Initially our plan was to stop at the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, PA on our drive to the Pocono Mountains. Unfortunately, with the rain from Indiana to Pennsylvania, we hadn't made the time we had hoped so it was best to delay our visit for our return drive the following Saturday. That worked out perfectly since it was a sunny and crisp fall day on the day we departed our timeshare in the Poconos.
We took a leisurely drive through the rural roads from Carlisle to Shanksville. It really was a pretty ride through some lovely farmland with beautiful fall colors over the rolling hills and valleys. As we approached the Flight 93 National Memorial road via US 30, I found myself thinking about what it was like to see that large Boeing 757 aircraft inverted and plunging to earth.
The drive up to the crash site is about three miles on a two lane road. The actual National Park Service site is still under development. There is a decent sized parking lot along with vault toilets. Beyond that point, the sidewalks provide access to the Memorial Plaza which includes a pictorial exhibit from that fateful day in September 2001. The storyboards include photographs and explanations relative to the events of the day. One of the exhibits includes photos of each of the 33 passengers and seven crew members who died in the attack.
There is a small visitor center that has a guest book, a wall to leave messages to pay tribute to those whose lives were lost, and the NPS Passport Cancellation Station. We stopped in so that I could stamp my passport book and to sign the visitors' book.
The sidewalk continues on about a quarter mile in total, to the Memorial Wall of Names. There each of the 40 lost souls are remembered on the white marble wall. There are actually two walls, the long one with the 40 names and a shorter one that is to the left end of the Memorial Wall that is parallel and forms a view of the actual trajectory of the plane to the point of impact which is marked by a large boulder that can be best seen in the distance. It is best seen from the walkway from the Memorial Plaza, however, so be sure to take some time to stop and view it from another vantage point.
During our visit there were a number of wreaths that had been placed in remembrance. It should be noted that only family members of those lost on Flight 93 can actually enter the crash area as it is the sacred burial grounds and final resting place of the 40 who lost their lives there.
Some additional information for future visitors . . .
The Flight 93 National Memorial is still a work in progress, with about one-third of the project completed. Just a couple of months ago, there was a ground-breaking ceremony for the new Visitor Center. Artist's renderings also depict a larger memorial tribute to include a "Tower of Voices" created by 40 large wind chimes and the "40 Memorial Groves" created by the recent planting of hundreds of maple trees.
During our visit we spent about an hour in total at the memorial. It was relatively a slow day when you consider that during the peak summer months, we were told people have to wait and walk in line from Memorial Plaza to the actually Memorial Wall. This past summer, people stood in cue for over an hour for the opportunity to walk up to the wall and experience the view of the flight's trajectory.
Quoting from the US National Park Service's brochure for the Flight 93 National Memorial "Because of the quick and determined actions of the passengers and crew, Flight 93 was the only one of the four hijacked aircraft that failed to reach the terrorists' intended target that day. The passengers and crew showed unity, courage, and defiance in the face of adversity."
For their bravery and selflessness, all Americans owe them a debt of gratitude. I cannot fathom what would have happened to our country had the hijackers been successful in their attempt to fly that plane into the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.