Connolly pushes effort to federalize 9/11 memorial trail
As we get ready to mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks later this year, there’s a push in Congress to make a memorial trail honoring the victims of that dark day a part of the national parks system. This week, Rep. Gerald E. “Gerry” Connolly (D-Fairfax, Prince William, Va.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), and Don Beyer (D-Arlington, Va.) introduced legislation to designate the “September 11th National Memorial Trail.” If passed, the trail would be designated a tour route, as part of the National Park Service, linking the National September 11th Memorial and Museum in New York City, the Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, and the Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. “As our nation prepares for the 20th Anniversary of September 11th, we have a tremendous opportunity to create a lasting legacy that connects all three sites attacked that horrific day,” said Connolly. “The September 11th National Memorial will serve a particularly significant role – honoring the families and loved ones who were victims of the attack and the heroes who saved countless lives on such a tragic day. The 1,300-mile trail is a triangular route that will pass through Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York. Starting at the Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, the trail will extend northwest to the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Penn., about 80 miles east of Pittsburgh. It will then continue east to New York City’s National September 11th Memorial and Museum. The trail then heads south following the East Coast Greenway connecting to the 9/11 Memorial Garden of Reflection. It then connects to the National Mall in Washington D.C. and ultimately returns to the Pentagon Memorial. The legislation is endorsed by the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance. David Brickley, a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates who represented Woodbridge, is the trail’s driving force. During a regional meeting of governments four days after the terrorist attacks, Brinkley decided he wanted to use his love for trails to commemorate the dark day. “As the years have gone on, we now have children who weren’t alive on September 11th and need to be taught the events of that day, and about the effect it had on our nation,” said Brickley, president emeritus of the September National Memorial Trail Alliance. About 50% of the existing trial is “on the road,” meaning users must share those portions of the trail with vehicles. A generation from now, the alliance hopes to have a dedicated off-road path for the entire route, said Brickley. Thousands are expected to use the trail each year, especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, a time when people flocked to outdoor parks and recreation areas. The 9/11 National Memorial Trail intersects six states, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. It showcases many of their historical sites along the way, like the Path of the Flood Trail, Antietam National Battlefield, Empty Sky Memorial, Valley Forge National Park, Washington Crossing, and the Lincoln Memorial. Legislators are hopeful President Biden will sign the bill by Sept. 11, 2021.