The bench on the Delaware Canal by Jugtown Hill Road in Tinicum Township was weather-worn, moldy and besieged by weeds, but Mark Giubilato could still make out the name on the brass plate.
Louis J. Nacke.
Curious, Giubilato googled the name and found that Nacke, of New Hope, was one of 40 souls on Flight 93, the only hijacked plane on September 11, 2001 that did not reach its intended target because of the heroism of its passengers. Giubilato felt a connection with Nacke; they were the same age, they both had sons, and might have been friends had they ever met.
The Upper Black Eddy resident and his girlfriend, Gracene, both educators, decided they were going to do something. “We felt sad. It was so neglected. Our neighbors couldn’t even sit on it because of all the growth and poison ivy.”
Giubilato’s original plan was to take the bench home, pressure wash it, clean it and stain it, but that fell apart because it was embedded in concrete. Over the course of several spring nights, the pair drove to Jugtown Hill Road, spending two to three hours at the site, cleaning the bench. “It was so bad we had to do it twice,” recalls Giubilato.
A helpful store clerk at Wehrung’s recommended using a primer because of the condition of the wood. Giubilato estimates they spent 35 hours on the project, at one point lugging fifteen 50-pound bags of stone the quarter of a mile to the bench. But he says the long hours and labor were all worth it.
“People stopped and talked to us. We met neighbors and canal walkers who thanked us.”
Giubilato didn’t lose any loved ones on that tragic day, but like most of us, he remembers where he was and the horror that enfolded.
“On that morning I was in my doctor’s office in Broomall. He said a plane had crashed into the towers. I remember he and I thought that it was a smaller plane, not a commercial one. During the time I was sitting there, I could hear the gasps and the reactions of the doctor and the women in the office when the second plane hit.”
“I was fortunate I wasn’t there, but I’ve always read the stories of the people who were,” he says. “We’re just normal people that were on the canal path, and we were pulled into this story.”
“It would have been less expensive to buy a new bench but that’s not what we wanted to do. We wanted to bring life back to that bench that Mr. Robinson had so graciously donated.”
Roger Robinson, a New York developer who lives in Lumberville, and others donated benches to be installed along the Delaware Canal, to remember the 18 Bucks County victims. Giubilato says he has heard there is another bench by Tinicum Park that could use a little work.
“We want people to realize that with a little bit of effort, whether it’s picking up trash or whether it’s doing little improvements we can make a difference. There should be more of that.”
Because of its condition, Giubilato said, “This one kept people away from it, and that’s not what it was supposed to be for.”
For Giubilato and his partner, the bench is a place to reflect on what we have, and what we lost that day.
“We had a lot of people talk to us about what we did, how nice it was what we did. We haven’t forgotten just like they haven’t forgotten.”
Louis Nacke was one of the men who attacked the hijackers aboard Flight 93, forcing it to crash before hitting its target in Washing, D.C. “Heroes,” a book by Lenore Skomal, published after 9-11, describes the men.
“When you begin to describe their backgrounds and their passions, some similarities emerge. We do know that all but one were Gen-Xers, and all served in managerial roles in their companies. Indeed, Mark Kendall Bingham owned his. Unfortunately for the terrorists, they were all big guys, many of them athletes who had earned some glory in high school and college, and they stayed active.
“You see, as much as the terrorists had meticulously planned their suicide missions, they could never have foreseen the problems they’d encounter trying to maintain carrying what you would have to concede was God’s All-Star Team.
“Black belt Jeremy Glick had been an all-state wrestler and in 1993, he had won the national collegiate judo championship in the 220-pound class. Mark Burnett had been Jefferson High School’s starting quarterback in the 1980s. Louis Nacke was a power weight lifter with the muscles to show for it. Todd Beamer had played basketball and baseball for Wheaton College and was now on his church’s softball team. Bingham, a rugby coach and player, had recently returned from Pamplona, Spain, where he ran the bulls. Years earlier, he had bare-handedly disarmed a thug who threatened him and his friends.”
Family members and friends were still on phone lines, when they heard Beamer say, “Are you ready” Okay. Let’s roll.”
Flight 93 landed in a field in Somerset County, Pa., about 165 miles from the United States Capitol.
– Bridget Wingert