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Some services at Flight 93 memorial closed during government shutdown

December 23, 2018

A few people braved the harsh wind, snow and ice at the Flight 93 National Memorial on Saturday. Most of them said they weren’t aware that the federal government shutdown had rendered all of the memorial’s buildings closed.

The federal government experienced a halt Saturday after Congress and President Donald Trump failed to pass a federal budget at midnight Friday.

A ranger at the memorial said Saturday that the grounds are open during any government shutdown, but the buildings such as the bathrooms, Learning Center and Visitor Center are closed. No other employees were on site Saturday.

He said the memorial would keep its normal dawn to dusk hours as long as snow didn’t impede the roads. No snow plowing employees were working Saturday.

National Park Service Chief Spokesperson Jeremy Barnum said that the parks will remain as accessible to visitors as possible while still following the proper laws and procedures.

“This means that roads that have already been open will remain open (think snow removal) and vault toilets (wilderness type restrooms) will remain open. However services that require staffing and maintenance such as campgrounds and full service restrooms, will not be operating,” he said in a statement.

“We are prioritizing access to the most accessible and most iconic areas of parks and public lands. Each park, monument, recreation area, etc., will have different plans in place.”

Nationwide, 3,298 of the National Park Service’s 24,681 employees are still working during the shutdown, according to NPS documents. In the Northeast Region, which includes Pennsylvania, 364 employees are still working.

Barnum said that every park is different, so some areas that don’t require assistance can remain open, but the Visitors Center at the Flight 93 memorial is closed during a shutdown because it requires staff.

“Due to lighter footprint of rangers and patrols, some public lands, trails and sites may see restricted access,” he said. “Some parks are in winter season and see many skiers. The parks may choose to restrict access to some areas if there is a high risk of avalanche or it’s a common spot for injuries since there will not be a regular patrol of the area. Additionally, sensitive cultural areas on all public land may see restricted access to protect the artifacts and objects.”

The harsh weather at the memorial didn’t stop a few families from visiting the memorial and paying their respects to the 40 passengers and crew of Flight 93 who died on Sept. 11, 2001.

Donald Silver, of Columbia, Missouri, said that he didn’t think about the shutdown as he attempted to access the Visitor Center’s bathrooms.

“Hopefully this (shutdown) will be short,” he said.

Patrick Lynch, of Philadelphia, and Rachel O’Keefe, of Latrobe, also went to the memorial together on Saturday.

O’Keefe said she had visited the memorial in the past before the latest additions, but she wanted to check out the Visitor Center. Sadly the center was closed.

John and Patty Schodowski, of Reading, said they didn’t realize parts of the memorial would be closed when they brought their kids Esteban and Jorge on Saturday.

They were on their way to their parents’ home in South Bend, Indiana, when they decided to stop at the memorial.

“We took the chance to stop,” John Schodowski said. “And it’s still very touching even though some things are closed.”

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