We detoured, yesterday, from our drive to Washington DC, in order to visit the Flight 93 Memorial.
We had two phones, the car’s navigational system and a Garmin with us. Each provide different instructions. We ended up circling up and down and around the hills in which the memorial sits. It’s beautiful country but after about an hour of driving, always within 5 minutes of our destination, we were pretty frustrated.
Part of the problem is that there’s an old entrance that isn’t open anymore and some of our technical tools wanted to go there…and so we did. The other part of the problem is a distinct lack of signage for the new entrance.
But eventually we made it, as the sun was starting to lower in a sky filled with big puffy grey and white clouds.
Our first stop was windchimes tower, dedicated to the 40 people on the plane that died September 11th, 2001 when the passengers put Flight 93 into the ground rather than allow themselves to be weapons aimed for the US Capitol.
The chimes are beautiful, but only play when the wind is at least 12 mph, and though it was getting breezy it wasn’t windy enough to hear more than one low tone.
Then we went on to the visitor center which is built into a huge concrete structure that draws you along that last flight path, and deposits you on a platform overlooking the final crash site of the plane.
It’s a beautiful field now, filled with wildflowers and birds. In the late afternoon light it glows.
We drove down to the lower area, and walked the pathway back to the wall of names. Along the way were some mementos in a space designed to collect them.
The names etched into the wall were heartbreaking, as were the pictures there, and the flowers.
We were visiting only three days after the 21st anniversary of the attack, so the flowers were freshly poignant.
We spent a long time wandering the grounds. It was so peaceful with hardly anyone else there.
Yet I couldn’t help but look back up at the visitor center, built along the flight path and imagine what it must have been like that day. What it sounded like, what it smelled like. What it looked like.
There are photos, of course, of the aftermath. But I don’t think they convey the total horror that must have confronted the emergency workers when they arrived.
I imagine the field was a beautiful place before the plane dropped out of the sky.
And it’s a beautiful place again, a fitting tribute to the forty heroes of Flight 93.
After I wrote this a friend provided a link to Sunday Morning’s piece on the Flight 93 National Memorial. It’s a short piece that will explain more about the tower and the site.