Flight 93 Memorial Draws Thousands

10:35 PM, Sep 8, 2011   |    comments
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Shanksville, PA -- It's become a pilgrimage for people across the country: Making the trek to Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

It what once was a field, an old strip mine in rural Pennsylvania. Today at that very site, there is a national memorial, a tribute to 40 heroes who stopped hijackers on 9/11.

"We wanted to be able to share this experience with our kids so they can kind of understand what happened on September 11," said Kenneth Leap, who drove there from New Jersey.

Pat Shay, who is from Shippinsburg, Pennsylvania said he comes to the site every year, just to say a prayer and reflect.

Everyday, hundreds of people from all over the country make that same journey.

"I was with a family over Thanksgiving and they drove here from Michigan because this is where they wanted to spend Thanksgiving. Then they turned around and went back home," said Jeff Reinbold, site manager for the Flight 93 National Memorial.

"The stories that they bring to the site are incredibly compelling. I mean, people who will make these drives across the country, and this is their destination," he said.

There are so many different reasons why people feel compelled to visit the site where Flight 93 crashed.

"Just because these people were brave. I can't imagine how people can be that brave to give their lives for other people," said Ethelene Waller, who traveled to Shanksville from Texas.

Reinbold said the site and the story have an incredible connection with people.

"It resonates with them and I think the story is a powerful one, but it's also this place," he said.

It is the final resting place of 40 heroes. The place also tells the story of what they saved us from, a direct hit on the White House or the Capitol. Instead, there was a violent explosive instant in a quiet field in Pennsylvania.

"I feel really inspired that people could work together to create a memorial in the same spirit the people on board Flight 93 worked together to prevent a further act of terrorism that day," said King Laughlin, who heads up the fundraising effort for the memorial.

The first phase of the Flight 93 National Memorial costs $62 million. A third of that money has already come from the hearts and wallets of regular every day people, like Waller.

"I can't describe it. It's just hard to describe how you feel when you see something like this. This is such a peaceful, pretty scene and to think something that terrible happened. It's hard to imagine," she said.

Even though a memorial now stands at the site, to those who have helped to honor the heroes from day one, or those who started making that pilgrimage ten years ago, the site doesn't feel any different.

"It's incredibly rewarding to be able to see what's happened here, but you never forget what you're memorializing and so sometimes, that can be difficult," said Reinbold.

About 150,000 people visit the Flight 93 crash site every year. And after the new memorial opens on Saturday, the National Park Service anticipates at least a quarter million people will make the journey to Shanksville every year.













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