It was a beautiful early autumn day, the sun was shining brightly, there was a strong breeze blowing across a wide open field area and there just over the rise and slightly downhill stood the memorial that we had come 200 miles to see.
It was the memorial site for United Airlines Flight 93 that went down on that fateful day in our history, Sept. 11, 2001. It is a special place in our history even among the other sites in New York and at the Pentagon that are special places for the horrendous acts on that fateful day.
We have heard the stories of what happened, we know from their phone calls to the families before the planes went down. From these phone calls, we know that they planned together to take action.
Surely, yes, they knew that they had a date with death —but they also knew that these terrorists had plans to take their death plane to a target, probably Washington and the White House or the Capitol.
These folks, who came from all walks of life, spent their last minutes of life, planning action and taking action to prevent the plane from reaching Washington.
We really don’t know to what extent all of the passengers and crew took part in the physical action, but we do have to know that there were a number that were truly involved and were successful in their effort to prevent the plane from reaching Washington.
I know that standing there that afternoon, there was an eerie feeling looking out over the big field where a lone American flag stood to mark the site of the crash. There were the usual makeshift displays on a fence erected for the purpose; people need these opportunities to express their appreciation, grief and a multitude of other emotions.
At the site, there are some 10-12 wooden benches with the names of each of the passengers and crew painted on the backs. It was interesting to note that none of us there at the time chose to sit on the benches. My feeling was that it was almost sacred.
The site is identified by the National Park Service as the Flight 93 National Memorial. There are active plans under way to place a memorial appropriate to the site there. Presently, it is on private property and is manned by volunteers from the community.
By any measure of our mind, it is hallowed ground. It was the end product of truly heroic actions by those who by “the luck of the draw” drew their place on this particular plane that the terrorists had picked as their weapon of mass destruction.
If we have had any heroes in our midst, these on that day in that place are surely heroes. They, of course, knew that they were looking at death eye-to-eye. And they chose to make their actions actions that would mean something to many.
There is the feeling that there was a greater hand in the outcome also. The large, expansive field, out in the middle of a broad countryside where there were no other lives to be taken in that tragic event, speaks loudly as you look out upon the site of the disaster.
While some on the plane may not have had the fortitude to take an active role, who among us would know what we would do. I am convinced that every one of those passengers and crew members had some role in it if only one of praying for those making it happen.
Yes, they are true heroes. They accepted their final duty and facing a sure death, they did something, something that probably saved many lives with their call to action of “Let’s roll!” they have taken their place in our history and in our hearts.
If you wish to be a part of building the memorial, you can send donations to: The Flight 93 National Museum Fund, c/o the National Park Foundation, PO Box 17394, Baltimore, MD 21298-9450.
It certainly must be built, and yes, I have sent my donation.