Column: A visit to Flight 93 Memorial: an inspiring tribute


Today, as we continue our road trip to and from Cape Cod, Mass., we visit the Flight 93 Memorial, an inspiring tribute to the extraordinary heroism of 40 ordinary Americans.

At 8:42 a.m. on Sept.11, 2001, United Airlines Flight 93 left Newark, N.J., for San Francisco, carrying seven crewmembers and 37 passengers, including four al-Qaeda terrorists. At about 9:30 a.m., the terrorists killed or disabled the cockpit crew, took control of the aircraft and redirected it toward Washington, D.C., intending to attack the White House or the Capitol. The other passengers learned from cellphone calls that hijackers had crashed planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Just before 10 a.m., the passengers voted to retake control of Flight 93 in any way they could. A struggle ensued between the passengers and the armed hijackers. During the struggle, the plane, going 580 mph, crashed into an empty field near Shanksville, Penn., about 20 minutes flying time from Washington, D.C. The fuel-laden plane exploded on impact, disintegrating everyone onboard.

In 2002, Congress authorized a permanent memorial at the crash site. The first phase, dedicated on Sept. 10, 2011, features the Wall of Names, 40 8-foot-tall white marble panels, each containing the name of a hero of Flight 93. Visitors approach the Wall of Names on a long path that marks one end of the crash site, which includes a grove of hemlock trees damaged by the explosion. The Walls of Names adjoins a black granite walkway aligned with the flight path. A ceremonial hemlock gate separates the walkway from a 17.5-ton boulder marking the point of impact. A visitor center, aligned with the flight path, opened on Sept. 10, 2015. A visit to the Flight 93 Memorial evokes powerful emotions, from sorrow to pride. If you are in the area, don’t miss it.