Friday, Jul 29, 2016
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New national memorial honors Flight 93 victims

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Park Ranger Wendy Clay removes items from the Flight 93 temporary memorial to be archived earlier this summer. There will be 40 trees in the memorial grove of the yet-to-be-completed Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pa. The trees represent each of the passengers and crew members who died.

Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette Enlarge

SHANKSVILLE, Pa. — Sept. 11 memorials have been built at the World Trade Center site in New York City and at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. But only the Flight 93 National Memorial in rural Somerset County, Pennsylvania is a national park, a work of landscape architecture amid rolling hills, fields, and farms. It is a low-key, tranquil spot, out of the way, conducive to quiet reflection.

During a recent visit to the site near Shanksville, the temperatures were balmy, the skies a brilliant blue. Fleecy clouds cast shadows on the ground.

On one side of the new granite walkway leading to the crash site is a field growing wild and green, with hemlock trees at the edge. On the other side is a meadow dotted with wildflowers and wetlands, with butterflies and birds fluttering about. A few yards from the trees sits a 17-ton sandstone boulder, marking the spot where the airplane crashed.

At the entrance to the park, which was dedicated yesterday with a commemoration set for today, is a large tin shed, once owned by a mining company and used as a staging area for investigators. Inside, visitors may see the story of Flight 93 with photos and text. A piece of fence displays items left by visitors — military patches, a police badge from Columbus, a license plate from Alaska, a firefighter's helmet, a letter in Japanese, a child's handwritten note signed "Gabby," reading "You are braev."

Forty passengers and crew died here 10 years ago; only 8 percent of their remains were recovered. The rest are still mingled with the earth, comprising a graveyard. Out of respect for the dead, only their family members may set foot on the ground beyond the walkway.

The memorial is being built through a public-private partnership, with half the funds to be raised privately. The cost of Phase I is $60 million, with $50 million raised so far. To contribute, go to www.honorflight93.org or call 202-354-6488.

Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Sally Kalson is a staff writer for the Post-Gazette; contact her at: skalson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1610.

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