As I sit here in 2018 remembering the shock of that morning 17 years ago, I’m still at a loss for words. Still.
I can remember stepping off the plane on Sept 10 after a deadhead flight to LAX. It was a great ID and I even had time to go to the gym that evening. I was going into a couple of days off, and I remember thinking I had to drop off my uniform at the dry-cleaners that next morning.
My alarm went off at about 6:15 a.m. I rolled over, shut it off, and looked at my answering machine (you see kids, we had those things back then) and noticed about six flashing messages. I always turn off the ringer when I go to sleep so didn’t hear it the phone ringing.
I sat up quickly and hovered my finger over the playback button. I was thinking if I had put brought in my uniform from the car last night or if needed to…
I pressed the button on the machine.
And after that I was never the same again.
What can be said about Michael and Amy, Alicia, Robert, Wanda, Victor, Sandra, CeeCee, Jason, Lorraine, Deborah, Alfred, Michael, Amy, Leroy, Kathryn, and the hundreds of other people who were friends, lovers, crewmembers, heroes, and above all else, sweet and wonderful souls?
September 11 shall always be the day to reflect, remember, and love these people forever.
When I was writing this article, I found an old archive piece I wrote on JSN a month or so after 9/11. Back then the world was different. I was different. But I’m going to reproduce it verbatim below. I can’t think of a better way to say what I’m feeling.
I can't even hear a jet fly overhead without remembering our plane slicing through the South Tower of the WTC. That's an ugly image. And that's reality, because September 11 was a Goddamn ugly day.
And so, as I sit here and reflect on the madness that has transpired since September 11, I realize something very important: there is hope. Flight attendants that are lucky (read: senior) enough to keep their jobs will get through this mess and come out okay in the end. Things will get better and life will return to normal. Slowly, but it will happen.
Because flight attendants are survivors. Flight attendants know how to make the best of a bad situation. We are certainly no strangers to getting the short end of the deal---and we know how to survive through even the worst of times.
We comfort other people and calm them down. We are experts at putting on a brave face in the onslaught of war. And this is war. We are in battle; a battle of just trying to put our work and personal lives back together. We certainly don't get much help from anyone, but we know how to give a lot: Big smiles everyone! Warm and genuine attentiveness! Go Team, go!
My own personal faith and healing lies mostly in the fact that flight attendants have each other for support. We are a very special group of people. For those of you reading this who are flight attendants, you know exactly what I'm talking about. And I have received literally hundreds of letters during the past several weeks that prove this. And even onboard the planes, flight attendant jumpseat therapy can work wonders---don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
26 years ago, I was an 8-year-old Unaccompanied Minor and afraid to fly. It was a United Airlines flight attendant that calmed me down and made me feel safe onboard. Well, it's no different today. It doesn't matter what plane, flight number, or crew; it is always the flight attendants that make the difference---both to me personally and to United's passengers. Always there, and working damn hard. And one day soon, when I do again hear a plane flying overhead, it will again bring me both pride in my work and peace in my heart.
I am lucky. Lucky enough to belong to the most supportive, hard-working, and generous group of people I have ever seen.
That is what gives me hope.