How Blue the Sky Was: Reflections on 9/11 and the Flight 93 Memorial

Author’s Note: I originally wrote this a year ago. As I look out my window on this Tuesday morning, so many years removed from that fateful one, I see a sky as blue as it was 17 years ago.  It still haunts me. 


One of my most salient memories of September 11, 2001, is how brilliantly blue the sky was. My attention was fixed on the sky for much of that day – even after the planes were all grounded, I kept looking up, warily searching the sky for signs of further attack; beseechingly searching it for answers. I’m not sure what you call that color – cerulean maybe? Whatever it is, it’s beautiful. And it haunts me. Its brightness contrasted so drastically with the darkness that clouded that day.

Several years ago, as I reflected on the day, I wrote:

There’s a lot of focus on the remembrance this year — as there should be. But, honestly, it’s hard to look back. To see the photos and the video, hear the audio. To remember the terror and overwhelming sadness of that day. It cuts down deep in a way nothing else I’ve experienced has. Like a psychic wound.

In June 2014, I had the opportunity to visit the Flight 93 Memorial with my family.  Like the bright blue sky of that sad, sunny day in September thirteen years earlier, I found it both beautiful and haunting. There’s a hush in that meadow. The wind whispers through it, a barely audible chorus of sadness and loss, but also of love. The day we were there, the sky was fittingly gray and somber. I was an utter failure at holding back the tears as we walked along the memorial wall, looking at each of the names of Flight 93’s passengers and crew and the flowers and mementos others had placed there for them. This one, in particular, broke my heart:




As fate would have it, my travels took me through Pennsylvania again today. With it being the anniversary, I was hesitant, at first, to return. But as I drove nearer, it felt wrong not to. I steered the car off the highway and along the winding back roads that lead to the memorial. There were quite a few people there, of course, but there was still a hush as I descended the path from the new visitors’ center to Memorial Plaza. Except you could hear the chirping of the crickets and cicadas among the wildflowers:

It reminded me of the eclipse – both eerie and cool to hear them singing like that in the middle of the day. Of course, it didn’t grow dark today, but the sky was hazy and muted, rather than brilliantly blue.  I walked along the memorial again, pausing at each of the names. I spoke with a gentleman from the Park Service while there. He said it was extra busy today (understandably) but they have visitors every day – even in February. The families sometimes ask, he noted, and are gratified to know their loved ones aren’t forgotten. “They’re not,” I said. “We remember.”

I was hoping to make it to my destination in Ohio before nightfall, so I couldn’t stay for long. I began the trek back up the path, looking again to the sky.  And there I saw the strangest thing: I regret that my camera doesn’t do it justice but there was a glowing ring of light in the sky with a rainbow/prism on one end and a reflective light on the other.  I verified with park personnel this is not from any light they shine at the memorial – it just appeared there.







I hope some of the family members and loved ones there today saw it, too, and received some of the same comfort it afforded me. The sky didn’t offer any answers when I searched it sixteen years ago. Today, it did.



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