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Shanksville, PA
by Tom Mugridge

Should you find yourself in the vicinity of Somerset, Pa, (Exit 10 on Route 70/76, the Pennsylvania Turnpike), you may want to get off and find your way to the (currently) temporary memorial for United Flight 93.

As of December 2002, there are no signs pointing the way. The best way to find the memorial is to exit the turnpike, follow Route 601 south to Route 31 east, then north on Route 281.

Drive a few miles, and after you go beneath the turnpike overpass, do what we did - stop and ask for directions. The road toward the memorial is right off Route 281, and the memorial is only a few miles away at this point.

Panorama of the site

There is always a member of the local Historical Society staff at the memorial. Each volunteer works a shift to answer questions and point out the exact site, which is about a mile distant.

The National Park Service has purchased the land, intending to erect a permanent memorial.

Dark and dreary site

The day of our visit was a cold and bleak December afternoon, and the bitter wind sliced through our coats. Given the solemn nature of the site, the weather was appropriate. We were so intent on the memorial and what it stands for, we almost didn't even feel it.

That afternoon, the memorial was tended by a lady who happened to live just on the other side of the woods, only about mile from where the plane had gone down. She told us that she wasn't home "that day", and wasn't allowed to return home for a number of days afterward.

Wall of rememberances

Currently, the memorial consists of several large boards adorned with patches, badges, hats, etc. from fire and police departments from all over. There are also a couple of message boards for visitors to express their feelings.

As they get filled, the message boards are collected and stored, and new boards are put up. They will be displayed as part of the permanent memorial. Visitors also leave flowers, stuffed animals, and other mementoes.

Take a special look for the little angels, each bearing the name of a person lost in the crash. In the distance beyond is the American flag, marking the exact spot.

Let's Roll

There is also a memorial stone with "Let's Roll" engraved on it, commemorating some courageous last words.

Definitely worth visiting. Bring some tissues.



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