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GA 220 mission tour is a trip of remembrance

July 6, 2012

Pittsburgh

As you arrive in Stoystown, Penn., a sign reads “We Will Always Remember the Heroes of Flight 93.” To those who live in Somerset County, it is a daily reminder of September 11, 2001, when 40 courageous strangers foiled the efforts of terrorists who had hijacked the plane, intending to crash it into the United States Capitol Building. The plane crashed just a short drive away from Stoystown.

The final mission trip of the 220th General Assembly today (July 5) was in many ways a trip of remembrance. From Fallingwater—Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece—to the Flight 93 National Memorial, it was a trip into the past.

The group first traveled to Fallingwater, the weekend home of the Pittsburgh native Kaufmann family. Edgar Kaufmann Sr. was the founder of the former Pittsburgh department store Kaufmann’s (now owned by Macys).

In 1936, the Kaufmann family hired famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright to build a home that would overlook a waterfall located in Bear Run, downstream from their employee summer camp. Instead, Wright constructed the home above the 30-foot waterfall. This feat was made possible through a system of ledges and drops, cantilevers, a vertical support core and natural boulders that were found in the stream. The design transferred the weight from the front of the house (the terraces that hang over the waterfall) toward the back of the house.

“Wright used a technique he coined ‘organic design,’” tour guide Vanessa Wolfe said, “so that the house would mesh with the landscape.” Only four materials were used in the construction of the house: Pottsville sandstone, reinforced concrete, glass, and cherry red, painted steel. Wolfe also pointed out that, because of the organic design, “springs occur naturally inside the home. To avoid water damage, drainage basins were built around the springs. This drains the spring water back into Bear Run,” she said.

In 1963 Edgar Kaufmann Jr. gave Fallingwater to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

The group then made its way to Shanksville and the Flight 93 National Memorial.

The pathway and the separation barrier at the memorial are black to symbolize the former coalmines that left the field barren from strip mining. A marble wall with 40 individual panels, each with a name on it, marks the flight path of the plane.

“From a distance, the wall looks like one big wall,” the park ranger said, “but as you get closer you’ll see that it’s made up of 40 individual pieces to remember the 40 passengers.”

“A boulder marks the impact site of the crash and the field and woods around it serve as the passengers’ final resting place,” the ranger said.

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