Visiting the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, PA wasn’t originally part of the plan, but while in Pittsburgh we saw it on Olivia and Brian’s date idea list on their fridge and realized it wasn’t too far out of our way. We were originally planning to hop out of the car for 15 minutes, but ended up spending about two hours at the site. Although small, the memorial is well presented, free (unlike the Museum in NYC), and has just barely opened after a few years in construction. We visited the NYC 9/11 memorial and museum a few days later and I couldn’t help but reflect back on our time in Shanksville. The NYC museum covers almost everything that the Shanksville memorial does, but Flight 93 and subsequent investigation get lost (or at least you are already desensitized by the time you get to it) in the NYC museum. It’s too bad that thousands, or even millions of people will visit the 9/11 memorials in Washington, DC and NYC, but significantly fewer people will make it out to Shanksville because it is in the middle of nowhere. But then again, that is what makes Shanksville so powerful. The actions of the passengers and crew on board Flight 93 that crashed in the middle of nowhere saved the lives of countless others.
I’ve thought a lot about what to say about the inside of the visitor center and memorial, but in the end the visitor center is really just something that you have to go and experience. The displays do a great job of pointing out little details/miracles that put the crew and passengers in a better position to fight back. These are the Americans heroes that should be studied in history class: People from all walks of life who came together to do something that they knew was going to be really hard, but was also the right thing to do. There is a small section where you can choose to listen to the last voicemails that some of the people on board left their loved ones. You hear the raw emotion and determination in their voices. And it will leave you feeling thankful for their sacrifice and in tears.