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Park Service Gets Land Deals for Flight 93 Memorial

By Ed O'Keefe

Family members of a United Flight 93 victim visit a makeshift memorial at the site where the plane crashed on Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo by Reuters)

Updated 4:30 p.m.

The National Park Service will pay about $9.5 million to eight landowners that own property needed to complete the first phase of the National Flight 93 Memorial in Somerset County, Pa., the Interior Department announced Monday. The agreement should allow the memorial to be built by Sept. 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Seven of the eight property owners have signed negotiated settlements, while the eighth, Svonavec Incorporated, awaits a court decision on fair compensation for the hundreds of acres it owns on the site. The Justice Department is expected to file the necessary court documents in the next two weeks, according to the Park Service.

Just days before the end of the Bush administration, the government struck a deal with Svonavec allowing a court to decide a sale price for its land. Negotiations with the company had stalled for so long that the advocacy group Families of Flight 93 asked President George W. Bush to personally intervene during his final weeks in office and allow the federal government to seize the land needed for the memorial.

On Monday, group spokeswoman Lisa Linden said the families were "tremendously relieved" that a deal had been reached.

“The fields of western Pennsylvania, where the heroes of Flight 93 perished, are hallowed ground for a grateful nation,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement announcing the deals. "Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the landowners, the Families of Flight 93 and the employees of the National Park Service, we have reached this important milestone."

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) -- who introduced legislation in 2002 to establish the memorial -- also praised the deal. Specter invited Salazar and Park Service officials to meet with the property owners in June in hopes of delaying plans to declare eminent domain. Salazar agreed to a delay and later met again with landowners before the Park Service secured the agreements.

The Park Service plans to hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the memorial in November.

United Flight 93 crashed near Shanksville, Pa., on Sept. 11, 2001, killing all passengers and crew members and four hijackers. Transcripts from the cockpit voice recorder later showed that passengers and crew members attempted to retake the plane and divert it from its intended target, believed to be one of several Washington, D.C., landmarks.

By Ed O'Keefe  | August 31, 2009; 4:23 PM ET
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Another waste of tax dollars. This money would be better spent on existing parks versus a 9-11 memorial that will sit empty. The victims' families have graves and settlement money to console them. Who will know what this 9-11 site stands for 20 years from now? Why not turn the airports into national parks? The planes did take off from them.

Posted by: rcvinson64 | August 31, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: TheBabeNemo | August 31, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

rcvinson64 - What is your problem? You don't think that the sacrifice made by these brave Americans is worth commemorating? I remember all too well walking across Washington on that morning, to get my wife and infant son out of the city. Both were in a federal building near the Capitol, and I was terrified that another attack would hit. The passengers of Flight 93 gave their lives so that America would not see the White House or Capitol aflame. You are so cynical and heartless that I urge you to visit the Shanksville memorial two years from now so that you may understand their sacrifice.

Posted by: kmacva | August 31, 2009 9:09 PM | Report abuse

I agree that this is an over-expensive use of tax dollars. A small memorial is appropriate. Not one costing over $60 million dollars.

I also think that the government should only take land when absolutely necessary. The landowners here were forced to sell their land to the government, and some of their land runs deep with their families. It is an abuse of power to take land in this situation.

Posted by: chrisny2 | September 1, 2009 1:53 AM | Report abuse

My friends Marion Britton and Waleska Martinez are in that field for eternity. I'm biased in favor of the memorial, I guess.

Posted by: hailwood1 | September 1, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

I feel so sad for the families who lost loved ones in the loss of flight 93 but didn't anyone see the pictures and vidoes of the area when the medical examiner was asked about the recovery effort of the victims and he said that there were no bodies or body parts to recover. Did anyone notice their was no wreckage, no plane parts, no titanium engine parts, no landing gear parts, nothing, but a hole in the ground. When planes crash there is always wreckage, here there was nothing but scraped fields. The roadblock to learning about anything is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge. Everyone saw this site but that's all that was there, a site. But the news said this is where flight 93 crashed so everyone believes this to be true. It's like the guy who witnesses say is the killer and twenty years latter they find out he only looked like the killer.

Posted by: broooks747 | September 1, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

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