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remembering 911 flight 93 memorial


“A plane hit a building in New York.” I still remember those words from my wife echoing down the hall. I was still in bed and not fully awake, so I paid them no mind. Why was she telling me about some movie I thought to myself.

“It happened again! Another building was hit! Oh my god!” I still wasn’t fully grasping the horror my wife was watching unfold in the other room. I was snug and safe in my bed. What she was talking about didn’t make any sense in reality.

“A plane crashed in Somerset!” This time, I snapped awake. Somerset? What was she talking about? I stumbled into our living room and saw my first glances of the tragedy of 9/11 on my T.V. set. Had the pentagon been hit? We are under attack. Video of the towers collapsing. What is happening here? A plane has crashed just outside of Pittsburgh in Shanksville.

Shanksville, that can’t be right. That isn’t New York or Washington. Somerset County was home and small, nothing ever happened here. Are my parents OK? What about friends I knew in the area? What the hell is going on?

The confusion, shock, and horror of that day still sits fresh in my mind as I prepare to travel to the Flight 93 memorial on the 15th anniversary of September, 11th 2001.

The memorial is fresh and new. Young trees, just starting to sprout, dot the landscape in carefully lined rows. The concrete and marble is still smooth and free from the passage of time. Except for these new additions, it looks much the way it did that day.


Wildflowers add splashes of vibrant color to the gold and green field. It looks like any other field in Somerset County. “A common field one day. A field of honor forever.”

A lone boulder rests on the outer edge of the memorial.


This marks the crash site. A pathway leads back to the memorial, only to be used by family members of the passengers and park staff. The field surrounding the boulder is hallowed ground, the final resting place of the heroes of Flight 93. The gateway leading to the boulder is open today, the only day of the year it is left so. The path continues past a long white marble wall. The names of those lost and honored are inscribed here.

The memorial is crowded on this day of remembrance. All of that fades away. I find myself transfixed on the boulder. On the list of names. On the stories of what happened that day.


As I turn to leave, I can overhear a park ranger speaking about the events, leading a gathered crowd with questions about some of the uncertainties of that day. Did the passengers breach the cabin? What was the intended target?

Did any of that matter he asks?

What matters he continues, is that 2 crew members, 5 flight attendants, and 33 passengers fought back and stopped an even greater tragedy from occurring that day. These 40 heroes prevented that plane from hitting its intended target no matter what it might have been. Those 40 people would not fall sway to the tyranny of terror.

Instead they, like many that day, and since that day, have become examples of our resolve, of our freedom, and of our strength. The were the very best of all of us at a moment when the very worst was happening.

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