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Milestones: Tower of Voices sings in the wind

Remembering the victims of Flight 93

A Pennsylvania field is a “beautiful, yet ugly” reminder of how 40 ordinary citizens stood up to terrorist hijackers who tried to turn an aircraft into a device of mass destruction.

Photography by David TulisThe Flight 93 National Memorial near general aviation’s Somerset County Airport honors the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 for sacrificing their lives to prevent further human casualties on September 11, 2001.

Phase One of the memorial, which includes the “Sacred Ground” portion that surrounds the entire site, was completed in 2011 for the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks. Phase Two includes the interpretive exhibits, aerial walkway, and other architectural features and was completed in 2015. Phase Three, the Tower of Voices—a 93-foot-tall structure with 40 wind chimes that will sing out in the nearly constant mountain winds—was dedicated in 2018. The 40 chimes are in honor of the 40 passengers and crew who lost their lives in the crash. Each chime will deliver a different tone based on the size and diameter of the eight- to 16-inch polished aluminum tubes (only several chimes were operating when we visited). The tower is designed to bring “serenity and nobility” to the site while also adding “dissonance,” according to the National Park Service.

The memorial’s angular aerial walkway marks the aircraft’s flight path before the pavement abruptly ends dozens of yards above a former surface coal field. The field was reclaimed and now yellow sunflowers gaze at the sky near stands of seedling trees planted in groups of 40—one for each person aboard the aircraft. A white marble Wall of Names is at the bottom of the field near a large boulder that marks the aircraft’s impact site. While most of the memorial is open to the public, only family are permitted beyond a gated area into the exact spot of impact.

Flight 93 was the fourth to be commandeered by terrorists on September 11. Two aircraft—American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175—were crashed into the Twin Towers of New York City’s World Trade Center, which burned and crumbled, killing 2,753 victims. Another jet—American Airlines Flight 77—pierced a Pentagon wall in Washington, D.C., killing 184.

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David Tulis

David Tulis

Senior Photographer
Senior Photographer David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a private pilot with single-engine land and sea ratings and a tailwheel endorsement. He is also a certificated remote pilot and co-host of the award-wining AOPA Hangar Talk podcast. David enjoys vintage aircraft ad photography.

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