Pa. to Cover Flight 93 Site Security

The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 12, 2007; 7:22 PM

PITTSBURGH -- Pennsylvania will pay for security at the Flight 93 crash site to end a dispute over a donation box at the memorial to the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the governor said Tuesday.

Landowner Mike Svonavec said he installed the box to cover security costs at the site near Shanksville. But the cash box angered victims' families, and the National Park Service covered it with a black plastic bag.

Gov. Ed Rendell announced a $120,000 grant to pay for security at the site for two years, saying the victims' families should not have to raise the money themselves.

"It also eliminates any need for donation boxes, which transformed this hallowed ground into something less dignified," Rendell said in a news release.

The Park Service had sent a letter to Svonavec, who owns 273 acres of the site's 1,300 acres east of Pittsburgh, asking him to remove the box. Svonavec said last week that he had no intention of taking it down, and that he has been paying $10,000 per month for security since February. Svonavec did not immediately respond to phone messages Tuesday.

The Park Service's superintendent of the temporary memorial, Joanne Hanley, also did not immediately return a call.

United Airlines Flight 93 was en route from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco on Sept. 11, 2001, when four terrorists hijacked it, likely with the goal of crashing into the White House or the Capitol.

The plane crashed in the western Pennsylvania field as passengers apparently tried rushing the cockpit. All 33 passengers, seven crew members and the hijackers died.

A temporary memorial has been erected near the crash site, and a $58 million permanent memorial and national park are planned. Svonavec has not sold his parcel, but the Park Service has a contract with him allowing the land to be used for the memorial.

Patrick White, vice president of an organization of victims' relatives called Families of Flight 93, said he hoped the governor's announcement could help inspire an agreement about ownership of the land. He said he had been speaking with an attorney representing Svonavec, but that he could not reveal details.

"I think it's fair to say that although we're a willing buyer, it does not appear that as of yet we're working with a willing seller," he said. "But we remain hopeful that given this latest development there may be some opportunity to structure an agreement."

Svonavec has said he was not negotiating with the families, but with the Park Service.


On the Net:

Flight 93 National Memorial Project:

National Park Service Flight 93 National Memorial:

© 2007 The Associated Press