American, from Boston

“You can sort of hear the silent cheers of 3,000 ghosts.”

American Airlines 767-200ER

Captain John Ogonowski, American Flight 11 from Boston

John Ogonowski wore two uniforms: his navy blue senior captain’s uniform for American Airlines and the blue jeans and denim shirt he wore while working on his 150- acre farm in Dracut, Mass., where he lived with his wife and three daughters.

Twelve days a month, Mr. Ogonowski, 50, flew transcontinental flights. On off days, he tended the farm’s peach orchard, with acres set aside for corn, pumpkins and hay. After supper he often sat in his favorite chair, reading agricultural journals late into the evening.

First Officer Thomas McGuinness, American Flight 11

Two days before his senior prom, Tom F. McGuinness made a life-altering choice: he asked a young woman named Cheryl to be his date. It didn’t give her a lot of time to prepare, but she agreed. “I got a dress and we went to the prom, and we stayed together ever since,” Cheryl McGuinness said recently.

But then Mr. McGuinness, 42, was big on life-altering decisions. About a year and a half ago, he and his wife and children, Jennifer, 16, and Tommy, 14, decided to move back east, to Portsmouth, N.H., from California, in part so Mr. McGuinness could pursue better opportunities with American Airlines. He was the co-pilot on American Airlines Flight 11, which struck the north tower of the World Trade Center.

Flight Attendant Barbara Arestegui

She turned their house into a cozy retreat with a garden out back. They made a habit of walking the cranberry bogs, picking blueberries and having breakfast at the Mills Restaurant. She loved to cook – she dreamed of attending culinary school.

Flight Attendant Jeffrey Collman

His on-the-ground passion was tennis. The week before his death, he attended the United States Open in Queens.

“He had friends all over the world; he was a people person,” said his stepmother, Kay Collman from Yorkville, Ill., his hometown. “He’d know the life histories of his passengers after just one flight.”

Flight Attendant Sara Low

Poised, collected, yet prone to sudden streaks of silliness — a personality to calm even the most enraged traveler. And her job sated her wanderlust, her need for cosmopolitan glamor.

Flight Attendant Karen Martin

In 1989, Ms. Martin became an American Airlines flight attendant and, jumping up onto a chair, proclaimed to her friends: “There is now something special in the air.” She liked to work the long, hard hauls, especially the coast-to-coast “transcons.”

Flight Attendant Kathleen Nicosia

For 32 years, Mrs. Nicosia was a resident of Winthrop and a flight attendent for American Airlines. She enjoyed reading and gardening. She leaves her husband, George; her daughter, Marianne of Winthrop.

Flight Attendant Betty Ong

Betty Ong’s parents and siblings listened to the tape of her speaking with her supervisor during the hijacking, describing what was happening. “She was outstanding, under those circumstances,” Cathie Ong said. “It’s hard for us all to imagine ever being in those shoes. My family and I, we cried. She was just exemplary in her performance, her attitude and everything.”

“She was very take-charge, and we were very proud of her. She was very calm.”

Flight Attendant Jean Roger

The night before Ms. Rogér reported for duty on American Airlines’ Flight 11 to Los Angeles she celebrated Mr. Dowd’s 30th birthday, just the two of them strolling through Boston.

That night Ms. Roger gave Mr. Dowd a card that, he said, summed up her general life philosophy. “She wished me to have love, happiness and peace of mind because really, everything else just comes and goes,” Mr. Dowd said. Despite a late night, the following morning “she went to work with a smile on her face,” Mr. Dowd said. “She was happy as could be.”

Flight Attendant Diane Snyder

Dianne was a loving mother and the best chocolate chip cookie maker. She was an avid tennis player, a Dartmouth Indoor Tennis Club team member and past club champion. She organized tennis groups both in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Gardening was her latest hobby and she nurtured several masterpieces. Her handmade quilts adorn many family and friends’ homes.

Flight Attendant Madeline Sweeney

Madeline Amy Sweeney never went looking for fame, but fame found her on Sept. 11. Her 15 minutes were the last of her life.

Mrs. Sweeney, known as Amy, was a flight attendant aboard American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane to strike the trade center. She called a ground supervisor by air phone and relayed information about the hijackers that gave the F.B.I. a head start on the investigation.

Mrs. Sweeney’s grace under pressure did not surprise her husband, Michael Sweeney, of Acton, Mass. “She would have said she was just doing her job,” he said.

A cockpit view of the sunset, last Christmas Eve. Photo by an American Airlines captain (my husband) who flies the 757 and 767 out of Boston. He also flew the first commercial flight when airspace opened after 9-11, without passengers – repositioning a plane from Boston to New York. His aerial view of Ground Zero was reported to me, when he called after landing, as simply: “A smoking hole.”

The natural function of the wing is to soar upwards and carry that which is heavy up to the place where dwells the race of gods. More than any other thing that pertains to the body it partakes of the nature of the divine. – Plato

Aeronautics was neither an industry nor a science. It was a miracle. – Igor Sikorsky

More than anything else the sensation is one of perfect peace mingled with an excitement that strains every nerve to the utmost, if you can conceive of such a combination. – Wilbur Wright

Flying was a very tangible freedom. In those days, it was beauty, adventure, discovery — the epitome of breaking into new worlds. – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

7 thoughts on “American, from Boston

  1. We attended Tom McGuinness’s memorial service in the big church a few miles up the road. I have never seen more American Airlines uniforms in one place, as normally airline employees are almost everywhere but in one place… and I hope I never will see it again.

  2. After nearly ten years, the only thing I’ve concluded is that evil can only be countered (and you may not always “win”) with good.

  3. This does not exist in nature, not in this life. It’s something we do, something we give and often, too often, when evil has been committed, it has to be delivered at the end of a gun. There is sometimes simply no other way.

    That is the long form of how the SEALS, Marines and Special Forces responded to those simpering fools who would use Wilsonian placation to sooth a savage, only to be ravaged once the wound is healed.

    There is one bumper sticker euphemism that now rings true now, as it did 10 years ago.

    Its not the Marine’s (insert SEALS, Rangers, Green Berets, or whomever)job to judge bin Laden. That belongs to God. It is the Marine’s (insert the same)job to arrange the meeting!

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