Thursday, September 11, 2008
A pause of silence for Flight 93
By Michael Jones
SHANKSVILLE, Pa. – The wind whipping through this abandoned strip mine is the loudest sound that can be heard at a solemn memorial that symbolizes American perseverance. It was at this site seven years ago that 40 men and women died while some of them attempted to take back Flight 93 from four hijackers hell-bent on crashing the airliner into a target in Washington D.C.
People leave a litany of personal items in the 40-foot chain link fence located on a small slab about a quarter-mile from the crash site. Flags, patches, baseball caps, toys and notes are left to the heroes of that flight. Many of the items don’t necessarily have anything to do with the tragic day. But slowly walking past them, I get the sense that they represent us as a people and a country. I see myself in each of the items left behind in Shanksville, Pa.
The story, told by dedicated volunteers, also is amazing. The passengers learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center towers and Pentagon and decided to act. They would not be defeated. But even that isn’t the most astonishing part of this simple memorial.
It’s the silence.
No one says a word. Besides that roaring wind on top of Skyline Road, is the periodic crunching of gravel in the nearby parking lot. No one says a word. The tempered voices of the volunteers can be heard as the visitors listen intently. No one says a word. This hallowed site is too peaceful to be disturbed by screaming children or rude adults. Everyone who enters that modest memorial understands the importance the passengers and crew members played in fighting back. It is one of the many inspiring stories from that terrible day. On this hilly strip mine in rural Somerset County, the emotions can become overwhelming.
And no one says a word.
Click here to watch a video writer Michael Jones brought back from Shanksville.
(Photo and story: Michael Jones)