Flight 93 National Memorial

Flight 93 National Memorial


Mission Statement

Flight 93 National Memorial Mission Statement


            A common field one day. A field of honor forever.

May all who visit this place remember the collective acts of courage and sacrifice of the passengers and crew, revere this hallowed ground as the final resting place of those heroes, and reflect on the power of individuals who choose to make a difference.


           The purpose of this document is to lay the foundation for the planning and development of the Flight 93 National Memorial. These words and ideas have been developed through the collaborative efforts of the families of the passengers and crew of Flight 93, local residents, national leaders, the National Park Service and the general public. This partnership and framework of principles will ensure that the design of Flight 93 National Memorial and future development and management decisions are consistent with the fundamental reasons this National Memorial is being created. We acknowledge that the details of what took place on board Flight 93 will never by fully known. And only the passage of time will give us the perspective to fully comprehend the importance of the event and of this hallowedplace.


           The events of September 11th, 2001, are forever etched into the hearts and souls of the family members and loved ones of those who died, the nation and the world. The United States experienced the worst incident of terrorism in the nation’s history. The coordinated hijacking of four commercial airliners, the planned attack on symbolic targets, the murder of innocent people, were all tragic and shocking events. However, we also remember the extraordinary responses of those individuals involved and the challenges they faced that day. Those heroic actions were awe-inspiring and are worthy of remembrance.

           On that day, two commercial airliners, American Airlines Flight 11 carrying 92 passengers and crew, and United Airlines Flight 175 carrying 65 passengers and crew, were hijacked shortly after departure from Boston. Both planes were deliberately flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, resulting in the loss of all on board and 2,635 rescue workers and occupants of the World Trade Center and other innocent bystanders. A third plane, American Airlines Flight 77 was hijacked after departure from Washington, D.C. and flown into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, taking the lives of 64 passengers and crew and 125 in the building. The fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93, was delayed in its scheduled departure from Newark, New Jersey to San Francisco, California. About 45 minutes into the flight, as the Boeing 757 was nearing Cleveland, Ohio, it abruptly changed course, heading southeast in the direction of the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. Shortly before 10:00 a.m. it was observed flying low and erratically over southwestern Pennsylvania. Just after 10:00 a.m., the plane crashed at a cruising speed estimated at more than 500 miles per hour into a reclaimed strip mine at the edge of a wooded area in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Emergency responders, arriving at the scene minutes after the crash, found no survivors. All thirty-three passengers, seven crew members and the four hijackers were killed.

           In the hours and days that followed, an astounding story about what happened on board Flight 93 was revealed. When the terrorists took over the plane, passengers and crew were able to telephone family members, friends and emergency dispatchers to report the hijacking. Through these conversations, those on board Flight 93 learned about the horrific events unfolding at the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon.  

           As their phone conversations revealed, the passengers and crew of Flight 93 realized that their plane was also part of the planned attack. This realization led to a collective decision by the passengers and crew to stop the terrorists from achieving their goal. The story of the heroic actions of the passengers and crew of Flight 93 later was confirmed when the contents of the many telephone conversations and the cockpit voice recorder were reviewed. All 40 of the passengers and crew have been recognized as heroes.

           While the nation mourned the loss of life on that day, the selfless actions of the passengers and crew of Flight 93evoked respect and appreciation from people around the world.  In the days and weeks following the tragedy, our nation experienced a rekindled sense of unity, strength and resolve. Actions intended to divide and demoralize the nation had the opposite effect, and the crash of Flight 93 became a symbol of human courage and freedom in the face of adversity and death. The site of the crash became a place of impromptu gathering where the public memorialized and commemorated these events while they struggled to comprehend their meaning.

           Following an exhaustive field investigation and recovery effort during the autumn of 2001, the crash site was reclaimed. The crater was backfilled and the area was planted with grass and wildflowers. The site was also fenced and security was posted. At the same time, county and regional leaders, members of the local community, the families of the passengers and crew of Flight 93 and representatives from the National Park Service began to realize the importance of the crash site as a place of honor and of the need to preserve and protect it. On March 7, 2002, federal legislators introduced legislation [H.B. 3917] “to authorize a national memorial to commemorate the passengers and crew of Flight 93 who, on September 11, 2001, courageously gave their lives thereby thwarting a planned attack on our Nation’s Capital.” The four principal partners identified in the legislation and charged with the planning process to design, construct and manage the national memorial are the Families of Flight 93, Inc., the Flight 93 Advisory Commission, the Flight 93 Memorial Task Force and the National Park Service.


           On September 24, 2002, the Flight 93 National Memorial Act (P.L. 10-226) was passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush, creating Flight 93 National Memorial. The following statements represent shared understandings about the purposes for creating Flight 93 National Memorial:

  • Honor the passengers and crew members of Flight 93 who courageously gave their lives thereby thwarting a planned attack on our Nation’s Capital, Washington, D.C.
  • Allow the public to visit the site and express their feelings about the event and the passengers and crew of Flight 93.
  • Preserve the open, rural landscape and the solemn and tranquil setting of the crash site of Flight 93.


           The events of September 11th and the crash of Flight 93 have had a profound impact on the nation and the world. The following statements summarize why this place is so important that is has been established as a unit of the National Park System.

  • The crash site is the final resting place of the passengers and crew of Flight 93. 
  • The heroic actions of the passengers and crew of Flight 93 ending here were a part of the transformational events in the world that resulted from the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks on America.


           Flight 93 National Memorial will be a place for individuals to learn about the events of September 11th and seek personal meaning from their experience. In the future, interpretive media and programs will be developed around the key stories and ideas that illustrate the significance of the Memorial and help to place the Memorial in its national andinternational contexts. The primary interpretive themes for Flight 93 National Memorial are:

  • Flight 93 was the only hijacked plane on September 11th that failed to hit its intended target. The crash of Flight 93, only 20 minutes from Washington, D.C., was the direct result of the actions of the passengers and crew who gave their lives to prevent a larger disaster at the center of American government.
  • The events of September 11th, 2001, revealed the extraordinary bravery of ordinary men and women who, when challenged, responded with spontaneous leadership and collective acts of courage, sacrifice and heroism.
  • The events of September 11th including the actions of the passengers and crew of Flight 93 led to a stronger sense of pride, patriotism and resolve, and a reaffirmation of the value of human life.
  • The first responders, the community, and those individuals and organizations that provided assistance in the recovery and investigation demonstrated compassion and exemplary service. 
  • Unfolding knowledge of the events surrounding September 11th can contribute to a realization of the impact of intolerance, hatred and violence.


The mission of the Flight 93 National Memorial is to:

  • honor the heroism, courage and enduring sacrifice of the passengers and crew of Flight 93;
  • remember and commemorate the events of September 11, 2001;
  • celebrate the lives of the passengers and crew on Flight 93;
  • revere this hallowed ground as the final resting place of heroes who sacrificed their lives so that others would be spared;
  • express the appreciation of a grateful nation forever changed by the events of September 11th;
  • educate visitors about the context of the events of September 11th; and
  • offer a place of comfort, hope and inspiration.

International Design Competition

International Design Competition

The Partners - the Families of Flight 93, the Flight 93 Memorial Task Force, the Flight 93 Advisory Commission, and the National Park Service - agreed that a design competition open to everyone would be the most inclusive, transparent and democratic way to create a national memorial. In the spring of 2004, the Partners hired professional design competition advisors to help develop and administer the international design competition. The Partners collectively sponsored the Flight 93 National Memorial International Design Competition with financial support from the Heinz Endowments and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The design competition was conducted in two stages. Stage I, which began on September 11, 2004, was open to design professionals as well as to the public. All registered participants received a competition manual that presented the Memorial's Mission Statement and explained the initial design program. The competition manual provided a description of the site and its environs, a community profile and the history of the area. Site and resource maps were also included.

The competition guidelines challenged the competitors to present design concepts for a "memorial expression" that portrays the issues, ideas, and spirit and intent of the Mission Statement. The "memorial expression" could range from an individual artwork piece to a larger landscape treatment. All competitors were requested to consider the following themes, which represented the Partners' objectives:

• Honor the heroes of Flight 93—the 40 passengers and crew who on one September morning changed the course of history…;

• Contribute to the dialogue of what a national memorial should be…;

• Conceive a message that will reflect on the event that occurred on September 11, 2001, and be timeless in its power and conviction….

The intent of Stage I was to provide a range of design concepts for the national memorial. In October, November, and December of 2004, registered competitors were given an opportunity to tour the site with the competition advisors and Partners. Photographic and video versions of the site tour were posted on the project website and all registered competitors were given a compact disk with a video tour of the site and the local community. A formal question and answer period was also available with the questions and responses posted on the project website for all participants to view.

On January 11, 2005, the Stage I designs were submitted. All Stage I submittals were submitted anonymously as a concept on a single board. More than 1,000 entries were received from throughout the world. All entries that complied with the competition guidelines were exhibited in Somerset, Pennsylvania and were photographed and posted on the project website. Visitors to the exhibition and the website could comment on the designs. The exhibit provided family members, the Partners and the public with an opportunity to view the thoughtfulness, creativity, and commitment of the designers. All the design submittals were included in the national memorial's permanent collection.

The Stage I Jury, comprised of nine design professionals, family members, and national leaders (and one family member who served as a recorder and alternate), evaluated all Stage I entries. The jury reviewed the public comments, discussed the merits of the design concepts and sought entries that best embodied the spirit of the Mission Statement and an understanding of the landscape. The jury recommended five Stage I Finalists and nine Stage I Honorable Mentions who were publicly announced on February 4, 2005, and who advanced to Stage II of the design competition.

In Stage II, the five finalists received an honorarium to refine their Stage I design concepts to a level that fully explained the spatial, material, and symbolic attributes of their concept for the Flight 93 National Memorial. On February 24 and 25, 2005, the five finalists toured the site and participated in a master plan workshop to explore the site's resource conditions, understand potential visitor experiences, and determine a range of actions that would be needed throughout the national memorial site to support their design. The workshop ensured that any one of the design concepts could be fully considered in the General Management Plan. In April 2005, the finalists met the Partners and participated in a second site visit in which they were given complete access to all areas of the site for several days. Stage II entries were due on June 15, 2005. The designs were exhibited in Somerset, Pennsylvania and on the project website from July 1 through September 25, 2005. The public was given the opportunity to comment on the final designs at the exhibition and through the project website.

During the first week of August 2005, a separate jury reviewed all public comments received to date and evaluated the designs. The Stage II Jury was comprised of 15 members including family members, design and art professionals, and community and national leaders. The jury collaboratively and rigorously examined the designs to determine which one best fulfilled the spirit of the Mission Statement.

As prescribed by the competition regulations, the jury's recommendation was presented to the head officials of each Partner organization. On September 7, 2005, all groups associated with this process concurred with the recommendation which was subsequently adopted by the Commission and publicly announced.

The selected design was submitted by Paul Murdoch Architects, of Los Angeles, California

Questions about the Design

Questions and Answers about the Design, the Partners and the Future

Click here for briefings and reports about the design.

Who are the partners for the Flight 93 National Memorial that were involved in the memorial design process?

Four organizations partnered to organize and implement the process for choosing a memorial design.

· The Families of Flight 93 is a nonprofit organization of family members of the passengers and crew who died on the flight.

· The Flight 93 Advisory Commission was created by Congress to prepare "a report containing recommendations for the planning, design, construction, and long-term management of a permanent memorial at the crash site."

· The Flight 93 Memorial Task Force serves as the Commission's operational arm and includes Flight 93 family members, community members, first responders, educators, and other local, regional, and national stakeholders.

· The National Park Service is the federal agency charged with administering Flight 93 National Memorial.

How was the design selected for the Flight 93 National Memorial?

The design was selected through a deliberate, open, and transparent public process.

· Over 1000 design entries were received from design professionals, amateurs, and ordinary people from 48 states and 27 countries. The designs were exhibited and available for public comment in Somerset, Pennsylvania and were posted on the flight93memorialproject.org website.

· The juries were composed of some design professionals but mostly family members, first responders, and other people who were directly and personally affected by the loss of loved ones.

· The selection process:

1. The Stage I jury analyzed over 1,000 submissions and forwarded five finalist designs to the Stage II jury.

2. The five finalist designs were again exhibited for public comment in Somerset, Pennsylvania, and were posted on the flight93memorialproject.org website.

3. The Stage II jury, which was composed of noted design professionals, Flight 93 family members, and community leaders, reviewed the public comments and evaluated the designs against the memorial's mission statement.

o The Stage II jury decided that they would select the winning design through a democratic process and took a vote. The design with the most votes would be selected as the winning design.

o The jury voted and selected Mr. Murdoch's design.

o To reinforce their support of the design, the Stage II jury took a second, unanimous vote to support the design created by Mr. Murdoch.

What is the shape of the memorial?

The natural topography of the area is a bowl with higher elevations to the north and west so the landform provides the circle shape of the memorial. The circle is broken in two places that mark the southeastern path of the plane to the crash site. The circle is broken at the entry to the memorial and at the crash site.

Where does the memorial focus attention?

Attention is focused on the location of the crash site. The memorial has not yet been sited on the land.

Is there Islamic religious symbolism incorporated into the design of the Flight 93 National Memorial?


How do you know?

When questions were raised about the design, they were taken very seriously. The National Park Service and the Flight 93 partner organizations investigated the issues and consulted with university and religious scholars, all of whom concluded that the memorial design does not imply or depict religious iconography.

What do the Families of Flight 93 have to say about the design of the memorial?

They support it. In a November 9, 2007 letter to Congressman Tancredo they wrote, "The Families of Flight 93 overwhelmingly support the design and the design process, and reaffirmed that support by a unanimous vote of the Board of Directors as recently as two months ago."

What do the Families of Flight 93 have to say about the perceived Islamic symbolism in the memorial?

The Families of Flight 93 sent this letter to Congressman Tom Tancredo on November 9, 2007 in response to his criticism of the design.

What are the next steps?

The partners and the National Park Service are committed to a national memorial that conveys the full honor due to the heroes of Flight 93. We continue to work together to build the memorial and commemorate those heroes who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

Memorial Design

Memorial Expression

by: Paul and Milena Murdoch, Flight 93 National Memorial Architects

Timeless in simplicity and beauty,
like its landscape, both stark and serene,
the Memorial should be quiet in reverence, yet powerful in form,
a place both solemn and uplifting.

It should instill pride, and humility.
The Memorial should offer intimate experience, yet be heroic in scale.
Its strong framework should be open to natural change
and allow freedom of personal interpretation.

We want to restore life here,
to heal the land, and nourish our souls.
In this place, a scrap yard will become a gateway
and a strip mine will grow into a flowering meadow.

But more than restoring health,
the Memorial should be radiant,
in loving memory of the passengers and crew
who gave their lives on Flight 93.