Shanksville, PA: “A common field one day. A field of honor forever.”
While I was doing some traveling through Pennsylvania, I made a special trip to the small community of Shanksville. It was to visit the 9/11 Memorial there. Many of you younger readers were not alive the day one of its fields became sacred ground for all America. You only hear the stories and, perhaps, have visited the memorial sites either here, New York City and/or the Pentagon. So I was heartened while I was there to see a guide speaking with a busload of school children that had traveled out into the countryside to visit this special place. It is important that we who were alive remember, and those who weren’t yet born are informed.
The Memorial here in Shanksville remains a work in progress. The original hay bales, covered with flowers and tributes as the FBI was doing its investigative work, have given way to a Memorial Wall and other remembrances. On the overlook, a building houses items from the victims, their photos and various accounts of their stories. These include poignant recorded last voicemails to loved ones. A concrete flight pathway runs alongside the building, marked with the timeline of that morning. Nearby, out in a field, a huge solitary boulder marks the actual crash site.
The Al Qaeda terrorist-hijackers had commandeered four planes at Boston Logan airport. Two were intended for the World Trade Center buildings in New York City and one for the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. All three hit their marks.
And then there was the fourth--United Flight 93. It is thought that this particular attack was intended for the Unites States Capitol. Due to the selfless sacrifice of these men and women—33 passengers and seven crew members, the seat of our government was spared utter destruction when they purposefully took it down. It crashed a mere 18 minutes flight time from Washington.
Todd Beamer is just one of the people memorialized there. His widow Lisa co-authored a book with New York Times best-selling author Ken Abraham, and I highly recommend it. Let’s Roll! details the unexpected becoming of one of these heroes on what had—up to then—been a very normal September workday morning in 2001. As the Memorial in Shanksville illustrates, America has not forgotten, and the sacrifices made by him and his flight mates are due our inexpressible gratitude.