Remembering 9/11: Peg Ogonowski

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September 5, 2011, 10:22 pm

(NECN: Eileen Curran: Dracut, Mass.) -  On September 11, 2001, Peg Ogonowski went from being a wife and mother--to being the "pilot's widow". It's a role she has handled with dignity and grace for the past ten years, as she preserved her husband's memory and learned to move on from the tragedy.

 On her Dracut, MA farm Peg Ogonowski knows how to pick the perfect peach and is gracious enough to teach a novice.  "These are great they're just little ones," she said plucking the ripened fruit off a tree.

 The peach trees along with 300 blueberry bushes were planted by her late husband, John Ogonowski.

 "It's his legacy now," she said.

 John Ogonowski was the captain of American Flight 11--the first plane to hit the World Trade Center on September 11th.  Peg, who was a flight attendant for American Airlines as the time, got a new, unwelcomed title that day--the pilot's widow.

 "It was that moment of before and after," said Ogonowski. "There was my whole life before and then everything changed. It was a real line in my life that there will always be before 9/11 and after 9/11."

 She mourned the loss, along with her three daughters, in front of a national audience. At first it didn't seem real or even possible.

 "I've heard other people say too they still expect the person to walk in the back door.  I did too, my mind played tricks on me. (I thought) that it was just somehow a mistake, even though I knew it wasn't."

 It took two years before that feeling passed. Her brother-in-law took care of the farm, while Peg focused her attention on helping her daughters.

 "It was hard at first you'd hear people whisper, 'Oh, they're the ones-- it was their father-- it was her husband.' That's very difficult-- it makes you feel very self conscious. You don't need to be reminded of it all the time because it's always there anyway."

 Her town was very supportive, dedicating a square in John's memory and installing a piece of the World Trade Center steel outside the fire station to remind people about the lives lost that day.

As the years went by, the girls got older and went off to college, and Peg did something she didn't think she'd do.

"I never assumed I'd remarry."

That was until she met Bill Hatch. He shared her love of golf and was comfortable enough with himself to date and marry the pilot's widow.

"To meet my new husband was just a phenomenal bonus," she said.

This spring, 9/11 families saw another day they weren't sure would ever happen--US forces capturing and killing Osama Bin Laden.

"That was a good day," said Ogonowski. "That was a good day. I was very glad that he no longer walks this earth. It just didn't seem right that he was around with all the destruction he caused."

A few years ago, the family received some remains and buried them at the local cemetery but Peg says this isn't where she and the girls feel closest to John, that's at the farm--specifically among the blueberry bushes John Ogonowski tended to so carefully.

"When we go out there to pick blueberries, that is where we feel the closest to John-- it's almost as if his spirit still lives there."

"I think John would be pleased if he could come back and see the way his daughters have turned out, the way his farm is operated, and even if he could meet the man I married, I think he would say: 'Well done.' "

Tags: 9/11, Eileen Curran, John Ogonowski, Remembering 9/11, Peg Ogonowski, Flight 11
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