More than 800 family members of 9/11 victims attended the dedication of the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pa. on Sept. 10, 2011.
Photo credit: Curtis Tate/MCT
The anniversary of the downing of Flight 93 in southwestern Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001, until now had been marked by a single-day program.
This year, the commemoration will include four days of events as the Flight 93 National Memorial park and its mission evolve, 11 years after the terrorist attacks.
The anniversary events begin Saturday with two days of panel discussions. One will look at how children experienced 9/11. Another will feature FBI investigators. A third will focus on individuals who were working in the U.S. Capitol -- the intended target of the Flight 93 hijackers.
The programming, held on the future site of the learning center, signals the beginning of the permanent mission of the park to serve as both a memorial site and a 9/11 education center for future generations.
"This year does mark a shift," said Jeff Reinbold, superintendent of the National Park Service for Western Pennsylvania. "We're looking forward, and part of it is the recognition that visitation has changed over last 10 years."
Reinbold said children in middle school and younger have little or no memory of 9/11. So the park service is exploring how to introduce the event to a new generation.
Since the dedication of the park last Sept. 11, 350,000 people have visited, Reinbold said, three times the number of visitors in previous years.
Two of the central features of the 2,000-acre park have taken shape as envisioned by San Francisco architect Paul Murdoch: the memorial plaza that separates the public from the crash site, and the Wall of Names, listing the 40 passengers and crew on marble panels positioned to indicate the final flight path of the Boeing 757.
Over the last year, 15,000 seedlings have been planted. Forty groves of trees will one day encircle the bowl-shaped field surrounding the crash site.
The groundbreaking for the visitor center and museum is scheduled for the spring.
The project is budgeted at $76 million in public and private funds. All but $5 million has been raised. The last funds will be used to complete the final phase, Reinbold said, which includes the Tower of Voices, a 93-foot carillon that will hold 40 bells, and the learning center, which will host public events.
On Monday, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is scheduled to make a brief visit to the site.
The annual 9/11 ceremony will be held Tuesday at the memorial plaza. As in every year since 2002, Flight 93 family members will read the names of loved ones; toll the Bells of Remembrance at 10:02 a.m., the moment the plane hit the ground; and lay a wreath at the Wall of Names.
Interpretive programs explaining what happened on 9/11 will be held each day. In a ceremony each night, 40 candle lanterns will be placed atop the Wall of Names in remembrance of those who died.
A complete schedule of events is posted on the park's website, www.nps.gov/flni.
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