The last memories many of the relatives have of the passengers
and crew of hijacked United Flight 93, which crashed in a Pennsylvania
field on Sept. 11, 2001, are the sound of their loved ones' voices
on cell phones.
of that, sound is an integral part of the memorial planned in
the bowl-shaped field in Somerset County near Shanksville. A "Tower
of Voices" bearing 40 wind chimes -- representing the 40
passengers and crew members who gave their lives trying to wrestle
the plane away from the hijackers -- will be erected at the site.
The chimes will be of various sizes and tones. "They're
trying to respect the collective and individual efforts that came
together that day based on the phone calls and cockpit recording,"
explained Hamilton Peterson, president of Families of Flight 93,
whose father and stepmother were passengers on the doomed flight.
Trees will be planted in groves to commemorate all who died that
day, and wildflowers will mark the area known as the sacred ground
where the passengers and crew are laid to rest.
A break in the tree line will mark the path the airplane took.
Flight 93 was headed from Newark to San Francisco when four hijackers
took control of the aircraft and turned it toward Washington,
D.C., where many believe the target was the Capitol or the White
The airliner was the only one out of four hijacked that day that
did not make its mark.
Because of heavy runway traffic in Newark, Flight 93 took off
41 minutes late, giving the associates and relatives of those
aboard time to tell them about the two other aircraft that had
crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City. Later, a
third airplane rammed into the Pentagon in Arlington, Va.
In those locations, large memorials have been planned and replanned
in the ensuing five years. The rebuilding of the World Trade Center
will incorporate a memorial, and the Pentagon's remembrance will
feature 184 cantilevered benches and reflecting pools for those
who died at that location.
The planners of the memorial in Pennsylvania, meanwhile, took
into account the distinctive landforms and sweeping landscape
of the field. A single building or monument would have been lost
in the broad expanse, so the designers opted for a memorial park
of sorts with the final resting place of the passengers and crew
as the focal point, said designer Paul Murdoch of Paul Murdoch
Architects in Los Angeles.
"We took the land form known as the bowl ... the sacred
ground is to the side and near the bottom of that bowl. And we
wanted to create this gesture of embrace that formed an edge to
that bowl and focused the public to that sacred ground,"
A sloped wall will allow the public to look into the crash site
and leave tributes. Currently, a 40-foot chain-link fence serves
that purpose. More than 500,000 people from around the world have
visited the site since Sept. 11, 2001, according to a July 2006
report from the government-appointed Flight 93 memorial commission.
Allowing visitors to walk around the 2,200-acre site and participate
in all its elements was important to the design, said Murdoch.
When people arrive at the wind chime tower, they'll be able to
drive down a winding road to the edge of the bowl, get out of
their vehicles and follow a walkway marking the flight's path.
"They'll be walking through gaps in walls that frame the
sky where the plane went through the site overhead. And so it
brings the visitor right in focus of this event," he said.
Part of the memorial is an oral history project aimed at documenting
the day for research and educational purposes. The National Park
Service has collected more than 100 audio interviews from family
and friends of the passengers and crew, first responders, official
agencies involved in the investigation and recovery and members
of the community, according to the commission's report.
Peterson said, on a personal level, he hopes at the very least
a transcript of the cockpit recording will be available as part
of the memorial's interpretive material, and possibly the 911
recordings if the family members agree to their release.
The recordings "would bring to life the incredible courage
of that day," he said.
The Flight 93 families were consulted throughout the planning
process and helped choose the design they thought would best honor
the passengers and crew, said Peterson.
"We'd like this memorial to stand in eternity to provide
a beacon of courage and an example of ordinary citizens rising
to the challenge" of those seeking to do harm, including
terrorists, he said.
Peterson cited the airline passengers who fought against Richard
Reid, known as the "shoe bomber," and the Muslim neighbor
who reportedly tipped off police in Britain about the plot to
detonate liquid bombs on U.S.-bound airliners as a direct result
and a tribute to the passengers who took on the hijackers on Flight
"We can no longer rely on the military, it's up to all of
us," he said.
After a formal planning process ends in the fall of 2006 and
the land is acquired from private owners, construction of the
$58 million memorial will begin. The target completion date is
2011, the 10-year anniversary of Sept. 11.