The 16th anniversary of United Flight 93's crash into a Pennsylvania field during the 9/11 terrorist attacks will mark the beginning of the end of a $46 million effort to transform the rural Pennsylvania crash site into a national memorial park.
Ground was broken Sunday on the final element of the Flight 93 National Memorial — a 93-foot tall Tower of Voices. The tower to be built near the park's entrance will feature 40 tubular metal wind chimes, one each for the 33 passengers and seven crew members who died.
An investigation determined four al-Qaeda hijackers crashed the plane after the passengers and crew fought to wrest control of the aircraft, preventing it from reaching Washington.
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The Monday anniversary of the crash will be commemorated with a ceremony outside the park's visitor center in Shanksville, where Vice President Mike Pence will address the family and friends of the victims and thousands of citizens who also are expected to attend.
The National Park Foundation, a charity that works to fund National Park Service projects, raised $46 million from 110,000 private donors, which includes $6 million to design and construct the Tower of Voices. The remaining $40 million has already been earmarked to transform the field about 70 miles southeast of Pittsburgh into a national park.
Steve Clark, the park's superintendent, said the tower will complete the memorial "in a most beautiful way."
"The intent is to create a set of 40 tones, or voices, that can connote through consonance the serenity and nobility of the site while also through the dissonance recalling the event that consecrated the site," said primary architect Paul Murdoch. Sunday's groundbreaking included a "soundbreaking" during which a simulation of the wind chimes was played.
Emily Root Schenkel, cousin of flight attendant Lorraine Bay, said her children, including a daughter named after Bay, will always remember 9/11, but the memorial would tell the story to other children and future generations.
"They can come here and see this beautiful tribute, and they can walk through the visitor's center to learn about what happened that day," she said. "They can then listen to the chimes and hear the voices of 40 heroes so that their sacrifice, their bravery and their love will never be forgotten and will always be heard."
Actual construction on the tower will begin later this month. It should be completed in time to dedicate the tower in time for the 17th anniversary ceremony next year.
"Come back at this time next year to hear the voices sing," John Reynolds, former Flight 93 National Memorial federal advisory commission chair told the crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony.