‘Never forget 9/11’ – One of America’s darkest days

United Airlines crashes into the World Trade Center’s south tower, killing hundreds inside building and everyone aboardUA Flight 175. (FB)
Photo journalist Michael Walters stopped taking pictures and started to cry after ‘seeing people screaming, jumping out of the building, arms flailing’… FB

September 11, marks the 17th anniversary of the tragedies in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania when terrorists on September 11, 2001, orchestrated by Osama Bin Laden, hijacked four commercial airplanes from the East Coast enroute to the West Coast, using them as weapons.

American Airlines Flight 11 slammed the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City at 8:46 am, followed not long after by a second plane, United Airlines Flight 175 that struck the South Tower of the WTC at 9:03 am. American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the western side of the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, at 9:37 a.m. ET, claiming the lives of 59 persons on board and 125 on the ground; and later, United Airlines Flight 93 crashed at a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.Were it not for the passengers’ valiant actions, the fourth airplane would have smashed yet another target. It is believed that the intended building was either the White House or the Capitol.

A grieving nation mourned the death of 2,996 people and more than 6,000 others who were injured in the attacks and whose lives were forever changed after experiencing the tragedies.There were 20 Filipinos and Filipino Americans who died on September 11, 2001; and 19hijackers also died.

The White House reported that the airborne terrorist attacks “transformed America’s 43rd President George W. Bush into a wartime president. The attacks put on hold many of Bush’s hopes and plans, and Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, the 41st president, declared that his son ‘faced the greatest challenge of any president since Abraham Lincoln.’”

The younger Pres. Bush said then: “Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror. The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge structures collapsing, have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness and a quiet, unyielding anger.”

Ruben Ornedo was aboard American Airlines Flight 77
PNews file photo

Ruben Ornedo

As we remember the national tragedy, a mother is reminded of one of its heroes every time she sees her 16-year-old daughter Robin, named after her father. She was born on January 31. 2002.

Ruben S. Ornedo, 39, was aboard American Airlines Flight 77, enroute to Los Angeles from Washington’s Dulles Airport. A Boeing Satellite Systems employee, he welcomed a lull during his extended business trip to Washington, D.C., and seized the chance to rush home to be with his pregnant wife, if only for a day or two. He was supposed to return home on Sept. 17.

Sheila Marie and daughter Robin
Lydia V. Solis file photo

“When my health and the health of our yet-to-be-born baby were at risk,” Ruben’s widow Sheila told this writer during an interview in 2011, “he stayed by my side night and day. He never complained about any inconveniences. His main concern was for me to get well and to save our baby. He was worried about us – reason he wanted to rush home.

Sheila Marie and baby Robin
Lydia V. Solis file photo

“I felt some guilt,” Sheila continued, “over not forcing my husband to stay on and work, but then, who am I to question God,” she asked.

Ruben began his career at Hughes Aircraft Company in 1985, after graduating from UCLA in 1984, with a Computer Engineering degree. For over 15 years at Hughes and Boeing in El Segundo, Calif., he played a key role in many projects that were of vital importance to the defense and security of our nation. He was known as ‘Ornedo the Tornado,’ according to Sheila, for his hard work, diligence, and quick action as a lead engineer in the satellite systems and engineering organization. He was rated as an outstanding performer by supervisors and co-workers alike.

Ruben and Sheila Marie were married on June 9, 2001, and were still honeymooners when tragedy struck.

“I miss him terribly,” Sheila expressed then. “I miss that big smile, which was contagious. I think that’s one of the reasons I fell in love with him. He was also an easy-going guy,” she added, “and loved nature and the outdoors. He was a world traveler, went on hiking and mounting-climbing trips as far as India, and his favorite was Mount Makalu.”Makalu, on the Nepal/Tibetan border, is the fifth highest mountain in the world at 27,767 feet.

Asked how she feels at the present, Sheila has this to say:  “Osama Bin Laden’s death gave some closure. Somehow, I feel that justice has been done. I feel a load off my chest.”

Bin Laden, called “the face of global terrorism and architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks,” was reported killed by American forces on May 1, 2011, Pakistani time, in a firefight at his hideout not far from the Pakistan military academy.

“When we heard in school that Bin Laden died,” Robin added, “I told my classmates that he’s the guy that tries to kill people like my dad.”

“There is no doubt in my mind,” Sheila told this writer, “that my husband and the other victims are heroes. The men who took their lives wanted to sabotage our freedom. I tell my daughter that her father is truly a hero and an inspiration to all whose lives he had touched.”

Sheila has scrapbooks with tributes to her husband from co-workers, friends, and government officials, and she said she will keep reading them to her daughter so she would know what people thought of her father.