initial opposition to the park's size.
"If I wasn't involved and heard 2,000 acres, I'd
say, 'Why is it
that big?' " said Ken Nacke, Louis Nacke's brother. "But they are
trying to protect the town of Shanksville from the onslaught."
A nearby temporary memorial attracts 150,000
visitors a year, and
organizers estimate that 250,000 a year will visit the new memorial, he
While the landscape remains largely unchanged,
work on the memorial
design, awarded to a Los Angeles architectural firm last year, is under
way. And more than $7 million of the $30 million anticipated in private
funding has been raised from corporations and individuals.
But with the memorial's groundbreaking slated for
2008, some family
members and land owners are eager for the land acquisition to speed up.
"Personally, I wish it would go faster," said Ben
daughter Honor Elizabeth died aboard Flight 93. "I want to see a
monument built and see it come to fruition. I'm 61 years old."
Landowner Tim Lambert said he had committed to
donating six acres
just beyond the row of hemlocks scorched by the explosion. But he wants
fair market value for an additional 150 acres, which his grandfather
bought in the 1930s.
"I feel I am walking a fine line between doing
what's best for the
families and making sure our family is taken care of," said Lambert, a
public radio host in Harrisburg.
Catuzzi said he was dismayed to see some property
owners seeking higher prices for their land with each passing year.
Some family members recognize that any deal
involving multiple landowners and the federal government takes time.
The land the memorial sits on "has to come from
willing sellers," Ken Nacke said. "I don't want to put pressure on
After all, he and others said, the people of
Shanksville never could
have anticipated their community would be part of the nation's worst
View plans for the memorial via http://go.philly.com/93memorial