Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will help break ground today for a new visitors center at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Stonycreek.
Ms. Jewell also will speak Wednesday at the annual observance at the memorial of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. That event will include the reading of the names of the 40 passengers and crew of United Flight 93 who are credited with thwarting a second terrorist attack on Washington, D.C.
Their plane crashed in Somerset County as some passengers and crew fought the four hijackers who had taken control of the aircraft. The White House or the Capitol were the likely targets of the al-Qaida terrorists.
Commemorative activities today and Wednesday at the memorial are free and open to the public. No tickets are required. They will mark the 12th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and on the Pentagon.
The charity overseeing the effort to build the Flight 93 National Memorial announced Monday that a capital campaign to raise $40 million for the project had exceeded its goal. The National Park Foundation, the official charity of the national parks, said the private money was contributed by more than 110,000 individuals, foundations and corporations.
The funds already have been used to build the new park's Memorial Plaza, Wall of Names, 40 Memorial Groves and the Field of Honor, where Flight 93 went down. The money also will be used to construct the new 6,800-square-foot visitors center, which is expected to open in 2015. It will contain a permanent collection of artifacts and a learning center.
"We thank and applaud the thousands of individuals and organizations that have helped us reach this profound moment," Neil Mulholland, president of the National Park Foundation, said in a statement. "It is only through their support and generosity that the foundation is able to protect, enrich and honor the Flight 93 National Memorial, and all of our country's more than 400 national parks."
The National Park Foundation also has helped to set up a support organization that will continue to raise money to support operations and programs at the memorial. The foundation has provided a grant to the Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial to pay Norwood R. Dennis, its full-time executive director.
The National Park Foundation will provide $16 million in aid to more than 150 parks this year.
President George W. Bush signed the Flight 93 National Memorial Act on Sept. 24, 2002, that created a new national park to honor the 33 passengers and seven crew members of Flight 93 who died on Sept. 11.
The rural crash scene became a place of pilgrimage in the months following Sept. 11 and the site of several temporary monuments. The first phase of the permanent memorial was dedicated two years ago.
Ms. Jewell, who took up her cabinet post in April, is the former president of REI, a retailer of outdoor clothing and equipment. She will be joined at the annual commemoration on Wednesday by Brent Glass, a member of the Flight 93 National Memorial Federal Advisory Commission; Gordon Felt, president of the Families of Flight 93; and Jeff Reinbold, Flight 93 National Memorial superintendent.
The groundbreaking for the visitors center will take place at 3 p.m. today at the site of the visitors center complex. Visitors will be asked to assist in the locating of the center's walls by helping tap in surveyor stakes. At 7 p.m., 40 candle lanterns will be lit at the memorial wall to honor each victim.
The Sept. 11 observance will begin at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Memorial Plaza. Visitors are advised to arrive at least one hour before the event to allow time to park and take the shuttle to the site, which will open at 7 a.m. No backpacks or large bags will be permitted, but guests will be allowed to bring their own chairs.
At 10:03 a.m. -- the moment Flight 93 crashed -- the names of the passengers and crew members will be read and bells of remembrance will be rung by crew members of the USS Somerset.
More information about the Flight 93 National Memorial and the Sept. 11 commemoration is available at the web site, www.nps.gov/flni.
The memorial is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Oct. 31 and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting Nov. 1.
Len Barcousky: email@example.com or 412-263-1159.