Marianne McInerney had a ticket for American Airlines Flight 77, scheduled to fly from Washington to Los Angeles on Sept. 11, 2001.
That's the plane that Al Qaeda hijackers crashed into the Pentagon.
McInerney, who was then executive director of the National Business Travel Association, had switched the day before to a cheaper flight.
"I think for everyone Sept. 11 was a life-changing experience," McInerney says. "What I think about every day is not that I was not on that flight, but what I think about every single day is the people who were, and the families who are left behind."
In May 2002, McInerney left the travel association to take time for personal matters and to "move on to new topics, new issues and other challenges," she says.
Her search led her to the presidency of the American International Automobile Dealers Association, which recruited her to provide the group fresh energy and direction.
AIADA's president is the organization's chief lobbyist and its top manager, overseeing government affairs in Washington, a grassroots lobbying program and a variety of member services.
An energetic and highly focused executive, McInerney has worked on political campaigns, including the 1996 re-election of Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., now the assistant majority leader of the Senate.
Her career has included public relations stints at United Way of America; World Vision; the Peace Corps; and the Federal Housing Finance Board, under former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp.
Despite the Republican experiences, she says she is not tied to a political party.
McInerney grew up in Stamford, Conn., the daughter of a harbor pilot whose hobby was car racing. She says she helped build and rebuild her father's race cars.