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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 05:26 GMT 06:26 UK
Plane crash touches Pennsylvania
Student banner in support of crash victims
Local students responded with messages of support
By BBC News Online's Kevin Anderson in Pennsylvania

They never thought it could happen in "their cosy corner of the world".

In the mountains and rolling hills of rural Pennsylvania, they somehow felt isolated and insulated from the violence and crime that they saw in the big cities and outside the US.

All that changed last week when one of the four planes hijacked by terrorists ploughed into a field just outside the town of Shanksville.

But while their sense of security has been shaken, their sense of community has been strengthened.

It can happen here

When Andy Demidont watched the planes slam into the World Trade Center towers, the local school superintendent thought: "I'm glad we live in Somerset, that can't happen here".

Messages to families of victims
People left messages at the memorial
But soon after the unthinkable did happen - just a half hour from his community of Rockwood - when Flight 93 blasted a 10-foot deep trench in the Pennsylvania countryside.

The sentiment was echoed by 14-year-old Michael.

"Of all the millions and millions of places in the world, it was Somerset County, the place that I thought was the safest place in the world, my cosy corner of the world," he said.

Like millions all across the US, he lit a candle last Friday and took part in the national day of mourning, but it was not as much as he would have liked to have done.

"I felt kind of helpless that I was not able to take part in the rescue effort," he said.

But as sad and tragic as the terrorists' attacks have been, he does believe that it has brought people together.

"It's just too bad it takes something like this," he said.

The students have sent letters to the families of the victims, collected food to send to New York and held a memorial service.

Families mourn

Memorial services were held on Monday for families of the victims. State troopers saluted them as they rode to the crash site.


I can't think of any other community in this whole world that I'd sooner live in, these people just banded together

Local resident Terry Schaffer
Once there, they wept and left mementos at a memorial including photos, a teddy bear and a flight attendant's jacket, according to Salvation Army officials present.

State police kept the media well away from the mourners.

After visiting the crash site, some 240 relatives of the victims attended a memorial service where First Lady Laura Bush and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge spoke.

"You are not alone," Mrs Bush told the grieving relatives, adding: "All of us, as Americans, share in this grief."

Best place in the world

Terry Schaffer lives only a few miles from the crash site, and he was on the scene soon after the crash.

Memorial outside Shanksville
Some of the passengers are being treated as heroes
The chief of Shanksville Pennsylvania's volunteer fire department arrived to find a plane that was "blown to bits".

"There wasn't a piece larger than a car hood," he said.

But the tragedy has given him a new appreciation of the community of 245 people.

"I can't think of any other community in this whole world that I'd sooner live in. These people just banded together," he said.

Over the last several days, the residents of the town have erected a memorial to the victims of the crash and to the passengers that local residents believe sacrificed their own lives so that thousands of others could be saved.

Based on phone calls made just before the plane went down, people in the area believe that a handful of passengers, knowing that they were already going to die, attempted to retake the plane from the hijackers.

Signs all over the area pay tribute to the heroes of Flight 93.

Betty and Wallace Ullery drove from Cumberland, Maryland, some 50 miles away to place a basket of flowers at the memorial at Shanksville.

Wallace Ullery believes that the hijackers intended to hit either the presidential retreat of Camp David or another target in Washington such as the White House or the Capitol.

But Betty Ullery said: "We believe whoever was on that plane knew the area and knew that they would be sparing a lot of lives by crashing in an unpopulated area."

See also:

17 Sep 01 | Americas
No ordinary commute
17 Sep 01 | Europe
Europe tries to trace its victims
18 Sep 01 | Americas
Hopes fade for missing
Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.


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