Angel PatriotsThe Crash of United Flight 93 and the Myth of America

Angel PatriotsThe Crash of United Flight 93 and the Myth of America

Alexander T. Riley

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9781479870479

Publisher: NYU Press

Abstract

When United Airlines Flight 93, the fourth plane hijacked in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the gash it left in the ground became a national site of mourning. The flight's forty passengers became a media obsession, and countless books, movies, and articles told the tale of their heroic fight to band together and sacrifice their lives to stop Flight 93 from becoming a weapon of terror. This book argues that by memorializing these individuals as patriots, we have woven them into the much larger story of our nation—about what it means to be truly American. The book examines the symbolic impact and role of the Flight 93 disaster in the nation's collective consciousness, delving into the spontaneous memorialization efforts that blossomed in Shanksville immediately after news of the crash spread; the ad-hoc sites honoring the victims that in time emerged; and the creation of an official, permanent crash monument in Shanksville like those built for past American wars. The book also analyzes the cultural narratives that evolved in films and in books around the events on the day of the crash and the lives and deaths of its “angel patriot” passengers, uncovering how these representations of the event reflect the myth of the authentic American nation—one that Americans believed was gravely threatened in the 9/11 attacks. The book unveils how, in the wake of 9/11, America mourned much more than the loss of life.