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.
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.
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.
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
Deborah Borza is one of the thousands of people to visit the field where United Flight 93 crashed on Sept. 11, 2001. But Borza, the mother of passenger Deora Bodley, has become a regular at the Shanksville, Pa., site — and she's involved in the plans for a permanent memorial.
One recent day before the seventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks, Borza stopped by the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel on the way to the crash site.
There, she ran into Jack Strong of Zanesville, Ohio, who was visiting with his grandchildren.
Learning who Borza is, the group became quiet.
"I can't imagine," Strong said. "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, no matter what."
A Field, And A Memorial
Adjacent to the crash site, tall grass was being mowed, clearing the way for cars to be parked.
Borza, whose daughter was on Flight 93 as a standby passenger, said she has gotten used to running into visitors.
"I kind of learned early on that people wouldn't know what to say to me," she said.
"I really had to take a look at what I could provide for them. And I do it in honor of my daughter. That's just my way of dealing with what's now in every cell of my body."
Another outlet, she said, is to work to help get the federal memorial finished.
About 100,000 people visit Shanksville each year. This particular day, a Monday, the guest book said they came from all over: Arizona; New Zealand; Massachusetts; California.
The National Park Service hopes to open a permanent memorial there in three years.
It's been a long haul — and it's not over. Some of the landowners haven't settled on a price for their land. And there's a feud over the design of the memorial.
One family member, Tom Burnett Sr., has said he believes the architect's plans resembled an Islamic crescent.
In response, the architect added more red maple trees, to make the design look more like a circle of trees.
Joanne Hanley, of the National Park Service, says the trees in the memorial plan echo the lay of the land.
"It hugs the existing topography," she said, "which is a ridgeline encircling a bowl. All that circle does is point your attention to what the true memorial is: the crash site itself."
Borza said she thought the original design was beautiful. When the architect added trees, she said, her response was to think, "Great. More beautiful trees."
Visiting The Crash Site
Near a temporary memorial wall filled with mementos from visitors, Borza found Strong and his family again.
She offered to take them down into the point of impact itself — something that is off-limits to everyone but family members.
Borza said she's happy that visitors will be able to get very close to the crash site, where her daughter's remains are. Strong said he felt honored.
"This will help me cope with the anger for bin Laden," he said, "to see all this love."
"I am unwilling to have my daughter's death be in vain," Borza said. "Having you come down here continues the life of my daughter."
"You've altered my life — and my grandchildren," Strong said.
After the group talked some more, Borza locked the gate to the site. And the Strong family climbed into their van, for the drive home to Ohio.