SHANKSVILLE, Pa. -- Standing 93 feet tall on an oval concrete plaza Saturday was the Tower of Voices -- a new structure that will serve as a landmark for Flight 93 National Memorial from U.S. Route 30 and mark the gateway to the memorial.
As local residents and others across the nation prepare to honor the lives of those lost in the horrific terrorist attacks that shook the nation on Sept. 11, 2001, a special dedication ceremony was held on Sunday, Sept. 9 to commemorate the new memorial addition.
"It's a world-class memorial, and we truly strive for that each and every day," said Stephen Clark, Flight 93 National Memorial superintendent, during a preview of the tower held on Saturday. "At Flight 93, along with our volunteers and ambassadors and our rangers, we do look to the next generation. So for me, this is the first stop in an incredible 2,200-acre memorial."
The 10-story-tall tower, which is the last major structure to be built at the memorial site, will feature 40 aluminum chimes -- signifying the 40 passengers and crew who died when United Flight 93 crashed into a Shanksville field during the tragic events of Sept. 11.
"There's nothing like this in the world," said architect Paul Murdoch, who designed the tower. "A lot of the last memories of a lot of the passenger and crew members on Flight 93 were through their voices, on phone calls from the plane.
"So we wanted to do a living memorial in sound. And that's why we have 40 chimes -- 40 passenger and crew members. And that's why we call it the Tower of Voices -- to remember those 40 people."
Construction of the tower began a little more than a year ago, and, when fully operational, the sound of the 40 chimes will resonate through the memorial site. Currently, eight of the 40 chimes are installed in the tower.
"It's a very open-ended process because of how unique this is and how complex this is," Murdoch said. "We're trying to get the right balance of longevity, durability, as little maintenance as possible and still the mobility and movement with the sails and the chimes.
"It takes a long-term commitment to not only figure it out and make it happen, but also to maintain it so that it is here operating the way we want it to for generations," he said. "This continues to be what I like to call a living memorial. It's living not only because it's changing all the time, but because there's this ongoing commitment to keeping it available to the public."
According to Clark, the remaining 32 chimes could be installed as early as the beginning of October.
Gordon Felt, president of the Families of Flight 93, said that he found himself in awe of the tower on Saturday.
"Standing here today, seeing the Tower of Voices for the first time, I'm actually overwhelmed," said Felt, whose brother Edward was one of the 40 heroes on Flight 93. "It's been 17 years that families have grieved for our loved ones and made a commitment to work with a most unique partnership to establish a memorial that is fitting and admirable."
Felt said that he has received great feedback about the construction of the tower from the Families of Flight 93.
"The families have always been supportive of this design for the Tower of Voices and are eager to see it complete," he said. "And eager to know there is closure to the developmental stage of this memorial. This stands here not only to welcome visitors to the Flight 93 National Memorial, but to represent heroism and the courage of those 40 passengers and crew members in the actions that they took on the morning of September 11."
The design and construction of the Tower of Voices -- totaling nearly $6 million -- is being funded by a grant from the National Park Foundation.
Clark said: "What was once a stopover for a lot of bus tours or even families coming through for maybe a half an hour, you can now easily spend six hours and still not truly embrace everything that this amazing memorial has to offer and what it stands for."
Sunday's dedication ceremony was open to the public and featured former Gov. Tom Ridge, the first secretary of Homeland Security, as the keynote speaker.
Other participants included former Gov. Mark Schweiker; Calvin Wilson, brother-in-law of First Officer Leroy Homer and former federal advisory commissioner for Flight 93 National Memorial; Paul Murdoch, architect of the Flight 93 National Memorial; the Rev. Robert Way; U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants; and National Park Service Honor Guard.
At the conclusion of the dedication ceremony, a combination of 40 family members, friends and partners rang the eight chimes in sequence, symbolically paying tribute to each of the passengers and crew members.
This article is written by Ronald Fisher from The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.