September 11, 2001 was a typical day at school for a seven-year old. When the terrorist attack in New York City happened, Cameo did not really comprehend it. She would learn more and more about this horrifying day as she grew older, but it wasn’t until her senior year that it really came full circle for her, “I couldn’t help but wonder what went so wrong,” she says and perhaps that’s why she choose to raise money as her senior project to help fund the unfinished Flight 93 National memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Flight 93 Memorial - A Call to Action
Forty-four people (33 passengers and 7 crew members) lost their lives in Shanksville on September 11 when Flight 93 went down on an abandoned strip mine. The press called them heroes and a movie was made about their last brave minutes in the air as they tried to save the plane and plunder the enemy.
“The impact of knowing each of their stories, made me want to take action,” says Cameo. "Each person had a unique story … that is why I decided to collect money for the Shanksville memorial.” After setting up the fund, she decided to travel to Shankville to view the memorial. It was easy to see why Bill Clinton said, “It is wrong not to have this memorial finished….”
Shanksville First Responders - A Strange Twist of Fate
On March 18, 2012, Cameo and her mother drove to Shanksville to visit the crash site and the memorial. It was a very moving experience that brought her whole project to life.
As they entered the park, they viewed pictures of the victims as well as scenes from the crash site. The wall stood further back. Especially touching was listening to a guide tell stories about the victims as Cameo viewed the wall. Toshiya Kuge was a Japanese student whose name also appears in Japanese on the wall. Lauren Grandcolas name appears with "and unborn child" on the wall. All four flight attendants are also recognized. (All photos are documented in a video below.)
Wanting to hear more about what happened at Shanksville, Cameo had been in touch with former Fire Chief Terry Shaffer and the Shanksville VFD hoping to meet with a first responder on her trip. Somewhere along the line, she wasn’t unable to get a hold of Chief Shaffer and her calls and emails to Shanksville VFD were going unanswered. In dismay, she left for Shanksville with some phone numbers unsure if she would get to interview anyone.
In a strange twist of fate, the guide that she met as she stepped into the park was named Shaffer and after putting two and two together, she decided to ask if he knew the Chief. “Funny you should ask,” replied Adam Shaffer, “he is my father.” She had her picture taken with Adam, but wasn’t able to meet with Chief Shaffer that day. Later that evening when she got home, the phone rang. It was Chief Shaffer who spent a generous 30 minutes letting Cameo interview him. As one of the first people at the crash, Chief Shaffer gave her details that were very vivid and personal. (A summary of that interview is below.)
Tragedy and Hope
After her trip to the memorial, Cameo also visited Shanksville VFD where beams from the twin towers that were made into a cross stood by the station.
“I don’t think I’ll ever view 9/11 the same again after doing this project and visiting Shanksville,” says now 19 year old Cameo, who collected $300 for the memorial fund. “Knowing that when we, as individuals”, says Cameo, “ if we set our mind to it – we can make a difference to make this world a better place and to help turn tragedy into hope.”
To Donate to the Fight 93 Memorial Fund
Cameo’s memorial fund has been closed, but if you wish to donate to the memorial at Shanksville, you can do so at the following links:
Flight 93 National Memorial Video Album
Summary of Interview with retired Shanksville VFD Chief Terry Shaffer (conducted by Cameo B. for senior project 2012)
CS (Chief Shaffer) said he was at work 30 miles away in Johnstown when he received a call from his wife. She was emergency personnel who found out from the local 911 center. CS was shocked and couldn’t imagine what was going on. He didn’t know the Pentagon had been hit as he traveled to the Shanksville site.
The crash site is an abandoned strip mine with a lot of roads already in tack. Small pieces and bits of debris and remains were scattered all over. It was devastating.
Numerous items were found including the planes black box. The initial clean up took two weeks, but the whole investigation was long. Two plane turbines were found as well as passports and box cutters.
The coroner was in charge of reporting the deaths. The remains were given to family members to bury. The unknown body parts were buried in a special ceremony.
CS made note of how the local community members helped out. One hundred people submitted designs for the Fight 93 Memorial and CS was on a committee that chose the final design.
CS started in 1977 as a firefighter. He is 56 years old now. He was 35 years in fire service, with 25 years of being chief. He is now retired and works on the Shanksville memorial website. He still drives the fire engine to emergencies.
CS says that due to the heroic efforts of the victims, the plane didn’t crash into Washington DC so many lives were saved. Engine 433 was named for the number of firefighters who died in 9/11 altogether.
Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on September 11, 2018:
Donations can be made here: https://www.flight93friends.org/donate
Mel on December 19, 2014:
Beautiful Story. Cameo sounds like a very caring young lady. Great idea for her senior project.
Carla J Swick (author) from NW PA on April 19, 2013:
Thanks Peggy - I didn't intend for the timing to be such, but it helps us remember that when we as the human race face tragedy, we can pull together to get through it. Appreciate the share. cjb
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 19, 2013:
This was a very sad day in America but thanks to the heroics of the passengers and flight crew aboard Flight 93, many more innocent lives were saved as they sacrificed their own in that heroic effort. This is very touching to read coming just days after the terrorism in Boston. Up, useful and interesting votes.