Honoring the lives of Pentagon’s ‘lost’


Five of the 184 persons killed at the Pentagon by the September 11 hijackers lost more than their lives: All trace of them was obliterated. Nothing identifiable was found to bury or to mourn over. These are “the lost”: four military-minded adults whose careers took them to the pinnacle of the nation’s defense complex and a curly-haired 3-year-old girl clutching her cherished Lambie when terrorists slammed the hijacked American
Airlines Flight 77 jetliner into the Pentagon. What is left are their names, loving memories about their shortened time on earth and unfulfilled dreams:

Dana Falkenberg, 3, planned to marry a prince, perhaps after starting preschool at the Silver Spring YMCA.

Ronald Hemenway, 37, was considering higher-paying civilian work and a delayed honeymoon to his native Alaska if the Navy couldn’t shift him to the White House communications staff.

Rhonda Rasmussen, 44, and her husband were civilians on the Army payroll, transferring back to their native California, where they had married 27 years earlier.

James Lynch, 55, a Navy technician, would continue his rounds as the “Pentagon Candy Man,” a one-man morale team handing out Werther’s Original toffees.

Ronald Golinski, 60, escorted daughter Marcellia to the altar on her wedding day Sept. 2, figuring he still had lots more golf to play.

Instead, they became a new kind of “unknowns” from a new kind of war. Military unknowns have traditionally constituted battlefield bodies without names. These are battlefield names without a body. This was not supposed to happen. A reference library with 3.7 million sealed “bloodstain cards” exists to match DNA from unidentified military personnel killed in war or a calamity. But heat reduces human tissue to ash or destroys
DNA, so it could not be matched to Pentagon file cards or other reference samples for these five persons.

After a unique ceremony Sept. 12 at Arlington National Cemetery’s 5,000-seat amphitheater, those names will be inscribed with the other 179 Pentagon dead on a custom-designed five-sided Rock of Ages monument.
A horse-drawn caisson will carry unidentified remains from the attack in a single casket to that grave.

Tiny Dana Falkenberg is special in this group and not just because of her big brown eyes, soft blond curls and Shirley Temple face. Seven weeks past her third birthday party, July 21, 2001, Dana was the youngest of five children aboard American Airlines Flight 77. She joined all the others in a 9:37 a.m. rendezvous with death at what Petty Officer Hemenway called the “safest place in the world.” Dana’s parents and sister died with her. Friends say they certainly perished with their arms wrapped around each other. Their remains were buried in
Colorado in June — except for Dana’s.

Maternal grandmother Ruth Koch, an Athens, Ga., schoolteacher, recalled the eeriness of receiving a family postcard mailed from Dulles Airport that fateful morning. “Dana was a clown — funny. But she was subdued about such a long trip when I spoke with her by phone just before the plane took off that day,” Mrs. Koch said.

Petty Officer 1st Class Ronald John Hemenway’s journey began in Cordova, Alaska, on July 25, 1964. En route to the Chief of Naval Operations office, he passed through many jobs in places as varied as Georgia, Kansas and Italy. For much of the way, Ron Hemenway was a man on horseback, even while romancing Marinella Folci, now 34, whom he met in October 1996 in Italy. “I found the person of my life, even if just for a short time. Maybe God had it planned for everything to happen fast,” Mrs. Hemenway says. An Italian priest married them March 10, 1997. They planned to buy a house with lots of land and to visit his birthplace. “He said someday we have to go to Alaska in the spring, when the pussy willows are out. Now we’ll never go,” Mrs. Hemenway said. Growing up in Alaska, Ron attended Baptist Christian School and Wasilla High, where his 4-H projects included raising giant rabbits and showing horses. At age 20, he shifted to Meredith Manor International Equestrian Centre in Waverly, W.Va., to better learn how to train show and jumper horses.
“Ron spent a good part of his life trying to find his niche in life. When he entered the military, he found it,” said the Rev. Paul Hoppe, senior pastor of Hope Lutheran Church in Shawnee. “His dad, in particular, is extremely patriotic, very proud of his son’s service in the military.”

In May 1995, the new sailor shipped out on the USS LaSalle, the Sixth Fleet flagship, to its home port in Gaeta, Italy. There he met the woman he called Marina. “What a strange person,” Mrs. Hemenway said after being introduced over cappuccino to a drenched sailor with a mustache, bushy hair and glasses held together with black tape. “He looked like a baby chick just come out of the egg and said his name was Zeke. I didn’t want anything to do with him.”

During the next 30 days, she learned that Ron cleaned up real well, looked good in uniform and shared her affinity for horses. She talked with her husband twice by phone September 11 at his post in the
National Command Center, where 30 persons died. They discussed his hopes for a transfer to the White House communications staff at about 9:05 a.m., moments after the second airliner slammed into the World Trade Center. “He was getting background security information about my family for his transfer application,” Mrs. Hemenway said. “If he didn’t get that job, he would be bound for sea duty, and he didn’t want to go on an aircraft carrier.” They spoke again briefly about 9:30 a.m. “Good morning, beautiful,” he said, before talk turned to the terrorist attacks on New York. Mrs. Hemenway asked whether he was fine. “Don’t worry. The Pentagon is the safest place in the world,” he replied. “Less than 10 minutes later, my house shook and I could see the smoke from our military housing at Bolling,” she said referring to the Air Force Base. Three
times she called his number. Twice his recorded voice answered, and she left messages like, “I wanted to tell you I love you and call me.” The third time there was no answer.

James Thomas Lynch Jr., a patriot born on the Fourth of July, 1946, spent much of his life celebrating the American flag. His second career constituted spreading happiness in wholesale lots. When jokes didn’t work, he gave candy. “Life’s too short to take it seriously,” he said at every opportunity, noting one drawback regarding his Pentagon job. “Everybody celebrates my birthday, but I don’t get the day off.”

For security reasons and with a touch of humility, Mr. Lynch told friends: “I keep the Pentagon clocks running.” But his job was a serious one: servicing video displays and switches of the “C3I” tactical Naval systems and “C4I” Copernicus strategy system inside the command center.

Brenda Lynch regrets her response in July 2001, when her husband suggested retiring after 34 years of service and a bout with melanoma. “I wasn’t ready to retire. We took a cruise to Bermuda for our 15th
anniversary in 2000 and wanted to go to Hawaii but decided to wait for our 20th anniversary,” she said.
As a kid in Connecticut, Jimmy was a Boy Scout and rose early in the morning to deliver his Hartford Courant route. He studied electronics at A.I. Prince Technical High School. “He would walk around the house making sparks and shocking us,” said younger sister, Maureen MacDonald of Enfield, Conn. After seven years in the Air Force, Mr. Lynch took a better-paying job in the Navy. He spent 19 years with the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command.

“Who would have thought? He never believed that danger was going to work at NCC,” said Mrs. Lynch, a CIA employee at the National Reconnaissance Office. Mr. Lynch — a fan of Rush Limbaugh, Pink Floyd and NASCAR racing — had many interests. He rode motorcycles, tended roses in his back yard, photographed butterflies and hummingbirds, pampered two cats and two dogs, and each day raised the flag on the 15-foot flagpole in front of his home.”He was patriotic before it was cool,” Mrs. MacDonald said. During breaks at the command center, the Candy Man roamed the halls to hand out Werther’s Originals. He bought those expensive “little pieces of gold” by the case and gave them to everybody. “I think the total cost for the candy would have put me through college,” said his son, Paul Lynch.

The Lynches met during walks in the hallways of the Pentagon when Brenda worked there. They eventually married, the second time for both. Mrs. Lynch said their partings from both first spouses was so civilized that holiday gatherings usually included his ex-wife, Carol’s, new family and her ex-husband’s family.
“We’re all still friends. It really helps with the kids,” Mrs. Lynch said. Mr. Lynch’s five brothers and sisters, including Kathleen Zetscher of Silver Spring, donated to the Pentagon a memorial quilt Maureen made. She quilted 60 of his neckties with a portrait of Jimmy’s bearded face surrounded by Werther’s Originals. The quilt is one of six displayed at the Richard Nixon Library.

“I don’t think Jim ever met anyone he did not like, and it would not take long for you to become the focus of his keen sense of humor,” co-worker Harry Jackson said. “Very much the jokester,” agreed Mrs. Lynch, who added lights to the flagpole so that his flag may wave there 24 hours a day. Retired Army Reserve Col. Ronald Franklin Golinski was sensitive about his age, perhaps because he fudged the year of his June 30 birth date to get into the Army National Guard and run off to Camp Drum at age 14. With brothers Leon and Christopher, Ron attended military high school at  LaSalle Institute in Troy, N.Y. But he transferred to Troy High School to
escape sibling rivalry, said his mother, Marion “Mickey” Golinski, of Oakland Hills, Md.

“Ronnie was always of that military mind-set,” said sister Michelle Mokrzecki of Hadley, Mass.  Mr. Golinski stayed the course, retiring in 1996 as a full colonel. His final job in uniform was as director of the St. Louis-based Army Reserve Personnel Command, which manages the Individual Ready Reserve’s 300,000 enlisted soldiers. His military awards include the Legion of Merit and the Meritorious Service Medal with two oak-leaf clusters. In civilian life, he stretched his Army career to 36 years by taking a policy post with the deputy chief of staff for personnel, whose office lost 21 staff members September 11. Col. Golinski lived on Paul Revere Ride in Columbia, Md., with Irene, his wife of 23 years and mother of his daughters, Marcellia, Sarah and Amanda.

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