This year marks 20 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks where 2,977 innocent lives were lost far too soon. On Friday, Sept. 10, NRO members participated in a morning memorial run, followed by an internal ceremony for our workforce. NRO honored the victims, to include Col. Charles E. Jones, Chandler R. Keller and Ruben S. Ornedo, all of whom had ties to the NRO.
Col. "Chuck" Jones was born in Clifton, Indiana. In 1982, the United States Air Force officer was selected by the National Reconnaissance Office to be a payload specialist for the Manned Spaceflight Engineer Program. The program was a partnership where military satellite engineers were trained to be astronauts aboard a Department of Defense payload carried into space by a NASA shuttle. After the Challenger accident in January 1986, the MSE program cancelled mission STS-71L, the flight Col. Jones was scheduled to be on in December 1986. Col. Jones left the MSE Program in January 1987. He retired from the Air Force in 1999 and was on a routine business trip for BAE Systems when he boarded American Airlines Flight 11 from Logan International Airport in Boston headed to Los Angeles.
Chandler "Chad" Keller was born and raised in Manhattan Beach, California. After spending part of his childhood in New York, Hong Kong, and Sydney, Australia, Keller graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in Aerospace Engineering. Keller was a lead propulsion engineer and project manager with Boeing Satellite Systems in El Segundo, California. He worked for Boeing for five years, and was involved with their satellite launch program. He married his wife, Lisa, less than two months prior to boarding American Airlines Flight 77 bound for Los Angeles. On Nov. 5, 2001, he was awarded the Medal of Freedom, posthumously, by the Department of Defense and the National Reconnaissance Office for his work with Boeing Satellite Systems and the NRO. Last year, NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy helped Keller's childhood dreams of going to space come true by carrying his ashes to space. Read the full story from CNN here.
Ruben Ornedo was born in the Philippines and grew up in Los Angeles. He graduated from University of California, Los Angeles in 1984 with a degree in Computer Engineering. Affectionately known by his coworkers as "Ornedo the Tornado" for his hard work, diligence, and quick action, Ornedo was the lead engineer in the systems engineering organization at Boeing Satellite Systems in El Segundo, California. Ornedo, who had worked for Boeing for 15 years, had a short break in his extended business trip and decided to head home to Eagle Rock, California. Eager to see Sheila, his wife of three months, who was pregnant with their daughter Robin, Ornedo boarded American Airlines Flight 77 from Dulles International Airport.
Keller and Ornedo were assigned to Aerospace Data Facility-East, and are memorialized there and at the Pentagon Memorial along with the other Pentagon victims. All three are also memorialized at the National 9/11 memorial in New York City.