Embracing the Pasts
Flight 93 memorial design takes wing from a yearlong competition.
By Gary W. Cramer
Rendering by Aleksander Novak-Zemplinski
Long before terms like "sacred ground" and "field of honor" were applied to
the resting place of United Flight 93 in southwestern Pennsylvania’s Somerset
County, the nearly ceaselessly windy, rural landscape had different labels"reclaimed
strip mine," "farmland," "forest."
Once heavily geared toward fueling the Industrial Revolution through coal mining
and timbering that ravaged the land, the modern economy derived from much
of the county’s gently rolling and now patchily forested countryside runs
on agricultural output. Especially prevalent are dairy farms, recreation and
tourism services, light industry, and services for the many retirees who populate
the area. But to some extent, surface and deep mining is making a comeback
in this region, and in these more environmentally aware times, the effects
of these extractions are more often being at least partially remediated through
the mining operations-supported reclamation of swaths of the land.
One such swath includes the meadow-and-wetland "bowl" into the edge of which
Flight 93 crashed at more than 500 miles per hour on September 11, 2001. The
site is tucked away in otherwise unremarkable terrain reachable by minor roads
from nearby Shanksville, a borough of some 245 souls between the Pennsylvania
Turnpike and Lincoln Highway (Route 30).
"That landscape was, in a sense, in a state of transformation and still is,"
says Charles Fox, a museum administrator at the Somerset Historical Center,
noting that the pre-9/11 remediation continues to this day at the site. "In
many ways, you can see it as a metaphor for the acts of [9/11] itself. [Those
aboard Flight 93] were not superheroes, but ordinary people who respondedsome
say heroically, but I see it as an act of generosityby taking action to save
the lives of other people."
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