Villanova Remembers 9/11: 20 Years Later

Villanova NROTC took part in a 9/11 memorial run on September 7th, in conjunction with the Villanova Army ROTC Unit.

The University honored all those affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks throughout the weekend with a series of events titled, “Villanova Remembers 9/11: 20 Years Later.” The series was sponsored by the President’s Office, Mission and Ministry and Student Life. 

The first event was held on Wednesday, Sept. 8 and included an interdisciplinary panel discussion. The event was held virtually and Tim Horner, D. Phil., a teaching professor from the Center for Peace and Justice Education, moderated the discussion. Panelists included Tuan Samahon, JD, a Professor of Law at the Charles Widger School of Law, Catherine Warrick, Ph.D, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science and the Director of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies and Joe Evans, a doctoral student studying Theology and a retired lieutenant colonel of the US Army. The panelists were able to discuss the effects of 9/11 on their academic careers and how the attacks changed the geopolitical landscape. 

The second event of the series was held on Thursday, Sept. 9 in the President’s Lounge in the Connelly Center. It was titled, “9/11 Human Library: Firsthand Stories and Reflections.” The concept of a human library includes replacing books with the stories and experiences of human beings, so people volunteer to speak to an audience and answer questions they might have. Community members were able to share their personal experiences of 9/11 and the way it continues to affect them after 20 years. Participants were able to rotate to various small groups and have more intimate conversations. Each session lasted 15 minutes to ensure more stories could be shared among speakers and the audience. 

On Friday, Sept. 10, there was a Mass held in the St. Thomas of Villanova Church on campus. At the Mass, the names of the 15 alumni who passed on Sept. 11, 2001 were read aloud. 

We remember: W. David Bauer, ’78, James P. Berger, ’78, Dennis Michael Cook, ’90, Jeannine Damiani Jones, ’94, Christopher Dincuff, ’92, Jeffrey Mark Dingle, ’90, Christopher M. Duffy, ’00, William F. Fallon, ’70, Peter Gelinas, ’90, Michael Gould, ’94, Amy Jarret, ’94, Jennifer Lynn Kane, ’97, Danielle Kousoulis, ’93, Kaaria Mbaya, ’86 and Matthew Vianna, ’00. 

Following the Mass, the University hosted keynote speaker Michael Benfante, a 9/11 survivor and author of “Reluctant Hero.” Like many others, Benfante went to work as normal on the morning of Sept. 11. His office was located on the 81st  floor of the North Tower. The first plane struck 12 floors above where he worked and immediately, he began instructing co-workers and colleagues to stairwells. Benfante became a national hero on Sept. 11 when he and a co-worker carried a disabled woman in a wheelchair down 68 floors in the World Trade Center. The journey down the stairwell took 96 minutes, and fortunately Benfante and his co-worker were able to get the woman into an ambulance with only minutes to spare before the tower collapsed. 

Benfante spoke in front of the Riley Ellipse to members of the University about his heroic story and the struggles he faced after 9/11. He shared the lessons he learned and how the event continues to affect him. 

A representative from Villanova’s Society of Veteran Affairs said that the speech from Benfante was most memorable for the student veterans present at the event. Some of the students have served in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks which made the speech even more impactful. 

After Benfante spoke, there was an Interfaith Vigil on the Rowen Campus Green for members of the community to remember the events of 9/11 and remember all the lives taken. The vigil included a candlelight procession in which two student veterans and members of the Society of Veteran Affairs, Sean Wade and Mike Alexeev, held candles to honor the Villanovan members who lost their lives on Sept. 11. Readings from various faith traditions were read. President of the Society of Veteran Affair, Sindi Kulla, assisted in reading prayer petitions. Live music was also a part of the vigil. 

In addition to these individual events, the President’s Office had a 9/11 Memorial Display in the President’s Lounge. A soundtrack was played that featured audio clips from news coverage of the day’s events. The memorial also included glass displays that had the photos and stories of the 15 Villanovans who passed. The University has previously remembered these individuals with a stained glass window memorial in the University’s Corr Hall Chapel. It was installed in Nov. 2006 and was designed by the late Rev. Richard G. Cannuli, OSA, ’73, an Augustinian priest, artist and professor. The names of those lost are inscribed at the bottom of the window and includes the Blessed Virgin Mary in a prayer position alongside the twin towers, Pentagon and field in Pennsylvania, all the sites where terrorism took place on 9/11. 

The Society of Veteran Affairs also honored the victims during their 9/11 Memorial Run. The Naval and Army ROTC students ran three miles and took breaks during the run to stand at attention to commemorate the victims. Students were also tasked with sharing motivational cadences throughout the run. Citations were read at points of the run and four-count push-ups were completed by each Midshipmen and Cadet in attendance. 

NROTC Senior Ana Sokolowski attended the run and recognized the significance of participating. 

“The 9/11 Memorial Run is always an honor to participate in and cements the true meaning of why we have chosen to serve and never forget all who perished on 9/11,” Sokolowski said. “It’s always a humbling and meaningful event.”

The Society of Veteran Affairs also placed American flags around the Riley Ellipse to pay respects to the lives lost on 9/11. ROTC and NROTC students were responsible for placing them and took time to remember those lost.