WASHINGTON – Family members of those aboard United Flight 93 said Wednesday they were confident they would get federal funds to build a memorial where the plane crashed in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001, — despite opposition from a key lawmaker.
Rep. Charles H. Taylor, R-N.C., chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Interior Department, has blocked funding to buy land for the memorial the last two years, and has expressed concerns about funding it when it comes before his committee next week.
The White House has requested $5 million for the nearly 1,700-acre site in rural western Pennsylvania as part of a larger spending bill.
Patrick White, whose cousin was on the hijacked plane, said he stopped by Taylor's office Wednesday and received a "very favorable" reception from his staff.
"We've had a dialogue with his office since last year and we're just looking to continue that process," White said.
A day before the families arrived on Capitol Hill, Taylor issued a three-page statement in which he said he was troubled by the project's size and cost, and was concerned additional federal funding might be needed if not enough private dollars were raised. "We will make sure those people who sacrificed will get a realistic and lasting tribute," Taylor said.
When asked about the memorial Wednesday, Taylor's press secretary referred reporters back to Tuesday's statement.
White and eight other family members of those onboard were joined at a Capitol Hill press conference Wednesday by Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., whose district includes the crash site, and Pennsylvania Republican Sens. Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum.
All three said they would fight to fund the memorial, and were confident money would be available.
Shuster said Taylor is "coming around." He said he also had positive conversations with Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
David Beamer, whose son Todd Beamer was on the flight, said the crash site is both a battleground and a burial ground that signifies "our first successful counterattack" to the Sept. 11 attacks.
"I encourage all of you, my fellow Americans and free people everywhere, to support the project," Beamer said.
The White House has requested $5 million for the nearly 1,700-acre site in rural western Pennsylvania as part of a larger spending bill. Project backers are planning to seek an additional $5 million next year.
The memorial is estimated to cost nearly $58 million — $30 million of which is to be raised by private donations. Of the $30 million, about $7.5 million has been raised since a campaign started last year, according to a memorial spokeswoman.
Some of the family members had traveled to Washington from New York, where the movie "United 93" premiered Tuesday night at the Tribeca Film Festival. Trailers for the movie encourage people to donate to the Flight 93 Memorial Fund, and some proceeds from the movie are being pledged to the memorial.
The flight was en route to San Francisco from Newark, N.J., when the hijackers took over, probably with the goal of crashing the plane into the White House or the Capitol. Instead, the plane went down near Shanksville, Pa., killing the 33 passengers, seven crew members and four hijackers on board.