My father died on Flight 93: Here’s how to honor other heroes as 9/11 anniversary nears

For nearly each of the past 20 years, my family has visited the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, to commemorate the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and to remember my father, Donald Greene, a passenger aboard Flight 93.  

I’ll never forget our visits to Shanksville in the first years after 2001. They were trips punctuated by long bus rides flanked by waving flags, quiet walks across a muddy field, and chain-link fences filled with tributes to the heroes.  

Years later, our trips now include visits to the Flight 93 National Memorial and its Visitor Center, which has made the area vastly more accessible to tens of thousands of visitors. Motorcyclists on their annual pilgrimage stand beside families on road trips, international tourists, and family members like me, each of us with our own unique understanding of, and connection to, 9/11. 

Donald Greene was one of 40 passengers and crew killed while fighting back against terrorists on Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001 (Photo: submitted photo)

As I have grown, so has my relationship with this place. In recent years, I’ve found the experience of watching children visit the memorial to be particularly moving. As I overhear the questions asked to parents and the National Park Service rangers who staff the site, I’m reminded of the Flight 93 National Memorial and the Visitor Center’s purpose.

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For this generation, the site is as much about education as it is about remembrance, offering each young visitor the opportunity to learn about the events of that day and the heroes of Flight 93, in some cases for the first time.

Flight 93 passengers fought back

My father and the 39 other passengers and crew on Flight 93 gave their lives fighting back against four terrorists who likely planned to crash the plane into the U.S. Capitol. Their quick decision to take a stand in the face of an unfathomable threat undoubtedly saved many lives that day in and around the Capitol.

Donald Greene plows his family's driveway with his daughter Jody. (Photo: submitted photo)

I am inspired by the idea that the legacy of Flight 93 will be preserved through the collective experience of those who visit Shanksville. 

While the events of 9/11 shaped the person I am today, like these children, I too am without my own concrete memories of that day. I was a 6-year-old in 2001, and nearly all of my understanding of that day comes from learning about the stories of heroism as recounted by my family, our friends, and heads of state each year.

It’s an understanding that has made me a stronger person and reminds me that each of us has the capacity to be more courageous than we may think is possible. 

Claudette Greene, Jody Greene, Donald Greene and Charlie Greene took a dinner cruise in New York in 2000. A year later Donald was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. (Photo: submitted photo)

 It’s also why I am so proud that the Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial is inviting nominations for the first Flight 93 Heroes Award, designed to provide a living legacy to the heroes of Flight 93. The award will be presented annually to individuals who have demonstrated remarkable acts of selfless courage in their community across America.  

Award honors new heroes

It’s an accolade that furthers the greater mission of the Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial: to ensure that the story of Flight 93 is preserved, its lessons shared, and its legacy and impact remembered.  

An estimated 75 million people have been born in our country over the past 20 years and they do not have a reference point to Sept. 11. I worry that the legacy of those aboard Flight 93 may be lost to history.

The Flight 93 Heroes Award can help to change that. It is inspired by the approaching 20th anniversary of Sept. 11 and the extraordinary heroism displayed by the passengers and crew members of Flight 93.

Jody Greene is a member of the Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial Board of Directors and a Flight 93 family member. (Photo: submitted photo)

This anniversary offers a uniquely teachable moment to share the story of those who fought back against terrorists on Flight 93 and to continue their legacy by honoring and celebrating those who today embody that same spirit.  

Do you know someone who has demonstrated remarkable acts of selfless courage in their community? Nominate them by visiting, and help preserve the legacy of the passengers and crew members of Flight 93. 

Jody Greene is a member of the Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial Board of Directors and a Flight 93 family member.  

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