Like most Americans, she was devastated when she turned the television Tuesday morning to see a gaping, smoking hole in one of the center's towers. Two hours later, the disaster hit home harder when she learned her sister and niece were aboard one of the jets that terrorists made a guided missile.
"It's just unbelievable, just total shock," Rowland said. "Tears just start to form every time I see it."
Rowland, a 67-year-old Ottawa resident, lost her 77-year-old sister, Mary Alice Wahlstrom of Kaysville, Utah, and her 48-year-old niece, Carolyn Beug of Santa Monica, Calif.
They were among the 81 passengers and 11 crew members aboard American Flight 11, which left Boston at 7:59 a.m. Tuesday for Los Angeles. The jet hit the World Trade Center's north tower about 45 minutes later.
Wahlstrom and Beug were returning from a trip to Rhode Island to deliver Beug's 18-year-old twin daughters to Brown University, where they are freshmen. Monday night, Wahlstrom called her son in Utah to say she was homesick and she never wanted to leave home again.
She never made it home.
A family member in Utah called Rowland about 11 a.m. Tuesday to tell her the news: Airline officials confirmed to other family members that Wahlstrom and Beug were on the passenger list.
Beug was a former Walt Disney music executive who won acclaim for her work on the "Pocahontas" soundtrack. She also was a driving force behind an award-winning music video by the rock band Van Halen.
Rowland hadn't seen her sister in six or seven years; she hadn't seen her niece in longer than that. But that doesn't mean it's easier to understand the tragedy.
Rowland especially wonders about the last few minutes of her relatives' lives. She wonders if they knew they were about to die.
And she feels for those with loved ones waiting to hear the news -- good or bad -- about loved ones trapped in the World Trade Center or Pentagon.
"That's even worse than my sister," she said. "I know she's dead. It would be even harder to not know."
Rowland and her 40-year-old son, Wayne Wolgast, Lawrence, will fly to Utah this weekend for Wahlstrom's memorial service. Beug's friends and family in Santa Monica will have a memorial service the same day.
Rowland loves to fly, but she's not looking forward to the flight.
"I'm leery," she said. "I really am."
Wolgast said she hopes the memorial will help heal the pain.
"It doesn't quite seem real when you see it on TV," Wolgast said. "When something like this happens, it really hits home. They died for no reason."
-- Staff writer Terry Rombeck can be reached at 832-7145.