By JOE MANDAK, ASSOCIATED PRESS
SHANKSVILLE, Pa. — Ceremonies in New York City, Washington, D.C., and the western Pennsylvania field are a reminder that the nation hasn't forgotten survivors and relatives 11 years after the Sept. 11 attacks, Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday.
"We wish we weren't here. We wish we didn't have to be here. We wish we didn't have to commemorate any of this," Biden told relatives and guests at the memorial for United Airlines Flight 93, the jet on which passengers fought hijackers for control amid the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history.
Biden participated in a wreath-laying at the memorial to the doomed jet about 60 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. The names of the 40 passengers and crew were read aloud at 10:03 a.m. – the moment the airplane crashed on Sept. 11, 2001. Investigators later determined terrorists planned to pilot the airliner to Washington, D.C., where another airplane crashed into the Pentagon.
"I also hope it continues to give you some solace that this nation, that all of the people who are gathered here today, that they have not forgotten," Biden said.
Bells of remembrance were rung by surviving family members and community members who became involved in the aftermath of the crash. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar also addressed the gathering.
About 150 family members and invited guests were joined by hundreds of other attendees who began arriving after dawn, some from the rural community now inextricably tied to the events of the day and others making longer trips to pay their respects.
"Every 9/11 I come out to one of the sites," said Robert Hamel, 55, of El Segundo, Calif., wearing a black shirt with the image of the World Trade Center towers on it. Hamel spent the 10th anniversary last year at the New York City ceremony and plans to visit the Pentagon for next year's anniversary.
Don Hillegass, 63, last attended the anniversary ceremony two years ago. The crash site is about 15 miles from his home in the tiny hamlet of Manns Choice.
"It was a situation that happened close to us and is near and dear to the hearts of those in the surrounding area as well as the rest of the country," Hillegass said.
His neighbor, Thomas Fair, 53, was milking cows on his farm when he saw the smoke rising from the wreckage over a nearby hillside.
"I had some noisy equipment running, but my neighbors, they actually heard the noise, the boom of the crash. I seen the World Trade Center falling on TV and seen this live. It makes you think," Fair said.
"I still wonder how someone could be so hateful and do that to someone else," Hillegass said. "It was kind of an eerie feeling that day."