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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering September 11

ilona_aa_oct2001For those of you who've been along with me on my personal journey these past seven years, you'll probably remember that I was a former 15-year flight attendant with American Airlines the day two of our airplanes were used in the terrorist attacks on our country.

In years past, I've written and shared photo essays on my experience of the events and my journey to Ground Zero three weeks after the attacks to pay my respects (my entire 911 collection of pictures is now on Flickr as well).

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While I personally was far removed from any danger that day, my life -- or, more directly, my career trajectory -- was directly affected by the day's unraveling. In fact, my advocacy for our returning veterans today can be traced back to the events of September 11, 2001.

I was one of the lucky stews.

Senior enough not to be among the 7,000 flight attendants at our airline suffering forced lay offs that fall, I also had a great husband (an AA Captain at the time; now a first officer due to their own division's sizable layoffs) who supported my choice to take the early retirement packages being offered to us.

It turned out to be a prescient move.

Transitioning into the work that I do today wasn't a direct path or a consciously picked choice on my part. But my own life's changing trajectory in the days and weeks and months and years that followed 9/11 has been right in step with the weaving and bobbing taking place in the country as well.

Neither of us knew quite where we were heading back then.

Of course, we could immediately see the pain and losses surrounding those first casualties. But, fewer might have foretold the great difficulties in store for the day's survivors and first responders, many who are today coping with post-traumatic stress disorder and other debilitating ailments.

(Much more on September 11 PTSD in my next post).

And as for our nation's perennial protectors: our soldiers, sailors, air(wo)men and Marines? Not many of us would have wished to grasp the gravity and depth of the sacrifices they would be called on to bear as a result of the decisions made by our leaders following September 11.

Those who found themselves in a struggle for their lives either over Pennsylvania, amidst the reinforced walls of the Pentagon, or struggling to break free of the crushing fate of the Twin Towers in New York City are greatly missed.

They are all of our brothers and sisters.

For those of you who are personally and directly related or effected in any way, my heartfelt thoughts are with you and yours most especially today, the seventh anniversary of our nation's most heartbreaking day.

As an homage to my former peers at AA, who were on the front lines on September 11 as they are today, a commercial from the carrier's post-9/11 ad campaign:

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