On September 10, 2001, more than two decades ago, 40 people woke up and went about their lives, completely unaware that the next day would be their last.
On September 10, 2022, National President Jane Reape and approximately 200 Auxiliary members gathered in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, near Shanksville, at the Memorial of Flight 93, which crashed on September 11, 2001. They were there for the 10th Celebrating America’s Freedom Event; this Program Year, the event was less of a traditional celebration than a solemn remembrance, as members paid tribute to and honored the memories of the 40 innocent people killed that day.
September 11, 2001 was a warm day with clear blue skies across New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., while September 10, 2022 was cool, in the mid-60s, overcast and windy, though the sun peeked through the clouds as National Soloist Mary Touve Kennedy sang Amazing Grace.
In her speech, Reape focused not on the tragedy of that day, which those in attendance could remember well, but on the individuals who lost their lives in their fight for control of the plane. Forty people boarded Flight 93 on their way home, on vacation, back to school, to see family… and 40 people banded together to ensure the plane they were on would not be used as a weapon by terrorists set on flying it into a building to kill more innocent people, as had happened already with the first three hijacked flights.
Reape introduced those in the crowd to the pilots, the crew and the passengers, reflecting on their family lives, their hobbies, their dreams for the future and their past accomplishments, including recognizing those with military connections: veterans from Desert Storm and World War II, a Gold Star Mother who lost a son in Vietnam, a member of the California Air National Guard. As she spoke, several members in the audience were brought to tears. Said Reape, “It is okay for us to cry for them… We cry for each of those whose names will be read here as Flags are placed in their memory… We cry for them because we care. We cry because we love them, these strangers. We cry not only for what they did as a group, but for who they were as individuals. And we know it is better to cry as we remember them than it would be to forget.”
Other speakers during the ceremony included emcee Sandi Onstwedder (Past National President 2020-2021), VFW Junior Vice Commander-in-Chief Alfred “Al” Lipphardt and Flight 93 Memorial Superintendent Stephen Clark, to whom a check was presented in the amount of $2,000 on behalf of the Auxiliary. According to the Resource Management Division of the Flight 93 Memorial, the money will go toward the Western Overlook Transition Project (read more about it by clicking here).
“(It) was one of the most moving experiences I’ve ever attended, and being my first CAFE, I look forward to future CAFE events,” said Susan Dinon, Life Member of Auxiliary 621 in Luray, Virginia and Department Guard. “Thank you, Madam National President, for selecting Flight 93 National Memorial as your CAFE.”
“It was very well put together,” agreed Susan Tallman, Life Member of Auxiliary 790 in East Barre and Vermont’s Department Chief of Staff, who attended with her husband, Ron.
The ceremony opened and closed with prayers by Chaplain Lois Callahan, who concluded with the words of Sandy Dahl, wife of Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl: “If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate.” Callahan added, “In that spirit, we should go forth today without anger and bitterness on behalf of those whose lives were cut short, but with love: love for who they were, love for what they did and love for each other.”