Oberlin Air Traffic Center Unveils Monument To Sept. 11 Flight

By M.R. KROPKO, Associated Press Writer

OBERLIN, Ohio (AP) - The air traffic control center that had the last contact with United Airlines Flight 93 before it crashed in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11 dedicated a monument Friday to the flight's passengers, crew and controllers.

On the small granite monument at the Federal Aviation Administration's Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center are the words: "In honor of the men and women of the Cleveland Center and those aboard Flight 93 for their heroic actions on September 11, 2001." The monument is surrounded by a flagpole, flowers and granite benches.

The center, about 25 miles west of Cleveland, guides planes at high altitude as they fly over portions of seven states: New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan.

The FAA requested that reporters not ask controllers questions about their experiences on Sept. 11, because an investigation is ongoing.

But Rick Kettell, manager of the Cleveland Center, briefly talked about the day and said that although Flight 93's transponder, a beacon to track the aircraft, was shut off after the hijacking over Ohio occurred, the signal sporadically came back. He said that indicated the flight crew was trying to keep communicating with controllers.

"It appears that the flight crew of Flight 93 continued to do courageously what they could," Kettell said. "We received several transmissions from the cockpit to make us aware all was not well. We also received sporadic transponder transmissions with altitude information that assisted us in the tracking of that airplane. We can only surmise how bravely they accomplished that."

Kettell referred to the flight path as "ragged," which he said was evidence of a struggle on the plane.

The terrorist attacks were difficult for controllers who had "a front row seat to a nation's nightmare," said John Carr, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers' Association.

At the ceremony, controllers from the Cleveland Center and elsewhere donated about $14,000 to the Todd M. Beamer Foundation. Beamer was a passenger on Flight 93 and is believed to be among the passengers who led an assault on terrorist hijackers before the plane, which was headed toward Washington, D.C., crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.

Beamer's close friend, Doug McMillan, accepted the donation at the ceremony. McMillan is executive director of the foundation established by Beamer's widow, Lisa Beamer, to help children who were traumatized by the attacks.

McMillan met with John Werth, the controller who was in communication with Flight 93 on Sept. 11.

"I can only imagine his sense of wanting to reach through that communications channel and grab hold of that plane and set it down himself somewhere nice and safe," McMillan said.

McMillan said he is often reminded of what was accomplished by bringing the plane down in a remote area. The New Jersey resident said several times each week he sees the New York City skyline "with those great symbols (the World Trade Center towers) missing."

"The bravery and courage that the men and women of Flight 93 showed should serve as an inspiration to us now and forever," Carr said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)