We sing the National Anthem before every Penguins game to be thankful for our freedom. Tonight the Penguins honored Wally Miller, a coroner in Somerset County, for working diligently on the Shanksville crash site. He provided comfort to families and first responders just minutes after Flight 93 came down, then he continued to work on the Flight 93 Memorial for years after.
He can still remember what happened.
“The whole day just kind of went in slow motion,” said Miller, a Pens fan and season ticket holder. “It was so surreal when everyone was sort of giving their account of what it meant to them. Nobody could get their brain around it. It took us a long time to really understand the magnitude of what it was all about as opposed to a recovery of the crash.”
The memorial serves as a symbol for the courage of the Flight 93 members, who overtook the terrorist and sacrificed their own lives to save others. Miller put his energy into preserving the site and connecting the victims’ families. It’s ironic how tragedy can pull strangers together. The field in Shanksville, covered with rubble, is an example.
“They pretty much left it the way it was,” Miller said. “And I always said it was a cemetery and it is to this day. And they really paid a lot of respect to that and the other part of course is very nice, but I think it was beneficial to everybody’s psyche to have it the way it is.”
The Flight 93 Families wanted to honor Miller for everything he has done. Miller was presented with a No. 93 jersey with “MILLER” on the back by Pat Stewart of the Pennsylvania state police and Gordie Felt of the Flight 93 Families during the first period of the Pens game. The Pens gave Miller and the Flight 93 Families 40 tickets in a party suite.
“We were season ticket holders here for probably 10 or 12 years anyway,” Miller said. “And what really got us going was my wife was a big fan of Darius Kasparaitis. She’s a West Mifflin girl and we just started coming down a lot. We don’t miss very many games. Only when business doesn’t allow us to attend.”
The Penguins were happy to provide Miller and the Flight 93 Families a night to bond away from Shanksville, just as Miller helped families bond after Sept. 11, 2001.
“I wanted to make sure everybody got to know each other because they didn’t really have any connection to each other at all,” Miller said. “Except that it just happened to have occured at that spot so I figured that I was the focal point to allow all that to happen. We were able to facilitate that and that went a long way towards kind of scabbing things over and to really be the genesis of the memorial as we know it today.”