« All News

Press Release: The State Museum Commemorates the 20th Anniversary of 9/11 with New Exhibition, “Witness to History: Col. Paul Evanko’s 9/11 Field Notes”

August 16, 2021

Filed under Changing Exhibits, Exhibits

Governor Tom Ridge with State Police Commissioner Colonel Paul Evanko (right) and National Guard Commander William Lynch arriving at the Flight 93 crash site in Shanksville, PA, on the afternoon of September 11, 2001.

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.


The State Museum of Pennsylvania, adjacent to the State Capitol in Harrisburg, is one of 24 historic sites and museums administered by the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission as part of the Pennsylvania Trails of History. The State Museum offers expansive collections interpreting Pennsylvania’s fascinating heritage. With exhibits examining the dawn of geologic time, the Native American experience, the colonial and revolutionary eras, a pivotal Civil War battleground, and the commonwealth’s vast industrial age, The State Museum demonstrates that Pennsylvania’s story is America’s story.

Museum hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and Sunday, 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Admission is $7 for adults (ages 12-64), $6 for senior citizens (ages 65 and up), and $5 for children (ages 1-11).

The State Museum has joined other museums across the country in Museums for All. This program enables low-income families to visit participating museums for a nominal fee of $2 per person with the presentation of an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card and identification. This offer is for general admission only and excludes special programs or events.

For more information about the museum, visit www.statemuseumpa.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

MEDIA CONTACT: Howard Pollman, 717-705-8639