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For Shanksville Landowner, Downing Of Flight 93 On Sept. 11 Is Personal


Fifteen years ago, Tim Lambert went walking on his family's land. The land was outside Shanksville, Pa., where one of four hijacked planes had gone down not long before on 9/11. Lambert made a recording.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: It's so hard to get that comprehension in your mind that something that huge could get down to those kind of little pieces.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: It's like, you know, you got confetti of metal all over the place.

TIM LAMBERT, BYLINE: Don't know what that would've been. It's a piece of luggage. It's a piece of luggage. That's what it is.


LAMBERT: Here's more of it.

INSKEEP: Lambert and others walking outside Shanksville. Fifteen years later, part of the Lambert family land is owned by the National Park Service. And Tim Lambert is the news director of our member station WITF, as listeners there will know. He's on the line. Hi, Tim.

LAMBERT: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What was that land before the crash?

LAMBERT: It was just basically woodlands. It had been in our family since the 1930s. And it was - helped the family get through the Depression. My grandfather sold off pieces of it. He built some of the cabins that still stand there today on the site. And he sold it off. And then he went to Washington in the '40s and helped build the Pentagon.

INSKEEP: Wow. Did you walk that land as a kid?

LAMBERT: I did as a kid - picked blackberries. We used to fish in some of the ponds there. So I have very fond memories of that property.

INSKEEP: What did the property become in the several years after the crash of Flight 93?

LAMBERT: I think that over the years, I kind of looked at it as a role - as our family as being the caretaker of the land until things were sorted out. And the families and the National Park Service decided how to memorialize the 40 passengers and crew members. And now the Flight 93 National Memorial stands there. And it's a beautiful tribute to the heroic actions of those folks.

INSKEEP: We have another excerpt here of your reporting from that land. This is from the 9/11 anniversary in 2006 - so the fifth anniversary. And you met with Ben Wainio and Esther Heymann, who lost their daughter, Honor Elizabeth.


BEN WAINIO: Every time I come here, I just feel good. I feel I'm here with Elizabeth.

ESTHER HEYMANN: I guess for me, it's been cathartic. And it's helped me reach a different place, even though I'm still full of tears.

INSKEEP: Is this a place of pilgrimage the way the 9/11 memorial is in New York City?

LAMBERT: It is. But it also has taken a different feel there. I think because it was in sort of the nation's heartland, in a rural part of Pennsylvania, people go there and use their visit as a time to reflect.

They use their time to relax and just think about that day, think about where they were, think about the passengers and crew. And it gives them a chance to just kind of be in the moment and enjoy the peacefulness, the solitude, nature regenerating over the years.

Instead of this scarred landscape, it is now this beautiful field with high grasses and wild flowers and 60-foot-tall hemlock trees. So it's just a wonderful, peaceful place.

INSKEEP: When you go back and think about that story of Flight 93, what does it mean to you?

LAMBERT: Reflecting back 15 years later, I think that the story of the passengers and crew revolting and trying to take control of the plane back from the terrorists - they came together in about 20 minutes. They came up with a plan. They voted on that plan. And they took action.

And I would hope that that message of cooperation would live on today. Fifteen years later, it's hard to see that message living on. But, you know, these were folks from all over the world who came together and did something great and made - and gave the country something very bright on a dark day.

INSKEEP: Tim, thanks very much.

LAMBERT: You're welcome, Steve.

INSKEEP: Tim Lambert of WITF in Harrisburg, Pa. His family land was right by the site where Flight 93 crashed. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tim Lambert

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