NAVAL SURFACE WARFARE CENTER, PHILADELPHIA DIVISION —
On the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division’s (NSWCPD) Kim Yee and his family was invited by the Shanksville National Park Service (NPS) Superintendent to attend a Remembrance Ceremony on hallowed ground. They went to the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., to support their daughter Marissa, who held the extraordinary honor of playing the bagpipe for the families of the heroes on Flight 93 at the Flight 93 Memorial Tribute on Sept 11, 2020.
“It was my family’s privilege and honor to attend and participate in the Flight 93 Memorial Tribute,” said Yee, the NSWCPD contracting officer representative (COR) supervisor working in the Machinery Programs and Platform Department, with 33 years NSWCPD service.
The Memorial Ceremony included reading the names of the 40 passengers and crew, a Moment of Reflection, and Bells of Remembrance, along with remarks from the Flight 93 National Memorial Superintendent Stephen M. Clark, Vice President of the Families of Flight 93 Ed Root, and President Donald Trump. Later in the day, former Vice President Joe Biden laid a wreath and spoke to families.
Marissa concluded the event by playing a deeply moving rendition of “Amazing Grace”, which echoed across the 1,000-acre site.
“I just feel so grateful that the families of Flight 93 gave me the opportunity to be a part of this special moment,” said Marissa. “It was great to honor the legacy of the heroes of Flight 93. I just wanted it to be something to touch the families because I know how much this ceremony meant to them. It’s amazing that I was allowed to be a part of this and hopefully I can bring some healing. I know traditionally bagpipes gets people emotional. It was really nice to have that moment for everything to fall silent and for everyone to reflect and remember.”
The ceremony concluded with the 17-year-old leading the procession of the 48 family members in attendance to the Flight 93 crash site, which is sacred ground reserved only for the victims’ family members.
“That was really such an honor to be able to walk those grounds that the families do every single year, so they can take their time and remember their families’ final resting place,” stated Marissa. “That ceremonial gate is only open once a year, and it was special that they shared that solemn moment with me.”
GETTING THE CALL
Skilled at the piano and the saxophone at an early age, Marissa began playing the bagpipes five years ago at her mother’s suggestion. She volunteers her musical talents in support of the local VFW Post 2692 and American Legion Post 11 during Memorial Day, as well as participates in major holiday parades with the Greater Trenton Pipes and Drums, a New Jersey non-profit pipe band.
Clark asked Marissa to take part in the Flight 93 Memorial Ceremony after seeing her touching message and bagpipe playing on an online video named “A bagpipe tribute for those affected by COVID-19“. The video is dedicated to the doctors, nurses, police, and essential workers who put themselves at risk and to those lost to coronavirus.
“When we were asked to play at the Memorial Tribute, of course, we said yes. We definitely wanted to play for the families and show our respects,” said Marissa.
Marissa continued to practice her craft diligently, but a couple of weeks out from the event, she took it to the next level.
“Every day I would go out to my back yard and just play over and over and over,” she noted. “I thought it was going to be a small ceremony because of COVID restrictions, but when it was announced that the Trump and Biden groups were going to be there, I was like ‘Holy Moly!’ I definitely need to keep practicing now!”
Having her family in the audience made a world of difference for Marissa, who said, “That was everything. It was really an honor that I could share this moment with my family. I’m thankful for my parents and my siblings, because they have always been there to support me.”
Playing on a global stage can bring out the butterflies for everyone, including Marissa.
“I was definitely nervous. I get nervous every time I play. But this was on a greater scale. But when I was there and started to play, the nerves went away,” she said with a smile.
“She was calm under pressure. When the moment came to perform, she performed flawlessly,” remarked Yee proudly.
“We were honored to have Marissa here to perform and help us conclude the formal ceremony for the 19th Observance this year,” said Adam Shaffer, Flight 93 National Memorial Chief of Interpretation and Education. “She is a very musically talented young lady, and she did a fantastic job.”
The events of September 11, 2001 changed the world tremendously. It continues to create an indelible impact for the individuals who lived through it and the generations who come after it.
“9/11 is something I am so fascinated by,” said Marissa. “When the annual memorials happened, I would watch them on television with my mom, but I never truly understood it. But being there and hearing the words of the speakers, it really clicked about how real this was and this was someone’s loved one who sacrificed their own life.”
“My parents lived in New York City near the World Trade Center, so for me 9/11 was very impactful,” explained Yee. “My daughter wasn’t born until after 9/11. She knew about it, but being part of this Memorial Ceremony really solidifies the significance of this moment to her. The heroes of Flight 93 took action and prevented the plane from hitting the Capitol. It was tragic moment that we should never forget.”
NSWCPD employs approximately 2,700 civilian engineers, scientists, technicians, and support personnel. The NSWCPD team does the research and development, test and evaluation, acquisition support, and in-service and logistics engineering for the non-nuclear machinery, ship machinery systems, and related equipment and material for Navy surface ships and submarines. NSWCPD is also the lead organization providing cybersecurity for all ship systems.