WASHINGTON – A House panel on Thursday approved spending $5 million in federal funds to buy land for a memorial on the Pennsylvania field where United Flight 93 crashed on Sept. 11, 2001.
Rep. Charles H. Taylor, R-N.C., chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Interior Department, had held up funding for the project for the past two years, saying he wanted assurances that sufficient private donations would be raised and a federal bailout wouldn't be necessary.
The White House had requested $5 million for the land purchase, and Taylor on Thursday included that amount in a larger appropriations bill that his subcommittee subsequently approved. "This is a responsible bill," he said.
The measure still must be approved by Congress. An additional $5 million is expected to be sought next year.
Taylor said he supported the request on the assumption that a nonbinding agreement about the size and scope of the project would be reached. "It's a move forward as we mentioned and we'll see what happens in the coming weeks," he said.
Organizers hope to raise $30 million in private funding to build the memorial on a 1,700-acre site outside Shanksville, Pa., where the plane crashed. The total cost of the memorial is estimated to be $58 million.
Flight 93 was en route from Newark, N.J. to San Francisco when the hijackers took over, likely with the goal of crashing the plane into the White House or the Capitol. The plane crashed after passengers apparently rushed the cockpit in an effort to wrest control from the terrorists. The 33 passengers, seven crew members and four hijackers on board all died.
Last week, several family members visited Capitol Hill to lobby for the land purchase money. One of them, Patrick White, whose cousin was killed, said Thursday he was confident the agreement Taylor wants can be worked out.
"We look forward certainly to working with Chairman Taylor and his committee," White said.
Rep. Bill Shuster, a Republican whose district encompasses the crash site, said he understood Taylor's concerns, "but I appreciate him listening to the voices of the family members and including the funding."
During the hearing, Rep. Ernest J. Istook Jr., R-Okla., said the bill should have included $2 million to help fund an endowment connected to the memorial for the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. He said omitting the Oklahoma request does not bode well for future funding for the Pennsylvania memorial.
Universal Pictures, which last week released "United 93" about the flight, on Wednesday donated $1.15 million toward the memorial. That brought to about $9 million the private donations raised.