Honor Elizabeth Wainio, a former resident of Catonsville in Baltimore County, Maryland, was among the 40 passengers and crew who died on United Airlines Flight 93, one of the four planes hijacked on September 11, 2001. A district manager for Discovery Channel Stores, Elizabeth was bound to San Francisco from Newark, New Jersey that morning on business when the Boeing 757 crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing all on board. In her final moments, the 27 year old was able to call from the airplane phone to say goodbye to the family she knew she would be leaving behind. Esther Heymann, Elizabeth’s stepmother, received the call that morning. "She expressed concern for the well being of those who would have to recover from this murderous act, " said Heymann. "In her typical style of thoughtfulness, Elizabeth calmly expressed more concern for how her family would recover. She did not express despair about herself." She found the calm in the middle of the storm."
For those who knew her, Elizabeth’s display of grace and unfailing generosity of spirit in the face of her own death was somehow not surprising. "Elizabeth knew what mattered: love well and be unselfish," said Heymann. As an entire nation mourned in the aftermath of the tragedy, hundreds of Elizabeth’s family, friends, co-workers and community members came together at Christian Temple in her hometown of Catonsville for a memorial service the following October 8. The ceremony, held on the day Elizabeth would have turned 28, was a celebration of the life and passions of a remarkable young woman beloved to so many. Colleagues recalled the rising star whose drive and commitment quickly put her on the fast track to success upon joining Discovery in 1999 as general manager at the company’s Harborplace Store in Baltimore. Within one year, Elizabeth was promoted to oversee retail operations in New York and New Jersey. In that position, she became the No. 1 ranking business development manager in regional sales performance at Discovery. Co-workers describing Elizabeth mentioned a few core traits again and again – thoughtful, intelligent, savvy, mature, enthusiastic. And that smile "it lit up her whole face and brought an easiness that always seemed to make things better."
Elizabeth’s competitive edge was balanced by a warm sense of humor and respect for people that allowed her to support the achievements of not only those she supervised, but also her peers. Whether sending flowers to co-workers or playing pumped-up music when leaving them voicemail, Elizabeth was recognized as a motivating force. Her desk at work and office at home in the Watchung, New Jersey apartment where she resided the year before she died were filled with words of inspiration from favorite authors and philosophers, among them Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Miller and William Penn. The famed quote by poet Robert Frost held special meaning: "Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." Elizabeth’s boundless energy was evident early on. Throughout her childhood, she was an avid learner at school and in her artistic interests, which included ballet and tap dancing classes, as well as violin and viola lesions. At high school she was in the all-county orchestra for three years on the viola and all state her senior year. As a student at Catonsville High School, where she graduated in 1991, "Lizz," the nickname she then had among friends, was an honor student, captain of the cheerleading squad, news editor of the school paper and a member of the Baltimore County all-star field hockey team. During her team years, she turned to acting as a creative outlet starring in Catonsville High productions of "L’il Abner" and "Mame." She had started acting in elementary school, starring as the Countess in the "Sound of Music".
Idealistic and outspoken in her convictions, Elizabeth aspired to become a journalist while achieving her undergraduate degree in mass communications at Towson University. To earn her way through college, Elizabeth worked two-part time jobs while carrying a full course load. One of these was with Gymboree at Towson Town Mall. Her business talents soon led her in another direction. Elizabeth became a fulltime employee for Gymboree while keeping up with her full class schedule. Just prior to her graduation from Towson University in 1995, Elizabeth was hired as the district manager for the Maryland and Virginia stores. Within four years, Elizabeth developed into a skilled professional ready for new challenges and in 1999 she joined Discovery. In April 2000, she moved to New Jersey as part of her promotion to regional manager for the New York/New Jersey area. She shared her apartment with her cat Sabrina. Her ambitions did not keep her from regular weekend visits back home in Catonsville to spend time with her parents, brother Tom, 30, and her sister, Sarah, 14, as well as her friends and of course, her beloved Baltimore Orioles baseball team. She visited her mother and stepfather, Jay in their home in Atlanta, Georgia. She loved steamed crabs and enjoyed taking them to her grandmother and grandfather in Charleroi, Pennsylvania who she visited often.
An undeniable romantic, Elizabeth never tired of watching old movies like "The Sound of Music," "It’s a Wonderful Life," and "Breakfast at Tiffany’s." In an email survey filled in the year 2000 and sent to her mother, Mary, Elizabeth wrote that her favorite quote was "Lose your dreams and you…will lose your mind." On August 29, 2001, Elizabeth was able to fulfill her dream and began a trip to Italy to be in the wedding of her high school friend. She visited this friend twice before in Australia. After the wedding, she met another dear friend in Paris, France and fulfilled a lifetime dream of seeing Paris. She had often said, "After Paris, what else could there be!" As Elizabeth stood on a Paris bridge overlooking the Seine River, she remarked," We have to purposefully seek out this presence of living into our lives back home. We have to seek out and fully experience these moments of beauty that are constantly occurring in our daily lives." Elizabeth’s journey among us ended on September 11, 2001. Her death left a hole in the hearts of those who loved her and an anguished gratitude for having shared her trip. The road she traveled has made all the difference.
As a tribute to her, Discovery Communications established the Towson University Elizabeth Wainio Communications Scholarship. Donations can be made to Elizabeth Wainio Communications Scholarship, Towson University Foundation, 8000 York Road, Towson, Maryland 21252