Yesterday as I drove back to Northern Virginia from a speaking and book signing event in my home town of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, I decided to take a detour. Actually I decided to take that detour several days before, September 11th to be exact. I decided that I could not drive past this area without stopping, I was drawn to it as if it was out of my control, as if auto-pilot had taken hold of my car.
The area around Shanksville, Pennsylvania is filled with rolling hills, farms, roadside stands, just the inordinate beauty of our back country USA. Signs were posted everywhere guiding me to the Flight 93 Memorial. Pride for our country was everywhere with the flying of the American flags, to signs sharing our country's sentiment "We will never forget."
I made the turn to the Memorial and kept driving and driving down a curvy newly made road. I knew I was in the right location, I just didn't know how far I had to drive. I kept going and going, but the more I drove, the more I understood. This was an area far removed from main roads (until ten years ago). The only way to observe the site, was to build a better road.
I exited my car, after pulling into a gravel parking lot and walked towards three signs. There were a few people there. I thought that was a bit odd, where was everyone. Didn't people come to pay their respects? I later found out that this was an entrance to view the area from above the crash site, this was the area the plane flew over prior to crashing. I continued on my journey in my car to the memorial area, just a short 1/2 mile or so to the area below.
Where was the site? I couldn't see anything that would identify it. Then I heard why. A few years ago they filled in the crash site and planted wild flowers. And then I saw it.. just peaceful flowers with the large evergreen trees framing the top of the area. They have moved a boulder to the exact area where the crash occured and family (I assume) left flowers and flags surrounding it. We were not allowed to walk on those hallowed grounds, but observe from a distance. I wish I had a better camera with me, as I only have pictures from my cell phone, but it can give you the sense of what it was like.
What I felt was peace and a palpable feeling of calmness which seemed to fill the entire area. There was a slight breeze with the smell of fresh wildflowers permeating the air. I felt sadness, how could one not? But mostly I felt an inner peace. This was a place to go and reflect, to go and remember what courage took place on Flight 93, September 11, 2001. The courage of the flight 93 heroes and their fight with the terrorists to protect our country.
I continued my walk, in the direction of the flight path and came to the names carved in marble. The designer built the wall so as you looked down the length of it you would be observing the flight path. The hill to the right was the hill that the plane flew over. The opposite end is where the crash site is located. The white marble wall was magnificent. I had to look for Todd Beamer's name. His last audible words were "Are you guys ready? Let's roll". You can find out more information about this hero by checking out his Wikipedia page Todd Beamer.
This past Monday, September 12th, after I spoke to the entire student body of Cuyahoga Falls High School about my 9/11 experiences and my book , a group of students took a few minutes to talk to us about the Flight 93 fund. This group is encouraging students to just donate 93 cents. Eventually, it will make a difference. Check out the article that was written about them: Falls High students laud courage of Flight 93 with donations
In closing, I will add several more pictures that I took that day outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.