Thousands of people gathered in a field near the small town of Shanksville, Pennsylvania to honor those who died one year ago when their hijacked airliner crashed after passengers confronted the hijackers.
In an emotional ceremony on a windy hillside, the 35 passengers and five crew members of United Airlines Flight 93 were praised as patriots and heroes.
National Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge was among the speakers honoring the courage and character of the 40 people who took on the hijackers. "Faced with the most frightening circumstances one could possibly imagine, they met the challenge like citizen soldiers, like Americans," he said. United Flight 93 was heading from Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco, California, last September 11, when hijackers commandeered the aircraft and diverted it toward Washington. It is believed they intended to crash the plane into a national landmark.
Passengers and crew who had heard about the day's attacks on New York's World Trade Center worked together to rush the cockpit. The plane crashed in this field, killing all aboard, but possibly saving numerous lives on the ground.
Mr. Ridge said the unarmed passengers and crew of flight 93 stepped forward when their country needed them. "We do not know how long it will take to defeat the scourge of terrorism, or how many Americans will give their lives for the cause," he said, "but we do know one thing with absolute certainty. The passengers and crew of flight 93 won the first battle."
Some of the family members of those aboard flight 93 spoke at Wednesday's memorial service, titled "A Time for Honor and Hope." Sandy Dahl, the widow of pilot Jason Dahl, told the crowd that adversity does not build character, adversity reveals character; and 11-year-old Murial Borza, the sister of passenger Deora Bodley, called for a moment of silence for worldwide peace.
Later, four U.S. military jets flew overhead in the "missing man" formation. The names of those aboard Flight 93 were read, as a bell tolled 40 times. And 40 white doves were released, in a symbol of peace.
Some time after the ceremony, President Bush came to Shanksville to lay a wreath in a private ceremony at the crash site.