One special portion of the program included a letter addressed to the students of Manchester and our community from Laura Ogonowski, daughter of American Airlines flight 11 pilot, John Ogonowski. It was read out loud during today's assembly, and we thank Laura for sharing her experience.
"Thank you all for gathering to reflect and remember all of those who were killed on September 11, 2001. I wish that I could be there to share my story with you today, however I am in Boston attending 9/11 commemorations with my family as I do each year. As you know, I lost my father, Captain John Ogonowski who was the captain of American Airlines Flight #11, the first plane to hit the World Trade Center on September 11th. On that day, 14 years ago today, I was the same age as many of you, a sophomore at Bishop Guertin High School in Nashua. I had celebrated my 16th birthday 5 days earlier. I was in my second class of the day when I saw my teacher abruptly leave the classroom to speak with another teacher – she looked anxious, panicked and remarked that “today will go down in history.” I had a sinking feeling in my stomach, I knew that something was very wrong. Even though I didn’t know what had happened at this point, I was worried sick because I knew my Dad was flying that day. A few moments later, the vice principal of my school pulled me out of my classroom and grabbed me by the hand to walk me to meet with my sister. As we turned the corner, I saw my sister, who had just begun her freshman year, standing at the end of the hall, looking like her knees were about to give way. Her teacher had just told her that our father had been killed, at that moment, the vice principal told me the news too. I felt sick. They took us to a room where we could be together and very shortly after drove us back to our home, our farm in Dracut, Massachusetts, we were crying the entire way, not knowing the extent of what had happened but knowing that we were never going to see our father again.
The next several days and weeks were spent trying to understand what had happened while the country was in shock and mourned together. It was 14 years ago but I remember that day like it was yesterday, I remember knowing at a young age that my life would never be the same and that our country was going to be a very different place too.
While I was thinking about what I wanted to share with you today, I wanted to make sure that I thanked each of you for never forgetting what happened to my father, Captain John Ogonowski and what happened to nearly 3,000 innocent souls who went to work that morning and never returned to home to see their families again.
I also wanted to give you a glimpse at one of the remarkable lives that was stolen, the life of my dad.
On the first commemoration of the 9/11 attacks, September 11, 2002, my Uncle Jim, my father’s younger brother addressed a group of American Airlines pilots through an e-mail to my Dad, an e-mail of course, that he would never send, his words ring true today and I wanted to share an excerpt from that e-mail with you:
To my brother John,
I haven’t seen you in one year, and what a year it has been.
Your last day with us last year started like so many before. You woke at to be in Boston for an flight. You quickly showered and dressed, looked in your 3 sleeping daughters, kissed your wife Peg, and headed out the door. As you drove out your driveway and down by uncle Al’s house, you gave him your customary 2 short toots of your horn, that was the last communication anyone in the family would have with you...
It was a gorgeous New England fall day. A sad, picturesque ending to a remarkable life. Senators, Congressman, friends, and neighbors joined with all of your family. A large military contingent, people from the Agriculture community, Veterans groups… Need I go on? John, your memorial service was broadcast live on all of the Boston TV stations and some worldwide stations. Peg asked me to say a few words at your service. I was honored. I spoke of your 4 loves, which I feel made you the man you were:
- I spoke of your love of country
- Love of flying
- Love of farming
- And most importantly your love of family
Since that time there isn’t a day that goes by without us thinking of you and how you impacted our lives.
I spoke about our great country for which you served in the military and loved so much: John, as I reflect back on the day that our hearts cried out, 9-11, something else happened in the country.
I noted the irony that the airlines hijacked were from airlines named United and American. United Americans, …standing tall! A new-found patriotism appeared all across our great land. It was a patriotism not displayed since WWII. Our flag flies proudly from sea to shining sea.. I can proudly say that we remain as: ONE NATION UNDER GOD, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
We must not forget what happened to you and over 3000 others - or it will happen again…
I’ll end by thanking you, all of the students, faculty and staff at Manchester for never forgetting September 11, 2001. God Bless America."