The Flight 93 Crash Site|
Somerset County, Pennsylvania
NEAR SHANKSVILLE, PA. -- 12/15/01 - There's no denying the raw emotional power of being there. Standing at the wind-whipped temporary monument to the crash of United Airline flight 93 takes your breath away and brings unbidden tears to one's eyes.
One of God's major miracles, it's a place nearly impossible to find without a stop at Shanksville's only grocery store (Ida's), and help from locals as you inevitably get off-track.
How hard can it be to find a plane crash that's famous 'round the world' ??! Quite tough, and thus the considered word: "miracle."
We're talking about what many believe is the most important crash site in the September 11th attack on America - the plane that missed. Missed the Capitol, perhaps - a target that successfully hit may have consequences from which we might not recover.
Three months and four days after this quiet region exploded into the world consciousness, just one road sign from Shanksville driving north diverts the pilgrim to the reclaimed, soft-dirt strip mine where one of America's biggest airplanes disappeared into a pit.
It doesn't really hit you until you leave. Still stunned and sobered later by the hundreds of flags and tens of thousands of signatures from well wishers, we sat in our car following Route 160 north to the more familiar environ of Windber-Johnstown. I did a mental shake of my head, as though to clear the cobwebs.
Inside the pit and on the front pages of every world newspaper were stories of Todd Beamer's call to action - "Let's Roll!" Voice cockpit recorders and ATC centers would later report doomed voices in Arabic proclaiming "Allah is great" as the California-bound jetliner augered into the most harmless place on earth, viewed in terms of collateral damage. Whether, as conspiracy theorists ( and some third-hand ear-witnesses tell me ) the jet was shot down by U.S. fighter - and/or an unprecedented act of heroism played out in the skies over the state I love - the least reported crash of an awful day so close it still astounds. There's not a town near here whose FEMA directors can't tell you how many more minutes of in-air time would have put them on ( and erased them from ) the map world.
9:58 a.m., September 11, 2001 - an incredibly bad "coincidence began to play out on the police scanner at the cabin. Our minds were on the horrific television images when word of a plane crash 40 miles to the south had every EMS agency in the region on standby. Another sad tale of a small plane, I thought, until the urgency on the radio - and finally national - news indicated a fourth jetliner was down. No one believed in coincidences any more, not after the second plane in the the Twin Towers. But a terrorist act concluding in Somerset County seemed too unreal as well.
And now the reports of hauntings, why should anyone open to the paranormal be surprised? Though most passengers reportedly knew the hijacking had gone terribly wrong, there has to be something that occurs between mind and body when life is snuffed in an unexpected awful instant. As first reported on CompuServe in February 2002, private security guards from a Johnstown-based company are discovering - and seeing - odd things. Cathryn Conroy, a CompuServe News Editor, reports the security service is headquartered in a trailer on the site furnished by the police and the FBI. Noises and chairs being moved paled in comparison to a 3 a.m. apparition that haunts (in every way) one man. A woman with blue jeans and jersey strode away towards the security gate; then, as he stared (since trespassers are forbidden), "She totally disappeared. She didn't like fade out or nothing. It was almost as if I blinked and she wasn't there no more." the man saw her once again: while viewing photographs of the ill-fated passengers.
A former general assignment reporter for every medium you can name, I surprised myself in not wishing to visit the Flight 93 site while it was still the focus of daily national interest. I was tempted, when Lara Bush came to talk with the grieving families, but that was probably the worst time for crowding and I haven't been vetted by the Secret Service for years. And so on a sunny-but-windy December day, when just the Rent-a-Cop and occasional tourist might venture by, Al Brindza and I drove to Shanksville.
I learned on local TV news that town residents were having bake sells and selling items to raise money for a permanent memorial. As we reached the small crossroads (only yellow ribbons and flags giving any clues to the moment of this place, the nearby hallowed ground), I saw Ida's.
Al waited as I went inside with my digital camera. Several locals were keeping the clerk busy, but I still felt awkward as I snapped some pictures of items sent to the town folk from Oregon. I found a rarely seen picture of the first black cloud rising over a hillside - the smoke signal that life here would never be the same. I gladly parted with the $20.00 donation to buy a copy and then stammered the hardest words I've ever had to get out: "Can you direct me to the crash site?"
I absorbed about half the instructions and later had to impose on a senior out for a walk who pointed out the penultimate right and left. Even then, it was the appearance of a strip-mine - and Al reporting a familiar twinge of a headache-that finally preceded a temporary parking lot and chain link fence marking the temporary memorial.
There were times we were alone. Others would come and go with out of state license plates and somber expressions. The wind was terrific and, when no one else was there, the fluttering of flags and the stark, familiar-looking field and tree line sent chills down the spine.
Is it a haunted place? Most certainly... but the spirits may reside within us.
|Please enjoy our exhibits, but respect that all are Copyright by the photographer and/or the Allegheny Mountain Ghosthunters. All Rights Reserved. Absolutely no reproduction is permitted without express written permission. Please feel free to email us!|