Memorial Day honors those men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice defending our freedom both overseas and at home. Among them is a Chippewa Falls native who was among the nearly 3,000 people killed on September 11, 2001.
September 11, 2001 is remembered as one of the most devastating attacks in American history. Terrorists attempted to fly four airplanes into American landmarks: two hit the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, the third crashed into a Pennsylvania field, and a fourth went into the Pentagon just outside of Washington D.C. where Patricia Statz started her work day like any other Tuesday.
At 9:37 a.m. on September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.
It is a moment that Vince Statz of Chippewa Falls remembers clearly. It is a moment that changed his life forever.
"People made the comment that the day the Pentagon got hit, I walked around like I was out of my mind, because I couldn't get a hold of her," he said.
Like millions of Americans, Statz could not stop watching the aftermath unfold. His pain was felt not only as a Korean War veteran, but as a father.
"She would probably come and give me a big hug," he said. "Oh, I know she would."
His daughter, Patricia Statz, was reported as missing and presumed dead in the attack.
In early May, Statz took the Freedom Honor Flight to Washington D.C. not only to see the memorial built in his honor but to see the memorial built in his daughter's honor for the first time in nearly 17 years.
"It's not great, but it's better than I expected it to be," Vince said. "I mean, you can't enjoy coming, you know."
Sitting on Patricia's bench, Vince shared the emotional experience with his son, Chuck.
"There's 13 children in our family," said Chuck Statz, Vince's son and Patricia's brother. "Patty is one of ten daughters, and Vince was always quite proud of his daughters. She was certainly a great one. So, the day we lost her was a very, very sad day."
It just so happened that extended family on the Badger Honor Flight out of Madison visited the Pentagon Memorial that day to show their support.
"It's amazing," said Bill Statz of Cross Plains. "A small world. I've been meaning to get up to the Black River Falls area to look up people, and I haven't gotten around to it. So, we'll meet out here. It's pretty awesome."
"It sure is nice to have you people here," said Vince Statz to his relatives.
Together they shared stories, shed tears, and remembered a life cut short. Patricia's family says that in her 41 years, she accomplished more than most people do in a lifetime: performing in theater, traveling Europe, raising a family, and working to improve education for children with special needs.
Sitting on the bench above the quiet water is a moment that Vince Statz will always remember.
"I don't have too long of a life left, but I will remember it forever, yeah," he said.
It is proof that at 9:37 a.m. on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 Patricia Statz may have been lost but never forgotten.
Bill Statz, like many of the other extended family members at the Pentagon Memorial, never had the chance to meet Patricia in person; however, he says it is important to honor her memory and the sacrifices she made on behalf of this country.
The Pentagon Memorial includes 184 benches to honor each victim of the crash. That includes 125 benches facing the Pentagon to represent those who died in the building. The other 59 benches face away from the building toward the open sky in honor of those victims in the airplane at the time of the crash.