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$400K | 3 yrs ago

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Developer of an online marketplace for IT service providers. The company is developing a digital site aimed to match corporate customers and IT decision makers. Service providers are able to create a profile on the platform listing their skills, and making themselves searchable for enterprises via filters relevant for software, hardware, tech stacks, and consulting needs.

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Los Gatos, California, 95030,

United States

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Hallowed Ground: Families of those on Flight 93, the Shanksville community and others forged resolve to see national memorial come to life

Sep 5, 2021

Fate threw them together. Two decades later, the unlikely coalition of Flight 93 family members, residents of Somerset County and the National Park Service that worked for years to preserve the story of what happened aboard that United Airlines jetliner will meet this week at the Flight 93 National Memorial, just outside of Shanksville in Stonycreek Township. On the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, they will mark the story of how 40 everyday people — 33 passengers and seven crew members — met on a flight from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco. They will remember how on the worst day of their lives, 40 people made a plan, took a vote and mounted an assault on four hijackers in the sky above Western Pennsylvania as the plane soared toward the nation’s capital. Their fight to gain control of the Boeing 757 culminated in a fiery crash in a field on a mountaintop plateau that had once been a strip mine. No one survived. Their sacrifice became a shining beacon to Americans rocked by the twin tragedies that morning at the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon outside of Washington, D.C. “Let’s roll.” Those were the last words a Verizon operator on the ground heard passenger Todd Beamer utter as the group moved on the hijackers. It became a national rallying cry. Donna Glessner and her neighbors in Shanksville quickly became aware they were the stewards of a precious piece of American history. “It was a story for the ages, really,” Glessner said. Gordon Felt, who would emerge as a leader of the group called Families of Flight 93, sensed the same thing when he arrived six days later to view the site where his older brother Edward, a passenger on the plane, had died. Felt was among the first group of family members to venture to the crash site on Monday, Sept. 17. They traveled by bus from Seven Springs Mountain Resort, where United Airlines and the American Red Cross had secured a block of rooms for the families. Along the 30-mile ride, some wept at the displays of support and patriotism that lined the winding country roads. Others were overcome as a contingent of Pennsylvania State Police troopers sent to guard the site stood at attention and saluted as the bus wound its way to the crater at the end of the woods where Flight 93 came to rest. “Today, I was lucky enough to look over some hallowed ground for our country. They won the first victory in the war against terrorism,” Felt said that evening. Over the next decade and a half, Felt and Glessner became key players in the painstaking effort to bring the national memorial to fruition. They faced land disputes, conspiracy theories, design controversies and — near the end of the effort — a fire in a temporary Park Service office. And there was the challenge of raising tens of millions of dollars for a memorial in a remote, mountainous region of Pennsylvania. The families, the community and the National Park Service rose to the challenge. People walk along the trail at the Flight 93 National Memorial on July 27, 2021. ‘Rube coroner’ It would fall to Somerset County Coroner Wallace “Wally” Miller to protect the site and the grieving families of those aboard the flight. Miller, who is retiring this year, was a part-time coroner. A second-generation funeral director whose father had been county coroner before him, Miller had a degree in philosophy as well as one in mortuary science. He had spent years assisting families dealing with loss and death. Family members who lost loved ones in the crash of Flight 93 recall how kind the tall, lanky man who calls himself “the rube coroner” was to them. Wallace “Wally” Miller recalls his experiences as Somerset County coroner during and since the United Airlines Flight 93 crash on Sept. 11, 2001. (Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review) Debby Borza is a California woman whose 20-year-old daughter Deora Bodley was on Flight 93, returning for her junior year in college. She marvels at all Miller did for the families. They’ve shared tears and hugs at the annual memorial services. “The love that I have for what Wally did, knowing what we needed, knowing what the family members needed to find peace of mind or closure or whatever … well, I’m just so grateful,” Borza said. Although he had never dealt with a tragedy of that magnitude, Miller knew what to do. He took control of the crash site and brought in experts to assist in the recovery and identification process. He reached out to each family privately to seek their wishes about the remains of their loved ones. He explained the process he was following. When families called for updates, Miller answered his own phone, night and day. “The love that I have for what Wally did, … Well, I’m just so grateful.” — Debby Borza When federal investigators and the airline were slow to answer the families’ questions, Miller acted. He tapped a gift from the United Way of Allegheny County to bring the families to New Jersey in February 2002 to talk to them about what he had found and to help them press their case with investigators. Authorities tried to warn Miller off, but he insisted it was important. “Wally just had it. He had a way with those families and it was everything for them. … He was nudging them to form a group. He warned them, ‘If you don’t, they’re going to pick you off one by one,’ ” said Tim Lambert. Lambert owned a plot of land adjacent to the crash site. Although his roots were in Western Pennsylvania and he still held title to the land that had been in his family for decades, Lambert had long ago moved to the Harrisburg area, where he is a journalist with the local National Public Radio station. Miller tracked Lambert down. He called him a few weeks after the crash to tell Lambert his land was an essential part of the site of the crash of Flight 93. Those six acres at the edge of the crash site with the blackened hemlocks frame nearly every photo of the smoking crash site that day. Miller and Lambert became close friends. Lambert was there as Miller forged a partnership with the families of those lost and the surrounding community. Miller said it was critical that the families be acknowledged and heard. “I knew at the end of the day, the people that were really going to be involved (were) going to be the family members and the people that lived out there in Stonycreek Township. That was going to be my goal,” Miller said, recalling his role during an interview for an oral history now archived with the National Park Service. “I wanted those people to get together … so that they knew what was going to be facing them.” In the end, 36 of 40 families attended the meeting that Miller organized. Some, like Borza and Felt, became deeply involved in the protracted process that led to the creation of the memorial. Borza moved across the country and made her home on the East Coast for years so it would be easier to travel to Shanksville to participate in the planning process. They would form deep relationships with people like Glessner and her sister Kathie Shaffer. Flowers and items are left along the Flight 93 National Memorial Plaza on July 19, 2021. Stepping up Glessner and Shaffer, lifelong Somerset County residents, were involved in the effort from day one. Shaffer was a nurse in a Somerset County doctor’s office and a member of the local school board. Glessner, who had worked in the county planning office prior to having her family, was a local 4-H leader and active in her family’s lumberyard and hardware business. Upon learning that the loud boom that shook her home and briefly knocked out the power that morning had been caused by a plane crash along nearby Lambertsville Road, Glessner called Shaffer at the doctor’s office. Her husband, Terry Shaffer, was chief of the Shanksville Volunteer Fire Department. Glessner told her sister that she needed to call him at work. “Tell Terry he needs to come home now,” Shaffer said, recounting her sister’s urgent message that seemed more like a command than a request. By the time she reached her husband, he was already headed for the site. Over the next 13 days, the fire hall in the town of 245 people would serve as the buzzing hub of the recovery effort. Volunteers processed food and supplies that poured in from their neighbors and from communities and businesses miles away. They began providing meals and supplies to hundreds of recovery workers and federal, state and local law enforcement — even before the Red Cross arrived. Weeks later, visitors began arriving. They braved the bitter winter winds to visit the crash site along a lonely country road. Glessner, who had seen confused visitors wandering about, organized local residents to staff the fenced-off field and tell the story. That group formed the nucleus of the Flight 93 Ambassadors. The group of 40 to 50 volunteers still works with the National Park Service at the memorial. Adam Shaffer, park ranger for the Flight 93 National Memorial in Stonycreek Township, is seen June 8, 2021, at the Memorial Plaza, the final resting place of the crew and passengers of Flight 93. Glessner later served on the Flight 93 Federal Advisory Commission. The commission’s 15 members, including the families of Flight 93, community residents and leading experts on memorial development, met quarterly for more than a decade. Their goal: to select and construct a design for the memorial to preserve the sentiment that Los Angeles firefighter Stephen Ruda first penned on a quilt sent to Shanksville. His comment, inscribed along the walkway of the flight path at the memorial, reads: “A common field one day, a field of honor forever.” “We’re incredibly fortunate to be able to tell this story of the passengers and crew from the people who knew it best.” — Adam Shaffer Still later, Glessner and Shaffer conducted oral history interviews with community stakeholders, first responders, Flight 93 family members and others. In all, there are 888 first-person accounts of events surrounding that day. The sisters are still working on the final edit, painstakingly comparing recordings of the oral histories with copies now transcribed and archived with the National Park Service. They were two among many of their neighbors who stepped forward to help. “I don’t think this is uniquely Shanksville. I think in any small community people would have stepped up with care and compassion,” Shaffer said. Her son Adam was a college freshman on Sept. 11, 2001. He had volunteered with the fire department as a teenager, had a deep interest in American history and had done a capstone project in Gettysburg as a high school senior. Despite his parents’ concern, he came home every weekend that fall to assist in the recovery and learn everything he could about Flight 93. After graduation, he interned with the Park Service at the Flight 93 site where the memorial was still developing. Later, he became a park ranger at the site. Today, Adam Shaffer is head interpretive ranger at the Flight 93 National Memorial. He remembers the emotion welling up in his chest when he arrived home that first weekend. Flags lined every road. There were more volunteers than anyone could count. Like his mother and his aunt, Shaffer is hesitant to talk about himself. “I’m fortunate. I have perspective,” he said. “The real story is what happened in the skies above here. … We’re incredibly fortunate to be able to tell this story of the passengers and crew from the people who knew it best. I think the partnerships were an important part of building that.” Today, his goal is to ensure the story is handed down to the future. Answering the call Patrick White is a land lawyer who splits his time between Erie and Naples, Fla. He donated hundreds of hours of legal work to the national memorial project. White said he made lifelong friends working to ensure his beloved cousin Louis “Joey” Nacke and the other passengers and crew members were remembered for their heroic battle in the skies above Shanksville. “One person can make a difference, but it takes a group to make anything happen,” White said. The same kind of group dynamic that fueled the heroes of Flight 93 came into play as memorial planning advanced. “Every time we needed something, it seemed there was someone there with that skill set,” White said. “Every time we needed something, it seemed there was someone there with that skill set.” — Patrick White Barbara Black, who previously worked as a curator at Colonial Williamsburg, had recently moved to Shanksville to take on a project for the Somerset Historical Society. Black, who has since retired, was happy to offer her services as interest in a national memorial developed. She helped catalog and preserve the thousands of messages and mementos left at the crash site and developed the oral history program. Henry Cook, a fifth-generation banker and retired Somerset Trust president, helped steer local fundraising. He also happened to be a local volunteer fireman. Lawrence Catuzzi, a retired investment banker whose daughter Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas was a passenger on Flight 93, also stepped in to help with fundraising. He served on the Federal Advisory Commission with Cook. King Laughlin of the National Park Foundation had participated in a number of national fundraising initiatives. He steered fundraising at the national level as the partners worked to top off a $45 million fundraising campaign still underway on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Edward Linenthal, an historian who wrote extensively on the development of memorials, and John Reynolds, the retired director of the National Park Service, brought national perspectives to the Federal Advisory Commission as the planning process moved forward. Chuck Wagner, a local heavy equipment operator, assisted in the recovery. He was among the first Flight 93 volunteer ambassadors and continues in that role today. An amateur photographer, Wagner created a visual archive of the Flight 93 National Memorial Project that spanned years. It is preserved in two coffee-table books available at the memorial. A visitor looks up at the 40 wind chimes, which represent the 40 passengers and crew members aboard Flight 93, inside the Tower of Voices at the Flight 93 National Memorial on July 27, 2021. Coming together Felt is proud of how the families, the community and the Park Service coalesced around the memorial project. The upstate New York resident, who spent a career working with special needs students, saw the trajectory of his life change with his brother’s death. “For me, it was a matter of survival,” he said. Edward Felt, who was four years older than Gordon, was among 13 passengers on Flight 93 who managed to place a phone call as the group plotted their strategy. His call moments before the crash alerted Westmoreland County Emergency Management dispatcher John Shaw that a hijacking was underway. Jeff Reinbold pauses a moment as the Bells of Remembrance are rung honoring the 40 heroes at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville on Sept. 11, 2015. (Tribune-Review archive) Twenty years later, Gordon Felt’s work on the Flight 93 National Memorial project is a living tribute to the brother he lost. Cook, the retired banker, said Felt — known for the fedora he dons every year at memorial services — played a critical role in bringing people together to see the project to fruition. “Gordie Felt is a peacemaker. He was someone who would always find a way forward,” Cook said. The National Park Service tagged Jeff Reinbold, a Johnstown native, to direct the Flight 93 National Memorial project in 2004. He remained in that position until 2011, when he was named to succeed JoAnne Hanley, who retired after serving as the first superintendent at the site. “The site had a presence to it. It was very stark.” — Jeff Reinbold Reinbold remained in that position until March 2015, just six months before the Flight 93 National Memorial Visitors Center finally opened to the public. Today, Reinbold is superintendent at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. He vividly remembers his first visit to the crash site on a winter day in 2003. “The site had a presence to it. It was very stark,” he said. Reinbold said architect Paul Murdoch’s design for the memorial built off that presence, emphasizing the natural beauty of the restored 2,200-acre mountaintop site that would be both a tribute to the passengers and crew. On Sept. 12, 2011, it became a final resting place where the unidentified remains of those aboard Flight 93 were interred in three coffins under a boulder at the crash site. The burial ground is in a gated site behind the memorial wall where each of the 40 names is inscribed in marble. Although 300,000 to 400,000 people from around the world visit the memorial every year, the burial ground is off limits. The boulder can be viewed only from a distance. The gate is opened once a year, on the anniversary of the crash, for family members to pay tribute to their loved ones. Somerset County Commissioner Pamela Tokar-Ickes, who helped the late U.S. Rep. John Murtha of Johnstown pen the legislation for the creation of the memorial, looks back with pride on how people with diverse backgrounds — Republicans, Democrats, men and women from around the country — set aside their differences to preserve a precious piece of history for America. “It was a time when everyone worked together,” she said. “I wish we could go back to that.” Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 724-850-1209, or via Twitter @deberdley_trib . Related stories

  • Where is Borza's headquarters?

    Borza's headquarters is located at 59 Santa Cruz Avenue, Los Gatos.

  • What is Borza's latest funding round?

    Borza's latest funding round is Seed VC.

  • How much did Borza raise?

    Borza raised a total of $400K.

  • Who are the investors of Borza?

    Investors of Borza include Sequoia Capital.

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