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

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Rosa Maria (Rosemary) Chapa

Age: 64

Hometown: Springfield, Va., USA

Occupation: Civilian employee, Defense Intelligence Agency

Location: Ground, Pentagon

"My mom's dog was one of the most important things in her life. An older pet had died, and she didn't think she could ever love another dog again because of the heartbreak. Then Luckey came along. She was 3 weeks old, and the pound didn't know if she would make it. My mom nursed her to health, buying an eyedropper to feed her every day. The rest is history. Luckey would sit and wait for her every day on the window seat, front legs crossed, waiting for my mom to come home. Even on 9/11 she sat waiting faithfully and would not leave all night long." -- Elza Chapa-McGowan, daughter

Profile:

The visiting Italian air chief couldn't find his uniform. Surely, the U.S. Air Force had lost it, he complained, and, deplorably, forced him to attend meetings in a business suit.

The evening of his complaint, Rosemary Chapa, an Air Force protocol officer, took the man's aide to Andrews Air Force Base, where they found the man's uniform in his official plane.

The Italian general later apologized to Chapa. She thanked him but added that more amends had to be made. The next morning, he apologized to her boss, the Air Force chief of staff.

Chapa, 63, of Springfield, recounted the story in a job application a few months ago.

While growing up in Texas, Chapa used to say that someday she wanted to work at the Pentagon, which she regarded as the most powerful place in the country.

Despite the lack of a college degree and the roles women in her Latino family traditionally took, she succeeded on raw determination: She was a few months from retirement at the Defense Intelligence Agency when she died Tuesday, having worked for more than a decade in the building she loved.

But she had also been devoted to her large family: husband, Javier, five children, her elderly father, four siblings, five grandchildren and two dogs.

On Tuesday morning, right before the hijacked plane hit the Pentagon, she left a phone message for her youngest daughter, Elza, 32, who plans to get married in December. "Hi, darling," she said, "give me a call."

"I miss her more deeply than words can express," Elza wrote in an e-mail to a reporter Saturday night. "She was my best friend. And although she will not be here for my wedding physically, she will walk with me always through life."

-- Michael E. Ruane

Source: The Washington Post, AP and washingtonpost.com

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

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Timeline

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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