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LA bound, 2 planes left trail of grief

By Bella English and Thomas Farragher, Globe Staff, 9/12/2001

The hellish glass-and-steel shards that rained from New York's storied skyline sliced painfully through New England yesterday in the homes of dozens of passengers who boarded planes in Boston and died in twin fireballs over Manhattan.

A man from Dracut piloted American Airlines Flight 11.

A driving force of Boston's new economy was among his 81 passengers.

Bishop Kenneth A. Angell, the Roman Catholic bishop of Vermont, held a Mass at noon yesterday to pray for the people who had been killed. Within hours, he learned that his brother and his sister-in-law were among them.

Ace Bailey, a member of the Boston Bruins Stanley Cup championship teams in 1969-70 and 1971-72, died in the attack.

So did a young mother of two from Worcester, an infrequent flyer who fretted about leaving her children behind.

''She was very into being a mom,'' said John Creamer, who kissed his wife, Tara, goodbye before dawn as she headed for Logan and her flight to Los Angeles. The couple have two children, Colin, 4, and Nora, 1. ''She was just a kind and loving wife and mother. And she was everything to me and my children.''

Jim Ogonowski, the younger brother of John Ogonowski, the Flight 11 pilot, struggled to absorb the enormity of the events that claimed his brother's life.

''I think I'm in shock,'' he said. ''I keep looking at the cornfield behind me, hoping my brother comes walking on out.''

Two airliners, one from American, the other United, left Boston for Los Angeles with a total of 156 on board.

As the echoes of what authorities called the deadliest act of terrorism in US history reverberated around the globe, the awful news of death in the family was delivered more simply:

A telephone call from a relative. A knock on the door. An anguished glance at a travel itinerary.

''My brother-in-law called American's special number and was on hold forever,' said Christie Coombs, 40, of Abington who was planning to celebrate her 17th wedding annivesary with her husband, Jeffrey, later this month. ''First they said [Jeffrey] wasn't on the list - that he missed his flight. But then they came back and said yes - he was on the plane.''

Like many passengers, Coombs, 42, was a businessman, a manager for Compaq Computer who traveled to stock exchanges around the world. His three children, Meagan, 10, Julia, 7, and Matt, 12, returned home from school yesterday and ran up the front lawn, and cried, hoping for the news to be wrong.

''His birthday is next Tuesday and mine is Saturday,'' his widow said. ''Some birthday present - burying my husband.''

Daniel ''Danny'' M. Lewin, one of the legends of the new economy in Boston, was on a business trip - and on American Flight 11 - too.

A math guru, entrepreneur, and PhD candidate at MIT, the 31-year-old was a founder of Akamai Technologies Inc. in Cambridge. He was a husband and father of two young boys, and once served as a soldier in Israel's Defense Forces.

Lewin was born in Denver and raised in Jerusalem. His parents, who still live in Israel, were in town to visit him just last week, said Todd Dagres, a friend. ''I'm glad they were able to see him,'' Dagres said.

Alexander Filipov, father of David Filipov, the Globe's Moscow bureau chief, was on Flight 11, but wasn't supposed to be. Alexander Filipov had a ticket for a Delta flight, but he changed it at the last minute.

''He called my mother at 7:45 to tell her,'' David Filipov said from Moscow. ''It was one of those last-second switches. Usually you hear about the switch the other way.''

Alexander Filipov, 70, was an electrical engineer by trade and was on his way to a business meeting with the company with which he worked as a consultant.

''He worked on landing gear and all sorts of complicated machinery,'' David Filipov said. ''He was the kind of dad that was always trying to help you with your math homework. And you'd have to say, `OK Dad, enough.'''

If Alexander Filipov was on the fatal flight by chance, Thelma Cuccinello boarded her flight by design. Her daughter, Cheryl O'Brien, is a travel agent who last month found her mother a good deal on a fare to Los Angeles. Cuccinello, 71, was headed for a visit with her sister and brother-in-law in San Luis Obispo. Her discount voucher expired at month's end.

''Don't forget to call me so I can pick you up at the airport,'' O'Brien told her mom before she left. Then she kissed her mother, told her she loved her, and said goodbye.

Best friends Ruth Clifford McCourt of New London, Conn., and Paige Farley Hackel of Newton had planned to travel to Los Angeles together this week, but they couldn't get tickets on the same flight. So they spent Monday night at Hackel's home and drove to Logan Airport together. McCourt, 45, and her 4-year-old daughter, Juliana Valentine McCourt, boarded United Flight 175. Hackel, 46, boarded American Flight 11.

Another victim, John Cahill of Wellesley, had two sons who attended Wellesley High School, said its principal, Rena Mirkin. The boys' mother went to the school yesterday morning to take them home.

Also among the victims was Mark Bavis, 32, of Roslindale, a scout for the Los Angeles Kings hockey team. Bavis played on three championship teams for Catholic Memorial High School and played for four years on Boston University's hockey team.

Bavis, who had a twin brother, was the youngest of eight siblings. The family has suffered tragedy before, having lost a brother 15 years ago and their father 10 years ago, said Patrick Bavis, Mark's brother.

''You think you're through it enough, and then it just hits you again,'' Patrick Bavis said. ''The kid was at the prime of his life.''

Richard Ross, 58, of Newton, also died on American Airlines Flight 11. Ross, who grew up in Dorchester, was a recreational sailor and a businessman who headed his own management consulting company, the Ross Group at the Prudential Tower.

His oldest daughter, Abigail, said last night that the airline confirmed that her father was on the passenger list, although officials could not say for certain whether his boarding pass was taken.

Bishop Angell's brother, David Angell, 54, a native of West Barrington, R.I., and a longtime NBC producer who played a leading role in creating ''Frasier,'' ''Wings,'' and ''Cheers,'' was heading back to Los Angeles with his wife, Lynn, after attending a family wedding in Chatham.

At least two dozen relatives and friends of the Boston passengers streamed into the Logan Hilton yesterday, seeking news about the victims and support from more than 30 priests, ministers, and Red Cross and Salvation Army volunteers.

The scene churned with anxiety and despair: As scores of armed security guards monitored entrances and garage roofs, one woman inside the hotel learned that her 23-year-old daughter had been on one of the Los Angeles-bound planes, according to a Red Cross volunteer.

As Americans searched the heavens for answers to yesterday's attacks - about 3,500 people attended a vigil at Memorial Church off Harvard Yard late yesterday afternoon - families of the victims sought a solace of their own.

''You know, it hasn't even hit me now,'' said John Creamer. ''To fathom what has happened to Tara and me and our families and all the other poor families who are going through what we're going through. My prayers are with those families, too. This is just a tragic waste of life.''

Globe Staff writers Naomi Aoki, Douglas Belkin, Kimberly Blanton, Alice Dembner, Kevin Paul Dupont, Andrea Estes, Beth Healey, Patrick Healy, Liz Kowalczyk, Michael Paulson, Anand Vaishnav, and Joanna Weiss contributed to this report.

This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 9/12/2001.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.