My Shanksville Experience

My Shanksville Experience
Al Ritter

A year ago today I was in transit to visit my son in Pittsburgh and just so happened to stop on the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the Somerset rest stop. While I was leaving the building I happened to see a Memorial Plaque on the wall for the crash site of Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA. I never really knew where Shanksville was in Pennsylvania but I read on.

The plaque said that the crash site was only 30 miles from the rest stop, so in my mind I was already making plans to visit the site on my return trip. September 10, 2010 just so happened to be my visit date to the hallowed site. I called my friend Eric and asked if he wanted to meet me there, and he was up for the road trip from Maryland and we agreed on a time.

The Shanksville area has been transformed immensely since that fateful day in 2001. The area was basically a strip mining site. Careful planning by environmental groups has transformed the area surrounding the site into a beautifully landscaped zone that now incorporates an electric wind farm. Some 30 wind generators dot the area now and despite claims to the contrary they seem to offer a serene, almost silent feeling of grandeur.

As I approached the site I was surprised that the development of the memorial wasn’t farther along than it was. A dirt covered road lead almost two miles back to the site from the highway. An old work building from the original strip mining site was transformed to house the artifacts from the crash. The intent was to keep things the way they were that horrible day.

I can’t explain the feelings that Eric and I felt that day, and I’m certain that other visitors to attack sites from 9/11 feel the same way. As we stood in the building reading all the information with about 100 other visitors it was eerie how quiet it was. It seemed like a silent tribute to the most active flight that crashed that day. Flight 93 took an active role in preventing the attack on the Whitehouse. From the black box found at the site, it was shown that the automatic pilot was set on the coordinates of the Whitehouse for the final destination. Through the actions of the brave patriots on board they forced a crash into an unpopulated area in the coal mining area at over 500 MPH.

Eric and I both felt an eerie reverence to the passengers on that fated flight, and we both left with a new sense of patriotism. I encourage everyone to visit one of the 3 sites and I promise you will come away with a renewed sense of America.

Today 9/10/2011 the memorial ceremony will be broadcast live on the internet from Shanksville at 12:30 pm. The Memorial Site has progressed at a rather fast rate since last year I will be watching to see the finished product. You may go here to watch