Flight 93 Memorial - photo by Kim David, Townsquare Media
Flight 93 Memorial - photo by Kim David, Townsquare Media

Much of the media focus on Friday’s anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is on New York, where the majority of the victims were killed and the damage was beyond belief. But there is also a rural site in Pennsylvania where some say the first act of the US War on Terror began.

Here are some pictures I took a few years ago when my wife and I visited the site where the last of the hijacked planes crashed on Sept 11, 2001. The people on board became aware of what had happened earlier in New York and the Pentagon and realized they were doomed as the plane they were on was likely headed to DC where it would crash into another landmark. A group of passengers decided to take matters into their own hands and try to regain control of the plane or do what they could to prevent another attack. We know what happened next to Flight 93.

The site where the plane crashed is near Shanksville, PA - not far from a farm. The plane hit the ground at the former coal strip mine in excess of 550 mph, creating a crater about 10 feet deep and 50 feet wide. Among the passengers who were killed was Minnesota native Thomas Burnett, Jr.

It took several years to begin work on the memorial at the site, which is now under the control of the US Park Service. When we were there, work was still in progress but it was far enough along to allow us to visit. It is very serene - very quiet, no traffic and we found ourselves speaking in low voices, even with a park ranger we ran into. There are two memorial walls with the engraved names of the Flight 93 victims. There is a space between them and when we looked out into the field on the other side of the walls, we saw a large rock with small US flags surrounding it. The ranger told us that was the impact site and it was off-limits, except for families of the victims. The memorial has since been completed and it was formally dedicated Thursday.

I highly recommend visiting it if you are able.  It was a very memorable visit for us.