Have you ever passed something many, many times and each time, you say, “I need to stop there someday”? Well, every time I travel to my parents’ house in PA, I pass the turn-off for the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA and I say to myself exactly that.
This morning, I was driving home from dropping off my kids for a week, had nowhere in particular to be and extra time on my hands. So when I passed that exit on the PA Turnpike, I just impulsively turned. It wasn’t far, though I did have to ask for directions and was pleased to find it was only about 10 miles out of my way. So…off I went on my little adventure and I am so very, very glad I did.
If you haven’t been there and are in the vicinity you should definitely go. The memorial site is about three miles off the highway and the park road twists and turns through meadows back to the crash site. I cruised this road with a group of bikers from the Blue Knights, which was totally cool. Upon arrival, the parking lot was pretty full; not surprising considering it was a Saturday afternoon during vacation season. However, I quickly found a spot and hopped out of the car, already getting teary-eyed.
From the parking lot, you can see the Visitor’s Center where you can get more information about the crash, investigation and memorial. Then from there, a paved walkway lined by a black granite wall leads you back to the memorial site. The path follows the line of the fence the coroner’s office erected during the investigation to protect evidence. Walking along that path, you can see the woods and the stark contrast of what was once the original forest tree line, now sheared away from the crash and explosion and the new growth of trees just in front of it – ten years of new growth unintentionally symbolize ten years of healing and remembrance. The memorial itself is beautiful – a marble wall with each victim’s name inscribed upon individual slabs. One thing that is utterly amazing is how peaceful and calm the place is. Visitors even speak in hushed voices. You could probably hear a pin drop amidst about a hundred visitors when I was there. It was awe inspiring. I took a seat there and cried…a lot. The architect designed the entire memorial to eventually blend seamlessly into the environment. They’re doing some reforesting out near the roadway and replanting in the meadows surrounding the memorial site. It will be even more beautiful and serene in years to come.
Then, on the way home, I took Rte. 30, skipped the rest of the Turnpike and enjoyed driving over the Allegheny Mountains. I stopped at a lookout point to admire the view, then cruised my way back down the mountain, finding lots of “next time” stopping spots. What a fantastic day of “me” time.
Here are a few links for you to enjoy regarding the memorial. I urge you to stop by if you’re in PA. If you’re not, take a moment to hop off the highway and visit someplace you’ve always wanted to go. It’s totally worth it.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia