It is certainly a surprise when I begin seeing signs for the Flight 93 Memorial. I have a jam-packed itinerary for Pennsylvania and somehow this venue never hit my radar screen. My campsite is only an hour away and now I consider this a must see.
Fittingly, it is a gloomy, cloudy, rainy day when I arrive at the memorial. The black sidewalk into the visitors center follows the flight path of Flight 93. This flight path continues through to an overlook, passes the Wall of Names along with a mowed patch of grass ending at a large sandstone boulder that marks the impact site.
While walking to the entrance I notice, Asian, Indian, Amish and even a leather-clad motorcycle gang who made the pilgrimage in the driving rain. It’s quickly apparent We Have not Forgotten. The Visitor Center is overflowing with people. This surprises me for a rainy Sunday afternoon just a couple of hours before closing.
There is an unusual quietness about the place despite the many people here. The exhibits provide lights, noise, and interactivity but the vibe is very much memorial like. Most people speaking in whispers
There are several wall panels with displays on both sides. Various newsreels are looping coverage of 9/11, and timelines of that fateful day are highlighted. One display mimics the seating area along with phones that replay the black box and Air Traffic Control recordings. The crowd is such that I can’t even get to a phone.
I continue to the next wall and see portraits of each of the 40 victims. Until this point, the visit was just something to see. Now it’s hitting home and feeling personal. I’m getting a sickening in my stomach as I look into the faces of these people who had no idea what was to happen that day.
Below the portraits is a touch screen kiosk. You can select the folks by name and learn about them. I randomly select Christian Adams he seems like a happy fellow. He is a German wine exporter heading to San Francisco to promote German Wines. I read of him, then I select the option “Objects”. Not knowing what to expect, it reveals his corkscrew that was recovered from the wreckage. I don’t know why a scorched piece of metal evokes such emotion but it makes him real to me.
I select another, Donald Peterson. He looks like a friendly grandfatherly type. A retired executive traveling with his wife to Yosemite. They arrive early at the airport and select the option to board the earlier, unknowingly tragic, flight. Their retirement years were spent in volunteerism and crisis counseling. Don worked with men struggling with drug and alcohol dependency. Again I select objects. This time revealing Don’s personal Bible that he was carrying complete with a handwritten list of men for whom he was praying.
I’m not an overly religious sort but something about that brought the already swelling emotion to the top. Tears are beginning to well up and I am beyond nauseous. I have to leave.
I leave the visitor center and pause at the overlook as I decide which route I might take during the brief letup in the rain. There are several trail options from 1/4 mile to 2 miles to visit the Wall of Names near the impact site. I select the 3/4 mile trail that switches back and forth through the fields of goldenrod, asters, and daisies.
The somber mood carries through to the wall. Several people mill around reading the names, some touching and some weeping. The polished white marble wall ends at a large wooden gate. Peering through the gate, I see the mowed strip that ends at a boulder marking the impact site.
One of my personal pet peeves, as a result of that fateful day, is the overuse of the word hero. There were many heroic acts that day for sure. But only a hand full of these folks knew full well they were taking their own lives to save others. They knew their actions would not only save lives but would also take their own in the process, they unselfishly did it anyway. These people are truly deserving of the title hero.
Christian Adams – Lorraine Bay – Todd Beamer – Alan Beaven – Mark Bingham – Deora Bodley – Sandy Waugh Bradshaw – Marion Britton – Thomas Burnett, Jr. – WIlliam Cashman – Georgine Corrigan – Patrica Cushing – Jason Dahl – Joseph Deluca – Partick Driscoll – Edward Felt – Jane Folger – Colleen Fraser – Andrew Garcia – Jeremy Glick – Kristin Gould – Lauren Grandcolas (and unborn child) – Wanda Green – Donald Greene – Linda Gronlund – Richard Guadagno – Leroy Homer – Toshiya Kuge – Ceecee Lyles – Hilda Marcin – Waleska Martinez – Nicole Miller – Louis Nacke II – Donald Peterson -Jean Peterson – Mark Rothenberg – Christine Snyder – John Talknani – Honor Elizabeth Wainio – Deborah Welsh
United We Stand
As I write this, the 24-hour news cycle is working overtime to further divide us. Men vs. Women, Black vs. White, Democrat vs Republican and constant president bashing. I long for a time when this country is as somewhat united as it was after 9/11. How quickly we forget, let’s not let these people have died in vain. I suggest you look at these people (click here) and see if any of their stories touch you as Christian and Donald did me. And maybe just for a minute remember what unites us, and what’s really important.
As a country, can we do better to honor these people? What do you think?