‘We will remember’ Nunda remembers Billy Donovan, who died in 9/11 Pentagon attack

William H. Donovan

Nunda native William H. Donovan was a celebrated Navy commander known for his hard work and a playful side.

He had been working at the Pentagon for a little more than a year in 2001, after transitioning from Navy pilot to a staff position with the Chief of Naval Operations, the latter being a less risky job for a sailor and a husband and father to three preteen children.

Donovan, known to many as Billy, was in the Pentagon when Flight 77 crashed into the building on Sept. 11, 2001. He was among those missing and presumed dead. He was later buried in the Naval Academy Cemetery.

Donovan is being remembered Saturday with a ceremony at his memorial near the flag pole at Keshequa Central School, 13 Mill St., Nunda.

The commemoration ceremony will honor all the victims of the attacks of the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville, Pa., after the plane’s passengers fought back against the terrorists. Also being honored are first responders and military personnel who had died in the war against terrorism or continue to serve.

“We must not forget and always remember all of those who gave their lives for this great county,” American Legion Livingston County Commander Ken Weaver said.

The Nunda Fire Department siren will blare Saturday morning at the exact times of the Sept. 11 incidents.

The ceremony, scheduled to begin at noon, will begin with recognition of local emergency-service personnel, including Nunda Ambulance Corps, who responded in the aftermath of the attacks.

A Blue Star Service Banner will be presented to the village of Nunda and another will be presented to the family of a local military person who is on active duty and participated in the recent evacuation of U.S. personnel from Afghanistan. The banners were first created in 1917 during World War I.

There will be a number of different events ruing the ceremony, including the placement of a ceremonial wreath to commemorate past servicemembers who are now deceased and to recognize Donovan.

A handful of guest speakers will reflect on Donovan’s life, the affect 9/11 has had and continues to have on the community and nation, and a reflection from volunteer ambulance personnel that went to ground zero after the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City to support local efforts.

The Nunda Fire Department will raise the flag and conduct a “striking the four fives” in honor of all the firefighters and first responders who lost their lives on 9/11.

The national anthem will be sung by Autumn Kelley, a fourth-grade student.

“As a nation united, we must remain committed to supporting the men and women of our armed forces as they serve with honor and courage,” Weaver said.

Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., at 9:37 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001. No one on the flight survived and there were also many casualties in the building. A total of 184 people died.

Donovan was a 1982 graduate of Keshequa Central School and was commissioned to the NAval Academy, where he graduated in 1986.

Donovan served in Patrol Squadrons 11, 31, and 1 and served aboard the U.S.S. George Washington before taking his post at the Pentagon. He was an aviator in the Persian Gulf War and later became a pilot instructor and received a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering at the NAval Postgraduate School in California.

Among his numerous awards were the Admiral William Adger Moffett Award for aeronautical engineering and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation and Achievement medals.

In high school, Donovan was president of the Key Club, a member of National Honor Society, a wrestler, and winner of Daughters of the American Revolution and Bausch & Lomb awards.

In tributes and remembrances about Donovan, many who knew him noted an impish smile that appeared often.

“He was one of those folks that brought life to people around him by his humor,” longtime friend Ed Maino told the Washington Post in a profile following the attack. “He had a very quick wit, a funny little giggle.”

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