Once a quiet field in Shanksville, transformed into somber memorial

Friday marks the 14th anniversary of September 11, 2001, and with it, the crash of United Flight 93, one of four planes that were hijacked. A new memorial was dedicated outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, to honor those on board who gave their lives to divert the plane from hitting the Capitol. Hari Sreenivasan reports.

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    A day before the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is commemorated, hundreds came to Pennsylvania today for the opening of a long-awaited visitors center that honors heroism and grief of Flight 93.

    Hari Sreenivasan has the story.


    A soft rain fell on the gathered crowd as officials and family members dedicated the Flight 93 National Memorial outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

    SALLY JEWELL, Secretary of the Interior: You, as family members, have shared lives richly, richly lived in the photos that you have provided of really everyday citizens who came face to face with evil, but through their courage and their selflessness saved untold lives and protected another sacred and symbolic American site, the U.S. Capitol Building.

    This site is their final resting place, but it is also a place for us to honor what they have given to all of us.


    Fourteen years ago tomorrow, United Flight 93 crashed in what was then a quiet field. It was one of four hijacked flights rerouted by al-Qaida terrorists. The others struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but the 40 passengers and crew on Flight 93 stopped their plane from reaching its target.

    GORDON FELT, Brother of Flight 93 Victim: They chose to act. They fought back. They breached the cockpit and fought for control of that flight. And, in doing so, they lost their lives, but, in the process, they saved countless other lives, and, again, they perhaps saved the Capitol Building.


    Gordon Felt, whose brother Edward was on board, has been the driving force behind the construction of a memorial visitor center complex that tells the stories of everyone on the flight. It includes answering machine recordings left for loved ones, such as this one from flight attendant CeeCee Lyles.

  • CEECEE LYLES, Flight Attendant:

    Baby, you have to listen to me carefully. I'm on a plane that's been hijacked. I'm on the plane. I'm calling from the plane. I want to tell you I love you. Please tell my children that I love them very much, and I'm so sorry, babe.

    I don't know what to say. There's three guys. They have hijacked the plane. I'm trying to be calm. We're turned around, and I have heard that there's planes that have been — been flown into the World Trade Center. I hope to be able to see your face again, baby. I love you.


    Outside, a path that follows the plane's route leads visitors to a narrow break in two 40-foot-high walls meant to mimic the shape of an airplane wing. That leads to a view of another path reserved for families, taking them to the impact site, commemorated with a boulder.

    A long granite wall engraved with the names of the victims was completed in 2011. Today, architect Paul Murdoch described his vision for the whole site.

  • PAUL MURDOCH, Architect:

    The fight for freedom is never completed. Liberty is never assured, but is maintained and reestablished through each generation. And like freedom, this memorial design is open-ended, requiring each visitor to help sustain its legacy through commemoration, commitment and engagement.


    Three presidents have visited Shanksville over the years. Tomorrow, President Obama will mark the 9/11 anniversary in Washington.

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