Ever since my son and his wife moved to Washington, DC, about two years ago, we’ve made the six-hour trip to visit them every few months. Each time, we’ve considered taking a detour to visit the Flight 93 Memorial in southwestern Pennsylvania, but we never seemed to have the energy to add an hour or so to the already-long drive.
To me, it seemed disrespectful not to stop and witness the spot where the actions of four terrorists cost the lives of 40 innocent people on September 11, 2001. So, on our most-recent trip, we took time to visit the memorial.
I pictured a desolate landscape with the depression of a crater, and us being two visitors among a handful of others.
I was wrong. Here’s what I found out:
#1. The memorial was designed to be both solemn and uplifting.
#2. In 2012, more than 300,000 people visited the memorial.
#3. It is a place for contemplation, reflection, and respect. It is quiet there.
At the present time, the memorial consists of the Memorial Plaza, which features exhibit panels and information about future development of the site; a long walkway bordered by a black wall running along the perimeter of the crash site; and a Wall of Names that follows the path of Flight 93. Just beyond the Wall of Names lies a 17-ton sandstone boulder, which marks the approximate place of impact.
There is a small, modern-looking structure of reflective glass on the Memorial Plaza with its doors propped open. Inside, you will find paper and pencils with which you can write a note and post it on the wall. As we entered the building, we noticed that the eyes of the people exiting were filled with tears.
The black wall that leads to the Wall of Names has several niches along the way in which people have left medals, flags, and flowers. There are benches to sit quietly or to take a rest.
The white-marble Wall of Names consists of panels, one for each of the victims. The panels feature the names of the victims in bold, and some have faint engravings that designate roles, such as pilot, flight attendant, and unborn child. There are no panels for the terrorists.
Future plans for the memorial include a visitors’ center complex, a walkway with 40 memorial groves of 40 trees each, and a Tower of Voices at the entrance populated with 40 wind chimes to simulate the voices of the passengers and crew of Flight 93.
As we drove away from the memorial, I felt better that we visited, kind of like I do when I drop in for visiting hours at a funeral home. And as was the aim of the memorial designers, I felt both solemn and uplifted.