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A Mother Brings Perspective To Flight 93 Crash Site

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A Mother Brings Perspective To Flight 93 Crash Site

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A Mother Brings Perspective To Flight 93 Crash Site

A Mother Brings Perspective To Flight 93 Crash Site

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/94461195/94499859" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Deborah Borza (left) hugs a visitor at the temporary memorial for Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa. Borza's daughter, Deora Bodley, was a passenger on the flight. Libby Lewis/NPR hide caption

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Libby Lewis/NPR

Deborah Borza (left) hugs a visitor at the temporary memorial for Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa. Borza's daughter, Deora Bodley, was a passenger on the flight.

Libby Lewis/NPR

Jack Strong of Zanesville, Ohio, talks with Borza, standing in the field where Flight 93 went down. Libby Lewis/NPR hide caption

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Libby Lewis/NPR

Jack Strong of Zanesville, Ohio, talks with Borza, standing in the field where Flight 93 went down.

Libby Lewis/NPR

Deborah Borza stands with Jack Strong and his family on the spot where the plane crashed, currently marked by a piece of plywood. Libby Lewis/NPR hide caption

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Libby Lewis/NPR

Deborah Borza stands with Jack Strong and his family on the spot where the plane crashed, currently marked by a piece of plywood.

Libby Lewis/NPR

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

We wake up this morning to the seventh anniversary of the September 11th attacks. And we have a report on the first major memorial dedicated to that terrible day. It's at the Pentagon. First we go to Shanksville, Pennsylvania. That's where United Flight 93 went down carrying 40 passengers and crew members and four hijackers.

NPR's Libby Lewis introduces us to Debbie Borza. She's the mother of one of those passengers.

LIBBY LEWIS: Debbie Borza has made a lot of friends in Shanksville. One is the priest who runs the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel.

Ms. DEBBIE BORZA: Let's go see if he's there. I'm sure he's around. Oh, we're locked out. Well, I guess let's go inside.

LEWIS: We pivot and we run into Jack Strong of Zanesville, Ohio. He's getting a photo of granddaughter by the chapel bell.

Mr. JACK STRONG: One, two, three…

LEWIS: Strong spent 33 years as a maintenance engineer for a steel mill. He's retired now. I ask what brings them to this spot and tell them I'm with one of the families of Flight 93. Their eyes turn to Borza. She looks back at them both friendly and resolute.

Ms. BORZA: My name is Debbie. You know, this is how you remember me: I'm Deora's mom.

LEWIS: There's a silence. Jack Strong fumbles with the camera.

Mr. STRONG: I can't imagine. I don't know what to say. You've got to admit that we're kind of surprised to meet a relative. We're sad for you…

Ms. BORZA: Oh, thank you.

Mr. STRONG: …no matter what.

LEWIS: Then she's telling them about her daughter, Deora. How she was on her way back to college after visiting a friend. Jack's wife, Judy, has seen the movie about Flight 93 several times.

Ms. JUDY STRONG: Can I ask: is one that maybe got a hold of you guys on the phone?

Ms. BORZA: The last phone call she made was to her boyfriend before she boarded the plane to let him know that she was coming home early.

LEWIS: Borza tells these people she has just met that her daughter was on Flight 93 as a standby passenger. There's another silence. We say goodbye and drive towards the crash site, where the tall grass is being mowed for parking.

Ms. BORZA: I kind of learned early on that people wouldn't know what to say to me when they, you know, met me and knew what had happened in my life. So I really had to take a look to see what I could provide for them, and I do it in honor of my daughter and that's just my way of, you know, dealing with what's not part of every cell of my body.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LEWIS: That, she says, and making sure a permanent memorial gets built here. Around us, the land undulates in fields of green. The National Park Service hopes the permanent memorial will open in three years. It's been a long haul and it's not over. Some of the owners haven't settled on a price for their land, and there's a feud over the design.

One family member complained the architect's plans resemble an Islamic crescent. In response, the architect added more red maple trees to the plan to make it less of a crescent of trees and more of a circle. Joanne Handley is with the National Park Service. She says the trees in the memorial plan echo the lay of the land.

Ms. JOANNE HANDLEY (National Park Service): It hugs the existing topography, which is the ridge line circling the bowl. And all that circle does is point your attention down to what the true memorial is: the memorial is the crash site itself.

LEWIS: Debbie Borza refuses to soak this controversy. She thought the original design was beautiful. When the architect added trees in the plan to answer the criticism, she thought, great, more beautiful trees.

Near the temporary memorial wall filled with mementos from visitors, Borza finds Jack Strong and his family again, and she offers to take them down into the crash site itself. It's off-limits to all but family members. Jack Strong says he feels honored.

Ms. BORZA: You know, you need to hear the sounds that are here; you need to see and breathe the air and just, you know, really be a part of…

Mr. STRONG: This'll help me…

Ms. BORZA: …the final resting place for everybody.