Flight 93 National Memorial
Stoystown, PA

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Americans across the country were slowly learning of three devastating terrorist attacks – Flight 11 and Flight 175 crashing into the North and South towers, respectively, of the World Trade Center in New York City and Flight 77 to the Pentagon. These people included the residents of Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania. Around 10:03AM, United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field within the small town, located about 80 miles from Pittsburgh. Approximately 46 minutes after takeoff, four members of al-Qaeda hijacked the flight, which was traveling from Newark International Airport, NJ to San Francisco International Airport, CA. Speculation indicates that Flight 93 was bound for either the White House or Capitol building in Washington, D.C., which leads to what sets this incidence apart – Flight 93 was the only plane to never reach the intended target. The 33 passengers and 7 crewmembers demonstrated incredible courage and resiliency by collaborating an effort to fight back against the four hijackers. While the lives of the 40 brave individuals were tragically lost that Tuesday morning, their incredible efforts thwarted the hijackers’ plan, and brought the plane down to the field in Pennsylvania.
On September 24, 2002, Congress passed the Flight 93 National Memorial Act to establish the crash site as both a memorial and as a unit of the National Park System. Unable to use the funds associated with the Act, families of the passengers and crew formed a non-profit organization called “Friends or Flight 93”, which was then able to make requests of the Act’s funds. Additionally, Universal Pictures donated the opening weekend profit of the film “United 93” to the organization, equating to $1.15million. Much of this money was used to purchase the nearly 1,100 acres of land that the memorial currently sits on. Also, the state of Pennsylvania matched the $18 million available from the federal government to go towards the Memorial. Lastly, The National Park Service and the National Park Foundation largely control fundraising efforts for the Memorial, such as a major fundraising effort allowing customers to purchase a flag for $93 that had been flown over the Memorial.

In the time between the crash and the groundbreaking for the formal Memorial, local residents and others formed a makeshift memorial to honor the victims. It started as a 40-foot long chain-link fence, providing an area for visitors to leave treasures and mementos, which are all cleaned, cataloged, and documented. It also included a small (about 7ft x 4ft) structure. At the start of the groundbreaking for the formal Memorial, the structure was moved slightly, allowing visitors to view the Memorial as it was being constructed. Additionally, for three or four years, 8th graders of the Bruderhof German community took on a project to complete 20 benches for visitors, each bearing an inscription of a passenger or crewmember who passed. The dedication of local residents – self-named “Ambassadors” – was truly remarkable. Deborah Borza is the mother of Deora Frances Bodley – the youngest member of Flight 93. Debby serves on the board of Friends of Flight 93 and the September 11 National Memorial Trail. Debby was impressed by the, “local dedication to these people that [the locals] didn’t even know and now became part of their lives and shared it with all of the visitors that came.”

In search of a design for the Memorial, a competition was opened to the public to scout the creativity of young and old minds around the world. The competition garnered 1,011 entries from 48 states and 27 countries. A well-rounded jury of local residents, family members, and architects judged an initial round of entries and chose five semi-finalists. After improvements to the initial entries, the jury chose “Crescent of Embrace” by Paul and Milena Murdoch as the winning design.

The Memorial is currently being built in stages. Stage 1 is complete and open to the public, with Stage 2 currently under construction. Stage 1 includes the Wall of Names – 40 8-foot tall granite panels each engraved with the name of a passenger or crewmember. It also includes a walkway plaza. Stage 2 includes a visitor center, learning center, and a bridge that will travel over the wetlands area. Stage 3 will include a 93-foot tall tower with 40 wind chimes at the entrance of the Memorial.

The Memorial itself is a landscape design more than a hardscape design. Two natural projects include the Memorial Groves and “Plant a Tree at Flight 93”. The former is the largest landscape feature of the Memorial and includes 40 trees to commemorate the 40 lives lost. As of 2014, all 40 trees have been planted. The latter is a volunteer effort to restore local former coal mines by planting nearly 48,000 native trees seedlings by the end of 2014, although it is an ongoing project. While this is a larger effort, the trees nearest the Memorial will buffer the wind for the Memorial Groves while also harboring a more lively natural landscape, encouraging native flora and fauna to thrive. A viewshed also wraps around the boundary of the Memorial, which restricts development in the area and thereby further preserves it’s sanctity.

On September 10, 2011, the Park was commemorated. The families and friends of those who had passed were anxious for construction to begin, in hopes that surviving family and friends would be able to see and enjoy all that the Memorial has to offer.

Borza hopes that each and every visitor of the Flight 93 National Memorial will leave with an altered outlook on life. “My dream for that Memorial is that it makes a profound difference for the people who visit there. I hope they walk away not the same person they were when they first went, that there’s something they got for themselves – maybe a stronger bond with their family, maybe the courage to do something they thought they couldn’t do, or maybe something more personal to them. I hope that these 40 passengers and crew left a mark on them and that now they can go out and be as courageous, as loving, or as committed, and go on and do that in their lives, a kind of ‘if they can do it, so can I’”.

Special thanks to Deborah Borza for her assistance in the creation of this article.
For more information, please visit http://www.nps.gov/flni/index.htm