Shanksville Church Becomes Memorial Chapel For Flight 93

5:50 PM, Sep 7, 2011   |    comments
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Shanksville, PA -- In the years since 9/11, the U.S. has changed in many ways. One of those ways is faith.

While the terrorist attacks of that day made some people question their faith, many were drawn to it. News 2's Lauren Melvin visited a place where what happened on 9/11 brought faith back and brought together people of every denomination.

Ten years ago, it was an empty old church, with no congregation, no people, no life, and no faith. In fact, the church that stood just a mile away from the crash site of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania had actually been used for years as a warehouse.

But just one month after that fateful day, Rev. Alphonse Mascherino, or Father Al as most people know him, used a big part of his life savings to put a deposit a down on the tiny chapel, a place to honor faith.

"The stories were well-known from the beginning, they prayed together. They prayed with the 911 operator. They prayed on-board the plane. And that, to me, was a manifestation of faith. I wanted to honor faith because of the faith of the people onboard the plane," said Mascherino.

By September 11, 2002, the first anniversary of 9/11, that tiny church became known as the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel. Inside, Mascherino has displayed what he called symbols of faith, like a sign that hung in a Shanksville resident's yard and was signed by visitors to the crash site.

"Again and again, they wrote 'God Bless America', 'God Bless the Heroes', 'God Bless' again and again. And everywhere you turn, 'God Bless America.' To me, that was a demonstration of faith," he said.

Also displayed in the chapel are mementoes, treasured mementoes from the families of the heroes aboard Flight 93. Many of them make an annual pilgrimage to both the crash site and the chapel.

"They leave them here to share them with the people who come here. And that's one of the things that evokes the greatest emotion from the visitors here, to come so close in contact with the heroes themselves, the mementoes left behind, the airplane, the rugby ball, the dress," said Mascherino.

Mascherino said visitors also try to touch these 40 heroes by leaving something behind.

"People have this necessity, this need to leave something of themselves," he said.

"At Mizpah, people left stones because there was a great big stone set up to seal the contract between God and his people. When people visited there, they left stones of their own and that was once place where it's clear, Mizpah was the place of stones," he said.

At the chapel, people leave not stones, but coins. Perhaps by no coincidence, 100 years ago, the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel was named the Mizpah Church.

"They have nothing to leave, so they'll leave what they can part with," he said.

And perhaps by no coincidence, 100 years ago, the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel was named the Mizpah Church.

Mascherino said because they've had so many visitors and so many mementoes left behind at the chapel, they're raising money to build a bigger church to honor the faith of the passengers aboard Flight 93.

For more information on how you can donate to the chapel, visit


WFMY News 2

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