On Sunday, September 25th, we left northwestern Pennsylvania and headed south. We stopped outside of Pittsburgh and had the oil changed in the RV. We continued to be amazed at how hilly Pennsylvania is as we went up and down hill after hill. After reaching an elevation of 2,800 feet we descended down into the Laurel Highlands where we had five nights booked at Laurel Hills State Park. We were disappointed to find the campground was very hilly and it took us awhile to get the RV level.
On Monday we drove just outside of Shanksville to the Flight 93 National Memorial. This is a Memorial dedicated in 2002 to the thirty-three passengers and seven crew members who died when the plane was hijacked by four terrorists.
After hearing about the planes that had flown into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, these heroes made the decision to try to reclaim the plane from the terrorists, knowing it meant they would likely die. The plane had been redirected towards Washington, DC. The plane crashed at 563 mph upside down into the Somerset County field.
The Memorial is made up of a Visitors Center and a Memorial Plaza. The Visitors Center had detailed displays describing the events of the day and what they know happened on the plane. Several of the passengers and crew were able to make phone calls to loved ones, and the terrorists mistakenly made an announcement over the radio instead of the intercom, which alerted the control tower that the plane had been hijacked. Later the black boxes were recovered as well. It was very touching to see an entire wall with the names and faces of those who died that day.
Very little was found from the crash but they did discover small personal items from the passengers which were on display. They did find a credit card that belonged to one of the terrorists and this helped in the investigation to determine who was behind the attack.
A mile from the Visitors Center is the Memorial Plaza, which borders the crash site. A boulder in the field marks the point of impact. The fields and woods in the distance marks the final resting place of the passengers and crew, their remains still present. A wall is created with each person name and flowers, flags, stuffed animals and notes.
One veteran left his boots in honor of the fallen.
After DNA tests were completed, it was suggested by the coroner that the large impact crater be filled in.
The Flight 93 National Memorial is very well done. The experience was very heart wrenching and emotional for us. As Bill said, it was hard to hold back the tears. We visited on a beautiful morning in September, much like that day in 2001. We were pleased to see the Memorial busy with people and a group of school children. One thing I noticed was how quiet it was both at the Visitors Center and the Memorial Plaza. People gazed at the displays with sadness, most saying nothing or talking softly.
The black boxes were recovered for flight 93 but the black boxes from the other three planes were not recoverable.
One of the forty that died that day was a flight attendant, she was the only one from Florida. Her name is CeeCee Ross Lyles.
As one of the displays said so well, “A common field one day. A field of honor forever”.
We went geocaching and found a covered bridge, a tank and a helicopter near an American Legion.
Our final Pennsylvania stop will be coming up next in Gettysburg.