Friday, October 9, 2015

Flight 93 Memorial

We have visited all three 9-11 sites over the years but have not been to any of them since new memorials were built honoring those who died on the fateful September day.  Flight 93 was different from the other flights that were hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon because the passengers had learned what had happened to the other planes.
The Flight 93 National Memorial honors those passengers and crew on that plane who attacked the hijackers thus preventing them from achieving their goal of crashing into the U.S. Capitol.
The memorial includes a visitor center complex on the knoll overlooking the crash site below.  The black wall and walk set the tone for the visit to the very somber visitor center. 
All four hijacked flights were chosen because they were cross-country flights which carried a lot of fuel and very few passengers.  This is the seating chart of flight 93.  The lights in the background show all the planes that were in the air when the hijackings took place.  As soon as they realized what was happening all planes were ordered to land at the nearest airport. 
Flight 93 was different from the other three planes hijacked that day for two reasons, first it was delayed on the ground for 25 minute before taking off and then the hijackers waited 45 minutes before rushing the cockpit.  The others were done within 15 minutes of take off.  Because of this delay the passengers learned the fate of the other captured planes.  As you can see, the hijackers flew over Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania as they headed for Washington, DC.  
A very emotional part of a very somber experience in the visitor center allows you to listen to the calls that people made to loved ones on cell and sky phones after they learned the intention of those who had taken over their flight.  I listened to three different calls and it was very difficult hearing these final messages.
The flight and cockpit voice recorders on flight 93 were the only ones recovered from the four planes that were crashed that day.  This gave investigators information of what exactly happened as the plane crashed into an abandoned Pennsylvania strip mine only 16 minutes from Washington, DC.  
The plane crashed at such a great speed that most of it and everything on board was reduced to a few small pieces.  The largest remaining piece of the plane's body was about six feet long.  The site then became a crime scene where a number of government agencies literally sifted thought the rubble looking for evidence.
Almost immediately people began visiting the site and leaving personal memorials to those who died that day.  This is what I remember from our first visit.
A Shanksville fireman's coat with the signatures of those who were the first to respond to the crash.
The last stop in the visitor center is a wall with the names of all those who died on 9-11.  From there you can see the crash site that is now the Memorial Plaza.
Looking at the Memorial Plaza from the visitor center.  Right is the Wall of Names and at the tree line is a boulder marking the impact site.
So very true.
This gate is at the entrance to the crash site that is the final resting place for those forty heroes of that day.  Since that area is the final resting place for all those aboard flight 93, it is only open to their families.  While only 10% of the remains have been found there was enough that all the victims were identified using DNA.
The Wall of Names lists all those who were aboard flight 93.  The visitor center, above, is on the knoll the the plane flew over that morning.
Those who died in Shanksville that day. 
There is a board at the Memorial Plaza where you can leave a message with your thoughts.  This one says it all, a message from a woman who lost a loved one at this site.