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Hundreds drawn to 9-11 memorial in Grapevine

GRAPEVINE -- Family members of flight crews killed in 9-11 came from across the country Friday for the dedication of an 18-foot-tall sculpture dedicated to their loved ones.

Nearly 1,000 members of the public and community officials joined them for the ceremony marked by the release of doves, a flyover by World War II airplanes in missing-man formation and a roll call of flight crews who perished.

"These are our heroes," American Airlines flight attendant Valerie Thompson of Hurst told the crowd. She founded the 9-11 Flight Crew Memorial Foundation six years ago to raise money for the $1 million memorial.

Five figures are sculpted in bronze -- a captain, a first officer, a female flight attendant, a male flight attendant and a little girl passenger.

Many in the crowd wiped away tears as two Grapevine Opry members performed Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning) and Proud to Be an American.

The sculpture, called "Valor Commitment Dedication," is west of Dallas/Fort Worth Airport at the southwest corner of Texan Trail and Northwest Highway. Its name was inspired by the traits of the 33 flight crew members who were among the nearly 3,000 people killed when terrorists hijacked and crashed four planes, Thompson said.

The memorial also is a tribute to "all of those that courageously continue to be the ever-vigilant professionals of the airline industry," said American Airlines flight attendant Shirley Hall of Bedford, foundation vice president.

Thirty-one relatives of the flight crew members attended, including Marty Fangman of Keller. His youngest brother, flight attendant Robert Fangman, was on United Airlines Flight 175, the second plane to crash into the World Trade Center.

"I'm absolutely pleased and enthusiastic about the memorial," Marty Fangman said.

Kristy Fangman, Marty Fangman's wife, called the statue beautiful and said she looks forward to having "something I will bring all the family to see."

The sculptor was Valerie Thompson's husband, Dean Thompson. He and volunteers based the art on a design by Utah artist Bryce Cameron Liston.

The sculpture includes an iron beam from the World Trade Center, limestone from the Pentagon and stone from Shanksville, Pa. More than $300,000 has been raised with the help of the city of Grapevine and donors.

"Some people were only able to contribute the change in their pockets, but they wanted to help," Dean Thompson said. "Believers made it happen."

Figures in the sculpture

■ An airline captain, one hand on a globe as a symbol of the responsibility of the worldwide airline industry

■ A first officer holding an emergency manual and pointing to the western horizon, the destination of the four 9-11 flights

■ A child, symbolic of the traveling public

■ A female flight attendant, holding out one hand in a precautionary gesture and holding the child's hand with her other

■ A male flight attendant, draping a blanket around the child

■ Two eagles in flight, representing lost flights from American and United airlines

How to give

Donations may be sent to 9/11 Flight Crew Memorial Foundation, 507 Aviator Drive, Fort Worth, TX 76179. Also online: