Enjoying a dinner and good conversation with friends. Our host Gary Williams (front right), Bill Rooker (rear right), Mel Bliss (left rear), and Dave Musser (front left).
Enjoying a dinner and good conversation with friends. Our host Gary Williams (front right)
After spending several hours at the dealership we decided to hit the road and head back towards Shanksville to visit the fire department once again. When we got to there, things were much quieter than the day before with only a few of the volunteers hanging out and speaking with guests like ourselves. They were all very cordial and extremely appreciative of all those who stopped by. Walking through the garage of the firehouse, I got to meet a couple of the fireman/women including Sean Daniels (17 years with the department) his wife, Annie (13 years), and Chief Terry Shaffer (25 years). Just off to the right of the fire station I noticed a memorial setup as a tribute to all those that lost their lives on Sept. 11 and to honor the Shanksville Volunteer Fire department’s efforts on the day of the crash. The memorial is a cross made of steel from the World Trade Center and mounted atop a platform shaped like the Pentagon. The memorial was donated by New York City firefighters and has become a very proud and prominent point of interest at the station.
As I was chatting with Sean, a fleet of blacked-out SUVs came rolling up to the station. As we all stared in bewilderment trying to figure out what was going on, several guys dressed in suits popped out of the vehicles followed by Vice President Joe Biden and his wife. Obviously the small crowd that was there was shocked by the unexpected visit. For the next 30 minutes or so, the vice president shook hands, talked, and took pictures with the firefighters and visitors. He even gave an impromptu speech, thanking the Shanksville FD for its efforts and acknowledging how significant the memorial in front of the fire station was.
After Vice President Biden left, I spoke with Chief Shaffer and asked him how he felt having the vice president visit his station. “It probably meant more than anything to me that he [vice president] brought up that he knew and shared with everybody that we have this piece of steel from the World Trade Center. We hold it in honor of the 343 guys that were lost in New York and it’s on the base of a pentagon, so basically here in Shanksville we have the three sites represented. That whole ceremony in 2008 when they brought it, and now he brings it up again to tell people about it, that meant a lot to me, because the cross itself means a lot to me,” he commented. The chief also praised the motorcycle community for their ongoing support. “Kudos to the bikers, because they are some of the greatest people that come here to visit and most courteous people we’ve found to come up here and visit and hang out with us.”
Bright and early the next morning we made the short ride to the memorial site, and traffic into the site was noticeably lighter than the previous day. The entrance to the site follows a freshly paved road that winds through some small hills eventually dropping down into a large flat open field where the first part of the memorial has been constructed. Due to high security and the massive amounts of people on hand for the weekend ceremonies, everyone had to park about half mile away up on a small dirt hill and then busses shipped everyone down to the main site. As we made our way to the busses we walked past many other bikes parked in the dirt field. Leading up to the ceremonial weekend there were several cross-country and local charity rides with the final destination being the Flight 93 National Memorial. We passed several bikes with flags bearing the Never Forget slogan as well as the names of those who lost their lives in the tragedy.
Before September 11, 2001, the area was just an ordinary sprawling field that was a reclaimed coal strip mine. Ten years after Sept. 11, the majority of the area is still a sprawling open field, but there is nothing ordinary about it. It is now sacred ground that holds significant personal and emotional meaning. With the overall concept still in the development process, the Arrival Court and Memorial Plaza as well as several other components were finished in time for the 10-year anniversary ceremony. The Memorial Plaza provides visitors a view of the crash site and is outlined by a short, black slate angular wall that connects into a large marble wall. Speaking with one of the park rangers, he informed me that the area within the meandering short wall indicates where any and all debris and remains were found—nothing was found beyond the wall. The area within the wall is now considered a burial site and is off limits to the general public. The only people allowed within the area are family members of the deceased and approved personnel. The straight line of the marble wall marks the path of the plane as it came crashing to the ground. The Sunday ceremony marked the revealing of the wall, which features 40 marble slabs each with a passenger or crewmember’s name inscribed into it. When trying to choose a marker to identify the impact area, it was determined that something natural and from the area should be used. Once the final investigation was over and construction on the site was started, a large rock was unearthed and it was decided that something as simple as that boulder firmly represented the strength and solid determination of the heroes that fought back to take control of Flight 93; ultimately avoiding the terrorists intended final target and therefore saving countless lives.
At the far end of the burial site, a large rock indicated the area where the plane hit. Before leaving the memorial, the president and first lady walked out to the rock to pay their respects.
At the far end of the burial site, a large rock indicated the area where the plane hit. Be
This kiosk shows a timeline and the flight pattern of Flight 93.
The black slate wall outlining the now sacred burial ground features pockets where visitors can leave flowers or other sentimental items.
The black slate wall outlining the now sacred burial ground features pockets where visitor