‘They were good friends’: Salisburian has a personal connection to Flight 93

Published 11:16 am Tuesday, September 11, 2018

SALISBURY — Every anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, is an emotional day for Nancy Fezler.

Back then, Fezler was a customer relations executive for United Airlines and working out of Denver. It was a Denver-based United Airlines crew that manned Flight 93 that day when it was hijacked by terrorists.

The crew, the terrorists and passengers of Flight 93 perished when the plane went down in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. A heroic rush to the cockpit by passengers and crew on the flight thwarted the hijackers’ ultimate goal of flying the jet to Washington, possibly into the U.S. Capitol.

Fezler knew each person on the Flight 93 crew.

“They were good friends,” Fezler said Tuesday morning as she joined her husband, Steven, director of the Salisbury National Cemetery Complex, for a brief, quiet remembrance of 9/11 on the cemetery grounds behind Hefner VA Medical Center.

Steven Fezler brought his cemetery crew together for a prayer, the placement of two wreaths, the lowering of the U.S. flag to half-staff and the playing of taps before they returned to work.

“It hurts my heart; it always does,” Nancy Fezler said of the 9/11 anniversary, “not only for my friends (and United Airlines family), but for the whole country. I don’t think it will ever get better.”

The small group included Salisbury Mayor Al Heggins, VA Hospice Chaplain Jeremiah MacRoberts and Ronnie Smith, a Vietnam War veteran from Salisbury.

Nancy Fezler made one of the wreaths placed near the cemetery flagpole Tuesday morning. She and her husband both wore Twin Tower pins, though Nancy said she has not been emotionally ready to visit the Twin Towers site, even 17 years later.

She and Steven made a trip to Shanksville’s Flight 93 National Memorial for the 15th anniversary of 9/11 two years ago. President Donald Trump visited the 2,200-acre site in Pennsylvania on Tuesday where a new 93-foot Tower of Voices has been erected as a memorial.

“As we remember, let us never forget,” MacRoberts said as part of his prayer Tuesday morning.

Heggins said when she was growing up, she had heard stories from people who said they would always remember where they were when they heard the news of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

For her generation, it’s 9/11.

“Now this is the story I pass to my children,” Heggins said.

She was in the president’s office at Livingstone College, watching the news unfold on television.

When the second plane went into the second tower, Heggins said, she knew with everyone else it was not an accident.

“It changed our lives,” Heggins said, maybe in ways not even known by most.

Heggins made a point to recognize Nancy Fezler and note what a private, painful anniversary it is for her.

“I know this is a deep, deep hurt for you,” Heggins told her.

The memories of being at work 17 years ago, the shock, emptiness and tears still stay with Fezler.

“It was a very surreal day,” she said.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.