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Driving through Western Pennsylvania’s rolling farmland, I held back tears thinking of the afternoon’s destination, the Flight 93 National Memorial. Almost 20 years later, the thoughts of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, still trigger deep emotions.
Driving to a Field of Honor
Earlier in the day, I stopped at the Pennsylvania Welcome Center on I-90. Choking back tears, I told the information specialist I was heading to the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville. She handed me a driving guide with different scenic routes and sites around the final resting place of the 33 passengers and seven crew who perished on September 11, 2001. This included stops at several covered bridges.
Because my dog Radcliff was with me, my visit was relatively brief. Dogs are restricted from most areas. Radcliff waited in the air conditioned car for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, I checked out some of the memorial, including the pathway outside the visitor center which represents the flight path.
Walking with My Dog to Memorial Plaza
There’s a dog-friendly trail from the visitor center (which I couldn’t visit) down to Memorial Plaza. Here, the 40 souls are honored in the Wall of Names. Each has an individual marble stone with their name engraved. Once down to Memorial Plaza, walk your dog in the grass and view the memorial from a distance.
After walking down and back up, I drove to the forecourt and Memorial Plaza Visitor Shelter, gateway to Memorial Plaza. Here, there are six outdoor signs sharing the Flight 93 story. Inside the visitor shelter, visitors can write messages and post them to a board. Tears flowed when I began reading them. Thank goodness for sunglasses hiding crying eyes.
Just outside the visitor shelter are benches and a flagpole. It also offers a view of the visitor center area. Note: dogs aren’t allowed so Radcliff spent another 15 minutes in the air-conditioned car.
Tower of Voices: A Beautiful Tribute
The Flight 93 National Memorial was dedicated September 11, 2011. Located near the memorial’s entrance/exit is the most recent addition, the Tower of Voices. The 93-foot tower was dedicated September 9, 2018, and completed September 10, 2020. It features 40 chimes representing 40 singing individual voices when the wind blows.
I walked up to the tower as a National Park Service ranger-led program was underway. Although I didn’t hear all she said, she talked about what some of the locals saw on September 11, 2001. As she spoke, a breeze swept in and singing rang from the tower in a beautiful, yet somber tone.
According to the National Park Service, after the hijacking began at 9:28 a.m. when the terrorists entered the cockpit, the passengers and crew decided to fight back. Washington, D.C. was most likely the hijackers’ target. Passengers and crew were forced to the back of the plane. Between the time of the hijacking and the crash at 10:03 a.m., 37 phone calls were made by 13 people aboard the flight. Through these calls, they learned of the World Trade Center crashes.
The passengers’ and crews’ assault on the cockpit began at 9:57 a.m. The hijackers rolled the plane from side to side. Investigators speculate it was a way to slow down the assault. The terrorists had instructions to crash the plane if they could not reach their target. Sounds of the assault by the brave passengers and crew are captured on the cockpit voice recorder.
The Flight 93 National Memorial honors the bravery and sacrifice of those passengers and crew. Forty lives were cut short on September 11, 2001. The Tower of Voices is a beautify vessel. It’s a way for those heroes to always be heard and remembered.
Visit the Flight 93 National Memorial website for additional information including driving directions.
Additional Blog Posts on Solo Travel Girls About 9/11
Eight Years and Still Vivid: September 11 (note: This post is part one of a three-part post. You’ll find links to the other posts in this post.)
Photos on Flickr
Enjoy more images on Flickr.
Video on YouTube
Although I did not capture much video, I compiled photos and a couple of videos into this video on YouTube.