In 2006 I was driving on Route 30 west towards Pittsburgh when I passed through a tiny town and saw a tiny sign at an intersection. It read:
I turned left. The country roads twisted and turned, up little hills and down, through woods and fields, as is their habit in southwestern Pennsylvania. I passed homes with American flags on poles or hanging from door frames.
Then I saw a clearing of many acres, with parked cars, a couple of job johnnies, and a little hut. I parked and drew a deep breath. I was choked up before I even opened the door.
Next to the hut was a tall expanse of chicken wire mounted on poles. It was covered with tributes and memorabilia: signed volleyball jerseys, firefighter uniforms, stuffed animals, baseball caps, flowers, flags, candles, ribbons, and rosaries. Many signatures and words of thanks covered a piece of plywood. There were so many pieces it took a long time to look at them all.
The hut was empty except for a counter with a book containing clippings and pictures. (I think someone was there to answer questions.) It also had a box, index cards and pencils. You were invited to share your thoughts that would be added to the permanent memorial.
I walked outside to think about it. Several hundred feet away, where the plane had come down, stood an American flag, stretched out, not dependent on wind. The simplicity and dignity was almost overwhelming.
I walked back into the hut and picked up a pencil. This is what I wrote:
Who knows what an ordinary person will be called to do on an ordinary day?
Maybe it will be my turn tomorrow. Thank you.
Maybe I won’t be called to storm a cockpit. But my choice will be the same: to say yes after counting the cost.