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The intriguing and heroic story of the Flight 93 passengers deserves that permanent visitors center and learning center, both of which are in the works.

STONYCREEK, Pa. — Visitors to the Flight 93 National Memorial want to know what happened there on Sept. 11, 2001, park superintendent Jeff Reinbold told members of a “Friends” organization at their annual meeting on Saturday. “But they also want to talk with you about their own experiences and where they were on that day,” he said.

That kind of personal contact would be impossible without the support of volunteers from the Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial, Mr. Reinbold said. Members of the booster organization and a second volunteer group, called the Ambassadors, have helped National Park Service rangers welcome more than 300,000 visitors to the site in Stonycreek so far this year.

That number is up about 25 percent over a similar period last year.

“And the full memorial has not been built yet,” Mr. Reinbold said.

Construction of a permanent visitors center and an adjoining learning center is to begin next spring, he said. Work should be completed by Sept. 11, 2014, the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

The park chief compared the development of the $62 million, 1,200-acre national park to building a small town. The project requires water and sewer systems, connecting roads and multiple structures. All but $5 million has been raised with the help of federal and state funds, the National Parks Foundation and 120,000 individual donors.

The initial phase of the project, a white marble wall inscribed with names of the victims, was dedicated on Sept. 11, 2011. By Thanksgiving, 500,000 people will have visited the wall, Ranger Barbara Black told members of the Flight 93 Advisory Commission. Both the friends and the advisory group held separate meetings here on Saturday.

The national memorial is being developed in a field in Somerset County where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed on Sept. 11, 2001. It commemorates the efforts of the 40 passengers and crew members to regain control of the aircraft after it became the fourth plane to be hijacked that morning. Their actions are believed to have thwarted the terrorists’ attempt to crash the plane into the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

In addition to greeting visitors at the national memorial, members of the friends group have participated in multiple support activities, secretary Donna Glessner said. They have included a spring cleaning of the marble wall, using special brushes and soap, and helping to plant 13,000 tree seedlings on the property.

Len Barcousky: [email protected] or 412-263-1159. ___

(c)2012 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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