Flight 93 National Memorial

This past weekend, 6 days after the 10-year anniversary of 9/11/2011, we drove 701½ miles each way (1,403 total miles in less than 48 hours) to visit the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania.

I felt compelled to visit, and dear sweet hubby was up to the drive.  This was our first trip together as empty nesters.  While the weather was gorgeous, we had to contend with an incredible amount of road construction, an Explorer which lost a tire that almost hit us, and a fatal accident delaying our trek through one major city.

Why did I want to do this?

Well, the senselessness of hijacking a commercial jet liner with the intent to kill the citizens of another country continues to baffle me.  We aren’t talking about people involved in combat or in a war zone.  We are talking about everyday people going about their everyday lives.

What makes the story of the 40 people (33 passengers and 7 crew members) on Flight 93 even more amazing is that these ordinary people going about their everyday lives are extreme examples of democracy in action, altruism, and heroism.

Entrance to the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania.

The site encompasses 273 acres of rolling countryside.

Shanksville, PA, lies along the southern edge a mere 6 seconds, by air, from the crash site.

The informational posters describe the event, honor the heroes and victims, and are even updated to include the recent death of Osama bin Laden on May 1, 2011.

The first stop is the site of the future visitor center.  The sidewalk, which will eventually connect with the sidewalk below, follows the flight path of the jet liner leading up to the crash site.

The Wall of Names – each slab of marble contains the name of one of the 40 heroes.  The sidewalk includes lights that mark the flight path.

A sandstone boulder marks the center of the crater where the plane crashed at 10:03 a.m., upside down, going 563 miles per hour.

Only family members are allowed to enter the actual crash site as it is the final resting place for everyone who perished on that day.

Of the four planes that crashed on that day, this is the only one where the flight recorder was recovered and yielded evidence.  While the plane made a 40 foot crater, the largest single item recovered was a 6×7 foot piece of the fuselage.  Remains of all 40 victims and the 4 hijackers were recovered and positively identified.

Items from the 9/11 service remain on the site.

The Wall of Names includes a slab for each of the 40 heroes.  Items were left in front of each slab by loved ones the week before.

I took pictures of several of them, but this one struck me because the lipstick marks were left by a loved one from the 9/11 service.

Wildflowers adorn the hillsides and the site of the crater.

In less than 48 hours, we traveled 1,403 miles to pay respects to the innocent and ordinary people, who became heroes, for our country.  We hope to visit Washington, D.C., and Ground Zero in New York City someday, too.

The crash site was designated a national memorial in 2002 by an act of Congress.  The Flight 93 National Memorial is not yet completed.  In addition to a Visitor Center, there are plans to complete the walkway, the Tower of Voices, the Field of Honor, and 40 Memorial Groves.

The plans for creating the Memorial are being coordinated by the Flight 93 Advisory Commission, the Families of Flight 93, Friends of Flight 93, the National Park Foundation, and the National Park Service.

If you find yourself in southwestern Pennsylvania, make time to visit the Flight 93 National Memorial.

Note:  The NPS is seeking donations to complete the Memorial.  If you wish to contribute, you may send donations to Flight 93 National Memorial Campaign, c/o National Park Foundation, 1201 Eye Street NW Ste. 550 B, Washington, D.C., 20005, www.honorflight93.org.  For more information visit the NPS website here.

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