STONYCREEK TOWNSHIP, Pa.—The Flight 93 National Memorial sits on a broad green pasture. The field is remote, interrupted only by minimalist monuments standing in the distance, surrounded by vivid wildflowers.
One monument is a 93-foot high musical instrument, with 41 colossal wind chimes, making clunking sounds that sing across the meadow like a glockenspiel.
There is no other structure like this in the world.
The monument honors the 41 passengers and crewmembers from United Airlines Flight 93. The hijacked plane that crashed in this field 19 years ago.
The National Park Service runs this place today. But not so long ago this was open farmland.
It happened on a Tuesday morning. Perfect weather. Clear sky. Locals saw a Boeing 757 jerking through the air at an awkward angle.
Farmers watched in slack-jawed amazement. Commuters pulled over to see a commercial airliner bounce from the sky and slam into the Earth.
When the plane hit soil it sounded like the world had come apart at the bolts. A mile-high column of
black smoke wafted into the air. The clear sky was ruined.
Earlier that morning the flight had been due for takeoff from Newark International Airport at 8:01 a.m. But, because this is America (Land of the Free and Home of the Flight Delayed) the flight was running late by 41 minutes.
The passengers and crew were chatty that morning. People made conversations over Styrofoam coffee cups. It was usual talk.
They chatted about their kids’ soccer games. Work. The new fad diet that wasn’t making their thighs any smaller.
In the cockpit, pilot Jason Dahl was going through his preflight stuff. He was 43, cobby build, with a smile that looked like he could have been your favorite uncle Lou.
Jason always carried a little box of rocks with him. They were a gift from his son. When a man carries a box of rocks simply because his kid collected…