On the morning of September 11, 2001, the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 fought one of the first battles in the war against radical Islamic terrorists in the skies over western Pennsylvania.
The Flight 93 National Memorial is a tribute to the bravery, service, and sacrifice of those 40 passengers and crew members.
Along with the Soldiers National Cemetery in Gettysburg, this is some of the most hallowed ground in Pennsylvania.
Thousands of visitors from around the world stop here every year to pay their respects and learn more about how the passengers and crew of Flight 93 fought back against the radical Islamic hijackers, thwarting their attempt to use the airplane as a missile against the United States Capitol.
What follows is a brief description of what you can expect to see and experience when you visit the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville.
There is only one entrance to the Flight 93 National Memorial, and that is located along Route 30 (the Lincoln Highway) at 6424 Lincoln Highway, Stoystown, PA 15563.
If your navigation suggests another route/entrance, then it is pulling up old data from the early days of the Memorial when other entrances off of side roads existed. Those entrances are no longer open.
The Flight 93 National Memorial is staffed by both National Park Service Rangers as well as volunteers from the Friends of Flight 93, a volunteer organization that helps with promoting awareness, education, and preservation of the Memorial and its story.
The Initial Flight 93 Memorial
Almost immediately after the events of September 11, 2001, a makeshift memorial sprang up near the crash site, and visitors began leaving mementos and hand-made tributes to the passengers and crew of Flight 93.
Eventually a 40 foot-long chain link fence (to symbolize the 40 passengers and crew) was installed on a hillside near the crash site, and visitors began attaching their mementos to that.
These mementos were gathered and stored over the years, and many are on display now in the present-day National Memorial.
The Flight 93 Memorial Today
Today the Flight 93 National Memorial consists of 3 main areas, spread out over several thousand acres of land.
The size and scope of the Memorial is designed to both protect the crash site as well as allow access from Route 30 rather than smaller secondary roads closer to the crash site, to protect the privacy of neighboring homes.
Upon entering the park from Route 30, the first section of the Memorial to come into view is the Tower of Voices.
Tower of Voices
The Tower of Voices is both an auditory and visual tribute to the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93.
The Tower stands 93 feet tall, and contains 40 wind chimes – one for each passenger and crew member.
Both the sight and sound of the Tower of Voices is quite impressive in person.
And due to the windy nature of the area in which it is located, there’s usually a good chance you’ll get to hear the Tower of Voices creating its unique music.
The Visitor Center at the Flight 93 National Memorial features exhibits that tell the story of how the passengers and crew of Flight 93 fought back against their radical Islamic hijackers, within the context of the greater terrorist attack against America on September 11, 2001.
For up-to-date information on hours and potential weather or pandemic-related closures, please visit the Visitor Center’s official website.
The account of how the passengers and crew thwarted the terrorists from carrying our their intended mission, as well as the story of the investigation after the crash are told and illustrated in an informative and respectful way.
Outside the Visitor Center, a black granite walkway follows the flightpath of Flight 93 to an overlook where the Memorial Plaza, consisting of Wall of Names and the crash site, are visible.
The texture of the concrete walls along the walkway are intended to mimic the texture of the hemlocks around the Flight 93 crash site.
The view from the overlook, as you take in the Wall of Names and the boulder marking the crash site, is a solemn reminder of the sacrifice made here.
Looking back towards the Visitor Center from the overlook, the distinctive architectural styling of the building are readily apparent.
To reach the Memorial Plaza, you have several options.
You can make the 1 mile drive from the Visitor Center to the Memorial Plaza, which is what most people do.
Another option is to hike the Allée Trail, approximately 1.2 miles from the Visitor Center, through a memorial grove of trees and across the Wetlands Bridge, to the Memorial Plaza.
A third option is to hike the Western Overlook Trail approximately 0.7 miles from the Visitor Center to the Memorial Plaza, following more closely the flight path of Flight 93.
No matter which option you choose, the Memorial Plaza is a moving tribute to the passengers and crew of Flight 93.
The sloping wall along the walkway leading to the Wall of Names marks the edge of the debris field near the crash site.
The Wall of Names is composed of 40 white marble panels, each inscribed with the name of a passenger or crew member of Flight 93.
The black granite walkway in front of the Wall of Names is a continuation of the flight path, and ends at the Ceremonial Gate, constructed of hemlock and beyond which only National Park Service officials or family members of passengers and crew of Flight 93 are permitted.
The 17-ton sandstone boulder near the Hemlock Grove marks the crash site of Flight 93.
Family and friends of the passengers and crew of Flight 93 often leave mementos at the Wall of Names.
And many visitors to the Memorial Plaza leave tokens of their respect as well.
The Flight 93 National Memorial is quite busy during the summer months, but much less so in the winter, ideal if you’re looking to visit when you can quietly and privately reflect on the events of that day.
Of course that’s taking nothing away from the beauty of the Memorial the rest of the year, as this reclaimed coal strip has truly been transformed into something remarkable.
The Flight 93 National Memorial is a fitting tribute to some of the first heroes in the war against radical Islamic terrorists.
By preventing the terrorists from carrying out their intended attack on Washington D.C, these brave passengers and crew gave their lives to save countless others.
And while we as Americans can never truly repay our debt to the passengers and crew of Flight 93, this National Memorial is a deservedly appropriate tribute to their story.
To paraphrase President Lincoln’s remarks during the Gettysburg Address, “we can never forget what they did here”.
Be sure to visit this field of honor in western Pennsylvania, and make sure that we never do.
The Flight 93 Memorial Chapel, located 3 miles west of Shanksville, was one of the earliest memorials to the passengers and crew of Flight 93.
Home to many donated pieces of memorabilia, the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel serves as a place to honor those who died on 9/11, and is open (free of charge) to visitors most days from 12-5.
Patriot Park near Shanksville is the future home of a permanent memorial intended to honor all those who died in the line of duty while serving the United States military in the Global War on Terrorism.
The Field of Heroes Flag Display (a temporary placeholder until the permanent memorial is built) at Patriot Park is very moving and absolutely worth a visit before or after stopping at the Flight 93 National Memorial.
Patriot Park is located just a half mile west of the entrance to the Flight 93 National Memorial, along Route 30 in Somerset County.
The Glessner Covered Bridge is located just minutes from the Flight 93 National Memorial.
The Trostletown Covered Bridge is located just west of the Flight 93 National Memorial, off of Route 30.
The 1806 Old Log Church is located approximately 30 minutes east of the Flight 93 National Memorial, along Route 30.
Fort Ligonier is located approximately 30 minutes west of the Flight 93 National Memorial, and features both a historically accurate reproduction of an 18th century British fort as well as a world-class collection of French and Indian War artifacts in the adjacent museum.
The Laurel Highlands region of PA is famous for its fall foliage, and if you happen to be visiting the Flight 93 National Memorial at that time of year, then 20 Fabulous Fall Foliage Destinations in the Laurel Highlands is must-have information.
Exploring Laurel Hill State Park in Somerset County will introduce you to some of the best things to see and do at this iconic Laurel Highlands destination.
If you enjoy all things Lincoln Highway, be sure to check out the Lincoln Highway Experience near Latrobe, a museum dedicated to telling the story of the first transcontinental automobile route linking the east and west coasts of the United States.
The Forbes State Forest encompasses more than 50,000 acres in western PA, including waterfalls, scenic vistas, and the highest point in Pennsylvania!
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