Flight 93 Memorial Land Plucked From Owners

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Eminent domain has been invoked to secure some 500 acres of in Somerset Country, Pa., from seven owners, for a memorial to United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757 that crashed there September 11, 2001, after passengers heeded the call "Let's roll" and attempted to retake the flight from its hijackers. The memorial for the 40 passengers and crew will encompass 1,400 acres, and the Department of Justice has a paperwork deadline at the end of the month. Flight 93 Federal Advisory Commission members, Somerset County Commissioner Pamela Tokar-Ickes and Stonycreek Township Supervisor Gregory Walker, have stepped down in protest of the land grab. Replacements are being sought from a pool of area residents. The National Park Service, which will own the land and could have negotiated for its purchase, was defended by the U.S. Department of Interior. Associate director Steve Whitesell told a local news station "we're at the deadline. We need to start proceeding with construction" to make an opening date of September 11, 2011. Vocal property owners are stating that they were willing to make a less forceful transfer of ownership, but were never engaged in negotiations for the land.

Among those who will lose property is a man whose father had purchased land there during the great depression and a pastor who owns a cottage there where he planned to retire. Landowner Randall Musser told the Associated Press he served on the committee that helped establish the memorial's boundaries and said that back in 2002 landowners were promised that eminent domain wouldn't be used. A spokesman for the park service said of the latest plans, "It's just fitting and right that we get this done in time for the 10th anniversary." Eminent domain eliminates the potential for title challenges, liens and other claims that could delay the project.