"Creation and Contemplation: The Flight 93 Memorial and The National September 11 Museum," by Alice Gallagher


"Creation and Contemplation: The Flight 93 Memorial and The National September 11 Museum," by Alice Gallagher

On September 11, 2001 at 8:42 am, United Flight 93 departed from Newark Liberty International Airport heading to San Francisco International Airport. Forty-six minutes into the flight, the route was redirected toward Washington D.C. as the four hijackers on board overtook the cockpit. The thirty-three passengers and seven crew members valiantly attempted to regain control of the plane before the aircraft crashed into an open field in rural Somerset County, Pennsylvania at 10:03 am. All of the individuals on board perished, but their efforts to divert the plane’s target, the U.S. Capitol, avoided hundreds of possible fatalities.

Memorials attempt to catalog the past to keep the spirit and the identity of the victims relevant as time progresses and the memory of their legacy fades. To honor the forty victims of United Flight 93, a memorial was erected in Shanksville, Pennsylvania and a room was dedicated in the 9/11 Museum in New York City. The curators and architects were challenged to honor the victims, while emphasizing their courageous actions. The modest Flight 93 Memorial subtly highlights the natural landscape of the crash site in an attempt to commemorate, reflect, and confront the emotions elicited from the story of the passengers and crew members. The room dedicated to United Flight 93 within the vast 9/11 Museum utilizes multiple immersive media, such as artifacts, photographs, and audio recordings to recreate the heroism, anguish, and chaos of the tragic event.

My research analyzes the physical designs, the artifacts, the rhetoric, as well as personal interviews with curators, park rangers, and visitors to examine the relationship between the memorial production and the audience consumption. The Flight 93 Memorial and the 9/11 Museum are national sites dedicated to interpreting the story of United Flight 93, but the locations of the two sites and the presentation of the materials evoke drastically different responses from viewers. The secluded onsite memorial in Shanksville serves as a pensive homage to the event, while commemorating the life of each victim. In New York City, the offsite room attempts to place the crash within the larger context of the historic event through high-tech resources and factual information. The comparison of the two unique sites, my personal observations, and the audiences’ perceptions will reveal the curators’ and architects’ interpretations and objectives in commemorating United Flight 93 and the reaction these sites elicit from visitors. 

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  • HAAARCH!!! 2015
  • Undergraduate Work