Central Penn College - Students visit Flight 93 National Memorial

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March 15, 2017 Students visit Flight 93 National Memorial

By Professor John Contino

On September 11, 2001, United Airlines Flight 93 took off from Newark International Airport in Newark, New Jersey at 8 a.m. bound for San Francisco International Airport. There were 37 passengers and seven crew members on board. Unbeknownst to anyone, four of the passengers were terrorists who would overtake the flight crew and reroute the aircraft with the intent of using it as a missile to destroy the U.S. Capitol Building.

At the time of the hijacking, the passengers and crew were forced to the back of the plane and told to sit down and be quiet. Using Airfones from the seat backs in the rear of the plane, they began calling their families, friends and authorities to report the hijacking. They soon learned the shocking news that other hijacked planes had struck the World Trade Center and quickly realized that Flight 93 was part of a larger attack on America. This realization led to a vote and a collective decision to fight back.

At 9:57 a.m., the passengers and crew began their assault on the cockpit. The plane was passing over Westmoreland County, Pa., at this time, east of Pittsburgh. The terrorists responded by rolling the plane to the right and left, repeatedly, apparently attempting to knock the passengers off balance. The cockpit voice recorder captured the sounds of the assault which continued until the time of the crash.

The plane crashed in an open field next to a wooded area in Somerset County, Pa. at 10:03 a.m. Flight 93 struck the ground at a 40 degree angle almost upside down, hitting right wing and nose first, at a speed of approximately 580 miles per hour. Had the plane maintained its speed and flight path, it would have arrived in Washington D.C. and the intended target, the U.S. Capitol Building in 18-20 minutes.

On March 3, students from five Homeland Security Management and Criminal Justice classes visited the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville Pa. The students from five distinct classes had reviewed various aspects of the 9/11 attacks prior to the trip. Professor Goble’s Criminal Investigation class focused on the management of a large scale crime scene located in an extremely remote location. Professor Morgan’s Fundamentals of Intelligence class looked at the acquisition of information leading up to the 9/11 attack and issues in the intelligence community. Professor Contino’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management classes studied the issues of preparing for, responding to and recovering from a terrorist attack and the class on Victimology considered the concept of how victims of such an assault can take action to mitigate the potential consequences of their victimization.

At the Visitor's Center, the students reviewed the background of the events of Sept. 11, Flight 93 and how this day changed the world. They studied artifacts and evidence recovered from the crash site and listened to the recorded calls from passengers to family members. Afterwards they met as a group to discuss their impressions.

The students then proceeded along the final flight path to the crash site (which is marked by a single boulder) and the wall of names honoring the 37 passengers and crew who gave their lives. Each student had previously selected one of the 37 names and at the wall went to that name to recount the background of that person.

Upon their return to Central Penn the students reflected upon their experiences:
“I was really young when the attacks occurred, I was only four-years-old so I do not remember much, but watching the new clips at the visitor center really put it into perspective for me.”

“I thought the phone calls really hit home. They were pretty difficult to hear and made you feel like you were actually the person whom the phone call was directed to.”

“Just seeing the pieces of debris that they found from the airplane and the letters from little kids and listening to some of the final phone calls from some of the passengers gave me goose bumps.”

“The flight 93 memorial sight was a beautiful contribution to those that lost their life in the Sept. 11 attack that September morning. We usually think of just the World Trade Center attacks when we think of the Sept. 11 attacks. It was great to see what actually happened in Shankesville and to see how courageous and brave these people were to risk their lives to save many others.”

“It’s what inspired me to become an air marshal.“