STEUBENVILLE - Anyone who enjoyed an Air Force career that spanned 30 years certainly would have some interesting stories to tell about all he or she had seen and experienced.
That's certainly the case with Mark Tillman.
The retired colonel, who was the commander of Air Force One between 2001 and 2009, will appear at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 11 in the Steubenville High School auditorium when the Herald-Star, Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Speaker Series resumes. His presentation will be a part of a remembrance of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, as well as a salute to area first responders and military personnel, active and retired.
NOTIFYING THE PRESIDENT — Chief of Staff Andy Card whispered into the ear of President George W. Bush on Sept. 11, 2001, to give him word of the plane crashes at the World Trade Center. The president learned about the attacks during a visit to the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Fla. -- Associated Press
Tillman, who was born on Dec. 27, 1957, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., began his career in the Air Force as a rocket propulsion engineer before he was selected for pilot training. He flew C-130s in various tactical airlift roles before joining the VIP transport division as a military Gulfstream pilot. His leadership and airmanship skills led to his selection as the nation's 12th presidential pilot.
As commander of the Boeing 747 that serves as Air Force One, Tillman had the opportunity to experience many historical events firsthand. That includes being responsible for protecting President George W. Bush after the terror attack of Sept. 11, keeping Bush out of harm's way and ensuring the flying Oval Office was able to stay connected to the nation's first responders.
In 2003, Tillman became the first pilot to fly a president into a war zone. That flight, which was planned in complete secrecy, safely delivered Bush to Baghdad, Iraq, and allowed the president to visit with the troops for Thanksgiving dinner.
In August 2005, Tillman safely flew the president to Louisiana to survey the damage left by Hurricane Katrina.
Tillman would fly Bush to every state except Vermont, and on 49 foreign trips to 75 countries.
"I have a tremendous vantage point on Air Force One," Tillman recalled while speaking on Feb. 29, 2012, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton.
"... I've seen some amazing things from that vantage point. I've seen kings and queens at the foot of the stairs. I've seen people come to see the United States of America roll onto their soil. They're so impressed with the United States of America. That's what that 747 is. We're delivering you, the United States of America, onto foreign soil."
Reserved seat tickets for the Sept. 11 presentation are available for $20 each at the Herald-Star, 401 Herald Square, Steubenville. Credit card orders can be placed online by visiting heraldstaronline.com or weirtondailytimes.com and clicking on the speaker series button in the left column of the homepage. Phone orders can be placed by calling (740) 283-4711.
VIP packages for the presentation can be purchased by contacting the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, 630 Market St., at (740) 282-6226. The packages sell for $150 each and include a reception with Tillman at the Bayberry House Bed and Breakfast; cocktails and hors d'oeurves; the opportunity to have a picture taken with Tillman; transportation to and from the presentation at the high school; and a ticket to the presentation in a priority seating area.
Each of our area's first responders and servicemen and women, active and retired, is eligible to receive one free reserved seat ticket to the Sept. 11 program, while supplies last. The tickets may be claimed at the Herald-Star, 401 Herald Square, during regular business hours with proper identification.
The free tickets are available thanks to the generosity of several area business and organizations, including Catrell Cos. Inc., platinum level; Ambulance Service Inc., Axess Management Group LLC, First Choice America Community Federal Credit Union, Hauser's Furniture 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, Mosti Funeral Home, Sterling Auto Body and Tri-State Financial Services, silver level.
Once again, the support of the Health Plan of the Upper Ohio Valley will allow area students to attend the presentation at no charge. Distribution of those tickets is being coordinated by school officials throughout the Tri-State Area.
Presenting sponsors for the series include Eastern Gateway Community College, the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Trinity Health System, the Health Plan and WTRF-TV.
Special support is being provided by Bayberry House Bed and Breakfast, Piergallini Catering, Steubenville High School, Newbrough Photo and Hertz-Thrifty Car Rental.