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November 14, 2007 > Union City Honors Heroes of United Flight 93

Union City Honors Heroes of United Flight 93

By Emma Victoria G. Blanco
Photos By Michael Emerson

On Saturday, Dec. 8 history will be made in Union City as the city hosts the Dedication of the Flight 93 Memorial.

The Memorial consists of a remembrance stone for each person whose life was lost on September 11, 2001 (9/11) when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Each stone exemplifies that each person was more than just a moment in history, or a person linked to such a horrifying event. Engraved on each stone are a hero's name, age, and hometown. Above the engraving is a polished titanium-coated stainless steel plate with a mirror finish, which will allow the viewer to reflect on his/her own image, provoking the thought that it could have been any one of us aboard Flight 93 that day. To symbolize their "unfinished" lives, only the front sides of the stones are polished. There are 40 stones altogether, representing the 33 passengers and 7 members of the flight crew. Each stone weighs a ton (2,000 pounds) and measures 8 feet tall, 8 inches thick and 30 inches wide.

The Memorial begins at a "Circle of Remembrance," where two story boards (featuring a guide to the Memorial and the story of Flight 93) and a donor/sponsors board are located. At the center of the Circle of Remembrance will be an American Sweet Gum tree. Ken Nacke (brother of hero Louis Joseph Nacke II) donated 30 pounds of dirt from the actual crash site of Flight 93, which will be poured underneath the tree's roots as it is installed. Planting of the tree is set for Friday, Nov. 16 at 10 a.m.

The walkway "flows" by each stone allowing visitors to step off the path and individually contemplate and pay respects to that memorialized individual. Along the path are six "reflection benches" and bordering the benches, grass symbolizing amber waves of grain. Flowers planted along the path and around the Memorial will illustrate rebirth, and hope for the future. The Memorial ends at the "Circle of Hope" where the American flag stands, symbolizing the heroes' bravery and courage. The flag will be surrounded by a circle of hundreds of tiles that local high school students hand-painted with their visions of the future.

"They're not victims, they are heroes!" Michael L. Emerson, the originator of the Flight 93 Memorial, says emphatically. Emerson is a man on a mission: to remember and honor the heroes of the 9/11 attacks, especially the heroes of United Flight 93.

A few days after 9/11, Emerson obtained of a partial list of the passengers on Flight 93 and instantly felt a connection to them and their story. He contacted some of the passengers' family members, offered his condolences and support, and gradually forged friendships. A trip to Ground Zero in New York City the following Fourth of July cemented his desire to do something for the heroes of Flight 93. Upon his return to the Bay Area, he contacted Flight 93 family members again and told them about his idea to build a local memorial since many of the passengers were from the Bay Area. The families thought it was a great idea and gave him a supportive "go-ahead" to spearhead the project. Carole O'Hare (daughter of hero Hilda Marcin) says, "Michael has spent extraordinary time and energy into making this happen. He's been very thoughtful when it comes to what the families want and has been working hard on all different levels. I think that's very much appreciated by the family members."

In 2002, Emerson, a resident of Hayward Hills, contacted the City of Hayward and presented his idea, but the city was not interested in his proposal. Not to be deterred, he wrote a letter to the City of Union City. Union City was ecstatic about the idea. They offered three park locations for consideration: two parks off of Mission Blvd. and the Sugar Mill Landing Park. The latter's proximity to Union Landing and 880 Freeway made it the ideal site for the Memorial. After the final design (donated by San Francisco-based architect, Robert Mowat) received approval from Union City's parks, arts, and city councils, Emerson proceeded to implement the plan and approached local and national vendors and laborers.

All materials, equipment and services that went into the construction of the Memorial (from the special concrete to the granite stones, to the shipping, delivery and engraving of the stones, and to the Alameda County Unions and Teamsters' time and labor) are largely donated. Fundraising efforts by Emerson, fellow donation collector Mary Greenlee, and other volunteers yielded close to $25,000. Approximately $5,000 has been used for equipment rental and miscellaneous building expenses. Emerson plans to give the remaining $20,000 to the City of Union City in a trust for the sole purpose of maintaining the Memorial.

Currently, 98 percent of the Memorial is complete. Most of what remains to be done is landscaping, including the delivery and planting of the sweet gum tree. Existing trees surrounding the Memorial will be trimmed to allow an unobstructed view from the street. Low-wattage lighting will spotlight each of the stones, the walkway, the tree and the flagpole through-out the night.

Donation activities for the Union City Flight 93 Memorial have been completed, but Emerson hopes that "Bay Area citizens will continue to open their hearts and wallets for the National Memorial." Recently, the National Parks Services Foundation and the families of the heroes of Flight 93 recommended the appointment of Emerson to the Flight 93 National Memorial's Steering Committee. This committee will work to collect funds for the national memorial and supervise its construction at Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Families of the fallen heroes, local VIP politicians and celebrity guests are expected to attend the dedication. "It's heartwarming to know that people want to remember. It's great to know that there is something here for the families who live in the (Bay) area," says O'Hare, a Danville resident. Everyone is encouraged to attend and to be part of history. The Dedication Planning Committee is still looking for celebrity singers to sing the National Anthem, Amazing Grace and America The Beautiful, as well as local videographers to donate their time and services to capture the event on film. Interested parties can contact Michael L. Emerson at

Up-to-date pictures of the Memorial and drawings of its design can be viewed on the Memorial's website at

Dedication of the Flight 93 Memorial
Saturday, Dec 8
11 a.m.
Sugar Mill Landing Park, Union City

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