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9-11 Relatives Lobby Congress for Memorial Funding

By Dan Eggen
Amid all the usual monied interests mobbing Capitol Hill this week in search of federal largesse, several lawmakers met with a decidedly humbler lobbying group: relatives of those who died on United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001.

A contingent from the Families of Flight 93 advocacy group made the unusual trek to Washington in a bid to ensure that plans for a permanent memorial to their loved ones remains on track, with hopes of starting construction later this year at the crash site near Shanksville, Pa.

Three members of the group--Gordon Felt, Deborah Borza and Calvin Wilson--accompanied lobbyist Will Hollier of Hollier & Associates for a series of stops in lawmakers' offices during the past two days, including meetings with Pennsylvania Sens. Arlen Specter (R) and Bob Casey (D) and Rep. Bill Schuster (R-Pa.).

The $58.4 million memorial project features $18.4 million in promised federal funds, including nearly $5.5 million in the 2009 omnibus budget bill currently under debate in Congress. But the family group is looking ahead to the 2010 fiscal year, when it hopes to receive another $7.2 million installment.

"We are looking to get people on board for the 2010 funds," said Felt, who lost his older brother, Edward, in the crash. "We're not done yet."

The Flight 93 National Memorial was commissioned by an act of Congress in 2002 and is being paid for primarily through private fundraising and a $10 million grant from the state of Pennsylvania. The project recently overcame a major hurdle when the National Park Service and the families group reached an agreement with a local business owner, who had resisted offers to buy a plot of land that included the crash site.

The Boeing 757 plummeted into the countryside near Shanksville after passengers thwarted attempts by al-Qaeda hijackers to take the plane to Washington. All 33 passengers and seven crew members died along with four terrorists.

The family members said one common theme in their talks with Capitol Hill lawmakers and staff is recognition that the Flight 93 passengers probably thwarted an even larger disaster: The hijackers are believed to have been headed for the U.S. Capitol or the White House. "I think there is a sense of gratitude there," Felt said.

By  |  March 4, 2009; 5:19 PM ET
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I say no. People are losing their homes, jobs and savings. There is no need to erect another monument. Especially building a park.

Posted by: askgees | March 4, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

58 million for a memorial is ridiculous.

Posted by: metroman76 | March 4, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

I am sure the deceased would not want such a frivolous expenditure. Honor their memory by ceasing this fiasco, and preparing a simple stone monument -- say, under $100,000.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | March 4, 2009 6:05 PM | Report abuse

If it took over 50 years for the govt to build monuments to the soldiers who fought in WWII and the Korean War I think the victims of 9/11 can wait a few more years.

Posted by: Cossackathon | March 4, 2009 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps it is time for the Congress to pass tax legislation regarding court awards. Passing a 50% tax on gross settlement would go a long way to reduce national debt. The tax could result in the courts being less bogged. Since Congress is not willing to pass legislation regarding court actions, then perhaps this is a way to reduce foolish court actions.

Posted by: fuelman1 | March 4, 2009 7:09 PM | Report abuse

I thought we paid each and every one of these whiners $2M minimum to shut there pie holes and find their inner box wine. Sheeeesh. Maybe they could solicit among themselves. We're broke. It would be going on the charge card of children yet not born.

Posted by: angriestdogintheworld | March 4, 2009 7:53 PM | Report abuse

When will these people just go away? They've been coddled and paid off in every which way. It's tragic that their family members died, but they were victims, not heroes. We have soldiers dying who are more deserving of monuments.

After awhile, they seem less like mourners and more like media hogs. Enough already.

Posted by: drumcrn1 | March 4, 2009 8:10 PM | Report abuse

I see no reason why the taxpayer should be on the hook for this one. Let them build this themselves. We gave them enough money that they didn't deserve. Hopefully they didn't invest in stocks.

Posted by: ggreenbaum | March 4, 2009 8:53 PM | Report abuse

I think it's totally appropriate for tax payers to be on the hook for this. There is something to be said for a nation valuing its heroes, after all if the only monuments were those that could be paid for by private interests, what would be valuing in our country other than wealth? Not true American values like patriotism, self sacrifice, etc. Heck the people who got us into this economic mess could build monuments to themselves so that hopefully in several generations they might by some rewrite of history be seen as important transformative figures.

That said, $58 million is a pretty steep price...surely we can do something a bit more conservative than that?

Posted by: waterwarior84 | March 4, 2009 9:15 PM | Report abuse

I have sympathies for these folks, but the price is too high.

Posted by: RealChoices | March 4, 2009 9:21 PM | Report abuse

The reason the cost is so high is because the mining company that owns the previously mined and almost worthless land has decided that it's worth tens of millions of dollars.

Instead of just selling it to the federal government at the pre-9/11 market rate they decided to turn it into a money making venture, literally over the graves of those buried there.

So as you people on here berate the families for wanting a memorial to their deceased loved ones, try to think of those that were on the plane and if you would have had the nerve to try to take it over. Would you have been the one to risk your life storming the cockpit against the razor knifes? Or are you just brave when you are running your mouth on message boards and whining about fiscal responsibility?

Posted by: 8-man | March 4, 2009 9:33 PM | Report abuse

Any story on funding for the Flight 93 memorial should at least mention why fundraising has been dead in the water: because Pennsylvanians are flat out refusing to donate another dime to plant a gigantic Islamic-shaped crescent on the Flight 93 crash site?

Remember the big to-do when the Crescent of Embrace was unveiled in 2005? Well they only PRETENDED to change it. They call it a broken circle now, but the unbroken part of the circle, what symbolically remains standing in the wake of 9/11, is completely unchanged. It is still a giant Islamic-shaped crescent, STILL POINTING TO MECCA.

Here is PA state senator Jane Orie, talking to Pittsburgh talk radio host Fred Honsberger in 2007:

Orie: "No matter who it is, and no matter where I went today for 9/11 events, everybody brought up this crescent. Whether it is intentional or not, it is disturbing to people."

Honsberger: "So everyone is bringing it up to you."

Orie: "Absolutely."

The Mecca-orientation of the giant crescent makes it a mihrab: the Mecca-direction indicator around which every mosque is built. This is a terrorist memorial mosque, and it only takes 2 minutes to verify the Mecca orientation for yourself. Just use the prayer-direction calculator at to print out a graphic of the direction to Mecca from the crash site, then place it over the Crescent of Embrace site plan on your computer screen.

For 2 years I have been working with Tom Burnett Sr. (father of Flight 93 hero Tom Jr.) to get this abomination stopped. Why has the Washington Post never even mentioned Mr. Burnett's marathon protest?

Mrs. Burnett came out with a public appeal for a proper investigation just the other week.

Is Dan Eggen paying any attention?

Posted by: AlecRawls | March 4, 2009 11:15 PM | Report abuse

I am the father of Thomas E Burnett Jr who was a passenger on Flight 93. I was on the jury that selected the Crescent of Embrace in 2005. The vote was 9 for the design and 6 against. I spoke out immediately against this design. I did not think we should honor our loved ones at the Flight 93 crash site with Islamic symbols. Let’s not honor the Islamic terrorists that boarded Flight 93. The honor and tribute belongs to the passengers and crew.

Now I ask you, why would a few family members with the help of a paid lobbyist have to lobby Congress? These are the same people who called on my representatives from Minnesota to let them know I didn’t know what I was talking about or that I didn’t see what I saw. They made these calls to discredit me and what I believe. They do not represent me, those few family members.

At a Task Force Meeting in 2008, these same family members listened to one of the family members who is on the family board as well as a commissioner, compare me with the Islamic terrorists because of my opposition to this design. No one, not the NPS, NPF, DOI, or family member had the courage or the common sense to rebuke that person, so I assume they all agreed with him.

This phased Crescent of Embrace design should be thrown out. Who decided we need 2200 acres to honor Flight 93? That’s about 55 acres for each passenger and crew member. What will be the actual cost of this memorial? NSP puts out the figure $58 Million, but that does include the cost of the land, the expenses to operate their offices or projected increases. How many acres are included in this crash site? Why would anyone want to move any of the soil until we identify the entire crash site? This is a cemetery. The memorial will belong to all Americans. This small group now in D.C. has re- hijacked Flight 93 –or, is trying to. Please speak out. Don’t let them do this. The Murdoch design is an abomination.

Why do you think the 40 fought back on Flight 93 ……. they knew that the terrorists plane were on a suicide mission and that Flight 93 was heading for D.C., and they were not going to let that happen. How many lives did they save?

It is apparent to me if I wanted to stop the building of Crescent of Embrace; I needed funds to hired lobbyists and a PR firm. The NPS and the Family Board can afford this hired help …..They just use the taxpayer’s money. That is why they are lobbying Congress …to expense, their time and travel… well as donations from the public. I will keep speaking out against this design and hope that thousands will join me. Let’s stop this horrific design, let’s properly honor the Heroes of Flight 93.

Posted by: tom_burnett7 | March 5, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Thought this would be of interest to readers.

Since September 2001 I have maintained a free and confidential "9/11 list-serv".

The "9/11 list-serv" distributes daily e-mails containing newspaper articles and other relevant information re: 9/11 issues of interest to 9/11 families, 9/11 organizations and interested individuals.

The 9/11 List-serv archives can be accessed at

If you would like to 'subscribe' to this free news service - send an e-mail to with the word "subscribe" in the subject box.


Posted by: arnoldkorotkin | March 5, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps more people would be sympathetic to a less expensive, quiet place to mark the loss. A memorial is intended as a public display, it is the demand for attention and recognition. Public resistance to this kind of expenditure is not based on perceived Muslim references in the memorial. Very few people are even aware of that debate. What people are aware of is that every time "9/11 memorial" is discussed, there are people who think it needs to be bigger, more expensive, more dramatic, more something. What was really needed was simple, respectful, and moderate. In these times, it is ever more clear that 9/11 created a memorial bubble, a spiritual parallel to the materialist bubble that has recently imploded.

Posted by: davestanke | March 6, 2009 12:40 AM | Report abuse

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