William E. Caswell was a third-generation physicist whose work at the Navy was so classified that his family knew very little about what he did each day.
They don't even know exactly why he was headed to Los Angeles on the doomed American Airlines Flight 77.
"It was a trip he often took," his mother, Jean Caswell, said Friday. "We never knew what he was doing there because he couldn't say. You just learn not to ask questions."
It was an unusual feature of life in their family, which Caswell's parents described as very warm and close-knit. The Boston-born Caswell, 54, was very close to his wife, also named Jean, and to her son from a previous marriage, Sean O'Connor.
And nothing mattered more to him than the education of his 17-year-old daughter, Jennifer, a senior at a Silver Spring, Md., magnet high school with a specialty in science. Together, the two had been looking into colleges for her.
Published in The State Journal-Register on Sep. 13, 2001.