Park Service Gets Land Deals for Flight 93 Memorial
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.
| August 31, 2009; 4:23 PM ET
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