August 30, 2013

8/22/13 - Flight 93 National Memorial

We actually hadn't planned to go to the Flight 93 National Memorial because we'd heard it wasn't finished yet. But as we were checking in at an RV park in southwestern Pennsylvania, we learned we were only about 25 miles from the site.  The park manager said it was definitely worth a trip.  I asked her about what it was like on that day. Personal stories are always the best.

There's a 3 1/2 mile drive to the Memorial Plaza from the entrance, winding through old surface coal mining land. Forty groves of forty trees have been planted along the entry road, one grove for each one of the forty victims.  They're just saplings now but will be even more impressive in a few years.
Panels near the Visitors Shelter tell the story of September 11, 2011, when the actions of the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 prevented the plane from attacking the White House or Capitol Building in Washington, DC.  They don't really know the details of what they did, but they're definitely heroes.
It's a quarter of a mile down this walkway to the Wall of Names.  The Black Wall marks the edge of the debris field of the crash site.  The big bench on the right is intended for contemplation. There are niches in the walls where people leave tributes to the victims.
The plane flew across this field, crashing just in front of the trees in the distance.  After the FBI investigated the site, the coroner directed the crater to be filled.  The field and woods are the final resting place of the passengers and crew of Flight 93.  They call it the Field of Honor.
The Wall of Names is very simple and elegant, one name inscribed on each of the forty accordion-fold marble panels.
Just before the Black Wall meets the Wall of Names is a small wall, and behind that is a ceremonial gate.  Looking through the spaces between the wooden boards along a path mowed through wildflowers, you can see a boulder marking the general location of the impact site.
The yellow flowers are black-eyed susans, and they are all over the place!  I haven't figured out whether they seem out of place, or if they're just perfect.  I know I like them.
We got back to the Visitor Shelter in time for a ranger-talk.  He talked about the day, the investigation, the plans for the memorial.  I didn't realize until later that he didn't talk about the terrorists, but that's just fine.  The memorial isn't for them anyway.  
A lot of thought and symbolism went into this memorial.  The architects plan is for it to be a place of renewal.  The land around here was used for surface mining of coal, and the reclaimed land is mostly grassland.  They plan to build a big Visitor Center complex, divided .  Near the entrance will be the Tower of Voices, with forty wind chimes.

So even though the memorial isn't finished, it's worth a trip.  (Take a hankie.)  As far as I'm concerned, if they never built any more, it would be enough.  It's simple, almost stark, but a lot of thought was put into this tribute to the passengers of Flight 93.

A few more pictures here:  Flight 93 NM 

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