• Wall of Names, part of the Memorial Plaza at the crash site

    Flight 93

    National Memorial Pennsylvania

Questions about the Design

Briefing Papers, Reports, and Interviews

Briefing papers and reports concerning the design.

Questions and answers with the architect of the Flight 93 National Memorial design.

Frequently Asked Questions Concerning the Design

Who are the partners for the Flight 93 National Memorial that were involved in the memorial design process?

Four organizations partnered to organize and implement the process for choosing a memorial design.

  • The Families of Flight 93 is a nonprofit organization of family members of the passengers and crew who died on the flight.
  • The Flight 93 Advisory Commission was created by Congress to prepare "a report containing recommendations for the planning, design, construction, and long-term management of a permanent memorial at the crash site." The Commission completed its work and sunseted in 2013.
  • The Flight 93 Memorial Task Force served as the Commission's operational arm and included Flight 93 family members, community members, first responders, educators, and other local, regional, and national stakeholders. The Task Force completed its work and sunseted in 2010.
  • The National Park Service is the federal agency charged with administering Flight 93 National Memorial.

How was the design selected for the Flight 93 National Memorial?

The design was selected through a deliberate, open, and transparent public process.

Over 1000 design entries were received from design professionals, amateurs, and ordinary people from 48 states and 27 countries. The designs were exhibited and available for public comment in Somerset, Pennsylvania and were posted on the Flight 93 Memorial Project website (website is no longer in use.)


The juries were composed of some design professionals but mostly family members, first responders, and other people who were directly and personally affected by the loss of loved ones.

The selection process:

  • The Stage I jury analyzed over 1,000 submissions and forwarded five finalist designs to the Stage II jury.
  • The five finalist designs were again exhibited for public comment in Somerset, Pennsylvania, and were posted on the project website (website is no longer in use)

  • The Stage II jury, which was composed of noted design professionals, Flight 93 family members, and community leaders, reviewed the public comments and evaluated the designs against the memorial's mission statement.
  • The Stage II jury decided that they would select the winning design through a democratic process and took a vote. The design with the most votes would be selected as the winning design.

  • The jury voted and selected Mr. Murdoch's design.

  • To reinforce their support of the design, the Stage II jury took a second, unanimous vote to support the design created by Mr. Murdoch.

What is the shape of the memorial?

The natural topography of the area is a bowl with higher elevations to the north and west so the landform provides the circle shape of the memorial; the memorial rests and follows the contours of the circle.

Is this circle "broken" at all?

The "circle of embrace" points your attention down to the crash site which is the final resting place of the passengers and crew. The trees surrounding this "circle of embrace" are missing in two places; first, where the flight path of the plane went overhead (which is the location of the planned memorial overlook and visitor center), and second, where the plane crashed at the crash site (depicted by a ceremonial gate and pathway into the crash site). In summary, the memorial is shaped in a circular fashion, and the circle is symbolically "broken" or missing trees in two places, depicting the flight path of the plane, and the crash site, in honor and remembrance of the passengers and crew of Flight 93.

Where does the memorial focus attention?

Attention is focused on the crash site, which is the final resting place of the passengers and crew.

Is there Islamic religious symbolism incorporated into the design of the Flight 93 National Memorial?

No. This memorial solely honors the actions of the 40 passengers and crew, who thwarted the terrorists.

How do you know?

The intent of the architect was to honor the passengers and crew. When questions were raised about the design, they were taken very seriously. The National Park Service and the Flight 93 partner organizations investigated the issues and consulted with the Board of Directors of the Families of Flight 93, university and religious scholars, all of whom concluded that the memorial design does not imply or depict religious iconography.

What do the Families of Flight 93 have to say about the design of the memorial?

They support it. In a November 9, 2007 letter to Congressman Tancredo they wrote, "The Families of Flight 93 overwhelmingly support the design and the design process, and reaffirmed that support by a unanimous vote of the Board of Directors as recently as two months ago."

What do the Families of Flight 93 have to say about the perceived Islamic symbolism in the memorial?

The Families of Flight 93 sent this letter to Congressman Tom Tancredo on November 9, 2007, in response to his criticism of the design. Additionally, the President of the Families of Flight 93, representing the Board of Directors, made this statement on May 2, 2008 in full support of the memorial.

Did You Know?

Memorial Plaza

The Memorial Plaza at the crash site is now open to the public. Work continues on other elements of the memorial. More...