Flight 93 Memorial Allows Each Generation to Remember


The weather was perfect, clear skies and dreams ahead. Passengers from all parts of the world board Flight 93 to the beautiful San Francisco. Saying goodbye to their loved one’s thinking they will see them the next week, but all of a sudden the world had a different fate.

10:03 am 39 passengers on Flight 93 took the steps to be memorialized as heroes, not victims.

The Shanksville Memorial’s atmosphere immortalized the sentiments that were felt on September 11, 2001. As two young journalists, whom of which were not alive during this fateful day, we immersed in the pain these brave passengers and crewmates’ families felt. We take a moment every year for the men and women who fought back for what is theirs. We hold our silence as if we were onboard on that day, honoring the strangers that united as one to make a difference. The silence spoke for itself at the Flight 93 tribute as the 20th anniversary took way in 2021.
While slowly walking up through the parking lot, taking in the silence, we experienced many emotions; grief, hope, nostalgia, and joy. “Wanda! Where’s Wanda?” a samaritan exclaimed joyously, when seeing the chalk portraits of the 39 heroes from flight 93. What we learned about this grateful woman was that she was a flight attendant for United airlines for 73 years. She was friends with the flight attendant on board, Wanda Anita Green. Seeing this woman in tears, not due to grief or sorrow, but because of the pure excitement of seeing her friend being honored in such a beautiful way, was truly moving. She stopped and watched as her friend came to life in the chalk painting created by Erik Greenawalt.
When first entering the visitor center, the walkway is lined with portraits. Upon further inspection, these lovely works of art are made out of sidewalk chalk of all things. We see all the chalk artists working with such precision, to encapture the heroic nature of these fallen men and women. The chalk drawings speak for themselves. Beautifully drawn out every detail of their facial structure, and even every hair on their face. It shows the joyful heroes who lost their lives for us. The chalk artists do this, out of respect and gratitude, to remind the older generations, and teach the younger ones about the sacrifices made on September 11, 2001 at Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Wanda was one of the seven crew members who lived a good life and died for our country. For us, days go by, as we see the event through videos and stories. But for the loved ones of these crew members, it’s been decades and we are forever mourning the loss of those 39 passengers. We live our lives in honor of those who fought back and took a chance against the terrorists knowing they weren’t going to live to see tomorrow. These people will live on throughout our lives and many generations to come through these memorials and guidance from the older generations. They fought for what they loved most; their families, their friends, and their country. The day did bring destruction and grief for many. But at the end of it all, we see how Americans truly came together as one to bring the world back to life.
Taking in the scene, truly experiencing this memorial in the way the creators of this project wanted, it is practically inevitable for one to be overcome with emotions. The many interactive elements, so any citizen, of any age group, or any demographic really, to connect through this once tragic event.
Inside the visitor center, there are many sectioned off attractions, with an almost column-like structure to the way they are all positioned: one after another. Each section will forever be ingrained in our minds. One installation in particular grabbed everyone’s attention; the voice messages left to families made by the passengers on Flight 93. There were lines leading from the other sections for people waiting to experience it. Needing to know what all the buzz was about, we waited almost 30 minutes to hear their voices; their stories. Three messages played, three stories were told. Tears were shed both from the passengers and the patrons listening in. Hearing the fear and voice crack in the first woman’s voice as she explains to her sister the events that have taken place trying to stay calm as possible. Hearing her voice creates shivers down your spine as her last words were, “Mostly I just want to say I love you and I’ll miss you”.
Two other installations were attention grabbers as well. The first was the few remains left of the plane at the impact site encased in a glass box with visualizations of the ground’s terrain. Essentially we were seeing the remains as they were found on September 1, 2001. Seeing how there was practically nothing left, set some pretty graphic images in our minds. Imagining what their thought processes were in those last few moments was nothing short of horrific. They did that for us. They underwent excruciating experiences for us. They did it for the future generations of this country, not only for their own children, but for children all across America. These children show everyday their gratuity in many ways.
The second installation is also a glass enclosure, this time however, encasing trinkets that honor these fallen heroes such as family photos with heartfelt messages written on the back, craft projects, and signs made by loved ones. The reason this case is the last one in the museum is obvious to us: to show hope for a brighter tomorrow. It proves the point that no matter how much you try and hurt our country, we will come back better and much stronger than ever, ready for what is next.
When exiting the visitor center, we were greeted by a park ranger. All smiles from her and she was telling us more and more information about the Flight 93 Memorial. The thing that really stood out was the white marble wall. “When you get up to the wall, it looks like one giant wall but there are 40 spaces to show the passengers uniting as one and fighting back”, she exclaimed. Standing there and taking it all in, one breathe at a time. Standing there looking and observing people’s emotions, physical touch, and reactions during that day. It made us realize how short life can be and to hold onto to your partner a little longer before going to work, or saying I love you more, because you don’t know when it’s going to be your last.
“Are you guys ready? Let’s Roll!” Todd Beamer exclaimed seconds before the passengers fought back against the terrorist. His legacy lives on throughout our lives and yours.