On the morning of September 11, 2001, Col. Paul J. Evanko, then head of the Pennsylvania State Police now retired, raced to a state emergency command center as soon as he heard the first plane had hit the World Trade Center in Manhattan. What he did not know is how he and his colleagues would be drawn into the attacks minutes later when the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a rural field in western Pennsylvania.
“Witness to History” features Evanko’s actual handwritten field notes from the morning of 9/11. These unique documents, which Evanko donated to the Pennsylvania State Archives in 2016, are on public display for the very first time. They detail the rapid unfolding of events and offer a minute-by-minute accounting of decisions made to secure the crash site and protect Pennsylvanians.
“Witness to History” is copresented by the Pennsylvania State Archives and The State Museum of Pennsylvania, both bureaus of the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC), the commonwealth’s official history agency. WITF Public Media, a contributing partner in the exhibit, provided video commentary from Evanko.
“Witness to History” opens on Thursday, September 9, 2021, and is on display through Sunday, January 2, 2022.
For more information on the documents on display in the exhibition, read “Col. Paul J. Evanko’s Field Notes from 9/11” in the Summer 2021 issue of Pennsylvania Heritage.
For a detailed account on 9/11 from the perspective of Governor Tom Ridge, read “The Man for the Moment: Tom Ridge and the 9/11 Inflection Point,” also in the Summer 2021 issue of Pennsylvania Heritage.