By Dana Kozlov

CHICAGO (CBS) – Marion Kminek had convinced her daughter to take American Airlines Flight 77, believing that it was safer than driving across the country alone.

Tragically, the flight Mari-Rae Sopper took was on Sept. 11, 2001 and that plane exploded into the Pentagon. It’s something Kminek has thought that about time and time again, CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports.

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Mari-Rae Sopper

When she stands outside the Pentagon, thinking of her daughter, Kminek says she hopes she “can celebrate her life and not get all melancholy, but I don’t know.”

“The greatest quality Mari-Rae had was she forgave, and that is true,” Kminek said.

Sopper, an Inverness native and Fremd High School graduate, was flying to start what Kminek said was her dream job: the head women’s gymnastics coach at the University of California Santa-Barbara.

Some of Sopper’s last minutes were captured on Dulles airport security video before she boarded that plane. Kminek smiles and says she could see her daughter trying to negotiate with the hijackers.

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“I could see her saying, ‘You don’t want to do this!’ ’’said Kminek. “You know, trying to take them out of it, I don’t think she did that, but that’s how I kind of picture her.”

It’s a comforting image, one of many things that helped Kminek get through the past two decades. In the ensuing years, she was passionate about sharing Sopper’s story.

She recently re-watched the video of the packed memorial service at Fremd High School, where Sopper was a state gymnastics champion before competing at Iowa State, becoming a lawyer, and joining the Navy.

“I learned two things: One, you can’t control anything; and two, everyone is here on loan,” Kminek said.

Sopper was on loan for 35 years. But it doesn’t stop mom from wondering what could have been.

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(Note: Dana Kozlov is a Fremd High School graduate and knew Mari-Rae Sopper. Her sister is Kozlov’s friend.)