Carnegie Mellon University
August 22, 2011

Press Release: Carnegie Mellon University Press Publishes "An Uncommon Field," First Book Celebrating Flight 93 Temporary Memorial


Contact: Shilo Raube / 412-268-6094 /

PITTSBURGH—Following the Sept. 11, 2001, crash of United Airlines Flight 93 into a field near Shanksville, Pa., local residents and visitors began leaving personal items behind, creating an unplanned memorial.  

"An Uncommon Field," a new book of photography and prose published by Carnegie Mellon University Press, celebrates what came to be known as the Flight 93 Temporary Memorial through the eyes of Richard Snodgrass, a Pittsburgh-based photographer and author. The first and only book on the Temporary Memorial, "An Uncommon Field" is a testament and tribute to the heroes of Flight 93 and the vast support and American spirit of those who visited the crash site.

The book consists of 92 black and white photos and 25 sections of text describing the events of Flight 93, the development of the Temporary Memorial and Snodgrass' experiences at the site.

"When I first encountered Richard Snodgrass' manuscript, I found the photographs of what was essentially an impromptu memorial to be especially moving," said English Professor Gerald Costanzo, founder and director of the CMU Press. "Rick Stafford, distinguished service professor in the Heinz College, brought the project to us. Our senior editor, Cynthia Lamb, saw immediately that it is a natural for the series of titles which focus on western Pennsylvania that she has been editing during the past five years. Snodgrass, a native of this area, is — among his many accomplishments — a published novelist and, as you might imagine, his prose text matches the quality of his photography. This is an extremely important book for the press as we approach the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedies."

Snodgrass said he first saw the Temporary Memorial site when traveling to a business meeting. "When I got out of the car, I was totally taken with the space. It just sort of engulfed me. When I came back a week later and spent a day on my own, it was if the place was talking to me and said, 'Bring your camera. You want to get to know us,'" he said.

For the next two and a half years, that is exactly what Snodgrass did. He captured the Temporary Memorial and the entire crash site in all seasons, weather and light. After starting to see sequences within his photos, Snodgrass realized he had something more.

"I like to try and work with text and photographs so that the images aren't just illustrations for the texts and the texts aren't just captions — they combine to become something more, something better," Snodgrass said.

The photos in "An Uncommon Field" that move Snodgrass the most are of two abandoned draglines used for strip mining. "The draglines were up on a hill, looking down at the site, and early on, the people working the memorial site started calling them 'The Guardians,'" Snodgrass said. "They were the only witnesses to what happened."

Though the Temporary Memorial was dismantled in 2009 to make way for the permanent National Memorial, its spirit will live on through "An Uncommon Field."

"Richard has a knack for capturing special moments in time," said Jeff Reinbold, site manager of the Flight 93 National Memorial. "His images of the Temporary Memorial remind us of how powerful a simple gesture of remembrance can be."

Snodgrass will discuss "An Uncommon Field" and his experiences visiting and documenting the Flight 93 Temporary Memorial as a panelist on "Media Memories: 9/11 Scribes" from noon to 1 p.m., Friday, Sept. 9 in CMU's Singleton Room. Pradeep Khosla, dean of CMU's College of Engineering, will moderate the discussion. Additional panelists include James R. (Bob) Hagerty, news editor at the Wall Street Journal, Kevin Begos, supervising correspondent with the Associated Press, and Rem Rieder, editor of the American Journalism Review. Copies of "An Uncommon Field" will be on sale at the discussion.

Additionally, the Sewickley Gallery and TABLE Magazine are holding a book signing and fundraiser for the Flight 93 National Memorial from 6 to 8 p.m., Friday, Sept. 16 at the Sewickley Gallery. Special, one-of-a-kind prints of images from the book will be available for a tax-deductible contribution to the Flight 93 National Memorial. The original prints from the book will be on exhibition at the gallery from Sept. 16 through Oct. 8. For more information, visit

Watch a short video of Snodgrass talking about why he began taking photos of the Flight 93 Temporary Memorial, the process of putting the book together and which photos stand out the most to him at

Carnegie Mellon University Press was founded in 1972 as a publisher of poetry. The press has since evolved into a highly regarded publisher of poetry, classic contemporaries, short fiction and regional social history.

For more information on "An Uncommon Field," including how to place an order, visit