Thursday saw me driving through the beautiful hills of Pennsylvania toward Pittsburgh to attend a conference on utilizing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
It was a rainy day off an on with fog winding its way through both valleys and tree tops along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I took an intended detour toward Shanksville, where I visited the site of flight 93's crash that fateful day on 11 September. It is a quite rural place. The last leg of the journey travels an unassuming gravel road past a rather large eyesore of a salvage yard to crest a hill where one looks down upon a humble temporary memorial. From the hill top one can gaze 360 degrees around at the golden fields and surrounding tree lines.
There were two volunteers there, but no one else. I had the site to myself with the rain and the cold wind. The crash site itself is located in a field some three hundred yards distant, marked by a lone American flag.
Perhaps it was the cold or the wind driven rain, but nothing visible generated a sense of awe or wonderment. Nonetheless, awe was there. What is rather humble ground is wrapped in meaning -- the meaning of story, the meaning of memory. Here a plane crashed that was meant for somewhere in the capitol of our nation, a target located but a few miles from my home and from where I work. Ordinary Americans took back that plane and surrendered their lives to save others. Ordinary Americans achieved the first victory in the war on terror, a great cost, but it was a total victory. This particular band of terrorists was thwarted. It was worth a moment to stop, reflect, and pray - a prayer of thanksgiving for Americans such as these and a prayer for their families and friends. A time to remember why this war must be won for the cost of failure is far too high.
I made my way into Pittsburg which quickly became quite a contrast to the beauty and serenity of the Penn countryside and the charming small towns. I found my hotel even though my GPS kept telling me I was somewhere else. I suspect the overwhelming jungle of metal was interfering with its signal. It has been awhile since I've stayed in a convention focused hotel so should not have been surprised by $3.50 for a diet coke. That turned out to be good for me, as I drank more water than I normally do. The seminar itself was one of the best seminars I have attended. It accomplished its goal without being too much or too little. It was more than worth the time and effort.
My return trip was enjoyable as well. The rain had lifted and the sun was shining in a cloud filled with fluffy cumulus clouds. The views as the roadway rises and descends through these upper Apalachian mountains was soul refreshing. That and traffic was fairly light without a sign of an infernal political bumper sticker on every car in sight (of course that changed once I came within range of the DC beltway).