SHANKSVILLE, Pa. -- President Barack Obama arrived at the Flight 93 Memorial crash site 10 years and two hours after passengers and crew fought with terrorists who had hijacked the aircraft and crashed into a western Pennsylvania meadow.
The president and first lady Michelle Obama laid a wreath at the memorial wall with the names of the 40 passengers and crew etched in white granite panels along the flight path. They paused, heads bowed, for a few moments, then met hundreds of people at the observance, along with family members of those on the plane.
Among them was Doris Gronlund of Sag Harbor, whose daughter, Linda Gronlund, died in the crash.
"This is a wonderful memorial," Doris Gronlund said. "Very respectful and a nice monument to the 40 wonderful heroes."
She said she hoped people would visit the memorial and realize "what a wonderful country we have that those 40 people were willing to give their lives for it."
She and her daughter, Elsa Strong, said the victims' families have bonded in the decade since the crash and share a special love. The residents of Shanksville and the surrounding towns also have taken the memorial and the families as their own.
Obama spent nearly an hour meeting with family members. By the time he arrived, the morning fog had given way to sunshine and scattered clouds, and the formal part of the commemorative service was over.
The president did not speak. He spent several minutes walking in the field where the plane had crashed, hand-in-hand with his wife.
Terry Shaffer, chief of the Shanksville Fire Department, was among the first on the scene 10 years ago. "There was just lots of scattered debris and a smoldering hole," Shaffer, 55, recalled.
Roxanne Sullivan's house is a quarter mile from the memorial and sits within the confines of the new national park at the site.
"I don't know why they fell here, but they did and we have to take care of them," said Sullivan, 51, a former school van driver. "They are in my back yard."
"On behalf of the families, I thank you," he said, looking out at the hillside where many were sitting. The family members stood, turned toward the crowd and clapped.
Current Gov. Tom Corbett, in his tribute, said, "Today our Capitol stands, the city of Washington is intact . . . because of the sense of will and purpose of 40 Americans."