Brother of Flight 93 crash victim keeps memory alive
Sep. 8, 2006
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An Interpreter OnLine Feature By Susan Passi-Klaus*
The wide-open skies over Somerset County in Pennsylvania must surely be a gateway to heaven. And the earth below those skies - blanketed in wildflowers - is most certainly sacred ground.
Five years ago, the peace of this wooded countryside was disturbed when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into an empty field just outside Shanksville, Pa., 150 miles northwest of Washington. Thirty-three passengers and seven crew members died after heroically trying to wrestle away control of the plane from terrorists who had hijacked the Boeing 757.
The rolling acres surrounding the crash site is considered their final resting-place.
Edward Felt was one of the people who died on Sept. 11, 2001. His younger brother, Gordon Felt, is the voice continuing to tell his story.
"I'm terribly concerned that the victims of Sept. 11 aren't forgotten en masse," explained Felt, a member of Clinton United Methodist Church in Remsen, N.Y.
"I think it's important that their unique personalities and lives are remembered individually, and that we don't lose the essence of who these people were - the fathers, the husbands, the wives, the children."
Felt has told his story many times. He can almost narrate the events of the day by rote - until the story gets personal. "It never gets any easier to talk about," he added. "9/11 was five years ago, and a lot of time has passed, but for me, I still haven't reached closure."
The director of a children's camp in Remsen, Felt admitted he still struggles with anger, although it's not directed at a particular religious or ethnic group.
"I'm angry at a group of unstable men who thought that they would take matters into their own hands," Felt said. "And I'm angry that there are people in the world that choose to lash out at innocent victims; that choose to make a statement with no regard whatsoever for the impact that statement has on other people.
"And I struggle with that anger. I try to understand. I try to be forgiving, but my heart has not gotten that far at this point."
Felt said he finds comfort as he helps with the creation of a memorial for Flight 93 victims. The Flight 93 National Memorial Project is administered by an umbrella organization that is raising $30 million in private and public funds, with a grand opening is planned for Sept. 11, 2011. Paul Murdoch and Associates of Los Angeles developed the winning design.
"There's comfort for me, and for other families, in knowing that the final resting place for our loved ones is in such a beautiful place," Felt said.
The memorial will feature a landscaped, bowl-shaped area surrounding the crash site, a Tower of Voices with 40 wind chimes, 40 memorial groves each with 40 Red and Sugar Maple trees, pedestrian trails and a visitor's center. A natural area with wildflowers and grasses will slope down to the sacred ground of the crash site.
"We've preserved the crash site as much as possible for future generations to come and really be able to say, 'This is how it was that day,'" Felt said.
This year on Sept. 11, Gordon Felt will be where he has been every year on the anniversary of the terrorist attack - at the temporary memorial for Flight 93 in Shanksville. He and his family will likely spend time reading some of the thousands of notes and messages of condolence left by the 130,000 yearly visitors to the site.
"It's always an emotional event," Felt said. "I have to go out early and give myself a chance to be alone and to reflect before the lights and microphones are turned on.
"But if it had been me in that crash under those circumstances, I have no doubt that my brother would be doing exactly what I am doing - keeping me alive in his heart and working to create a lasting memorial."
For more information about the Flight 93 National Memorial, visit www.honorflight93.org.
*Passi-Klaus is a freelance writer and publisher based in Nashville, Tenn. This article originally appeared at Interpreter OnLine, <http://www.interpretermagazine> www.interpretermagazine, the Web site for the official ministry magazine for the United Methodist Church.
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