There are 40 marble pillars in a row, each with the name of one of 40 brave souls that gave their lives to keep their hijacked plane from becoming the “bomb” that, in another 20 minutes, would have exploded in the bowels of the U. S. Capital building while Congress was in session.
At the end of the row of pillars is a large, slatted wooden gate through which one can see the crash site and the final resting place of 40 souls.
My riding buddy Bennett and I departed Blacksburg, VA, for Bar Harbor, ME, with a plan to visit several National Park sites along the way. The Flight 93 Memorial was near our route. We left on a sunny day in early September, not unlike the beautiful, clear morning of September 11, 14 years before, when four commercial planes were hijacked.
Within minutes of each other, one each crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, and one crashed into the Pentagon; nearly 3,000 people lost their lives. The fourth plane was 25 minutes late taking off from Newark, NJ, long enough for the passengers to learn that their plane was part of the plot, and that they were headed back toward Washington DC instead of west to their San Francisco destination. Aware of their fate, the passengers and crew rushed the cockpit in an effort to overpower the hijackers. As a result, Flight 93 crashed in a field outside the town of Shanksville in rural southwestern PA instead of the U. S. Capital.
The row of pillars along the flight path of the Flight 93 crash site is the focal point of the Memorial honoring these unlikely heroes. As I walked by each, reading their names, I wondered who they were, why they were “chosen” for this final task, and why it took me so long to visit this place to pay them my respects.
While at the Memorial, I was finally able to wrap my head around the chain of events that occurred during this short flight, and the horrific ending that transpired in this grassy field. I am embarrassed that my visit was opportunistic, simply on the way to some other destination, instead of a deliberate effort to honor those who knowingly gave their lives to save others. I know, I am a hypocrite when I say, now, that it should be a duty of every American to visit this memorial. So be it.
As I mounted BOXXER and pulled away from the Memorial I wondered how many U. S. congressmen sitting in the Capital Building on that fateful day had visited this hallowed place.