I remember- but how I remember was different from how you remember it. I was in third grade walking into Mr. Klavinsky’s room. One by one we all silently took our seats as we entered the classroom. He didn’t greet me “Good Morning” like he usually did, in fact he didn’t greet any of us. We were only nine years old but we still knew something was wrong- not with Mr. Klavinsky but with our country. Mr. Klavinsky stood in front of the tv with his arms crossed. He never turned around and he never said a word. The rest of that day was a blur.
September 11th was always considered a sad day because that is how I was taught to remember it. Being from Virginia I was a few hours south of New York City and a few exits away on I95 from Washington D.C. The tragedy was close but I never had to mourn the loss of anyone. I never had to worry if my parents were okay while they were at work. Nor will I ever have to relive that nightmare every single year. Instead, each year to me was another social media post dressed up with a nice quote to let the world know I will #neverforget. Each year, I place my hand over my heart for the few moments of silence and carry on with my day.
September 11, 2015 started out as another one of those normal days of remembrance. I was one week into flight attendant training and the significance of the day’s memory hardly crossed my mind. I was too worried about my shirt not being wrinkled and my hair tucked nicely into its bun all while making sure I didn’t rip my pantyhose on the way to class. I rushed towards the classroom hoping to pour a cup of coffee before class began when I ran into a table that displayed pictures of the crew from Flight 93 and Flight 175. As I scanned each picture frame, the faces looked younger and younger. “Woah… That was my airline. They were so young… that could have been me.” I silently observed the faces of each crew member. I stared at one in particular… a war veteran who died at thirty six years old as our first officer on flight 93. For the first time in my life, the tragedy of 9/11 had hit closer to home than I had thought. I put myself in their shoes and looked into the eyes of uniformed crew members who were newly graduated and eager to fly. My heart sank a little as I took my seat. The instructor began to address the class and I scooted my chair closer to Nick Palamara. “Hey Nick, You grew up close to New York City… where were you during 9/11?” He looked at me and whispered back, “I was in third grade.”
We were two kids, in two different parts of the country with two different memories of the same day. He told me he could remember every single detail from that day. His teachers hid the students under their desks for hours and all information was being withheld and kept secret because a lot of the students’ parents worked in the world trade centers. A lot of the kids cried from fear and parents were coming to pick the kids up all day long but they were never told by the teachers what was going on. Some students didn’t come back to school for weeks and the ones who did would break down crying in the middle of class for months afterwards. Nick said his dad was a firefighter but he was off that day. I shook my head in disbelief of how disconnected I had felt from the event that had take place on September 11th, up until this moment.
As a new hire I was based out of JFK and flew with many flight attendants who were classmates or friends with the crew. I flew with the roommate of Alicia, one of the flight attendants on flight 175. The route from Boston to Los Angelos was a very junior route and most of the crew that usually was called by scheduling to work this flight were new hires. The flight attendant I flew with told me that her plane was grounded in Denver. When they got news of what happened her and another coworker rushed down to the crew room and signed onto the computers to start searching for their friends. They started pulling up all of their friend’s schedules to see if they knew anyone on that flight, after all, they were based out of Boston. She pulled up a few friends first and then typed in her roommate’s schedule and it was immediately blocked. Crew Scheduling immediately took down the schedules of each employee working those flights. There were two flight attendants who were engaged to get married who were also working the flight, both who I heard were new hires also. I also flew with quite a few people who knew Sandy, the lead flight attendant on flight 93 and I also heard stories about CeeCee who was also on that flight. Listening to stories about the brave few who took on the hijackers first hand opened my eyes to a new community that I was now a part of. We are all family. We come to work trained to look for situations that may seem out of place. But most importantly, we come to work as a team. All from different cities, working in different bases yet all connected by the same purpose. I’ve heard so many stories about the personalities of the crew members who woke up that morning to fly across the country one last time. Their memories are carried alive through their old coworkers and will forever be passed down to new generations of flight attendants who are welcomed aboard. No matter where you were on that day, September 11th was a day that impacted us all. We are all in this together and we will never forget.