Reflections From Flight 93 National Memorial
In less than a month, I will again take part in an incredibly memorable volunteer event during National Park Week called Plant a Tree at Flight 93. As we prepare for this year’s event, I wanted to take some time to share and reflect on my experience last year.
On Saturday, April 26, 2014, at 2pm the clouds looked dark and threatening, but as I stooped to plant a chestnut tree seedling my thoughts were far from the weather. I was reflecting on the more than 500 volunteers who had planted trees similar to mine that same weekend. Over a two-day period, these volunteers planted more than 20,000 seedlings at Flight 93 National Memorial. Eastern white pine, hemlock, American elm, and chestnut trees were just a few of the numerous species of trees planted over a 30-acre area during the third year of this large reforestation initiative. A partnership of various businesses, agencies, small clubs, and large organizations, as well as members of the general public joined to plant trees. Whether the volunteers wanted to plant trees to keep the earth green or they were fascinated with the fact that this was the largest American chestnut and hardwood reforestation effort recorded to date by The American Chestnut Foundation, they did not say. But all of the volunteers had one thing in common, and that was their wish to honor the passengers and crew of Flight 93.
They wanted a way to connect with the national park in a hands-on way, here and now.
There are a multitude of opportunities to volunteer in national parks. Titles like Night Sky Program Volunteer, Naturalist, Campground Host, Interpretive Assistant, and others are waiting to be claimed by willing volunteers. Perhaps you would like to help maintain a favorite trail, share the history of a park with some strangers, or plant trees to create a living memorial for future generations to enjoy?
Volunteering in national parks is a way to connect to the past, present, and future. When I think about the generations of volunteers who have served in our national parks, I am grateful - grateful for the time and effort they gave so that I can enjoy the parks as they are today. Volunteers help to maintain, preserve, and in Flight 93’s case, shape the park for future generations to enjoy. The volunteer efforts of the past, as well as the present help define the story of a national park, certainly impacting its future and those who visit.
A memory from this year’s “Plant a Tree” event that I am fortunate to have witnessed was when the National Park Service rangers at Flight 93 National Memorial planted the last three buckets of tree seedlings. Watching them really spoke to me. The park rangers, like the volunteers, wanted to be a part of this important tribute to the heroes of Flight 93.
The rain held off until I finished planting my chestnut tree on that windy Saturday. I noted the GPS coordinates of the tree to pass on to my great, great, great grandchildren and thought about the difference these 500 volunteers had made in just a few short hours. The volunteer work from that weekend will live on in perpetuity as another chapter in the Flight 93 National Memorial story.
The volunteers will not know the shade of the trees that were planted this spring, but future generations will benefit from their effort. Who wouldn’t want to volunteer in national parks and make that sort of impact on the future?
Rebecca Kuzar is the Executive Assistant for Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial, the official nonprofit supporting partner of Flight 93 National Memorial. For more information about the Friends, please visit www.flight93friends.org.
Photos: National Park Service and Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial