Friday, October 19, 2012

Shanksville, Pennsylvania: Flight 93 National Memorial

October 18, 2012

We're on the road again, this time headed east.  Our first stop was Shanksville, Pennsylvania, to revisit the site of the crash of Flight 93, the plane that did not fulfill terrorists' plans on 9/11/2001.

Unlike two planes that were crashed into the World Trade Center that morning, this plane's destination was  changed by a revolt of the passengers and crew.  Although the plane crashed, and the 44 people on board were killed, the actions of the 33 passengers and 7 crew members prevented this plane from crashing into the U.S. Capitol building or the White House. The crash site is only 18 minutes flying time from Washington D.C., so the actions of these heroic people saved hundreds of lives and chaos in Washington.

While the other two planes were crashing into the World Trade Center, Flight 93, which was to leave from Newark, New Jersey and fly to San Francisco, was delayed nearly 25 minutes. This late take-off helped to keep the terrorists' plan for Flight 93 from success.

Thirteen people on board the plane made 37 calls to family members and friends after the terrorists took over the plane. During those calls, they found out what had happened in New York City and realized that the plane they were on was part of a terrorist act.

In 2003, Randy and I stopped in Shanksville for the first time. Then the site consisted of a fence covered with personal notes and mementos attached to the fence or placed on the ground near a United States flag.  The crash area was fenced off and could be seen in the far distance.

Now it is a national memorial, taken care of by The National Park Service.  A competition was held to choose a design for the memorial, and it has been partially built. Groves of newly-planted trees will line the drive into the memorial.  They were actually being planted as we drove into the area.

It was a chilly fall day today, and the autumn leaves were at the season's peak.  With the surrounding mountains and a little mist in the air, it was almost eerie.

Visitors are quiet at the memorial, appropriately.

 Signs tell the story and show the people.

All 40 people who were killed in this terrorist act are pictured on one large sign, and their names are etched into a wall near the actual crash site.  A rock marks that location, and by the wall of names is a wooden gate or door through which the rock can be viewed.  The crash site is only open to family members.

A walkway leads visitors out towards the site. Visitors have left small tributes or gifts of honor in some indentations in this black concrete wall.

Forty-four humans died here that day.  The four terrorists who led this particular attack are not honored, but they are part of the count. No photos or names honor them, and that is very fitting.

There are future plans for a visitor center, a tower to contain 40 wind chimes, and a "Field of Honor." I suppose we will have to go back again some day to see the progress.

Some photos I've taken show the sign with photos of the 40 heroes and the map that explains what happened that morning.  My other pictures, I hope, will convey the beauty of this location in the heart of Pennsylvania farming country.  I wish I could give you the peaceful quiet that is there.  I know you would feel the awe that I feel for these terrified passengers and crew members as they fought for their lives, and ultimately for their country, in the brief time they had to realize the horror that was occurring that morning.  We cannot help but leave this place solemnly and grateful for their collective act.

You can learn more about the National Park at

You can learn about donating to the memorial at

Donations can be sent to:

Flight 93 National Memorial Campaign
c/o National Park Foundation
1201 Eye Street, NW Ste. 550B
Washington D.C. 20005