Healing the grounds: Volunteers plant trees at Flight 93 National Memorial

National News

SOMERSET COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — For a decade volunteers have been coming each year to the Flight 93 National Memorial site in Shanksville to plant trees.

Volunteers plant trees during Plant a Tree at Flight 93 in 2021

The major reforestation project, called Plant a Tree at Flight 93, is a partnership between the National Park Service, Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial, and National Park Foundation. According to the National Park Service’s website, the goal of the project is meant to reclaim the former surface mine with native trees to re-establish wildlife habitats, create essential windbreaks and complete the healing of the memorial landscape.

“This is also a living memorial,” Katherine Hostetler, the public information officer for the Flight 93 National Memorial, said. “Every tree that we plant is a seed of hope and inspiration for future generations.”

Plant a Tree at Flight 93 has been taking place since 2012.

Trees growing at the Flight 93 memorial site

“I have been here since the original plant a tree started,” Donna Gibson, the President of Friends of Flight 93, said. “It is such an honor to be part of this process. It is kind of like leaving a legacy. You are planting trees that will be here for generations to come.”

So far more than 130,000 trees are growing at the site. The goal is to have 150,000 newly planted trees at the memorial by next year. Hostetler said all of the trees being placed at the memorial site are not only native species but also part of the natural windbreaks.

Two volunteers get ready to plant a tree at the Flight 93 memorial site in 2021

“So they are going to help provide wind barriers, but also habitat for a lot of the animals,” Hostetler explained. “We have over 20 species of birds that call the memorial home, white-tailed deer, bear, porcupine, you name it and we have it here in the memorial.”

Reforestation is not just helping beautify the land. It also pays tribute to the brave and heroic passengers and crew members who stopped terrorists from reaching our nation’s capital.

“Now it’s a beautiful place where people can come and reflect and be part of something bigger than themselves.” Gibson said.

Over the years the trees have taken shape and have filled in the once barren landscape.

A volunteer plants a tree during Plant a Tree at Flight 93 in 2021

“So it’s really beautifying a spot that was once scarred and it’s kind of healing the ground where a horrific accident occurred,” Gibson said.

Perhaps a reminder that our vision will grow as well so instead of seeing tragedy, our site refocuses on our heroes of September 11th and the once quiet, calm countryside in Shanksville, Pennsylvania will only be remembered as a field of honor.

Over the years, nearly 3,000 volunteers have helped out with the reforestation project. 167 acres have been reforested since the plantings first started.

If you want to help, it’s not too soon to show your interest for next year. Organizers are already welcoming people to join in on the effort.

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