I finally had the chance to visit the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
How I felt standing there, I will never be able to describe in words. Tears were shed and the rush of emotions actually caught me off guard.
Flight 93 Visitor Center
The Flight 93 National Memorial Visitor Center houses exhibits that tell the story of that tragic day.
As you walk to the visitor center from the parking area, you are actually walking the flight path. If you look down on the black granite walkway you will notice a timeline of events for that day. If you follow the black granite pathway through the tall Portal Walls, it will lead you to an overlook to the view of the crash site which is marked by a 17-ton sandstone boulder.
My youngest son, who was born about 18 months after that tragic day only learned about that day through us (his parents) and through textbooks in school. I was actually surprised to hear that schools only briefly cover this day in history.
According to him, he learned a lot more from these exhibits than he ever learned in his history class.
Recordings from Passengers
One of the hardest things to come across in the exhibits was the voice recordings from passengers to their loved ones shortly before the plane went down.
Flight Seating Layout
Also within the visitor’s center exhibit area, is a layout of the seating arrangement that shows where each passenger and crew member sat as well as where each terrorist sat.
There is honestly way too much to mention here, but they did a great job preserving the history of this tragic day and honoring the memories of those hero‘s that took action to stop another attack.
As you leave the visitor center, they have an overlook that looks directly down the flight path to the crash site.
Crash Site & Memorial Plaza
It is important to note, that the memorial plaza is hallowed ground and is meant to be a quiet area for reflection and expressions of respect. This is the final resting place for the 40 passengers and crew members. Small tributes are allowed to be left within the notches of the boundary wall and at the Wall of Names.
The Flight 93 crash site is marked with a large boulder. The flight path and area surrounding the boulder are mowed shorter than the surrounding grass. The actual crash site is only accessible to Flight 93 passenger and crew family members.
As you walk up to the ceremonial gate to the crash site, you will notice a memorial wall made of individual hand-picked white marble, that includes the names of all passengers and crew members that were killed. This memorial wall lines the black granite flight path walkway.
Tower of Voices
Upon entering the memorial grounds, you will notice a large tower on your left. Within this 93 foot tower are 40 large wind chimes; each one representing a passenger or crew member on Flight 93. When the wind is right, the wind chimes sound creating beautiful harmony. There are no other chime structures like it in the world and it is meant to be a living memorial in sound to remember the forty passengers and crew members through their ongoing voices.
Know Before You Go
6424 Lincoln Highway
Stoystown, PA 15563
Hours: Open daily from 9 am-5 pm
I suggest heading to the visitor’s center first, then the crash site, and save the tower of voices for last. Going to the visitor center at first will allow you to read the history of the memorial and the reasons behind how it was designed.
Getting to the crash site: You can either take the 1-mile hike down from the visitor’s center or drive down to the parking area for it. I suggest the hike down so you can read about the events immediately following the crash. It is a steady incline coming back up, so be prepared for that and take plenty of water. It is also important to note that the actual crash site is only accessible to Flight 93 crew and passenger family members.