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Former NFL Star Leads Drive for 9/11 Memorial


In the tiny town of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the pain of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks is on simple, but dramatic display. It is here, in a deserted field, that United Airlines Flight 93 crashed after the passengers and crew took on the hijackers who commandeered the plane. In this week's Making a Difference we introduce you to a man who is by using his fame to help build a permanent memorial to the people who lost their lives in Shanksville that Tuesday morning.

Each day, people come from across the country and around the world to this field, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

They listen to the story of Flight 93 and gaze out at the spot where the plane crashed.

Standing with her family close at her side, 11 year-old Gaby DeStefano says she feels the presence of those who died on September 11.

"We came here because it is a place of remembrance," she said. "It is amazing to see how many people have been here. And it is important."

For now, there is only a temporary memorial -- an area near the crash site where rough benches bear the names of the dead. Nearby is a fence, where visitors leave mementos -- a collage of badges, flags, baseball caps, children's toys and small angels made of china and wood.

There are plans for a permanent memorial with a price tag of $30 million -- most of it to buy land and put in infrastructure. The National Park Service, which will build and maintain the Flight 93 National Memorial, hopes to break ground in November. But it is short of meeting its fundraising goal. And that is where Rocky Bleier comes in.

Bleier is an icon in southwestern Pennsylvania. He played professional football for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s and early '80s. Now he is mobilizing the National Football League champions to raise money for the Shanksville memorial.

"You know, I have always felt if you are in a role of leadership and you are in a role of responsibility -- and there is a certain responsibility being a professional athlete, an image -- there is a certain responsibility, giving back to a community that has supported you over the years," Bleier said.

Bleier is giving back by drawing attention to Shanksville with a fundraising event on September 11 at Heinz Field -- the Steelers' home stadium -- one day after the team opens the new American football season.

He says the heroism of the men and women of Flight 93 must not be forgotten.

"It is about 40 people," he said, "who probably were the first combatants in the war on terror -- who had devised a plan and executed a plan and had the courage to follow it through."

That story resonates with the roughly 150,000 visitors who travel to the temporary memorial each year. A permanent Shanksville memorial is scheduled to open on September 11, 2011.

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