September 3, 2002, Plain Dealer Reporter, Akron woman is promoting 9/11 memorial, by Michael Sangiacomo, [archive.org web capture May 18, 2003]
- This tiny mining town in the hills of central Pennsylvania is rarely a destination.
It's a place to drive through on the way to Harris burg, Philadelphia or Pitts burgh.
For Sharon Deitrick of Akron, Shanksville was an often-used halfway meeting point with her sister, Karen Deitrick, of Washington, D.C.
Several months ago, a local woman joined the sisters over coffee at a bed and breakfast near town. Susan Hankinson was having trouble raising $500,000 for the Sept. 11 memorial service to honor the men and women who died when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a nearby field.
Sharon Deitrick offered some advice. Hankinson listened. So did other members of the fund-raising committee at a nearby table.
By the end of breakfast, Deitrick agreed to take charge of the memorial fund-raising drive. Her life has not been the same since.
"My interior design business has taken a back seat while I try to raise money," she said.
Dietrick spoke during an early-morning meeting with a California businessman. "I have been driving to Shanksville once a week for months to meet with the fund-raising committee. We only have a short time to go, and we've have not even raised half."
While Deitrick is happy to accept contributions from individuals, her aim is higher: corporations.
"I've been talking to companies, many of which had employees on board Flight 93 or the other planes that crashed," she said. "We're trying to get corporate sponsorship so we can present a memorial service that will do justice to the victims. We're bringing in almost 500 family members of the victims of Flight 93. That's where a lot of the money is going."
Deitrick said raising the money is harder than she expected.
"I know these are hard times, but still I thought it would be easier," she said. "I'm hearing a lot of donor fatigue. Many say they have already given to the funds for the New York victims, but what about these heroes who died in Shanksville?"
To make contributing easier, the Flight 93 Memorial Committee is selling commemorative coins with the names of the passengers and crew of Flight 93 for a $25 donation.
"We can't sell them to individuals, but if a company would like to act as a middleman for the employees, that's fine," she said. "We just don't have the manpower to send out one at a time. If Joe's Fish Market wants to take orders for 5 or 10 and send us a check, that's perfect."
Deitrick said some people have asked why an Ohio woman would be so involved in something so far away. She has an easy answer.
"Flight 93 turned around when it was over Northeast Ohio," she said. "It could have just as easily crashed into Cleveland or Akron as Pennsylvania. People should be thankful that we were spared and are able to help out our neighbors."
D. Keith Grossman, president of Thoratec Corp., of Pleasanton, Calif., was in Cleveland to meet Deitrick and ask what his company could do to help. Grossman said he could do no less. One victim on the flight was his employee and close friend, Tom Burnett.
"We were both in New York that day," Grossman said. "He was supposed to go home on Flight 91 later in the day, but he switched it to get on Flight 93."
"Tom and the others had foreknowledge of what was going to happen, unlike the people on the other planes," Grossman said. "He talked to his wife on his cell phone and told her they were going to wait until the plane was over a rural area before they made their move."
While no one may ever learn what happened in those final moments, it is known that passengers rushed the hijackers and Flight 93 crashed into the Pennsylvania countryside. The impact was so great that tiny pieces of the plane were scattered for miles.
"This was the first victory of the war on terrorism," Grossman said. "They knowingly sacrificed their lives to save others. They won the battle and inspired the nation."
The Flight 93 Committee, made up of people who live in Somerset County, is working on ideas for a permanent memorial at the field in Shanksville. Meanwhile, people have already started one of their own. It lacks professional landscaping and expensive sculptures, but has something else: warmth.
People have come from all over the world to pay their respects to men and women of Flight 93 and leave behind mementos along a metal fence.
The spot where the airliner crashed is a windswept plateau. One small road leads to the site, a partially fenced off field with posted signs asking people not to tread on it.
"One family member said they had nothing to bury, that her husband's remains are scattered over that field," said Deitrick. "It's sacred ground. It should not be disturbed."
Further information on the Sept. 11 observance in Shanksville can be found at www.flt93memorial.org. Information on the Flight 93 memorial coins is available at www.deitrickandassociates.com.
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© 2002 The Plain Dealer. Used with permission.