STONYCREEK TOWNSHIP, Pa. — United Airlines Flight 93 was 18 minutes from arriving at its likely destination, the U.S. Capitol, when it crashed into a field outside Shanksville.

Eighteen years later, Vice President Mike Pence told the families of the 40 heroes of Flight 93 that while the names of their loved ones are etched in marble, they hold a deeper meaning for Americans.

“I want to assure their precious families they are also carved into the hearts of the American people,” he said. 

Pence spoke at 9/11 ceremonies Wednesday at the Flight 93 National Memorial to honor the 40 passengers and crew members who fought back against terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001, causing the plane to crash on what is now the memorial site. About 700 people attended. 

Pence was a congressman in 2001. He said that Flight 93 has always been personal to him, as he was inside the Capitol at the time of the crash. It was the second time Pence honored those aboard Flight 93. He spoke at the 2017 ceremony as well.

Pence, who was the final speaker, did not sit on the stage, rather opting to sit with the families during the ceremony. 

“Families gathered here, you honor us by your presence,” he said. “America stands with you.”

Pence said President Donald Trump asked him to attend the ceremony.

“We gather as President Trump said early today, in his words, as one American family,” he said. 

Pence said that while the 40 passengers and crew members were ordinary people, their heroism inspired a nation.

“America was attacked on Sept. 11, but America took the fight back to our enemies that very same day ... right here in the skies above these fields where the heroes of Flight 93 were forged,” he said.

Pence told the families that the Bible says the Lord is close to the broken-hearted.

“And that's our prayer for you. This day and every day," he said. "And it's our prayer for all of the families all across our nation who meet this day each year to remember a personal loss: We're with you."

Stephen Clark, memorial superintendent, thanked those who support the memorial and the volunteers who help at the site, who yearly give 10,000 hours of their time. The time equals $250,000 in in-kind services, he said. 

“It’s absolutely astounding,” he said. 

Donna Gibson, president of the Friends of Flight 93, read the names of the 40 passengers and crew members, along with other family members. The Rev. Paul Britton, brother of passenger Marion Britton, led a moment of silence.

Mitchell Zuckoff, author of “Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11,” said the 40 should be celebrated and emulated for representing the greatest of all American values. He said that when they boarded the flight, the individuals were diverse, from their ethnic backgrounds to their political views.

"And then, at 9:28 a.m., when confronted by terrorist hijackers, these 40 strangers set aside individual interests," he said.

The passengers learned about what had happened at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and talked about coming together to take action.

"In mere minutes they transformed into a cohesive unit and an unstoppable force," Zuckoff said.

He said they took a vote to determine their course of action.

"How American is that?" he said.

And history knows how the vote turned out, with an answer to the call "Let's Roll."

"At the cost of their own lives, the rebels of Flight 93 found a measure of success by forcing the followers of al-Qaida to crash a plane on the site of these sacred grounds where we gather today," he said.

He said the Flight 93 heroes gave the first glimmer of hope on a dark day.

Families of Flight 93's president, Gordon Felt, said that while the 40 woke up that day as private citizens, they ended up heroes.

"Their memory inspires us all and their actions will inspire generations to come," Felt said.

He drew inspiration from the musical "Hamilton" for his address. One of the songs in the musical asks 'When my time is up, have I done enough?'"

"I can't imagine asking any more of the 40 heroes that perished on this sacred ground fighting for their lives," he said.

He then asked the crowd if they are letting the lessons learned on Sept. 11, 2001, impact their decisions in 2019.

"Or have we filed those lessons away to be resurrected once a year on this day," he said. "I ask that you remember that any one of us could have been onboard."

U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said that the Flight 93 National Memorial is vital in sharing the story of 9/11.

"This memorial mourns the lives on a flight that, if it were not for a brave few, might have changed the course of history for the worst," he said. "It forever serves as a reminder why America is the home of the brave." 

Despite visiting the Flight 93 memorial several times before, Joyce Lee had never attended a service there.

The Somerset resident said she decided that this year would be different.

“Just so I never forget,” she said of the event’s importance. “It just shows me that we haven’t forgotten.”