I have wanted to visit the United 93 National Memorial for years, and over the holidays we finally made it.
It has been 15 years since the attack on America on September 11th. A day that for all who witnessed, will be etched so clearly in our minds forever.
It started off as an ordinary day, with people continuing on their normal travel routine. But it was no ordinary day, it was a day where terrorists acted on a highly thought out terrorist attack. They chose planes that were routinely light in passengers to have the least resistance taking over the cockpit. All four planes wanted to hit their designated targets in the same time frame to keep the element of surprise.
However, United 93 was delayed. By the time the flight was in the air the twin towers had just been hit. When the hijackers took over flight 93 they forced the crew and passengers to the back of the plane. They immediately began calling in the hijacking. It was then they learned about the other attacks and realized they were apart of a much larger plan. They took a vote and decided quickly to take the plane back and crash it before it hit the intended target. They began making calls to their loved ones, and prepared hot water to start the attack on the terrorists.
Todd Beamer was one passenger on the plane with two young boys, and a daughter on the way. He had gotten through to an airphone supervisor stating that the pilots were dead and one terrorist appeared to have a bomb strapped to him. Beamer requested that the supervisor tell his family he loved them, and then there were recorded muffled voices with Beamer clearly saying “Are you ready? Let’s roll.”
It wasn’t long after this comment that the plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania.
President George Bush was later quoted at a ceremony saying “Some of our greatest moments have been acts of courage for which no one could have been prepared. But we have our marching orders. My fellow Americans, Let’s Roll.”
In 2002 the passengers and crew members were awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
Getting to the United 93 memorial consists of driving through the twisted roads of the Allegheny Mountains until reaching Shanksville, PA. What was once a large Hemlock field in central PA is now a field to remember as the crash site of United 93. Upon arrival you see towering concrete walls that encase the visitor center. A black walkway leads you to an overlook where you can see the memorial plaza and the Wall of Names. The Visitor Center glass is created in a motif representing the branch pattern of a hemlock tree. When the plane crashed in the field it plowed through a Hemlock grove.
The visitor center is intense. Its emotionally difficult to take in all the information on display. Coming around the corner of one of the display walls you come across a t.v. that has a 5 minute loop on assorted news clips that were live at the time of the attacks. I was in a trance as I watched, tears readily coming to my eyes. It had been 15 years since I had seen this news clips, and yet I remembered it so vividly the emotion of the first plane crashing into the tower, the shock of the NYC newscasters as they reported what was happening in their own city. And when the 2nd plane hit, the game changed. It was in that moment that all of America realized we were under attack.
Just beyond the television is a display of four airliner seats, with phones attached to them. You can listen to 3 recordings left by loved ones as they began making phone calls from the back of the plane.
Every wall is filled with stories, news articles, quotes, and memorabilia. Photos of first responders in NYC, and photos of FBI searching the crash site in Shanksville. There are photos of each passenger and crew member on United 93. On the final wall is every name of the 3,000 Americans we lost that day.
When you head down to the memorial plaza, you can take a trail from the visitor center or drive down, you are on another long black pathway that skirts the field of the crash site. In the middle of the field is a very large boulder representative of the exact place the plane crashed into the ground at a speed of 580 miles and hour.
At the end of the walkway is the Wall of Names. Forty inscribed white marble panels honoring passengers and crew.
United 93 National Memorial is treasure of information. It is humbling, touching, and downright heart wrenching. In a matter of moments these forty people had to make a decision for the good of America, and they made the right decision. They saved countless lives that day, for which we will be forever thankful.
For more information on United 93 National Memorial and how to get there visit this site.