Trump and Biden, but no crowds, for 9/11 ceremony at Shanksville

Marc and Jennifer Wilson of Ypsilanti, Mich., are shown at the Wall of Names at the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pa., Wednesday.

SHANKSVILLE, Pa. — The president of the United States and, reportedly, the Pennsylvania native who hopes to unseat him are both planning visits to the Flight 93 National Memorial on Friday, the 19th anniversary of the crash.

But the National Park Service won’t be welcoming crowds for the morning ceremony, in an effort to comply with state and federal COVID-19 guidelines.

At the Families of Flight 93’s wishes, Friday’s 9:45 a.m. ceremony will be a private event that will be streamed online in high definition for viewers, organizers said.

As of Sunday, the event, titled a “Moment of Remembrance,” was closed to the public, but the park and Visitors Center would open to visitors afterward, according to the National Park Service’s Flight 93 memorial website.

“Public health and safety is at the heart of everything we’re doing,” said Katie Cordek, the memorial’s National Park Service spokeswoman, noting people are being encouraged to observe from their homes. “For those who are joining us virtually, we’ll have 4k digital cameras that will be able to give viewers a front-row seat.”

The event will be webcast live through the website.

National Park Service confirmed Trump will be in attendance at the anniversary, but did not say whether he will speak. As of late last week, there was no confirmation on Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden’s planned visit.

Additional details about the event will be released this week, Cordek said.

Visitors are also being encouraged to practice COVID-19 safety guidelines, which include masks and social distancing.

Towers of Light

Residents near the area where United Flight 93 crashed will also be able to look to the sky to commemorate the moment this year.

According to Flight 93 Park Superintendent Steve Clark, the Towers of Light display’s debut will illuminate the sky the night before — on Thursday — with twin beams of light that climb 20,000 feet into the atmosphere.

In doing so, those lights could be visible from 50 miles away depending on the weather, he said.

In a straight line, the city of Johnstown is approximately 25 miles away from the national park.

“For the first time ever, we’ll have those beautiful blue beams reaching to the sky ... at Flight 93, near the Pentagon and in New York City,” Clark said.

Until now, the lights have only been displayed at the World Trade Center.

And Clark described Tunnel to Towers’ effort to connect all three sites as an “another opportunity to unite the nation.”

While the 9/11 Museum will continue its tradition of switching on the lights at the World Trade Center site, Tunnel to Towers — a foundation formed to honor first responders who gave their lives in the wake of terrorist attacks — is spearheading the effort to expand that to Arlington, Virginia, and Somerset County.

“Light will always triumph over darkness, and with this tribute, we are signaling that to America,” said Frank Siller, the nonprofit’s CEO.

The Park Service is partnering with the group, which will allow the series of xenon lights to be set up near the Memorial’s plaza on Tuesday, Clark said.

As planned they will be lit at 8 p.m. Thursday and then again at the same time on 9/11, he said.

The lights will be illuminated for approximately five hours each night. But to protect migratory birds that fly through the park at night, the lights may switch off for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, he said.

The display will give Americans near all three sites a chance to reflect and remember from their homes and backyards, organizers said.

“It’s going to be a magical evening when those beams touch the sky,” Clark said.

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