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Remembering Barbara Keating: Palm Springs resident who died in 9/11 terror attacks

9/11 20-year anniversary: Coachella Valley Remembers

The attacks of September 11, 2001, took a toll on most Americans who were alive and aware at the time. In Palm Springs, the attacks really hit home at St. Teresa Catholic Church. Mary Arthen’s heart aches when she fondly remembers her friend who died that day.

Barbara Keating was aboard American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles. It was the first flight to crash into the World Trade Center towers in New York on September 11th, 2001.

“She always had a smile, ‘Good morning Barbara!’ We’d talk while everybody was working,” Arthen said. “She drove a red sports car with the top down. She was just a pleasant lady. She was quiet, but very personable too at the same time. So sweet.”

2,996 people died in the attacks in New York, at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

"And I said, 'What do you mean?' They said they thought Barbara was on the plane. And I said.... I was just shocked!"

mary arthen, friend of barbara keating

“I got to work and the ladies said, ‘Mary, I think something’s happened,’ Arthen said. “And I said, ‘What do you mean?’ They said they thought Barbara was on the plane. And I said… I was just shocked!”

Keating wasn’t even supposed to fly that day but was rushing home a day early from her annual summer vacation to help the family with childcare. She was a convert to Catholicism. Arthen says she was devout and committed.

Arthen said, “And yeah, it was scary at first. Is it going to happen again? You’re anticipating something’s going to get

“I just know, knowing her, she started praying. Probably saying our father, or hail Mary.  She probably just closed her eyes and prayed because she was a very spiritual lady,” Arthen said.

20 years later, a photo of Keating remains displayed at the church’s main office.

St. Teresa’s has remembered Keating every year, although COVID-19 shutdowns impacted last year’s memorial. Children every year collect her photo, and the church holds a mass for her.

“Even though it’s been 20 years whenever I watch it, it feels like it just happened,” Arthen said. “And I still feel that same gloomy thinking about her and everybody else that was involved. But it was harder because we knew her personally.”

Even 20 years after her loss, the pain remains. “To think how anybody could do that to us. It’s a scary world out there,” said Arthen.

"We always remember here. Every day we see her but in a different way. But she is an angel. She was a good lady."

mary arthen, friend of barbara keating

But life goes on. Today Arthen works on the church’s weekly newsletter. She says she knows her friend is still near. “We always remember her. Every day we see her but in a different way. But she is an angel. She was a good lady.”

News Channel 3 has in-depth coverage of the 9/11 20-year anniversary.

Read and watch more of our exclusive reports: 9/11 20 Years Later: Coachella Valley Remembers, talking with local military veterans and emergency planners on what lessons they took from the 9/11 attacks.

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Jeff Stahl

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