By Philip Petrunak Daily American
More than 300,000 people are expected to visit the Flight 93 National Memorial this year, according to park officials.
So far this year nearly 150,000 people have visited the site — about 80,000 more than at the same point last year. The memorial had 42,000 visitors in June alone.
Memorial Superintendent Jeff Reinbold said the park staff, on the other hand, totals nine people.
“We’re at the point where we can’t operate with just the park staff,” he said. “And that’s why our partnership with the community is so important.”
The Friends of Flight 93 met at the site Friday evening to learn about the memorial’s progress and to find out what more they can do to help.
The group has been working on several fundraisers in an effort to complete the unfinished memorial. Approximately $275,000 were raised last year through the group’s flag-flying project. Friends hoisted 2,000 flags at the site before bringing them down and selling them. Proceeds from the project support the memorial’s completion.
Donna Glessner, secretary of Friends of Flight 93, said they’re continuing to seek out volunteers for various group initiatives. The group needs more plaza greeters — especially on the weekends.
“The park probably couldn’t operate without the Friends’ support,” Reinbold added.
Donations and support for the memorial come from beyond the region as well. More than 100,000 people in total have made contributions to the site.
“People feel a real sense of ownership even if they only gave $20,” he said, “and that’s great. People from all walks of life come to support the site.”
Visitors have been flooding the park so far this year. Reinbold said he’s been surprised by the figures.
“Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine this level of attendance,” he said.
More than 265,000 people visited the site last year. About 20,000 visitors attended two days worth of ceremonies during the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Terrorists hijacked Flight 93 during the attacks. The 40 passengers and crew resisted and the plane crashed in a field near Shanksville.
A study was performed in 2010 to determine the site’s economic impact on the region. Data suggested that visitors spent nearly $6 million in tourism-related expenses. About 130,000 people visited the site that year.
Reinbold said park attendance figures will likely grow once the multimillion dollar memorial is completed and the visitor and learning centers are constructed.