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Navy Chief Petty Officers Stephanie Dora, Jason Phillips and Nicholas Zubey stand at parade rest in front of an honor detachment from the West Mifflin Area High School Air Force JROTC representing all branches of military service. The three sailors served as keynote speakers for the West Mifflin 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony at Mitchell Paige Memorial Park Sept. 11. 

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 914 Intrepid West Mifflin All-American Post Commander Jake Bradich pays tribute to the fallen of 9/11.  Members of VFW Post 914 and community first responders laid wreaths during the Sept. 11 ceremony in remembrance of the 3,000 Americans who were killed 17 years ago during the al Qaeda terrorist attacks.

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 914 Intrepid members prepare to render a rifle salute during the Sept. 11 9/11 community remembrance ceremony at Mitchell Paige Memorial Park.  Pictured from left to right are Post Adjutant Ken Curcio, Post Member Craig V. Stumpf, Post Service Officer Mike Mauer and Post Surgeon Bernie Zurawski.

By Michael P. Mauer

  Under darkened skies that threatened but withheld their late Summer rains, West Mifflin Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 914 Intrepid, community first responders and local civic leaders held  a 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony at Mitchell Paige Memorial Park 6:30 p.m., Sept. 11.  Organized by VFW Post 914 member retired Senior Chief Petty Officer David G. Jackel, the event paid tribute to the more than 3,000 Americans who were killed 17 years ago during the al Qaeda terrorist attacks.

  Serving as keynote speakers during the event were Chief Petty Officers Stephanie Dora, Jason Phillips and Nicholas Zubey from the United States Navy Recruiting Command in Pittsburgh.  The three sailors recounted how the events of 9/11 each influenced their decision to join the military, and how that tragedy still impacts their service today.

  Nearly all of the students and local Scouts in attendance were not yet born when on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda terrorists hijacked four airliners in a coordinated attack against the American people.  Two of the aircraft were flown into the World Trade Center’s twin towers in New York.  Another was crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a fourth plane – United Flight 93 – came down in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, in a failed attempt to damage the United States Capitol.  

   According to Jackel, remembering the heroic actions of Flight 93 in a battle that literally took place over the skies of the Mon Valley was the most significant part of the experience to the assembled veterans and first responders. Soon after the terrorists gained control of Flight 93, the 33 passengers and some crew members were able to telephone family, friends and authorities to say that the plane had been hijacked.  Once they learned of the fate of the other three aircraft that were taken over by al Qaeda, the Flight 93 passengers and crew made plans to fight the terrorists and retake the plane.

  “The people on Flight 93 didn’t just give up,” Jackel said after the ceremony.  “They knew that even if they wouldn’t be able to save their own lives, they would be able to preserve the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of their countrymen.”

  Although the struggle to take back the aircraft failed, the effort saved the Capitol.  At 10:03 am Sept. 11, 2001, Flight 93 crashed approximately 70 miles from West Mifflin.  All aboard were killed.

  According to Jackel, who is also an active member at West Mifflin’s Homeville #1 Volunteer Fire Company Station 293, this is the part of the Sept. 11 story that he hopes young people will remember most from this year’s remembrance event.

  “Those passengers and crew on Flight 93 weren’t in the military,” said Jackel.  “But they did end up fighting together against an enemy.  The memory of their sacrifice and heroism should be remembered for many, many years to come.”

  Also participating as part of the ceremony were an honor guard from the West Mifflin Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, as well as AFJROTC instructors Senior Master Sergeant Otis DiCerbo and Major Scott Harbula.  Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of Pennsylvania Chaplain of the Year, Gene Staudt, gave the invocation and sang ‘Amazing Grace’.

  Other participants and attendees included West Mifflin Mayor Chris Kelly, members of West Mifflin Borough Council and the West Mifflin Recreation Committee, firefighters from the Homeville #1 VFC Station 293, the Duquesne Annex VFC Station 294, the West Mifflin #3 VFC Station 295, the Skyview VFC Station 296, officers from the West Mifflin Police Department, and personnel from the Baldwin EMS Station 510.  The Pledge of Allegiance was led by local Scouts from Troop 1111.  Refreshments were provided by West Mifflin Borough Council.

For more information about VFW Post 914 and its activities, contact Commander Jake Bradich at: 412-464-9838.