Today started off as a normal day.
I edited several articles, and answered a reader’s e-mail about what airports are the best to work out of. I texted a friend about plans for a long layover in Portland. I watched TV and looked at Facebook. I got ready for work.
Fourteen years ago today, twenty-five flight attendants got ready for work. They perhaps hit the snooze button once or twice. They ironed their shirts. They put on their wings. They ran for the hotel shuttle van, or got stuck in traffic (Why, oh why, couldn’t everyone have missed work that day?). They smoothed their uniforms, went through their pre-flight duties and made coffee. Passengers boarded and the flight attendants prepared the cabin for take-off. They sat in their jumpseats and reviewed emergency procedures and were ready for anything.
Except that there wasn’t any way that those flight crews could have been prepared for what was about to happen next.
Today we mourn and remember not only those twenty-five brave flight attendants, but the pilots, the passengers and the people inside the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. We uplift their families and friends for whom this day will never be the same.
Let me tell you a little story.
I was living in New York a few years ago, on the ten year anniversary of 9/11. I was working in a restaurant that morning and noticed one of our owners sitting at the bar, having a scotch. Let’s call him Matty. Matty was a jovial guy around my age, usually dressed in jeans and a t-shirt with a big goofy grin on his face. But that day, Matty was dressed in a dark suit. He was gripping a crumpled piece of paper and looking at the bottom of his glass for an answer.
“Well, you sure look nice today,” I ventured.
Matty smiled sadly and tilted his glass up, taking the last sip. “Yep, going to go speak at the Trade Tower memorial. Wish me luck,” he said, giving his usual quirky bow before disappearing out the door and onto the busy street.
I stared at where he had been sitting, feeling puzzled. The bartender came over, wiping a glass. He sighed.
“You don’t know, do you. Matty lost both his parents in the towers that day. He was fifteen. He doesn’t talk about it, though, believes the only way to go on is by embracing the world and positivity and stuff. I don’t get it.” The bartender shrugged and walked away.
I thought about all the anger and sadness. Granted, I didn’t lose anyone close to me on 9/11. I wasn’t living on the East Coast at that time, didn’t have any connections. I wasn’t even in the airline industry at that point.
But then I thought about Matty. He could have been angry, but he choose positivity.
Today, I feel a connection to those twenty-five flight attendants. First responders, just like me.
They gave their all.
As I get ready for my day, I realize that I could choose anger. I could choose fear and sadness. I could refuse to go to work. I could freeze up in an emergency. I could quit and never fly again, afraid of unknown dangers of the skies.
As I think about this, I pause, and look in the mirror.
Today is September 11th, 2015. Today we mourn. Today we remember. Today we choose positivity.
And I today I choose to put on my wings and fly.