A Former Flight Attendant Remembers 9/11

It has been difficult for me to write about that day, but I felt it was time. I was so close to it because I was a flight attendant for 30 years and had retired in 1997. I took off my wings for the last time, moved my suitcase to the back of the closet and began a life of living and working on the ground. When 9/11 happened, I was still coping with being grounded. Flying is like living on a different planet. You have your own jargon, your own time clock, your own lifestyle, and you live your life in a silver tube. No one outside of the job ever really understands. How can you understand what it means when you are told your landing gear may not be locked, but don't tell the passengers and keep smiling. Or the No. 3 engine has a slight fire in it, and we can't smother it out so we may have to ditch in the Caribbean, but don't tell the passengers and keep smiling. When your job is flying, you face your own mortality many times in your career, but you never truly feel it will happen.

When the first plane hit the tower, I was getting ready to go to work at a retail department store. I had the news on and was listening as I was dressing. I ran into the living room and watched as the second plane crashed into the tower. I was stunned and horrified!!! My first thought was of the flight attendants on board. What were they feeling and thinking? Did they see the crash coming? How did they handle having a box cutter held to their neck? Even today, I find it difficult to write these words.

I watched the reports on TV for the next few days and cried. My daughter hugged me and told me she was glad I did not fly anymore. I was glad, too, at that time, even though I felt guilty that I was safe. I waited for what seemed like forever for the names of the crew to be listed. I was terrified that I would recognize a name. Fortunately, I did not know any of the crew members who perished, but I grieved for all of them.

It wasn't that I forgot everyone else who died, but thinking of the flight attendants, I knew everything they had to do from the moment they closed the doors until the plane crashed. I could feel their shock and terror when the hijackers stood up suddenly in the aisles and grabbed one or more of them. I could feel their fear as the realization that this was truly a hijacking, and then the horror of seeing the building coming toward them and knowing this flight was truly the end.

How have I changed since that day? I think my trust of life has gone. My understanding of the way the rest of the world sees us has changed. I am upset that we are so hated for the way we live. I always loved traveling to Europe, and now I am uncomfortable doing so. When I am in a crowd now, I am more aware of the people around me. I stay away from large events and worry when friends and family go on without me. The worst thing for me is I am not comfortable riding on a plane anymore. I keep thinking it could happen again.