Seven years after 9/11, those who gathered Thursday at a ceremony in rural western Pennsylvania to recall the events of that day said they worried that memories are fading and that young children have no connection to the historic day.
Nearly every speaker noted how elementary school children have little or no memory of how ordinary people prevented a hijacked plane from reaching its reputed target: Washington, D.C.
"9/11 has become a part of history," said Gordon Felt, whose brother was a passenger on United Airlines Flight 93. "9/11 of our young children is our Gettysburg, our Pearl Harbor."
Families of the 40 passengers and crew joined dignitaries under cloudy skies and in a whipping wind near the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93 for a memorial ceremony. While the focus was on honoring those on board and preserving their story for future generations -- the names of the victims were read aloud, two bells tolling for each -- there was also an eye toward the future.
From Gov. Ed Rendell to Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, the speakers emphasized the need to build a permanent memorial in the isolated reclaimed minefield where the Boeing 757 slammed into the ground.
With memories of the actual events of the day fading even for those who lived through it, the focus is largely turning to construction of memorials in Washington -- which opened one on Wednesday -- New York City and here in Shanksville.
Gordon Felt's brother Edward was a passenger on Flight 93 who called 911 from an airplane bathroom and told dispatchers the aircraft had been hijacked. Gordon Felt talked about being numb when he realized upon entering an elementary school recently that the children there had no memory of Sept. 11, 2001.
He urged adults to find ways to help young people know how important Flight 93 is by "remembering the heroes and their actions."
Active on the committee working to construct the permanent memorial in Shanksville, Felt talked about the urgency of the project, which has fallen far short of its fundraising goals and has been wracked by controversy.
A few relatives of those who were on the plane say the crescent shapes in parts of the planned $58 million memorial and park pay tribute to the hijackers, who were Muslim. A crescent is a Muslim symbol.
None of those issues were addressed directly, though Felt made a point of saying that the team had a "magnificent design" and was on its way to having a "permanent and lasting tribute to 40 unique people."
Kenneth Wainstein, homeland security adviser to President Bush, said he was humbled by the actions of those on board the plane.
Flight 93, en route from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco, was the fourth aircraft that crashed on Sept. 11. The passengers and crew on board knew from family and friends on the ground that three other jets had slammed into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon.