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World & Nation

‘We will never forget them': A tribute to the Flight 93 passengers who died on 9/11

Shanksville, Pa., memorial

A visitor takes a picture of the boulder that marks the crash site of United Flight 93 after a service of remembrance at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., on Friday.

(Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)

The fate of Flight 93 is American lore now, a chapter of heroism and sadness that has become one of the most potent stories of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

The flight to San Francisco took off from Newark, N.J., at 8:42 a.m. that day carrying 33 passengers, two pilots, five flight attendants -- and four hijackers.

After the hijackers took control of the jet, the passengers, using their phones to call officials and loved ones, learned about the three other hijacked jets that rammed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that morning.

They decided to take back control of the plane, which officials suspect may have been headed for the U.S. Capitol.

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“Everyone’s running up to first class. I’ve got to go. Bye,” one caller said as the passenger assault began at 9:57 a.m.

The hijackers cried “Allah is the greatest! Allah is the greatest!” and then steered the plane into the earth at 580 m.p.h., just 20 minutes’ flying time from Washington, D.C.

This year’s anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks also marks the opening of the Flight 93 National Memorial at the site where the hijacked Boeing 757 crashed in a field outside Shanksville, Pa.

Hundreds gathered for the opening of the $26-million, 2,200-acre visitor center as construction continues at the memorial marking the jet’s crash site.

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The building sits on a hill overlooking the crash site and the Wall of Names memorializing the 40 who died. A dark stone pathway marks the flight’s path and bisects the memorial designed by Los Angeles architect Paul Murdoch. A stone marks the exact crash site.

The visitor center includes a seating chart showing where the passengers and hijackers had begun the flight and also features audio of last phone calls to loved ones made by two passengers and a flight attendant before they tried to retake the plane.

Another exhibit presents the view from the rear cabin of a Boeing 757, an attempt to show what the cabin looked like from the passengers’ perspective.

Officials trying to restore the crash site, which also contains a former mine, have planted memorial groves. They hope to build a 93-foot tower containing 40 wind chimes in 2017.

At a somber ceremony Friday, each of the victims’ names were read aloud, followed by the tolling of a bell.

“Forty names -- they are much more than just names,” National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in a televised ceremony. “They’re friends, they’re family, fellow travelers, heroes. Their memories live on in this field -- in their photos, and in their voices and in their actions -- in this amazing new visitors’ center. We will never forget them.”

Follow @MattDPearce for national news.

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