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We’re Going to Do Something: Flight 93 National Memorial

One perfectly ordinary, sunny Tuesday morning at the end of summer, four planes headed out on trans-U.S. flights; they never made it to their intended destination. Like the attack on Pearl Harbor and the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Robert F. Kennedy, every American beyond primary school age at that time remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about the plane hijackings of September 11, 2001.

The entrance sign to the Flight 93 National Memorial is raised on a large concrete slab in a field with green trees and blue sky in the background.

Flight 93 National Memorial, Entrance Sign [photo by Rebecca Raupach]

United Airlines Flight 93 from Newark International Airport to San Francisco International Airport was the last of the four planes to take off and the last to crash. The passengers on Flight 93 learned of the Twin Tower crashes and that terrorism was the cause. Calls from the passengers show that they took a vote and intended to attack the hijackers. The passengers used whatever weapons they could muster—one flight attendant, Sandy Bradshaw, said they were heating water to pour on the attackers. The actions of the passengers deterred the terrorists from reaching their probable goal, the U.S. Capitol. The planners of the September 11 attack instructed the hijackers to crash the plane if they could not reach their intended target; it is possible that the struggle of the passengers with the terrorists caused the plane’s crash (9/11 Commission Report, 244). In any case, UAL Flight 93 crashed into the ground in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, “hitting right wing and nose first, at a speed of between 563-580 miles per hour”. The plane crashed 125 flight miles/20 flight minutes away from the U.S. Capitol (9/11 Commission Report, 14).

Text from a sign at the memorial begins, "We're going to do something" and describes the events on the plane.

Flight 93 National Memorial, Exhibit sign [photo by Rebecca Raupach]

In the days and months that followed, the nation mourned; the FBI, the FAA, and the NTSB carried out investigations; new laws were created related to the tragedy. Congress authorized the 9/11 Commission to study the attacks and write a report. A year after Flight 93 crashed into an empty field, Congress passed Public Law 107-226, Flight 93 National Memorial Act. The crater left by the plane’s impact was filled with dirt, and grass and wildflower seeds were strewn over the ground.

A line of vertical white marble-looking slabs with names of the deceased. A small pot of flowers is in the foreground and a person in visiting in the background.

Flight 93 National Memorial, Wall of Names [photo by Rebecca Raupach]

The National Park Service oversees and maintains the memorial, which includes a memorial wall with the names of the passengers. Citizens have contributed funds to add features to the memorial. In 2018, the Tower of Voices was dedicated to the extraordinary people who made a difference in an atrocious moment.

Ascending from a field with wildflowers in the foreground and forest trees in the background rises a tall white monument with asymmetrical horizontal pieces.

Flight 93 National Memorial, Tower of Voices [photo by Rebecca Raupach]

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