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Terror victims remembered on Memorial Day

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

SHANKSVILLE, Pa. -- On a holiday normally reserved for remembering the nation's war dead, victims of the Sept. 11 attacks were given a place of honor alongside soldiers who died in battle.

Memories of the attacks made Memorial Day 2002 particularly painful -- and poignant.

Hundreds of people on Monday visited the western Pennsylvania field where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed after an apparent struggle between hijackers and passengers.

Ernie Philips, 38, a U.S. Navy commander from Woodbridge, Va., who was in the Pentagon when it was struck by another hijacked jet, stopped at the crash site near Shanksville with his wife and two children during a trip home from Ohio.

"These folks, in my mind, saved so many lives," said Philips, standing by a chain-link fence draped with flags, poems and flowers. "They were on the front line. The enemy was right there."

Army veteran Jay Brunot, 67, and his wife, Jean, 66, traveled to the site after attending a holiday parade in Latrobe, about 40 miles away.

"The whole day is supposed to be a recognition of those who died to protect us," Jay Brunot said. Flight 93 passengers, his wife added, "were just as important as the veterans were."

Around the nation

Other Sept. 11 victims were remembered in ceremonies Monday around the nation.

From the deck of a World War II aircraft carrier, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg dropped a wreath into the Hudson River to honor Americans who lost their lives in times of war.

"Do not turn Memorial Day into just a three-day weekend," said Bloomberg during the ceremony aboard the Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum.

"I've gone to way too many funerals over the last several months," he said. "We will get over this but we will never forget. We will not let their lives be lost in vain."

In Burlington, Mass., about 150 residents gathered in a light rain to dedicate a memorial to three men with ties to the Boston suburb who were aboard American Airlines Flight 11 when it struck the World Trade Center.

"Evil tried to obliterate us, but it didn't. The World Trade Center may have been struck down, but we were not destroyed," said Cheryl McGuinness, whose husband, Thomas, was a co-pilot on the doomed flight.

The brick memorial honoring McGuinness, Jay Hayes and James Trentini bears a plaque that reads: "Always Flying High. September 11, 2001. Never to be Forgotten."

The attacks also loomed large in more traditional Memorial Day celebrations.

Gen. Paul Tibbetts, pilot of the plane that dropped the world's first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, encouraged a crowd of about 9,000 in Roswell, Ga., to encourage U.S. soldiers overseas with e-mails and letters.

"Our future now rests in the hands of those people who are over in Afghanistan and that area," Tibbetts, 89, told the crowd.

"It's going to be a long, hard fight."

Peter Shoars, a retired Green Beret who lives in Spotsylvania, Va., said he senses a national pride that wasn't evident when he was serving in Vietnam.

"It's completely different," he said. "In our country, we've had a lot of calm Memorial Day weekends where we never even looked back. We need to honor our deceased veterans, all veterans, and now all people."

In Timonium, Md., six names of people killed in the attack on the Pentagon were added to Children of Liberty Memorial, which was dedicated in 1990 to Maryland military personnel killed by terrorists.

The name of Staff Sgt. Walter "Trae" Cohee of Mardela Springs, Md., also was added. Cohee was killed on Jan. 20 when the helicopter he was riding in crashed outside the Afghanistan capital of Kabul.

"I knew my son was going to be something special, but I never dreamed that he would receive this much attention," said his mother, Jeanne Cohee.

In San Francisco, hundreds gathered at the Presidio national cemetery to lay flower wreaths and watch flyovers by F-16 fighter jets.

Officials in Miami Beach, Fla., said 250,000 people celebrated on the ocean's shores, but noted festivities were somewhat muted this year.

Police arrested 66 people, compared to 102 during the same period a year ago. One man was stabbed in a brawl early Monday but was in good condition. Police said other fights were minor.


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