The National Park Service has completed the construction of a new visitor center at the Shanksville memorial to the crash of Flight 93 in Somerset County.
The new facility will offer photographs and exhibits dedicated to the lives of the 40 passengers and crew who thwarted the believed attack on the White House on Sept. 11, 2001.
Other new features include a learning center to be used for educational programs and a
2.5-mile trail system connecting the visitor center with the memorial, according to Mike Litterst, spokesperson for the National Park Service.
The visitor center will be dedicated Thursday, and the National Park Service expects a large turnout, Litterst said.
“We’re not only expecting a good crowd (Sept. 10 and 11), but we do expect to see a bump in overall visitation for the memorial going forward as a result of these new features,” Litterst said.
Starting this weekend, the memorial park will utilize a timed ticket system so everyone has a chance to visit the new facilities, he said.
“We expect the new visitor center to be very popular and in high demand for people coming in,” Litterst said.
The memorial receives 300,000 visitors annually, and with the new visitor center this number could increase to around 450,000 visitors per year, according to Litterst.
Ground was first broken for the center on Sept. 10, 2013. The project cost $26 million, he said.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell was present at the groundbreaking ceremony and will return to speak at the visitor center’s dedication.
Litterst said that visitors will “be moved” by the new exhibits.
“A lot of Americans are certainly familiar with the story of 9/11 and Flight 93,” Litterst said. “But here to have in graphics and maps and diagrams of specifically what happened … photographs of all the passengers and crew, puts a human face on a story that a lot of people know from the history books but don’t know specifics about.
“This visitor center will provide a sort of inspiration and context and education of about what those 40 heroic individuals did."