The Flight 93 National Memorial commemorates the crash of United Airlines Flight 93, which was one of four aircraft hijacked in the September 11 attacks. The Memorial is the nation's permanent memorial to the 40 passengers and crew of Flight 93. It's their final resting place and their remains are still present -- this is hallowed ground. The crash site is bordered by the Memorial Plaza.
The Memorial Park has several different sections and it is free to enjoy and show your respects to the fallen heroes who make this their final resting place. Throughout the entire memorial park, the victims are honored individually and collectively in a thoughtful, sensitive manner.
As you enter the park, you follow the lane back into a rolling field area, encountering first the Tower of Voices, a 93-foot tower with 40 chimes, one for each hero on Flight 93. The tubular aluminum chimes are activated solely by the wind -- of course, there was absolutely NO breeze the day we visited. But when the wind does blow, the musical notes create both dissonance and harmony, representing the voices of the passengers and crew.
Your next stop is the Visitors Center, which overlooks the crash site, although from a distance. The area caters to visitors -- picnic tables offer a place to enjoy a lunch and there are ample bathrooms. Park Rangers are available to answer questions and direct you. Everywhere there is symbolism. A black granite walkway tracks the flight path from the parking lot to the visitors center.
Inside the visitors center there's a museum which talks about the events of that fateful morning, provides some of the histories of the passengers on that fateful flight, and how the country and visitors to the memorial have reacted. The Visitor Center is beautifully laid out and provides second-by-second narrative of the four hijacked aircraft on 9/11.
In addition, there are extremely touching recordings of phone calls from Flight 93 passengers to their loved ones back home prior to the crash. The balcony outside gives you a view along the final flight path of Flight 93. Overall, the museum offers a meaningful experience and it will touch your heart -- watching the news footage was like reliving that morning. It can be emotionally overwhelming, especially as the passengers become more than just names, but people. Bring tissues.
Trails from the visitors center lead down to the actual crash site and memorial plaza. The trail is a great place to collect your thoughts and process all that you see at the museum.
The third and final section is the Memorial Plaza itself. Signage helps you along your way, again sharing the events of Sept 11, 2001 (there is some repetition).
The most devastating part of the section was seeing the actual field where the plane hit the ground at 583 miles per hour -- the first point of impact is marked by a single boulder, and nothing more.
My friend and I were emotional when we saw the point of impact, but the emotion was balanced by admiration for the passengers and crew who fought back and displayed such courage.
Along the walkway from the parking lot down to the plaza, there are two nooks, where visitors can leave tributes to the passengers and crew of Flight 93. The first time we visited, my sons left one of their favorite toys and coins, working under the theory that the presidents. This time we left more thoughtful tributes.
It cannot be forgotten that these brave men, women and children woke up that fateful morning, unaware that by mid-morning, they would be heroes, sacrificing everything for their country.
Getting there: 6424 Lincoln Highway, Stoystown, PA
Hours: Park grounds and trails are open 7 days a week, 365 days a year, from sunrise to sunset. The visitors center is open daily, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. except for New Year's Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.