July 13, 2013 – Underway – Flight 93 National Memorial

After almost two months at home, we left Langhorne again, heading west along the PA Turnpike.  Along the seemingly endless cornfields,

were punctuated by old barns

and silos on which Debbie seems to have had a fixation today.

Then there were the school buses which seemed to be sprouting from the corn fields,

clever, if not humorous signs,

and a graveyard for mobile homes.

However, the further west of Harrisburg we traveled, the more the highway climbed and descended and was increasingly bordered by dense growths of trees, limiting visibility of the surrounding countrysides.

After getting settled into our campground site, we took the 30 mile drive to the Flight 93 National Memorial, to which we had made donations shortly after 9-11-2001.

This peaceful place was not chosen by the terrorists — they had other targets for their violence and hate. This spot was chosen by the passengers of Flight 93, who spared our country from even greater horrors.” – Laura Bush

Most everyone has heard the story … Three of the four hijacked flights departed on schedule on the morning of September 11, 2001.  However, Flight 93 was delayed more than 25 minutes before departing from Newark, New Jersey en route to San Francisco, California.  At approximately 9:28 a.m., less than one hour into the flight, four terrorists on Flight 93 overtook the cockpit, turning the plane southeast on a course directed toward Washington, D.C.  Using airfones, passengers and crew began making calls to report the hijacking.  As they reached loved ones and authorities, they learned of the events in New York and Washington, D.C., and quickly realized that Flight 93 was part of a larger attack on America.  This realization led to a vote and a collective decision to fight back.

In just over 30 minutes, they developed a plan and put it into action.  They stormed the cockpit and, as revealed by the cockpit voice recorder, amid shouts, screams and sounds of breaking glassware, several passengers and crew carried on a sustained struggle for control of the plane.  In its final moments, the plane turned upside down before crashing into a rural field in western Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m. at a speed of 563 miles per hour.

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 its intended target that day. Flight 93 was just 18 minutes flying time from Washington, D.C., and, had the passengers and crew not taken such decisive action, the plane would have been used to crash into the U.S. Capitol, causing unimaginable destruction and loss of life.  The passengers and crew showed unity, courage, and selflessness that enabled them to join together in an extraordinary way and make a profound difference that day.

Flight Path of Flight 93

Countryside over which the fatal flight flew during its final moments

The final hillside by which time the aircraft was inverted

Site of the impact shortly after the crash

Largest piece of debris recovered (6’x7’ section of the fuselage)

Entering the Memorial, your take the Plaza Walkway, which defines the northern edge of the crash site.

Along the Walkway, there are three niches into which visitors can place tokens of remembrance.

The walkway eventually widens into the memorial plaza behind which stand the wall of names, composed of 40 panels of 8’ tall polished white granite slabs … each inscribed with a name of the 40 heroes.  

It was Todd Breamer whose, “Let’s roll”, became synonymous with the passengers’ revolt against the hijackers

While records list forty passengers and crew, Lauren Grandcolas’ unborn baby also perished that day

Etched into the granite were recognitions of Flight 93’s flight crew

Two walls flanking the gate are clad in polished white granite create the line tracing the flight path of the aircraft’s final moments … as it approached the crash site …

 

Along a black sandstone walkway, past the granite memorials to the victims to the Ceremonial Gate

which leads to the field where Flight 93 ended … and through which only families of the victims are allowed.

Looking through the gate, a granite boulder is visible, marking the center of the impact site.

 

The Flight 93 National Memorial is a work-in-progress.  The next phase of construction is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2013 and has an anticipation completion date of 2015 … and will include a Visitor’s Center, Learning center and pedestrian bridge running past the forty memorial groves of Red Oak, Black Oak, White Oak, Scarlet Oak, Chestnut Oak, Black Gum and Sugar Maples, and across the several wetlands.   To date close to 30,000 seedlings have been planted to reforest large swaths of the Memorial landscape, creating new woodlands, wildlife habitats and serving as a windbreak for the Memorial Groves.  A later phase will include the Tower of Voices containing forty wind chimes.

LEST WE NEVER FORGET

A child left a note at the memorial which perhaps summed up the feelings of most Americans as they struggled to grasp the unimaginable events of that day; Thank you to the people who fought back and tried to save all the other people.”

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