To the mournful sound of a bagpipe and a sharp salute from NJIT's publc safety officers in dress blues, NJIT this morning honored 11 alumni and friends who died in the terrorist attacks two years ago.
NJIT 's president Robert A. Altenkirch addressed a crowd of about 200 students, staff, faculty, and the family of one of the alumni who gathered on the green under a bright blue sky to dedicate a memorial to those lost.
Nine NJIT graduates were working in the World Trade Center September 11, 2001 when the towers were hit by two hijacked planes and collapsed. Alumnus and former Trustee Donald Peterson and his wife Jean were on United Airlines Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco when it crashed in Western Pennsylvania.
"For decades to come, we will be seeking the right words, the right language, to help us heal and comprehend what happened two years ago in New York City," Altenkirch said.
"It is easy to talk about understanding and tolerance," Altenkirch said, but it is more important to make an individual effort to respect other people. "We are committed to those deeds and actions here at NJIT," he said.
The family of George Strauch attended the ceremony, and his brother Robert remembered him as a man who looked back fondly on his days as an undergraduate at Newark College of Engineering.
Several of those NJIT alumni worked for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. They were due to be honored at a separate ceremony at New York City's Riverside Church September 11 at 2 p.m. New York Governor George Pataki and New Jersey Governor James McGreevey will speak at that service. It will be broadcast live by New Jersey Public Television with a re-broadcast set for 9 p.m.
The lost NJIT alumni included engineers, people who worked in finance, and computer experts. Most were married. Among them they left 18 children.
Hilary Strauch, 13, wrote the following poem about her father:
I see a face, a face of God
He's smiling down on me and my mom
My dad is up there smiling too
When his tower collapsed he was trapped
Inside a fiery inferno with no where to go
Also among those named on the plaque are former NJIT Board of Trustees member Donald Peterson, who with his wife Jean, a retired nurse, was on United Airlines Flight 93 headed from Newark to San Francisco when it crashed in Pennsylvania. The Petersons were going to a family reunion. They lived in Spring Lake.
Here are brief remembrances of the graduates. They were written from news clips and from information compiled by the NJIT Alumni Association's Julie Jablonsky.
* Paul F. Beatini, 40, Class of 1986, Park Ridge, NJ, was operations vice president and assistant manager for engineering for FMGlobal Corp. He is survived by his wife Susan, two daughters now ages seven and five, and his parents and siblings. His co-workers remembered him as "a devoted family man with an unmistakable sense of humor and love of life."
* Eddie Wing-Wai Ching, 29, Union, Class of 1997, was a client support administrator for UmeVoice. He was in the WTC offices of Cantor Fitzgerald, a client, on September 11. The youngest of four children, his relatives nicknamed him "Cool Man" but remember him most for his warm heart. He loved to play basketball, took pride in being a homeowner and had told friends he intended to propose marriage to his girlfriend by the end of 2001. His survivors include his mother and sister.
* Patrick A. Hoey, Class of 1969, 53, Middletown, was executive manager for the Port Authority's department of tunnels, bridges, and terminals. He was in his office on the 64th Floor of Tower One when it was struck. His voice can be heard on recently-released Port Authority tapes seeking advice on whether to evacuate the building. Remembered as a family man who was active in his church and community, he was a former PTA president. Survivors include Eileen, his wife of 31 years, and their three sons.
* Edward T. Keane, 66, Class of 1961, West Caldwell, had been a retired Port Authority engineer. But after three years of retirement he had decided to return to work there, this time as a consultant to the PA with Hill International. He managed projects connected with the George Washington and Goethals bridges. He was at work on the 60th Floor of Tower One when the plane struck. He and 15 co-workers had made it down to the 20th Floor when the building collapsed. Keane had survived the 1993 WTC attack, and was cited at the time for helping a distraught pregnant woman down 72 flights of stairs. Relatives remembered Keane as a man who took pleasure in hiking, sailing, gardening and travel. But his greatest joy was his family, including Barbara, his wife of 38 years, their daughter, son, and four grandchildren.
* Franco Lalama, 45, Nutley, Class of 1980, was a structural engineer with the Port Authority's department of bridges and terminals. He was on the 64th floor of Tower One when it was struck. According to news accounts, he had spoken to his wife and sister by phone, telling them he was leaving the building. But he turned back to assist others. His co-workers remembered him as a brilliant engineer who could always be relied on to put the George Washington bridge back together in time for the morning rush after even the most extensive repair work. Friends said he was a gourmet who loved to make homemade wine, and served cannoli and espresso at work. Survivors include his wife Linda, their three children, his parents and siblings.
* Kleber Molina, New York City, Class of 1998, worked for Fiduciary Trust Company International. He was at worked on the 95th Floor of Tower Two when it was struck. He is survived by his wife, Cathy.
* Francesco "Francis" Riccardelli, 40, Westwood, Class of 1985, worked at the Port Authority as manager of vertical transportation for the World Trade Complex. He was remembered by his family as "an eternal optimist who saw only the good in the world." He was also an avid hiker, swimmer, and skier, who had a deep love of nature. He is survived by his wife Theresa and their five children. At the time of his death the children were ages 9, 8, 5, 3, and 1.
* George J. Strauch, Jr., 53, Avon-by-the-Sea, Class of 1970, was an executive with Aon Corporation. He was at work in the firm's 99th Floor offices when the first tower was struck. He had phoned his wife and his mother to assure them he was all right. But then his own building was hit . Strauch was remembered as having passion for the ocean, particularly fishing. He and his wife met on the boardwalk when she was 17. He put up with a daily, 5:30 a.m., four-hour roundtrip commute so he and his family could live near the beach. His survivors include Virginia, his wife of 27 years and their daughter Hilary, now 13.
* Mark Zangrilli, 36, Pompton Plains, Class of 1988, was employed by AXA Corporation near the Twin Towers on Water Street. But he was attending a meeting at Aon Corporation in Tower Two when it was struck. Zangrilli had formerly worked at the World Trade Center as an insurance underwriter for Kemper National Insurance Co. He was there during the 1993 bombing and was cited for doing a heroic job in helping evacuate coworkers there. His last contact with his wife Jill was a phone message saying the evacuation was beginning and that he would call when he got down. She remembers him as a dedicated father and husband, who took his two sons, then 3 and 1, everywhere he went on weekends. His wife and sons survive him.
As part of NJIT's efforts to comfort the families of those who died, NJIT's alumni association had earlier mailed $1,000 donations to the families--including an additional alumnus, John Fisher who took evening courses for years at the university but had left before graduating. Fisher, 46, a father of seven, worked at the World Trade Center, consulting for the Port Authority as an engineering consultant for Nanotek, Inc.
Immediately after the first attack he re-entered the south tower and went into the World Trade Center's operational control center. When that tower collapsed he was there, assisting with the evacuation and trying to help fix the buildings' communications systems. He is survived by his former wife Gail and their children, who were ages 16, 14, 12, 10, 10, 8 and 6 when he died. The family lives in Beachwood. ---Gale Scott