STONYCREEK, Pa. » NBC News Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski, the keynote speaker at an event marking the 14th anniversary of 9/11, told more than 1,000 people gathered at the Flight 93 National Memorial that the passengers and crew aboard Flight 93 wrote their own story of “unimaginable courage, of inspiration and, yes, of love.”
The audience included more than 100 family members of the 40 passengers and crew, as well as Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and other local politicians and dignitaries.
The ceremony began as they have for more than a decade now: with a reading of the names of the passengers and crew, each name followed by a ringing of two bells.
Miklaszewski was asked to speak because of his experience being in the Pentagon on 9/11 when one of the four airplanes hijacked by terrorists that day plunged into building outside Washington, D.C., killing 120 people.
He explained how that day unfolded for him, eventually making him the first journalist to report the Pentagon attack on the “Today” show not long after learning about the attacks by two planes in New York City.
“But we didn’t know what happened here” in Stonycreek aboard Flight 93.
Miklaszewski was given a tour of the new Flight 93 visitors center complex, which opened Thursday, and like so many already he came away most struck by one particular part of the exhibit — the three voicemail messages from two passengers and one crew member that were left with family before Flight 93 plunged into a field here.
“As you listen, you marvel at how calm they were,” he told the crowd gathered under a partly sunny sky outside the new visitor center. “It’s as if they didn’t want to strike fear into the hearts of their loved ones.”