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During shutdown, dedicated workers try to keep Flight 93 open

January 18, 2019

The Flight 93 National Memorial is open during the government shutdown — if the weather cooperates.

On a clear day, the memorial is still open to visitors during the shutdown, but the Learning Center, Visitor Center and restrooms are closed. Visitors can still see the Wall of Names, Tower of Voices and other open-air sites.

A snowy day is another story. According to the Friends of Flight 93, only one or two essential maintenance people are working without pay during the shutdown, so the memorial is closed for safety reasons while the roads are plowed.

“Unfortunately, because of the weather, we’ve had the gates closed so people can’t get in to visit,” Friends President Donna Gibson said. “It’s more of a safety issue so people don’t get in there and have issues with travel and the roads being bad.

“There’s only one maintenance person at a time, and they aren’t able to keep up with the roads.”

And the only real way to know if the memorial is open is to drive there. During the shutdown, there’s no one manning the phones or updating the websites to inform potential visitors.

Other issues that plague the other national parks, such as heaping trash and overflowing toilets, don’t affect Flight 93, according to Gibson.

“I don’t think our park lends itself to that,” she said.

“We don’t have places for people to picnic and that type of situation. It’s not an overnight park like some are. It makes a big difference.”

Brooke Neel, Friends director of programs, said the memorial is also a place that’s more respected, where visitors clean up after themselves.

“The visitors are pretty understanding this time around,” she said. “Everyone is so dedicated to Flight 93 — even doing their jobs without pay.”

And the Friends themselves are working, yet many of their systems are tied to the federal government — such as their email and phones.

“We’re able to work on things outside the office, but we can’t access the office,” Neel said. “We’re just hoping the government gets open so everyone can get back to their jobs.”

Gibson said she is already planning a way to get a new system separate from the government, so her employees can access their work during a shutdown.

“It’s never been this long since I’ve been with the Friends,” she said. “We’ve even had people calling about our executive director position and we can’t respond to them.”

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