Team from National Geographic Killed in Pentagon Crash

National Geographic News
September 12, 2001

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Two staff members of the National Geographic Society, along with three
Washington, D.C., teachers and three students they were traveling with,
were among the victims of the terrorist attacks in the United States on
Tuesday, officials of the Society announced on Wednesday.

Judge, director of the Society's travel office, and Joe Ferguson,
director of the Geography Education Outreach Program, were accompanying
the three teacher-student pairs on an educational trip to California.

They were all killed along with the other passengers of American Airlines Flight 77 after it was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon at about 9:45 Tuesday morning.

Teacher James Debeuneure and student Rodney Dickens were representing Ketcham Elementary School; teacher Sarah Clark and student Asia Cottom were from Backus Middle School; and teacher Hilda Taylor and student Bernard Brown were from Leckie Elementary School. All the students were 11-year-old sixth graders.

They had been selected to participate in a program at the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary near Santa Barbara, California, as part of a Society-funded marine research project known as Sustainable Seas Expeditions.

"Through our educational outreach program, Ann and Joe were going to make geography and the environment come alive for these committed, talented teachers and their star students by putting them into the field with scientists and researchers," said John Fahey Jr., the Society's president and CEO.

"The D.C. School District has lost six extraordinary people, and we at the Society have lost two treasured colleagues," he added.

Humor and Professionalism

Judge was revered by the Society's network of photographers, writers, and other staff members for her "can-do" attitude and unfailing good humor in organizing countless assignments to remote corners of the world.

She joined the National Geographic 22 years ago as an assistant in the travel office and was named director of the unit in 1997. Her office was filled with a variety of items from around the world—mementos from the many trips she took with teachers under the Society's geography education program and gifts from colleagues grateful for her skill and dedication in smoothing the travails of travel.

Fahey said his fond memory of Ann was captured in a recent voice message he received from her. "Ann and [Geographic explorer-in-residence] Sylvia Earle, who was also on the voice mail, sounded like young schoolgirls, clearly enjoying themselves rafting the Monkey River in Belize," he said.

"This was quintessential Ann—living life to the fullest and wanting to share it with others."

Ferguson, a native of Mississippi who completed a master's degree in geography at Ohio University, joined the Society in 1987 as one of the first full-time employees of the Geography Education Outreach Program.

Strongly committed to improving geography education in America's classrooms, he won the affection of many of the thousands of teachers who have participated in a wide range of professional development activities sponsored by the Society. His long-time service in the program made him the widely acknowledged "institutional memory" of the department.

"Joe Ferguson's final hours at the Geographic reveal the depth of his commitment to one of the things he really loved," Fahey said.

"Joe was here in the office until late Monday evening," Fahey noted, "preparing for this trip to the Channel Islands—an extraordinary experience for the teachers and particularly the young students. It was his goal to make this trip perfect in every way."

Marine Field Work

The group had boarded the Boeing 757 on Tuesday morning at Dulles International Airport in the Washington suburbs.

In California, they would have embarked on an educational field trip associated with a Sustainable Seas Expedition, a five-year project of deepwater exploration and public education conducted by National Geographic and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The field work would have entailed working with biologists at the marine sanctuary to monitor oceanic life and activity. Hiking and kayaking to several of the study areas was part of the planned agenda.

The six teachers and students who were en route to California had been selected for the program by local coordinators of a Society-sponsored network of educators known as the National Geographic Alliance.

The National Geographic Society has established a fund to honor and celebrate the lives of Joe Ferguson and Ann Judge and their tireless commitment to the Society's mission of education, exploration, research, and conservation.

The fund will be designated to support geography education, including continued opportunities for students and teachers to learn about and interact with the natural world.

Gifts of all sizes are welcome and are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Please send a check, made out to the National Geographic Society, with a note indicating the Ferguson/Judge Fund to: National Geographic Society Development Office, 1145 17th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20036.

To make a gift with a credit card please call: Lois Wood at 202-828-6684 or 1-800-373-1717 (outside Metro D.C.)


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