I’ve wanted to visit the Flight 93 Memorial for a while and on a recent weekend in Cumberland, MD, my wife and I decided to make the trip. It’s an hour north of Cumberland through gorgeous rolling farm land.
The remnants of Hurricane Laura were parked over Cumberland but as we left town the skies lightened and the roads dried. You get the feeling you’re in the middle of nowhere, as there is not a commercial establishment to be seen, but it’s a beautiful drive.
The National Park Service purchased 1400 acres around the site to guarantee a fitting memorial could be built and protected to honor the heroes who likely thwarted an attack on the US Capitol.
The first thing you see when you pull in is the Tower of Voices, a 93ft tower with 40 varied wind chimes inside. For music theory nerds–like myself–the chimes are built to the key of C in the Lydian mode. When we visited they were installing the newly built wind-chimes so we didn’t get to hear them.
The rest of the site is rather minimalist, consisting of a low-profile visitor center built in harmony with the terrain, and an abundance of natural open field with wildflowers, wetlands, and surrounding groves of trees.
The site of the spot where the plane hit the ground is marked by a 17-ton boulder. It’s a striking and dignified way of indicating “where it happened” without being gaudy. Along the final flight path is a pair of walls, and on one side is 40 individual tablets, each with the name of one of the passenger or crew aboard (minus the terrorists).
As mentioned in a sign, the entire site is a place of renewal. The land had previously been strip-mined for coal, and was scarred. before the tragic loss of these lives. Now the land and those left behind begin to heal.
The field where the boulder sits, surrounded by a grove of hemlock trees is off limits to the public. You can see it, but you can’t go down there. That is open only to family of those lost. This is sacred ground and the final resting place of those souls.
I was very proud to see that our government (with the help of private fundraising) spent the resources to honor these people and this event. For being in the middle of nowhere, the site attracts a half million visitors each year.
I recommend you put it on your list, as I found it every bit as moving as the memorial at the Pentagon or the one in lower Manhattan. There is a serene harmony with the land, with the circle of life, and with the brave action these people took to stop what might have been a much larger death toll.