At the beginning of last week a couple of cancellation notices for Tribute Center tours appeared in my inbox. I decided to take those two tours as I wasn’t scheduled to give any walking tours this week or next. But let me give you a little back story that plays into this story. A friend who is now a Pastor in Irwin had invited me to speak to his congregation. So on September 12 I drove from my daughter’s home to the Irwin, PA which is just outside of Pittsburgh. My friend had mentioned that maybe on Saturday afternoon, we along with his wife and three young children could drive to Shanksville, PA to the United 93 Memorial. I agreed that I would like to visit the Memorial again as I had been there in August of 2011. I had seen the Memorial Plaza but the rest of the Memorial and the visitor center were not completed until this September.
I arrived in Irwin a little later than originally expected but after a lovely late lunch we drove the hour to Shanksville. My friend and his wife asked if I could explain a little bit about United 93 so their children would understand where we were going. Their adorable children are very young – 2 1/2, 6 and 7 years-old. In the simplest of terms I spoke of bad men taking over a plane and how the people on the plane knew the bad men were going to do something really bad and hurt many people so they tried to stop them. I said the plane crashed and that was very sad. We talked about what a Memorial is. I mentioned also that it is safe and fun to go on airplanes.
When we arrived we walked through the new area. A National Park Ranger informed us we had arrived too late to go in the visitor center. Since I am not one to “play the 9/11 card” it was sometime later when I realized this may have been the occasion to say “I am a 9/11 family member.” The weather was not the best and we were getting cold. Anyway we drove down to the Memorial Plaza area. My friend again asked if I could explain so his children understood. In the Memorial Plaza area there are posters that show photos of the 40 people killed on United 93 as well as other information. I called the children over to show them the photos of the passengers. I pointed to Todd Beamer and Jeremy Glick and commented that these were two of the men that helped to take the plane back. I comment that all the people were brave. I mentioned that these two people went to my cousin’s church (actually my husband’s cousin’s church).Look! All the people in the photos are smiling that is how their families want to remember them. My friend’s 7-year-old daughter, Sarah * said “this lady is wearing flowers.” I looked and realized the woman was from Hawaii. And upon further investigation we realized there were two ladies wearing flowers, two ladies from Hawaii. I talked about leis and how beautiful the ladies looked. How far away Hawaii is. I mentioned let’s look for this lady’s name when we go up to the wall. Sarah read the name “Christine”. As we walked towards the wall we stopped and looked on the shelves where people left remembrances. “How many flags?” “How many bracelets?” At one point the children were running ahead. My friend was concerned that they weren’t showing respect or were disturbing other people. I said “They are being children. Children are our hope. As a 9/11 family member I am fine with the way they are acting. Now if they were 10 or 12 years old that would be a different story.” When we arrived at the wall we found Christine’s name there were flowers in front of her name.
Fast forward to Thursday as I finish my tour a woman comes up to thank me. She is obviously upset and I ask if she is okay and she mentions she lost a good friend on flight 93. In conversation I realize her friend is Christine. I tell her of a little girl named Sarah who paid respect to her friend Christine. We hugged. And not for the first time and I pray not for the last time I was blessed by the amazing “coincidences” God allows me to experience.
*Sarah is not her real name. FYI: I was able to share this story with my friend and we are all amazed and will never forget Christine.