As the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks nears, one nonprofit is finding an inspiring way to honor the heroes whose plane crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Posted in , Jun 30, 2021
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, a day that irrevocably changed our way of life in the United States.
Many of us can remember exactly where we were when we learned that four passenger flights had been hijacked and were targeting government buildings and crowded workspaces in the most populated cities on our Eastern coastline. But for younger generations, the anniversary of 9/11 doesn’t carry with it those same traumatic memories.
“As we get further from 9/11, fewer people know about what happened in America that day,” Donna Gibson, the president of Friends of Flight 93, tells Guideposts.org. The nonprofit is committed to educating, honoring, and stewarding the stories of the brave men and women who were onboard Flight 93 the day of the terrorist attacks. While three of the four hijacked planes reached their intended targets—two flew into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and a third crashed into the west side of the Pentagon—Flight 93 never reached Washington, D.C., where investigators believe it would have targeted the Capitol Building or the White House.
Instead, 40 passengers and crew members on board the flight fought back with the intention of storming the cockpit to incapacitate the hijackers, but the plane crash-landed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. No one on board the flight survived the crash, but Gibson and the Friends of Flight 93 are determined to keep their memory alive.
The Flight 93 Heroes Award is aimed at honoring the courageous and selfless acts of individuals who embody the same spirit of bravery and sacrifice that the passengers of Flight 93 exhibited on that fateful day. Nominations are now open with the deadline closing on July 4th. Gibson is hoping that plenty of people will share their stories. “We want to hear stories about everyday people who demonstrate bravery and courage while potentially risking their own safety for others,” she says.
A panel made up of friends and family members of Flight 93 passengers will choose individuals from across the country. Of course, this isn’t the only way Gibson and her nonprofit are honoring those heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice that day.
The public is encouraged to visit the Flight 93 National Memorial in western Pennsylvania, which is dedicated to preserving the memory of those we lost. There, you can hear audio recordings of Flight 93 passengers and crew members that were shared by their loved ones, learn more about what the passengers and crew members did that day, and pay your respects at the memorial wall that lists the names of everyone on board who bravely gave their lives to potentially save hundreds of others.
In September 2020, construction of the 93-foot Tower of Voices was completed. Conceived as a unique musical instrument, it features 40 oversized wind chimes, representing the 40 passengers and crew members. A living memorial in sound, the tower is surrounded by a ring of white pine trees and is one of the most striking structures at this national park. For anyone who can’t visit in person, a stunning virtual tour is available on the nonprofit’s website.
For Gibson, the Flight 93 Heroes Award serves to remind us all that we have the capacity for the same kind of bravery those men and women showed that day, and she hopes we can remember that throughout the year, not just on the anniversary of September 11th.
“These 40 fought the first war on terrorism on American soil,” Gibson says. “[They] didn’t sign up for that. What was important was they chose to act—they did not sit back. They chose to be heroes.”
Read more about Flight 93 and a story from a family member of one of the hero passengers in the upcoming August/September issue of Guideposts magazine.
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