Flight 93 Memorial Fire Damage Tallied

Three Congressional Gold Medals, including one for Flight 93, were awarded during a Sept. 10 ceremony in the Capitol Visitor Center. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The National Park Service has completed its inventory of items lost in the Pennsylvania fire that destroyed the flag  flown above the Capitol on Sept. 11, 2001.  

Personal mementos from the 33 passengers and seven crew members killed when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed near Shanksville, Pa., plus hundreds of original photos on loan from victims' family members, were among the items lost in the Oct. 3 fire. A boarding pass and a parking receipt from Newark International Airport, plus various identification cards, were also destroyed.  

While the blaze ravaged three buildings at the headquarters of a memorial being built on the crash site, the Congressional Gold Medal posthumously awarded to the victims remains intact for permanent display at the Flight 93 National Memorial Visitor Center scheduled to be dedicated in September 2015. “These items are irreplaceable and we are devastated by their loss,” Jeff Reinbold, superintendent of Flight 93 National Memorial, said in an Oct. 24 statement. “Nonetheless, this only strengthens our resolve and commitment to create a memorial that reflects the lives and heroic actions of the 40 passengers and crew members and fully tells the story of Flight 93.”  

House and Senate leaders bestowed the medal on Sept. 10, in a Capitol ceremony that paid tribute to the heroes who thwarted a terrorist hijacking. Former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., recently said he thought the plane was headed right for his office window .  

As part of the Fallen Heroes of 9/11 Act, which became law in 2011, three medals were struck in honor of the men and women who perished as a result of the attacks. In addition to the medal provided to the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania, one went to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York, and another to the Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, Va.  

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, according to authorities, though arson and foul play have been ruled out. Also lost were approximately 100 visitor tributes and items from the 2001 investigation and recovery of Flight 93 that were being considered for the exhibit. These include items donated by the FBI and others that responded to the crash.  

Approximately 90 percent of the memorial's collection is housed at a high-security facility in the Pittsburgh area, but the fire struck when the items were in a "temporary curatorial storage and processing area" at the memorial headquarters, according to the NPS statement. Memorial staff were preparing for a late October visit from exhibit curators for the new visitor center.  

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