TSA operations turned 20 years old this weekend at New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR).
Just 11 months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, EWR launched a new security system under TSA oversight on Aug. 13, 2002. New TSA officers staffed Newark’s security checkpoints.
The federalization of EWR held special significance in thwarting possible future terrorist attacks and was extra meaningful to the region. On Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked United Flight 93 out of Newark, which crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing all 40 passengers and crew members on board. Flight 93, which was originally en route from Newark to San Francisco, departed from Newark’s Terminal A on that fateful day.
TSA leaders at EWR commemorated the 20th anniversary of the federalization of Newark Liberty International Airport by handing out 20 years of service certificates and pins to dozens of employees.
Approximately 1,300 TSA employees work at Newark, 225 of whom have served TSA and the traveling public since the beginning.
“From our initial federalization as a TSA airport on August 13, 2002, until the present moment, the TSA team here at Newark Liberty has been executing our mission successfully and in recognition and honor of the passengers and crew of United Flight 93,” said New Jersey Federal Security Director Thomas Carter.
“On that terrible day, the passengers and crew decided to fight the hijackers to ensure another building was not targeted, resulting in the loss of even more innocent lives,” Carter said. “Those passengers were the very first individuals who stood up to the evil of 9/11 and with their actions declare: ‘Enough!’ We strive to press that sentiment forward, and we come to work each and every day with that same mindset – never again.”
The fact so many TSA employees at Newark have been with the agency since its start-up is “testimony to your commitment and dedication in the service of others and our country,” said Melanie Harvey, deputy executive assistant administrator for TSA’s Security Operations. “The backbone of our agency and our success has always been you. … It is your effort that drives to provide the most effective security in the world – protecting people and securing transportation.”
Harvey grew up near Shanksville and told those assembled that her family members felt the impact from about 20 miles away when Flight 93 crashed. She also noted that she has visited the Flight 93 Memorial, saying, “It is a moving and beautiful tribute to the heroism of the crew and passengers on that flight.”
Retired Newark Federal Security Director Donald Drummer returned to Newark to attend the ceremony and also spoke to the crowd of nearly 80 in attendance. He stressed the value of the agility of the workforce and their personal integrity and character. He also commended their continued dedication to the mission.
“We are a team of dedicated professionals focused on our mission to ensure that travelers get to their destinations safely,” said Carter. “During the past 20 years, we have met and overcome numerous challenges from the initial start-up to making substantial and routine enhancements to our security operating posture and procedures in order to make the adjustments necessary to address the evolving threats of our adversaries. We have worked through government shutdowns, hurricanes and now a pandemic. We have persevered through the past two decades and still continue to execute our mission effectively and efficiently.”
Carter pointed out that the Newark team’s “dedication and perseverance is furthered by the fact that we have 225 employees who have been here at Newark every single day for the last 20 years – our entire existence. They are our rocks, our leaders, who serve as mentors to our new folks, many of whom were too young to remember the horrific events of 9/11.”
TSA partners from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the FBI, United and American Airlines also attended the ceremony.
The airport’s name was changed from Newark International Airport to Newark Liberty International Airport in 2002 to pay tribute to the victims of the 9/11 attacks and to the Statue of Liberty, which is located only a few miles from the airport.
By Lisa Farbstein, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs