On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Robin Duppstadt was working in the family general store with her sister-in-law Stacy. Suddenly she started receiving a flurry of calls telling her two planes had hit the World Trade Center.
“We called our other sister-in-law and asked her to bring us a television so we could watch the news while we were working. Before she got there we heard this whoosh sound followed shortly by a very loud thud,” she said.
Off in the distance there was smoke. “I knew in my gut what happened in New York and Washington also had just happened here,” Duppstadt said.
Local first responders, including Stacy’s brother, rushed to the scene. That whoosh and thud turned out to be United Airlines Flight 93, which had slammed into the earth at the speed of 575 miles per hour, landing in a grassy area used for both farming and strip mining. It was the only hijacked plane on Sept. 11 that didn’t hit its intended, symbolic target.
In the days, months and years that followed, it was discovered that the passengers and crew of Flight 93 believed the plane was heading toward the White House or the Capitol and, to stop that tragedy, they revolted against the four hijackers in midair. All 40 of them died along with their captors.
Duppstadt and her sister-in-law closed the store early that day and went straight to the local school to collect her three children. She went home and held them close.
“You never think something would happen in a place like here. You hope if it does the community comes together.”
For the first 10 years after the attacks, a makeshift memorial made of plywood was constructed near the crash site. Visitors left notes, flowers, soccer shirts, necklaces, hats, rosaries, pennies and anything else to honor the brave heroes who fought the terrorists in those final minutes of flight.
Today a 1,500-acre national park overlooks the crash site, and every year, people come to Shanksville to pay their respects and stop by the Duppstadt General Store to sit for a spell on the front porch.
“Here we didn’t lose anyone,” Duppstadt, now 56, said. “In truth I’d argue we gained people. The family members of the victims have become friends as they come back here to visit the memorial. So have the people from across the country who come here year after year to honor them.”
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In the window of Duppstadt’s store is a sign that says, “Let’s Roll,” echoing the immortal words of Todd Beamer, who led passengers on Flight 93 to overtake the terrorists, forcing it to crash it in a field.
“The first Americans to fight back against terrorists happened here,” Duppstadt said. “That is something none of us here will ever forget.”