NEW YORK (KDKA/AP) – Americans across the country, and right here in Western Pennsylvania are marking the 14th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
A number of events are taking place to commemorate the attacks.
The 911th Airlift Wing is set to host more than 150 veterans from Western Pennsylvania and 50 members from surrounding military units Friday September 11 for a Veteran’s Breakfast Club (VBC) event.
Around 200 veterans who served in various wars such as World War II, the Korean War and the War on Terror came to the 911th Airlift Wing in Moon Township. They attended Friday’s event to share their stories of war and are remembering the 14th anniversary of September 11th.
Fourteen years ago, the Twin Towers fell in Manhattan, New York, a plane crashed into the Pentagon… and Flight 93 came to its final resting spot in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. We still remember.
“14 years later i feel like it was yesterday,” Colonel Jeff VanDootingh, Commander of the 911th Airlift Wing said.
The 911th Airlift Wing hosted veterans from Western Pennsylvania for its first Veteran’s Breakfast Club event.
This was an event that gave veterans the opportunity to share their stories of war and reflect on September 11, 2001.
“September 11th is now part of our history and part of our memory just like Pearl Harbor is,” Executive Director of the Veterans Breakfast Club Todd Depastino said.
“I remember it as much for the tragic loss of life as for the demonstration of everything that’s good about America,” VanDootingh said.
Behind Colonel VanDootingh stood what he calls the mighty C-130 Hercules airplane for attendees to tour.
Nick Megyesi served three tours from 2003-2005. Two of those tours was in Iraq.
“I was young. I was 19, 20 years old. Probably a little nervous. A scary time,” Megyesi said.
He says 9/11 seems like a lifetime ago.
For 91 year old Hartley Baird, Jr., a World War II veteran, he recalls the war like it was yesterday.
“Lucky, very fortunate and lucky to be here,” Baird said. “When they say heroes, you go to the cemeteries in France and overseas. those are the heroes. The guys that lost their life. Young, vigorous, strong.”
Baird says he will also never forget the heroes of 9/11; the soldiers that lost their lives to keep America the nation it is today.
Natrona Heights will be the scene of the second annual moving flag tribute.
Veterans, Military and Community members from all over Western PA and the Allegheny Valley area will come together to an American Flag moving from 5:30am to 8:30pm.
The United States Submarine Veterans Inc. and the Pittsburgh USS Requin Base will host a Sept. 11 Memorial Service and Tolling of the Bells on board the USS Requin submarine.
The names of passengers and crew killed in the hijacking of United Flight 93 are being read as bells also toll in their honor on the 14th anniversary of 9/11.
The ceremony Friday is taking place on a hill where a new visitor center has been built overlooking the crash site outside Shanksville.
Flight 93 was headed from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco on Sept. 11, 2001, when it was hijacked with the likely goal of crashing it into the White House or Capitol. A passenger revolt ended with it going down in a Pennsylvania field.
Thirty-three passengers and seven crew were killed.
Visitor Ben Mecham of Johnstown says he hopes the new visitor center reminds children that “people chose to save lives at the cost of their own lives.”
With a moment of silence and somber reading of names, victims’ relatives began marking the 14th anniversary of Sept. 11 in a subdued gathering Friday at ground zero.
Hundreds of victims’ relatives – fewer than thronged the ceremonies in their early years – gathered, carrying photos emblazoned with the names of their lost loved ones as they remembered the day when hijacked planes hit the World Trade Center’s twin towers, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
“We come every year. The crowds get smaller, but we want to be here. As long as I’m breathing, I’ll be here,” said Tom Acquaviva, 81, who lost his son, Paul Acquaviva, a systems analyst who died in the trade center’s north tower.
For Nereida Valle, who lost her daughter, Nereida De Jesus, “It’s the same as if it was yesterday. I feel her every day.”
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama stepped out of the White House at 8:46 a.m. – when the first plane hit the north tower – to observe a moment of silence. Later Friday, President Obama was scheduled to observe the anniversary with a visit to Fort Meade, Maryland, in recognition of the military’s work to protect the country.
The Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville in western Pennsylvania was marking the completion of its visitor center, which opened to the public Thursday. At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and other officials were joining in remembrances for victims’ relatives and Pentagon employees.
After years of private commemorations at ground zero, the anniversary now also has become an occasion for public reflection on the site of the terror attacks.
An estimated 20,000 people flocked to the memorial plaza on the evening of Sept. 11 last year, the first year the public was able to visit on the anniversary. The plaza was to open three hours earlier after the anniversary ceremony.
“When we did open it up, it was just like life coming in,” National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum President Joe Daniels said this week. While the memorial will still be reserved for victims’ relatives and other invitees during the morning ceremony, afterward, “the general public that wants to come and pay their respects on this most sacred ground should be let in as soon as possible.”
Elsewhere, Ohio’s statehouse will display nearly 3,000 flags – representing the lives lost – in an arrangement designed to represent the World Trade Center towers, with a Pentagon-shaped space and an open strip representing the field near Shanksville. Sacramento, California, will commemorate 9/11 in conjunction with a parade honoring three Sacramento-area friends who tackled a heavily armed gunman on a Paris-bound high-speed train last month.
In Washington, some members of Congress planned to spend part of the anniversary discussing federal funding for the ground zero memorial. The House Natural Resources Committee has scheduled a hearing Friday on a proposal to provide up to $25 million a year for the plaza.
The memorial and underground museum together cost $60 million a year to run. The federal government contributed heavily to building the institution; leaders have tried unsuccessfully for years to get Washington to chip in for annual costs, as well.
Under the current proposal, any federal money would go only toward the memorial plaza. An estimated 21 million people have visited it for free since its 2011 opening.
The museum charges up to $24 per ticket, a price that initially sparked some controversy. Still, almost 3.6 million visitors have come since the museum’s May 2014 opening, topping projections by about 5 percent, Daniels said.
Any federal funding could lead to expanded discounts for school and other groups, but there are no plans to lower the regular ticket price, he said.
This year’s anniversary also comes as advocates for 9/11 responders and survivors are pushing Congress to extend two federal programs that promised billions of dollars in compensation and medical care. Both programs are set to expire next year.
But some of those close to the events aim to keep policy and politics at arm’s length on Sept. 11.
Organizers of the ground zero ceremony decided in 2012 to stop letting elected officials read names, though politicians still can attend. Over the years, some victims’ relatives have invoked political matters while reading names – such as declaring that Sept. 11 should be a national holiday – but others have sought to keep the focus personal.
“This day should be a day for reflection and remembrance. Only,” Faith Tieri, who lost her brother, Sal Tieri Jr., said during last year’s commemoration.
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