2010-08-19 / Local & State

In The Field, A Memorial Takes Shape Slowly

By Vicki Rock

SHANKSVILLE, Pa. (AP) – Paul Murdoch, the architect of the Flight 93 National Memorial, is excited about the activity going on at the site.

“They are shaping the memorial – it’s coming to fruition,’’ he said. “It was difficult for people to visualize it when it was only on paper. In the next month or two it will become clear how we’ve chosen to shape the area and that it focuses on the sacred ground.’’

Paul Murdoch Architects, Los Angeles, with Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, Charlottesville, Va., won the competition to design the memorial.

“This is an important day, another big step in the life of the project,’’ said National Park Service site manager Jeff Reinbold said Thursday. “Construction is moving quickly through the fields.’’

The temporary memorial is now located at the western overlook and is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Visitors can see in the distance where Flight 93 crashed, which is called the sacred ground. The actual crash site won’t be developed as it is considered to be a cemetery. Only family members will be allowed on that part of the memorial.

Murdoch was also at the temporary memorial to look at material samples. The most striking sample is of concrete for the back wall of the sacred ground plaza. While most visitors will only see concrete, the family members will see the reverse side that is made of recycled hand-hewn hemlock. The hemlock is about 150 years old and is made from Pennsylvania barns.

“The significance of the hemlock is that the hemlock grove at the site absorbed the crash,’’ he said. “It’s a special place and we wanted to use hemlock in the memorial.’’

Reinbold said that’s a good touch that a lot of people won’t see, but it shows Murdoch’s attention to detail.

Other samples include two mixes of limestone and aggregate for the walking trails: One has warm brown tones and the other has more gray. There are also several colors of concrete samples for the walkways, arrival court and the orientation building. The materials are in a fenced-in section of the temporary memorial to see how well they weather.

The group then walked to the fenced-in area overlooking the crash site and the ongoing construction. Murdoch pointed out where various aspects of the memorial will be. The base of the plaza is being excavated now. The flight path will be marked with walls, including one with all the names of the 40 passengers and crew inscribed. The wall along the crash site will be sloped. Grading is shaping the edge of the bowl that frames the field.

“Right now things are going very well,’’ Murdoch said. “It was a long winter, but the excavation has picked up. We’re on schedule – about 35 to 40 percent progress, which is where it should be. We’ll try to get the grading done before winter. In the spring the more finished elements will go in.’’.’’

The poured concrete should be in before winter, he said, adding that “In mid- October you’ll see the structure going in place. It’s been difficult to imagine from the renderings the scale of what we’re doing – the uniqueness of the memorial. Here the public will have a place to see and to follow the progress that helps them visualize the memorial.’’

The first phase, which includes the entry road off Route 30, is to be finished by Sept. 11, 2011, when the memorial is to be dedicated. The next phase will be the visitors center, the large memorial walls to the walkway, the memorial trees and the bridge over the wetlands.

The timing of that is tentatively by 2014. Following that, the Tower of Voices at the entrance to the memorial will be built, along with the return road through the higher elevation where people can look down on the bowl. Reforestation trees will shape the open spaces and provide wind buffers to the memorial tress. That phase has not been scheduled.

“It is incredibly rewarding to see how the hard work of the Flight 93 Memorial Commission, task force and the Families of Flight 93 is coming to fruition,’’ Reinbold said. “It will be a fitting tribute to the passengers and crew of Flight 93.’’

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