The Legacy of Flight 93
Guideposts|August/September 2021
An Army officer remembers his cousin Rich Guadagno and the other 39 heroes who died in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on September 11
By Col. Christopher Whelan

Displayed among the artifacts at the Flight 93 National Memorial is the badge of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife officer recovered from the downed plane. The badge was discovered by investigators amid the cockpit debris. I draw no conclusions from this. The physics of airplane crashes, especially when a plane is deliberately driven into the ground from a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet, are complex. What I know is that the badge belonged to my cousin Rich Guadagno and, like the other 32 passengers and 7 crew members who perished that day at the hands of terrorists, he was a hero.

I first visited the site outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, almost by happenstance on a cold February day more than three years after the 9/11 attack. I’d been leading a group of West Point cadets at the Officers Christian Fellowship Retreat Center when I realized how close we were.

The cadets crowded around the 40-foot chain-link fence at the crash site, one foot for each passenger and crew. We had troops on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq by then, a direct result of what had happened that infamous day in the scarred remains of this abandoned strip mine. Some of these very cadets would face deployment themselves. I wanted them to see how it had begun, to understand that history happens in real places, to people and families whose lives are forever changed.

The wreckage had long been cleared away. The fence was lined with notes and mementos—photos, small American flags, children’s drawings, stuffed animals—honoring the victims. A more permanent memorial was years away. Still there was an undeniable power, a sense of loss I hadn’t really stopped to think much about.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM GUIDEPOSTSView All

The Legacy of Flight 93

An Army officer remembers his cousin Rich Guadagno and the other 39 heroes who died in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on September 11

5 mins read
Guideposts
August/September 2021

The List

After two divorces, did I really know what I wanted in a relationship? Did I even know who I needed to be?

8 mins read
Guideposts
August/September 2021

“God Will Bless Your Business

George Turner was sure the pandemic would spell the end of his struggling bike shop. His pastor had other ideas

5 mins read
Guideposts
August/September 2021

The 46th Peak

We decided to do this last hike of the challenge together. Partway down, I heard my husband scream

7 mins read
Guideposts
August/September 2021

Challenge Yourself to...Connect More!

Eager to emerge from the loneliness of lockdown and socialize again? We’ve put together a list of 15 challenges for reconnecting with the people you care about—and making new friends too. Focus on a few activities, or pick one each day to try over the next two months. Pay attention to how your relationships flourish!

2 mins read
Guideposts
August/September 2021

Reason for Hope

I feared my son would never get off drugs. Until an art class changed my heart

8 mins read
Guideposts
August/September 2021

Pistol

He was the dog I always wanted. But he came with baggage, a little like me

7 mins read
Guideposts
August/September 2021

ALONE WITH MY FAITH

The pandemic left a lot of us feeling isolated. Including me. But it opened the door to something deeper in my music and in my soul

9 mins read
Guideposts
August/September 2021

Brought Together

How two strangers found friendship and healing as they came to terms with the legacy of slavery

9 mins read
Guideposts
August/September 2021

70 Years of Hope & Inspiration

Elizabeth Sherrill’s life as a writer has been a journey of the soul, a journey that also became the very soul of Guideposts magazine

8 mins read
Guideposts
August/September 2021