By Judy Ellich for Daily American

The first time state Rep. Wendy Ullman visited the Flight 93 memorial, she called it “a solemn, thoughtful and reflective experience.”

As a new member of the state House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee, the Bucks County Democrat said Thursday as she stood in a group of committee members that the visitor’s center site offers “such a valuable traveler’s resource.”

And for Pennsylvanians, the ability to hop in a car and spend a few days in regions like the Laurel Highlands can only help the state’s economy and enhance the knowledge of the treasures in their own backyards.

Ullman, other committee members and guests arrived at the memorial in Stonycreek Township by bus as part of a familiarization tour of the area hosted by the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau. Flight 93 was one of many stops for the lawmakers.

The group met with National Park Service (Flight 93) Superintendent Stephen Clark at the memorial.

He discussed Sept. 11, 2001, when Flight 93 fell from the sky during a fight between the passengers and terrorists, killing everyone onboard. Forty passengers and crew members are credited with keeping the plane from reaching a more populated destination in the nation’s capital, where the terrorists likely planned to crash.

“We are the gatekeepers of tourism in the state,” David Millard, R-Columbia County, said about the committee members. “What we like to do is look at all the successes and at the things tried that did not have the greatest level of success.”

Among the missions of the committee is to make sure “every dollar the state invested (in tourism and recreational development) has a terrific return,” Millard said.

The committee members said that organizations like the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau help them fulfill their mission.

“Having the opportunity to showcase the Laurel Highlands and the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau’s marketing efforts to the commonwealth’s leaders and decision-makers is invaluable,” Ann Nemanic, bureau executive director, said.

State Rep. Mark Longietti said he enjoyed the visit as well.

“It is important for us to get out of Harrisburg and explore ways how we can partner with local industries.” Longietti, D-Mercer County, said. He is the Democratic chairman of the committee.

“How do we help to shine the light on what all the state’s counties have to offer if we are not personally invested? The region’s culture can only become a part of the travel experience by going to those regions and interacting with the people,” he said.

Over the course of their three-day visit, committee members are scheduled to also visit Seven Springs Mountain Resort, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, Fort Ligonier, the Lincoln Highway Experience, the Fred Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College and the Westmoreland Museum of American Art.

“Their three-day visit is a broad stroke of what a visitor can experience here in our three counties of Fayette, Somerset and Westmoreland,” Nemanic said. “Be assured we will stress the importance of collaboration, the vitality and diversity of our tourism assets and the continued need for marketing dollars to promote Pennsylvania as a destination.”