A September 11 memorial will include childhood details of the only New Zealander killed in the attacks, thanks to a chance meeting between a Californian flight attendant and a group from Invercargill.

Alan Beaven, a 48-year-old environment lawyer, died eight years ago today on United Airlines Flight 93.

The plane crashed in a field near Pittsburgh in a day of terrorism that killed more than 3000 people.

United flight attendant Judy Jackson, whose colleagues died on the flight, is helping collect information for a memorial to be put up at the crash site in 2011, the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

She began researching Mr Beaven's history while accompanying her doctor husband to Invercargill, where he worked for six months at Southland Hospital.

The couple were at a restaurant and started chatting to some other diners who happened to be friends of Mr Beaven's family. The conversation led Mrs Jackson to Mr Beaven's brother Ralph.

"It was amazing," Ralph Beaven said.

"She sat down to have dinner and she said that one of the reasons she was over here was for this particular purpose, for Alan, and she wanted to catch up with the family. And they knew of us."

Mrs Jackson spent a week in Auckland visiting Mr Beaven's childhood home in Milford, his former school, Westlake Boys High, and Auckland University, where he did his law degree. She took photos and local newspaper clippings back to the US to add to the memorial.

"They had a lot of information on him when he was in America, but they didn't have information on his family or anything of his childhood," Mr Beaven said.

"I think there was only very little said in America of his extended family. There was no contact with us from the American authorities about it. The woman who came over here felt quite guilty about that."

Alan Beaven, a father of three, had been heading to San Francisco on the Boeing 757 where he was to try one last case before starting a year's sabbatical.

He and other passengers are believed to have fought hijackers who planned to crash the aircraft into the White House. He had been living in New York with his second wife Kimi and their 5-year-old daughter.

Ralph Beaven, of Murrays Bay, remembers the exact moment he heard about the attacks.

"We were holidaying in Fiji and were having brunch when we noticed a group of people milling around the TV screen.

"I thought it was a sporting game they were watching. But they were relaying the places that had been hit. Of course, at the time we never knew Alan was on board."

His sister Margaret, who lives in London, contacted him later that day to pass on the bad news.