Monday, August 17, 2015

Flight 93 Memorial

The morning of Wednesday, July 29th we got up early and departed Philadelphia to make the 5.5-hour drive to my aunt and uncle's house in Pittsburgh.

This was one of our longer days of driving, and we approached it like all the others: we planned to stop roughly every two hours for at least a stretch break (we would look for rest areas with room to run, or preferably, Chick-Fil-A playspaces) and then a longer break for lunch. For this leg of the trip, we planned for a picnic lunch stop at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA, which is just over halfway between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

As I'm sure everyone knows, United Flight 93 was one of the four hijacked planes on September 11, 2001, and the only one that did not make it to its intended destination (suspected to be the Capitol Building in D.C.). After the terrorists took over the plane, the passengers used the in-flight telephones to call their friends and family back home. Their flight had been delayed 30 minutes, which  meant that by the time those calls were being made, the other planes had already hit their targets of the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Presumably, this knowledge led to the realization that action must be taken and the passengers and crew fought back against the terrorists. The plane came to its final resting place in a field in Shanksville.

The memorial is very peaceful. From the parking lot, you walk up to a small building with information about Flight 93, and some seating areas to rest.

A seating area, with what will be the new Visitor's Center off in the distance

From there, you walk a quarter-mile to the memorial itself. The walk is on a very stark gray pavement, with an angled wall separating the walkway from the field of wildflowers to the left—the final resting place for those on board Flight 93. There are benches to sit on, and they are shaped at an angle to mirror that of an airplane's wings. Every so often there is a little inset in the wall where people can leave tokens and mementos.

The walkway

Someone left a little Capitol Building figurine here

At the end of the walkway is the Wall of Names, with 40 panels each bearing the name of one passenger or crew member on board Flight 93. They are all on one wall, as a united group, but each name has its own panel to represent that they were strangers, forced together by chance.

Date on the edge of the wall

The Wall of Names

The wall follows the flight path of the plane moments before it crashed. At the end of the wall is a rustic wooden gate to the field. A mowed portion of the field denotes the remainder of the flight path, ending at a sandstone boulder that marks the impact site.

The gate to the field

The path to the boulder

We walked out to the Wall of Names and back, then found a shady spot to sit and eat our picnic lunch. Then we hit the road again. I'm glad that our travel path brought us through Shanksville, because I'm not sure when or if we otherwise would have seen this memorial. It is certainly off the beaten path. They actually have much more planned for it (we could see the Visitor's Center under construction during our visit, but there are additional plans in the works), so there will be more to see in the future, but I'm glad we were able to see it now.

To see more pictures from the Flight 93 Memorial, click here.

Coming up next: A quick road trip recap break tomorrow in honor of our wedding anniversary, but we will resume Wednesday with our day at Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood at Idlewild, and some nice visiting with my aunt and uncle in Pittsburgh!

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