Flight 93 memorial, revisited

12Sep08


If you think you will visit the Flight 93 memorial in your lifetime, go now, before the full-fledged memorial forever reshapes the terrain and the atmosphere of the place.  Millions of dollars already have been raised and plans have been laid, but however grand the final memorial years from now, it will never match the simple poignance of the makeshift tribute that rose in the weeks after 9/11.

Erected and nurtured mainly by the people of Shanksville and Somerset County, Pa., who hold the place in their hearts, the memorial began with a swatch of chain-link fence upon which visitors left mementos — baseball caps, T-shirts, belt buckles, hand-scrawled signs, all sorts of personal items. In time the gestures became more elaborate, with bronze and granite markers and benches etched with the names of the 40 who perished that day.

On-site work has not begun on the big memorial — disagreements remain over the design and the purchase of some key property. The National Park Service now is entrenched. The land is unchanged, but already things have shifted.

In July 2008 the memorial was moved across the road. In the photo above, the new location is marked by the flags on the right. The earlier location is marked by the two flags on the left, next to a bare lot.

While the new site preserves much of the ambience of the old, it is more orderly and orchestrated than the original. The original was an open wound in the months after 9/11, with visitors scrawling prayers and vows of revenge on every available surface, including the metal guardrails around the small parking lot. In the moving of the memorial, items were warehoused and those that were transported now have a tidiness that was not there before.

I imagine that heartfelt graffiti is no longer allowed — if you want to have your say, there is a book available for writing comments.  Security guards are on hand during the daytime.

It is surprising that seven years after 9/11, the  “real” memorial has yet to be built.  Plans call for it to be dedicated on Sept. 11, 2011.  But for those of us who have visited this site, the makeshift tribute will always be the “real” memorial.  The inadvertently good news is that others still have time to visit the site before bulldozers move in, as did more than 150,000 other people in 2007.

Local residents will tell you one more tidbit: that for a short time just after the federal investigators finished clearing the crash site, a memorial existed much closer to the point of impact, visited by families of the victims. But in a short time it was moved a few hundred yards up the slope to where it is today.

Earlier post.

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One Response to “Flight 93 memorial, revisited”

  1. 1 phil

    i agree the original temporary memorial invoked a feeling in people that cant be explained or compared to any place ive been to. i actually designed and created a stainless steel and bronze monument and placed it there on the 5th anniversary. i was there twice before that. each time i was amazed at the passionate words “grafitti” left behind on anything available including stones on the ground. the permanent memorial will sterilize the place and make it cold like most other monuments…i think its a real shame.


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