a solemn side-trip

Last week we visited with relatives in Akron, Ohio. Always nice to get caught up with family…who’s doing what in retirement, whose professional life has taken a new twist, who’s graduating, who’s getting married, and who’s having babies. One night there were 28 of us squooshed into the space on Aunt Rosalie’s screened-in porch, ranging in age from 2 months to 91 years. There was ample room in the rest of the house, but this family likes being close. A lovely time.
As we had driven to Ohio we noticed signs along the PA turnpike for the Flight 93 Memorial near the Somerset exit. My mother-in-law (the 91 year-old family member, who was traveling with us) is always game for a new experience, so on our return we made the turnoff heading north toward Johnstown.
Generally I am one who lives in the present and looks forward rather than past, that is until it is past enough to be deemed history. What happened on September 11, 11 years ago, was a tragedy that should present lessons about the pathway we are traveling now. I don’t identify with the national victimization that some seem to wallow in and sensationalize.
This trek was more of a journey for personal awareness than a personal pilgrimage.
Driving north from the turnpike through 20 miles of Pennsylvania hillside that have been denuded by mining companies and used as graveyards for unwanted vehicles, one begins to feel that if this tragedy had to happen anywhere, it was good that it happened there.
There is a long driveway to the memorial itself..time for thought. Reforestation is being done on the site, to add to the feeling of solemnity.
At the entrance plaza the pictures and identity of the 40 passengers and crew are displayed. The day’s story is retold from late departure of Flight 93 from Newark Airport bound for San Francisco; hijacking near Lake Erie; change of destination to impact with the US Capitol where Congress was in session; the courageous decision of these American passengers that their government would not be the victim of the four terrorists.
One can write messages of tribute on boards in the plaza. Then one walks along a low black wall while gazing out upon a distant boulder at the edge of a woods; it marks the site of the impact crater from the crashing plane. There are niches in the wall where people have left tokens of memorial: stones, plastic flowers, key chains, caps.
At the end of the walkway, there are simply 40 marble slabs bearing the victims’ names and 40 American flags. Nothing more needs to be said, and no one does. It is a silent place.
But I left feeling that there is much to remember.

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