Memories of 9-11 painful for Saltillo family
Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor

Flags flew at half-mast, candles were lit, balloons took flight, and moments of silence were observed yesterday during patriotic services across the nation remembering those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001,

But one family, directly affected by the events of that horrific day, recently moved to Hopkins County and chose to remember their loved one more privately sharing with their new community members memories of the man they loved so dearly.

"This will be the first year we haven't gone back for services," said Mary Lou Moss, the widow of Petty Officer 1st Class Brian A. Moss, a Navy electronics technician killed at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. where they were stationed with their two young children. "We'll probably just go eat at Wendy's or something. That was his favorite restaurant."

Mary Lou relocated this past summer to Saltillo with her two children, Ashten, 12, and Connor, 10.

"I wanted to move the kids to a rural area, closer to family, in the country were it’s more laid back," said Mary Lou. "Brian was from a small community in Oklahoma and I just wanted the kids to experience what that's like."

Five years ago, the Moss family lived in Bellvue Base Housing in Washington D.C. and Brian was excited about his new job for the Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon. Mary Lou worked for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency in the Weapons of Mass Destruction building across the Potomac River.

Sept. 11, 2001, started like any other ordinary day, recalled Mary Lou.

"It was a pretty day. I kissed him good-bye and he kissed the kids and went to work," she said. "That's what was so hard. He just went to work and never came home."

Mary Lou said she dropped the kids off at the sitter's house and then picked up a co-worker for the commute to work. The first plane had already hit one of the Twin Towers, but in her mind she thought maybe somebody flying a Cessna had had a heart attack or something of that nature.

Then the second plane crashed into the other tower.

"We knew something wasn't right," she recalled.

According to Mary Lou, they knew then that it was some sort of attack, and she even made the comment, "You would think something like that would happen here, at the Pentagon or the White House."

No sooner had she reached the basement of the building where she worked when news of an explosion at the Pentagon rapidly spread through the building.

"It was just unreal. I was in shock," said Mary Lou, who explained she had no way of knowing what part of the Pentagon her husband might be in.

All she could do was wait.

"In a situation like that everything’s locked down," she explained. "Nobody goes in or out until they can get a head count."

The scene, she said, was total chaos. As days went by without any word from her husband -- she knew in her heart he was dead.

"I told the kids he was probably just helping," she said. "But in my heart I knew he was gone. I knew if he were alive he would have gotten a message or something to me somehow."

A week later his death was confirmed. He was one of the 184 people killed when American flight 77 crashed into the west wall of the Pentagon. He was buried in Arlington Cemetery Oct. 18, just 10 days before his 36th birthday.

"I have some peace of mind," Mary Lou explained. "At least I had a something to lay to rest. So many people at the Towers were never even found. And I know he died doing what he loved."

Brian enlisted with the Navy in 1990 and Mary Lou in 1991. The couple met while both stationed in Adak, Alaskawhere they married in 1992, It was decided that she would leave the military after her term and he would pursue a military career. He reenlisted in 1997.

"He loved his job," said Mary Lou, who explained that in addition to communication operations, he was apart of the Ceremonial Guard and trained young guardsmen for events such as funerals and inaugurations. He himself had been proud to perform at the 54th Presidential Inauguration of George W. Bush.

"I have integrity and make sure I live by Navy core values. You can't talk the talk if you don't walk the walk," Brian told "Sea Services Weekly" in February of 2001. "You can't be successful at something you are forced to do."

And successful he was.

He was selected to represent Naval District Washington as "Sailor of the Year" for 2000-an honor almost unheard of for a 2nd Class Petty Officer, which he was at the time.

"You just don't hear of an E5 beating out an E6," Mary Lou said. "But he was so squared away. He always gave 110 percent."

One week prior to the attack on the Pentagon, Brian had taken the Fall 2001 Navy Advancement Exam. The results later determined he passed the test. He now rests as an Electronics Technician 1st Class Petty Officer.

"He was just a great guy," Mary Lou said. "Everybody liked him. He was a real prankster who loved to joke around. When you mentioned his name everybody would start grinning from ear to ear. Even on his worst day he brought humor to everything he did."

Though the Moss children were only 5 and 7 at the time of their father's death, they cherish their own memories such as playfully being swung around by their feet, chases around the house, and his special beef stroganoff dinners.

"Some of those kids were too young to remember," said Mary Lou. "At least mine have those memories. I'm happy about that."

According to Mary Lou, the past five years have been tough. The Moss family, in an attempt to move on with their lives, moved to the Hopkins County community. However, she said they would never fail to remember the father he was to his children, the husband he was to his wife, the son he was to his parents, the sailor he was to his country and the friend he was to all who knew him.

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