Laura Ogonowski was just 16 years old when her world was turned upside down.
“That day that started out so bright and crisp turned out to be the darkest day of my life,” Ogonowski told an auditorium full of students at Quinnipiac University's Buckman Theater Friday.
That day, was September 11, 2001.
She recounted that day in detail; hearing her father, John, leave the house early, as he did everyday, on his way to Boston’s Logan Airport. John Ogonowski was a pilot for American Airlines.
John was the pilot aboard American Airlines Flight 11 on that fateful day. Flight 11 was the first of two planes to be hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center.
“Watching the plane fly into the World Trade Center towers was, and still is the most horrific thing to see,” said Ogonowski.
A 2008 graduate of Quinnipiac, Ogonowski returned to the school to share her story, how the September 11 attacks changed the world, and her life forever.
Now 26, she lives and works in Boston. She grew up in Dracut, Massachusetts, and remembers her father as a hardworking man, a pilot who also ran the family farm.
She was sitting in class the morning he died, and knew immediately something was wrong when a teacher led her out into the hallway.
“Miss Mancer said to me very abruptly 'Laura your father was killed in a plane crash.'”
The days and weeks after the attacks were the hardest, Ogonowski said. The media descended upon the family’s farm. The reality set in her father was never coming home.
“9/11 will always be something that’s a part of our lives. We also don't let it define us either.”
Laura says she, her mom and two younger sisters talk about her father all the time, and strive to keep his memory alive. She says it is difficult around this time every year and that the 10th anniversary doesn't hold much extra meaning to her.
The Ogonowski family will spend Sunday as they have every anniversary - at remembrance ceremonies in Boston - but they do plan on visiting the new memorial at Ground Zero at some point.