Saturday, September 8, 2007

September 8, 2007 Somerset County and Johnstown, PA

Today was another gut wrenching day. We traveled to rural, mountainous Somerset County, PA and saw the temporary memorial to Flight 93. This is the site where, on September 11, 2001, Flight 93, bound from Newark, NJ to San Francisco, CA, crashed killing all 33 passengers, 7 crew members and 4 hijackers who had been on board. The plane was taken over with the intention of flying it into either The White House or The Capitol. Several crew and passengers were able to use their cell phones to inform authorities and families that they had been hijacked and they were, in turn, advised that two planes had just crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City and now it was confirmed that these crashes had not been accidental. The crew and passengers took a vote and decided to rush the hijackers in order to keep them from crashing into Washington, DC. The plane then crashed, saving the lives of untold numbers of innocent people. "Lets Roll" became a famous saying coming from one of the passengers, starting the actions that took control away from the hijackers. Selfless, humble, bold and brave - those were the people on board Flight 93. It was truly awesome being here with a wide range of types of people who all were so respectful of this site. There was a wall with momentos left by organizations and individuals. The momentos that would be damaged by weather are taken in regularly and preserved by the National Park Service. We then traveled to Johnstown, PA, the site of the great flood of 1889. We started in South Fork, a small town 14 miles upstream from Johnstown. Here the steel magnates from Pittsburgh had built an exclusive club along the Conemaugh River. There was an earthen dam here and the club used it to make a two mile long lake. The dam fell into disrepair and during a tremendous rain storm, the dam was overrun by water. This eroded the earthen dam rapidly and eventually a forty foot tall wall of water was rushing downriver at 35 miles per hour. Johnstown was an industrial town of 30,000 which had withstood floods in the past. They had never faced one this powerful before and after the "ten minutes of hell" were over, at least 2,209 persons were dead, either from drowning, being battered by debris or burned in the ensuing fires. It was fascinating to see the negligence and downright haughtiness that led to this series of fatal events. The exclusive club and its prominent members were never held accountable for any of the actions that led to this tragedy. The last two photographs show before and after shots of the town. These were taken at the Flood Museum.

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