National Park Service Completes Inventory Following Fire at Flight 93 National Memorial Headquarters

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Date: October 24, 2014
Contact: Mike Litterst, National Park Service, 202-306-4166
Contact: Lisa Linden, Families of Flight 93, 917-589-5443

Shanksville, Pa. –The National Park Service has completed a thorough inventory of the museum collection items lost in the fire that destroyed the Flight 93 National Memorial headquarters on October 3. The findings of the inventory, conducted with the assistance of museum professionals and archeologists from the National Park Service's Museum Emergency Response Team, confirm the findings of the initial inventory completed within 48 hours of the fire. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, though arson and foul play have been ruled out.

There were significant losses, including objects being prepared for exhibit in the new visitor center.In all, 334 original photographs and 25 recovered items and personal mementos of passengers and crew members of United Airlines Flight 93 were lost.The photos had been loaned to the memorial by family members for digital reproduction. The digital reproductions of all photos were recovered. The lost objects include a boarding pass from United Airlines Flight 93, a parking receipt from Newark International Airport, and various identification cards of passengers, all recovered from the crash site. Approximately 113 small objects and paper items donated by family and friends for the general collection were also lost.

"These items are irreplaceable and we are devastated by their loss," said Jeff Reinbold, superintendent of Flight 93 National Memorial. "Nonetheless, this only strengthens our resolve and commitment to create a memorial that reflects the lives and heroic actions of the 40 passengers and crew members and fully tells the story of Flight 93."

Gordon Felt, president of the Families of Flight 93 said, "For many of us, the fire represents a wrenching second loss.But that cannot deter us –indeed it must push us forward –toward completion of the memorial so that those on board and their collective actions will stand to inspire future generations."

Also lost were approximately 100 visitor tributes and items from the 2001 investigation and recovery of Flight 93 that were being considered for the exhibit. These include items donated by the FBI and others that responded to the crash of Flight 93.

110 boxes of tribute items left at the temporary and permanent memorials since September 11, 2001 by visitors were also lost;these include decorative items, cards, children's artwork, lapel pins, religious items, patches, and toys. Approximately 100 of these items were being considered for temporary or rotational exhibits.

As previously reported, the American flag that flew above the United States Capitol on September 11, 2001, was also among the destroyed items, but the Congressional Gold Medal was stored in a separate facility and not damaged by the fire.

At the time of the fire, all of the items slated for display in the new visitor center were in the temporary curatorial storage and processing area at the Flight 93 National Memorial headquarters in preparation for a visit from exhibit fabricators for the new visitor center, scheduled for later in October. The long-term storage of the object and archival collection is at a high-security facility in the Pittsburgh area.Approximately 90% of the memorial's collection is housed at that facility, where many government agencies, including the National Archives, store materials.

"We continue to be grateful that no lives were lost in this terrible fire and that thanks to the quick-thinking of our on-site staff and the efforts of local emergency responders, a number of critical items were able to be saved," added Reinbold.

Among the items saved from the fire are:

  • Three audio recordings of phone calls made by passengers and crew members to family from Flight 93.
  • Of the 834 oral history interviews conducted by the memorial, either the original audio or a written transcript or both were recovered for all interviews. For 250 of the interviews, the original audio has been lost
  • The entire collection of photographs from the crash site, the investigation and recovery, and memorial services and activities was saved. This includes thousands of images stored on 463 disks.
  • More than 35,800 of the 38,000 comment cards left by visitors were recovered.
  • Extensive paper files on the lives of each passenger and crew member, videos of the recovery and investigation, and the reference library were also saved.

The fire at the headquarters of Flight 93 National Memorial on October 3, 2014 destroyed three buildings which served multiple functions for the operation of the memorial, including administrative and staff offices for the National Park Service and the Friends of Flight 93, conference facilities, and temporary storage of some of the memorial's archival and curatorial collection.


Last updated: February 26, 2015

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