A fitting memorial is back on course

Posted: Wednesday, September 09, 2009

It's welcome news that the National Park Service has reached agreement with landowners in southwestern Pennsylvania to build a memorial to Flight 93.

Prolonged negotiations had threatened the government's timetable to complete the memorial in time for the 10th anniversary of 9/11 in 2011. But the announcement by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar of final agreements for 1,400 acres around the crash site should allow the memorial to be built by that deadline.

The heroic acts of the 40 passengers and crew aboard United Flight 93 deserve a permanent tribute.

The plane was en route from Newark to San Francisco when four terrorists hijacked it. They intended to crash the jet into a target in Washington, but passengers fought back and tried to retake control of the plane. Their struggle ended when the hijackers crashed the jet into a field near Shanksville, Pa.

Working out the details of a memorial shouldn't have taken this long. But credit is due to Salazar and Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., for jump-starting the stalled negotiations and averting the use of eminent-domain proceedings against the final holdout landowners. The property owners will be paid a total of $9.5 million.

Svonavec Inc., the owner of 276 acres that include the impact zone, agreed with the Bush administration in January to a voluntary eminent-domain process in which a judge will determine the sale price. The government is offering $611,000, or about $2,215 per acre.

Groundbreaking is now set for Nov. 7 on the $58 million memorial, which Congress authorized in 2002. Private donors are responsible for $30 million of the total cost.

The agreement puts back on track a fitting, lasting tribute to people who sacrificed everything on one of this country's darkest days.

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