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Perspective: A sobering visit

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In March, my wife and I took a road trip with our high school daughter to visit colleges, first in Virginia and then Pennsylvania. As I was planning our return, I noticed a slight detour on the way to Pittsburgh could take us to the Flight 93 National Memorial, the crash site of United Flight 93, one of four planes involved in the September 11 attacks.


I think I can speak for most GenXers when I say 9/11 is our Pearl Harbor, our Kennedy Assassination, our Watergate. And, for me, it’s been even more. I completed my master’s thesis about media coverage of that horrific day. I’ve read countless books and articles and watched many documentaries on 9/11. I visited Ground Zero in New York City in the early days of the reconstruction. And, I returned to visit the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, an emotional and impactful experience.


Flight 93 crashed deep in rural Pennsylvania, about nine miles from the tiny town of Shanksville and 85 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Middle-of-nowhere? Most definitely.


The memorial is a sobering, stark and powerful place, overlooking a reclaimed strip mine. The most striking feature is the visitor center at the top of the hill, designed along the flight path of the inverted Boeing 757 as it hurtled toward doom at 560 miles per hour. At the bottom of the hill, a wall memorializes the seven crew and 33 passengers who perished.


As I stood there on that sun-drenched day, wind howling, with not a cloud in the sky, and barely a hundred yards from the actual crash site, it was terrifyingly easy to visualize the 757’s path before the massive jet plunged into the earth. Clearly, the moment will stay with me.


Travel is work. It takes planning, stamina and a willingness to venture off your intended path. However, when you take the road less traveled, as Robert Frost wrote, it can make all the difference.


I’m Wester Wuori and that’s my Perspective.