Former Pa. Gov. Mark Schweiker ’83 hosts Rider students for United 93 memorial

Ahead of Sept. 11 anniversary, students learn from firsthand accounts of top officials
Adam Grybowski

Ten Rider University students took part in a delegation trip to dedicate the Tower of Voices at the Flight 93 National Memorial over the weekend of Sept. 8 and 9, ahead of the 17th anniversary of Sept. 11. Six of those students are in the University’s homeland security master’s program.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker ’83 hosted the delegation, beginning with a dinner and discussion at the Somerset Country Club on Saturday. Schweiker, an executive in residence in Rider’s Department of Political Science, was Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor on Sept. 11, 2001. The group was joined by Dr. Glenn Kashurba, an author and psychiatrist who worked directly with the families of the victims of United Airlines Flight 93, which was hijacked by terrorists as part of the Sept. 11 attacks.

“What an incredible experience,” says Brenda Tift, a graduate student in Rider’s homeland security program, which is designed to prepare professionals for leadership roles in protecting the U.S., its interests and its allies from terrorist attacks, as well as responding to natural disasters and other threats.

On Sunday, the families of the 40 passengers and crew members who perished in the United Flight 93 crash gathered to dedicate the new Flight 93 National Memorial's Tower of Voices. The 93-foot tower holds 40 wind chimes, making it both a visual and audible memorial. It joined the site's existing Memorial Plaza and Visitor Center in helping visitors remember and understand the story of United 93. The plane crashed into a field during the terrorist attacks that brought down the towers of the World Trade Center and caused significant damage to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

On Sunday, Schweiker was one of 40 individuals who sounded the chimes for the first time. Another former Pennsylvania governor, Tom Ridge, whom Schweiker succeeded after 9/11 when Ridge was named the nation’s first secretary of homeland security, was the keynote speaker.

“I am truly grateful to have been a witness to such a momentous occasion,” says Jelani Walker, another homeland security graduate student at Rider.

On Tuesday, Sept. 11, Schweiker delivered remarks at the annual ceremony at the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pa., in Somerset County. Other speakers included President Donald Trump and current Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.

“For the heroes we honor today, and every day, please know that I am still in awe of them,” Schweiker said. “As expressed the last time I officially spoke here on Sept. 11, 2002 — it was here that freedom took its first stand.”

During his remarks, Schweiker also pointed out the fact that many young people now lack firsthand knowledge of an event that killed nearly 3,000 Americans on their own soil and triggered a response from the U.S. government and its allies that continues to have repercussions around the globe.

“The threats remain very real, so we must remain vigilant and prepare the next generation of leaders,” Schweiker said. “The fact is, friends, our college students aren't old enough to remember firsthand what happened here. We must never forget what took place here. We must never forget the heroes who sacrificed here. And we must never forget and always strive to reach the purity of their remarkably noble sacrifice.”

Earlier in the day, Rider’s annual Sept. 11 Memorial and Remembrance Ceremony was held in front of Moore Library. President Gregory G. Dell'Omo and representatives of the Student Government Association placed a memorial wreath at the campus flagpole, and the names of Rider alumni who lost their lives on Sept. 11 were read as a ceremonial bell was rung.

Schweiker, who is also a University Trustee, earned his master's in management from Rider in 1983 and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws from Rider in 2004. Over the weekend, he was joined by other Rider faculty and staff, including Associate Provost James Castagnera, Director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University Micah Rasmussen ’92 and Coordinator of Veterans Affairs Thomas Reddington.

“It was truly a blessing to receive the exposure, as well as the knowledge and wisdom, from this event, to be passed down from our generation to the next,” says Timothy Alicia, a graduate student in Rider’s homeland security graduate program.