WASHINGTON — It was a day of thanks and thoughts of what could have been, as family members of the passengers and crew of United Flight 93 visited Capitol Hill on Wednesday to honor those who perished aboard the plane eight years ago.
Two days before the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the families were on hand for the unveiling of a large bronze plaque at the Capitol that pays tribute to the people who died when their plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field in the midst of the attacks. Their sacrifice "not only saved countless lives, but may have saved the U.S. Capitol from destruction," the plaque says.
Family members, many wearing buttons with their loved ones' names or holding children born after the attacks, listened as the passengers' names were called.
"I hope that you will visit frequently and that it will be a comfort to you," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. Other speakers recalled the fear and chaos that gripped the Capitol on the day of the 2001 attacks.
The ceremony held special meaning for Paula Nacke Jacobs, 46, of Berlin, Md., who said Wednesday would have been the 50th birthday of her brother, passenger Louis "Joey" Nacke.
"I'm glad that this plaque is being dedicated today, and not only for the passengers and crew of Flight 93, but for everybody," Jacobs said.
Flight 93 was traveling from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco when hijackers took it over with the likely goal of crashing it into the White House or Capitol. The official Sept. 11 Commission report said the hijackers crashed the plane as passengers tried to wrest control of the cockpit.
The plane crashed near Shanksville in rural southwestern Pennsylvania.
Several family members met with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who reiterated his agency's commitment to plans for a National Park Service memorial at the crash site to open on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.