Saturday, August 23, 2008


Also during the week we drove out to Shanksville. I had been through the area before, right before I moved to New York. My brother Chris and I drove from Grand Rapids to Gettysburg. We took Route 30 across southern PA, which is a very scenic route through the Allegheny foothills. We were driving through a rural area and actually were kind of joking about how different our lives would have been if we had grown up in a place like that, when we passed a sign saying “Shanksville 5.” I was like, “Do you realize where we are?” and I told Chris that we were right in the area where Flight 93 had crashed. My grandparents actually live right on Route 30, so it was just a straight drive west through the mountains to get to Shanksville.

There is currently a temporary memorial across the street from the site of the crash with a permanent one planned for the site itself. It is staffed by volunteers from the area who work in two-hour shifts once a week. When we were there, I asked the volunteer if there was much controversy surrounding the memorial's design, and he said the only significant one was a dispute about the shape, which I had already heard about. The lay of the land lends itself to a crescent-shaped structure, but the crescent is also a symbol of Islam, and some of the families feel that would be inappropriate. (I certainly understand their point. Nothing against Islam as a whole, but it was in the name of that religion that their loved ones were murdered. I mean, there's nothing inherently wrong with the German flag, and most German people are good and decent human beings, but it would be totally inappropriate for the German flag to fly at Dachau, considering what was done there in the name of that flag. But then, a crescent isn't so specific, so I really don't know whose side I'm on. I can see both sides!) Other than that, the only major snag in the memorial's construction has been the acquisition of the land the plane crashed on. All things considered, it sounds like it's been a relatively smooth process, and so different from what we've had here in NY!

Visiting the site was more emotional and personal for me than I thought it would be. I may live at a geographic distance, but it's all part of the same thing that happened to my own city and forever altered the course of my life. There was a wall where people had left mementos and an opportunity to record your own reflections. I didn't write anything because what could I say that hasn't already been said? I just felt that I wouldn't be able to sum it up in such a short amount of space without sounding terribly trite.

The town of Shanksville itself only has about 250 residents. It is a few blocks long and about two blocks wide. On the way back we stopped on a hill above the town and got a picture of it. You can see pretty much all of Shanksville in the photo.

No comments: