SHANKSVILLE, Pa. (KDKA/AP) – On a crisp morning in the fields of Shanksville, families of those who died on board Flight 93 gathered, 16 years later, to honor their loved ones whose names were read, one by one.
Dignitaries, including Vice President Mike Pence, Gov. Tom Wolf, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and the President of the Families of Flight 93, Gordon Felt, spoke of the heroism of those 40 men and women who sacrificed their lives to save others on Sept. 11, 2001.
“While they lost their lives, they won the battle, and for that, we are forever in debt,” said Felt.
One of those people whose life may have been saved by their actions was Vice President Pence.
He recalled that day when he was an Indiana congressman in the Capitol building, and was evacuated across the street. Capitol Police told him Flight 93 was headed toward the U.S. Capitol with only 12 minutes to go.
“So we waited. It was the longest 12 minutes of my life,” said Vice President Pence. “But it turned to 13 minutes, then 14, and then we were informed that the plane had gone down in a field in Pennsylvania.”
One year after the crash, Vice President Pence remembered taking his wife and three young children to Shanksville. Back then, it was just a makeshift memorial.
Now, he returns, grateful to the families of those who died, that he is alive and able to serve our country.
“Among the many lives saved by their selfless courage, they may well have saved my life that day 16 years ago,” he said.
The memorial has grown and changed over the past 16 years, and the final phase is now underway.
On Sunday, ground was broken at the national memorial on the last element of the park, a 93-foot Tower of Voices with 40 tubular wind chimes, one for each victim.
“Forty wind chimes representing the voices of our heroes – powerful, peaceful, eternal,” said Felt.
“The notes, when played together, will play a perfect harmony, just as men and women worked together to defend freedom,” Pence added.
It should be completed in time for the 17th anniversary of 9/11.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)