By Denise Coffey
June 3, 2019

Women - as well as hats - were celebrated at Sassy Chapeau, the Northeast Connecticut Women and Girls Fund annual fundraiser on May 24 at the Mansion at Bald Hill. And this year, it was the region’s first responders who had the honors of modeling the wondrous hats from Salmagundi of Boston.

The guest speaker for the evening was Dee Carnahan, who retired after working for 32 years and three months for the U.S. Navy. On Sept. 11, 2001, she was working on the fourth floor, sixth corridor of the Pentagon’s outermost E-Ring. That morning, she was working out schedules for office Christmas parties. The television was turned to CNN when the first report of a plane hitting the World Trade Center tower came across. Ten minutes later, the second plane hit the other tower.

“Everything changed,” Carnahan said. Twenty minutes later, a plane plowed into the Pentagon and Carnahan thought the building was being bombed. Two sailors escorted Carnahan out of the building safely. She made her way to the side of the building where the plane had hit. She saw the impact point, the ground zero of the crash, and thought, “No one could have survived.”

It was the exact location where Carnahan and her office mates were supposed to relocate to in a few weeks. Some of the people she worked with had already moved into their offices there. They were some of the 139 people killed that day. “Life can change in an instant,” she said.

Sassy Chapeau Co-Chair Laura Moorehead said the event committee wanted to honor women who rush to the aid of their fellow residents when emergency strikes. “First responders - firefighters, EMS, police - don’t always get the credit they deserve,” she said. “Dee brought the day back. She made us remember what we all experienced that day.”

Carnahan reminded her audience just how brave those first responders were in the attack’s aftermath.

Mistress of Ceremonies Linda Colangelo introduced each model. Jessen Fitzpatrick, co-owner of Salmagundi, described in detail each hat worn. Colangelo brought the group of models together at the end of the show. She thanked them all for their work, their selflessness, and their willingness to help under the most trying of circumstances.

Models wore profile saucers and Stetsons, skimmers and Fedoras. Heckle feathers and grosgrain trim, chenille veiling and rosettes decorated them. The styles were fabulous and their effects glamorous. But the real stars were the women and men modeling them and the contributions they have made and continue to make to their communities.

The NCWGF is one of several funds managed by the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut. Money is distributed annually to programs that empower women and girls in northeastern Connecticut. The Girl Scouts, Thompson Ecumenical Empowerment Group, and Windham Tolland County 4-H are just three organizations that have received money.

Awards have funded self-defense, strength training, and self-esteem workshops for young women and elderly. To date, NCWGF has given more than $58,000 in grants, awards, and scholarships to area nonprofits.

Denise Coffey can be reached at