SHANKSVILLE, Penn. — Standing tall in what once was an empty Pennsylvania field lies a new structure containing wind chimes that sing softly into the breeze. The Tower of Voices, as it is called, is the final addition to a national memorial to the passengers and flight crew of Flight 93, who died on September 11, 2001.“We don’t look at the passengers and crew as victims. We look at them as heroes,” Gordon Felt, the brother of one of the passengers and the president of Families of Flight 93, told CBS in a special titled “Wind Chimes for the Silenced.”
The concrete structure is heroic in stature, as described by the architect. It cost $6 million, which was made possible by a grant from the National Park Foundation. The tower stands 93 feet tall, representing the flight number and will eventually contain 40 wind chimes, representing each person.
It is unlike any other in the world, and it is now the centerpiece of a larger memorial, which includes a visitors center, a wall of names along the flight path, a memorial plaza, and the crash site itself, which is called “the sacred ground.” This last area is only accessible to family members of the passengers; other visitors may view it from a distance.
The park service reminds visitors, “The Memorial Plaza is a place for quiet reflection and expressions of respect.” This reminder is not unlike those found at the 9/11 memorials in New York City and Washington D.C. The call for quiet is enforced, and it similar to that found in any sacred space, religious or not.
The Tour of Voices helps to cultivate that atmosphere with its sound. Paul Murdoch, the architect, explained to CBS that the structure is designed to be heroic and monumental, but not the music. “The sounds are not booming chimes, ” Murdoch told CBS. “They’re meant to be actually quite subtle and intimate so people can be there and have a very personal experience. Whatever that is for them.
“The first thing I want [visitors] to do is feel,” said Murdoch.
The National Park Service has an audio clip that simulates the Tower of Voices. In 2017, PennLive posted the following video using the simulation over memorial imagery and video from the site.
Today, the Tower of Voices is nearly complete. Construction is finished but the monument reportedly only contains 8 of the 40 wind chimes. Regardless, the site was dedicated on Sept. 9, 2018, two days before the site held its annual memorial service.
While the New York City memorial is often the focal point on September 11, this unique structure set in a field in Pennsylvania offers a new way to remember that day and to remember the 40 people who stood against terrorism, bringing down the plane before it could reach its destination.
As many Pagans say, “What is remembered, lives.” This site, along with those in New York City and Washington D.C., reflects that very notion. The Tower of Voices, with its wind chimes, also appears to capture a common Pagan concept that the element of air can carry voices and spirit. This, however, is a notion shared across cultures and religions. Wind chimes are often used in memorial reflections. They are given as gifts and are believed to be able to carry the voices of ancestors and the whispers of loved ones gone from our sight.
In that way, the tower’s size reflects the heroism of the passengers and flight crew, while the sound of the wind chimes captures a deeply spiritual and personal message, giving voice and honor to those silenced on that day.
We leave you with this – one stanza from the poem “Wind Chime” by Andrew Blakemore.
As shadows started falling
On the dark deserted ground,
I heard a gentle ringing then
So beautiful the sound,
For as the evening breeze did blow
And glowing sun did set,
The wind chime played the sweetest song
I never shall forget.
What is remembered, lives.