September 11, 2001 was a date that will never be forgotten by Americans and recently I had the opportunity to visit the temporary memorial for Flight 93.
The memorial is located in Somerset County, Pennsylvania and is a place for quiet reflection and respect for those honoring the heroes on the United Airlines plane that fateful day.
All 33 passengers, 7 crew members, and 4 hijackers were killed after the plane crashed at 580 miles per hour into a field in Shanksville, located in the Stonycreek Township.
The temporarily memorial was built on a hilltop overlooking the crash site and visitors can look over the grassy fields and visually follow the flight path of the plane to the crash site.
The crash site area is currently surrounded by a fence and is located 500 yards south of the temporary memorial accessible only to family members of those killed on Flight 93.
Somerset County Sheriff’s deputies are on duty at the site 24 hours a day.
Those going to the temporary memorial can expect to see a large 40 foot long fence which has become a collage of flowers, flags, handwritten messages, artwork, and tributes of every description.
Seeing the memorial is quite an emotional experience and is hard to describe in words because the images seen there speak volumes about the American spirit which will never die no matter how hard terrorists try to kill it through their cowardly acts.
Several large stone benches exist with the names of those who died engraved in the back of the bench.
Memorabilia at the site shows visitors from all across the country left items at the site and these items are being cared for by volunteers and staff of the National Park Service.
Items that needed to be removed from the weather are cleaned, catalogued and stored and the Flight 93 National Memorial Collection has over 25,000 objects.
For more information about the collection, call the National Park Service curator at 814-443-4557.
Crosses, plaques, ball caps, patches, flags and angels have been left at the site and there is a journal where visitors may write their thoughts.
The journal is located inside a small modular building which can accommodate about 25 people.
Many have signed this journal indicating their pride for those who sacrificed their own lives in order to protect the lives of other people.
Volunteers take turns staffing the site and use the building as a place where they answer visitors’ questions and provide background information about facts surrounding the event.
When I visited, an elderly gentleman who lives near where Flight 93 went down described what he saw, showed photographs of the cloud of smoke emerging from the plane after it went down, FBI agents, Pennsylvania and local police performing an investigation shortly after the crash landing, and a list of all those killed that fateful day along with photographs of those people.
The volunteer said when authorities responded shortly after they expected to see a plane in the nearby woods.
They later discovered the plane, a Boeing 757, was underneath the ground and the largest salvageable piece was only about 6 feet long.
The volunteer tells people that those who were on the plane took a unanimous vote to overtake the terrorists after realizing from cell phone conversations with friends and family that planes had already hit the World Trade Center and their plane changed the original course and was headed toward Washington, D.C.
Dialogue from the terrorist on the airplane’s intercom system and that of passengers and crew members has been typed up and included in another notebook in the building.
The airplane was approximately 20 minutes flying time from Washington, D.C. and the hijacker’s objective was to crash the airliner into either the Capitol or the White House.
It is possible they saved thousands of lives that would have abruptly ended if the plane reached its intended destination.
The volunteer said fate played another role since the flight, which was traveling from Newark, New Jersey to San Francisco, California was running more than 25 minutes late and did not leave the ground until 8:42 a.m.
After 46 minutes of routine flight, hijackers seated in first class section of the plane attacked at 9:28 a.m. as the plan passed over eastern Ohio.
Terrorists gained control of the plane by incapacitating the captain and first officer and Flight 93 turned southeast heading for the nation’s capital.
The plane was observed flying low and erratically over southwestern Pennsylvania shortly before 10 am. before it crashed at 10:03 a.m.
The hijackers were defeated by the unarmed passengers and crew of Flight 93.
Those wishing to visit the temporary memorial should be aware that is located on a very windy hilltop and most visitors find it much colder than the place they came from.
The memorial is not lighted at night and no solicitation, concessions, brochures, signs or advertisements are permitted.
Overnight parking and loitering at the site are also prohibited and planting of trees, flowers, or shrubs will not be allowed.
No structures are allowed to be installed at the site and to maintain the dignity of the site, visitors are asked not to smoke, bring pets, food, or drink into the memorial area.
Because the temporary memorial is located on private property, visitors are asked to respect the owner’s right by not trespassing beyond the gravel area of the temporary memorial and the paved parking areas.
Across the road from the memorial is an overflow parking lot with a porta-potty.
Family members, area residents, subject experts, and a Federal Advisory Commission have made recommendations on the design, boundaries, and management of a permanent National Memorial and more information is available at www.honorflight93.org.
More information about the permanent memorial can be obtained by visiting the National Park Service office at 109 West Main Street Suite 104.
The temporarily memorial can be accessed from Somerset by taking exit 110 of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and following signs for Route 281 North.
Visitors should take Route 281 North 9.5 miles to U.S. 30/Lincoln Highway at Stoystown. Then they should travel 2.4 miles east on U.S. 30/Linoln Highway to Lambertsville Road.
At that point, they should travel 1.7 miles on Lambertsville Road to Skyline Road and travel 1 mile on Skyline Road to the temporary memorial.
I recommend every American to make the trip to see the memorial, if not now, they should visit it when the permanent memorial opens.