At the site of the crash of United Airlines Flight 93, new life is springing up.
That’s thanks to hundreds of volunteers who arrive each year in Pennsylvania to plant trees at the memorial commemorating the 9/11 tragedy.
Flight 93 was one of four planes hijacked that day. Deborah Borza’s 20-year-old daughter, Deora Bodley, was on that plane.
Deora, a junior at Santa Clara University, was coming home to California from visiting some girlfriends on the East Coast.
She was on standby for the flight, having arrived early so a friend she was with could make it on time to a class.
“Everything kind of altered from there,” said Borza.
Forty passengers lost their lives that day, and Deora was the youngest woman. The memorial’s design, chosen after a competition, includes a semicircle of 40 groves of 40 trees in honor of those people.
The volunteers who have come for the last four years are lucky to get a spot; the annual tree-planting is a hot ticket and those who sign up online first get to join the two-day event.
For the planters, said Borza, whose other daughter, Murial, 24, loved the memorial’s green design, it’s a time to learn more about the victims of the attack and to give back.
“It just means something when they know what family members are out there planting trees with them, and I made sure that they knew how much I appreciated their work,” she said.
Borza, who is retired, moved from California to Columbia, Maryland, only two-and-a-half hours from the memorial, to focus on its completion. She serves on the board of Friends of Flight 93, a partner group of the memorial, which is officially run by the National Parks Service.
“It’s just what I always wanted the park to be. It’s for the people who come. And that’s always been my focus: That it’s a place where people know they’re making a difference," she said.
That difference is two-fold: The plantings help carry out the landscaped vision of the memorial. They also create a natural environment on the site where there wasn’t one before.
Of the 1,100 acres, 900 were an abandoned coal mine. Students from the Penn State Altoona, who have been active in the plantings, are also launching research projects there, looking at acid mine drainage, among other things.
Others, said Borza, are looking forward to what wildlife returns to the area thanks to the thousands of new trees, from birds to insects.
It’s fitting that a yearly volunteer event on that scale — this year alone, nearly 500 people planted 23,000 seedlings across 32 acres — would help keep Deora’s memory alive.
Deora was a volunteering powerhouse: In college, she gave her time to the America Reads program. After her classes, she would visit a local elementary school and help first and second-graders learn to read.
She volunteered at an animal center, for the Special Olympics, participated in walks and runs for breast cancer and AIDS awareness and more.
“Volunteer? Yeah, sure. Of course,” said Borza, describing Deora’s will-help attitude.
The next planting will be in May 2016. And while tree growth is, of course, slow, the saplings have taken to their new home.
“It’s something that will take a while to see the fruits, to watch these trees grow up, but I look at it like, it’ll be for Murial, because when she’s in her 60s like I am, this park will be at its maturity.”
This year, #GIFtATree to the environment by:
· Going to greenisuniversal.com and creating and sharing a holiday GIF
· Using #GIFtATree on social
For each action, the Arbor Day Foundation will plant one real tree, up to 25,000, in a state park or national forest, funded by a $25,000 contribution to the Arbor Day Foundation, from NBCU.