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Flight 93 National Memorial
IUCN Category V (Protected Landscape/Seascape)
Location Stonycreek Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania, USA
Nearest city Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Coordinates 40°3′3″N 78°54′13″W / 40.05083°N 78.90361°W / 40.05083; -78.90361Coordinates: 40°3′3″N 78°54′13″W / 40.05083°N 78.90361°W / 40.05083; -78.90361
Area 2,200 acres (890 ha), 1,000 acres (400 ha) federal
Established September 24, 2002
Visitors 125,000 (in 2005)
Governing body National Park Service

Flight 93 National Memorial protects the site of the crash of United Airlines Flight 93, which was hijacked in the September 11, 2001 attacks, in Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania, about 2 miles (3.2 km) north of Shanksville, and 60 miles (97 km) southeast of Pittsburgh. The memorial will be made to honor the heroes of Flight 93, who stopped the terrorists from reaching their target. A temporary memorial to the 40 victims was established soon after the crash, with a permanent memorial slated to be constructed and completed by 2011. The current design for the memorial is a modified version of the entry Crescent of Embrace by Paul and Milena Murdoch.


United Airlines Flight 93

Of the four aircraft hijacked on September 11, Flight 93 is the only one that did not reach its intended target, presumed to be the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.[1] Several passengers and crew members made telephone calls aboard the flight and learned about the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. As a result, the passengers decided to mount an assault against the hijackers and wrest control of the aircraft. The plane crashed in a field in Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania, about 150 miles (240 km) northwest of Washington, D.C., killing all 44 people aboard, including the 4 hijackers.

The crash site is located west of Skyline Road, about 2.5 miles (4.0 km) south of U.S. Route 30 (Lincoln Highway), 1.5 miles (2.4 km) west of Indian Lake, and approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) north of Shanksville in Stonycreek Township.

Temporary memorial

The site of the crash is enclosed by a fence and is closed to the public except for victims' family members. The temporary memorial is located on a hillside 500 yards (460 m) from the crash site. The memorial includes a 40-foot (to commemorate the 40 passengers) chain-link fence on which visitors can leave flags, hats, rosaries, and other items. The items are collected by the National Park Service and stored until a permanent memorial is built.[2]

Next to the fence are several memorials such as a bronze plaque of names, flags, and a large cross. The temporary memorial also includes a row of small wooden angels, one for each passenger or crew member. There are also handwritten messages on the guardrails at the memorial.[2] At the memorial site, there is also a small building where visitors can sign a guestbook. The building is staffed by National Park Service volunteers, called ambassadors, who answer questions. In the years following the attacks, approximately 150,000 visitors each year have come to the memorial site,[3] a number that reached "nearly a million people" as of July 2008.[4]

The temporary memorial, for years on land leased for the memorial by Svonavec, Inc. (a coal company based in Somerset, Pennsylvania), was moved in 2008 because Svonavec refused to renew the lease.[4] It was moved across the road, on land that is part of about 900 acres (360 ha) that the Families of Flight 93 foundation bought in 2008.[4] Svonavec had leased the land as it negotiated with the NPS over the purchase of the 273 acres (110 ha) it owned, land that includes most of the "sacred ground" where Flight 93 crashed; Svonavec’s treasurer, Michael Svonavec, had told the family group he thought the land was "worth $50 million, but you can have it for $10 million".[4] The NPS had offered Svonavec $250,000 for the 273 acres, an offer repeatedly rejected;[4] in August 2009, it was announced that Svonavec agreed to sell the land based on a price determined by the courts.[5]

Permanent memorial

On March 7, 2002, Congressman John Murtha (PA-12) introduced a bill in the United States House of Representatives to establish a National Memorial to be developed by a commission, and ultimately administered by the National Park Service. On April 16, 2002, Senator Arlen Specter (PA) introduced a version of the "Flight 93 National Memorial Act" in the Senate. On September 10, 2002 the bill passed both houses of Congress. The final bill specifically excluded the four hijackers from the passengers to be memorialized. When signed by President George W. Bush on September 24, 2002, it became Public Law No. 107-226, and the site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. By September 2005, the commission was required to send to the Secretary of the Interior and Congress recommendations for the planning, design, construction, and long-term management of a permanent memorial.

The proposed boundaries of the National Memorial extend from Lambertsville Road to U.S. Highway 30. It will be about 2,200 acres (890 ha), of which about 1,000 acres (400 ha) will be privately held, but protected through partnership agreements. The memorial itself would be a 400-acre (160 ha) bowl-shaped area, with 1,800 acres (730 ha) surrounding as a buffer.[6] In December 2002, landowner Tim Lambert donated 6 acres (2.4 ha) at the crash site, and entered discussions with the Conservation Fund regarding 160 acres (65 ha) additional.[7] Using some funds donated from receipts for the film United 93, the Families of Flight 93 organization purchased 3 acres (1.2 ha) in the summer of 2006. The organization is also seeking $10 million in federal funding to use for acquiring land.[6] In November 2006, the Conservation Fund acquired 100 acres (40 ha) as buffer land which are to be managed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.[8] PBS Coals Inc. sold 900 acres (360 ha) to the families' organization in March 2008.[9]

The Flight 93 National Memorial Campaign is a partnership among the Families of Flight 93, the Flight 93 Federal Advisory Commission, the Flight 93 Memorial Task Force, the National Park Service, the National Park Foundation and many representatives of local, state and national organizations, agencies and interests, as well as people from around the world to build a permanent memorial. Launched in 2005, this public-private partnership is seeking to raise $30 million from philanthropic individuals, corporations and foundations to enable the construction of the Flight 93 National Memorial.


Design competition

Wreath-laying ceremony near the site of the crash of Flight 93 on the first anniversary of its hijacking.

Initial design selection

The commission decided to select the final design for the memorial through a multi-stage design competition funded by grants from the Heinz Foundations and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The competition began on September 11, 2004. With technology from Neighborhood America supporting the competition, more than 1,000 entries were submitted online [10]. In February 2005, five finalists were selected for further development and consideration. The 15-member final jury included family members, design and art professionals, and community and national leaders. After three days of review and debate, they announced the winner on September 7, 2005: Crescent of Embrace by a design team led by Paul and Milena Murdoch of Los Angeles.[3]

The design featured a "Tower of Voices," containing 40 wind chimes — one for each passenger and crew member who died. A crescent is formed by a circular pathway lined with red maple trees that follows the natural bowl shape of the land. Forty groves of red and sugar maples and eastern white oak trees were to be planted behind the crescent. A black slate wall would mark the edge of the crash site, where the victims are buried.


This design "drew criticism from some religious groups and online blogs."[11] A photojournalist wrote at zombietime that:[12]

The winning design chosen to memorialize the heroes and victims of 9/11’s Flight 93 is in the shape of a red crescent that looks–either accidentally or intentionally–remarkably like an Islamic crescent.
...[A]n azimuthal equidistant world map ... seems to indicate that the crescent is oriented toward Mecca.

Jury member Tom Burnett Sr., whose son was killed in the crash, said he made an impassioned speech to his fellow jurors about what he felt the crescent represented, "I explained this goes back centuries as an old-time Islamic symbol," Burnett said. "I told them we'd be a laughing stock if we did this."[13] Representative Tom Tancredo of Colorado has opposed the design's shape "because of the crescent's prominent use as a symbol in Islam." Mike Rosen of the Rocky Mountain News wrote: "On the anniversaries of 9/11, it's not hard to visualize al-Qaeda celebrating the crescent of maple trees, turning red in the fall, "embracing" the Flight 93 crash site. To them, it would be a memorial to their fallen martyrs. Why invite that? Just come up with a different design that eliminates the double meaning and the dispute."[14]

The architect asserted that this is coincidental and that there was no intent to refer to Muslim symbols. Several victims' families agreed, including the family of Edward P. Felt.[15]

Others criticized the design as too non-representational. "We don't need giant statues of the guys ramming the drink cart into the door. But pedantic though such a monument might be, future generations would infer the plot. All you get from a Crescent of Embrace is a sorrowful sigh of all-encompassing grief and absolution, as if the lives of all who died on that spot were equal in tragedy. They were not," wrote James Lileks, a journalist and architectural commentator.[16]

Design modifications

In response to criticism, the designer has agreed to modify the plan. The architect believes that the central elements can be maintained to satisfy criticism. "It's a disappointment there is a misinterpretation and a simplistic distortion of this, but if that is a public concern, then that is something we will look to resolve in a way that keeps the essential qualities," Murdoch, 48, said in a telephone interview to the Associated Press.[17]

The redesigned memorial has the plain shape of a circle (as opposed to a crescent) bisected by the flight's trajectory. "The circle enhances the earlier design by putting more emphasis on the crash site, officials said in the newsletter. A break in the trees will symbolize the path the plane took as it crashed."[18] There is criticism that the redesign does not address any of the issues with the original design.

The redesign has been unveiled and can be seen at the NPS official web page for the memorial. Architect Paul Murdoch describes it as follows:

"The image is an aerial view from the bowl looking towards the Sacred Ground. To the left in the background, a walkway approaches from an arrival court along the edge of and overlooking the Sacred Ground. The walkway eventually widens in from a ceremonial gate, shown in bronze, and the wall of names, comprised of 40 panels of 3-inch (7.6 cm)-thick slabs of polished white granite, 8 feet (2.4 m) tall, each inscribed with a name of the 40 heroes. Two walls flanking the gate are clad in polished white granite and the flight path is paved with black granite. Beyond the gate is the impact site, shown planted with wildflowers, and the hemlock grove beyond."[19]


The cost of the permanent memorial is estimated at $57 million, and will be covered by $30 million in private donations, plus federal and state funds.[20] The permanent memorial is planned to be dedicated on September 11, 2011.[20] Ground was broken on November 8, 2009.[21]


  1. ^ "Al-Jazeera offers accounts of 9/11 planning". CNN. 2002-09-12. Retrieved 2008-08-23.  
  2. ^ a b Curl, Joseph (September 10, 2002). "Visitors flock to Flight 93 crash site". The Washington Times.  
  3. ^ a b Goldstein, Steve (September 8, 2005). "Memorial to Flight 93 finalized; "The Crescent of Embrace" will honor the passengers and crew who died in Shanksville, Pa., on 9/11. It's "a place to heal."". Philadelphia Inquirer.  
  4. ^ a b c d e Hamill, Sean D. (July 28, 2008). "Land Dispute Moves Memorial for 9/11 Victims Across a Pennsylvania Road". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-01.  
  5. ^ "National Park Service Signs Agreements with Owners on Land for Flight 93 Memorial". Press release. U.S. Department of the Interior. August 31, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-01. "According to Acting NPS Director Dan Wenk, the NPS was successful in reaching negotiated settlements with 7 of 8 property owners. In January, the eighth property owner Svonavec Incorporated, came to a mutual agreement with the NPS to allow the courts to establish fair compensation for the property. The NPS expects that the U.S. Department of Justice will file the court documents for the Svonavec property within the next two weeks. "We expect closings on the remaining properties to be complete by mid-October, which allows construction to begin immediately after our groundbreaking in November," Wenk said. "This keeps us on-track to complete the Memorial by September 11, 2011. On September 3-11 2009 Ride with the 40 is completing the flight path of Flight 93 with a memorial ride from Shanksville PA to San Francisco CA. Ride with the 40 is a group of family members and friends of the 40 innocent men and women who were on Flight 93 on September 11, 2001. They are joined by many patriots who are making the pilgrimage to raise money to complete the memorial and pay homage to those brave men and women who lost their lives that day.""  
  6. ^ a b Worden, Amy (2006-09-10). "Flight 93 memorial gets momentum; The purchase of land near Shanksville, Pa., began with "a first small step" of three acres". The Philadelphia Inquirer.  
  7. ^ Levin, Steve (2002-12-06). "Flight 93 memorial gets a lift". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  
  8. ^ "100 acres near Flight 93 memorial is acquired". The Philadelphia Inquirer. 2006-11-02.  
  9. ^ Hamill, Sean D. (2008-03-19). "Flight 93 Memorial Effort Gains Over 900 acres". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2008-08-05.  
  10. ^ Lake, Alison (Nov 10, 2006). "Field of Honor". Public CIO magazine. Government Technology.  
  11. ^ Jennifer Lucchino (October 1, 2005). "'Crescent of Embrace' chosen for Flight 93 Memorial design". Architectural Record.  
  12. ^ "zombie" (September 8, 2005). "Flight 93 Memorial Project". zombietime.  
  13. ^ Paula Reed Ward (September 16, 2005). "Designer of Flight 93 memorial receptive to changes". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-08-23.  
  14. ^ Mike Rosen (September 22, 2005). "Let's roll, sans crescent". Rocky Mountain News. Archived from the original on 2005-12-14.,1299,DRMN_86_4102007,00.html. Retrieved 2008-08-23.  
  15. ^ Hamill, Sean D. (2008-05-04). "Design of a memorial to Flight 93 keeps families sparring". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-12-24.  
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ a b Smith, Sonia (2006-09-11). "Monuments in the making Across the nation, tributes big, small are under way". The Dallas Morning News.  
  21. ^ Ground broken for Flight 93 memorial in Pa.

Other references

External links


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