Remembering this day

Flight 93 first responders recount their story

“If I remember correctly, it was a sunny day,” said Louis Barclay, former Conemaugh Township Police Chief.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Barclay was conducting former Conemaugh Township Detective Bubba Fatula’s annual firearms qualification. 

This seemingly ordinary day would be something they would remember forever. 

“We headed back to the office and 911 on the radio came across saying there was a plane that went into the World Trade Center,” Barclay recounted. 

At first, Barclay thought it was an accident but as soon as the second report came in, he knew this was no accident. It was a crime scene.

“Before we got back to the office a second one hit, and next thing I know Somerset 911 is calling us to head out that way because they got reports of a plane found.”

The fourth and final plane landed in Shanksville, Somerset County, Pennsylvania which is 30 minutes from Conemaugh Township. Among the first four people to arrive at the scene were none other than Barclay and Fatula. 

“Once we got out there, all we could see was this big hole in the ground,” Barclay said. “It was just a giant hole. No sign of anything.”

“I remember the black smoke was so thick that we had a hard time navigating through the woods, to the crash … [and] as we found ourselves at the crash site, I remember Chief Barclay saying, ‘Bubba … this is bad! Where is the rest of the plane?’” Fatula recalled on Facebook, an account verified by Barclay.

Despite the initial shock of the scene, Barclay and Fatula shifted into gear and took charge.

“We started clearing the whole area because we knew it would be a crime scene,” Barclay said.

While on the scene of the crash, they helped search for the plane’s “black box,” which would uncover the events leading up to the plane crash.

Fatula remembered that fateful day on Facebook saying, “I’ll never forget the things that we came across that day, but there are two things that stand out to me, still to this day … Being there with my Chief, my friend, and not realizing how sadly historic that time together would be. [And] not knowing that a guy, by the name of Todd Beamer, would change how I see this event … forever.”

He then went on to quote Beamer saying, “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll.”

Barclay praises those who fought to take over the Flight 93 plane saying, “You have to give them credit.”

He recalls a story from his former patrolman, “[He] was at the Magistrate’s Office and as he was leaving he looked up and saw the plane. It was swerving back and forth like it was out of control.”

What the “black box” uncovered was sacrifice. According to historical accounts, the 40 passengers and crew members fought to take over the plane, veering it from its intended target, the Nation’s Capital. The struggle ended in Shanksville, where it crashed, only 18 minutes flying time from Washington, D.C.

That day was full of sacrifices. 

As a result of 9/11, Barclay was deployed to Kosovo in a peace-keeping mission for nine months. He retired from his role as police chief in June of 2019, but he still remembers this fateful day.

Fatula also remembers this day and the innocent morning before it all happened.

On Facebook he recalls, “Little did we know, this day would connect us … for the rest of our lives!”