The Legacy of Flight 93
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Where & What is Shanksville?

map showing location of Shanksville Pennsylvania

Flight 93 came down in a field three miles outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, a township of only 245 people, southeast of Pittsburgh. During a community memorial service, resident Donna Glessner read to families of the passengers and crews of Flight 93 her answer to "What is Shanksville?" Here are some excerpts that appeared in Public Opinion Online that serves Chambersburg, about 80 miles to the east:

I've often referred to our town, jokingly, as "The Center of the Universe." Little did we know that we would take a huge step in that direction on Tuesday, Sept. 11.

In a moment when the earth literally shook under our feet, we changed from a town which merely watched the news to a town which was the news. Our township has become the resting place of America's 21st century heroes. It is not a role we would have chosen for ourselves, surely, but it is a role that we have accepted and are striving to fill.

We are an old community. Our area was settled just after the Revolutionary War, mainly by German farm families emigrating from Eastern Pennsylvania. The town of Shanksville itself dates to 1798 when its founder, Christian Shank, came here to build a mill on the Stonycreek River. Slowly a town grew around the mill until there was a blacksmith shop, several general stores, churches, a school, and even a hotel.

Shanksville had high hopes at one time of becoming a "metropolis" with its own rail station. But, plans changed and maps were re-drawn and, for good or for ill, growth and rapid change bypassed Shanksville.

In many ways it seems that Shanksville is, to borrow a phrase, "a town that time forgot." It has never been much more than what you see right now -- a town of 245 people, a handful of local businesses, a school, a fire hall, a post office, three churches and a lot of front porches where neighbors sit and visit and wave hello to the passers-by.

Surrounding Shanksville is Stonycreek Township, home to another 2,200 people, some in little towns like Buckstown, Roxbury, Reels Corners and Lambertsville, but most just scattered over the countryside.

Within the township are Lake Stonycreek and Indian Lake, manmade lakes constructed in the early 1960s that now add immeasurably to the diversity and the beauty of our community. Four hundred people live around Indian lake, and many more use their homes here as weekend and summer retreats.

When friends visit me here we take drives past the dairy farms to see the Holsteins in the big red barns with decorative stars. We enjoy seeing the Amish families of Stonycreek with their horses and buggies and neat shocks of grain.

We drive past the coal mining operations and marvel at the size of the equipment. I take visitors to the Big Rock on Allegheny Mountain, or to view the Allegheny Tunnel on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I take them to see the covered bridge which crosses the Stonycreek and to the scenic waterfall on Lambert Run.

It is a township of 60 square miles, most of it above 2,200 feet in elevation, most of it very beautiful. Our winters are generally long, with plenty of snow and cold temperatures -- ideal for skiers. Early spring brings the maple season when the sap rises in the maple trees and can be drawn off and boiled into syrup.

When the snow melts, the water in Stonycreek runs high and fast, ideal for white water rafters and welcoming to trout fishermen. Summers here are cool and pleasant. Corn and potatoes, hay and oats grow in the farmers' fields, and most folks tend a garden. Fall brings frosty mornings and colored leaves cast against clear, blue skies. The crops are brought in and the tomatoes are canned for winter. We stack firewood and prepare for hunting season.

We are hard-working people with jobs in agriculture, mining, the lumber industry, health care, construction and industries, many traveling daily to jobs in Somerset and Johnstown.

We generously share with those in need. We are volunteers with Scouts, 4-H, PTA and Little League. We salute our veterans on Memorial Day and take good care of our cemeteries. We are people who love God. Seven churches are active in our community.

This is a community which has, with the help of our neighbors, filled the fire hall to overflowing with baked goods, soups and supplies of every type imaginable to serve to those who work in and around the crash site. Volunteers have been at our hall around the clock since the first alarm sounded on Tuesday morning, many leaving their jobs without pay to serve others. Volunteers clamor to help serve meals each day, even at midnight and 4 a.m., to state troopers who secure the perimeter of the crash site. This is a community which yearns to help, to reach out to those in need, even when we can't fully understand what those needs may be.

I've often heard it said, (and if you look at a map you can verify this), that all roads lead to Shanksville. We know that you did not choose to follow this road, but now that you have found Shanksville, we invite you to return. We welcome you to return at any season and hope that in your visit you can find the peace and comfort you seek.

[To see the brochure that is available for visitors to the area, click here.]

Go to a Web site with more photos of Shanksville and of the memorial

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