9/11 Speaker Events to Honor 20th Anniversary

Elena Rouse, Co-Culture Editor

This past weekend, the University held numerous events to honor and remember those who passed on 9/11. In honor of the 20th anniversary, the University held an event for sharing firsthand experiences, a vigil for Villanovans who lost their lives and a memorial display for Villanovans who were lost on that day.

On Friday, Sept. 10, Michael Benfante spoke at the Riley Ellipse, colloquially known as the Oreo. The 9/11 survivor, who is now a media hero and author of the novel “Reluctant Hero,” gave a speech rehashing his own experiences from working on the 81st floor of the North Tower.

On that day, Benfante and a coworker carried a woman in a wheelchair down 68 flights of stairs. Benfante described every minute of the experience, from the way the force of the falling South Tower created a surge of wind that pushed the doors of the North Tower closed again and again, to the way that the progress slowed and the panic rose with each flight the group descended.

Perhaps the most captivating moments were the ones when Benfante spoke of the firemen who he passed on his way down. He spoke to the crowd on the green about the comforting words they spoke, how they told him it would all be okay as they ascended into their final moments. Benfante recalled their eyes and how they had said a different story than their calming words.

Benfante was able to get out of the North Tower and was even going to run back into the building to get his companion’s wheelchair, all without knowing the South Tower had fallen. A reporter immediately came up to him, trying to interview him in the chaos.

Benfante then recalled running for his life, like he never had before, when the North Tower started to fall. He dove under a truck, as a firefighter leaped on top of him. He remembered everything going black and described breathing to be like taking in oxygen “through a straw in a fireplace.”

He described the chaos and darkness that swept over everyone as the building collapsed.

Banfante ended his speech with moving words about the nation and comradery. He witnessed countless acts of selflessness that day, which he described to be a great source of pride for him to come from a country that houses people who act like that. Relating 9/11, the current state of the world and the human spirit, Benfante left the crowd with motivating hope for a future of unity with a people who, when faced with insurmountable odds, continue to rise up together.

After the speech, the University held an interfaith vigil on the Rowen Campus Green in honor of the men and women who passed away on 9/11. For the entirety of the weekend, a memorial was on display in the President’s Lounge, honoring Villanovans and all who lost their lives.

As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 passed, countless individuals going about their daily lives stopped to remember the horrors and the sacrifices of those impacted by 9/11. Most importantly, each individual remembered the triumph, the honor and selflessness of those faced with unimaginable horrors that day, as the unified heart of the nation shone bright.