Four domestic airplanes were hijacked on September 11, 2001. Three struck their intended targets, one, Flight 93 did not.
The weather was appropriately gloomy when we visited this memorial. The black and white images seemed to fit the solemn mood. With the thought of so many senseless deaths, the inexplicable hatred of the terrorists and the heroics of seemingly everyday Americans, I photographed the scene with ghostly images.
United Airlines Flight 93 took off from Newark, New Jersey headed for San Francisco. Unlike most of the flights today, Flight 93 was not packed. Only 44 passengers were aboard. Forty-six minutes into the flight four Al-Qaeda terrorists stormed the cockpit and gained control of the airplane. After the hijackers took control, several flight attendants and passengers learned from family phone calls of the three other hijacked planes full of passengers crashing into the two World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon. This was back when telephones on the headrest in front of you were available for credit card phone calls.
When Dick Cheney was advised of the fourth airplane crash in the Pennsylvania countryside in a field near Shanksville, he said he felt some acts of heroism had occurred aboard that plane. Indeed that was the case as we would later learn.
This monument to Flight 93 is not memorable for any impressive architecture or design, but rather for the heroics of the passengers captured on voice recorders and messages left to loved ones on the ground. Inside are old-style telephones where visitors can pick up the receiver and listen to the actual recordings between passengers and their families on the ground.
The walkway to the crash site overlook where Flight 93 crashed follows the actual flight path of the plane into the field. Along this walkway are the times and flight numbers of the other hijacked planes. United Airlines flight 175 crashed into Tower Two (the South Tower) of the World Trade Center.
Armed with the knowledge that their ultimate fate was sealed, the passengers refused to go down quietly and the group formed their own rebellion. Passengers did not sit idly by but stormed the hijacked cockpit, led by the now famous phrase from Todd Beamer, “Let’s Roll.”
At the end of this walkway is the viewing area overlooking the field where Flight 93 came to rest, with a simple statement inscribed on the glass: “A common field one day. A field of honor forever.”