I was never truly able to visualize or relate to the Flight 93 tragedy until I viewed the 2006 film United 93. Following the events of this aspect of 9/11 in real time, director Paul Greengrass was meticulous in his research of the film and based much of the script from flight and air traffic control audio in addition to phone calls made from the plane. Though it is still a movie, it placed viewers in the front seat of the plane and required them to reflect on how they may have reacted in the situation depicted. It surely made me think. I must warn you, the scene shown above is violent and desperate - and it gets the point across in doing so.
I enjoyed all speeches equally, albeit for different reasons. Former President George W. Bush was extremely quiet, solemn, and seemed still burdened from his time in office but was applauded the loudest of any speaker. He recounted very personal stories from many of the families and victims. He alluded several times to the Civil War, noting that 9/11 was the bloodiest day on American soil since the Battle of Antietam. He spoke of the Gettysburg Address, which dedicated a not entirely different memorial slightly over 100 miles to the east.
Former President Bill Clinton too gave a very heartfelt speech and drew a historical parallel to the battle for the Alamo. He noted that it takes great dedication to risk your life but it takes exceptional courage to fight and know you are going to die. Such was the case for these respective incidents in 1836 and 2001. However, Clinton concluded, the victims of Flight 93 were not combatants. They were ordinary citizens who made a desperate decision with little or no time to act. That, he said, is why we were all gathered on the spot of their final demise.
Following a reading by poet Robert Pinsky, he read aloud the names of the forty victims. Each name was followed by two bell chimes. I hope this video can also capture some of the scale of the crowd as well as the layout of the site. One poem Pinsky read was "Incantation" by Czeslaw Milosz, which notes:
"As late as yesterday Nature celebrated their birth,
The news was brought to the mountains by a unicorn and an echo.
Their friendship will be glorious, their time has no limit.
Their enemies have delivered themselves to destruction."
unfair and exaggerated criticism in recent years. But in personally being there, I don't see how many could be angered. The monument is sleek, simple in appearance, and unobtrusive on the landscape - preserving the serene environment which will now always exist there.
Vice President Joe Biden (far right) gave perhaps the most impassioned speech. He referred to the crew and passengers as the first strike on the war on terror. My favorite portion is when he stated the wonderful Maya Angelou quote, "History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, however, if faced with courage, need not be lived again." But is it true?
As the crowds began to disperse, people began conversing with ceremony participants, families of the victims, and numerous dignitaries. A number of the pilots' United Airlines colleagues were in attendance and were interviewed by the press near us. The pilot seen here could have easily been on United 93 had the simplest of schedule revisions been made. This is a situation that many pilots have admittedly considered. "It could have been me."
Beyond the viewing platform of the memorial sits a lone boulder in the open field near the Hemlock Grove were United 93 crashed. Shortly after the crash, the local coroner ordered that the impact crater be backfilled. Thus, the rock not only marks the crash location but it also denotes the final resting place of the passengers and crew. At this time, only the family of those on board are permitted to enter the pasture. A pot of yellow flowers rested on top of it.
but not without dispute. Regardless, to not fully understand the skewed mentality and world of the terrorists is to not fully appreciate what the victims of Flight 93 did. The complete story needs telling. I hope the Park Service makes the right move once the visitor center is in the works.