Russin calls Shanksville crash site Hallowed Ground

This is the second part of the story of Bellwood funeral director Jon Russin’s talk with Tyrone Civics teacher Bill Abbott’s tenth grade students about his experience in the recovery effort of Flight 93 in Shanksville.
Russin pointed out that the crash was one of the first incidents where every effort was made to return the remains of the victims to the family. A forensic anthropologist was on the scene to assist Russin and the team in identifying remains and with the help of modern science, they could be identified.
“Every bit of it was DNA tested and returned or kept for memorialization at the national memorial,” Russin noted. “Some people requested that their family members, once they were recovered and identified, they wanted cremated and kept at the national memorial site — which they will be.” Russin said that the site crash will be “hallowed ground” and compared it a battlefield. “That’s where the first battle of the war on terrorism was fought — at Shanksville, Pennsylvania.”
Russin said that toothbrushes were used to extract DNA for the identification process. “Most people when traveling take a different toothbrush,” he pointed out. “Most had their toothbrushes at home and they could be used.” He also said that once the flight manifests were examined and the victims were determined, medical records were flown in to assist in the identification process.”
“For me personally, the most meaningful period of the memorial service was during Gov. Ridge’s speech when he mentioned how the families and the people at Shanksville in Somerset County have embraced the 40 families that lost their loved ones and who were victims of that crash,” Russin said. “They went out and embraced those people.”
Russin told the students that he wanted the students to understand the incredible dedication and hard work of the hundreds of people who worked the recovery effort. He said that most of the workers on his team were young volunteer firefighters who rose to the occasion. “You have to remember that they were all volunteers and they have all the respect in the world from me.”
Last Wednesday, Russin attended the memorial service at the crash site, one that left a great impression on him.
“Yesterday I was certainly impressed with the memorial services they had at Shanksville,” he said. Russin said that the day helped him punctuate the recovery effort, though he noted that “closure” for an event like the crash of Flight 93 would probably never occur.