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September 11 Memorial: Remembering the victims who died at the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania

Tom Heidenberger, of Chevy Chase, says he is one of the fortunate ones because he got to share so much of his life with his wife before she died.
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Michele M. Heidenberger

Age: 57

Hometown: Chevy Chase, Md., USA

Occupation: Flight attendant, American Airlines

Location: Crew, American Flight 77, Pentagon

"Michele received these gold wings for her first five years of service as a flight attendant. They were not earned lightly, nor were they worn without pride. Michele was with American 31 years and was known for her professionalism and devotion to helping others. She was a hero, a mother, a wife--not just our best friend, but a friend to so, so many. Michele touched literally hundreds of lives in her generous, cheerful way." -- Tom Heidenberger, husband


As a flight attendant for American Airlines, Michele Heidenberger was trained to handle a hijacking.

She knew not to let anyone enter the cockpit. Instead, she would tell the hijacker that she didn't have a key and would have to call the pilots.

In the end, none of her training mattered.

Heidenberger, of Chevy Chase, was one of 64 people killed when American Flight 77 from Dulles Airport bound for Los Angeles was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon. Four of the dead were flight attendants; two were pilots.

"I'm just so heartbroken," neighbor Ruby Ramer said. "I just can't believe she won't be one of our neighbors."

Heidenberger lived with her husband, Tom, a pilot for US Airways, and their 11-year-old son and college-age daughter, neighbors said. She relished working in her flower garden and walking her new golden retriever puppy.

"She was a lovely lady," said neighbor Peter Dove, who answered Heidenberger's telephone yesterday. "We were such over-the-fence neighbors that we cut a gate in the fence."

Source: The Washington Post, AP and

The profiles in this feature were written in the months following Sept. 11, 2001.

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A day after the 9/11 attacks a makeshift memorial was created on the Arlington Memorial Cemetery fence. Seven years later, the first 9/11 memorial is opening.

Related Coverage:

3-Dimensional Virtual Memorial

Victims Remembered in Maryland

One Family's Loss

Stepping Through the Ashes

Pentagon Under Attack

Five Year Anniversary Coverage

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