Laura, Caroline and Mary Ogonowski lost their father, Capt. John Ogonowski, on Sept. 11, 2001, when the plane he was piloting, American Airlines Flight 11, was hijacked and crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.
After retiring from the U.S. Air Force, John became a commercial pilot and flew for American Airlines for 25 years. Though he spent his career in the air, his real love was farming. John grew up on a farm in Massachusetts and dedicated his life to preserving farmland and open spaces. He was committed to giving back and lived his life for others. Before his death, he became involved in a program that helped immigrant farmers from Cambodia and Vietnam. He mentored the farmers and even gave them pieces of his land so they could plant and grow their own crops and sell them in farmers markets.
John lived his life in service to others, and today, Laura, Caroline and Mary honor their father’s memory by doing the same. In the weeks and months following Sept. 11, many people stepped forward to offer support to the Ogonowski family. Donating blood with the American Red Cross has provided the Ogonowskis a meaningful way to give back while honoring their father. Laura, the eldest of the sisters, began donating blood in high school – as soon as she was old enough to give. As a student, Caroline organized blood drives on her college campus and later served as a member of the board of directors for the Red Cross of Massachusetts. Mary has followed in her older sisters’ footsteps and is also a blood donor. Each year, they donate together during the Day of Remembrance Blood Drive at Fenway Park in Boston sponsored by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the Boston Red Sox and the Red Cross.
“On Sept. 11, our family goes to a lot of solemn commemorations that are held throughout the city,” said Laura. “The morning is spent remembering and reflecting, and somehow, being part of giving blood in the afternoon at Fenway Park is a really nice way to end the day – it’s a good way to do something to help others in need.”
In 2009, Congress designated Sept. 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance – uniting Americans in service in the same way that so many united following the attacks. The Ogonowskis feel that donating blood or platelets is a fitting way to commemorate the day. It’s a small act that can have a life-changing impact for others.
“After 9/11 the American people rushed to give blood as a way of giving back after the attacks,” said Caroline. “Now, on the 15th anniversary, the amount of people who continue to come out and donate blood to honor and remember those lost on that day demonstrates the continued generosity of the American spirit.”
© The American National Red Cross