CHURCH HILL – Twenty years ago, the life of former Church Hill resident Jerry Bingham changed forever when his son Mark and 39 other members of Flight 93 gave their lives to thwart a terrorist attack on the capital of our country.
Every September 11 for the first decade after the 2001 terrorist attacks, Bingham and his wife, Karen, visited the former surface mine property near Shanksville, Pa., Where Flight 93 crashed.
Each year the location was a little different, whether it was the addition of new memories left by recent visitors or, more recently, the completed work on the permanent memorial.
The first visits were aimed at dealing with their grief, anger and the pain of losing their loved one.
Jerry told The Times-News in 2011 that the 10th anniversary trip was more about preserving the legacy of the 40 heroes of Flight 93 and thanking everyone who played a role in creating the 9/11 memorial.
“I’m sure all of those emotions will come back, but it’s really more about thanking everyone, not just for their contributions, but for their time and effort,” he said. “Nothing we do will bring back my son or the other sons and daughters who perished on Flight 93. What we can do is make sure their sacrifices are not forgotten, and I hope that is what we did by creating this memorial. “
On Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, the United States came under attack when four commercial airliners were hijacked and used to strike ground targets. Almost 3,000 people lost their lives. Due to the actions of the 40 passengers and crew aboard one of the planes, Flight 93, the attack on the nation’s capital was foiled.
The site, which commemorates Mark Bingham and the other heroes of Flight 93, will host a special 20th anniversary ceremony.
At 10:03 a.m., as Flight 93 crashed, the names of passengers and crew will be read, remembrance bells will ring, and a wreath will be placed on the name wall. At the end of the wreath laying, the ceremonial door will be opened and family members will proceed to the accident site.
Jerry was part of the second jury that selected the final design for the memorial. The first jury of family members and volunteers narrowed the list of potential designs from 1,500 to five.
“The design that we thought was the best was made to fit the property,” he said in 2011. “There is a large lake and different elevations overlooking the crash site. sacred area where the plane crashed is still the same. We haven’t changed that. It will always be that way. “
The focal point of the first phase is a marble wall made up of 40 assembled marble panels, each dedicated to one of the 40 passengers or crew who perished.
The completed memorial includes a tower, 40 groves of trees and a flowery meadow called the Field of Honor. The architect of the memorial, Paul Murdoch, said the purpose of its design was “… to restore life here to heal the earth and nourish our souls.”
“I remember shortly after the attacks I sat down and thought about what this place (crash site) would be like 10 years from now, and to be honest I didn’t think we would get there,” said Jerry a decade ago. . “Especially if they were counting on me to do all this paperwork related to joining the national park system. Fortunately, there were a lot of people there, and it’s special that the heroes’ family got to be part of the creation of this memorial along with all the other organizations and volunteers.
“I think it will honor the 40 heroes and I think the dedication will be very special in honor of those who have died. We never want to forget what happened that day. It could happen again. “
Mark was 31 when he died in the plane crash. He was a public relations manager who founded his own company and had offices in New York and San Francisco. He was flying on United Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco to attend a wedding. He was supposed to catch the plane the day before but had missed his flight after attending a party.
Mark was actually the last passenger to board, barely making the flight, as shown in the 2006 film “United 93”.
Jerry was living in Florida at the time of the attacks and lived in Church Hill in 2006.
The final phase of the memorial involves the construction, assuming funds can be raised, of a 93-foot-high tower that will contain 40 wind chimes which will be called the Tower of the Voice.
“The last thing we’re putting in place is the 40 bells, and if all goes according to plan, they will be dedicated to the 20th anniversary in 2021,” Jerry said. “I hope to live another 10 years to see it all.
Regarding the death of Osama bin Laden, Jerry said: “It doesn’t bring us to a conclusion but it relieves us a bit, and maybe we won’t have to think about it every day. I’ll never stop thinking about my son, or the pain of losing him, but at least we know that justice has been served to the man behind his death.
Mark was reportedly among the passengers who attempted to storm the cockpit to prevent hijackers from using the plane to crash into its intended target, which was believed to be the White House or the Capitol in Washington, DC
Mark briefly called his mother, Alice Hoglan, shortly before the plane crashed. Jerry tried calling his son shortly after the World Trade Center bombings to find out how far his son’s new New York office was from Ground Zero. It wasn’t until around 11:30 a.m. that night that Jerry got a call from Mark’s uncle with news that Mark had been killed in the attacks.
“He was just a kindhearted guy,” Jerry said. “He loved people and people loved him. He always had respect for people. If you met him, you won’t forget him. He was one of those kinds of personalities.
He added, “My son was just a guy having a good time who was loved by everyone who met him, and he didn’t deserve to die so young. But he died a hero and he helped save the lives of many who would have died if these terrorists had accomplished their mission. It makes us proud to know that he came down rocking. It was the first battle against terrorism.