EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Remembering 9/11

September 11, 2011

John Ogonowski: Sept. 11 a defining moment for family

DRACUT — Everything about White Gate Farm reminds Jim Ogonowski of his older brother.

John Ogonowski worked as a pilot, but also harvested hay, peaches and blueberries on land he bought in the 1990s. When he was killed on 9/11, Jim stepped in and saved the farm.

"I will always refer to it as my brother's farm," said Jim. "It gives you a lot of pride."

John was the pilot of American Airlines Flight 11, the first hijacked plane to crash into the World Trade Center. He was 50 years old and left behind a wife and three daughters.

Jim, 53, said it's hard to believe he's now older than his brother.

"I've now farmed on his land longer than he did," Jim said.

The brothers never talked much about their careers — Jim retired in 2007 as a lieutenant colonel with the Air National Guard — but Jim said farming was "our bond and our common link."

He's reminded of that fact nearly every time a farming show airs on television.

"I still to this day, 10 years later, want to reach for the phone and give him a call," said Jim.

Jim said his brother was a "take-charge guy" and the leader of their family. But the terrorist attacks did more than change the Ogonowskis forever.

They also had a significant impact on Jim's career. From 2001 to 2007, he flew regular aircraft refueling missions in the Middle East.

"I still have friends over there," said Jim.

After retiring, Jim made an unexpected bid for U.S. Congress, running four years ago as a Republican before ultimately losing to Lowell Democrat Niki Tsongas in a special election.

"You learn something every day," said Jim about his venture into politics. "I never wanted to be a politician. I really wanted to be a spokesman for the people."

Jim said 9/11 served as a defining moment both for his family and his country. Every day, he said, there are reminders about what he's lost and what has changed.

"It's incredibly difficult to believe it's been 10 years," said Ogonowski. "It seems like just yesterday for us family members."

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