On Sept. 9, NJIT honored the victims of 9/11 through a memorial hosted by the Office of Student Life. The program began at 10 a.m. and was hosted by Amber Danku, Assistant Director for Commuter Life and Operations at NJIT. Her commentary throughout the event was personal, as Danku has family members who are first responders.
An opening prayer was led by Rabbi Avraham Minsky from Chabad Jewish Newark. Minsky recollected his experience on Sept. 11, 2001; he was a third-grader in Brooklyn when the announcement of the attack was made. He posed the question of “Where were you?” to the audience, meant both in person and in spirit. Minsky pointed out that the September 2001 attacks were driven by ignorance and hatred, and that the best way to combat this is to promote interpersonal dialogue, friendship, and understanding.
This statement rang especially true for NJIT’s diverse student, faculty, and administrative bodies, which can be pointed to as a success story of people from differing backgrounds coming together to learn. The prayer ended with a wish for all people, of all faiths and experiences, to live forever in love and peace.
Afterwards, President Lim took the podium for a brief speech marking the occasion. Answering Minsky’s question, he related his own experience on that day. At the time, Lim had been an associate professor in Tuscaloosa at the University of Alabama. He narrated how he had been too shocked to believe what had happened in the hours right after the attacks, wondering whether it had been the site of a movie being filmed.
After Lim moved to NJIT, the importance of the day was underscored further because New York City is directly visible from many spots on campus. In particular, Newark Liberty International Airport is so close that during the speech, multiple planes were seen taking off and landing behind the speakers. One of the planes that was hijacked on 9/11, United Airlines Flight 93, took off from Newark; it may have been visible from campus on that day.
Lim also honored the personal losses that NJIT faculty and alumni faced as a result of these terrorist attacks. Nine NJIT alumni died in the collapse of the towers; these alumni ranged in age from those who were established in their careers to some who had graduated just a few years before their loss.
A former trustee and his wife were aboard Flight 93, which took off from Newark, when it crashed. The wife of NJIT’s Dean of Students died in the tower collapse when she heroically rushed back upstairs to ensure that her employees had made it out.
In addition to this horrific tragedy, the memorial commemorated the courage and selflessness that so many showed in response to insurmountable odds. Flight 93 was en route to San Francisco when it was hijacked, and it is theorized that the plane was meant to crash into the United States Capitol.
However, the passengers and crew fought back after taking a vote and the plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. None of the people aboard survived, but they undoubtedly saved several lives with their actions. To immortalize their deeds, adjunct professor Mark Annett from the Martin Tuchman School of Management recited an original poem, titled “Courage of Flight 93”, at the event.
As the occasion came to a close, NJIT AFROTC Detachment 490 raised the flag to half-staff and a representative from NJIT’s Public Safety Department laid a wreath at the base of the flag. A student bugler from NJIT, fifth-year architecture major Lucas Konrad-Parisi, played the bugle in a solemn tune.
Danku provided closing remarks, noting that most of NJIT’s current undergraduate body was either born after the attacks or were too young to remember them. She encouraged students to seek out those who could tell them first-hand stories about 9/11 and its aftermath. The best way to honor the memory of those who perished, she said, is to remember and teach.
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