Shanksville Remembrance


Three years ago as I drove with my family over the gravel driveway looking for an unmarked parking lot, all that came to my mind was, “So this is where it happened?” As we walked to the makeshift memorial we approached a chain link fence that contained mementos, flags, tributes and memorabilia that honored, thanked and remembered the victims of Flight 93. The mementos symbolized our fight for freedom and brought closure to many that left behind these tributes. Even though all the symbolism was there, the question of “where” was still unclear. It was like feeling an emptiness that had no clarity. I looked yet vague. As I was leaving the site I realized the memorial did not bring needed closure, and the field did not honor those victims of Flight 93. To me it brought a feeling of emptiness.

“I can remember this day like it was yesterday,” says senior Julia West. “I was on the parallel bars hanging upside down outside at recess at Valley School of Ligonier when I saw the plane flying very low to the ground. My teachers thought that the plane was going to land at the school. My house was one mile away from the school and my parents told me that they could see all of the peoples’ faces looking out of the window panicking and crying inside of the plane. They could see every single panel; that is how low the plane was to the ground near my home.”

September 11, 2011 marks the ten year anniversary of Flight 93 and I once again travel to Shanksville to pay my respects to the heroes who helped save our great nation. As I approach the new memorial, I have this sense of pride that overwhelms me. New paved roads lead to the site of the crash. On that day, a shuttle service was provided to the new memorial site. The entrance was transformed into a beautifully arched walkway which leads to black information centers that reconstruct that horrible day in 2001. Here you are introduced you to the victims of Flight 93 through photographs of each victim who now rests in the half mile diameter field of honor which is being called the Sacred Ground.

Upon approaching the wall of names I sense and recognize that the monuments are set along the final trajectory of Flight 93. I immediately flash back to 10:00 AM on September 11, 2001 when Flight 93 careened in this direction toward a group of Hemlock trees.
The wall of names includes 40, 8-foot tall granite panels each inscribed with one single name of each passenger or crewmember. One name and one name only, a very powerful way to honor our heroes and to remember each person who so bravely gave their lives for our safety. A tremendous, black stone wall leading to the wall of names is lined with luminary candles as far as the eye can see. “The new design of the memorial site created a long walk, allowing myself to reflect on this tragedy and on the crash site which was right in front of me,” says senior Alexa Bell.

At dusk, luminaries were lit at the Flight 93 Memorial Plaza. This included 2,982 lights to account for every life lost in the combined attacks on September 11, 2001. This time leaving the memorial site brought closure, a better understanding, and most of all, a tremendous sense of pride in how our country honored the victims of Flight 93. Our country memorialized all the victims of 9-11 with the pride and dignity Americans always carry with them. That is what sets us apart, that is what makes us proud to be Americans.