CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Mary Lou Hague’s memory is many places in her hometown.
Her name is sewn into the choir robes at Parkersburg High School. The annex at the back of the school’s stadium is called the “9-11 Mary Lou Hague Sports and Arts Complex.” The room that is home to the Red Wings drill team has a big picture of Mary Lou over the door.
Parkersburg has a tree in her memory. There’s a corner reading library in her memory.
“She has become a role model and someone who is put up as someone you should live your life like,” said her mother, Liza Adams of Parkersburg.
Hague was 26 years old and a researcher at Keefe, Bruyette and Woods in the south tower of the World Trade Center when she was killed in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
She remains beloved in her hometown, and she continues to touch lives — in no small part due to her mother’s loving work.
“I want to stress the importance of the memory, of the idea that those people gave their lives,” Liza Adams said.
“It woke us up to the fact that there are terrorists still out there. I think it’s so important to have annual anniversaries By looking at those awful pictures, as bad as they are, it doesn’t just become another day in history.
On the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Adams has been spending the days as she often does, by honoring her daughter’s memory and speaking with school children.
Adams spoke Thursday at Greenmont Elementary in Vienna, where Mary Lou went to school as a little girl. She spoke Friday afternoon at Jackson Junior High. On Monday morning, she’ll participate in a ceremony with local police and firefighters at Parkersburg High School’s stadium.
“I want to make people so aware of September 11 and the meaning of our American flag and how important that is in our freedom,” Adams said. “I’m determined to make people bring up the memory of 9/11 and appreciate what happened that day.”
Adams did not have the television on early the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Instead, she learned of the attacks through a call from Mary Lou.
“She said, ‘Mom, Mom, turn on the TV and tell me what’s going on. We only see flames and papers flying around.’”
The Keefe, Bruyette and Woods investment banking firm where Hague worked was located on the 85th, 88th, and 89th floors of the World Trade Center’s south tower.
The north tower was hit at 8:45 a.m.
“I said ‘Mary Lou get out of your building, get out.’ She said she would. But then the Port Authority came over the loudspeaker. They said you will be safer if you stay in your office. So they went back to the office.”
The south tower was hit by the hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 at 9:03 a.m. The direct impact was to floors 75 to 85.
Hague was on floor 89.
“I didn’t hear any more from her,” Adams said.
“At quarter of 10, I remembered coming into my bedroom and getting on my knees and praying.”
At 9:59 a.m., under intense heat, the south tower collapsed.
Sixty-seven employees of Keefe, Bruyette and Woods, including Hague, were killed.
Concerned friends gathered at the Adams house in Parkersburg.
“It was horrible standing here, watching and not being able to do one single thing to help her,” Adams said. “People wanted to talk and I just wanted to get away.”
The Adamses couldn’t get to New York right away, but finally got there by train that Thursday, two days after the attack.
“We spent a week trying to see if there were survivors. I took hairbrushes of hers so they had her DNA. Missing persons posters were everywhere.”
Over time, Adams has learned to live but she will never fully heal.
“At the time you are so stunned, so shocked, almost breathless because you don’t know what to do. As time goes on, it never ever leaves you.”
Now Adams spends her efforts trying to honor Hague’s memory and trying to help others.
Three scholarships have been established in Hague’s name. One is at the University of North Carolina, where scholarship money is aimed at West Virginia students if possible. Another with the Parkersburg Area Community Association helps Parkersburg High School seniors. And the third benefits senior acolytes at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church.
Adams often receives thank you letters from those who have benefited.
One graduating senior wrote, “After 4 years of not only being a student at PHS but a Red Wing as well, I constantly heard about Mary Lou and the amazing person she was. I aspire to leave a legacy like Mary Lou did, and I will not let her down.”
The father of a scholarship recipient wrote of his own gratitude: “We moved here only four years ago, but I distinctly remember reading the story of your daughter, Mary Lou Hague, soon after we arrived. I was moved by how someone so young and with so much talent would be taken from this world.
“You should be proud of Mary Lou and the life she lived and the people she has touched.”