READ BY FORMER MEC PRESIDENT
LINDA FARROW AT THE CHICAGO MEMORIAL SERVICE ON SEPTEMBER
It seems like years, but it was only a few weeks ago that
the columnists were lamenting the lack of heroes in America
that our heroes were superficially famous stars of movie
screens and sports arenas.
Now newspapers throughout the land devote pages to listing
our heroes. Few, were famous before that infamous Tuesday.
Most of our heroes came out of ordinary homes in cities and
suburbs, going to work, just as they had done a thousand times
before. But on that day, they were called upon to make the
ultimate sacrifice. And they did.
The American author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, said, “Show me
a hero and I will write you a tragedy.” The skies, the skyscrapers,
the police stations and the firehouses were filled with heroes
on September 11 and the tragedies were written to a scale
even greater than the buildings destroyed that day. In our
industry, among those assembled here as well as those on the
line right now, we have our own heroes, taken from our ranks
but remembered now and forever.
When the winds of war blew across our land, our flying partners
were in the eye of the storm. Not one of them knew when the
day began that they would be the first casualties of this
new war. More than a century ago, a philosopher was asked,
“What, then is our
duty?” And his answer was, “It is what the day requires.”
Our flying partners, like thousands of flight attendants
around the world, went to work that fateful day, prepared
to board flights and shepherd our passengers to their destinations.
For a few hours, in a small space in the sky, we share our
passengers’ hopes and dreams. We hear of their successes and
disappointments. We see the
famous and the unknown, the rich and the refugees. We see
people fleeing war and famine, who lean toward the cabin windows,
searching for their first sight of our nation’s shores as
we bring them to their new homeland. We see couples at the
beginning of their lives together, grandparents on the way
to see their first grandchild, and children,
from six to sixty, going to visit with their parents.
We help America and the world do its business, flying brokers
and bankers across the continents. We carry sales people to
their clients and bring them back to their families when the
deal is done. We have flown the nation’s soldiers into battle
zones, and returned to take them home at battle’s end. All
the while, we are together,
bound by our unique job, by our training and by our dedication
to our passengers’
safety. At the beginning of our careers and every year until
we take off our wings, we train to keep our passengers safe.
We comfort them in turbulence, support them when they’re ill
and evacuate them in emergencies.
That is why those of us who wear the wings are not co-workers,
or associates, but flying partners. Every day that we board
the aircraft, we are dependent upon one another to protect
ourselves and our passengers. Our flying partners on our Flight
93 and Flight 175, as well as on American Flight 11 and Flight
77, saw something on that Tuesday morning that none of us
have ever encountered. That day our flying partners saw an
evil so great that the human eye could not recognize it. Even
now the mind cannot
encompass it. In the end they must have known that this evil
of such immense
proportions would defeat their efforts to protect their passengers
Heroic efforts were made aboard those planes by flight attendants,
who spent their last precious minutes alerting our companies
to the threat and trying to protect others. Many more heroic
acts took place that day and are known only to God.
In the airline industry tragic accidents are so rare they
are known only by flight numbers. But how shall this tragedy
be known? It was not an accident but a planned attack on America
and on us. Never before has the industry lost so many crews,
airplanes in so short a time. History might refer to this
by the date, September 11, but whatever history calls it,
we can be certain that it will always be known by the heroic
acts of hundreds and thousands of ordinary people.
Among those flight attendants were veterans with 30 and 40
years of experience
and some who had been in the skies for less than a year. We
had college graduates, former police officers, and mothers
and fathers who had every expectation of returning to their
families. They all shared a love of flying. They all knew
that there was something
about this job that gets into your soul and calls you to it.
Our heroes, whose names we are learning, are the flight attendants
who have been taken from our ranks at United.
Lorraine Bay joined United 40 years ago and was the most
senior of the flight attendants who died that day. She was
on Flight 93.
Sandra Bradshaw was one of those who called from Flight 93,
alerting the world to the tragedy unfolding above us. It was
a call to say good-bye to her husband and children too.
Robert Fangman joined United just last November and was assigned
to Boston in January. He was on Flight 175 and leaves behind
his mother and six siblings.
Wanda Green, on Flight 93, had 29 years of seniority and
had been planning to retire in the coming months. She leaves
her parents, two children, a brother and a twin sister.
Amy Jarret, 28 years old, was on Flight 175. In her father’s
eulogy, he said, “I don’t know what happened up there, but
she would have been one of those people trying to do the right
Amy King and Michael Tarrou were engaged and had left their
home in Stafford Springs, Connecticut that morning to work
Flight 175. They were together when it was flown into
the World Trade Center. Michael leaves a daughter.
Ceecee Lyles had been a police officer in Fort Myers, Florida,
before joining United. She is another of the flight attendants
who called from Flight 93. Her husband alerted authorities.
Ceecee leaves her husband and four children.
Kathryn Yancey Laborie had been with United for seven years
when she boarded Flight 175. Her father, in words similar
to those used by many of the flight attendants’ families,
said, “She loved to fly.” She leaves her parents and two brothers.
Alfred Marchand left the police force in Alamogordo, New
Mexico, after a 20 year career, and pursued his love of travel
and flying. He joined our ranks less than a year ago and was
on Flight 175. He leaves his wife, his son, two stepsons and
Alicia Titus had been with an Internet firm but decided that
she really belonged with us when she discovered her love of
travel. Her father said that he had no doubt “Alicia died
while trying to do good in the midst of evil”, on Flight
She was engaged to be married and leaves her parents and a
Deborah Welsh had been with Eastern and Kiwi Airlines before
coming to United five years ago. She was on Flight 93. She
leaves her husband, who said of her, “She’d want us to make
sure the planes keep going. She loved this industry.”
Each of them had plans for the future, whether it be marriage
or retirement. Each of them had families to raise or be with.
Each had hopes for tomorrow. Every one of them did what the
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The ultimate measure of a
man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where
he stands at times of challenge.” We stand with our fallen
flying partners as we return to our flights and our passengers,
knowing they gave the full measure in their time of challenge.
In their last moments, in that small space in the sky, those
flight crews saw evil. It is our prayer and our faith that
they now see the face of God and are at peace forever. We
pray that their families and all of us who are their flying
partners will find comfort in that.
Hold them in your hearts and minds and prayers.
Thank you for coming here today to honor the lives and the
memory of these heroes, our flying partners.
Written by Glenn R. Avery
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