Flight 93 memorial: ‘Story still resonates,’ brings influx of visitors

Claudine Zap
Claudine Zap
The Lookout

The memorial to flight 93 is off the beaten track. The site is a field in rural western Pennsylvania. The area is completely open, with no enclosed building. There is only a walkway that ends in a wall with 40 names.

But that is enough to bring 350,000 visitors since the site officially opened last year, which was the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

See a slideshow of the Flight 93 Memorial.

Mike Litterst, a spokesman for the National Park Service, noted that the site that was once a barren landscape of construction cranes is now filled with wildflowers—and visitors. He said on the phone from the site, "The public support and public attendance has been overwhelming this year, in a good way." He added, "It does show how many people want to pay their respects to the passengers and crew who thwarted that last hijacking."

Flight 93 was the fourth plane to go down on September 11, 2001. The flight was en route to San Francisco from Newark, New Jersey, when it was hijacked, probably on a mission to crash the White House or the U.S. Capitol. The passengers and crew fought back, and the plane instead crashed in Shanksville, Pa., less than 20 minutes by air from Washington, D.C.

Patrick White, president of Families of Flight 93, who lost his cousin in the crash, explained to Yahoo News a year ago what made the memorial so powerful. "The design succeeds through its natural focus on the debris field, which is the sacred ground, the cemetery, essentially, for our lost loved ones."

The design appears to resonate with the thousands of bus groups and school groups who have come to the national park. The next phase of the project—the visitors center, and walkways that connect the center to the memorial—plans to break ground in 2013. Officials hope to complete this phase for the 13th anniversary of the attacks, September 11, 2014.

The final phase of construction will be an education center and the symbolic Tower of Voices with 40 wind chimes, each representing a person lost in the crash. King Laughlin, vice president of the Flight 93 National Memorial Campaign, said $5 million is still needed for the final phase of the memorial.

He attributed the influx of visitors to the site to the power of the story. "The story still resonates with the American public," Laughlin said. "With the addition of new facilities, we have a great opportunity to have even more visitors come here."