Patrick Joseph Driscoll was a natural athlete who, in retirement, made 10 trips to Ireland to explore his family's roots.
William Joseph Cashman was an ironworker who taught welding to apprentices. Longtime friends, he and Driscoll were traveling to Yosemite National Park together.
Patricia Cushing, a widow, and Jane Folger, who was divorced, were companionable sisters-in-law heading to San Francisco. It was their first trip to California, and they excitedly pored over walking tours and cable car schedules.
Joseph DeLuca and Linda Gronlund, a new couple, were taking a California wine country vacation to celebrate Gronlund's 47th birthday. Both enjoyed sports car racing.
Those were among the nuggets of information provided Friday to nearly two dozen staff members, volunteers and partners during an in-service program, “Who Are The 40?” at the new Flight 93 National Memorial Learning Center.
National Park Service officials said visitors ask the staff and volunteers every day about the 40 passengers and crew aboard United Airlines Flight 93.
Some fought with their hijackers for control of the plane before it plummeted to the ground near Shanksville in Somerset County. They are credited with preventing the plane from striking a target in Washington.
Through photos, video and anecdotes, their lives and accomplishments were shared during the program, helping those who staff the park better tell their stories.
Rosanne Croyle, 72, of nearby Davidsville has volunteered at the site for five years.
Volunteer ambassadors are given a lot of training, she said, but Friday's session provided detailed, personal information, much of it culled from oral histories conducted with family members.
“So many people don't know the story or the individuals,” Croyle said.
“It's been 15 years. You forget a lot. Today brought these people back. We could understand their lives and how important family was to them,” said ambassador Roxanne Sullivan, 55, of Stonycreek Township.
Participants learned who liked Monty Python jokes (DeLuca), who played mahjongg (Cushing), who had earned a brown belt in karate (Gronlund).
They smiled as Deborah Welsh appeared on screen, leading her graduating class of flight attendants in a rap song she wrote for the occasion.
They teared up as other attendants' stories unfolded: Lorraine Bay's Friday night dinner dates with her husband. Wanda Green's pride at seeing her children enroll in college. Sandy Bradshaw's plans to return home in time for her son's first birthday. CeeCee Lyle's delight in her new career after years in law enforcement.
The Learning Center was dedicated on Sept. 10, when the Visitor Center opened.
The trainees also could try out its new technology, expected to be used for school field trips, a speaker series and conferences.
“It's ramping up. No idea is off the table,” park Superintendent Stephen Clark said.
Croyle said visitors sometimes approach volunteers in tears, asking them how they can handle sharing such heartache day after day.
“It's such an honor,” she said.
“They are in my heart. They need taken care of, and we have elected to do that,” Sullivan said.