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Rise of Freedom

Rise of Freedom: Honoring the Heroes of Flight 93

On Sept. 11, 2001, Connie and Sam Stevanus came home to find pieces of United Air Lines Flight 93 scattered all over their property on Indian Lake in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, 2 miles from the plane's crash site.

"When I went to pull in our driveway, was when I saw all the black debris in our driveway. I filled up three grocery bags full of burnt debris," said Sam Stevanus.

The couple found a birthday card, out of its envelope, dated Sept. 12. "Flight 93 carried U.S. mail aboard. We had mail in our trees. We had pieces of the United Air Lines magazine strewn about in the yards," said Connie Stevanus.

The FBI confiscated all the mail, and the majority of the charred debris. After finding no evidence of explosives on the items from the Stevanus property, agents told the couple they could keep anything else they found. So they did.

Mr. and Mrs. Stevanus can only guess what the pieces they kept once were.

"This looks like foam and we thought maybe it was from the fiberglass overhead compartments possibly," said Sam Stevanus, pointing out debris the couple keeps in a Ziploc bag, "This here looks like part of a seat cover, but we're not really sure."

Sam and Connie Stevanus have used the debris as part of show-and-tell presentations they've given for visitors at the temporary memorial overlooking the crash site in Stonycreek Township, Pa.

The couple are part of a team of 50 locals who volunteer there, helping visitors understand what they're seeing in the open field.

The couple says the No. 1 question visitors ask is: "Where exactly did the plane crash?"

"You see the two walls, Ma'am? The two white walls?" Mr. Stevanus told a woman at the overlook. "If you follow right through them, you'll see a brown boulder. That's the actual impact site right there."

After the FBI and Somerset County coroner wrapped up their investigations, the crater the crash created was filled in with top soil and covered by wildflowers. So, until the National Park Service started construction on the permanent memorial in 2009, it was especially hard to determine where in that open field the plane crashed. As part of the permanent memorial, Park Rangers rectified that by marking the exact spot with a 17-ton boulder. It serves as a single headstone for the 40 people who were on board.

"We were conscious about it because there are still remains below that boulder," says Keith Newlin, the National Park Service Superintendent of the Flight 93 National Memorial. "We wanted to have a feature that met the landscape, which is the intent of the memorial, an open landscape that combines with nature very well."

Newlin says the second most common question visitors ask is: "How close can I get to the crash site?" Only the families of those killed are allowed near the boulder and on the actual hallowed ground. However, the public will be able to get much closer to it, once the Flight 93 National Memorial opens on Sept. 10.

Visitors will be able to walk on a coal-colored plaza that zigzags along the edge of the area where human remains were found.

"You're going to be that close to where the remains, still remain," said Newlin.

Visitors will also see exactly where the plane traveled overhead, at more than 500 mph.

A white marble wall, bearing the names of the 40 victims, stands directly under the flight path.

The National Park Service also wants to build a visitors center that has 50-foot walls, to show how low the plane was flying, upside down, during its final descent. But there's not enough money to start construction on that yet.

The total price tag to complete this phase of the memorial is an estimated $62 million. So far, $52 million has been raised through public and private funding, according to King Laughlin, vice president of the National Park Foundation's Flight 93 National Memorial fundraising campaign.

"The great news is we have $10 million to go," said Laughlin. "The bad news is we have $10 million dollars to go."

The National Park Service also wants to plant thousands of trees as part of its environmental reclamation plan for the site, which used to be a coal mine.

Laughlin is urging the public to donate money to help the NPS build the visitors center and plant the trees by the year 2014.

"We still need continued support for this project come Sept. 12," said Laughlin.

The NPS also has plans to build a 93-foot tall wind chime for the park's entrance, but there is no estimated price tag for that yet.

The Flight 93 National Memorial is the only national park dedicated to the events of 9/11. To support the project, you can make a donation at www.honorflight93.org or text 90999 to make a $10 dollar donation from your cell phone.

For a sneak peek at the Flight 93 National Memorial and its future plans, tune in to the latest installment of The Rise of Freedom, tonight at 7 p.m. EST on The Fox Report with Shepard Smith.

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