Western Pennsylvania’s Laurel Summit has been redefined once again from above. In the 20th century, massive bituminous coal mining erased its 2900-foot peak contour. When American patriots turned back aerial terrorists on Flight 93, the subsequent plane crash scarred it again. Then renewable energy came to the summit; and finally, a National Park memorial.
A walk through the new Flight 93 National Park leads to the white shapes of wind turbines on the horizon. In a model of social progression, this summit environment that warmed and brightened homes with its coal deposits has warmed Pennsylvanians a second time. The timeless summit wind has become part of their homes. In autumn of 2009, the winds began turning 35 turbines anchored by German-based E.O.N. Climate and Renewables: the Stoneycreek Wind Farm, brightening up to 16,000 homes.
The 2,500 acres of the park reflect a healing of both land and spirit. Grasses and wildflowers cover the altered ridge.. The source of a creek exposed by the mining backs up into a wetland frequented by waterfowl.
The scars of war open a more expansive view of Laurel Summit that shows the pre-mining landscape altered by the September 11 struggle. A plateau hemlock forest stands sliced like a hedge by the doomed aircraft hurtling to its final resting place. An interpretive panel points out a huge boulder of Tuscarora sandstone, the high country rock of the region. The self-guided tour uses the stone to mark the terminus of the flight’s upside-down drop. Tuscarora sandstone benches stand along the tourist path.
Yards beyond the benches, workers once again altered the contours of the summit to cover for a final time the struggle. Flight 93 carved a crater filled with smoldering remains into the landscape. Officials directed that workers respectfully smooth the mountain over it. The path leads over land of strife, with nothing but the strong wind blowing over a vast expanse of silence.