Luminarias cast comforting light at vigil
Volunteers light thousands of candles Saturday at the Flight 93 National Memorial to honor the victims of all the Sept. 11, 2011, terrorist attacks.
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STONYCREEK, Pa. -- Candlelight vigils do not simply plan themselves, and certainly not those on the scale of the one staged Saturday evening at the newly christened Flight 93 National Memorial.
The dusk vigil, organized by the Friends of Flight 93, required weeks to plan -- more than 50 volunteers lit 2,977 luminarias, one for each of the victims killed on Sept. 11, 2001, in New York City, the Pentagon and aboard United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed just north of the community of Shanksville in Somerset County.
The candles, set inside white paper lanterns, took about 20 minutes to light, and two full hours to carefully place along the walls that now separate memorial visitors from the grassland spot where the Boeing 757 crash landed, now marked by a 17-ton boulder.
The lanterns, said Friends of Flight 93 volunteer Donna Glessner, were arranged 10 inches apart in a pattern meant to mimic the branches of a hemlock tree. The airplane, when it crashed, plowed into a grove of hemlock trees, she said, making that grove the final resting place for the 40 crash victims.
The lighting also required several dry runs so the volunteers could get their timing down and even the creation of custom-made candle-snuffers, she said.
The payoff was a striking scene, witnessed by hundreds of visitors who had attended the memorial dedication earlier in the day, and many hundreds more who continued to stream into the memorial site into the evening hours.
Among them were dozens of flight attendants who lit several of the candles along the Wall of Names -- the new wall bearing the names of each of the crash victims -- to honor their seven colleagues who died in the crash, pilots Jason Dahl and LeRoy Homer Jr., and flight attendants Lorraine Bay, Sandra Bradshaw, Wanda Green, CeeCee Lyles, and Deborah Welsh.
"You can't replace a loved one, especially a child," said Lawrence Catuzzi, father to crash victim Lauren Grandcolas, who was 38 and three months pregnant when she died 10 years ago.
But Saturday's events helped "bring closure for our family."
First Published September 11, 2011 12:10 am