Navy Cmdr. Patrick Dunn's death left wife, unborn child behind
At the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, eight unborn children were left without fathers, and those children’s eight mothers were left widows.
Stephanie DeSimone, then Stephanie Dunn, was three months pregnant with her daughter Alexandria when her husband, Navy Cmdr. Patrick Dunn, was killed on impact while working in the outermost ring of the Pentagon.
Megan Murphy, a third-year marketing and insurance and risk management student, lived next door to the Dunn family in a community of townhomes in a D.C. suburb.
“I still remember the face you made when I told you about Mr. Pat and how he passed away,” DeSimone said to Murphy.
Dunn, who was one of 125 people killed in the Pentagon that day, never had the chance to meet his now 9-year-old daughter Alexandria. Remembered as a fun-loving guy who loved to crack jokes and acted as a fixture at every community cookout, Murphy remembers the last evening she and her family spent with Dunn, playing cards in her kitchen the weekend before the attacks.
“I’m lucky to have known him,” Murphy said. “And, I’m lucky to have gotten the chance to grow up with a better understanding of the whole situation.”
The news reached DeSimone the evening of Sept. 11, via Navy Cmdr. Marty Martin, that Dunn could not been found.
“When we got to my row of townhouses [that afternoon], all of our neighbors were outside — most of them are military families — and we were all waiting around trying to hear from people,” Murphy said. “Everyone had heard from each other, except Stephanie, she hadn’t heard from Pat.”
Murphy and her family attended the Pentagon memorial with DeSimone, and also accompanied the family to New York City for a celebrity-attended memorial for mothers left widowed by the attacks.
“Being in a military family and living with a lot of military members, it shook the whole area around us,” Murphy said. “Everywhere throughout the country, everyone knew someone who was affected by it.”
Murphy’s father Carl, also in the Navy, worked at the Pentagon as well — in the inner ring, not where the planes hit — but was out of the office for the day. While showing his parents, who were in town from California, the Capitol building he still saw the smoke and was a part of the sheer panic of the city, according to Murphy.
But, despite all the irreparable wreckage, the story comes full circle.
Carl’s friend, Paul DeSimone, met Stephanie and the two married in 2003. Murphy was a bridesmaid and her mother Donna was the matron-of-honor in the wedding.
Martin, the officer who delivered the heart-wrenching news to the then-expectant mother, moved in two doors down from DeSimone with his wife Sarah. They, along with the Murphy family, will be attending Sunday’s Pentagon memorial with the DeSimones.
Alexandria, or “Allie,” knows Dunn is her father and calls him “daddy in heaven,” but at just 9 years old she doesn’t understand all the workings of the attacks.
“Stephanie still talks about him, and I know that every time Sept. 11 rolls around, it’s hard for her,” Murphy said. “Every time I’m with her she tells a story, or she brings something up about Mr. Pat, so I know it’s still a big part of her daily life. But, I think Allie has really helped her cope.”
And, as with all the fallen on that day, friends and family still remember them as if the tragedy stuck yesterday.
“Even though 10 years have passed, I still consider Mr. Pat to be a hero — he’s still such a prominent figure,” Murphy said. “When I think of a hero, that is who I think of.”