Pennsylvania’s Field of Honor

“ There are heroisms all around us waiting to be done” (Arthur Conan Doyle)

In our road trip travels, heroism can pop up at any time or place when I encounter humans or even animals who answer a challenging situation with honorable service toward the greater good. So I’ve already paid tribute in my last blog to my being a witness at Independence Hall in Philadelphia where the bold actions of those distinguished “Founding Founders” in 1787 approved a written document of Constitutional government safeguarding our America’s Democracy of “We The People” to endure. But in passing throughout the region of Western Pennsylvania on this latest driving adventure, I witnessed three other exemplary models of heroism as well. At the conclusion of this blog, I thus invite you take a few minutes to observe my Pennsylvania Field of Honor in my latest photo collection.

So let’s begin near in those remote fields and woods near the small farm village of Shanksville, where Ruth and I obtained a firsthand look last Saturday at the tragic crash site of Flight 93. As a point of reference on this visit, a large boulder in the distance marks the spot where thirty three passengers and seven crew members perished on December 7, 2001. However, during those panic-struck minutes when the aircraft remained airborne and in full control of the terrorists, unarmed passengers came together in a heroic yet inevitably futile attempt to defeat al Qaeda and regain control of the plane. Consider then the magnitude of their heroism at the time of the plane crash. For with only eighteen minutes of flying time back to Washington D.C., the risk of terrorists turning the planes around and crash landing on other iconic landmarks of our nation’s capitol seemed likely that day.

Two notable landmarks we visited then at this final resting place for those unselfish heroes who perished that day took place at the National Memorial Visitor and adjacent Memorial Plaza showcasing an extensive collection of family and friend remembrances and a detailed explanation of the tragic events that happened that day. We then drove a short distance to obtain a close look at the crash site now lined along it’s perimeter by a paved walkway leading to a poignant Wall Of Names. A final place of Flight 93 tribute took place a few miles back toward the main entrance at the Tower of Voices where wind chimes rang softly along this creative obelisk in musical remembrance to those victims that day.

Moving on that afternoon to Indiana, Pennsylvania, I’d looked forward to paying a visit to the Jimmy Stewart Museum during our two day stay. So upon walking through its six galleries that documenting  this famed movie actor’s life, I discovered a humble man of heroic stature who sacrificed years of film stardom to embark on a twenty seven career in the military during and after World War Two. Know that after Jimmy enlisted in the Army Air Corps as a private, by war’s end, he became fully decorated as a colonel, flying twenty, dangerous combat missions over Germany as a squadron leader in a B-24 Allies plane. On a personal note, it seemed very perplexing to me at the conclusion of this visit, that my father, who also risked his life in bombing raids over Germany form 1944-1945 did not also gain similar public recognition for such heroic deeds as well.

It might seem odd for me to recognize a furry animal as model of heroism on our road trip endeavor. But at our final Western Pennsylvania stop in the quiet village of Punxsutawney, a local ground hog named Phil, each year, emerges from his burrow at the beginning of February in town each year to provide hope to weather enthusiasts for winter’s end near and far. In fact, Phil’s legacy as a local hero all over town in Punxsutawney seems so powerful that town leaders have built him a safe indoor burrow to insure his survival year around at Barclays Square.

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