Pennsylvania Firefighters Share Bond With Flight 93 Families

Firefighters and first responders from Somerset County share a bond with the families of the passengers and crew of Flight 93.SHANKSVILLE, Penn. -- Firefighters and first responders from Somerset County share a bond with the families of the passengers and...

The impact of Sept. 11 is still being felt by the local firefighters, especially those in Shanksville. "Those other departments(FDNY and Alexandria) had PIOs. We don't," Shaffer said. "We weren't used to the media or the crowds."

Shaffer said he understands the public's curiosity. "People stop, and want to know about it. Some firefighters seem to be shying away. Others, however, realize that we need to be here for the people, especially the families."

In turn, the families and firefighters have struck up strong relationships. The sisters of the co-pilot always stop by the fire house during their annual pilgrimage to the site.

Shanksville's new tanker, a Kenworth chassis with a New Lexington body, is dedicated to the heroes of Flight 93. There are flags and logo on the rig as well as red, white and blue hose. A plague above one of the pump panels lists the names of the 9/11 heroes.

A local woman made a black cover for one side of the rig. "United We Stand" is sewn into the tarp type material. Forty American flags surround the words. Some family members have written little messages on the flags. However, the elements have left many smudged.

Shaffer said he was astounded when he received a call from APATSCO, an organization representing rural communicators. "They gave us $60,000 toward the purchase of that tanker."

Members said they wanted to give the money to a department that was in need, and Shanksville fit the bill just right. The group flew Shaffer and his family to Hawaii to accept the donation and make a presentation about the rural fire company's story.

The local crews also have forged new relationships with firefighters from across the nation. Last month, FDNY firefighters donated and erected a monument of WTC steel in Shanksville.

On Thursday, firefighters from Michigan, Chicago, Maryland, Ohio, Washington, D.C. and others stopped by the station. Some traded patches, while others checked out the equipment, snapped a few pictures and said prayers at the monument.

Shaffer said the exposure to other departments has been beneficial to members of his department.

Brad Zearfoss, a member at Shanksville, said the memorial site is inspiring. "Every year, hearing those stories gives me chills..."

Shanksville Deputy Chief Brad Shober said he hoped the people who attended the ceremonies Thursday did so for the families of Flight 93, not for John McCain.

"People come here to pay their respects," he said. "If I can make that trip a little bit easier, that's good..."

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