New Tower at Flight 93 Memorial Honors 9/11 Heroes

Designed by LA-based firm Paul Murdoch Architects, the new memorial features 40 wind chimes that commemorate the passengers and crew members of Flight 93 who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

new tower flight 93 memorial
Courtesy NPS Photo

By 9:57 a.m. on September 11, 2001, three hijacked aircraft had already collided with buildings in New York and Washington, D.C. United Airlines Flight 93, though also under attack, was still airborne—passengers had opted to fight back and attempt to regain control of the plane. Before rushing the cockpit, passenger Todd Beamer turned to his fellow passengers and uttered the now-famed words, “Okay. Let’s roll.” At 10:03 a.m., the plane crashed into a field rimmed with hemlock trees in rural Pennsylvania.

Seventeen years after that fateful day, the final element of an expansive memorial to Flight 93’s 40 passengers and crew members has been inaugurated in that now-sacred meadow—a “Tower of Voices.” Designed by Los Angeles-based firm Paul Murdoch Architects as part of a greater 2,200-acre master plan, the solemn concrete tower features 40 large-scale wind chimes to honor each of the flight’s victims.

The road to the memorial’s completion was long, due to conspiracy theories and lack of funding. But the rumors were put to a rest and 112,000 donors contributed more than $46 million to the National Parks Foundation to bring the project to fruition. Murdoch’s deeply symbolic master plan (the winner of a 2005 international competition) features a visitor and education centers, a white marble memorial wall, and a 17-ton boulder to mark the plane’s point of impact. Throughout, Murdoch sought to cede control of the design to memory and to the surrounding landscape. “I grew up outside of Philadelphia, so I had some familiarity with that part of Pennsylvania, having camped and canoed there,” Murdoch said on his website. “I always loved that landscape.”

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The Tower of Voices is arguably the most dramatic of Murdoch’s interventions, symbolically towering 93 feet like a steeple. Within the confines of the memorial’s precast columns, which are clustered together like a group of reeds, are the aluminum chimes, each between five and 10 feet long. Each chime (the largest weighing up to 150 pounds, according to a press release) is specially tuned to create a unique tone (Arup provided both structural and acoustic expertise). In concert, these instruments create a rich, resonant melody as the wind moves among them. Visitors are able to pass beneath to gaze upward at the chimes, or out to a grove of white pine, serviceberry, hawthorn, and redbuds.

At the Tower’s official inauguration ceremony last Sunday, former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, speaking of Flight 93’s passengers, said, “Brought together by chance, [they] stood up against evil. They fought for people they loved, for people they never knew, and for freedoms they cherished.”

You might also like, “The Flight 93 National Memorial Lets the Landscape Speak.” 

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