For 10 years, the unidentified remains of the 40 passengers and crew of Flight 93 waited in three caskets stored away in a mausoleum.
During a private ceremony Monday, their families buried the coffins on the ground near Shanksville, Pa., where Flight 93 crashed.
Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller says all the family members long ago received the identified remains of their loved ones. He said the burial of the unidentified remains is an event that belonged solely to the families of the Flight 93 heroes.
“It is a private moment and this is a private moment,” he said. “The last two days, they’ve opened up and allowed the public into everything. But I think that we owe it to them on this final day to let this be a private affair.”
The men and women who died on Flight 93–called heroes, not victims–broke into the hijacked plane’s cockpit to wrest control from four terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001.
And while their survivors say there is no closure for what they’ve been through, Miller said he has found peace in closing a case, a death scene, for which he became responsible 10 years ago.
If the Flight 93 crash site is likened to Gettysburg, Miller said, he and his crew could be compared with the farmers of Emmitsburg, who lived just south of the Civil War battlefield.
After the three-day battle, “all of a sudden it was over, and there was a lot to clean up and take care of and they were left to do it, and that’s what they did,” Miller said. “I’m sure they were just like we were, just regular Americans that wanted their land to heal as best they could.
“I’m sure that that’s what they did,” he said. “That’s what we did.”
Miller said the Monday burial service transformed what has been an open grave for the past decade into a true cemetery.