Red Cross worker Connie Noll of York offered mental health support to victims’ families in Somerset, Pa., in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001,
Red Cross worker Connie Noll of York offered mental health support to victims' families in Somerset, Pa., in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, crash of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa. (York Dispatch file)

Thirteen Septembers ago, Victoria Connor, Connie Noll and Jeff Varnes headed to Shanksville under very different circumstances.

Back then, they were dispatched to the 9/11 Flight 93 crash scene as part of the Red Cross response. The plane crashed in Pennsylvania when passengers fought to wrest control from al-Qaida hijackers who had turned it toward Washington, D.C. The crash killed all 33 passengers and seven crew members.

This year, Connor, Noll and Varnes will guide a trip to the Flight 93 National Memorial on Sunday, Sept. 14. The Uptown York Rotary Club is organizing the trip.

Connor, now the president of the Uptown York Rotary Club, helped organize memorial services in the days immediately following 9/11.

A Pennsylvania state trooper checks credentials for Jeff Varnes near the site of the Flight 93 plane crash in September 2001. At the time, Varnes
A Pennsylvania state trooper checks credentials for Jeff Varnes near the site of the Flight 93 plane crash in September 2001. At the time, Varnes coordinated relief efforts as the head of the York Chapter of the American Red Cross. (York Dispatch file)

Varnes coordinated the Red Cross relief effort in the aftermath of the crash; Noll traveled to the scene as a Red Cross mental health worker who supported the families of the victims.

On Sept. 14, the bus will leave York at 8:30 a.m. On the way to Shanksville, the group might watch the 2006 movie "United 93," Connor said.

"And for me, it'll really be a memory," Varnes said. "We'll be tracking the same route I did on Sept. 11."

The event: When the group arrives, someone from the parks department will show the group around the memorial area, Connor said.

"It's a very moving place to be. It's very beautiful and peaceful," she said.

Afterward, the three Red Cross workers will speak about their experiences.


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"I'll be talking about that day, and the days that followed, and what went on behind the scenes," Varnes said.

Varnes, who now lives in Las Vegas, was in charge of providing assistance to the families of the victims and support services to the emergency responders.

For both he and Connor, the memorial stands in honor of the people aboard the plane.

"Civilians who were heroes sacrificed their lives to defend our nation's capital," she said. "It should never be forgotten."

For Varnes, it serves another purpose, too — a grim reminder to the public.

"Every day that goes by without an attack on our country, we become more complacent," he said. "And by going back, people can be reminded that we always have to be vigilant."

Fifty-five tickets at $115 each are available for the trip. Proceeds will go to the Rotary Club to fund local service projects. To buy a ticket, call (717) 683-5197.