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  • Writer's pictureLeigh Gerstenberger

Lest We Never Forget

On a recent trip to New York City, I took the opportunity to visit The National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the site of the World Trade Center. While not exactly looking forward to this visit, I went out of a sense of obligation. This is the second memorial to the victims and events of 9/11 that I’ve visited. Ironically, I visited the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA last year on September 10th and shared my experience in my weekly blog. . Like most American I will never forget where I was and the events on that gorgeous, cloudless fall day in 2001.

I had met a friend for breakfast early. On my way into Pittsburgh that morning I heard the news of what was thought to be a small plane crashing into the World Trade Center. By the time I emerged from my parking garage the second tower had been struck and it was clear that this was more than an accident.

My office at PNC Bank was on the 25th floor of its headquarters building in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh. Once in the office, it was clear that no work would be done that day as everyone was glued to the few television sets that dotted our floor.

The flight path for planes arriving and departing Pittsburgh International Airport is often directly over the city and her majestic three rivers. From my office window it wasn’t unusual to see planes fly over our building on their descent to the airport west of town. While usually I thought nothing of this, that morning as I watched planes on their descent I couldn’t help wondering if one of them might be headed to our city which sported a number of skyscrapers including the majestic USX Tower, the tallest building between New York and Chicago.

By 11:00 AM that morning, in addition to the twin towers having been attacked, a crash had occurred at the Pentagon and the news was reporting that United Flight 93 had gone down in Shanksville, PA less than 100 miles from Pittsburgh.

It wouldn’t be long before everyone knew that Flight 93 had departed Boston enroute to San Francisco but was diverted near Cleveland. The speculation was that the flight was destined for either our nation’s capital building or the White House. However, before the flight could reach its destination, the passengers heroically overwhelmed the hijackers crashing the plane in a remote Pennsylvania field, 160 miles from Washington, D.C.

By noon, with no word from our company’s leadership and all of my colleagues becoming more distraught, we decided to go home for the day. Shortly thereafter, most companies in major cities dismissed their employees for the day.

As our tour began at the September 11 Memorial, the guide mentioned that as visitors to the museum that morning, each of us had passed through more security than the hijackers did when they boarded their flights on September 11, 2001.

Touring the September 11 Museum, I was struck by an exhibit that contained a wall of 2,983 squares of paper. Each square is individually painted in a different shade of blue to represent the cloudless New York sky that day and the individual lives lost…lest we never forget.

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