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9/11 Memorial in Shanksville


The horrific events of September 11, 2001 put the rural community of Shanksville, Pennsylvania on the map and in the history books. Resident Donna Glessner felt her home shake from the impact of Flight 93 hitting the ground in a nearby field after passengers gave their lives to save others in the path of the hijacked plane. When she realized thousands of people would visit the area, she organized her fellow United Methodist church members and other volunteers to give tours and honor these heroes. This UMTV encore from 2011 shares the story of this important site. 

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(Locator: Shanksville, Pennsylvania)

Donald Landis, Ambassador: "On the flight path, the way the plane came in."

My name is Don Landis. I've been a volunteer ambassador here at the Flight 93 memorial for almost ten years. When you hear the whole story about these 40 passengers and crew that were aboard this plane," they decided, 'We gotta do something about this,' because they knew what had happened at the World Trade Center and at Washington. And they were going to do everything they could to possibly save this plane from reaching its destination. Had they just sat in there and said, 'Well, nothing we can do about this,' like a lot of us would do, in just 18 minutes, this plane would have been in Washington."

Nadia Bonanno-Testa, Montgomery, NY: "We came to visit friends and I couldn't go back home without stopping by this memorial. It just moves everything within you as if it just happened yesterday."

Keith Newlin, Superintendent, U.S. Park Service: "Donna realized that a lot of people were coming to the temporary memorial and they were asking simple questions like, 'Where did the plane go into the ground? What happened here? Where am I at? What's my orientation?' She realized that, so she stepped up and organized this group of ambassadors."

Donna Glessner, Founder, Flight 93 Ambassador Program: "I'm Donna Glessner. I knew immediately that this was the right thing to do and I didn't want to look back on this time later in my life and think 'I could have done more, I could have made things better for people.' I remember speaking to our pastor at Shanksville United Methodist Church, Pastor Emery, 'How do you feel about me making this announcement that we're going to start this volunteer effort?'"

(Visitor to ambassador) "Thank you for all your information."

Donna Glessner: "We call ourselves ambassadors because we felt like we were representing our community to strangers coming to this place. And we formed with the purpose of being a human presence at this very emotional place."

The Rev. Marlin Miller, United Methodist Pastor: "For the first two years at the temporary memorial site, we sat in our car or truck or whatever 'til someone came and then we'd get out and welcome them. Then we developed a book with pictures and began with the story."

Donna Glessner: "We know that well over 1.5 million people have visited here through the years. At this time of the year, we're running between 5,000 and 7,000 people per week."

Keith Newlin, Superintendent, U.S. Park Service: "It's sacred ground. It's like any other battlefield we have in this country. There was bloodshed here; there was death; there was destruction and it was for a cause."

Jeanie Renda, Hunker, PA: "This is my fifth time. I brought my grandchildren today, there's five of them here. They have to understand, at a young age, that this is what we're about."

Donna Glessner, Founder, Flight 93 Ambassador Program: "I think many of the ambassadors, regardless of their faith, feel that this is their mission. We meet people from all walks of life here and people that are hurting in many ways, often unrelated to 9/11. For them to be able to come here and unburden their soul to you, it's a privilege to talk with them and you leave refreshed."

Voice of Jeanie Renda, Hunker, PA: "I feel God's presence here. I know He's here."


On September 11, 2011, the U.S. Park Service unveiled the first of three phases of the permanent memorial at Shanksville.

For visitor information, go to the National Park Service website. To make a contribution and view a live web cam at the memorial site, visit Friends of Flight 93.

This story was first posted on September 11, 2011.  It was produced by United Methodist Communications. News media contact is Fran Walsh, at 615-742-5458.