As Americans across the nation remember the attacks 10 years ago Sept. 11, congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will be observing an anniversary that brought terrorism to their own backyard.
Special commemorations are planned at two parishes that have unique ties to the crash of United Airlines Flight 93, and at the Episcopal cathedral in downtown Pittsburgh, which will offer visitors a means to connect in a personal way with a specific 9/11 victim.
At St. Francis-in-the-Fields, Somerset, the nearest Episcopal church to where United Flight 93 went down, the 9 a.m. service will include a reciting of the names of those killed in that crash.
“For Somerset County residents, there is sense of both pride and sorrow – pride that we can honor those Flight 93 heroes who died reflecting the best of what America can be, and sorrow for the loss of life that such heroism entails,” said St. Francis’ rector, the Rev. Lenny Anderson.
St. Francis is 12 miles from the rural crash site outside Shanksville.
The Rev. Anderson has encouraged his parishioners to participate in the events scheduled nearby at the new Flight 93 Memorial and at the Flight 93 Chapel, noting “the nascent patriotism of this area is very palpable as Sept. 11 approaches.”
About 25 miles away in Ligonier, the congregation of St. Michael’s in the Valley will pause during the 10:30 a.m. service to hear the church’s steeple bell toll 40 times, one for each passenger and crew member onboard Flight 93. Some parishioners saw the low-flying Boeing 757 pass directly over the church, minutes before it crashed.
St. Michael’s rector, the Rev. Dr. James Simons, was among the first clergy to arrive at the Shanksville site that day. He remained inside the police perimeter after it was sealed and took food to firefighters near the point of impact.
“That experience will remain with me for the rest of my life,” he said. “It was a privilege to provide even a small amount of service to the crews that day.”
Dr. Simons has been invited back as a special guest for the Flight 93 Memorial dedication and anniversary commemoration near Shanksville this year.
For additional information about the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and participating parishes, visit the diocesan website at www.episcopalpgh.org.