Twenty years after United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field in rural Pennsylvania on the sunny morning of Sept. 11, 2001, former Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker continues to tell the tale of hijacked airliner.
Schweiker, who spoke at Rider University’s annual Sept. 11th Ceremony of Remembrance on a cool evening Sept. 9, said he was honoring his pledge to tell the stories of Deora Frances Bodley and United Airlines Capt. Victor Saracini.
Bodley, 20, was the youngest passenger on United Airlines Flight 93, and Saracini, who lived in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, was the captain of United Airlines Flight 175, which crashed into the south tower of World Trade Center during the 2001 terror attacks.
“My pledge is to tell their stories – not to talk about policy or the endless sniping (in Washington, D.C.). For me, it’s about keeping that pledge,” said Schweiker, who is the executive-in-residence at Rider University’s Homeland Security program.
Schweiker paused several times to regain his composure as he spoke about the pledge he made to Bodley’s mother to talk about Deora Bodley. Bodley would have been 40 years old today, had she not taken a seat on Flight 93. Passengers on the jet tried to wrest control of it from the hijackers before it crashed into the ground.
“As Deora’s mom, Debby Borza, touchingly told a reporter in 2015, ‘It’s important to me that the visitor sees what these 40 people took on, to take a stand for freedom, to take the kind of stand that cost them their lives. Maybe there will be some special thing they see about Deora that will inspire them,'” Schweiker said.
Borza was instrumental in creating a memorial at the site of Flight 93’s crash, which includes a Wall of Names, a Visitor Center and the Tower of Voices. The 93-foot-tall concrete tower has 40 wind chimes: one for each passenger and crew member onboard.
Schweiker said that “part of my job is to remind us that there is evil in this world.”
“There are people who despise us and our way of life. They want blood on the streets,” he said.
Twenty years after the terror attacks, Schweiker said, his commentary on recent events is that there has been a reconstitution of al-Qaeda and ISIS. What especially concerns him, he said, are the comments made by the “top hater,” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“Khalid Sheikh Mohammed said, ‘We will win because Americans don’t realize this. We do not need to defeat you militarily. We only need to fight you long enough for you to defeat yourself by quitting,'” Schweiker said.
Mohammed was apprehended in 2003 and has been held at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. Mohammed has not been brought to trial, although a pre-trial meeting was held earlier this month. He is to be tried by a military tribunal.
“In my talks with people, (the fact that) Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the chief conspirator, has not faced a full trial irks them. He is pure evil, yet he has not been brought to justice,” Schweiker said.
“Not to be melodramatic,” Schweiker said, but in 1998, Mohammed looked at Osama bin Laden and said they would “take down” the United States. Mohammed said that if they played their cards right, the four hijacked jets would cause destruction and there would be blood on the streets. People would know al-Qaeda.
The U.S. government has a counter-terrorism group that is tracking terrorist groups, which must be emphasized in the post-Afghanistan era, he said. President Joe Biden was warned that if the United States left Afghanistan, there would be a resurgence of ISIS, he said.
“We don’t want more mass casualties, but we have to talk about it. The terrorists are stirring, make no mistake. We have to be on top of it. If you need any reminders about the challenges that await us, go check on the dark web,” Schweiker said.
Turning back to Flight 93 and the Flight 93 National Memorial, Schweiker said the families were grateful when the Tower of Voices component was completed. It means the voices of their loved ones will not be silenced.
“If you listen intently with your heart, you will hear a 20-year-old say, ‘Tell my story.’ You will hear a pilot say, ‘Tell my story,'” he said.
“We have to make good on the pledge not to forget them, if you choose to take up that task. They knew they were headed for a dismal end. It’s what they chose to do,” Schweiker said of the passengers and crew on Flight 93.
Wrapping up his remarks, Schweiker said his purpose was to remind attendees of that fateful day and to tell the Flight 93 passengers’ stories.
Concluding the ceremony, a bugler played “Taps” as the names of eight Rider University alumni who died that day were read: Mary Yolanda Dowling, Kenneth Ledee, Gary Lutnick, Domenick Mircovich, Ferdinand Morrone, Thomas Regan, Alison Wildman and Kenneth Zelman.
Seven of the eight alumni worked in one of the two towers at the World Trade Center. Morrone, the eighth alumnus, was the director of Public Safety and the superintendent of police for the Port Authority Police Department.