Andrew Kline recalled the quietness as he stood on the patch of farmland in Shanksville that’s now forever scarred by the memory of what took place there eight years ago this morning - Sept. 11, 2001.
“What caught my attention first was the reality of how such a quiet field could have been such a site of total chaos,” said Kline, president of the Masonic Motorcycle Club Chapter 38 of South Williamsport.
Last month, members and friends of the motorcycle club rode some 200 miles to Shanksville to attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the Flight 93 Memorial, a ceremony led by then-National American Legion Commander David K. Rehbein.Stopping in Shanksville was part of the American Legion’s 2009 Legacy Run from Indianapolis to Louisville, Kline said. The motorcycle event started in 2006 to raise money for the children of American soldiers killed in the War on Terror.
The wreath laying drew more than 300 riders from as far as Alaska and Florida, according to Kline.
“Over half the members of Chapter 38 are veterans,” he said, “and all members are very patriotic and love their country. It just seemed natural to try and do our part.”The journey to Shanksville had special meaning to Kline, who served in the Army Reserve, and club Vice President Jamie Phillips, who spent time at the end of the Iraq war in the Marine Corps.
The two kept in mind - and rode with the brothers of - fallen local soldier Master Sgt. Sean Thomas.
“Sean was killed in a rocket attack in Iraq on March 27, 2007,” Kline said. “I heard the news on my way home from work on the radio and could not believe it.”
At Thomas’s funeral, Kline said he discovered the soldier had a baby girl, and “knew I needed to do something.”
That “something” celebrated its third year in June at the Muncy American Legion Post: The Master Sgt. Sean Thomas Memorial Ride, at which $2,000 was raised. That money was donated to Rehbein for the Legacy Fund at the memorial in August, Kline added.
“The Legacy Run was a very proud day,” he said, “to ride to the crash site with members of the Masonic Motorcycle Club Chapter 38, Dan and Dave Thomas (Sean’s brothers) and my family was something most people will never experience.”Kline said it was the first trip made to the site by those in the club.
“The temporary memorial has a very strong effect on anyone who has been there,” Kline said. “My aunt, Wilma Geiger, from Emmett, Idaho, said to me that day that taking part in the wreath laying ceremony, and seeing the crash site, was something she would never forget. I would say that I got the same feeling I get each time I visit Arlington National Cemetery. (I’m) proud of my country and of all those who have fought for it.”
For Phillips, he said he can’t fathom what the passengers of Flight 93 felt as they communicated with family members through telephone calls during the last few moments of their lives.
“I can’t imagine what they went through on that airplane,” Phillips said, who described the experience as overwhelming, standing at a site created by doomed heroes. “I just can’t imagine how they felt or how their families felt, seeing as how they only had a couple minutes to live.”
The tour guide at the memorial provided first-hand accounts of those who were working in or around the field the morning the plane plunged into the field, Kline said.
After reflecting on the silence of the field, Kline said he remembered thinking what the eye witnesses who saw the plane flying upside down at 500 feet, and then crashing straight down into the ground, must have felt.
“There were so many pictures, stories and information gathered by the voice recorders, cell phones and those who saw the crash,” he added. “The terrorists knew that the heroes of Flight 93 were either almost through the (cockpit) door or had made it through, and the one hijacker told the other to ‘put it down,’ because they knew they were not going to make their target at the Capitol Building in D.C.”
Phillips added standing at the memorial was an honor, and recognized the courage and efforts made by the passengers on that flight.
“They crashed where nobody else could get hurt,” Phillips said. “That’s amazing.”