September 11, 2011
Flight Path Learning Center
Los Angeles International Airport
When I started writing in February about September 11th, I didn’t have an outline or direction other than I wanted to honor our fallen comrades who perished that day.
Because I was in Hong Kong, I had no idea the magnitude of 9-11 and still cannot comprehend the complexity of the crashes, the destruction, the displacement of millions, and the incredible responses by our pilots, the air traffic controllers, and Canada which took all of our incoming international flights.
As I begin to talk about our crews, I will tell you it was very difficult to research and then write and then feel this incredible tragedy. I found I would cry, and then have a hard time getting up because I was holding so much emotion from these events within me. I realized after writing these articles, I just had to let it go if I was going continue.
I have been asked to read to you this morning from some of the pieces that I have written. But there is so much information and time is limited, so I am only going to read selected paragraphs.
My experience was so different than those here in the U.S. How could I comprehend all that was going on, especially in New York and Washington while I sat 10,000 miles away in a country far removed from this catastrophe. The days and nights were flipped, so that when early morning light was beginning in the U.S., I was going to bed in Hong Kong.
When I did return on Saturday, the 15th, the events were still raw, but patriotism had taken hold and the surprise and disbelief had lessened.
That evening as I fixed dinner, I watched a fund raising special on television, and saw “American-United” on the corner of the screen. I thought how appropriate to honor those American and United crew members who were the first to give their lives up that early Tuesday morning. As I looked at the screen again, the words were actually “America United”. That was the beginning of many disappointments telling me that we — the flight crews — were going to be ignored — as if we were not there. It hurt! Our industry — the one we grew up in and loved – was losing its freedoms right before our eyes. Freedoms that we took for granted. Our job responsibilities would become a burden of chores with no protection for us in the cabin.
As I begin this presentation, I will tell you here and now that crew members on that day saved more lives than we will ever know. Of the 33 crew members on those flights, 4 have stood out: Captain John Ogonowski and Flight Attendants Amy Sweeney, Betty Ong, and Robert Fangman with their words alerted a sleeping nation to the horrific events that were underway that morning. Without their quick thinking and heroic efforts, there is no way our officials could have responded as quickly and as effectively as they did, and by doing so, I know it saved United Flight 23 out of Kennedy and United Flight 962 out of Los Angeles. These flights are discussed further in my latest article, “Were There More?”