This is the first part of a three-part post.
So, how do you commemorate the first anniversary of an event that you wish had never happened? Intending to redeem the day, and instead of sitting around our home focusing on the events of Isaac’s death, we decided to take a “field trip” on April 18. We chose a destination that would encompass state, national and even world history. We visited the Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset County, PA. This would be the first of two memorials that we would visit on this day, which involved a lot of driving (over 350 miles!).
United Airlines Flight 93 was the airplane that crashed in a field near Shanksville, PA on September 11, 2001. Most believe that the terrorists who had hijacked the plane intentionally crashed it when the 40 passengers and crew members heroically tried to storm the cockpit. Most also believe that the hijackers were intending to target either the Capitol or the White House in Washington, DC. You can read a summary account of the events on the National Park Service site or a detailed account on the Wikipedia page.
The memorial itself consists primarily of a quarter-mile walkway that winds past the actual crash site. The walkway is colored black, symbolizing the coal that was mined from this region. The design of the walkway is also meant to represent the hemlock trees that prevail around the site. As you walk out on the plaza, you can see the crash site to the left. The site is marked by a large boulder, which sits on top of the spot where a large crater was formed from the impact of the crash. The crater was subsequently filled in. At the end of the walkway is a wall engraved with the names of the 40 passengers and crew members. The angle of the wall lines up with the plane’s probable flight path to the impact site. One exceptional detail is that beside the name of one of the passengers, Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas, is also engraved “and unborn child”. Just to the left of the memorial wall is a large wooden gate that leads out to the crash site. According to a park ranger, the wood represents the strength of the crew and passengers. The gate includes 40 axe marks, representing the total number of the crew members and passengers. Family members of the deceased walk through this gate to access the actual crash site (apparently only they are allowed access to the impact site).
Only the first phase of the park is completed at this time. A visitors’ center and additional attractions are planned for subsequently phases. We were able to walk the plaza and take in the memorial in less than an hour. Afterwards, we packed in the van and prepared for the long trek to our next destination.
To be continued…