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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

The Friends of Flight 93**

"That's What Friends are For"
(Written for the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat)
Published December 4, 2010*
as "Help Preserve the Legacy of Flight 93"

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey

The most elaborate memorial ever constructed
can only be an empty vessel
unless it is filled with meaning,
by those with aching hearts;
Those who will Never Forget.

For the most important message to the ages
Is not how a memorial was built, or where, or when;
But why.


Friendship is vital to life.  It provides meaning and purpose, and most importantly, support.  It is just as important to a cause as it is to people.

Near Shanksville, a dream is rapidly becoming a reality.  What was the subject of plans and paintings is now taking shape upon the land.  This long and sometimes rocky journey walked by people of vision and dedication will end on September 11, 2011.  On that day, the Flight 93 Memorial will come alive.

9/11 shook the world and rocked America to its very soul.  Almost 3,000 people fell that day, victims to an inconceivable act of violence and hatred.  But in the skies over the Laurel Highlands, a light broke the darkness.  Aboard United Airlines Flight 93, a group of people, strangers all, made a decision.  They stood together and fought back.  Their courageous actions saved perhaps hundreds of lives, and spared us from the visage of our nation’s capitol building, the symbol of our government, reduced to rubble.

In the nine and a half years since, the memory of that event has manifested itself in the structure rising out of a reclaimed strip mine.  When the first phase of that memorial is dedicated on the tenth anniversary of the attacks, many will feel that a finish line of sorts will have been crossed.

But for the Friends of Flight 93, the work is just beginning.

Friends groups are volunteers who assist the National Park Service through a variety of supporting activities at NPS sites across the country.  The Flight 93 Friends began as a nascent group of individuals who donated their time, talents, and energy to the task of preserving the memory for the future.  About a year ago, that group of volunteers became the Friends of Flight 93.  The group, now 109 members strong, has been busy, mostly behind the scenes. 

But in August when the Memorial Task Force was sunsetted, the Friends moved to center stage. 

So what does a Friends group do?  For this group, the committees tell the story.  September 11th Ceremony committee, Special Events, Fundraising, Finance and Audit, Education, Membership, Memorial and Lands Stewardship, Nominating, and Communications.  These committees were established this past summer, but they have already completed a number of projects, with many more on the way.  Now a 501(c)3 organization, it has a formal management structure including a board and that host of committees staffed by volunteers. 

It is a special group of people.  Not because of their positions in the community.  but because they have stepped up to the cause of preserving the memory of 9/11 and Flight 93.  Their talents are many and varied, but the one thing all share in common is a willing heart.

The Friends group will hold their annual meeting at the Historic Somerset Trust Building at the corner of West Union Street and North Center Avenue on Monday, December 6th at 6 p.m.  The public is invited to attend.  There is no minimum or maximum commitment.  Whether you only have only a couple hours each month, or more than 50, you are welcome.  And if you have specific talents to offer, or nothing more than your time and effort, all contributions are welcome.  It is an opportunity to participate in something of great meaning locally and across the world.

Time dims memory.  As the years pass, events become shrouded in the mists of the past.  As old generations pass and new generations are born, memories become history.  The Friends of Flight 93 will be there to support the memorial; to pass the memory forward and keep this story of courage alive.  The Friends of Flight 93 will work to ensure that America will honor, for generations to come, the sacrifice of forty courageous people.

And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not,
shall come to this field to ponder and dream;
and the power of the vision will pass into their souls."
--Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain


Come.  Listen.  And consider joining.

Help preserve this legacy.

*************************************************************************

"Friends, Indeed"
(Written for the Somerset Daily American)
Published December 4, 2010*
as "Help Preserve Sept. 11"

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey

The most elaborate memorial ever constructed
can only be an empty vessel
unless it is filled with meaning,
by those with aching hearts;
Those who will Never Forget.

For the most important message to the ages
is not how a memorial was built, or where, or when;
But why.


Friendship brings meaning to life.  This is just as true for a cause as it is for people.

In a reclaimed strip mine near Shanksville, a dream is coming true.  For the last several years, what were plans and paintings is now taking shape upon the land.  And a journey that was undertaken by people of dedication and courage will be complete on September 11, 2011.

9/11 was an event that forever changed the world.  Almost 3,000 people fell, their lives taken by an act of violence and hatred that shook Americans to their souls.  But in the midst of that dark day, a light shown in the skies over the Laurel Highlands.  Aboard United Airlines Flight 93, a group of strangers made a decision to stand together and fight back.  Their courageous actions saved perhaps hundreds of lives, and spared us from the heart-rending sight of our nation’s capitol building, the symbol and the heart of our government, reduced to rubble.

In the nine and a half years since, the memory of that event has driven the development of the structure now rising out of what was once a common field.  When the first phase of that memorial is dedicated on the tenth anniversary of the attacks, a finish line of sorts will have been crossed.

But for the Friends of Flight 93, the work has just begun.

Throughout the National Park Service groups of volunteers have partnered with the NPS, supporting activities connected with the particular memorial sites.

The Flight 93 Friends began as a small group of individuals who donated their time, talents, and energy to carry forward the memory of the heroic acts by the 40 passengers and crew of Flight 93.  About a year ago, that group of volunteers was formalized into the Friends of Flight 93 Memorial.  The group, now 109 members strong, has been busily engaged, mostly behind the scenes. 

But when the Memorial Task Force was sunsetted in August, the Friends group moved to center stage. 

Earlier this year, the group established a formal organization, including a board and a host of committees.  The group was also accorded 501(c)3 status by the IRS.  

So what does a Friends group do?  For this group, the list of committees tells the story.  There is a September 11th Ceremony committee, Special Events, Fundraising, Finance and Audit, Education, Membership, Memorial and Lands Stewardship, Nominating, and Communications.  These committees were established only this past summer, but they have already executed a number of projects and plans, with many more on the way.

These is a special group of people, not because of their positions in the community, but because they stepped up to the mission of preserving the memory of 9/11 and Flight 93 to future generations.  The members possess a myriad of talents; but all share one thing in common: willing hearts.

The Friends group will hold their annual meeting at the Historic Somerset Trust Building, corner of West Union Street and North Center Avenue, one of the Seven Domes of Somerset, on December 6th at 6 p.m.  The public is invited to attend.  There is no minimum or maximum commitment.  Even if you only have a couple hours each month, or more than 50 you are welcome.  Whether you have specific talents to offer, or just your time and effort, all contributions are welcome.  It is an opportunity to participate in something of great meaning, not only here, but across the world.

Memory fades.  Over the years, events become shrouded in the misty past.  What was a powerful memory to one generation becomes merely history to the next.  The Friends of Flight 93 are committed to keep the memory fresh and personal; to keep alive the courage of the passengers and crew and their inspirational unity.  The efforts of the Friends group will help ensure that this nation will honor that sacrifice for generations to come.

Come.  Listen.  And consider joining.

With your help, this memory will become a worthy legacy.


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