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Pennsylvania church honors first responders, remembers Flight 93

KITTANNING, Pa. (BP) – United Flight 93 flew over Kittanning, Pa., as Islamic terrorists attempted to do to the U.S. Capitol what three other teams did to the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

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Harvest Church Executive Pastor Fred Neal spoke at the church’s 20th anniversary commemoration of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Passengers and crew members aboard Flight 93 wrested control from the hijackers, evidence suggests, and brought the flight down at nearly 600 mph over a field near Shanksville, Pa., less than 100 miles from the campus of Harvest Church in Kittanning.

Planted high upon a hill, the Kittanning campus honored first responders on the anniversary of 9/11, presenting Jesus as the “ultimate first responder” in an evening of worship and fellowship highlighted by a “gigantic fireworks display,” Harvest Executive Pastor Fred Neal said.

Flight 93 “got all the way out to Cleveland before the terrorists were able to take control of the flight and start returning it out to Washington, D.C.,” Neal said. “And basically while that flight flew right over our area here in western Pennsylvania, the efforts of the men and women on board to try to regain control of that flight brought it down about an hour (by car) east of our area.

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The flight could have just as easily landed in Kittanning, Neal surmised.

Firefighters, emergency medical service personnel, police and military were honored at the event that included a 21-gun salute from the American Legion Rifle Team, the display of colors by the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard, the singing of the National Anthem, prayer and fellowship. The church’s weekly Friday night worship followed, and the evening ended with fireworks.

“With it being the 20th year after the attacks, I think it was very important to keep that in front of our folks to remember what actually did happen 20 years ago,” Neal said.

“There were many first responders that lost their lives that day responding to the calls for help. We marked our remembrance of 9/11 and brought it to the current day, and that’s the thankfulness of the men and women that serve in the first responder roles today, whether that be the military or the local police, fire, EMS (emergency medical service),” Neal said. “Those men and women put themselves between the challenges of living in a fallen world and the normal lives of people going about their daily activities.”

Senior Pastor Mike Greiner presented Jesus as the “ultimate first responder” in his sermon following the commemoration.

“I’m going to say first responders have a philosophical connection to the ideas of Jesus, because no nation equals America’s commitment to respond to anyone in need anywhere in the world. Some are close,” Greiner said in a sermon that was repeated in six worship experiences over the weekend.

Like Jesus, professional first responders put their lives on the line to help those in need, Greiner said, with hundreds dying in duty on 9/11 and showed no partiality in helping those in need.

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“You don’t call an ambulance and they say, ‘What color are you real quick?’ ‘How much money you got?’ Greiner said in his sermon posted at Harvestpa.org. “They don’t ask. They just show up and bring you back to life. Why? Because this is what America thinks is normal? Because our country was founded on a Christian foundation.”

The commemoration also served as a celebration of the opening of the church’s new sanctuary at its Kittanning site. Other campuses are in Petrolia, Indiana and Natrona Heights, Pa.