Twenty years ago, the morning of Sept. 11 started out like any other normal workday for me and millions of Americans. It was a bright and sunny morning in Minneapolis. I was in my early 30s and had just begun my workday at Target. Heidi, a fellow team member in our department, suddenly announced that a plane had just hit one of the World Trade Center towers in New York. It was a surreal moment, and difficult to comprehend. Many of us began asking, “What are you talking about? How could a plane hit the building? Why would that happen? Was it some kind of accident?” Sadly, we quickly learned that these were atrocious and evil acts of terrorism, and even 20 years later, it’s very difficult to process.

Sadly, there were several of our retail women colleagues on the first plane that struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. Flight 11, which departed from Boston that morning, was en route to Los Angeles. On board were seven TJX Companies female associates who were traveling on business: Christine Barbuto, Neilie Casey, Tara Creamer, Linda George, Lisa Fenn Gordenstein, Robin Kaplan, and Susan Mackay.

Christine, 32, and Linda, 27, were buyers headed to market. Christine was vibrant, carefree, and someone everyone wanted to be around, and Linda who had been her high school valedictorian and captain of the soccer and basketball teams, was planning her wedding in October. Neilie, 32, and Tara, 30, both worked in planning. Before joining TJX, Neilie had worked at GAP International in San Francisco and Chadwick’s of Boston. She was a runner and had a baby daughter who was just six months old. Tara was the mother of two young children, a son, 4, and a daughter, 15 months. Her husband said she was “super-mom” at home and had been looking forward to the business trip with her co-workers.

The others were headed to California to help open a new store. Robin, 33, was a senior store equipment manager. Her family and friends described her as a peacemaker, and her peers at work said she was a “go-to” person. Lisa, 41, was an assistant vice president and merchandise manager, and had a way of doing things that made the people in her life feel special. She was a great businesswoman, wonderfully creative merchant and loved being a mom. Lisa’s daughters were 7 and 3. Susan, a vice president, was 44 and had worked for Jordan Marsh prior to Marshalls, which had been bought by TJX. She had been looking forward to this trip all summer. She had a son who was 13 and a daughter who was 8, and being a mom was described as the highlight of her life. Tragically these women in retail were among the first to senselessly perish on that fateful day.

I was horrified by the events of that morning, and later when I learned of these incredible women who had died on Flight 11, it was especially haunting. They had so much more life ahead of them. All were role models — positive, energetic, beloved members of their families and talented, professional women enthusiastic about their retail careers. I can’t imagine the cruel reality these women and their families have endured. They kissed their babies, children, and loved one’s goodbye, never to return. It hit close to home back then, and it continues to be heartbreaking now 20 years later.

As colleagues to these incredible women, it’s important to remember and honor their legacies as daughters, sisters, mothers, and among our most dedicated and passionate women in retail. May their memories live on, and their families and loved ones be blessed with peace, comfort, love and happiness.