Flight 93 Memorial Opens New Visitor Center in Pennsylvania
Even as a roller coaster and theme park website, we simply can not overlook the events that turned our country upside down Sept 11, 2001. We attended a unique media event that will be remembered for a lifetime. Not only did we attend this event, we blanketed it with photos for the folks who will never get a chance to tour the state of the art memorial.
On Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, the U.S. came under attack when four commercial airliners were hijacked and used to strike targets on the ground. Nearly 3,000 people tragically lost their lives. Because of the actions of the 40 passengers and crew aboard one of the planes, Flight 93, the attack on the U.S. Capitol was thwarted.
On Sept. 24, 2002, Congress passed the Flight 93 National Memorial Act. The Act created a new national park unit to commemorate the passengers and crew of Flight 93 who, on September 11, 2001, courageously gave their lives thereby thwarting a planned attack on our nation’s capital. Flight 93 National Memorial is a place to learn about the 40 passengers and crew of Flight 93 whose actions thwarted the hijackers’ plan to fly this plane to a target in Washington, DC, most likely the US Capitol. It is a place to walk beside their final resting place and honor the extraordinary courage of those who fought back against the terrorists.
We attended a special media preview of the new facilities as several hundred people huddled under umbrellas in a heavy, chilly drizzle for the official opening of the visitors center. The complex first opened Wednesday September 9th to the media and the families of the 33 passengers and seven crew members.
Speakers remembered the passengers and crew of Flight 93, who “changed the course of American history,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.
At a somber ceremony, each of the victims’ names were read aloud, followed by the tolling of a bell.
The new $26 million, glass and concrete 9/11 memorial complex officially opened in Shanksville, Pa. The new visitor center is set between two soaring concrete walls that rise 40 feet high, one foot for each of those who died. It was erected directly on Flight 93’s flight path, with a black stone walkway indicating the precise route that the plane followed. The Visitor Center Complex consists of 3 things:
- The Visitor Center
- Flight Path Walkway / overlook
- Learning Center
The permanent exhibits use photographs, artifacts, tactile models, audio, and video pieces to convey the Flight 93 story in the context of the other terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
September 11, 2001 began as an ordinary, late summer day. With fair weather and blue skies over much of the country, thousands of commercial airliners prepared for flight. But in less than two hours’ time, this ordinary day was transformed as 19 terrorists boarded four airplanes, hijacked them, and used them to attack America. Nearly 3,000 people were killed when the hijacked planes were flown into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon near Washington, DC and when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside.
The visitor center presents the events of Sept. 11, 2001, as they unfolded. The first display that visitors encounter features that morning’s Wall Street Journal; photos of local students entering an elementary school; a diagram showing that there were 4,500 planes in the air when Flight 93 took off at 8:42 a.m. from Newark on it’s way to San Francisco.
The next display features video clips of a stunned Katie Couric telling viewers of NBC’s “Today” that a plane had struck the World Trade Center. There is also a video of the second plane hitting, the South Tower collapsing, the voice of ABC News anchor Peter Jennings saying, “My God.”.
Here the display shows a seating chart showing where the passengers and hijackers had begun the flight.
Visitors can experience a life-size depiction of a Boeing 757 cabin, showing the plane as the passengers would have seen it after the hijackers forced them all to the back.
Visitors can pick up a flight phone and listen to some of the 37 calls that were made from Flight 93 that morning, some to 911 and some to family members. Those calls allowed passengers to understand that what they faced was not a normal hijacking, and it also allowed them to say goodbye.You can listen to audio of phone calls and audio from cockpit recordings made during the last moments of the flight.
Passenger Linda Gronlund calls her sister and says: “I just love you and I just wanted to tell you that. I don’t know if I’m going to get the chance to tell you that again or not.”
Display cases are filled with tiny fragments of the plane with the likes of bits of metal and wire and electronics.
An actual boarding pass that was found sits behind glass on display.
Here, the park features a giant a wall compiled with photos of those who died on Flight 93.
Families and friends started leaving items along the wall of names. Many of these items are now on display inside the new visitor center.
The displays at the visitor center preserve the Flight 93 story for families now and for future generations.
Camal Wilson, a nephew of Flight 93 co-pilot LeRoy Homer Jr said: “As time passes on and people continue to visit, I think they’ll get an essence of what happened and what came out of that,”
Jonathan Jarvis, director of the National Park Service, said he thought the memorial would educate people about the Sept. 11 attacks for generations. “We’re still telling the story of Gettysburg,” he said. “That’s the way you’ve got to think about this.”
A look inside the new gift shop.
The new flight path walkway and overlook
First visitors check out the view of the Flight 93 crash site from the balcony of the new overlook during grand opening. The outdoor platform offers a commanding view of the crash site where the 33 passengers and seven crew members were killed.
The Memorial Plaza marks the edge of the crash site, which is the final resting place of the passengers and crew of Flight 93. The Memorial Plaza is made of various different elements. The plaza is designed to be self-guided. Orientation panels explain the basics of the plaza and interpretive panels provided a general overview of the story. A cell phone/mobile web tour is available which provides for more in-depth exploration. Visitors are encouraged to explore the subtle details of the Wall of Names. A black granite walkway marks a portion of the flight path.
The Wall of Names, forty inscribed white marble panels, honors the passengers and crew.
Visitors can look down the flight path to the impact site. At the base of the grove is a boulder which marks the general location of the impact site. The FBI excavated the site which formed a large crater in the area. The crater was later filled in and topped off with the boulder at the direction of the coroner.
Just a mile or two from the park is another spiritual memorial and perpetual tribute in honor of the heroes. The Flight 93 Memorial chapel and United Airline Crew Monument is not part of the National park but has become important not only to the local people there, but to a lot of the Flight 93 family members. Over the years the chapel has become a regular second stop for many of the visitors who go to the Flight 93 National Memorial.
The monuments at the chapel are a very nice homage to the passengers and crew members of Flight 93.
Back at Flight 93 National Park, the stunning concrete-and-glass visitors center and museum are open, but landscaping and other finishing touches are still underway. Yet another structure, the Tower of Voices, a nearly 100-foot bell tower with 40 chimes, is expected to be completed near the park entrance in 2017.
We are also hearing rumors that the United States Government may try have September 11th become a Federal Holiday as opposed to the current status of a “National Day of Service and Remembrance“. The biggest challenge with that is that September 11 is also just a few days after Labor Day, meaning the United States would either have to move Labor Day to some other date or deal with two short work weeks in a row. How do you feel about making September 11th a Federal Holiday?
Currently the Flight 93 National Park is operating under Summer Hours.
Summer Hours (May 1-October 31, 2015)
Open: 9 a.m.
Last entry: 6:30 p.m. – Gate closes for entry.
Close: 7 p.m.
Winter Hours (Nov 1, 2015-April 30, 2016)
Open: 9 a.m.
Last entry: 4:30 p.m. – Gate closes for entry
Close 5 p.m.
The park is open daily including holidays except for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
For more information, visit the official Flight 93 website by clicking here.