Thursday, May 10, 2012

Out of Town: Flight 93 Memorial and Quecreek Mine, Somerset, Pennsylvania

Last weekend, we took another day trip to a part of Pennsylvania.  This time, we opted for Somerset County.  My original intention was to just go for an hour or so, but we ended up being there for nearly 5 hours.


The main thing that drew us there was the Flight 93 Memorial, in Shanksville.  The Memorial is at the actual site of the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001.  As most people know, this flight was part of the terrorist attacks on America, and terrorists originally intended to crash this flight into the capital.  When the passengers realized this plot, they decided to try take the plane over from the terrorists, and during the struggle, the terrorists crashed the plane into a field in Somerset county, killing all those on board.  These incredibly brave men and women sacrificed their lives, while saving the lives of so many others.

The memorial site is still quite young, and in the process of being developed into a beautiful park.  Many parts of the park are undergoing tree plantings and landscaping.  Their will be 40 memorial groves, with a walking path, the creation of a visitor center, and reforestation and landscaping of the grounds.  I expect that, when finished, it will be quite lovely.  As it is, the portion that is now open is incredibly moving and touching.  There are large informational panels explaining the events that day,


a large marble memorial wall with the names of all those who died,


and a small center where people can leave their thoughts as a lasting tribute.


Along the walkway, there are benches, and places where people have left a variety of items in memorium.


It was odd knowing that, as we were there on that gorgeous day, in this beautiful park, we were at a place where such tragedy occurred.  We have visited battlegrounds and memorials in the past, but this was so different, because this was something we had lived through.  I am sure many of the young children there has a much different experience, seeing this as mere history, but for us, this was our life.  It was humbling and emotional.

When we left there, we stopped at the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel, a few minutes away.  The chapel was closed by the time we got there, but even the grounds themselves were lovely and heartbreaking.


Just a few short months after the nation was rocked with the 9/11 tragedy, Somerset was once again in the national spotlight, as 9 miners were trapped in the Quecreek Mine.  Over five days in July 2002, efforts were made to rescue the miners, until, miraculously, all 9 miners were rescued.  It was an incredibly inspirational story of faith and mankind helping each other, at a time when we so desperately needed it.  The site has been transformed into a monument to celebrate and remember the story of the rescue.




As someone who has a coal miner in our family, this was an incredibly chilling site to visit.  The bravery of these miners, and the determination of the rescuers is hard to comprehend.

As you can imagine, we were pretty emotionally drained, and we spent the two hour drive home talking about what we saw, what we remember from these events, and simply trying to process the gravity of both situations.  I plan on returning to both sites again someday, to see the progress that has been made and to spend more time reflecting on what happened, and the mercy of the God that saw us through that time.

I took a lot of really amazing and touching pictures that day, so feel free to view the rest of the set here.