Reporters from Flight 93 crash site on 9/11 reflect at national memorial

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SOMERSET COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — On September 11, 2001, former WTAJ Reporter/Anchor Patrick Schurr was one of the first on the scene of the crash site of Flight 93 in Shanksville.

In one of Schurr’s early reports, he described the scene as “unfathomable.”

“If you would just look into the crater down there and there was nothing,” Schurr said. “It was like this plane just vanished. It disintegrated into the ground. And how is it possible that a passenger plane crashed, and there’s nothing to see except for this crater?”

WTAJ Anchor Carolyn Donaldson speaks with Reporter Patrick Schurr via phone about what he sees at the crash site. Information was evolving and developing as more details were being discovered. At this time it was believed over 400 passengers were aboard Flight 93. It was later confirmed to be 40 passengers and crew members.

Emily Longnecker was an evening reporter for WTAJ at the time of the attacks. Her coverage began the next day, September 12, by telling the stories of the families of the victims and the community.

“I was here in a moment when they first brought the family and family members in on busses,” she said. “And we were kind of in this media gaggle, and I just remember it getting very quiet because we knew those were the family members coming in.”

Emily Longnecker reporting on the arrival of the victims’ families.

In telling these stories, Longnecker had the enormous task of speaking to the families that just lost their loved ones.

“They were in extreme grief, but they realized that their loved ones were heroes,” Longnecker said. “There was a there was a pride there, somewhat. I remember them expressing it. It gives me goosebumps when I think about it.”

Schurr said that there’s a personal connection where you’re reporting on what happened in the final moments of their loved one’s lives.

..this is the first fight in the war against terror. This was really the beginning.”

WTAJ Anchor Carolyn Donaldson asks Reporter Patrick Schurr if he believes there are any signs of survivors. He replied, “One would have to assume there is no chance anybody could be found alive.”

Schurr and Longnecker both described spending weeks in Somerset County following the crash in order to cover this historic tragedy. Schurr even said he was basically living out of the WTAJ satellite truck on scene.

Patrick Schurr reporting on the beginning of the investigation into the Flight 93 crash. This includes speculation that was being talked about by witnesses and investigators on the ground.


A lot of the reporting that came in the aftermath of the crash was about how the community came together to support each other and the families of the victims.

Emily Longnecker reporting on prayer services and vigils in Somerset County along with words from Governor Tom Ridge.

Both Schurr and Longnecker spoke of the responsibility they felt and carried in reporting on this tragedy. Putting into perspective, Longnecker referred to both of them as “baby reporters” because they were in their mid-20s at the time and were covering an international tragedy for the world to see.

“You have this enormous responsibility because these people saved thousands of lives, and they ended their lives here, in the middle of nowhere, in order to protect people and save people that they didn’t even know,” Schurr said.

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