As the land flattened, the trees gave way to wide expanses of cultivated fields dotted here and there with farmhouses and barns that had seen their share of hard times.
Thick billowy rain clouds seemed to be tracking our easterly direction to Philadelphia; they looked more than willing to blow the lid on the hot steamy day cooking up in the boroughs and townships along Route 30.
The guys were up front absorbed in getting Lee and I to our destination. Lee’s husband Bob was doing the driving; Jim was helping Bob navigate courtesy of Google Maps and the latest toy in an ever increasing arsenal of apps for his new Samsung phone.
“The sign said Flight 93 Memorial, 12 miles,” I offered my inquisitive road warriors.
We were on day three of a five day drive from Chicago to Philadelphia, enjoying the leisurely pace of retirement with good friends and a buffet of attractions to satisfy our hunger between the more traditional meals.
“I think you turn right at the light,” I added as Bob eased to a stop at said light.
In the time it took the light to turn from red to green, we’d reached a consensus. It was seize
Twenty-five minutes later we reached the entrance to the memorial. Blink and you could risk missing the turnoff. There were no armed guards to welcome visitors, no long lines of visitors waiting to pay their respects; just a modest sign to confirm we were headed in the right direction.
The Memorial Plaza opened onto 40 marble panels that had been erected along the actual flight path of the doomed airplane on that fateful day.
The cockpit voice recorder was recovered 25 feet down in the crater created that day; it was the only voice recorder from the four hijacked planes to yield evidence. It revealed the voices and sounds in the cockpit during the final 30 minutes of flight. It also revealed the courage and determination of those 40 crew and passengers.
The Bottom Line on Flight 93 Memorial
Verdict: This was a moving and memorable detour to our plans that day. I hope to return again in five years, maybe ten when the true vision of the Flight 93 National Memorial Campaign will come to fruition. I'd like to return with my grandchildren. The youngest ones were fortunate not to have even been part of the horror of that day; I'm glad they were spared. But they do need to know, beyond the pages of a book, that which defines our collective history.
From the WEST on PA TURNPIKE/SOMERSET: from Exit #110 of the PA Turnpike (Interstate 70/76), follow signs for Rte. 281 north. Take Rte 281 north 1.7 miles to US 219 north. Travel 8.7 miles north on US 219 to the Stonystown/Jennerstown/US 30 exit; turn right on US 30 east. Travel 8.5 miles on US 30 east. Turn right into the new park entrance. The new entrance will be marked with official National Park Service signs.
From JOHNSTOWN: Take Route 219 South 9.6 miles. Exit onto US 30 East at Stoystown/Jennerstown Exit. Travel 8.5 miles east on the US Rte. 30. Turn right into the new park entrance. The new entrance will be marked with official National Park Service signs.
From the EAST on PA TURNPIKE (Interstate 70/76): Exit Bedford (#146) - At Turnpike light, turn left. Go to next light, turn left. Take 220 South. Follow 220 South to next exit. Exit US 30 West. Follow US 30 west approximately 25 miles. Turn left into the new park entrance. The new entrance will be marked with official National Park Service signs.
From the WEST on ROUTE 30/Lincoln Highway: Travel east 8.5 miles past the US 219/US 30 interchange. Turn right into the new park entrance. The new entrance will be marked with official National Park Service signs.
Insider Information: This site is truly remote. There was no food service, no water, very little shelter. On site facilities were rustic. No pets allowed. Admission is free. Park Rangers were readily available to answer questions; they also offer scheduled presentations and discussions onsite highlighting events of that day. You can even scan information for downloading to cell phones.
Nearby Food: There is nothing yet available onsite. There are minimal options in Stonycreek, a few more in nearby Shanksville.