Sunday, June 14, 2015

Tom McMillan

I just finished reading Flight 93: The Story, the Aftermath, and the Legacy of American Courage on 9/11 by Tom McMillan who like many of us is tied closely to the story of Flight 93 and the physical place of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. He is actually a sports writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and an executive with the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team. It's not like this book was written just for me, but so many of McMillan's accounts bring back personal anecdotes and strong emotions. First there are some family members whom I've hand the honor of meeting and working with over the last almost fourteen years. Debby Borza is the mother of the youngest hero on Flight 93-Deora Bodley. Debby is quoted several times in the book and her quotes remind me of just how eloquent she is. I learned more though such as when Somerset County Coroner Wally Miller gathered the families in New Jersey in February of 2002. Debby was there as she was in 2010 when ground was broken on the permanent Memorial. Then there is Kenny Nacke, the brother of hero Louis "Joey" Nacke. Kenny is a police detective in Baltimore and drove to Shanksville in the days immediately following 9/11. It was important for Kenny to lay a flower on the mass grave that was his brother's and the thirty-nine other heroes. It was Kenny who in 2009 organized a Run for the 40 as he and a group of other motorcycle enthusiasts traveled the intended path of Flight 93 from Newark, New Jersey to San Francisco California. I met Debby and Kenny both in 2005 or 2006 at the Seven Springs Resort. I was accompanying my school along with other teachers on our annual trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania. Debby and Kenny both spoke to our students that day and then traveled the short distance "down the mountain" to what was then the temporary memorial. I later learned Seven Springs was where several family members stayed and met in the days after 9/11. Another person I met many years ago is Donna Glessner. I knew Donna was instrumental in beginning the Ambassador program at Flight 93 which evolved into the Friends of Flight 93. How that all began-well you'll have to read the book. It is just one more part of how a small rural town (maybe 250 residents)in Somerset County in western Pennsylvania embraced the families of United 93. It is the story of how these folks went about doing something there was no template or precedent for-how their lives and their hometown would forever be changed. It is part of what has made this something that has become an important part of my life-something I am not eloquent enough to put into words-that's why I let others like Tom McMillan do this. Then there is Val McClatchey,the woman who took the iconic photograph "The End of Serenity." Again-you'll have to read the book for all the facets that make up Val's story. Val "found" me several years ago when I was still teaching full-time and our middle school was putting together some oral histories of 9/11 that would evolve into a theater production. We were working with a resident artist and had placed an ad in our local newspaper about gathering information. A friend of Val's in northeast Ohio from her Camaro Club saw the article and called her. She in turn called me that morning and we arranged (at her expense) for her to come to our school and share her story. I have only scratched the surface of the stories that make up Flight 93. I have left out the hijackers, the response by law enforcement, and of course so many more stories of the brave 40 heroes and their families.

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