Flight 93 family member visits LRMC

Thomas Warner
LRMC Public Affairs

Ken Nacke says the Global War on Terrorism began Sept. 11, 2001, and predicts it won’t end for several years.
Mr. Nacke’s brother, Josh, was a passenger on United Airlines Flight 93 a half-decade ago when terrorists hijacked and crashed four commercial airliners, killing over 2,700 innocent people.

Ken Nacke, an 18-year veteran of the Baltimore County Police Department, recently came to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center to spend time with injured servicemembers and get a greater understanding of the treatment they get while transitioning through Germany.

Mr. Nacke is also a member of the Flight 93 Memorial Commission, established by President George W. Bush with the aim of erecting a monument and national park at the Pennsylvania crash site.

“The permanent monument will have a ribbon-cutting Sept. 11, 2011, if all goes as planned,” Mr. Nacke said outside the LRMC intensive care unit. “From the entire Nacke family, our heart goes out to everyone who serves here and in the armed services. We have to confront terrorism head-on.”

Alongside Nacke were Ramstein-based Airmen Staff Sgt. Ryan McGettigan and Senior Airman Jessica McGettigan. The couple brought commemorative American flags with Flight 93 logos which have been signed by servicemembers and civilians stationed overseas. The flags were retired Aug. 31 in a ceremony at Kapaun and will be flown one last time at a ceremony
Sept. 11 in Pennsylvania.

“My family has a long history in the military, the FBI and other branches of service,” Sergeant McGettigan said. “My father has been with the National Parks Service for many years and was appointed by President Bush to interact with the families of the crash victims to help plan what the monument would eventually become.

“My brother, Rick, is also stationed at Ramstein and that’s where the three flags came into play. He, my wife and I have each taken a flag to various places and asked people to sign them. The response has been overly positive. Once these flags are flown and retired in Pennsylvania, they will be given to the National Parks Service to keep until the Flight 93 Monument is completed.”

Mr. Nacke spent time with Landstuhl chaplains and walked through a few wards in the hospital. He talked with Air Force Capt. Warren Moore, who in 2001 was serving in the Army reserve and was only a few miles away on Sept. 11 from where the airliner crashed in Somerset County, Penn.

Other staffers at LRMC and Ramstein have shared stories with Mr. Nacke of how they’ve been tied together with the Pennsylvania crash or some other 9/11 aspect. Mr. Nacke’s message to patients and active-duty people serving in Germany and downrange involved both patience and persistence.

Already weakened by chronic heart problems, his father died just six weeks after the Sept. 11 tragedies. Now five years later, Mr. Nacke, his mother and two surviving siblings have come to grips with what happened. Their extended family, he said, is not grieving.

“All I know is, my brother is not here; we lost him on that plane,” Mr. Nacke said. “The first year after the crash, all I wanted to do was learn. I’ve been to the site, read a lot of information, talked to people. I have come to peace with our loss.”

Josh Nacke and the other 36 passengers were eulogized as heroes after making a stand on the doomed aircraft. Several in the group made cellular calls to loved ones and apparently an attempt was made to subdue the hijackers.

“There are enemies out there who want to defeat us and these enemies are patient. So while they are being patient, this is a time for us to be diligent. We can’t go around with blinders on. We’ve got to open our eyes and we’ve got to keep stories like this fresh.”