By Mike Steely
Recently on our vacation my wife and I had a chance to visit the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93 and remember those brave souls who crashed the plane instead of letting terrorists use it for a fourth attack on our nation’s capital on September 11. The National Park Service has preserved the site and constructed a museum, a wall of names, and other remembrances of the heroes that died that day.
Just 46 minutes after takeoff from the Newark Airport four terrorists took over the flight and turned it away from its destination of San Francisco back toward Washington, D. C. The passengers, using their cell phones, learned that terrorists had already crashed passenger jets into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D. C. They knew if they did nothing they would die as their plan crashed into the White House or some other landmark.
After making farewell cell phone calls to their families the passengers and crew fought with the terrorists until the airplane crashed head on into a former strip mine near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The families of those passengers decided to place a single large boulder in the field where the plane crashed. That boulder is still there, at the end of a mowed field and you can see it from a tall fence below the museum.
That effort by the 40 passengers and crew was beyond brave and more patriotic than most of us will ever accomplish. Some of the passengers’ bodies were never recovered and exist today in that crash hole, now covered over with earth near the boulder.
The Flight 93 National Memorial, with grand walls and a museum, is well worth a visit for everyone. Information on each passenger and the four terrorists are displayed in photos and biographies. A visitor can also listen to recordings of calls made by the passengers to their loved ones and recordings of the words of the terrorists.
In the recordings the terrorists claimed their target was the U. S. Capitol Building. Knowing of the hijacking the vice president ordered that the plane be shot down but the passengers acted first.
You can walk the grounds of the Memorial, learn about the incident, get to know the passengers, and wonder if you would be brave enough to act as they did.
The Flight 93 National Memorial is located at 6424 Lincoln Highway in Stoystown, PA 15563. If you are prone to emotions, or even if you’re not, be prepared to cry.
When we were there, in the middle of a week, there was a crowd of people from all over the nation. There were elderly Americans there, young couples with children, and lots of folks of all races, ages and religions. Admission is free and the rangers are helpful and courteous.
You can visit the site online or call 814-893-6322. The Park Service is building a tall tower there that would overlook the site.