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“Today our nation saw evil.” — President George W. Bush



“The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge structures collapsing have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness and a quiet, unyielding anger. These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong. A great people has been moved to defend a great nation.”

The World Trade Center
The Pentagon
United Airlines Flight 93
Department of Defense Memorial Service (October 11, 2001)
Arlington National Cemetery (October 12, 2001)


The World Trade Center




Each of the twin towers that dominated the World Trade Center complex and the New York City skyline burned and collapsed when they were attacked by two hijacked airliners (American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175). The attacks occurred at 8:45 am and 9:00 am (EDT) on September 11, 2001.

More than 2,800 people lost their lives.



We awoke to reports of tragedy and disbelief: airliner crashes, skyscrapers burning and people dying.

Our shock deepened as reports rolled in throughout the morning. Two airliners, apparently hijacked (how could it be otherwise?), slammed into each of the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center. We watched, stunned, as the towers fell, first one and then the other, collapsing in on themselves, their inhabitants and on the city they served.

And with them, lives were shattered, one after the other.


The Pentagon



8:45 am (EDT): American Airlines Flight 77, flying from Washington Dulles to Los Angeles, crashes into the Pentagon after more than an hour in the air. 189 people on the flight and in the Pentagon were killed.




Having boarded American Airlines Flight 77 at Washington Dulles International Airport early in the morning of September 11, 2001, Mari-Rae Sopper had no idea that she and thousands of other innocents would become part of a national tragedy. Ironically, Mari-Rae had served at the Pentagon during her tenure in the Navy JAG Corps.

United Airlines Flight 93

At 10:10 am (EDT) United Airlines Flight 93, also hijacked, crashes in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, southeast of Pittsburgh. Passengers are hailed as heroes because of their attempts (heard over cell phone calls to relatives) to thwart the plans of the hijackers while in the air. It is widely assumed that the hijackers’ planned destination was Washington, D.C.

Department of Defense Memorial Service (October 11, 2001)



Mari-Rae’s name appeared in a scrolling list of the 189 victims at the Pentagon site. President Bush delivered the keynote address.



Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld hosted a Department of Defense Memorial Service on the Pentagon’s Parade Field, where the more than 20,000 invited guests included the family members of those who died.

“We are gathered here to remember, to console and to pray,” said Rumsfeld. “We remember them as heroes, and we are right to do so.”

President George W. Bush delivered the keynote address. His participation was expected, but not confirmed until invitees were seated and received the service program indicating the President’s attendance. His remarks included:

“One life touches so many others. One death can leave sorrow that seems almost unbearable. But to all of you who lost someone here, I want to say: You are not alone. The American people will never forget the cruelty that was done here and in New York, and in the sky over Pennsylvania.”

“We will never forget all the innocent people killed by the hatred of a few. We know the loneliness you feel in your loss. The entire nation shares in your sadness. And we pray for you and your loved ones. And we will always honor their memory.”

Arlington National Cemetery (October 12, 2001)


The family gathered at the John F. Kennedy burial site after Mari-Rae’s funeral service.

Our family and several friends gathered for a private service at Arlington National Cemetery, where Mari-Rae was laid to rest. The Navy service was attended by several officials, including the Judge Advocate General, Rear Admiral Donald J. Guter, who spoke individually with family members before the service. Rear Admiral Guter was visibly moved as he presented an American flag to Mari-Rae’s mother during the service.

Family members noted that the Pentagon crash site was clearly visible from the site of the service, and that the service was the first opportunity many had to personally witness the view.





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