Pence, in 2001, hadn’t finished his first year as a House member from Indiana the morning planes piloted by terrorists struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
He was standing with hundreds of others near the east front of the Capitol around the time a fourth plane may have struck that building.
The 9/11 Commission report is inconclusive about whether Washington-bound Flight 93 was headed to the Capitol or the White House.
What is clear is that passengers, having learned about the other attacks from airfones, charged the cockpit. Sacrificing their own lives, the 40 crew members and passengers crashed in rural Pennsylvania.
“I will always believe that I and many others in our nation’s capital were able to go home that day and hug our families because of the courage and selflessness of your families,” Pence told family members in a speech at the memorial site Wednesday.
When Pence visited Shanksville two years ago, he walked through the museum, examining the display of personal items recovered from the crash. Among them was the book “A Life of Integrity,” by Howard Hendricks that had belonged to passenger Todd Beamer.
“I was struck by the book’s title and how perfectly it represented what the men and women of Flight 93 demonstrated on that day eighteen years ago,” he said Wednesday.
Beamer, a father of three, is the passenger who could be heard on phones reciting the Lord's Prayer and then asking others "Are you ready? Okay. Let's roll" before they stormed the cockpit.
Soon after seeing the book, Pence bought his own copy.
Ever since, Pence said, the book has flown with him on Air Force Two as a “quiet tribute” to all of Flight 93’s passengers and crew members.
“For what your loved ones did for my little family and countless others in our nation’s capital that day,” he said, “thank you.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 9/11: Pence totes book for Flight 93 passengers he says saved his life