3 caskets are to be buried at Flight 93 site today
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The dignitaries and network camera crews are gone from Stonycreek, where the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that prompted the crash of Flight 93 was marked over the weekend.
But today family and friends of the victims of that flight remain at the crash site to take care of one final task: burying the unidentified remains of their loved ones.
Forty-four people were killed in the crash, including seven crew members and four hijackers.
By the spring of 2002, all families of Flight 93 victims received some remains that were identified as their loved ones, said Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller.
But for the past decade, the coroner has been in possession of three caskets filled with remains from the crash that were impossible to identify through the DNA process. Those remains have been entombed in a mausoleum, but will be removed and buried at the crash site at the request of family members.
The burial will take place in a private ecumenical service that will include clergy from four faiths -- Catholic, Jewish, Presbyterian and Buddhist -- to represent the religious beliefs of the people who perished in the crash that occurred as passengers fought with terrorists for control of the plane that was trying to head to Washington, D.C.
Unlike the events of the weekend that drew President Barack Obama and former Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton and throngs of media and spectators, today's event will be private and small.
"[Saturday and Sunday] were very beautiful. But this service has a different intent and a different purpose," said the Rev. Daniel O'Neill, pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in Somerset, who will participate in the ceremony.
There will be no media permitted at the service, which will be held for Flight 93 families, their invited guests and some of the ground workers from the Somerset area who helped with recovery efforts.
"After a long, trying weekend, we know this will be a emotional day," Mr. Miller said.
The coroner said that today's service will be more personal for families than the crowded events held at the site over the weekend.
"This is a way for me to make sure that everybody sees each other face to face. When you are out there with thousands of people, you get lost in the sea of people. This is going to be an opportunity for people to shake hands, talk and visit a little bit and understand who was who," he said.
He said the remains will be buried at a part of the crash site that is open only to families of the victims.
"The area near the impact site is only going to be open to the next of kin and their authorized people. That's the way the monument was designed," Mr. Miller said.
Mr. Miller said he has been planning the service along with the families of the victims for some time and that it was decided that holding it in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of the attacks made sense since most families would be in the area for the event.
"I'm sure for the families this will be very intense. Without question it will be an emotional time," Father O'Neill said. "Somerset County has reached out to them and we want to do what we can."
First Published September 12, 2011 12:00 am