NORTHERN VIRGINIA -- A multi-state group headed by a local attorney is working to create a Sept. 11 National Memorial Trail to connect sites in New York City, Washington and Pennsylvania associated with the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.
The trail, shaped like a triangle, would connect the New York City World Trade Center site with the Pentagon in Washington and the Flight 93 memorial site near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The current Mount Vernon trail that runs along the Potomac River near the Pentagon will be part of the 9/11 trail. The segment of the Mount Vernon trail south of Alexandria to Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens will be spur from the 9/11 memorial trail because it is “a place of national significance in our heritage,” said David Brickley, president of the National Memorial Trail Alliance.
The group planning the project is a multi-state organization seeking to designate portions of several existing trails as the 1,140-mile memorial
trail to honor the heroes and heroines of 9/11 and the first responders, with spurs that will honor those Americans throughout history who have shown resilience and perseverance in the threat of adversity. The trails will be for non-motorized travel, primarily walking, hiking and biking, and will promote tourism, economic development and cultural and educational opportunities, supporters maintain.
"The September 11th National Memorial Trail will not only be a multi-state, active recreational trail connecting the three memorial sites, it will also honor the heroes of 9/11 and promote the values of freedom and resilience that have made America great,” said Brickley.
9/11 is shorthand for the historic Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States when al-Qaeda operatives hijacked four commercial airplanes and crashed two into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers and one into the Pentagon. The passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 stopped a fourth airplane from hitting the U.S. capitol by forcing a crash landing near Shanksville, Penn.
Locally, the national trail would start at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and going northwest, connect with the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Trail which follows the Potomac River from Georgetown in Washington, DC, through Maryland and West Virginia to Cumberland, Md., a distance of 184 miles.
From Cumberland, the trail would follow the newly completed 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage north before veering east to Shanksville. The Chesapeake and Ohio and the Great Allegheny Passage are part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.
From Shanksville, the trail would continue to New York City’s World Trade Center.
The leg between New York City and the Pentagon would follow the East Coast Greenway, a greenway being built as the urban equivalent of the Appalachian Trail.
Three Gaps to Fill In
Backers are now trying to address three gaps to complete the trail. One is from the Pentagon Memorial to the Mount Vernon Trail in the area of the Pentagon. They are working with Arlington County, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the U.S. Department of Defense to designate a route on Arlington streets.
They are also working to fill a 24-mile gap from the existing Great Allegheny Passage to the Flight 93 Memorial in Somerset County, Penn., and a third gap from the Flight 93 memorial east to the Delaware Watergap. The state of Pennsylvania gave the alliance a grant to identify the routes for these two gaps.
Supporters of the trail include the Virginia and Pennsylvania state legislatures, American Legion, Pentagon Memorial Fund, National Park Service, Flight 93 Federal Advisory Commission, East Coast Greenway Alliance, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Vietnam Veterans of America and other trail and non-profit organizations. “Our partnership with the states, the National Park Service and other nonprofits has been phenomenal," Brickley commented recently.
The concept of the 9/11 trail emerged from a Mid-Atlantic Governors Conference on Greenways, Blueways and Green Infrastructure held several blocks from the Pentagon and only days after Sept. 11, 2001. Brickley was then head of Virginia’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and began building support by establishing the September 11th National Memorial Trail Alliance.
Brickley was the Director of DCR from 1998 to 2002, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1976 to 1998 and now practices law in Woodbridge.