"...a common field is a field of honor forever."
Surely there are scant sights more beautiful than a blue-sky September day in the mountains of rural Pennsylvania when land and sky connect in perfect majesty. Yesterday was such a day for us, traveling westward through farmlands and over mountain ridges. We paused at Shawnee State Park to eat lunch overlooking a still lake reflecting a cloud-dotted heaven. By early afternoon, we arrived at the destination of this pilgrimage--Shanksville, Pennsylvania and the National Park established there in commemoration of the crash of Flight 93.
It is impossible to visit this site without interacting with the landscape and countryside, a profoundly moving aspect of this memorial inherent in its intention. One enters this National Park and drives for three miles through fields of wildflowers and young groves of trees before entering the crash site area. That meandering drive of unfolding vistas quiets the mind and prepares the heart for the emotional experience of interacting with the memorial at the crash site.
A pathway of cut stones, walls of granite, seats for contemplation, and spots of reflection gently guide and create a footpath through memory. It is a place to stand, or sit, or pray, and..to remember.
Spontaneous memorializations indent the walls and underscore the names.
The crash site itself is walled off, except to families and select others. On the path from the wall of names, the direct sight line to the bolder marking the crash site is viewable through a gate roughly hewn from Pennsylvanian wood, symbolizing the monumental effort made by the passengers of the flight who attempted to gain control of the cockpit.
What artistry abides in the human spirit, bubbling up to create such memorial spaces which mark collective history yet elicit personal and individual responses. Such places truly are sacred and hallowed grounds.