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.

Ann 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."

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