Exploring the Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset County

Approaching the Wall of Names along the Plaza Walkway at the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville PA

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.

An interpretative sign at the Flight 93 Memorial Plaza.
An interpretative sign at the Flight 93 Memorial Plaza.

The Flight 93 National Memorial is a tribute to the bravery, service, and sacrifice of those 40 passengers and crew members.

A tribute to the passengers and crew of Flight 93.
A tribute to the passengers and crew of Flight 93 at the Visitor Center.

Along with the Soldiers National Cemetery in Gettysburg, this is some of the most hallowed ground in Pennsylvania.

The Wall of Names at the Flight 93 National Memorial.
The Wall of Names at the Flight 93 National Memorial.

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.

One of the interpretive displays inside the Flight 93 Memorial Visitor Center.
One of the interpretive displays inside the Flight 93 National Memorial Visitor Center.

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.

A sculpture of what he initial Flight 93 crash site crater looked like.
A sculpture in the Visitor Center of what the Flight 93 crash site crater looked like.

Getting There

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.

A map showing the locations of the Flight 93 National Memorial, Patriot Park, and the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel.
A map showing the locations of the Flight 93 National Memorial, Patriot Park, and the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel.

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.

National Park Service sign at the entrance to the Flight 93 National Memorial.
National Park Service sign at the entrance to the Flight 93 National Memorial off of Route 30.

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 Wetlands Bridge along the Allee Walking Trail at the Flight 93 National Memorial.
The Wetlands Bridge along the Allée Walking Trail at the Flight 93 National Memorial.

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.

Mementos left by early visitors to the Flight 93 crash site near Shanksville PA.
Mementos left by early visitors to the Flight 93 crash site near Shanksville, PA.

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.

An early Flight 93 Memorial consisted of a 40 foot-long chain link fence where visitors left mementos and tributes.
An early Flight 93 Memorial consisted of a 40 foot-long chain link fence where visitors left mementos and tributes.

These mementos were gathered and stored over the years, and many are on display now in the present-day National Memorial.

Combat boots left at the Flight 93 temporary memorial in 2004.
Combat boots left at the Flight 93 temporary memorial in 2004.

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.

An autumn view of the Wall of Names at the Flight 93 National Memorial.
An autumn view of the Wall of Names at the Flight 93 National Memorial.

Upon entering the park from Route 30, the first section of the Memorial to come into view is the Tower of Voices.

Sign near the entrance to the Flight 93 National Memorial.
Sign near the entrance to the Flight 93 National Memorial.

Tower of Voices

The Tower of Voices is both an auditory and visual tribute to the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93.

Approaching the Tower of Voices at he Flight 93 National Memorial.
Approaching the Tower of Voices at he Flight 93 National Memorial.

The Tower stands 93 feet tall, and contains 40 wind chimes – one for each passenger and crew member.

Informational plaque about the Tower of Voices at the Flight 93 Memorial near Shanksville PA
Informational plaque about the Tower of Voices at the Flight 93 National Memorial.

Both the sight and sound of the Tower of Voices is quite impressive in person.

The 40 wind chimes that make up the Tower of Voices at the FLight 93 National Memorial in Somerset County PA
The 40 wind chimes that make up the Tower of Voices at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset County, PA.

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 93 foot-tall Tower of Voices at the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville Pennsylvania.
The 93 foot-tall Tower of Voices at the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Visitor Center

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.

Interpretive display inside the Flight 93 Memorial Visitor Center about the morning of September 11 2001
Interpretive display inside the Flight 93 National Memorial Visitor Center about the morning of 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 Flight 93 National Memorial Visitor Center in Somerset County PA
The Flight 93 National Memorial Visitor Center

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.

A first responders display inside the Flight 93 Memorial Visitor Center.
A first responders display inside the Flight 93 Memorial Visitor Center.

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 Overlook at the Flight 93 National Memorial.
The Overlook at the Flight 93 National Memorial.

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 Flightpath walkway at the Flight 93 National Memorial.
The Flightpath walkway at the Flight 93 National Memorial.

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.

View of the Wall of Names and Impact Site from the Overlook at the Flight 93 National Memorial.
View of the Wall of Names and Impact Site from the Overlook at the Flight 93 National Memorial.

Looking back towards the Visitor Center from the overlook, the distinctive architectural styling of the building are readily apparent.

Winter at the Flight 93 National Memorial Visitor Center.
Winter at the Flight 93 National Memorial Visitor Center.

Memorial Plaza

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.

The Wetlands Bridge at the Flight 93 National Memorial.
The Wetlands Bridge at the Flight 93 National Memorial.

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.

Looking towards the Flight 93 Memorial Overlook on an autumn afternoon.
Looking towards the Flight 93 Memorial Overlook from the Western Overlook Trail on an autumn afternoon.

No matter which option you choose, the Memorial Plaza is a moving tribute to the passengers and crew of Flight 93.

Walking path near the Flight 93 Memorial Plaza.
Walking path near the Flight 93 Memorial Plaza.

The sloping wall along the walkway leading to the Wall of Names marks the edge of the debris field near the crash site.

The Plaza Walkway at the Flight 93 National Memorial.
The Plaza Walkway at the Flight 93 National Memorial.

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.

View from the Wall of Names looking towards the Visitor Center at the Flight 93 National Memorial.
View from the Wall of Names looking towards the Visitor Center at the Flight 93 National Memorial.

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 Ceremonial Gate at the end of the Flightpath Walkway at the Flight 93 National Memorial.
The Ceremonial Gate at the end of the Flightpath Walkway at the Flight 93 National Memorial.

The 17-ton sandstone boulder near the Hemlock Grove marks the crash site of Flight 93.

The Impact Site of Flight 93 is marked by this large sandstone boulder.
The crash site of Flight 93 is marked by this large sandstone boulder.

Family and friends of the passengers and crew of Flight 93 often leave mementos at the Wall of Names.

The Wall of Names at the Flight 93 Memorial near Christmastime.
The Wall of Names at the Flight 93 Memorial near Christmastime.

And many visitors to the Memorial Plaza leave tokens of their respect as well.

Mementos left by visitors to the Flight 93 National Memorial.
Mementos left by visitors to the Flight 93 National Memorial.

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.

The Flight 93 Memorial Plaza on a winter afternoon.
The Flight 93 Memorial Plaza on a winter afternoon.

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 Wetlands Bridge at the Flight 93 National Memorial on a summer afternoon.
The Wetlands Bridge at the Flight 93 National Memorial on a summer afternoon.

Final Thoughts

The Flight 93 National Memorial is a fitting tribute to some of the first heroes in the war against radical Islamic terrorists.

Winter at the Wall of Names and the Flight 93 National Memorial.
Winter at the Wall of Names and the Flight 93 National Memorial.

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.

A display of items recovered from the Flight 93 crash site.
A display of items recovered from the Flight 93 crash site.

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.

The front entrance of the Flight 93 National Memorial Visitor Center near Shanksville Pennsylvania
The front entrance of the Flight 93 National Memorial Visitor Center.

To paraphrase President Lincoln’s remarks during the Gettysburg Address, “we can never forget what they did here”.

Close-up of the chimes at the Tower of Voices.
Close-up of the chimes at the Tower of Voices – each of the 40 chimes representing a crew member or passenger onboard Flight 93.

Be sure to visit this field of honor in western Pennsylvania, and make sure that we never do.

A view of the Flight 93 Memorial Visitor Center from the Overlook,
A view of the Flight 93 Memorial Visitor Center from the Overlook.

Nearby Attractions

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.

The Flight 93 Memorial Chapel at the intersection of Coleman Station and Stutzmantown roads
The Flight 93 Memorial Chapel at the intersection of Coleman Station and Stutzmantown roads.

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.

Inside view of the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Inside view of the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

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 at Patriot Park near Shanksville. Pennsylvania.
Patriot Park on Labor Day Weekend 2021.

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.

One of the story boards explaining the purpose of Patriot Park near Shanksville, PA.
One of the story boards explaining the purpose of Patriot Park near Shanksville, PA.

Patriot Park is located just a half mile west of the entrance to the Flight 93 National Memorial, along Route 30 in Somerset County.

Entrance to Patriot Park along Route 30 near the Flight 93 National Memorial.
Entrance to Patriot Park along Route 30 near the Flight 93 National Memorial.

The Glessner Covered Bridge is located just minutes from the Flight 93 National Memorial.

Fall foliage at Glessner Covered Bridge in Somerset County Pennsylvania
Fall foliage at Glessner Covered Bridge in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

The Trostletown Covered Bridge is located just west of the Flight 93 National Memorial, off of Route 30.

Fall foliage at Trostletown Covered Bridge in Somerset County Pennsylvania.
Fall foliage at Trostletown Covered Bridge in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

The 1806 Old Log Church is located approximately 30 minutes east of the Flight 93 National Memorial, along Route 30.

Fall foliage in Bedford County at the 1806 Old Log Church.
The 1806 Old Log Church along Route 30 in Bedford County.

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.

Entering Fort Ligonier.
Entering Fort Ligonier.

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.

Beam Rocks Overlook in the Forbes State Forest.
Beam Rocks Overlook in the Forbes State Forest, Somerset County.

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.

Jones Mill Run Dam at Laurel Hill State Park.
Jones Mill Run Dam at Laurel Hill State Park.

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 annex and gift shop at the Lincoln Highway Experience in Latrobe PA
The annex and gift shop at the Lincoln Highway Experience in Latrobe, PA.

The Forbes State Forest encompasses more than 50,000 acres in western PA, including waterfalls, scenic vistas, and the highest point in Pennsylvania!

The observation tower at Mount Davis in Somerset County.
The observation tower at Mount Davis, the highest point in Pennsylvania.

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Rusty Glessner is an award-winning photographer, lifelong Pennsylvanian, and creator of the PA Bucket List travel blog.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I have been there twice and it is indeed sobering. I also visited the memorial when it was just fences and benches. My only disappointment is that the state does NOT allow better signage along local roadways to help find the Memorial. There is also a chapel, but I think it is located in town. Fr. Mascherino was instrumental in getting it built; I worked with him at Christiana Hospital in Delaware. I was sorry to see him leave when he was transferred to your area. The one piece of advice I would give is to be sure to take a sweater or jacket — no matter the weather. It is VERY WINDY there, and you will wish you had a jacket with you!

  2. Wow. I was last their at the Initial Memorial of just the chain link fence with USA memorabilia attached to it. Was quite sad. They really put a lot of money and effort into this new memorial/visitor center/pathway/chimes. Very moving. This is the first time I’m seeing what they have done to what was just barren land. Thanks for the article.

    • I was there as well right after it happened as well (grew up nearby), and from what the Memorial was then until what is is now is both both very appropriate and beautiful.

  3. First time there today. It’s very well done, educational, very moving, peaceful, and represents what it should be…..a memorial. So glad I made the trip.

    • I agree – it’s very well done. Kudos to the National Park Service and the Friends of Flight 93 for the wonderful job they do there.

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