Greetings and salutations,
The beautiful, warm fall day, September 11, 2001, shall remain forever etched in our collective memories, at least for those of us old enough to remember that fateful day. After watching the two planes fly into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and the third plane crash into the Pentagon in Washington, DC, we were shocked to learn that a fourth hijacked plane, United Flight 93, traveling from Newark to San Francisco crashed in Stonycreek Township near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. There were no survivors.
We visited the Flight 93 National Memorial during our recent travels to Pennsylvania and Washington, DC. When visiting historical sites such as Gettysburg and others, one can reflect on the distant past and it’s significance to the development and progress of our country. Sites such as Flight 93 have a different feel, maybe because we lived it, it’s recent history and the wounds an event such as this creates are still fresh. It happened within our life time and we are still feeling the impact through the ongoing global war on terrorism.
First a little history and then a few photos. Flight 93 left Newark 25 minutes late with 33 passengers, four hijackers and seven crew members aboard. About 46 minutes into the flight (somewhere over eastern Ohio) the al Qaeda hijackers stormed the cockpit and incapacitated the pilot and co-pilot, turning the plane back toward Washington, DC. The intended target is unknown but the Capitol and White House are suspected.
After the hijackers took control of the plane, crew and passengers learned through phone calls that suicide attacks were made on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The passengers and crew attempted to regain control of the plane from the hijackers, a six minute struggle ensued and at 10:03 AM, the plane crashed into a field at 563 miles per hour in Somerset County, near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The action and heroism of those aboard prevented the plane from reaching its target. The impact created a crater 10 feet deep and 40 feet wide. Most of the debris was scattered over about 70 acres with some found up to eight miles away. Only bits and pieces of human remains were found, the rest incinerated upon impact. So the field is the final resting place of those involved.
A spontaneous temporary memorial was created in the days after the crash with a permanent memorial operated by the National Park Service dedicated on September 10, 2011 and a visitor center opened on September 10, 2015.
For many, the visit starts in the parking lot as one prepares to walk up the sidewalk, its like attending a funeral, quiet and reflective. Here’s what it looks like approaching the memorial. The opening in the wall is the path the plane was one before crashing.
This is the view from the overlook with the crash site straight ahead.
The Visitor Center consists of 10 panels describing the hijacking and crash. It has great audiovisuals and tributes to the crew and passengers who lost their lives that day. Visitors can listen to some of the recordings made by passengers and crew before the crash. There is a warning to caution listeners of the emotional impact of those recordings.
After reviewing the panels, visitors can walk or drive down to the Memorial Plaza near the impact site. Again, a very sobering experience. Note the boulder in the bottom two photos. The plane stopped just short of this boulder and remains a crucial marker on the impact site.
The Wall of Names commemorates and honors those who lost their lives on 9/11/01.
Again, a very emotional couple of hours. I walked away from this Memorial with the humble thought of how fortunate I am to be alive and how important it is to make every moment count. I recommend a visit to this stirring Memorial.
Until next week, travel safe.