Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Flight 93 Memorial...Ordinary People...Extraordinary Heroes

Sunday, on Mother's Day, hubby and I had planned to take a motorcycle ride--our first of the season.  He suggested we head to Somerset to visit the Flight 93 Memorial.  I was hoping the distance wouldn't be too long for my backside to endure--getting there was one thing, but knowing there was another two-hour stretch to get home is another.  However, I decided to give it a go as I have been wanting to visit the memorial. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon--a bit chilly on the ride down but still a wonderful day to enjoy the sights of spring bursting forth in God's creation.

It was mid-afternoon when we arrived at the site just outside of Shanksville, PA.  There were quite a few cars and bikes in the parking lot.  As we headed towards the Visitor's Shelter, there was a somber air all around.  No loud voices or laughter--just sober faces contemplating the story this place held.  I think everyone realized that out in front of us, in that open field, was the final resting place for the 33 passengers, 7 crew members and yes, the 4 terrorists, all of whom were on board Flight 93.  

Throughout the plaza at the Visitor's shelter, there are interpretive panels retelling the tale of that unforgettable day for America--photos of the passengers and crew members, as well as photos of the crash site from that day.  In just moments, we were taken back to 9/11/01. 

A park ranger shared an excellent narrative interpretation of the events of that day.  He shared some things we had not previously heard from media reports.  He used stories of two of the passengers and one flight attendant.  Listening to his tale really brought home that these were just ordinary people who somehow found the courage to do an extraordinarily heroic thing that day.

The area of the crash site is vast (to the left of the wall in the above photo).  It is enclosed by a black fence and the Black Wall that borders the walkway leading to the Wall of Names.  

The Wall of Names is placed in line with the flight path of the plane as it approached this rural field. 

There is a large boulder that marks the impact site.  In the above picture, you see it out near the treeline in the middle of the photo.  Below is a zoom view--there are two small American flags in the ground in front of the boulder.

If you look just past the heads of these folks you can see some equipment up on the ridge where the new visitor's center is being constructed.  The ranger shared that back in 2001, that was the site of a scrap metal facility--there were a couple of workers outside that morning as the jet roared just 40 feet over their heads and crashed 300 yards away.

Other details that brought more clarity to the reality of this horrific crash were...Flight 93 struck the ground almost upside down at a speed of between 563-580 miles per hour...had the plane maintained its speed and flight path rather than crashing here, it would have arrived in Washington D.C. in less than 20 minutes, reaching its probable target, the Capitol...when the 7000 gallons of fuel on board exploded, the fireball shot 200 feet in the air, scorching the surrounding earth and damaging the grove of trees...the voice recorder from the cockpit was found 20 feet down in the crater created by the crash...they excavated down to a depth of 40 feet before they no longer found any debris...the largest piece of fuselage found was about 5' by 6'...paper debris was found eight miles away...

"Let's roll."

The above names are the ones that filled the media stories throughout the days and months following 9/11.  However, there was one that I don't recall hearing about that really hit me Sunday--Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas...and her unborn child.  My heart twisted inside me when I read that information beside her photo.  I knew I had to capture her name on the tears slid down my face for this mother and her child...on Mother's Day...

Looking along the Wall of Names out into the field...the final resting place for those on board Flight 93.

These spaces in the wall hold an array of small honor those who rest beyond the honor their sacrifice and to remember their lives...

If you have the chance to visit the memorial, I encourage you to do so--never forget.

“We will not waver, we will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.  Peace and freedom will prevail.” President George W. Bush,  October 7 2001


  1. Beautiful photos and narrative of your trip, Bev. We went there on our way home from vacation in Virginia in 2012. I too was so taken with the realization of an unborn child on flight. Coincidentally I was just on the Facebook page for the WTC Memorial today - adding it to the list of "would like to's". The strangest thing for me was Benjamin, at 10 months old, playing so obliviously and so happily at the memorial - he will only know this from history books. I pray that our children never have a moment in history, during their lives, when years later they'll say "Do you remember where you were when...."

    1. Natasha...I was so overwhelmed with emotion as we walked along the Wall. Tears were running down my face for people I didn't even know--I felt such grief for what these folks must have experienced...and the decision they ultimately made to do what they could to prevent an even greater disaster and the loss of countless other lives. "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

      And I thank God every time I think back to 9/11, that my dear hubby's plans "changed" for that week and kept him at home--instead of him being in the Trade Center that fateful morning as scheduled. That could explain some of my emotion during our visit to the Memorial.

      Oh, that we would not take our lives and our loved ones for granted!

  2. Hi Bev, that was a time never to be forgotten. I'm just stopping by to say how touching your blog is. Thanks so much for sharing. I have recently found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris