STEUBENVILLE - The man who protected President George W. Bush the day terrorists attacked the United States will be the Herald-Star and Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Speaker Series featured guest on Sept. 11 at the Steubenville High School auditorium.
Retired Air Force Col. Mark Tillman was at the controls of Air Force One kept President Bush out of harm's way on Sept. 11, 2001, and kept the president connected to the nation's first responders.
"We're thrilled and honored to be able to present Tillman as part of our local remembrance of those whose lives were lost on Sept. 11," Ross Gallabrese, executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times announced Monday afternoon at a press conference in front of the Steubenville Fire Department headquarters on North Street.
REMEMBERING SEPT. 11 — Officials with the Herald-Star, Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Speaker Series announced Monday afternoon retired Air Force Col. Mark Tillman, commander of Air Force One on Sept. 11, 2001, will speak at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 11 at Steubenville High School. Among those taking part in the announcement at the Steubenville Fire Department headquarters on North Street were, from left, front, Ann Koon of Eastern Gateway Community College; Cindy Kotsch of the Herald-Star; Suzanne Kresser of Tri-State Financial Services; Christine Hargrave of Cattrell Cos. Inc.; Steubenville Patrolman Rick Haysler; Renee Contumelio of Em-Media; Ross Gallabrese executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times; and Rich DeLuca, president of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce. Back row, Keith Murdock of Trinity Health System; John Cucarese of New York Life and board chairman of the chamber; Fire Captain Dave Sullivan; Firefighter Gray Nagy; Firefighter Dave Coladonato; Fire Chief Carlo Capaldi; Firefighter Terry Thompson; Mike Florak of the Franciscan University of Steubenville; and Elizabeth DiGregory of the chamber of commerce. The series is sponsored by the Herald-Star, the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, Eastern Gateway Community College, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Trinity Health System and the Health Plan of the Upper Ohio Valley.
-- Dave Gossett
COL. MARK TILLMAN
"His actions on that day when there was so much that was unknown about what could possibly be coming next after the terror attacks in New York City and Washington and the crash of United Flight 93 not too far from here in Shanksville, Pa., were truly heroic," said Gallabrese, surrounded by representatives of the city's police and fire departments.
Tillman commanded Air Force One from 2001 to 2009 and served as the nation's 12th presidential pilot,
Tillman is scheduled to begin speaking at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 11 in the Steubenville High School Auditorium and will be part of a remembrance of the losses of Sept. 11 and a salute to area first responders and military personnel.
Presenting sponsors for the series include Eastern Gateway Community College, the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Trinity Health System, the Health Plan of the Upper Ohio Valley and WTRF-TV. Special support is being provided by Bayberry House Bed and Breakfast, Piergallini Catering, Newbrough Photo, Thrifty Car Rental and Steubenville City Schools.
Reserved seat tickets for the Sept. 11 presentation cost $20 each, Gallabrese said, but thanks to the generous support of area sponsors, area first responders and military personnel - active and retired - will have the opportunity to receive a free ticket to the event, while supplies last.
"The unbelievable brutality that many of us actually witnessed on Sept. 11, 2001, must be remembered and mourned. The heroes who tried to mitigate the damage that day must be celebrated and thanked. The efforts of so many to make us safer since that fateful day must be praised. Sept. 11, each year, should be a day of reflection and prayer. I am grateful that our community is making a special effort to do so this year," said Christine Hargrave of Cattrell Cos. Inc., one of the sponsors of those free tickets.
Tillman also was the first pilot to fly the commander-in-chief into a war zone. The challenge faced by Tillman was unprecedented - to transport the most targeted man in the world into the heart of terrorism. One mistake could have proven deadly.
Tillman personally orchestrated and executed the covert operation with flawless success. His planning, done in complete secrecy, allowed for a complete surprise for the entire world and resulted in what's considered to be the most daring mission in the history of Air Force One - the transport of President Bush into Baghdad, Iraq, to surprise the troops with Thanksgiving dinner in 2003. He would fly the president into Iraq on three other occasions.
Tillman was born on Dec. 27, 1957, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He received a bachelor's of science degree in chemical engineering from Tulane University in 1979. Upon his commission to the Air Force, he served as a rocket propulsion engineer before being selected for pilot training.
His flying experience includes time as a T-37 instructor pilot for undergraduate pilot training; a C-130 transport pilot; time in the VIP airlift as a pilot in the Gulfstream III and IV; and presidential pilot in VC-25, the familiar Boeing 747-400 that serves as Air Force One.
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 2004 and promoted to brigadier general by the president - the first military line officer to receive the honor, though he was not confirmed by the Senate Armed Forces Committee.
He flew President Bush to every state except Vermont, and on 49 foreign trips to 75 countries. His final mission at the controls of the Boeing 747 came on Jan. 20, 2009, when he flew Bush and his family home to Texas, a military courtesy to the former president.
"Tillman is a great way to follow our spring presentation with Capt. Richard Phillips," said Rich DeLuca, president of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce. "Given the involvement of our next speaker in the history-altering events that we all refer to as 9-11, it became quite clear that this next series is not only appropriate but necessary as a continuing memorial to those who were victims as well as those who were heroes in any aspect surrounding the events of that day."
Reserved seat tickets for Tillman's appearance will go on sale at 8 a.m. Tuesday. A limited number of VIP packages are available by contacting the chamber at (740) 282-6226.
Reserved seats for the 7:30 p.m. presentation in the Steubenville High School Auditorium are priced at $20. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Herald-Star, 401 Herald Square, Steubenville, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and through 1 p.m. Sept. 11. Credit card orders can be made by calling (740) 283-4711 on those same dates and times. Mail orders can be paid by check or credit card by sending a request to the Herald-Star, 401 Herald Square, Steubenville, OH 43952. Forms will be available in advertisements that will appear in area newspapers.
Persons paying by credit card also can order tickets at www.heraldstaronline.com.
A very limited number of VIP packages will be available. The packages, which cost $150 per person, include a private reception with Tillman at Bayberry House Bed and Breakfast on North Fourth Street in Steubenville prior to the presentation. The package includes cocktails, hors d'oeurves, the opportunity to have a picture taken with Tillman and a ticket to the presentation.
Contact the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce at (740) 282-6266 for details and availability of VIP packages, DeLuca said.
Gallabrese said area first responders and military personnel, active and retired, will have the opportunity to receive one free ticket to the event, while supplies last.
Tickets can be picked up at the Herald-Star during regular business hours with proper identification. This opportunity is made possible through the generosity of the several sponsors including Cattrell Cos. Inc., platinum level; Ambulance Service Inc., Axess Management, First Choice America Community Federal Credit Union, Hauser's Furniture, Mosti Funeral Home and the Rotary Club of Steubenville, gold level; and Apollo Pro Cleaning, Em-Media, Frank and Jerry Furniture and Appliances, Heritage Complete Home Health Care, McBane Insurance, McDonnell Chiropractic, New York Life, Sterling Auto Body and Tri-State Financial Services, silver level.
The Herald-Star, Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Speaker Series started in September 2012 when representatives of the Herald-Star, the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and major sponsors Eastern Gateway Community College and Franciscan University of Steubenville announced plans for the inaugural presentation in the series.
More than 900 residents from around the Tri-State Area gathered in the Steubenville High School Auditorium to hear retired Secret Service Special Agent Clint Hill and his co-author, Lisa McCubbin, speak about Hill's work on the protective detail of first lady Jacqueline Kennedy on Nov. 14, 2012.
Hill, the Secret Service agent who is seen jumping onto the back of the presidential limousine during the assassination of John F. Kennedy, described what it was like to work around the Kennedys and shared his memories of the shooting in Dallas.
The second speaker in the lecture series featured retired CIA officer Antonio Mendez and his wife Johnna spoke on April 9, 2013, about their efforts to rescue six American hostages from the Canadian embassy in Tehran.
The Mendez work was later dramatized in the award winning film "Argo."
The speaker series continued on April 3 of this year when approximately 900 area residents listened as Richard Phillips told the personal story of the hijacking of the Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates in 2009.
Phillips was held as a human shield in a small lifeboat for several days before he was rescued by Navy SEALs.
His book, "A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs and Dangerous Days at Sea," was the inspiration for the 2013 film "Captain Phillips" and for his inspirational talk at Steubenville High School.
(Gossett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)