20 years later, parents recall losing their son when a plane struck the Pentagon

A battlefield cross stands in honor of Ronald Hemenway at Wasilla High School.
A battlefield cross stands in honor of Ronald Hemenway at Wasilla High School.(KTUU)
Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 5:46 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Bob and Shirley Hemenway still remember the last time they spoke with their son: Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001.

“He sent me a joke, an email at about 7:59 in the morning ... before 8 o’clock when everything started,” Bob recalled during a phone call this week. “He called his wife after that ... After they hit the towers, and that’s the last we ever heard from him.”

Petty Officer 1st Class Ronald John Hemenway was born in Cordova, Alaska. Before joining the U.S. Navy, he graduated from Wasilla High School in 1982 — and later the University of Alaska. Today, a bronze battlefield cross stands in front of the high school, memorializing his loss of life during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Ronald Hemenway, 37 at the time, was among the 185 people were killed at the Pentagon, also on Sept. 11, 2001. His remains were never identified, but his family did travel to Alaska on the 10 year anniversary of the attacks to see the memorial dedicated in his honor. They initially planned to make another trip up in 2021, but had to cancel unexpectedly.

Today, the Hemenways live in Johnson County, Kansas. On the anniversary of their son’s death, a local school there will place 2,977 miniature U.S. flags on its lawn to honor the couple’s loss.

“Ron ... everybody knew him.” his father said. “That’s just the kind of guy he was.”

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