Monday, September 11, 2006

A Tribute: Jeff Mladenik

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001 Jeff Mladenik, along with co-worker Andrew Curry Green, boarded American Airlines Flight 11 and took his seat in Business Class row 11. The night before, as he spoke with his wife Suzanne by phone from a hotel in Boston, he said he was exhausted, had a headache, and was not looking forward to the cross-country flight.

Jeff had departed from his home in Hinsdale, Illinois (near Chicago) on Monday to attend a business meeting in Boston before flying to Los Angeles on Tuesday to fulfill his duties as interim CEO of eLogic, an internet publishing company. When he was selected for the executive position a few months before, he and Sue were not interested in relocating their children to California. At that time they had two daughters, Kelly, 21, and Grace, 4, two sons, Joshua, 18, and Daniel, 17, and a baby in China named Hannah, whose exact age is unknown. (Her adoption was under way when Mr. Mladenik boarded the plane on Sept. 11.) Instead of moving the whole family because of his promotion, Jeff regularly commuted to Los Angeles on Monday mornings, and returned home on Friday evening. Sue said he loved his family, did not like traveling, and was anxious for the weekly traveling to LA to end.

Jeff is described by friends and family as a man of strong Christian faith, godly character and strong integrity, who used the time on his frequent, lengthy air commutes to read his Bible. Beyond his roles as a husband, father, and businessman, Sue says "he would like to be remembered as a Christian who walked his faith every day and in every way". It was this Christian faith that prompted him to pursue his Masters degree in Theology, which he earned from Wheaton College in 1996. He joined the staff at Christ Church of Oak Brook on a part-time basis, where he taught a weekly young couples bible study class, and started the "Faith at Work" group. He was ordained in 1999 by the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, and served as the Pastor of Workplace Ministries at Christ Church, leading discussions about faith in the workplace.

Sadly, the flight Jeff boarded on September 11 would not return him home safely to his family. When terrorists forcibly took control of the plane, Jeff was seated one row behind the last terrorist. A passenger two rows ahead of him was killed in flight - some speculate that he tried to stop the hijackers. At 8:46am, just over 30 minutes after the hijacking began, American Airlines flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. All on board, including Jeff Mladenik, were killed instantly.

In the midst of the chaos and turmoil, and even in the face of death, Sue is confident that Jeff's Christian faith sustained him. "I am absolutely certain that Jeff was calming the other passengers. He is the hero. He traveled with a bible and would have been praying with and for everyone."

Jeff's friend's echo her sentiments.

"You couldn't be around him without being affected by his enthusiasm for God," said Bill Cirignani, a friend from church. "I had been a Christian for six years, and had gotten stale, a little bit awry," but Mr. Mladenik, an ordained minister, reignited him, he said.
"He used his airplane time as his Bible time," said Cirignani, "And I'm sure Jeff would have had that Bible open when the plane was being hijacked and he would have been talking to those other passengers and praying with them."

Sue quoted another of Jeff's friends, who said "There is no doubt in my mind that right then, right there, Jeff had the presence of mind and took a plane load of people to Christ"

Writing a tribute to a man I have never met was an intimidating prospect when I first signed up for the 2,996 project. But if Jeff lived his life the way his friends described, it would have been an honor to know him. It has been an honor to learn about him and remember him today, on the 5th anniversary of this national tragedy. As you remember those who lost loved ones on September 11, please keep the Mladenik family in your prayers. I rejoice that as Christians, the Mladeniks have the ultimate consolation, Jesus Christ, as their source of peace and comfort. May they know His nearness to them today, and always.

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Memorials for Jeff Mladenik can be made to:
Altrusa Foundation
attn: Peggy Gurrad
P.O. Box 1354
Longview, WA 98632

Altrusa, a not-for-profit agency, promotes orphanage assistance programs in China. One of their projects helps to sponsor children in Chinese orphanages, allowing them to study, gain access to medical care, and live with foster families. Over the years, Altrusa has helped thousands of children in China. Three of the Mladenik’s daughters, Grace, Hannah (whose adoption was in-process at the time of Jeff's death), and Bethany (adopted in 2004) were adopted from an orphanage in China. For more information about Altrusa, see their website at: http://www.altrusa.ws/.
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Resources used and quoted in this tribute, and links to other tributes to Jeff Mladenik:

The Mladenik family web site

Dateline newscast: Interview with members of Jeff's class at church

Tribute from June2001 DTC (Dossier to China) group

New York Times Legacy Page

Another 2,996 blogger tribute to Mr. Mladenik

9/11 Commission Official Report


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click here to read more tributes to the victims of the terror attacks of Sept 11

8 comments:

  1. wow, great information and research...i knew some friends who were at Weaton about the time he probably went there.

    bizarre, stuff...thank you for this touching tribute.

    --RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

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  2. a wonderful tribute Sarah
    i pray that Jeff's family find comfort in our Lord

    I am honouring Joseph Maffeo

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  3. That was a wonderful tribute, Sarah. Jeff Mladenik sounds like an incredible man of God and I was moved by his story.

    I so wanted to honor someone today and had e-mailed for a name, but it never came. However I did write my personal memories.

    Blessings!
    ~Tammy

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  4. Lovely tribute; well written and researched.

    Such difficult and tragic moments, yet it seems as if his family is truly trusting God in them.

    Praise God for Jeff and his family and his faith. Bless you for choosing to raise the memory of someone you've never met.

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  5. I loved reading your tribute and am moved by his story. Sadly, not many men can effectively balance the executive-level high-tech world and a resounding faith in God. Sounds like he did both beautifully. What an inspirational man.

    My prayers go out to his family, and yes, may they rejoice in knowing that Jeff gained the ultimate reward that day.

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    Sorry for offtopic

    ReplyDelete
  7. Sue Mladenik12/12/2009 8:24 PM

    I just wanted to thank you for the tribute to my husband Jeff. I had never seen it before, someone sent it to me today...over 3 years later.

    Thank you
    www.mladenik.com

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  8. I knew Jeff, we attended North Central College together and completed our Masters project as a team. Jeff was pursuing dual Masters degrees, one in theology and one in business so that he might some day be able to not travel and spend more time at home with his family. Jeff was truly a beautiful person, bright, thoughtful and from my perspective,introspectively religious. It broke my heart to see his picture on television the morning after 9/11.

    For all his and his families sacrifices I pray there is a heaven.

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