I am a Somerset Co.Pa resident.Here is my tribute to the resilient spirits of Flight 93.
|*As of Sept. 11, 2015, more than a million people have visited the Flight 93 memorial.
September 11 2013
A Small Shoe
While I can appreciate the thought behind erecting a fitting tribute to the heros of Flight 93 (I suggested a huge garden of wildflowers representing the homeland of each of the 40 passengers and crew) I have no desire to visit the multi-million dollar memorial, not far from my home. Other county residents express the same thought. I think for me, it's an accident scene and will always be a horrific memory. A friend looks at it differently, "It's peaceful and beautiful there. You might feel better if you go. See for yourself." I wonder.
I don't need a physical place to bring back vivid memories of that terrible day and the aftermath.
Two days after the attacks, still trying to come to terms with it all, my husband and I drove up the mountain to meet friends, Carolyn and Greg, for dinner at Castagna's Restaurant (formerly Emerald Park) on Route 30, right next to the crash site. We arrived to see cars, vans, lights, the eerie flashes of many cameras illuminating the highway and the people who had exited their cars. They walked or stood on the busy road. Some were peering through binoculars to see beyond the former Longview and DiamondT coal mines, where my husband had worked for quite a few years. The small restaurant parking lot was packed.
"Good Lord," we said in unison. How weird that this place, so familiar to us, now seemed alien. Surreal.
We all sat at our booths or tables, shell-shocked. What struck me was how quiet it was. Everyone spoke in hushed tones. Very little laughter or bantering with the waitress was heard. It wasn't normal, but I think we felt a bit better in the comforting presence of others, the comfort of the ordinary.
In the following weeks, I longed to hear an airplane. Perhaps a small private plane cruising over our gorgeous autumn landscape, or an airliner filled with happy vacationers, headed for more exotic destinations. But the bright blue skies were silent.
When the mail arrived, I piled magazines on the coffee table, where they remained untouched. The cover stories touting new beauty breakthroughs, celebrity interviews, or ways to stretch budgets seemed appallingly trite.
One Sunday we took three grandchildren on a hike to the top of a ridge behind our house. In a patch of woods, we saw strange white balls of what looked like foam scattered through trees and over the earth. My granddaughter found a brand new child's shoe. She was upset and asked if any children had been on the crashed airplane. I assured her there had not. I thought of friends and neighbors who found remnants of plane seats, and checkbooks on their properties. All were turned over the proper authorities. I thought about that shoe. Had we seen dregs of jet fuel? Was it all actually fallout from Flight 93? Did a passenger buy new shoes for a beloved child?
I left the little shoe on the top on the mountain ridge, closer to the heavens.
Years passed, wounds in hearts and earth healed over.
I prayed for the families of the 40, as did many other Americans. I am happy for them, finding comfort in gathering together, tracing trembling fingers over names engraved on a wall, laying lovely wreaths upon marble and stone. God bless them all.
But I cannot go there yet.
P.S. September 10, 2020
Covid19 prevented me from finally visiting the memorial this year. Tomorrow I will even avoid traveling Lincoln Highway due to the ceremony
and visiting officials. Though so many years have passed I think often of the passengers and crew of Flight 93.
Here is the original "40 Stars Shine Over the Hollow" written in 2002
40 Stars Shine Over the Hollow This Morning
For days I’ve been hearing Don McLean’s lyrics from “Vincent” in the back of my mind “Starry, starry night…,portraits hung in empty halls…frameless heads on nameless walls….” I believe he wrote the song as a tribute to Vincent van Gogh. Instead, McLean’s haunting phrases take me back to a September morning darkened by evil. The lyrics underscore the horror of the deaths of forty beautiful souls aboard Flight 93, spirits who were blessedly released from their suffering in a field only a crow’s flight from my hollow.
Early that morning I had cradled a steaming mug of coffee and walked out into my yard. It was not yet light. Bats still hunted, swirling around the dusk to dawn lantern. I looked up into the deep blue sky above the ridge and saw tiny moving lights that were, in reality, huge airliners. They inched across a field of twinkling planets and stars. A pristine morning. A good lawn-mowing day I thought.
Later, the crew and passengers aboard the Boeing 757 had probably grown restless after languishing on the tarmac at Newark, their departure delayed due to airport construction. Finally cleared for takeoff, they soared westward, bound for the Pacific coast. Their final destination was not one they could have imagined. The United Airlines flight abruptly veered toward Washington,DC, and carried them deep down into the earth near the tiny settlement of Lambertsville, Pennsylvania.
Forty strong characters saved hundreds and not just in DC. Their perfect God-given timing saved many lives in the Shanksville PA school alone, where hundreds of children from preK to twelfth grade had just begun their school day. Add several more hundred residents and workers in surrounding villages, and motorists on the well-traveled Lincoln Highway. Somerset County lost not even one soul. Our amazement and gratitude is truly impossible to put into words, at least words not accompanied by hushed tones and tear-filled eyes.
Since that morning, in my mind’s eye, I often see the crew and passengers emerge from the western hillside across the road from my home where, at 10:06 a.m. September 11, 2001, my windows and storm doors shuddered as if pounded by God’s angry fist. From over the western ridge forty of them come to stand in the cow pasture, as if posing for a school portrait. They are always smiling at me. There is an air of innocence about them and an aura that illuminates their hair, so they appear as children playing in the sun. “Come walk with me,” I say.
“Shadows on the hill,
Sketch the trees and daffodills
Catch the breeze and winter chills
In colors on the snowy linen land.’”
words by Don McLean