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9/11...A Flight Attendant's Story (continued)

September 11, 2011


September 11, 2011

I always slept with CNN Headline news on the television while on layovers.  I was awakened around 6:30 a.m. by the sound of my cell phone ringing.  I can remember passing the television and seeing the buildings on fire, but in my mind, I assumed it was just a replay of the 1993 fires in the same building.  I answered the phone to the sound of a very panicked father...



The conversation continued.  However, it turns out that for thirty minutes before we spoke, my father sat watching the news...when it was announced a United Airlines plane out of Boston had hit the building, the fear had set in.  My step-mother urged my father to just call me, but the fear that he would not be able to get ahold of me crippled him.  Once he did call, he knew I was safe.  

From there, I called my boyfriend.  He was at the rink and had not seen the TV...when he came up to the office, everyone was in a panic wondering if we had spoken.  Since he had known that I had flown the night before,  he assured everyone I was fine. There was not a TV in the I talked to him on the phone as I watched the towers crumble.  I described what I was watching and what they were saying on the TV.  It all seems like a blur.  I just remember trying to visualize what it would have felt like to have been working on that flight.  Would I have put up a fight? Would I have tried to use my phone?  What would it physically have felt like to feel the plane speed up and head toward a building?  My mind was spinning.

My mother was on an  airplane when it was announced that they would be diverted to Las Vegas.  As technology would allow, whispers among the crew and passengers grew until the news was spreading throughout her cabin.  My mother flagged down a flight attendant and told her she had a daughter who worked for United out of Boston...did she have any other news?  The flight attendant went to the cockpit, and when she returned told my mother it was only American Airline planes.  I am not sure if at that point that was the only information, or the flight attendant was saying this to my mother to keep her calm.  Once my mother was in the Las Vegas Airport...she heard the news of flight 175....her heart dropped.  It took a little bit, but she was able to call me and find out I was ok.  

My phone rang off the hook that day....people checking up on me and fellow flight attendants letting me know who was on the plane.  Since I had a Boston number, my cell phone would repeatedly not connect...causing short term fears for some.  

Since my aunt lived in LA...I decided to go stay at her home.  We didn't know how long until airplanes would start flying again, and I didn't want to sit in a hotel.  

It was five days before the airports opened and planes began to leave.  I was asked if I was alright, and able to work the flight home to Boston.  I was willing and able.  However, not all flight attendants felt like they could.  The plane was full of United employees trying to get home and passengers that had been in Los Angeles five days longer than their original plans.  People were tired, emotional...but most of all...they were polite. But I will talk about that in a moment.

I recall one passenger who was obviously Arab-American.  He wore a huge red, white and blue corsage on his lapel.  I felt like it was his way of letting people know he was just as American as everyone else.  My heart ached for him, as one flight attendant freaked out and was refusing to fly if he stayed on the plane.  I was disgusted by her discrimination, and would have been happy to leave her behind at the gate!  

There was a flight attendant sitting in the jumpseat (the folding seat reserved for flight attendants)...he was almost catatonic.  As it turns out, fellow flight attendant had asked him to pick up one of her flights.  His schedule did not allow it, so he had to say no to her.  However, a few days later, his schedule had opened up and so he had sent her a message saying he would be happy to take her flight.  She never responded.  The flight number was 175.  

When we arrived home, we were greeted by our Union with water, flowers, and snacks.  I just went home.    
Again, I do not like the group grieving process!  

There were seven Boston based flight attendants on flight 175.  Three of them were reserve flight attendants*.   
*It is very possible that I could have been released from my ready reserve at the airport and been given flight 175 the next morning.  I would have called my boyfriend and been quite pleased knowing I would not be bothered with a phone call in the middle of the night.  I always loved knowing where I was going the day before my assignment!

The evening before (on September 10), Boston had experienced fog.  A plane had landed, but it had to sit on the runway for a few extra moments.  This caused three flight attendants to not be "legal" to fly the next morning.  They were scheduled to fly on flight 175.  There are three people alive today because of fog and rules in the Flight Attendant contract.  There are three people who are not here today for the same reasons.

I never really talk about it, but I often wonder what if it had been me?  In days after September 11, I viewed the images and video of people who lost loved ones crying, searching, and coming to terms with their losses.  I think about how my family would have reacted.  My sister would now be an only child.  My parents would have had to bury a daughter, my boyfriend (now husband) would have had to start a hockey season (his first as a head coach) while mourning the loss of his girlfriend.  I came close enough to the tragedy...yet at the same time I know stories of those who came within minutes of being in harm's way...which I could never begin to process.  

Which brings me to today, the 10 year anniversary of September 11, 2001...and every anniversary leading up to it.  How much imagery is too much.  How many times do these families need to see the planes their loved ones were on hit the building or ground? The families of those in the buildings, do they need to see the flames and smoke pouring from the windows?  Do we really need to see The Today Show's replay of the broadcast of that day each year?.  What about the families of the responders that never came home.  How important is it that they see the buildings crumble with their loved ones in it?  This is just my opinion...maybe it is therapeutic for some.  I only can imagine the pain my family would have to relive each and every year.

I am not saying that they should not recognize the day or have memorial services.  I just think ten years later, the horrific image of the man falling 110 stories to his death may not be as necessary.  We live in a society where we have such a need to constantly be visually stimulated, we have lost touch with the emotions that come with those images.

What do you think?  Do we really need the graphic imagery to properly remember September 11, 2001?  If you had lost a loved one, would it be hard to view, or would you find it comforting?

For me, I will be careful to avoid the media today...

To Be Continued....Working after September 11, 2001.


TriGirl said...

I had just moved from Canada a few months earlier, so I've almost always lived in a post 9/11 US.  I will watch some footage to be reminded of any details I might have forgotten, but I will not spend the day doing so.  It's too hard.

april said...

It is a tough call.  In one sense, I think it is important that we never forget.  We never forget that we are not untouchable, never forget those that lost their lives, never forget how the country came together afterwards, never forget how close we are to our own mortality.  I think by seeing the images every now and then the sting is still there and keeps it fresh enough in our minds that we don't just move on with our lives as most people do after any type of tragedy. 

I specifically got up this morning to watch the coverage as my own way to grieve for those lost.  I didn't know anyone involved but I hurt for them just the same.  I think because I have seen the images of the plane going into the building and actually watched the 2nd plane hit live those 10 years ago, I feel like I am a part of it.  Almost like it affected me personally.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately how people have compared 9/11 to Pearl Harbor.  I think 9/11 is worse because of the media outlets.  People who lived during 9/11 mostly just read accounts in the newspapers they weren't able to look on the internet or TV to actually see the attacks taking place.  The media has definitely kept that day raw in our minds.

I do agree, though, that if it were my loved one I wouldn't want to see it over and over.  It would almost make it feel like it was happening again each time.  I can't imagine being a parent who lost a spouse and then trying to shield my children from seeing those horrible images over and over. 

sorry, guess I'm just rambling now.

Thanks for sharing such a personal and intimate account. 


J.T. said...

Up until now, I had always heard this story from your sister's view.  I am glad that you were able to share your version, I cannot imagine what went through your mind then, and now.

And I am in complete agreement with the current bombardment of imagery on the TV, it is so unnecessary.  None of us have forgotten what happened on that day, it is burned into our minds forever.

Val Browning said...

Out of all the reading I have done this morning, your post by far has been the most in sync with my emotions re: how I have responded to media outlets in every form concerning 9/11.  Thank you for giving us an inside "scoop" on your feelings about this is a somber and moving occasion whether we watch or read anything about it or not.

I woke up this morning and watched maybe 10 minutes of coverage, listened to maybe that much on the radio on the way to church, and then put it will always be there, I suppose, we just have different ways of dealing with it.  I like your way, I think. 

I grieve for the lost, their families, and this country, but I also appreciate the resilience of everyone and everything involved.  I don't think we will ever forget, either.

Blonde_Morgan said...

I am not one to commemorate for this tragedy, at least not openly. I know being a US citizen I technically should because it was a terrible loss but I do not wish to watch replays as if the events that took place are an old television series.

I switched on to watch the news on MSNBC and felt like I had been transported back to that day and I automatically turned the whole TV off. It's not a day that anyone is likely to ever forget, nor should we but I am up in the air on how to remember. I flew yesterday and the airports were an absolute wreck, people were shushing in the lines, pendants were donned, it was an interesting feel. We have all mourned the loss of the people that lives were taken and probably still mourn if it was a direct family member or loved one.

If anything, the day itself is a constant reminder to pay tribute to those who risk their lives to save the lives of others. Who will step in because 'it's their job.' For that I don't know how you deal, how you say thanks other than the usual cursory and open respect and gratitude for such a person/people.

TexaGermaNadian said...

Wow, I can't even imagine. This just gave me goosebumps. You rarely hear much about the flight crews from 9/11, but I can only think that they did their best to try to advert everything that was happening. Too close to home for sure. Thanks for sharing with us. I can imagine it isn't so easy to relive it all. 

Kenarik said...

THANK YOU.  Thank you for saying things that I, as well, feel.  We do not need to bring up the horrific pain of that day every year.  I work in the television industry and I went home completely numb to what I had been airing that day.  This, of course, was after a 5:30 a.m. wake up call from friends back east (I did mention I live in Alaska right?).  At the time I had a 2 year old, who is now 12, and not even she could bring a smile to my face that day.  

I grieve for the losses we, as a nation, suffered that day.  Not just the lives but also the intangibles of feeling safe ever.  I can not imagine the trauma you must have gone through, and no I don't want to know.  Know this, however, you are not alone.  I too do not watch the memorials, nor read the newspaper (*gasp* paper, hasn't she heard of the internet?), nor do anything but go on with my "normal" Sunday plans.  To do less is disgracing the memories of those who are not longer with us and gives power to those who would see us destroyed.

Not forgetting is one thing, not letting those who need to is another.  Again I thank you.

Ginger@NJAMT said...

WoW!  I am shaking from your story...written so well, I feel like we just sat down and had a coffee together as you told me your story.  Thank you for sharing.

I agree, the media goes overboard.  How many times do we need to SEE it?  Let's talk about it, honor those who lost their lives but I really do not want to see the towers fall again...had I known anyone in those buidlings, on those planes that day my heart would be broken becuase I didn't and it hurst my heart to watch it.