Sarah Hartman was only 4 years old when United Flight 93 crashed into a field in Shanksville and doesn’t have any memories from that day, but that hasn’t stopped her from sharing its story with children.
The junior at Windber Area High School spent her summer volunteering at the Children’s Discovery Table at the Flight 93 National Memorial as part of the National Park Service’s Volunteers-in-Parks program.
Her job was to help the young visitors understand the significance of Flight 93 and the memorial that honors the passengers and crew through the use of tangible objects.
Hartman, 16, said both of her parents are park rangers and they suggested she volunteer for the newly created program.
“I thought it would be interesting and I like working with kids, so I was excited to help,” she said.
To prepare, Hartman read the program’s training manual that detailed the specifics of the day, spoke to other volunteers and did research on her own.
She spent a few hours each week on either a Saturday or Sunday working at the table.
Children were able to see a sample of the Wall of Names’ white marble and a black granite slab used in the flight path construction on the Memorial Plaza. There were international flags to represent the passengers’ countries and used to help children realize the global impact of Sept. 11, 2001.
There also were items left by previous young visitors designed to show children what a tribute is and how the memorial is a place of honor.
Other items included children’s books written about Sept. 11, hats worn by first responders to the crash site and molds of animal prints by the animals who are returning to the area through habitat restoration.
“A lot of the kids were scared to approach the table because they didn’t know what they were getting into, but once they did they really enjoyed it. It got their mind moving,” Hartman said.
Hartman said she’d like to be a part of the program next summer.
“It was such a positive experience to work with the kids and educate them,” she said. “Hopefully, I was able to leave an impact.”
Kelly Urban is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/kellyurban25.