Iowa Pagans Jesse and Teresa are visiting the memorial created for the Heroes of Flight 93 today. The memorial, dedicated to the passengers and crew of Flight 93, is located in field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Even before ground was broken on the memorial in 2008, Pagans were making trips to the site to leave offerings. Jesse and Teresa had been planning on seeing the site, but this year was the first opportunity they had to do so.
History of Flight 93 and 9/11 attacks
United Airlines Flight 93 was hijacked by four al-Qaeda terrorists on September 11, 2001. Four hijackers took over the aircraft shortly after take off and diverted it towards the east coast. The intended target is believed to be the United States Capitol. The passengers of the plane, alerted by friends and family of the fate of the other flights hijacked that day, attempted to regain control of the aircraft. When it appeared the passengers were succeeding in breaking into the cockpit, the hijackers crashed Flight 93 into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania killing all 44 people aboard including the 4 hijackers.
Memorial Site draws crowds
A temporary memorial at the site of the crash was set up soon after the crash and the first phase of the permanent memorial was completed, opened, and dedicated last year. Jesse and Teresa had planned to attend the dedication, but were unable to due to a family emergency. This year they were able to complete the trip. “It was very important for us to be able to see this place. To make our offerings to these Heroes,” said Teresa.
Although the couple did not know anyone on the flight, or anyone killed in the 9/11 attacks, they felt a strong religious pull. “These people, the ones who tried to take the plane back from the attackers, are Heroes. Not in the modern sense of the word, but heroes who are now guardian spirits of our country,” says Jesse. He believes that the passengers have achieved apotheosis, which is when a person has been raised to divinity. Heroes were worshiped throughout the ancient Pagan world.
Modern Pagans in the USA, like Jesse and Teresa, have begun offering traditional cultus to American Heroes like George Washington, Harriet Tubman, and the passengers of Flight 93.
The memorial site, when completed, will contain:
40 Groves containing 40 trees each, a Field of Honor covering 150 acres, a Tower of Voices, a Field of Honor, a visitor center, Western overlook, a protected wetlands, and the Sacred Ground area. The Sacred Ground is the final resting place of the passengers and crew members. A planned stone and slate plaza will offer a closer viewing position of the meadow and hemlock grove which absorbed the main impact of the crash. Small niches along the low, sloped wall of the viewing plaza will accommodate personal tributes and remembrances from visitors.
Note: PNC-Minnesota is differentiating between the modern word hero and the religious word Hero through use of capitalization. The Flight 93 Memorial is open, but still seeking donations to finish its construction.