Earlier this week I told you that we’d talk about my recent visit to the Flight 93 Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Truth is, I’ve been putting off telling this story.
I visited the crash site not long after September 11th. At the time, it was just a makeshift memorial – a chainlink fenced covered in tributes and a guard shack turned temporary visitors’ center that was manned by a volunteer. The day I visited, the elderly man who greeted us was a farmer who saw the plane go over his barn just before it crashed.
Since I was going to be in the area this month, road tripping with a good friend, it made sense to stop by and pay our respects.
This memorial is very well done. You can tell that the loved ones of the forty people aboard that plane have been involved every step of the way. You actually follow the flight path to reach the concrete and glass visitors’ center. It sits on a hill overlooking the crash site as well as a white marble Wall of Names.
It’s a sobering experience.
They have done a nice job telling the story of this tragedy and its place in the history of that day. They don’t romanticize anything. They don’t exaggerate. They don’t commercialize. There’s no need. They just tell the story using photos, videos and memorabilia. The last piece is a wall of names that includes all September 11th victims.
There are phones where you can hear last calls placed to loved ones.We both chose to skip that. It sounded a little more intense than either of us were prepared for that day.
You can drive to the Wall of Names but you can also walk a winding, tree-lined path. That’s the route we chose and I was glad. It was peaceful, serene and beautiful. When those young trees mature, the grounds will be absolutely gorgeous.
The newest addition to the memorial is the Tower of Voices, a 93 foot tall tower with a chime that represents each of the forty people aboard that plane. It isn’t quite done but it will be a complicated system of chimes that I’m certain will sound beautiful someday.
There were a lot of people there that day but everyone was respectful and quiet. Somber. I appreciated that. The actual crash site is sacred ground and inaccessible to the public.
I’ve been to the site twice – both spring and fall – and it was windy and cool both times. If you go, I recommend dressing in layers and allow yourself at least an hour to do everything, longer if you wish to walk the path rather than drive.