Flight 93 National Memorial Commemorates September 11, 2001, Nineteen Years Later


Collage of the photographs taken at the Flight 93 National Memorial

The terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, is somberly remembered by the American people, often with firsthand experiences of the day. However, the vast majority of high schoolers in 2020 were not alive during the horrific event. That poses the question to many, how do we properly honor those who lost their lives on 9/11? The names, faces, and emotions of that day are not present in their minds. It may be more difficult for young people to fully grasp the shock and terror felt by the entire nation, but Flight 93 National Memorial offers visitors the opportunity to reflect on the attack.

On the nineteenth anniversary of the attack, victims’ families and limited press took part in a private memorial service beyond the ceremonial gates and awaited the President’s speech. Cars lined the surrounding streets to show support to the families and dignitaries arriving. Attendees to this “roadside parade” expressed political opinions through flags and signs. Despite the political motivation for some visitors, honoring the fallen and showing respect to families of victims was the motivation for the vast majority.

 As one Trump supporter explained, “We are not here to make it political, but to show our support for the families and the President.” 

Not all outside attendees were keen on Trump’s appearance. Michigan residents Bruce Fealk and Tom Moran stood out among the crowd as some of the only attendees critical of the President by displaying a sign that read “2,977 Dead on 9/11 -NATIONAL TRAGEDY- 190k Dead-Covid-19 -Trump’s Failure-.” 

Following the twenty minutes of silence, President Trump gave a speech to commemorate the lives lost during September 11. He also recognized the Americans who went out of their way to aid the nation. The President acknowledged the  “amazing passengers and crew of Flight 93” and praised the actions of police officers and firefighters who contributed to relief efforts. Not only did he recognize the people who provided support in 2001, but also commended those who enlisted in the military following 9/11. 

At noon, the Flight 93 National Memorial opened to the public and quickly became crowded with those who wished to understand the events of September 11 as well as pay their respects to the lives lost and hurt by the tragedy. As visitors entered the National Memorial, they stepped into a building with the only focus being to highlight the events of September 11, 2001. Other than recorded news coverage from the events and the faint sounds of shoes on tile, the Visitor Center was shrouded in contemplative silence. It was clear that the terror attack shown in such a descriptive manner spoke for itself. 

The center illustrates the September 11 attacks with maps visually explaining the movement of the four hijacked planes. Recordings of the passengers and crew, diagrams of their seating arrangements, and recovered items from the crash of Flight 93 vividly depict the experience of those killed in the terrorist attack. Nearing the end of the building, visitors were shown the most impactful display in the center, which is filled with dozens of photographs. It allowed those inside to see the heroes of Flight 93 in a personal manner. While heartbreaking in itself, lists of names simply do not elicit as strong of a response as pictures of people do. 

The Wall of Names is a somber place where visitors can pay their respects to the passengers and crew of Flight 93. Not far from the crash site, forty tall marble slabs form a wall, each bearing the name of a hero. The permanent structure serves as more than a headstone, but rather, a symbol of American strength and courage in the face of those who would attempt to undermine our values. Family members of the crew and passengers as well as dignitaries, including President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden, spent the majority of their time in this area.

The former Vice President did not deliver a speech, instead of focusing his attention on the families. He could be seen meeting some for the first time and recounting former meetings with others. This was not his first visit to the observance ceremony, and family members like Camal Wilson expressed appreciation for his reappearance.

Wilson, the nephew of First officer LeRoy Homer Jr., expressed his appreciation for the National Memorial and for his special encounter with Democratic elect Joe Biden. Wilson Praised the former Vice President for attending the observance while not in office. The first time Wilson met Mr. Biden, he was still the Vice President. “He remembered our face,” Wilson said, commenting on his second encounter with Biden, impressed that he had recalled their first encounter many years ago. Wilson also took a moment to highlight the National Memorial’s continued development, explaining “If you can believe it, this was nothing. This was literally just a coal mine, and now it’s a national park. So that’s what 19 years of hard work and dedication can get you.” 

Navy reserves officer and former Chicago police officer David DeMato reflected on his efforts following the attack on the Twin Towers. After being made aware of the severity of the attack, Demato and friend Jason Thomas traveled to New York to help search for survivors. Searching through unstable building remains, and risking their own lives, the pair of heroes, among many others, put the lives of others in front of their own. Amongst the other individuals the President recognized, Thomas was commended for saving two police officers’ lives.

As former Vice President Biden was concluding his visit to the Flight 93 National Memorial, High Post journalist James Miller was able to ask him a question. “Vice President may I ask you a question about how young people in this country can commemorate 9/11 if they were born after it?” Biden responded, “The same way that guys that I was born with after D-Day and all those commemorate it.” He went on to say that the tragedies of a nation aren’t its character, but rather the “character is people, and that’s one of the things you should always remember. And we should draw strength from it.” 

Biden concluded saying, “Don’t ever underestimate one of the marks of being an American is understanding that there are some things that are bigger and more important than yourself.” 

As the first generation of people born after the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, it is the responsibility of young people to recognize the weight of this tragedy and the work of heroes to defend our way of life. The Flight 93 Memorial serves as a permanent reminder that the American people will always persevere in the face of injustice and terror, and provides visitors the chance to better understand the gravity of the attack. 

The High Post would like to especially thank Camal Wilson for his assistance and support. Additionally, it would like to thank Navy reserves officer David DeMato for allowing the High Post to interview him as well as the former Vice President Joe Biden.