Through their eyes: First responders recount Flight 93 crash scene

Heroes of Flight 93

SHANKSVILLE, SOMERSET COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — Thousands of first responders sprung into action on September 11, 2001.

In the small town of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, crews got a call about a plane down. They would soon learn that those aboard sacrificed their own lives to stop terrorists from reaching our nation’s capital.

“You know they are names here, but they are people,” Brad Shober, from the Shanksville Volunteer Fire Department said. “They were people that day and because of these people this plane went down here instead of the capital.”

The Shanksville Volunteer Fire Department was the first fire department on scene. 

“You know this is one call that will forever have changed us and who our department is,” Shober said.

Shober was one of the firefighters who responded to Flight 93 and continues to tell the story of that day to make sure we never forget the 40 brave men and women who came together to defeat hate.

“We have got to tell the story for those 40 because they can’t so it is their day,” Shober explained while he reflected at the Flight 93 National Memorial.

A lot of that tragic day is still so vivid in Shober’s mind. 

He can still remember the call about a plane being down and then getting to the scene to see a crater smoldering. He would soon learn that the plane came down in such force that it buried itself.

“I’m looking at this round crater and realizing this is where the plane hit and you can see the indentations on the side where the rings were, but I didn’t know there was [pieces of the] plane under there,” Shober said.

For many people who responded that day the damage is unforgettable.

“You didn’t know what was going on,” Dan Dively, who responded to flight 93 with the Shanksville Volunteer Fire Department, said. “You didn’t know if they were just flying planes into the ground everywhere or what. It was just the chaos that was throughout the whole nation.”

In a normally barren field, crews were met with total destruction. They would soon learn there were no survivors.

“It is always in our minds,” Shober said. “It was over when it hit the ground for the most part, but everything we do since then needs to be about those 40.”

The scene would soon become the focus of one of the longest-held crime scenes in Pennsylvania’s history.

“You can never anticipate something to this size and magnitude,” Terry Shaffer, the former fire chief of the Shanksville Volunteer Fire Department, said. “Let alone on a national scale, if not international.”

In the following days, the small town of Shanksville, Pennsylvania came together for the heroes who inspired our nation. 

“One of the things that a lot of the family members have said is that they are very grateful for how the town reacted and how the town took care of them,” Shober said. “This is their loved one’s last resting place and they are happy that it is here.”

Two decades later, those who responded that day continue telling their story for the 40 brave men and women who acted selflessly.

“It’s these people we owe,” Shober said. “Nobody owes us anything. We didn’t do anything. It’s these people and their families. You know and not one of them says they are from Shanksville, Pennsylvania, but this is where they rest.”

You can visit the Flight 93 National Memorial to hear the story behind Flight 93 and see the field where the plane crashed down. A boulder now marks the impact site.

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