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He Was Flight 11's Pilot. To His Daughter, He Was Dad And A Farmer First03:58
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Pilot John Ogonowski of Dracut, killed on American Airlines Flight 11 in the September 11th attacks. (Photo courtesy of Laura Ogonowski)
Pilot John Ogonowski of Dracut, killed on American Airlines Flight 11 in the September 11th attacks. (Photo courtesy of Laura Ogonowski)

Laura Ogonowski was 16 years old on 9/11. She was pulled out of her high school classroom and told her father had been killed.

John Ogonowski was the captain of American Airlines Flight 11 — the first plane hijackers crashed into the World Trade Center.

Ogonowski was also a full-time farmer in Dracut, where he grew hay, blueberries, and peaches.

The community will come together to pay tribute to Ogonowski on Saturday, the 20th anniversary of 9/11, by honoring his love of farming and the way he used it to help others. The eldest of his three daughters, Laura Ogonowski, spoke with WBUR's Jack Lepiarz.

Interview Highlights

On her father never being far from her thoughts:

"He is on my mind all the time, every single day. And it's really important for me and my mom and my sisters that we keep him ever-present. We all have photos of him at our homes. We talk about him all the time. We laugh about memories that we have with him. And for us, that keeps his spirit with us. And it's really important to us as a family that that we do that, because he was taken from us, he was stolen from us, and he had so much life to live."

In addition to being an airline pilot, John Ogonowski of Dracut was a full-time farmer until he died on 9/11. (Photo courtesy of Laura Ogonowski)
In addition to being an airline pilot, John Ogonowski of Dracut was a full-time farmer until he died on 9/11. (Photo courtesy of Laura Ogonowski)

On the significance of the farming-oriented community event honoring her father:

"He was a farmer at heart. I think he loved flying planes, but in his heart and his soul, he was a farmer. He was driving tractors well before he had his driver's license ... And the events that are happening in Dracut are actually happening through our family parish, St. Francis [Parish]. Each year since the 10-year commemoration, they've honored my father by hosting a farm stand and a food drive to help raise money for a local food pantry ... I think that there's really no finer way to honor his memory than by engaging with local farmers and by helping those in need.

"Not only did he farm, he liked sharing farming and talking about farming with others ... There was a program that he had recently partnered with on our farm, where he helped Cambodian immigrants and loaned part of our farmland to them to help them cultivate produce and sell at local farmers markets ... It was something he was so passionate for."

On how she and her family feel her father's spirit:

"You know, he's really frozen in time as a 50-year-old man, as the man that left [home] that morning. He'll forever be in my mind at that age, with his big, radiant blue eyes ... We miss him so much, and I feel such sadness. I think that's really probably my biggest emotion, is the sadness — that he was such a vibrant person, he was robbed of that and has missed out on so much. But I also am just filled with such pride that he was my father and the legacy that he left ... I do feel lucky that I have memories of him — not as many memories as I would like, not as many memories as I should have, but wonderful memories, nonetheless."

Mary, Caroline and Laura Ogonowski with their mother, Peggy Ogonowski Hatch, in 2016. (Photo courtesy of Laura Ogonowski)
Mary, Caroline and Laura Ogonowski with their mother, Peggy Ogonowski Hatch, in 2016. (Photo courtesy of Laura Ogonowski)

This segment aired on September 10, 2021.

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