Monday, September 11, 2006


Shanksville, PA ~ October 2001

This evening a documentary aired on CBS on the fall of the World Trade Towers. Two French brothers had spent a couple months following the life of a probationary fire fighter in NYC for a documentary on becoming a fireman. Purely by chance, they caught many of the events that unfolded that day on film -- smoke coming from the first tower hit and learning what had happened, watching as the second plane hit, the chaos and fear as people tried to understand what was happening. One of the brothers was actually inside one of the towers with the fire department they were attached to. It is the only footage showing what it was like to be inside the towers on that day, and what is more amazing is that, even though many from the department were inside the towers, all of them made it home.

I saw a good portion of the footage from tonight's documentary back four or five years ago, when it was shown soon after 9/11, and seeing the extended footage was just as hard as watching it all those years ago. You can't help wondering if it will ever get easier to see -- and yet, at the same time, you hope it never is.

Though I remember where I was when I first heard the news -- in the car en route to work -- and though we had the TV on all day, watched the events of that morning unfold, it's a field in Pennsylvania that really brought it all home.

A month and a half after 9/11, a friend and I were on vacation in Pennsylvania. We were in Pittsburgh for a wedding, and spent a day touring the covered bridges and other historic sites of Somerset County. Though we knew the plane had crashed somewhere east of Pittsburgh, we had no idea where.

Midmorning we drove through a small town to see one of the first bridges on the tour, the Glessner Bridge, and as we came to a T in the road and prepared to turn right (north), there across the street was a site that caught us offguard. It was a memorial for the victims of flight 93, and we were in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. We had no idea we were that close to the crash site. From the Glessner Bridge we could hear the sounds of heavy machinery, but whether from the crash site or local coal mines it was hard to tell. Had we continued down the road past the bridge we would have come upon it. I don't think either of us could have handled that.

It was quite a sobering moment in our trip, and one I will certainly never forget.

Story from the Chicago Tribune on United 93:
Telling story of hope and story of sadness

Shanksville Photography:
September 11: Bearing Witness to History


Jana said...

We had a memorial service at the library today. The new university president spoke. He was actually in service at the Pentagon back then so he shared some of his experiences that day and the days that followed. They also had the ROTC there and they did their thing with the flags and played taps and the star spangled banner. Very poignant.

Heather said...

Sounds like a moving ceremony, Jana. There were events taking place here this morning at the Capitol, which most of us will have to settle for snippets of during the evening news.

I did have Good Morning, America on as I was getting ready for work this morning, so saw some of the memorial ceremonies at Ground Zero.

The Wisconsin State Journal has an awesome front page this morning...all black, save for two tall lit taper candles. I believe I'll be saving that. Wish they had it online, or that I had a wide scanner so I could share it.